Sunday 22 September 2013

On The First Year...

Some random thoughts and reflections after running a home restaurant/supper club for a year.

0. Use a timer.

1. Still can't decide what to call it. Home restaurant sounds like a clinical business idea but supper club sounds too effete; trying too hard to be cute.

2. Men are rubbish at eating out. I don't mean at the food to mouth bit, I mean the arse to table lark. Of the dozens of bookings we've had only five made by men. You see it in restaurants too: lots of mixed tables and groups of women but almost never men together (OK, maybe in Indian restaurants post pub). Why is this? Men like eating. I've seen them.

3. If you wear glasses, wait for the steam to clear when you open an oven door. Yes, I am new to glasses.

4. If something is burny hot, try not to touch it with your fingers. I know, I know, you'd think...

5. I am most frequently asked if I mind having strange people in my house. Well, firstly, I'm a good deal stranger than most but more importantly even strange people are invariably well behaved. We've had hundreds of guests, many are now friends, not one of them did anything untoward. No one was rude, disrespectful or dishonest. No damage either. Well: one glass was broken, one napkin slightly charred.

6. Guests love the little between-course surprises. Velout├ęs, granitas, sorbets, tomato crisps,home made truffles; all were well received. The single most talked about item I've served is my cheese and onion eclairs. I have plans to build on this. I want to continue to play with this sweet/savoury inversion and produce a whole 'roast dinner' dessert, with some kind of chocolate marquis masquerading as beef, with chocolate 'gravy', sweet roast carrots, sweet Yorkshire pudding (think featherlight clafoutis)... you get the idea.

7. Salmon en paillote and braised beef shin were the most popular dishes, being served twelve times each. Both are great for large parties. The beef is cooked for five hours so is very forgiving of latecomers. The fish takes only 15 minutes in the oven so is also easy for timing - you put it in just after serving starters. I was going to put a link in to my beef shin recipe only to discover that I've never posted it up. My most popular dish too! Epic fail! I will do soon.

8. I'm surprised at how many people are still afflicted with childhood food aversions - and delighted at the few I've overturned. Fish, peas, beetroot... all have been poked at with muted hostility and narrowed eyes... only to be consumed and enjoyed moments later. You have to keep trying things. Taste does change. I'm making some progress with lamb. Also with black olives. Time was when I couldn't touch one to my tongue.

9. Don't buy cheap kitchen equipment. Obvious really. Those pans from Ikea will not do. Even more so cheap appliance. It'll be awful to use until it breaks. I don't mean inexpensive, I mean cheap. Pressed steel tongs are still my choice - much less costly than plastic/carbon fibre/teak 'designer' nonsense but so much more effective.

10. If you use a mandolin... just be bloody careful. It's hard to cook with your fingertips missing.

11. Lighting is tricky. No one wants ceiling mounted bright light but you do need to see your dinner. Candles are good but an expensive way to go. I've lately invested in some Philips Hue bulbs, wifi controllable LEDs. Only available from Apple at the moment. I'm hugely impressed with these. Any colour you want with fingertip control (that's assuming you've been careful with the mandolin) from my iPhone. I always wanted 'brown' light. Now I have it.

12. Always use a timer. Yes, this again. You maybe a cooking god but even he misplaces things (like Lucifer, honestly. Look) Use several. You will forget and those forgotten five minutes will ruin hours of work. USE A TIMER.

More later. My oven is peeping. See!

Had the braised beef for family dinner tonight so I took a picture. Also seen are my roast potatoes (the secret is to roast them with lots of onions) and beetroot puree. The beef is served with a rich reduction of port and the cooking liquor (beef stock and red wine).

1 comment :

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