Monday, 21 September 2015

Creatives, crackers and close up magic.

Kalia, Paul, Wayne, Emma, Rachel, Neil, Elena, Tara and Georgia.
'Amazing local people.'

Friday was among my most favourite evenings so far. organised by the irrepressible, inimitable Emma Rigby of LYDS fame. She billed it as 'a dinner with amazing local people' - a pushing together of local and artistically inclined individuals whom Emma thought would benefit from each other's company. And she was right. I think Emma's an inspiration; a real force of nature. She thinks, she does. I wish I had her... I nearly said swagger, but I think I mean optimism and an essential, charming tenacity.

The guests made rugs, ran theatres, wrote scripts (not me), produced short films and documentaries... you get the picture? I don't think the others will mind me singling out Wayne Fox - a close up magician. He amazed and delighted us all with some of his tricks after dinner. Etien dabbles in card tricks and has a collection of 'Bikes' - the playing cards of choice for working magicians. He loaned his to Wayne. How good is Wayne? You probably know of the Magic Circle. Did you know there's an INNER Magic Circle? It's an invitation only gig, with never more than 300 members world wide. Wayne is one. You've maybe seen Dynamo or Troy on the telly? Wayne designs tricks for them. Some are so unique he patents them. That's how good he is. Etien still has the 50p coin that seemed to bend as he was holding it. There was a good half hour of people shrieking and 'no way'ing. 
'How do you do that!?' 
'With style and panache I hope.' Retorts Wayne.
He and me are talking about somehow organising a few combined dinner and conjuring dates together. Although we'll need a proper title. I'll let you know.

usually my parties all arrive knowing each other, very often it's a family celebration or a reunion of friends. This was different. All the guests took time to tell their personal story; their experiences and skills. It was a very different evening and very rewarding. The food felt like the least important element although some of the guests were very complimentary about my braised beef rib. This was a: more than the sum of the parts. It felt like the start of something... of many things. I hope it's the first of many.

Saturday was a smaller affair - Joanna's first time with us. Six always seems disproportionately easier than eight. It's Etien's favourite number, and not just because he has to wash the wine and water glasses.

Anyway, I took them all, the lame, the sick, the weary! Some drank, some ate, some crashed on the sofa after a hard week.

They also had the beef rib; without doubt one of my best and most popular mains now. I was very pleased with that night's gravy - it's still one of the most complicated things I make. Gravy takes many processes and many ingredients. Every mix is slightly different. This was the first time I'd added a little of my smoked water to the braising liquid. It worked well - the otherwise abrasive taste mellowed by long cooking, like dripping distilled alcohol through maple ricks to create smooth, amber bourbon. 

Jo also asked for a cheese course, served in the English manner, after the dessert. In keeping with my home-made philosophy, I always make my own crackers. Partly because I like the uniqueness - you can only eat them here and now - and I'm hardly going to throw a pile of Ritz and Jacob's at you. And partly for design. Most crackers are too thick. I've said this before but I like the phrase: crackers should be a cheese delivery system. What's the point of spending a lot of money on wonderful British cheeses like Tunworth and Cashel Blue and then filling your mouth with biscuit. I want wafer thin and fairly neutral. Guests always seem surprised by the fact that I've made my own. More than suppose, it's maybe incredulity too. Why would you bother. But In truth these are so simple. Crackers are flour, about 100g - you can vary infinitely, wheat, rye, buckwheat, malted, spelt - with salt, a dab of oil and enough water to make a paste. Beat. Knead smooth and roll as thin as you can. I sometimes use a pasta roller. You can now add sea salt, fennel seeds, rosemary, grated parmesan etc but I usually don't. Prick all over with a fork to stop them puffing up like blowfish - or not, try it. Cut shapes and bake for 10-14 minutes at 200°C. Pale straw or golden brown, up to you. Crackers are literally the easiest things you can bake.

1 comment :

  1. Wow, never thought of making my own crackers! Must have a go. Look forward to eating at your supper club when Kalia gets the dates sorted with our book club.