Sunday 11 October 2015

A blocked sink, some good neighbours, a helpful son, a beef eating vegan and lots of birthdays.

The title's longer than the bloody blog! Welcome to the world of SEO.

Saturday. The sink blocked. Again. Second time in six months. Don't worry, there'll be no pictures. No one wants plumbing in a food blog. Or crouched, middle aged men with heads in kitchen units, their trouser top buttocks gleaming like smooth full moons. 

But you can't have a dining club without running water. Friends and neighbours came to help - Paul and Michael - brandishing rodding wires. Cue much U-bending, me lying on the floor gazing meaningfully at plastic piping and that teeth sucking you only do during DIY.

For some reason I don't seem to be able to oversee plumbing without massively embracing the double entendre. It's all that... rodding and holes and poking. Ho hum. Call me unreconstructed. Funniest half hour I've spent for some time. Anyway, after (what Etien calls) some 'top bantz' we found ourselves free flowing.

Emma and her mother's birthday group were none the wiser. Here they are only half an hour later.

Emma's in the middle, white top.

When discussing dietary requirements with Emma, I was dismayed to hear that her husband was vegan. Look, I'm happy to prepare a vegan meal but with meat eaters there's very little cross over and I can't do parallel prep; just don't have the time or space. Butter, eggs, cream, cheese, were all off his menu. I knew I could work around that for the starter and dessert - tomatoes instead of blue cheese and a poached pear in place of the frangipane tart. But what of mains? Emma really wanted the beef. She thought for a moment and then told me she was sure she could persuade him.

I don't know what or how... but she succeeded. We have now hosted a beef eating vegan.

Etien's requesting more responsibility in the kitchen. I give this over very reluctantly. I'm controlling like that - it's a fault. There are no (at least very few) second chances in a dining club. But he made an innovation with the presentation of our amuse bouche: curried butternut squash soup. Doesn't that look fine?

I'm varying the presentation of the starter. Blue cheese polenta, walnut salad and picked apple. It still doesn't look right though.

Blue cheese polenta with walnut salad and pickled apple

Our braised beef is winning more plaudits though. Guests are claiming it's the 'best beef I've ever had.' I simply can't deal with that intensity of compliment. Here it is after five hours of slow braising, served with a port gravy. A rather dark photo, even after much Photoshopping.

Vegan mains! Braised beef short rib with spinach, roasted shallot and sweet & sour red cabbage.

Friday's group was Phil's 40th. He's there on the left. This was very much a family evening. When Phil phoned initially he told me he didn't eat veg... or fruit. I hoped I could change his mind. Reader, I failed. His mother's been trying for much longer apparently.

This is a nice photo but it seemed a bit... beige. I wanted to represent the evening better. I also wanted one of the baby. This lot is in the purple, postprandial, LED light.

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