Thursday, 31 March 2011

A super week for supper – take two

Having attended one supper club already last week, imagine my delight when fellow Cambridge food enthusiast, Miss Sue Flay, a.k.a. Jo, invited me along to another. (I am aware those who don’t share my love of good food and good company might read that to be sarcastic. It’s not. And how can you possibly not like good food and good company by the way?). This one was in Letchworth and a bone fide underground supper club run by a couple Jo had met at Miss Marmite Lover’s food bloggers conference a few months back.

Isabelle and Paul's beautiful dining room (photo by Paul)

As soon as we arrived at Isabelle and Paul’s I knew we were going to have a lovely night. Their stylish home in Letchworth made me jealous from the moment I walked in and tempting wafts were already coming from the kitchen. As guests arrived - some friends of the couple, some of us strangers - everyone chatted along with very little first-meeting awkwardness.

Game terrine
I recently read an opinion piece in Waitrose Kitchen by my old boss, William Sitwell, denouncing the dinner party. His argument was that dinner parties often come down to a simple left and right. If the person to your right talks to the person on their right and the person on your left chats away to their left, then that leaves you stuck in the middle trying frantically to start a conversation with a back. As much as I see his point (although knowing him, I can’t see him sat silently for long) I remember thinking half way through Isabelle and Paul’s meal that that very certainly wasn’t the case at all.  Everything just flowed, the whole table chatted away across the very prettily arranged table, and at other points splinter groups discussed favourite subjects – i.e. Mad Men or Parisian pranks. 

Pork belly with mustard mash
We were there for the food as well as the company of course and Isabelle put on an amazing spread. Her game version was meaty and moorish, served with gherkins for that cut-through tang. Belly pork is one of my all time favourites dishes and Isabelle certainly did it justice, the meat was falling to bits and the crackling was crisp, not awkwardly chewy. The mustard mash it was served with had a real kick and the chard and pancetta sat well with the dish. 

Salted caramel ice cream
As talk turned to yet more pranks (how did practical jokes pass me by at school?) we were served our desserts. And I have been craving Isabelle’s salted caramel ice cream ever since, I would buy it by the vat load. It was that good. After that the port flowed (Isabelle and Paul – I definitely owe you a bottle and will bring one to your next event, I promise) and there was much promise of a firework display.

As cook and host go Isabelle and Paul make a crack team – I imagine that come their next supper club I’ll be fighting for a place. 

Best part The ice cream and the great company.
Needs work  Honestly, nothing. I had such fun and would go back again and again.  

You can find out more about Isabelle and Paul’s Come Back to Mine supper club by following @paul_wf on Twitter or checking

If you want to find out more about supper clubs and find one near you then join

A super week for supper

Ever since attending one of Miss Sue Flay’s fantastic underground tea parties back in January I have been on the look out for more supper clubs and underground restaurants in the area. No such luck. Until last week that is. All of a sudden two came along at once (I won’t mention buses or men here). One a more formal affair and not so underground – that is the College Supper Clubs run by Local Secrets in Cambridge. The other a last minute invite from the aforementioned Miss Sue Flay (Sue Flay – get it yet?) to a proper underground affair in Letchworth – read about that one here.  

The supper club at Corpus Christi college was a grand affair – with champagne on arrival and much talk of college history and tradition. We were led through to the dining hall, with tables set out Hogwarts style and shown to our places. The setting was spectacular and for one night you really can be a part of the covert university world. We sat down to leek veloute with a crisp egg, served with a crisp white wine. The leek soup was full of flavour but the egg could have done with some salt added to the water that I assume they’d be poached in. It was an exciting starter and very clever – not least because it had people round the communal tables guessing how it had been achieved and chatting away to each other like old friends.  

Between courses a Cambridge fellow recounted the history of the university (something to do with a murder) and the college itself (the only one to be founded by the local community). He was fascinating and answered every question with a touch of humour. We could have listened for hours. Main course was a pleasant interruption though – rack of lamb with its own moussaka. I struggled to get as much meat as I would have liked from the rack but then that’s just the nature of it, and my fault for not being a chew-on-the-bones kind of girl. The moussaka more than made up for that though – it was quite delicious.

Dessert, as is frequently the case, was my favourite course. A passion fruit and orange tart – it’s perfect tartness was complemented by the creamy coconut sorbet. The only slight let down was that my other half’s tart was burnt and so he had to share mine. 
The college supper clubs are a great addition to the Cambridge restaurant scene and they offer unique experience for locals who want a peak inside the university. If you like good food and a bit of local history then they are great fun. The communal element adds a nice feel and you certainly get to meet people, saying that though, I would say go along with a group of four or six and chat to those around you as well as your friends.  

The best part Learning about the university from a blue badge holder
Needs work In my humble opinion the £58.50 per head price tag is perhaps a little steep.

Book and find out more at

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Lemon curd (with a hint of clementine)

Last night I decided to make macarons, pink ones with a lemon filling. Now the macarons were a bit of a disaster (more to come on that soon) but the lemon curd filling was a triumph and I am now having to stop myself from nipping to the fridge every couple of minutes for a teaspoon full.

My finished lemon curd

I followed a basic recipe - below. But as I only had three unwaxed lemons I used a bit of artistic license and added in the juice and zest of a clementine as well. I think it worked.

You will need...
Makes just enough to fill two jam jars
Zest and juice of 3 unwaxed lemons and one clementine. (Be careful not to zest down to the white pith - that doesn't taste nice)
200g caster sugar
100g good quality butter (I went for an Italian one in Waitrose, unsalted)
3 eggs and 1 egg yolk


Place juice, zest, sugar and butter in a bowl that just hovers over some simmering water. Don't let the water boil or touch the bottom of the bowl or it will go all funny. Basically it's the same method you would use to melt chocolate. Stir ocasionally until the butter melts.

Whip up the eggs a bit in a seperate bowl - they don't need to be light and fluffy, just nicely mixed. Then once the butter has melted add the egg to the lemon mixture. Keep the bowl over the simmering pan but now make sure you stay close and whisk the mixture every minute or so (you don't want scrabbled egg curd). After about ten minutes the mix will get thicker and look a bit like a custard. At this point you can remove from the heat and leave to cool.
The all-important whisking part

In the meantime scrabble around in the cupboard for some jam jars - perhaps you have that bit of chutney you'll never use, or the apple sauce is looking its age, if so then empty them out and give them a good clean. Either sit in boiling
water or put a small amount of water in the jar (leave the lid off) and zap in the microwave, to get them spotlessly clean.

Once the curd has cooled you can decant it into the jars. A spoon and a steady hand or a funnel is all you'll need. And there you have it - pop in the fridge over night and you have lemon curd ready to use in no time.

I enjoyed mine on toast this morning and I imagine I will be all week. But that's just jar one, jar two is destined for bigger and better things - the filling for a rhubard cake, or used in a lemon meringue ice cream, or even, one day, as a filling for my macarons. Saying that though, it only lasts a few weeks in the fridge and I have a sneaky suspicion that it is going to take me longer than that to master the art of the French delicacy.

Lemon curd on toast - a morning delight

Monday, 21 March 2011

High time for tea

A review of By Jove! tearooms, Burwell

By Jove's tea mantra
‘Oh look, a village fete, let’s stop on our way back,’ said my mum as we drove through Burwell on our visit to By Jove! tearooms. After a bit more exploring and a slight panic that we couldn’t find it – it dawned on us that the ‘village fete’ was in fact the tearooms we were after. That’s how quaint and village-hall like By Jove! is – it has union jack bunting flying outside and on our visit people were sat outside basking in the afternoon sun.
In my book there really is nothing better than a proper afternoon tea, served on a tiered cake stand. And By Jove’s is certainly a winner. There's something about sitting in a quaint tearooms, sipping tea and eating cake with a dainty fork that somehow makes you feel like 19th century royalty. You suddenly feel like a lady, and start to observe the proper etiquette - or at least try to.
A dainty afternoon tea
Afternoon tea at By Jove! is served the old fashioned way – with a strainer and covered with a knitted tea cosy. The delicate finger sandwiches were soft and dainty, with the cucumber a firm favourite on our table. The scones for the cream tea were a long way from the soggy, mass produced ones you sometimes have to endure in some other so-called tearooms, these had a lovely crunch to them and had been baked freshly that morning. Being a bit greedy I would have liked a bit more clotted cream with mine, however I haven’t really got a leg to stand on when it comes to portions – after two afternoon teas shared between three people we were left with two scones and a huge chunk of cake to take home in a goody bag. Plus all this was £12 per person and that includes six to eight sandwiches, two scones and a huge slice of cake, plsu a pot of tea. Service was polite, if not overly friendly, and all the waitresses wore the traditional uniform, pinny and hat.

Jam first, cream on top - agreed?
And the cake, oh the cake. I don’t think I have ever seen a larger, more tempting Victoria Sponge before. If it had been a village fete then By Jove’s sponge would definitely have won best in show. It is a beast of a cake – there must be a whole jar of jam and a vat full of butter icing inside each one, and it oozes out from every angle. How anyone goes there without having a piece is beyond me.

THAT cake!

With the spring sun well on its way there is no better place for an afternoon tea. Get a spot outside and order the Viccy Sponge whatever you do.

The best part Do I need to say it again? That Victoria sponge, it's the most handsome, tasty cake I've seen and sampled in a long time.
Something to work on Smiles. When going for an afternoon tea you want to feel light and fluffy and I think the staff make the atmosphere. To that end a little more cheer would have been nice.

By Jove! Tearooms, The Old School, 30a High Street, Burwell CB25 0HD. 01638 602086,

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Lambing at Wimpole

Wimpole Home Farm
Sunday, 20 March

What better way to start a foodie blog than by a post about a local farm who rear happy animals and preserve rare breeds? We went along on a sunny March day and headed straight for the farm. We were lucky enough to be there for the birth of a lamb - see video above and to see three tiny piglets greddily suckling on their mum. She looks quite happy with her brood don't you think?

You can head along and see the lambs until 8 April.

Wimpole Home Farm, Arrington, Royston SG8 0BW. 01223 206000,