Thursday, 12 August 2010

B is for...

... Broad bean bruschetta and babaganoush on buckwheat blinis served with bellinis on arrival. Followed by a starter of baked beetroot with french beans and bacon in a basil and balsamic dressing. For main, we had black pepper encrusted fillet of beef with boulangere potatoes, braised baby gems and broccoli, served with bearnaise sauce and/ or a Brouilly and balsamic reduction. Pudding was blackcurrant bavarois with a Joconde biscuit base, topped with blackcurrant jelly and British berries followed by home-made baklava served with Turkish coffee.

"B" night saw the launch of the first official dinner for Alphabet Soup Supper Club. I realised early on, that in order to finish the challenge on time, be true to the seasonality and happy meat promises made, be allowed creative kitchen freedom and not declare myself bankrupt by this time next year, I was going to need a little help from my friends. I decided that a supper club for foodie chums with hungry eyes and empty bellies would be the ideal solution. As much as I would love to create frequent vast and greedy treats for my friends and family for free, my current financial status prevents me. So, food bills split equally between all diners (including me) seemed like a fair deal and also made it possible for me to go to town for "B" with a beautiful piece of beef fillet from Chadwicks of Balham.

On B night, all the music began with "B". We had Belle and Sebastian, David Bowie, Billy Bragg, Blur and Blondie to name but a few. Conversations seemed to lead to topics beginning with B and some guests (thank you, B for Beth) even came dressed solely in colours beginning with B, armed with blue flowers. Bloody brilliant.

Pre-dinner drinks and nibbles.

I love bellinis, they're so fresh and summery. They're best made with perfectly ripe white peaches, but if you can't find any you can buy the puree ready made online. If you can find fresh, peel them and blitz them in a blender immediately before using. To make the cocktail, simply pour the peach puree into champagne glasses and top up with prosecco, or any sparkling wine you like. You need about one third peach to two thirds fizz. Give your cocktails a quick stir and serve straight away. If the bellinis sit about for too long, the puree will start to settle. So drink up!

Buckwheat blinis with Babaganoush
Buckwheat blini batter takes no time at all to whisk up and you can prepare hours or even a day in advance and leave it in the fridge until you need to use. Just give it another quick whisk and it's ready to go. Buckwheat flour is great for guests with gluten allergies as, despite its name, buckwheat flour is wheat-free. Once the aubergines have been charred on an open flame (or under a grill) so that the flesh becomes soft and smoky, the remaining effort required is minimal and is the work of seconds with a magimix or blender.

Buckwheat Blinis

1 large egg
3 1/2 oz/ 90g buckwheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
150ml/ 5 fl. oz milk
Butter/oil, for frying

Whisk the egg and add the remaining ingredients. Beat the mixture thoroughly until you get a smooth batter. Melt some butter in a non stick frying pan and drop a spoonful of batter into the pan. Cook until you can see bubbles on the surface of the blini and flip over and fry until both sides are golden. Stack the blinis as you cook them on a warm plate covered in foil. They can be served cold, but I personally prefer them warm.


2 aubergines
1 - 2 tbsp olive oil
3 - 4 cloves of garlic, ground to a paste with sea salt in a pestle and mortar
The juice of 1 lemon
1 - 2 tbsp tahini
salt and pepper
pinch of cayenne

Char the aubergines on an open flame - your gas hob on high, a barbecue or the grill. It is essential to char the aubergines to get the desired smoky flavour. The skin should blacken and the aubergines' shape should be on the point of collapse. Once charred, let the aubergines cool before splitting them down the centre and scooping out the flesh with a spoon. Place the scooped out flesh and the remaining ingredients (starting with just half the lemon juice) in a magimix or blender and
blitz to a smooth paste. Taste for seasoning and lemon, make any additions needed and blitz again. Serve a spoonful on each warm buckwheat blini.

Broad bean bruschetta

Broad bean bruschetta is a really fresh and tasty way to use up the glut of broad beans you get in the veg box at this time of year. I fiddled around with a recipe I found in Nigella's Feast, who has fiddled around with a recipe she found in the second River Cafe Cook Book. I just love a bit of culinary kleptomania.   

Broad bean bruschetta                

1 k young broad beans
2 cloves of garlic
2 handfuls of fresh mint
4 tbsp grated pecorino (or parmesan)
Zest and juice of 1 - 2 lemons
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
A loaf of rustic sourdough bread

Pod the beans and put them into a food processor with the garlic, mint, a generous pinch or two of sea salt and blitz to a rubble. Add the pecorino, lemon zest and juice and a good grind of black pepper. Blitz again, scrape down the sides and gradually add the oil through the funnel while the motor's still running. Check for seasoning and place in a bowl covered in clingfilm for about half an hour to let the flavours marry. Slice your sourdough and place on a very hot griddle, once you have toasted tiger stripes on your bread, turn over and toast the other sides. Rub a cut garlic clove over each slice of toast and place a generous dollop of the broad bean mixture on top. Drizzle with a little more extra virgin olive oil and a few slivers of pecorino and your broad bean bruschetta is ready to serve.

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