Between New Orleans, the Autumn Run and Christmas, February was the first proper Pay-What-You-Want since last summer. As you might imagine, I was bubbling over with ideas that I wanted to share with you. You may have seen some recent blog posts about the experiments I’ve been doing but this is the first time anyone had a chance to try some of the more wildly successful manifestations of my imagination.
Victorian Mince Pie / Eccles Cake
I really wanted to kick off the dinner with Smoke and Thyme twist on the St John Eccles cake. Inspired by an actually-made-with-meat mince pie I had over Christmas, I’ve made a fruity, nutty, boozy cured mincemeat which I packed into puff pastry and presented with a piece of sharpened cheese.
Unfortunately we found that this rather hefty starter, paired with our also rather carbalicious main was a bit too much for some, so in week 2 I swapped the eccles cake over for a light alternative: a salad with smoky pecans, fresh pear and lambs lettuce. The pecans were the real stars of the dish; covered in smoky paprika and chipotle powder and caramelised with salt and brown sugar these really are just too addictive. When I first tried some as a bar snack (naturally) in New Orleans, I wasn’t sure I liked them or not; by the time the bowl was empty I was ready to kill my mother in order to get a regular supply, and it seems our guests agreed.
Rainbow Gem Gnocchi
The main dish for this event was the product of my latest culinary obsession: gnocchi. My recent blog post went into all the reasons why I’ve become increasingly more captivated by the variations in colour and flavour gnocchi lends itself to. This course was the culmination of that: a spectrum of five different colours of rainbow gem gnocchi, each served with a different sauce designed to compliment it perfectly and show just how gnice gnocchi can be.
The flavours were:
- Purple beetroot gnocchi dressed in balsamic dressed with goats cheese and basil
- Orange sweet potato gnocchi with makhani curry
- Parsnip gnocchi with a rich hearty beef ragu topped with bacon
- Green pea gnocchi with fresh pesto and sundried tomatoes
- Black squid ink served with scallops and a cream sauce
The stand out favourite for the night was the sweet potato gnocchi with makhani curry for its spicy sauciness, followed by the parsnip and ragu (the closest to a classic gnocchi serve).
A bit of a Heston one here, and keeping with the starter’s theme of finding meat where you don’t expect it. I was challenged to come up with a dessert for a pork themed evening. I know anyone who’s tried pancakes with bacon and maple syrup knows that bacon lends itself very well to sweet flavours so why not go the whole hog and turn it into a dessert outright? The pairing of bacon with a stripy pink and white rhubarb panna cotta split the room, but I for one stand by it. Everyone loved the concept, and the flavour of that candied bacon is genuinely to die for. Going forwards I’ll be looking to pair it with something that will really sing with the bacon caramel and lean even more into those smoky, rich flavours.
February may be over, but I’m so excited to share the next month’s new creations with you. I can’t wait to catch up with everything you’ve been doing and eating, to share what we’re up to at the river table and hear your stories.
See you all soon.