April and May Supper Club Menu

Asparagus, broccoli and blue cheese soupTo begin: Asparagus, broccoli and blue cheese soup
Every year as I wait on tenterhooks for the beginning of asparagus season, this is the recipe I’m waiting to make. A lesser blog might give you the useful tip that you can use the leftover hard woody ends of asparagus to make the soup, but to be honest, I buy asparagus to make this soup out of the ends, and have to come up with uses for the rest. 

Main course: Slow braised lamb ragu with gnocchi and ribboned asparagus
My search for the perfect slow-braised lamb came complete with this dish – 48 hours of sous vide cooking at a low temperature leaves the lamb meltingly tender but without having lost any of its flavour to the sauce. For this Supper Club I’ve paired with a pile of pillowy, buttery gnocchi and ribbons of seasonal asparagus.
or
Wild mushroom and truffle ragu with gnocchi and ribboned asparagus
The wild mushroom ragu “alternative” is a creation that won over one of my most ardently carnivorous friends at a recent dinner party, who swore that while eating it he forgot that it was vegetarian. The depth of flavour comes from the variety of different types of mushrooms used, and is punched up by a good dash of truffle oil right at the end. 

Dessert: Salt caramel custard tart
In my kitchen, scraps of pastry and leftover crumbs get saved up in a jar, and when the jar is full, I mix them with melted chocolate and press them into a shell to make the base for this tart. Salt caramel custard, baked until set inside a chocolate pastry case, bruleed until the top is a crunchy, glass-like shard of caramel. Decadent. 

All dates for this menu are sold out, to be added to the waiting list for April or May message me via the contact page.

 

Crabcakes and Asparagus Ice Cream

Crabcakes

This is an update and review of a dish from my April Supper Club, held on the 17th. The next supper club date is Saturday the 9th of May. To attend, please email me at smokeandthyme@gmail.com, letting me know how many guests you’d like to bring, a contact phone number and any special dietary requirements I need to be aware of. The menu changes every month and the price is pay-what-you-want.
Lemongrass, coconut, coriander, green chilli. Fish sauce, ginger, soy. My Thai soup with mussels demanded a perfectly smooth sauce, which meant sieving out a heartbreaking amount of immensely flavoursome but slightly stringy pulp from my green curry sauce. Not until after I’d thrown the first batch of it away did I get the tip from a friend that this lumpy by-catch could be mixed with mashed potato and cooked crab for a fantastic green curry crabcake.

With cauliflower still in season and my previous pairing of it with seafood  in mind, I wanted to test out a non-potato binding for another type of crabcake. Adding cayenne and paprika and sumac gave the mixture a dark, red-brownish colour, and unable to pick a favourite between the green Thai or the red cauliflower crabcakes, I decided the colour contrast would justify putting both on the plate.

Asparagus ice cream

As with so many weird food trends, the blame for savoury ice cream lies with Heston Blumenthal and his infamous bacon and egg flavour frozen treat. Much as I adore Heston’s cuisine however, challenging my diners’ preconceptions isn’t usually my main goal. I was concerned that asparagus ice cream in a starter would be too much like a gimmick – like I’m trying to make a point of doing something wacky. So I was delighted when my guests recognised it for being just a really nice (if slightly unusual) combination of flavours, textures and temperatures.

The cream melting over the deep-fried crabcakes is like any cream sauce on seafood, except for being cold, which cuts through the spiciness of the crabcakes. Asparagus, especially when paired with salty samphire, is perfect with crustaceans or anything else from the sea. Sadly at this point we run into my mistake – not nearly enough asparagus flavour to the ice cream. So pungent when boiled or steamed, asparagus’ water-soluble flavour molecules are not taken up so well by fats and oils, and the cold seems to lock them away as well. The temperature and textural contrast of the ice cream worked great, but against the bold, spicy flavours of the crabcakes the asparagus flavour was much too mild.

Verdict

Ultimately, though I liked the taste of the spiced cauliflower crabcakes, I found it too hard to explain what they’re all about to want to serve them again. The thing I liked best was that they provided an alternative to the stodgy, flavour-absorbing mashed potato of a typical fishcake. The Thai green curry ones on the other hand were both delicious and well defined. My next experiment will be to use the same flavours but with a crab risotto (instead of mashed potato) to bind them, and a tempura batter rather than breadcrumbs. The asparagus ice cream will be back, bigger and stronger, and other savoury ices may make their way onto my non-dessert courses in the future.