Are you all watching the World Cup? I’ll be honest – I haven’t been watching all the matches but I am following along. What I’m definitely doing rather than watch Brazil is eat Brazil. I was invited a couple weeks ago to a one-off Brazilian supper club, sponsored by Tilda rice and run by Rosana McPhee of Hot & Chilli, Dhruv Baker (you may remember him from Masterchef) and Luiz Hara of The London Foodie, at Luiz’s beautiful house. Tilda has a new limited edition Brazilian samba rice out for the World Cup and it would be featured in this meal.

We were ushered into Luiz’s patio garden where we were fed lots of little goodies (which I stupidly gorged on, not realising that we had a long menu ahead of us). Bolinho de arroz were fried rice fritters with seafood, served with lime and saffron mayonnaise – I adore all fried things and these were no exception. Gorgeous.

Bolinho de Arroz

Little bite sized empadinhas had a flaky pastry and a palm heart filling. I’d always thought of palm hearts as a salad ingredient and never knew they were commonly used elsewhere.

Empadinha

Caracao de Galinha were an acquired taste – chewy little grilled chicken hearts!

Caracao de Galinha

And fresh from the oven were one of my favourite cheesy snacks ever, pao de queijo. These warm little puffs are made with tapioca flour which gives them an addictive chewiness. I had to stop myself from overindulging on these.

Pao de Queijo

We then moved into the dining room to start the meal proper.

Dining Room

The tables had been set beautifully and at each place was a menu…

The Menu

…as well as a ribbon! We all tied these wish ribbons onto our wrists, making the requisite wishes, and soon the food started coming out.

We had feijoada, that classic Brazilian black bean and pork stew, served with Tilda’s Brazilian Samba Rice, shredded greens, a slice of orange and toasted cassava flour for texture. Rosana’s recipe is delicious and it paired well with the rice. (I tried a bag of the rice from our goody bags alone at home and was surprised at how spicy it is.)

Feijoada

Moqueca was a Bahian stew with white fish, palm oil, coconut milk, tomato, onion, coriander and annato. It’s delightful and brought a welcome lightness to the meal.

Moqueca

Served with it was pirao de peixe, moqueca’s traditional accompaniment. This glutinous stew was made of fish broth, onions and herbs and cassava flour and I loved its starchy texture and great flavour.

Pirao de Peixe

Earlier that evening, we had watched as Dhruv grilled huge hunks of beef outside; the cut was picanha (rump cap), a very popular beef cut in Brazil. They had had plenty of time to rest and were now served sliced with pimenta de bico (those adorable tiny Brazilian chilli peppers), roasted garlic, and drizzled with manteiga de garrafa (Brazilian clarified butter). Yes, this was as delicious as it looks and sounds.

Picanha

Starch came in the form of sauteed cassava and fried plantain, the latter being one of my favourite things to eat.

Cassava and Plantain

In addition, there was a beautiful palm heart, tomato and red onion salad to keep us all vaguely healthy.

Palm Heart, Tomato and Red Onion Salad

We finished the meal with a trio of Brazilian desserts: caju sorbet (cashew fruit sorbet), brigadeiro de copo (the famous Brazilian chocolate balls but now in a cup), and quindim (a gorgeous coconut and custard tart). The caju sorbet was a revelation – the cashew nut hangs from the fruit and I’d heard great things about its flavour…and it lived up to it! It’s difficult to describe but if you get a chance to try it, do! The quindim was also absolutely fantastic.

Caju Sorbet, Brigadeiro de Copo, Quindim

It was a fantastic night and I’ll definitely be getting all the recipes from Rosana’s blog! That quindim!

Luiz, Dhruv, Rosana

The dinner was a fantastic Brazilian feast with lots of new flavours and dishes. Thank you very much to Rosana, Luis, Dhruv and Tilda Rice for the invitation! All my photos from the dinner can be seen in this Flickr album.

A Singapore supper club in London? OK! Wen of Going With My Gut had told me previously that she had a good friend who was looking to start up a supper club of his own but I heard little more for a while until a few weeks ago. It looked it was all systems go and I was offered the chance to be one of attendees at his very first supper club, +(65), the country code for that tropical island. His blog had already featured photos of his cooking and it all looked mighty good. Sign me up.

Our host, and Wen’s friend, as this gentleman here, Goz. Hello, Goz! He fed us very well that night with real Singapore cuisine – no “Singapore noodles” here.

Goz

The menu emailed around prior to the night looked quite modest but when we the diners arrived at the venue last Sunday, we encountered this:

Kuih Pai Tee Shells

Oh, yes – kuih pai tee – little fried top hats that are filled with a braised vegetable mixture. They are seriously Singaporean and horrendously time consuming to make – it was apparent that Goz had put a lot of love into his food. Little extras like this made it quite the feast!

There were two large tables to seat us all and food was served family-style (the way it was when I grew up – I felt very much at home). The tables were already set with dishes of spiced peanuts …

Peanuts

… and pork crackling topped with more peanuts and fried ikan bilis, a tiny anchovy that fries up all crispy and wonderful. They’re the same fishies you get on the side of a nasi lemak.

Pork Crackling with Peanuts and Ikan Bilis

Back to the kuih pai tee. To keep them crisp, the cases were filled with the vegetable mixture at the last minute. Usually, the vegetables are made up of jicama and bamboo shoots but Goz used turnip, which turns out to be a very acceptable substitute. With a dollop of chilli sauce on top, we were shoving these into our mouths at an alarming rate.

Kuih Pai Tee

Soon after, a platter of chicken satay appeared, the skewers of spicy chicken and accompanying chunks of onion and cucumber slathered in a rich, peanutty satay sauce.

Chicken Satay

The appearance of coconut rice meant that the main courses were arriving. Wen appeared first with her family recipe of pork belly braised with mui choy, her little extra contribution to the night. The pork had been braised to perfect softness and it with the salty pickled vegetables was utterly moreish and so good with rice. She’s going to blog this soon and I can’t wait! I’m gonna make it and eat it with Teochew porridge…mmmmm….

Braised Pork Belly with Mui Choy

The ox cheek rendang came next – what a fabulous idea to use ox cheek, a cut just perfect for stewing, in a rendang! It was amazing – the rich sauce coated the pieces of cheek that had just fallen apart due to the long cooking process.

Ox Cheek Rendang

A respite from all the meat came in the form of chap chye, a traditional dish of mixed vegetables cooked with mung bean vermicelli. Goz couldn’t leave the vegetables as they were though…there was some chicken in there!

Kway Chap

A dish of century egg tofu then came out. Again, it was simple but tasty, cold, refreshing plateful.

Century Egg Tofu

A plateful of Teochew braised duck was the meaty finale; the spices bathing in the braising liquid (I definitely detected star anise) had already been perfuming the room when we entered. Hard boiled eggs, shiitake mushrooms, and tofu puffs had also been cooked alongside. There’s something supremely homey about biting into a braised shittake mushroom – it’s all juicy and succulent and it’s quite a unique texture. The rest too was fantastic – the duck was delicious and the tofu soaked in the fragrant, ducky juices.

Teochew Braised Duck

Dessert time! First up was a teh ice-cream topped with cornflakes toasted with peanut butter and kaya, a Singaporean/Malaysian coconut custard spread. Teh is Malay for tea and the famous teh tarik is a “pulled” tea drink that’s strong, sweet and full of condensed milk. The pulling causes the drink to go all frothy and here, instead of being pulled, it was frozen into ice cream. Brilliant!

Teh Ice Cream with Cornflakes

We also had a very traditional Nyonya kuih (cake) and it was my favourite – kuih bingka ubi, a soft baked kuih of tapioca and coconut. (I like the dark, caramelly, chewy edges best.) I’ve got to give it a go again at home.

Kuih Bingka Ubi

As another little something extra, Goz also brought out some toasted pandan cake. We’d never had it served like this but I can say – it’s not bad. It was quite good when dipped in coffee roasted by Papa Palheta Singapore – I guess Goz must’ve brought it back to London with him (ETA – it was Wen who carried it back!). Apparently, the coffee scene in Singapore is really growing. (Reminder for next time – I couldn’t sleep that night!)

Toasted Pandan Cake

It was a fine end to a lovely night – apart from the food, which was an excellent example of Singaporean home cooking, the company was great too! Goz and his friends (who he’d roped in to help) really made us feel at home and I know he was worried about this but the pacing of the food coming to our table was very good. It sounds like Goz has plans to continue with his supper club (£25 a head, BYOB) so do watch out for future ones on his website.

All my photos from the night can be found in this Flickr photoset.

+(65)/plusixfive
London


Edible Experiences

Happy Chinese New Year, everyone! I’m a terrible Chinese person and barely got around to organising dinners or baking treats but work was and remains hectic and I’m exhausted at the end of each day. This weekend looks a bit more promising anyway. And does this post have anything to do with Chinese New Year? Well, no, unless you count the fact that we ate rabbit.

I received an invitation from Codorníu, a Catalan cava producer, to attend a special Catalan meal prepared by Rachel McCormack of Catalan Cooking and so this past Monday night, I rocked up to Beas of Bloomsbury, where Rachel normally holds her cooking classes. In the kitchen too was Franz Schinagl (the former executive chef of Asia de Cuba), who’s currently in charge of savouries at Beas. This supper was hosted by Codorníu, who are based in Sant Sadurní in Catalunya and who have been making wine since 1551, and who will be supporting Rachel’s supper clubs throughout 2011. Oh yes, we were going to have cava throughout our meal; in Catalunya, cava isn’t just saved for special occasions – it’s drunk during meals. If you were to ask my brother if he learned anything from his trip to Barcelona, he would probably say this, which he learned from my in-laws.

If you’re not familiar with Rachel, she’s originally from Scotland but spent many years living in Barcelona, where she learned about Catalan cuisine. She now runs regular Catalan cooking classes in London, teaching the kind of cuisine you’d find in Catalan homes, and has recently started hosting Catalan supper clubs too. This was only her second supper club night; for a great run-down of her first, check out WenLin’s post.

Anna de Codorníu Brut

At this supper club, we were welcomed with glasses of Anna de Codorníu Brut, a very light and fresh cava, before being let loose on a number of snacks laid out on the counter, buffet-style. There were various embotits, essentially bits of meat and in this case it was fuet, a dry cured Catalan sausage, and pernil salat, aka jamón in Spanish. There were olives, formatge (possibly Manchego?) and an excellent truita de patata i xoriço (that’s a tortilla in Spanish).

Tapas

I should mention here that Rachel had designed the menu to take us on a tour of Barcelona, so while the previous tapas were from the Barcelonan markets, the seafood was from Barceloneta and some dishes were inspired by dishes at restaurants in l’Eixample, for example.

Serving Cava

The next course was a sopa de carn d’olla served in a teacup and with this course came a different cava – a Codorníu Selección Raventós Brut – which was much darker in flavour than the previous one. Remember escudella i carn d’olla? This is the broth that’s made when all the meat’s been boiled. It was extremely rich and comforting and just the right size as to not fill us up before the main event.

Sopa de Carn d'Olla

After a little break, we were directed to the kitchen where another buffet spread was laid. To say there was a lot of food would be an understatement.

One cannot have the sopa de carn d’olla without the carn d’olla itself! And sure enough there was a huge platter of the boiled meats – chicken, pig trotters and pilotes (meatballs) – along with carrots, cabbage and white beans. That platter didn’t even hold all of the meat as I saw Franz topping it up later during the meal!

Carn d'Olla

There were also calamars farcits d’albergínia (squid stuffed with aubergine), patates braves (in the style of those at La Taverna del Clinic, a restaurant in Barcelona), fideuà amb sofregit de calamar (noodles with a squid sofregit – a slow cooked mixture of onions and tomatoes), arròs al forn amb bolets (rice cooked in the oven with wild mushrooms), conill amb ceba (rabbit with onions), escalivada (grilled peppers, onions and aubergine), and coliflor en escabetx (pickled cauliflower).

Patates Braves

Fideuà amb Sofregit de Calamar

Codorníu Reina Maria Cristina Blanc de Noirs 2008

To drink with all of this was a Codorníu Reina Maria Cristina Blanc de Noirs 2008, which my untalented tongue can only describe as not as heavy as the second cava and yet not as fresh as the first. I am utterly useless with wines (I don’t drink very much as I’m intolerant to alcohol). This cava was pointed out to us as being the first Spanish “blanc de noirs” sparkling wine, meaning that it’s white sparkling wine made from black grapes. Quite a special cava then.

That pictured below was just my first plate (!). My favourites, for which I went up again for seconds, were the fideuà (which went well with aioli), the tender pilotes in the carn d’olla, and those amazing patates braves.

My Plate

We were absolutely stuffed and somehow had to find space for the desserts that would finish our meal. As we were rubbing our bellies, somehow the cava bottles in our ice buckets magically transformed into pink cava! This was a Codorníu Pinot Noir Rosé which was ever so slightly sweet.

Codorníu Pinot Noir Rosé

Desserts were all absolutely gorgeous and definitely worthy of tummy space. Rachel’s crema catalana (one bowl per table and we were only two – score! Hello to my lovely tablemate Ailbhe of Simply Splendiferous) was sweet, creamy and delicious and I had many, many spoonfuls of it.

Crema Catalana

Rachel came around with platters of Bunyols de l’Empordà, essentially Catalan doughnuts. Two flavours made the rounds: lemon and amaretto bunyols and orange and rum ones; needless to say, both were fantastic. I can never turn down a freshly fried doughnut.

Bunyols de l'Empordà

The final dessert almost did me in but I’m glad I persevered as it was amazing. It was a very unique sopa d’avellanes amb el seu cruixent (hazelnut soup with a hazelnut crocante): imagine a cold and thick hazelnut flavoured milk with a lump of ice cream within and a crunchy caramel biscuit – beautiful.

Sopa d'Avellanes amb el seu Cruixent

I reckon this is the closest thing you’ll get in London to experience proper Catalan home cooking (well, I mean if you don’t know any Catalan people here!). All the information on upcoming cooking classes and events (check out the calçotada!) can be found on Rachel’s site: Catalan Cooking. If you’re not in London, she’s got a few recipes on her blog too.

Rachel

All my photos from the night can be found in this Flickr photoset. Moltes gràcies to Rachel and Sarah at Codorníu for the invitation!