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It must be time for a market update?

Isn’t it just! I have now been at the market for 15 weeks. 15 WEEKS!  That’s kind of exciting, isn’t it? It’s time for an update.

Life has been rather busy, I don’t exaggerate. Nor do I seek sympathy as it was good busy. Isn’t it good to be busy? However, the downside of this busy-ness is that normal service of recipes and randomness on this blog wasn’t possible. Mainly because I didn’t have much time to cook, and if I did, I didn’t have time to write about it. Then there was the sad day that my lovely DSLR camera was appropriated by someone else. I do have a tiny point and shoot but it just doesn’t cut the mustard for me and sadly, nay stupidly, it wasn’t insured, and I am not yet in a position to replace it. I miss the sharpness, the focus, the colours and the depth. I miss my camera.

So, after all that guff,  how has the market been? I’ve been diligently baking those blaas, week after week. Thursday 5am after Thursday 5am. Blaa after blaa. Trayful after trayful. Ovenload after ovenload. I’ve managed to increase my output, although this is not down to me, this is down to the hardest working member of the team, my trusty KMix.

Some months ago, the folks at Kenwood asked if I would like to try one. At this stage my wrists ached, my fingers sobbed, but dedicated as ever, I persevered with the bread. Aren’t I just the martyr?! All jest aside, it was very important to me that I make it and that I prove that I could. It seems silly now, but that was what I was thinking. Back to the trusty KMix. I knew that I needed a mixer for the bread, but I had yet to purchase. So, after a little internet research, I could only say yes, as it looked perfect for the Thursday morning bake offs for the stall.

So this gorgeous, sturdy piece of equipment graces my kitchen counter in a glorious red, and every Thursday morning churns and kneads. The yeast gurgles by the warm oven in snug anticipation. Its companion, a peppercorn blender, awaits its load on the weeks I have time to do a soup.

Testament to it’s sturdiness, was the morning when I, excited and over eager, loaded it to the max, nay beyond the max, and left it mix unsupervised in the corner on the table. I missed it slowly vibrate to the side of the table, and cascade to the floor.

SHRIEK! I plugged it out, picked it up, and, mildly panicked. Peevishly, I plugged it back in and attempted to turn it on once more. Unphased, it recommenced its job, and I, impressed with my hardest worker, returned to my soup.

Now, however, I must reconsider. The market is 2 days a week since mid-November, Thursdays and Fridays, and I can’t continue to bake the bread two days in a row and maintain my sanity. I want to do something different and I can’t help but feel that all of the time and enery the KMix and I put into the bread, could be spent trying new things and enjoying the adventure.

People love the pork and spiced apple sandwich, and they come back week after week for it (which is amazing – thank you). The slow roast lamb and aubergine relish is also a go-er, and I usually offer both. I know that if I make them, I will sell them, and this is a very important factor. If I don’t sell my produce, well then, it’s game over. But, at the risk of a strop, I also want to take risks and try new things and some old favourites. I want to try the salt beef from October again, I want to make more of the black bean chilli from November, the delicious spiced chickpea and feta salad with pomegranate molasses dressing, some more smoked salmon.  I want to have several things on offer every time. Choice and colour, variety and vigour. The problem is, there’s only me to do it, and in order to deliver something must be sacrificed.

So, what to do? Why not be normal and buy the bread from a good source like other people do? Well now, I hate to be normal, it sounds so dull, but it does make sense. Why has it taken me until now to consider it?  I’ve bought in before for the Soho Market with those gorgeous bagels from Carmelli’s in Golders Green in October. I’ve bought bread from Sally Clarkes one day where I just couldn’t bake. They were great! So, the decision has been made, and I feel liberated, and quite excited for the next few weeks.

So, what to expect? Soup, meatballs, maybe savoury muffins! I intend to burrow around my cookbooks and savoury inclinations, and dig out some new recipes, and bring them to you at the stall. I will be back to write about them.

So, until then, I’ll get back to my research and see you soon!

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Auction fever

Will she every shut up about the blaggers’ banquet? Will she?! Afraid not folks, at least not for the short term, until we’ve finished our online auction in a couple of weeks and raised lots of money for that fantastic charity Action Against Hunger, I guess we could call this Auction Against Hunger (boom boom!).

But seriously, even if this were not for charity, and you’re of a scrooge like disposition, which I am positively certain you’re not, we’ve had some fantastic donations, and lots more to come. Make your xmas shopping fun and eclectic!

Instead of buying your sister that goat again, what about a Sashimi Masterclass with 7 course tasting menu at Feng Sushi and it’s ALL for charity. It’s a gift for your conscience as well as them. A little too much? Well, I’m serious.

A kitchenaid for your other half? Did I mention it’s pear green. Afternoon tea at the Ritz for your Mum? A Selfridge’s Gordons Choice Hamper, or the delectable White Christmas Tea Collection from our favourite tea lady at the Rare Tea Company.  Did you miss the amazing Chocstar prize of a visit to your home with lots of gorgeous chocolate desserts? Well, keep an eye out, we have many more wonderful tricks up our many sleeves.

Have something you’d like to donate?? We’re still blagging, I mean accepting donations. Please get in touch! We’d love to hear from you.

Want to donate some cash? We’ve had some requests so you can do that too. We’ve setup a page on Just Giving.

Ebay Blaggers’ Banquet Auction (bling, bling!)

Just Giving page – please donate anything, small or big, for this worthy cause. It’s just been setup so is at zero, but we have raised over £6K already. A *huge* thanks and big smile for all who’ve supported us and everyone who donated.

We’ll be blogging about everything in detail here: http://blaggersbanquet.wordpress.com/

Diner reviews, blagger reviews, donor interviews. Every little thing! Keep watching.

http://shop.ebay.co.uk/blaggersbanquet/m.html?_nkw=&_armrs=1&_from=&_ipg=25
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Postcard from the edge

Blaggers' Banquet

And, so we did it. We cooked for people, we fed them, we got a lot of them drunk, and we gave them lots of stuff. Goodie bags, auction prizes, raffle prizes were all distributed. There was laughter in the air, and lots of alcohol. We remembered the loo roll and the napkins. We didn’t burn Hawksmoor down.

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Of course, I always knew we could do it. Even on Tuesday night when I woke in the middle of the night in the middle of an intense anxiety dream about buffaloes. Yes, buffaloes. When in Ireland, my mother asked, what could you possibly be texting about? I told her buffaloes.

Oh, yes, they were a feature, those Laverstoke Park Farm buffaloes ever present in my brain, jostling for room with Sipsmith Gin & Vodka, Donald Russell Meat, and lots of veg from Abel & Cole and Riverford. Wrestling with the goodie bags, Chapel Down Pinot Reserve, Curious Brew Beers and fighting with the Lahloo Tea, the Maldon Salt and the Halen Mon. All characters in the nightly soap opera playing out in my tired brain. All in the name of the blaggers’ banquet and that wonderful charity Action Against Hunger.

Rolling up with my wheels that Sunday morning, I unloaded my cargo at Hawksmoor: Maldon Sea Salt Season Boxes, a slab of Guinness and two bottles of Smirnoff Vodka. Where to park? Nothing to fear, my wheels are more compact than a smart car, and I parked them out the back in the private room. Wrists sore from all of the steering on that manic journey down. What kind of car is this? No car, my friends, I have a wheelie suitcase.

I surveyed the scene. Carnage. Organised carnage though. Lots of fruit and veg, lots of beer and cider, wine a go-go. MEAT, lots of that, some stock on the hob, some meat stewing, some lovely smells creeping out of the kitchen. Prep were frantically peeling and slicing, goodie bags were being stuffed maniacally. Everyone was busy, most were smiling and things were getting done.

Our first visitor was a wonderful man from Cornwall (Fish for Thought), delivering his precious and supremely fresh monkfish. He had travelled 5 hours and had 5 hours to go to get home. He didn’t even stop for tea.

Fish Man

Next to unravel the deliveries, or the absent ones at least. Where was the Laverstoke Park Farm buffalo mozarella? In Green & Red you say? Where’s the bread? In St Johns? Scurry, collect, dispatch and prepare.

Our next visitor was Sam Bompass of Bompass & Parr, jelly architect extraordinaire, delivering his boob jellies. Made of plum and rose, with 24 carat gold nipples, we were very excited about these. Unleash the boobs we roared. And so we did. We had a brief lesson in in freeing without destroying, and went on our merry way.

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Half an hour left! Time to gather front of house, organise the tables and split the room into sections. Time to set up the band. The Chapel Down Pinot Reserve 2004, nicely chilled, was ready to be poured. The canapes ready and waiting. The kitchen were busy, organised and focussed. Everything was in hand.

Blaggers' Banquet

5 minutes left! Are we ready? A few bits left to do. The band have started playing, Denise and Douglas are ready to pour. Name tags have been distributed by Krista, although mine soon after abandoned, as it had an affinity for my hair and the floor.

Blaggers' Banquet

The guests are here! We’re giddy. What to do? Music is playing, they’re drinking and eating. The bar staff are shaking and making.

6.20pm. Time to seat the guests. Dinner will be served at 6.30pm. So far, so smooth. We seem to be pulling it off.

Blaggers' Banquet

The food starts to come out. The monkfish tartare is one of the prettiest starters I’ve ever seen, and it gets to the tables so quickly. We’re monitoring two missing guests and looking for the pescetarian. Everyone else is happy.

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The pescetarian arrives. Oh! There’s two. Off I scuttle to the kitchen with my news and back on the floor. The band finish and indulge in some blaggertinis, they’ve deserved them.

Time for the main course, nay three main courses for hungry hedonists we are and we love our food. Grilled buffalo steaks with bearnaise sauce (Laverstoke Park), Winter Beef Stew and Lamb hotpot (Donald Russell).

Blaggers' Banquet

While the eat, we start to organise the raffle and the auction. Auctioneer extraordinaire, Tim Hayward, blogger at the Guardian and mastermind behind much lauded new food magazine, Fire & Knives, steps forward and we start. Prizes a go go, almost something for everyone. We’re having fun. Time for a break and dessert, and the auction.

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The auction is so much fun, but I can no longer manage the floor. Lesson learned for next year, but everyone does so well. A couple of blips, we’ve only 20 jellies and two tables miss out. Troubleshoot! Let’s make them a new cocktail, a boobtini, and exclusive just for them with gold leaf at the top. They’re happy and so am I.

Blaggers' Banquet

Time for the cheese, and the fruit, the tea and the coffee. Time for the clean up, the trips home and for everyone to wind down. A sneaky martini for some, I am one of that number. I am very hungry, I have hardly eaten all day!

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The guests are happy and we’ve raised a lot of money for Action Against Hunger. We couldn’t have asked for more. Our first time would never be perfect, but the kitchen blaggers, magnificently led by Sig,  really pulled the rabbit out of the hat. The bar staff were superb, the front of house elegant, the behind the scenes the best, dutifully doing all of the unglamorous work that noone else wanted to do. Everyone did a wonderful job.

Particular and very big thanks to everyone who donated and everyone at Hawksmoor. We did a good thing, I think! The auction continues online, a new item (or two!) every day for a month, and it’s all great stuff. Get bidding. Make your xmas shopping fun.

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The photos, like all things at the banquet, were truly collabarative. Particular thanks to non-blagger, photographer Carmen Valino for the first 6 photographs (excluding the fish man from Billy) and to Kavey, Ailbhe and Mark for the others and, finally, to Mathilde, Linda and Denise for putting together the menu below.

Blaggers Banquet Menu
15 November 2009

Menu conceived by Signe Skaimsgard Johansen with Danny Kingston, Charlie Nelson, Neil Rankin

š Canapés and table nibbles š

Fresh goats’ cheese and pomegranate crispbreads with a salty vanilla twist and fresh chives
(Brockhall Farm, Abel & Cole, Peter’s Yard and Halon Mon)
Buffalo mozzarella, tomato and fresh basil brochettes with a pesto dip
(Laverstoke Park, Abel &Cole and Purely Pesto)
Crispy chicken skin bites (Silfield Farm)
Cheddar Gougeres with thyme (Barbers 1833, Abel & Cole)
Spicy Bar Mix (Munchy Seeds)

The canapés were offered with a choice of the following
(also available throughout the evening from the bar):

Chapel Down Pinot Reserve 2004
Albarino Laga de Bouza 2007 (The Wineaux)
Sipsmith
’s Gin martini
Sipsmith’s Vodka Martini
Sipsmith’s Gin or Vodka and Fevertree tonic
The Blaggertini
(Sipsmith’s vodka, Chegworth Valley Apple and Raspberry juice, Galliano Balsamico)
Cornish Cocktail (Bramley & Gage Quince Liqueur, Chapel Down Sparkling Wine)
Black Velvet (Chapel Down Sparkling Wine and Porter)
Marston’s Pedigree
Innis & Gunn
Fullers London Pride
Daas White

Chapel Down Brut
Chapel Down Porter
Firefly Tonics

Chegworth Valley Apple Juice
Chegworth Valley Apple and Blackberry Juice

š Starter š

Monkfish and beetroot tartare with tomato salsa
(Fish for Thought, Abel & Cole)

Brewery Hill Chardonnay/Viognier 2008 (Naked Wines)

š Main Course š

Grilled buffalo steaks with bearnaise sauce (Laverstoke Park)
Winter Beef Stew (Donald Russell)
Lamb hotpot (Donald Russell)

served with a selection of seasonal vegetables from Riverford organic
and handmade sourdough bread from St John Restaurant

Quinta do Lagoalva 2004 (Casa Leal and Viniportugal)
The Pastor’s Blend Journey’s End 2007

š Dessert š

Golden Chocolate Fondant served with Crème Fraiche
(Trish Deseine, Easy Tasty Magic and Sainsbury’s So Organic)
Titillating Jellies from Bompas & Parr

Lorca Fantasia Malbec 2008 (Naked Wines)
Castello Romitorio Morellino di Scansano 2007 (The Wineaux)

š Cheese š

Barbers 1833 Vintage Cheddar
Brockhall Farm Chive Goats Cheese
Trethowans Dairy
Gorwydd Caerphilly
A selection of deliciously fragrant cheese from Pong’s

Served with Peter’s Yard crispbread and a selection of seasonal fruit from Abel & Cole

Albarino Laga de Bouza 2007 (The Wineaux)

š And…

Coffee from Square Mile with milks from Sainsburysn,
Brockhall Farm and Lahloo Tea
Chocolate truffle by Lahloo tea and Damian Allsop

We also used ingredients throughout the menu donated by the following:
Abel & Cole – herbs
Billingtons
– sugar
Halen Mon – flavoured salts
Hill Farm
– extra virgin rapeseed oil
Maldon Salt – salt and pepper
Riverford Organic – assorted vegetables
Sainsbury’s – all dairy produce except cheeses and goats milk
Silfield Farm – chicken used for stock

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So… how was the Blaggers’ Banquet?

And so the banquet has come and gone. A flurry of activity followed by a burst of food and drink, leaving us all feeling fragile and happy, and keen to do it again.

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As you know, I was not a diner, but a worker bee. And as a result of this, and the fact that my lovely digital SLR camera was stolen recently, I have no photos, but we did have a volunteer blogger photograper on the night (Mark of Food by Mark) and so I can share some of his.

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The lead up to the banquet was frenzied, but supported by the wonderful Sig of Scandilicious managing the kitchen (read her fantastic build up post here) and a crack team of enthusiasts managing the other aspects – Kavey on ticketing, Susie & Ailbhe on the Goodie Bags, Denise on the wines, Mathilde on the auction and Linda on the organisational aspects behind delivery and ingredients – we could only succeed. Not to undermine the work anyone did on the day, it was a superb team effort, but these guys were keeping this going and driving it in the weeks leading up to the event. More on everyone else in my next post about the night itself.

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I had always been confident that we could do this. I knew that it would be very hard work and at times frantic, but with a good team that were ready to pitch in, I didn’t see how we could fail. Most of us are passionate cooks, but cooking for large numbers is a whole different matter, so we needed to be organised. I don’t want anyone in the trade to think I am being cocky, I’ve worked in kitchens and front of house while in University, I know it’s not easy, but, still… I knew we could do it.

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Shortly after we had our first meeting, it was clear that large meetings were going to make this impossible to deliver. If we had more time, we could have done it in this more sociable way, but we didn’t. So I formed a team that would manage all the aspects involved  and we met when we could and liaised online.

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I don’t really talk about personal stuff here, it’s about the food but sometimes life intervenes in unexpected ways. Less than a week after that first meeting, I got a call from my mother, my Grandmother had taken ill suddenly and I knew I had to go home. The trouble was, I was in Lisbon and it was looking increasingly like I was going to miss my flight. I loved Portugal, particularly the Portugese people, but their chronoptimism is worse than mine, and I was delivered to the station, with what looked like ample time to spare, but which quickly transpired as none. The staff at the airport were unphased when I arrived frazzled at the desk. “Relax! You have loads of time.” I had 3 minutes. Maybe I should move there!

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So, back to London and then to Ireland. Things were frantic and I was trying to do too much ending in the theft of my lovely digital SLR camera after I left it behind.  Bye bye camera, and bye bye lots of pictures of the Douro. Not a good week.

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Home I went, battling Aer Arann who were confused about my flight details, and First Capital Connect, who didn’t want to run any trains ending in an expensive taxi journey to Luton. Home for a few days and back again. Lots to do: the market, real work and then the banquet.

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Finally the day of the Blaggers’ Banquet arrived. I was up and ready to go when I got a call. Things were bad at home and my Grandmother had received the last rites (a Catholic tradition for the dying). I really wasn’t sure what to do, I felt very upset and wanted to be at home, but getting home is not that easy, especially at short notice. My sister told me to wait by the phone and they would call me with an update.

With a heavy heart, knowing what was going on at home, I carried on and went to Hawksmoor. I knew that I should be at home but I couldn’t get home fast enough for it to make a difference, so I comforted myself with the fact that the banquet had only positive outcomes, raising money for a fantastic charity. The next update, very  soon after, sadly, was a very sad one, she had passed away.

So, I am just back from a sad trip to Ireland for her funeral and I am feeling very tired.  I’ll be back soon, when I have a little more energy, and I’ll regale you with banquet tales and behind the scenes gossip.

For now you can read all about it on the following blogs/sites:

So what happened at the Blaggers’ Banquet? – Matching Food & Wine with Fiona Beckett

Scandilicious: Preparing for the BlaggersBanquet and musings on

Scandilicious: Preparing in every part of the BlaggersBanquet

eat mynels: Monkfish and Beet Tartare at the BlaggersBanquet

Kavey Eats: Blaggers Banquet: The Big Night

Blaggers Banquet… the review!! | Wahaca

The Princess and the Recipe: Blaggers Banquet – prep talk

cowfish » The BlaggersBanquet – The Day Itself

Quinta Lagoalva and the Blaggers Banquet « The Winesleuth

Can be bribed with food: Volunteering at The BlaggersBanquet

Blaggers Banquet Event 1.98

All photography by Mark N – www.foodbymark.com

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Blaggers’ Banquet: almost there!


So… it’s two days to D Day or should that be B Day? Are we all blagged out? Certainly not!

Things are shaping up really nicely. Hawksmoor have been fantastically supportive, how very brave of them to let us run a restaurant there! Hats off. We have great food, details of which I will not reveal here, but suffice to say that there are lovely aperitifs and canapes on arrival at 5.30pm with live music, and 4 further courses, crafted with our fair hands, using fantastic donated produce and all drinks are included. The drinks are superb, we have lovely wines and artisan beers & spirits, many of which are boutique items, at the very least they have fine credentials and taste wonderful. We’ll be making cocktails, we’re extremely fussy about these ones, so expect good things. There’s an excellent goodie bag for everyone at the end, a raffle and an auction of superb food and drink experiences and other much sought after items, alot of which have been crafted especially for the event.

The auction should be excellent. Fancy tea cocktails at Hix Soho with the Rare Tea Lady? There’s lots more! A years worth of burritos at Chilango worth £2,400, a 1 hour cooking lesson in the Konstam kitchen, a seasonal dish from start to finish, a Mexican cookery class with Thomasina Miers of Masterchef fame and Wahaca, 2 nights at a bijou top floor apartment with terraces in the heart of Barcelona’s old city and 7-course Essència tasting lunch menu at the one-star Cinc Sentits donated by Citywire Holdings. And on and on. The generosity has been staggering. There’s hope for the human race yet!

Curious? We’ve just released the final batch of tickets. All single tickets, and £75 all in. Bargain, I say! All proceeds go to Action Against Hunger. It’s worthwhile AND you get to eat and drink your body weight should you choose to do so. It should also be lots of fun and a very sociable affair. Don’t forget the best bit, you can review us after on a Blaggers’ Banquet blog. We promise to publish eveything.

I’ve also written a Word of Mouth piece about the Blaggers’ Banquet, have a look: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2009/nov/13/bloggers-blaggers-freebies

Tickets available on ebay: http://good.ly/clxes

Hope to see some of you on Sunday!

1 hour cooking lesson in the Konstam kitchen, a seasonal dish from start to finish
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Blaggers’ Banquet – Update

Blaggers' Banquet

Well, the blaggers’ banquet is all systems go and we’re blagging like k-razy. We’ve had an amazing and very supportive response from producers, restaurants, chefs, wineries, breweries… it’s been really inspiring. Everyone’s really pulled together and gotten things done. Wonderful.

We had our first meeting at the new Draft House on Northcote Rd, who donated the whole bar for the evening which was wonderful. This helped galvanise everyone and get things moving bringing us nicely to where we are now. We had a great evening drinking Murphy’s of Cork on draught and blackberry whiskey with some fantastic bar food – I’ll be back for sure.

We’ve have some fantastic donations since, both for the meal and for the night itself. We’re not going to spoil it by revealing anything for the meal or everything from the auction, but here’s a taster of some of auction items. The auction will run partially on the night and for a month after the banquet online, so, even if you’re not in London or not at Hawksmoor on the night, you can participate.

Autographed cookbooks from Fergus Henderson at St John’s – these are definitely unique and I expect a battle for them!

A year’s supply of Chilango vouchers (£2,400 value).

A Mexican cookery class from Thomasina Miers: author, intrepid tv chef, winner of Masterchef, and of Wahaca in London. The course is being run exclusively for the Blaggers’ Banquet auction. It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn authentic Mexican Cuisine in London.

A Kitchenaid worth £369 for all you passionate cooks.

A cookery lesson at La Cucina Caldesi followed by lunch + a signed copy of Katie Celdesi’s new book.

White Christmas Tea collection from the fabulous Rare Tea Company including 2 lovely white teas and a teapot and tea cocktails at Hix Soho with the Tea Lady.

Tasting menus from L’Anima, Racine, Maze, Theo Randall, Tom Aikens & Launceston Place.

1 hour cooking lesson in the Konstam kitchen, a seasonal dish from start to finish.

A lovely Gordon’s Choice Hamper from Selfridge’s worth £130.

There’s lots more, all of which we will write about soon. Thanks to all of the blaggers who are doing *sterling* work and to all those who donated. We really appreciate it all of the support, as do Action Against Hunger.

So, we still need more auction items and items for goodie bags, indeed we need the bags themselves! Drop me an email at niamheen@gmail.com if you have something you would like to donate. We would love to hear from you.