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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
Canapés and table nibbles
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)
Innis & Gunn
Fullers London Pride
Chapel Down Brut
Chapel Down Porter
Chegworth Valley Apple Juice
Chegworth Valley Apple and Blackberry Juice
Monkfish and beetroot tartare with tomato salsa
(Fish for Thought, Abel & Cole)
Brewery Hill Chardonnay/Viognier 2008 (Naked Wines)
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
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)
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)
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