How did I manage to leave this post about a supper club I attended towards the end of last year languishing in my drafts folder for the better part of ten months? Well, I have a pretty big drafts folder!! Mea culpa. Moving rapidly on.
Earlier last year, the lovely Luiz of The London Foodie had invited me to attend one of his famous London Cooking Club nights, where each guest brings a themed dish and presents it to his/her fellow-diners. The theme had been South African and together with Tracey I had given presentations on photography as well as South African food and wine. I had loved the format of the evening and the interesting company, but did feel kind of “on duty” all night. But when Luiz invited me to one of his Grazing Asia supper clubs, he explained that these are a little somewhat different: he cooks and the guests simply pay and socialise and eat – so far more like a traditional restaurant. The event on this occasion was the Hindu festival of Diwali, also known as the festival of lights and premium rice company Tilda Rice had agreed to sponsor. On this occasion, Luiz himself was not at the helm in the kitchen but had recruited Indian private chef, food blogger and cook book author Maunika Gowardhan of Cook in a Curry to take charge of creating and executing a Diwali-themed menu using Tilda’s products (which includes various types of dry basmati rice as well as other speciality rices and pouches of flavoured ready-steamed rice). We started off in the lounge of Luiz’s lovely house where the Tilda PR lady spoke to us for a few minutes while we sipped cocktails and enjoyed canapés. The cocktails were a lethal but delicious Luiz creation: Orange and Cardamon Martinis, featuring marmalade in an unusual twist. To nibble on, we were served deep-fried sundried tomato & mozzarella rice balls - kind of like Italian arancini but made with Basmati rice. These were pleasant but lacked the glutinous texture that make arancini such a sinful treat, despite the cheesebomb of mozzarella in the middle. And I am not 100% convinced that the flavours of sun-dried tomato and basmati rice are a natural match, but maybe that’s just my tastebuds.
From there we moved downstairs to the dining table where we moved from cocktails onto wine - Gran Hacienda Reserva Sauvignon Blanc and Carmenere from Chile to be exacr. I thought the fruitier, gooseberry style of Sauvignon blanc was a good match for the complex, spicy dishes. Once we’d sat down, the gorgeous Maunika chatted to us a bit about Indian food and how tonight’s feast was less about the food of a particular area than a selection of the real, honest foods that you will find in Indian homes all over the subcontinent. The feast officially started with paneer haraa tikka. This consisted of grilled cubes of paneer Indian cheese topped with herbs – but the problem is that paneer by itself is pretty bland. The solution presented itself in the form of a rather awe-inspiring pineapple and black pepper chutney, packed with chunks of fruit and a robust, sweet-spicy flavour. Truly delicious and something I would happily buy by the jar, should Maunika choose to sell it! We were then invited to serve ourselves from the tantalising array of dishes and bowls on the kitchen table and we wasted no time! Here is what was on offer:
- lamb yakhni pulao – succulent slow-cooked lamb chunks, served with pulau-style rice that had been mixed with the lamb stock and plenty of ghee. This was my second favourite dish – richly flavoured comfort food at its best.
- meen moilee (Keralan fish curry) – lightly fried sea bass fillets coated in a fragrant coconut milk gravy featuring ginger, lemon juice and fresh curry leaves. This was such a fresh, light dish and so unlike the heavy curries we often come to expect when eating Indian food in London. Definitely my favourite of the night.
- bainhan ka bharta – charred aubergine cooked with tomato, ginger and spices. I liked the deep smoky flavour that the chargrilling lent to the aubergines. Definitely the spiciest dish we ate, but beautifully offset by the cool roasted cumin and pomegranate raita.
- haraa masala chicken – green spiced chicken pieces cooked and coated with caramelised onions, fresh mint & coriander. This was a lovely green colour but somehow lacked the oomph of some of the other dishes for me. Still, it was good to have all these dishes on my plate that all tasted significantly different – not always the case in many Indian restaurants!
Although we had eaten a substantial amount by this time, we still managed to find room for dessert (of course!). There were two of them: bhapa doi is a Bengali dessert made from sweetened steamed yoghurt flaavoured with cardamom and served with a drizzle of rich mango puree. I loved this – as I do pretty much all yoghurty Indian desserts (hello, shrikhand!) as it was neither too sweet nor too heavy. And who can resist the golden goodness of mango? The other was creamy ginger rice pancakes with pineapple. The pancakes were more like American style pancakes than crepes – in other words smaller and thicker, and had been fried to a golden shade in butter before being topped with chunks of grilled pineapple and a drizzle of maple syrup. This was lovely but I could barely do it justice as I was so full!
I thoroughly enjoyed the evening – from the charming Maunika to the eclectic mix of dinner guests (I mostly sat next to the lovely Ernie who – gasp! – had heard of the obscure suburb where I live because his mum lives there!) to the always-sparkling hosting of Luiz. The evening confirmed the quality of Tilda’s product range, and reaffirmed my enthusiasm forLuiz’s pan-Asian supper clubs in his gorgeous home. Do try to attend one if you can!
Here are some other perspectives on the evening.
DISCLOSURE: I attended this dinner as a guest of Tilda Rice.