Photo courtesy and © of Leisure
Most people fret about having half a dozen of their friends round for dinner. Whether the house is tidy enough; whether they have sufficient knives and forks and plates for everyone; and of course, what to cook. So when somebody is brave enough to invite two dozen strangers round to dinner on a regular basis for the past few years I am immediately in awe. And when I receive an invitation to have dinner at said person’s house, I do not hesitate to say “yes!”. The person in question is of course the lovely Uyen Luu – cook, blogger, teacher, supper club owner, food stylist and cookbook author extraordinaire, and the occasion was to showcase her new Leisure range cooker.
Like all Uyen’s supper clubs, the event took place in her stylish and minimalist home in London Fields and unlike the scene in my house when I entertain (i.e. when the guests arrive I am probably still in my ripped jeans, apron on, and dishcloth slung over my shoulder!), Uyen looked the picture of loveliness and efficiency, despite the presence of a gaggle of guests and a film crew and photographer following her around. Note to self: I need to acquire matching red shoes and nail varnish! Over a glass of excellent sparkling Birbirra Eugenia Gataria from the Txomin Etxaniz winery in the Basque country (nutty, toasty and a dead ringer for a good Champagne) I chatted to the ever-amusing Danny and Paul. As the kitchen and dining room are open plan, we could see Uyen hard at work at her range cooker and I was pleasantly surprised at how well it fitted into a modestly-sized galley kitchen.
Soon we were called to the table and all arranged ourselves, supper club style, at the convival long, shared table, where Uyen said a few words about the menu (Vietnamese-inspired rather than authentic Vietnamese dishes) and that the recipes are all from her book, and then we were off! First up was a deceptively simple dish that has replaced chicken soup as my go-to dish when I am feeling ill: kale and ginger soup with glass noodles. The clear broth is infused with the warming flavour of ginger, and the kale retains a perfect al dente texture, while the noodles provide substance. I was instantly smitten. Our main course was brought to the table piled high on pretty platters for sharing: roast lemon chicken with lemongrass and ginger sauce. Again, the simple name gives away nothing about the complexity of the flavours. The spatchcocked chicken had been cooked on a bed of lemongrass so the flavour had infused the meat beautifully. The skin was charred, crispy perfection, while the ginger and slices of orange added a wonderful sweetness. The grilled seasonal vegetables in a soy dressing on the side were also fabulous – packed with flavour and retaining a good texture. For dessert, Uyen served a moist and delicious plum cake with homemade vanilla ice-cream – a perfect sweet ending to our Autumnal feast.
Photo courtesy and © of Leisure
Wines throughout the evening were supplied by Moreno Wines and what lovely, unusual wines they were. Other than the Basque sparkler that we had on arrival, the white wine for the evening was 3 Pueblos, a blend of Macabeo and Viognier grapes from vineyards 1000m above sea level in the Sierra Nevada mountains, Andalucia. The wine has lovely apricot and melon fruit, but nicely balanced by a clean, limey finish. The red, Lavico, was made from the unusual Nerello Mescalese grape and came from the Duca di Salaparuta vineyards in Sicily. With an appealing palate of dark fruit, the wine also had a nicely defined minerality – allegedly because of the volcanic soils in which it is grown. But the highlight for me was the Libamus – a Spanish red dessert wine made from old-vine Mencia grapes by Bodegas Godelia its concentrated red fruit, vanilla sweetness was balanced by the smoky flavours of toffee and cocoa – a fabulous way to end any meal.
The evening was everything a supper club should be – a relaxed atmosphere; some old friends and some new ones; a bit of a nose around somebody else’s bookshelf, and of course fantastic food. In fact, my recent trip to Australia where there is so much Vietnamese fusion going on, together with this wonderful meal, has meant that Uyen’s beautiful book is now firmly on my Christmas list. Thanks to Leisure for hosting, and a huge thank you to Uyen for her fantastic food and hospitality!
DISCLOSURE: I attended this dinner as a guest of Leisure cookers and Mercieca PR but received no further remuneration and was not required to write a positive review. I retained full editorial control and all opinions are my own.