Sunday, 15 March 2009

Arabian nights

Homemade falafel at The Underground Restaurant
Dukkah at The Underground Restaurant

Was it a mistake to commit to making my own pitta bread from scratch? I made 75 in the end and I think it was worth the effort (recipe link). Dipped into dukkah and olive oil, we in the kitchen had to ration ourselves not to deprive my guests out in the living room.

The Menu

Cava, kir and pomegranate seed cocktail
Black and green olives marinated in lemon, thyme and garlic/pistachios
Dukkah and Olive oil
Home-made fresh pitta bread
Baba ganoush/hummus/tzaziki made with labneh yoghurt and cucumbers
Broad bean/feta cheese/artichoke heart/ mint salad
Home-made Falafel
Grilled halloumi cheese and roasted red/yellow pepper salad with pickled green peppercorn/chili peppers in balsamic
Filo triangles stuffed with courgette/butternut squash/pine nuts/za'atar
Dish of dried labneh goats cheese in olive oil and mint
Tabouleh on a bed of Romaine lettuce
Dolmas stuffed with rice/preserved lemons/mint dried on the Aga 
Baklava made with apricots/sour cherrys drenched in orange and honey syrup
Fresh mint tea with sugar and pine nuts

Apricot/pistachio/cashew/sour cherry mix
Apricot/pistachio/cashew/sour cherry mix

Filo triangles prep
Baste each layer of filo pastry with plenty of butter

I saw that weird shredded wheat stuff in a Lebanese supermarket and bunged that in too

Making the honey and orange syrup
 Making the honey and orange syrup

Drying my own mint
Drying my own mint

Balls of dried labneh goat yoghurt with mint
Balls of dried labneh goat yoghurt with mint

Falafel homemade

I'm afraid to say I made too much. People were clutching their stomachs at the end. No kidding. It was a real Arabian feast.
The lovely Lenny from Malmaison helped front of house. Dressed in acid lemon, turquoise and purple, with white blonde hair, she stylishly added humour and grace to service. She looks like a scene kid but knows her silver service. Loved her gritty Liverpudlian humour too.
I did say to her "This is a bit of a busman's holiday for you isn't it?"
Lenny serving at the underground restaurant

wine bingo  at the underground restaurant
 The wine bingo lottery, everyone a winner!

In the afternoon Helen who has cooked for the Bonnington café, another cooperative restaurant, like Pogo café, springing from the squat scene, came to help knead dough. Together we felt like 19th century housewives, doing things the old fashioned way.

 I added a little spelt flour to the mixture.

Bowls of dough proving by the Aga, covered with tea towels
 Bowls of dough proving by the Aga, covered with tea towels.
Stacks of pitta bread, waiting to go in the oven
 Stacks of pitta bread, waiting to go in the oven.
Making pitta bread

Later, oh yes my 'help' is top drawer, architect Mary Bowman, who helped design the technically advanced Princess Diana fountain amongst other projects, arrived with packets of vine leaves which I had found it almost impossible to find in North-West London. Having grown up around many Greek-Cypriot children, refugees from the war in the 1970s, I was surprised to realise that you can buy sushi nori almost everywhere but not vine leaves. Food fashion is fickle is it not?
Mary and her son Miles pressed tens of balls of pitta dough in the tortilla machine for me. Thank you!
My teen, her friend Saskia and Mary's older son Red did front of house while Eva, who came to film, ended up with her hands in the sink. With 24 people last night, it was all hands to the deck.
One guest asked me "Who are all these children? Are they all yours?"
"Yes", I replied. "And every kid has a different father!"
I'm all for anti-right-wing press single mum chic! Yeah we are slappers, spending our child benefit on Silk Cut and gin while our kids run around bare-foot with no tea. 
Oops have vague recollection of discussing anal sex with a woman who has a penchant for Brazilian men....

forgotten food in the aga

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