Maybe it was because I was pre-menstrual, or my particularly full-on stressy week but I was bereft of inspiration for the menu. I even asked Twitter for suggestions of what to cook. I received a reply from comedian Hardeep Singh Koli:
"Smoked aubergine and pea curry?".
"Wanna cook it?" I asked cheekily.Turns out he does. Hardeep was a finalist in celebrity Masterchef. He will be cooking for The Underground Restaurant one night in May.
The muse was resurrected during a trip on Friday to Borough Market and a conversation with Joseph of Gastronomica. I visited the Gastronomica stall to buy Burrata, the most delicious mozzarella style cheese which is filled with cream. It is imported direct from Italy and Gastronomica is one of the few places you can buy it in London. Unfortunately it is not sold covered in a bundle of real asphodel leaves as it is in Italy, but with a fake green plastic version.
I discovered Burrata three years ago when visiting Turin whilst attending an international protest with the Torino branch of activist samba band Rhythms of Resistance. We slept in a huge hall, about 60 of us, communal meals from one camping gaz ring. Here's a brief account here and here.
Borough market is an inspirational place for any foodie but nowadays full of tourists. Which has led to some stall-holders frankly taking the piss in terms of prices. The main fruit and veg stall is ridiculously expensive. About a year ago I bought a pack of their heritage potatoes, £5. A few months later I saw the same pack in Fortnum & Mason's for £4. Something wrong with this picture. Don't tell me that Fortnum's has lower overheads than this stall. Yesterday I bought some baby aubergines, 20 for over £7. Popped into Tesco later, they had the same aubergines, £1.60p for 10. The Tesco ones were in better shape too, with shiny hard purple surfaces. Figs at this stall were 60p each! How do markets expect people to buy fresh good food, avoiding large supermarkets, if their prices are astronomical?
I bought the last four Burrata for my guests. Joseph of Gastronomica was buzzing with recipe ideas ... I'd been thinking of making cheese cake. He said "How about a goat's cheese cake?" selling me an expensively gorgeous goat and cow cheese for £7 'rocchetta'.
Mayday is also Beltane, a fire festival, the start of pagan Spring. It is also exactly one year since I got my Aga.
A modern-day tricolor salad: burrata, vine tomatoes with balsamic and basil, avocado sprinkled with pink peppercorns and smoked salt, honey-roasted figs with mint
Parmesan and red onion topped sourdough focaccia
A Beltane curry: baby aubergines, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes with lemongrass and coconut milk.
Goats cheesecake with almond base, topped with blueberries
Coffee with almond and lemon biscotti
I served the salad with a pair of scissors for the guests to snip away the Burrata packaging.
I was entirely on my own and was glad when Paul came to be 'front of house'. My teen wanted to go to a party then get a cab to a friends..
Me: "Can I have the address of the party? and can I have the number of the friends? I'd like to check with the mum"
Cue shouting "OH MY GOD you are RUINING my life. I'm fifteen, I can do what I want, I should be able to go wherever I want without you knowing! NO other parents need to know this. YOU ARE MAKING ME LOOK BAD!!! You never want me to go out. Fine I'll stay in."
"All I want to know is the address and the number just in case. If something happens to you, you don't come home and I call the police, what can I tell them? 'Oh yes she went out, no idea where and no idea who with?'"
"Yes still a child legally."
"You are so controlling".
"Yes I am. It's called parenting."
Ten minutes later I receive a call from the other mum.
"I'm so relieved that another mother also wants this information."We discuss what time the cab should come to get the kids (sorry 'young adults'). My teen in the background "Two o'clock"
Me and other mum: "One o'clock is quite late enough for fifteen".
My teen: "NO ONE GOES HOME AT ONE O'CLOCK. I'm not a baby"
I had to be in at 10.30pm when I was her age.
The guests were lovely. We had a treat when talented singer Brooke Procida sang showtunes for us at the end. She has a lovely powerful voice. It was all very "jazz hands" as another guest described it. I love that kind of music as my collection of Judy Garland and Liza Minelli vinyl will attest. I have the musical taste of a gay man.
Her uncle and aunt from Long Island, New York, also came. It turns out they have eaten everywhere, Gordon Ramsey's, all the Michelin star restaurants and here they were at my humble abode.
"The Fat Duck. I wouldn't go there again" declared the uncle "Snail porridge! I prefer Pepe's near JFK "The cameraman from 'Tonight with Trevor Macdonald' came with his lovely girlfriend Victoria who was a presenter on 'Wish you were here' I think. 'Tonight with T.M' was on Friday night (if anyone has a link please send it to me). I didn't watch. But I was told presenter Johnny Maitland was going on about how much money I am making. Complete bollocks. In fact Ms Canal Explorer is doing the accounts at the moment and I will be posting them up here for everyone to see...
I had a bad moment when I dropped a pepper-pot on top of one of the cheese cakes. Splat! Paul tried to push it together with his hands while I crammed it into a bowl.
One last thing, clearing out the bins this morning I note that there are many used ear buds in the bathroom. I think other restaurants are missing a trick here...they should all be providing ear buds to their customers... my dad always uses those little hot flannels they sometimes give you in restaurants for a quick once over!