Sunday, 7 June 2009

Tinderflint's 'House concert' at The Underground Restaurant

Lavender kulfi, with crystallised lavender and a little fraise du bois
Lavender kulfi, with crystallised lavender and a little fraise du bois from my garden. I was hoping to have more, but the sun went in and they didn't ripen in time...
coconut smashing
Angie gets tough...
Smashing coconuts...
Smashing coconuts...
Vadai: the mix Vadai: the mix on right is unground, you can't make a ball of it. On the left it's ground up. Very different creatures. Why didn't the book explain this properly? I only worked it out because I've made falafelMaking vadai, the spicy doughnut.
Making vadai, the spicy doughnut. You make the whole in the middle so that it fries evenly, otherwise the centre remains doughy.
Making vadai, the spicy doughnut.
Step by step pineapple curry
Step by step pineapple curry. Fry onions, curry leaves, bruised lemon grass in ghee
Add mustard seeds, cinnamon sticks, chilli powder, turmeric to the mix
Add mustard seeds, cinnamon sticks, chilli powder, turmeric to the mix
pineapple curry
pineapple curry, add coconut milk and simmer for ten minutes...
Add pineapple and coconut milk and simmer for ten minutes...
Tinderflint tuning up... living room concerts
Tinderflint tuning up...
Chef Shuna Lydon
Shuna Fish clearing up wearing fluffy edged rubber gloves...a far cry from the Michelin star kitchens she is used to...
Sorrel soup
Sorrel soup with 'trompettes de la mort' mushroom stock.The two colours you see are because I reserved some uncooked sorrel to add at the end, to retain that intense green colour which disappears when you heat it.
Vadai with yoghurt, tamarind and flaked jaggery
Vadai with yoghurt, tamarind and flaked jaggery (an idea I stole from Ganapati in Peckham)
Mixed leaves with Nasturtiums

Mixed leaves with Nasturtiums
Pineapple and coconut curry with basmati saffron rice and fresh coconut sambal.

Pineapple and coconut curry with basmati saffron rice and fresh coconut sambal.

Running around Saturday morning, on a quest to find fresh curry leaves for the pineapple curry...finally at the fifth shop, in Cricklewood, I found them.
Feeling lucky I asked the owner "Have you got any Maldive fish flakes?"
"This not Wembley" he stated flatly, as if the idea of buying Sri Lankan ingredients anywhere but Wembley is a something only fools attempt.

"Any pandan leaves?" I tried again.
"This not Wembley".
The lovely Angie came to help me on Friday night. We tested the pineapple curry (from the book Serendip) which was pronounced so delicious we could not stop eating it. For the Coconut Sambal there was the problem of opening the coconuts. When you go on holiday you always find those guys on the beach casually splitting coconuts with a machete. Lacking a machete, probably wise, I punctured the eye of the coconut with a corkscrew. Angie and I then took it in turns to smash the coconuts on the concrete floor. Very enjoyable and it wasn't even pre-menstrual week! Here, however is a link that tells you how to open a coconut properly. The trick, after opening the eye, is to bake it for 15 minutes and it will split open naturally.
I also made Vadai, a kind of spicy lentil doughnut, also from Serendip. However the author left out a vital step in the recipe. Grind up the lentils with the spices, it's the only way it'll bind sufficiently. Unfortunately I couldn't find the toasted rice flour for this recipe and substituted ground rice. This made it a little gritty.
"Servable?" I asked Shuna Fish Lydon who came to assist in the kitchen on Saturday.
"It's intense. I like it."
So did the guests. It'll be even better when I do it properly, now I've sourced the correct flour.
More tea vicar came over in the afternoon to deliver his fig and walnut loaves, so freshly baked they pulsated warmly in my hand. Shuna and he got into a detailed discussion on different types of flour and gluten.
Shuna is passionate about "her industry" the food business. We talked again of hierarchy, how waiting staff, kitchen staff are still regarded as lowly, almost servants. How immigrants, sometimes illegal, basically hold up the whole industry by working so hard, such long hours for low wages. This is less the case in France, where staff turnover isn't as high, where 'serveurs' will spend years in the same brasserie, raising the theatricality of 'front of house' to an art form.
German radio came. We reenacted the entry moment...
"Hello, Welcome to the Underground Restaurant. Do you have the password?"
Fortunately there were a couple of German guests so that made things easier for them...
Tinderflint were a huge success. 'House Concerts' are a new trend. Elliot, the singer, said it was a little unnerving how close the audience were, the intimacy but he enjoyed the experience. One girl got up to dance. If anybody else is interested in doing this at The Underground Restaurant please get in touch.
supper club guest Playing spoons to the band...
Playing spoons to the band...
supper club guests:elegant Vogue model
My teen was thrilled because we had an impossibly elegant Vogue model (above) eating here. She couldn't have been anything else but a model, normal people don't look like that.
 tongue studded guests at the underground restaurant supper club
@KangaRue and her husband revealed that they both had tongue studs to my teen (see post on this battle here). I had visions of duelling tongues when they do French kissing...

Everybody mixed well, swapping places and tables after the main course. One couple told me that at another Underground Restaurant, seated by themselves on a table for two, asked if they could share with a table for six and were refused. They then asked another table for four if they could push their table next to them and again were told no!


  1. wow - am so impressed at those home-made vadais and that pineapple curry also sounds luscious. I am addicted to vadais, but rarely have the patience to make my own. I usually make mine up from a packet mix, but they don't taste anywhere near as good as the real thing.

  2. thank you Gastrogeek for that.
    Was feeling a bit depressed today. Why am I bothering to make so much effort type feelings...
    Read a sniffy review from one youngster (who stole my pix into the bargain). I think sometimes people only appreciate food if it is served very pretentiously.
    Anyway vadai is dead easy, once you get the proper ingredients, which is not so easy...

  3. Oh don't let the losers get you down! Undoubtedly they're just jealous that you're able to make such gorgeous and original food every week for complete strangers - god knows how you do it! The pix of your dishes always look so incredibly beautifully presented, if that's the worst criticism they were clearly struggling for something to gripe about.
    Will give the vadai a go from scratch (I reckon Taj Stores on Brick Lane might be a good bet for ingredients), you've inspired me....

  4. and another thing - there is nothing in the world worse than Indian food that's been presented in an overly-fussy way. It's the absolute anti-thesis of a cuisine that is fundamentally based on "soul food" It's just really off-putting and contrived when people try to "jujj" it up. It's pretty sad that this "reviewer" clearly doesn't seem to realise this.

  5. I've always wondered how to spell 'jujj'. I tried 'shooszh' nah that doesn't look right either.


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