Aren't these babies beautiful? 60p each at Portobello Market, freshly picked at 5am that morning. Same thing £1.20p from Borough market and a day old, so hard to open for stuffing.
Do NOT switch off Aga switch EVER or you will die. One week, one of my daughter's friends unplugged it to charge up her mobile. She's lucky she's still alive.
Green Onions, looking like Allegra McEvedy's wilder sister, scrubbing the clams. Any that don't close on rinsing or are broken, discard.
There was me boasting to Green Onions...
"yes my daughter is becoming quite professional as a waitress now. It's great, it's like work experience every week..."Little did I know...
"What we really liked was the service. It was comedic. Your daughter's response when we asked if we should open our wine (for apparently she'd merely handed over the bottle and corkscrew) was... 'Whatever'. When we asked where we should sit... 'whatever'.
"Yes I asked for another bottle of wine. Then I went to the toilet. Your daughter handed over the bottle to me as I was entering the toilet. I suggested that she put it on the table."
"I liked hearing your tiff in the kitchen. You telling her off and her rolling her eyes as soon as your back was turned".
Does Marco Pierre White or Gordon Ramsay have to put up with this? I don't think so. Their word is law. But here, at a home restaurant, there has been door slamming on occasion. The 'staff' is highly disrespectful to the chef. Cos the chef is mum and therefore an idiot.
Every table had two plates of courgette flowers to start, amounting to two each, but served family style as they came out of the fryer. Moving onto the next course, I suddenly discover one table has had nothing to eat, not even one plate of courgette flowers. I get a bit shouty.
"Yeah well, you are just in the way. I mean shut up yeah. It's none of your business. You aren't helping."
I move towards her. I am within a hair's breadth of smacking my daughter in the face. I manage, just, to confine my behaviour to wagging my finger menacingly and telling her not to be so cheeky.
The food: Courgette flower recipe courtesy of Valentine Warner's new book 'What to eat now more please'; they were stuffed with buffalo mozzarella and anchovy (capers for the veggies).
The spaghetti vongole in a bag. Grrr...have anybody else noticed that you can't get normal greaseproof or baking paper anymore in the shops?
Now it's some sort of 'eco' version; brown and ineffective. This dish, that works so well with normal greaseproof paper, suddenly fell apart on the eco-version of this paper. The mixture, spooned onto the sheets of paper, soaked through, meaning the pasta could not hold the delicious vongole liquor and was drier. Think I got away with it though.
Sometimes the whole eco-fascism trend drives me mad. I don't want the new lightbulbs. The light from them is horrible. My Bosch dishwasher annoys me too. It's got some sort of eco facility in which you have to switch it on and off several times before it actually starts working. I'm sorry but I don't give a fuck about the planet when I've got 30 people to feed. If I turn a dishwasher on, I expect it to go on. No ifs no buts.
The caramel: cocked it up the first go. There are two methods: wet and dry. My advice: go for the dry, it's less temperamental. You merely put a heavy-based pan full of sugar with a bit of butter on the heat. Don't stir. Wait till you get a few brown bubbles, then give the pan a mild shake to move the sugar around. Eventually the whole thing becomes liquified. Take it off the heat and slow add the cream. At this point you do stir. Lots. At the end add good salt like Maldon.
I poured it over the passion fruit pavlova. Yum.
Green Onions, another underground restauranteur helped me and it was great to share the burden. We haven't been to each other's restaurants yet because we were always open the same night. She wants to retain the mystery, secrecy and excitement of the underground restaurant scene and, unlike some, is not desperate to get her gob in the papers. For her this is about the food, giving great home-cooked food to people, not a quick route to fame. Plus she doesn't want to get busted. Sensible girl.