Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Autumn equinox: Quiz night at The Underground Restaurant

This was the menu :
Kir Royale
Bread 'shots'
Artichokes with Dijon mustard vinaigrette
Pear, walnut and Gorgonzola salad
Ricotta and Spinach cannelloni
Baked figs with almonds, orange chocolate and candied oranges slices

How to make the Candied Orange Peel:

Cut the orange in quarters down to the pith
After slicing the peel into 1/4" strips, boil 2/3 times to get rid of bitterness, then boil in a sugar(4 1/2 cups) water (1 1/2 cups) at about 230 degrees (soft ball) until the rind is translucent.

Roll the orange slices in sugar then dry for at least 8 hours on racks or parchment paper.

I used the syrup left over to bathe the figs in.

Kilburn honey was used to drizzle over the figs and almonds.

The final dish, with Mayan Gold chocolate, Riverford Organics double cream and my own candied orange slices.

To make the cannelloni:

Fry shallots, garlic in olive oil, add the spinach until it shrinks. But I found, on my second go, that mincing the spinach in the food processor first worked better, more manageable to eat.

Mix your spinach mix with ricotta, nutmeg and I added some Riverford Organics Glastonbury cheddar cheese. Salt and Pepper to taste.

I was going to muck about making fresh pasta but time ran short so I used De Cecco No boil cannelloni. Stuff them with the ricotta mixture.

Lay the stuffed cannelloni tubes on a bed of tomato ragu, turn them after a while so they soak up the juice. Make a bechamel sauce (I added Glastonbury cheddar) and cover the cannelloni. I'm finding Michel Roux's latest book 'Sauces' invaluable in the kitchen. If I forget how to make a sauce, it's there, within reach, with very simple step by step instructions. Buy it! You won't regret it.

The finished dish decorated by wild flowers that Masterchef 2009 winner Mat Follas sent me.
I was very proud of myself, a couple of vegans came, I forgot about them. Everything but the cannelloni was vegan. I put my thinking cap on and made cannelloni stuffed with silken tofu and spinach covered in the tomato sauce. It was totally delicious!

How to make the gorgeous little bread shots:

A last minute inspiration, a recipe from Richard Bertinet's book 'Dough' was highly successful. We couldn't get enough of them. I slightly changed the recipe, which called for a normal bread dough, to a focaccia dough.In a jug, mix 320 ml of warm water with a pinch of sugar and a dessert spoon of yeast. Wait till it froths. Measure 500gs of good strong flour (Shipton Mill is very nice) and mix with your yeast and water adding 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Knead well. Leave for an hour.

Make 20 g balls of the dough and press in a green or black olive, a piece of anchovy or a sun blushed tomato. Brush with oil and salt (rosemary flaked if you have it). Leave to rise around the olives etc for an hour.
Angie who assisted me in the kitchen.

After baking for about 15 minutes brush them with oil again.

Left: Sun blushed tomato bread shots. Right: Quiz master Marcus Berkmann making my guests use their brains. One table was reluctant to join in. True to form they were the most competitive and won! Marcus runs the hardest pub quiz in London at the Prince of Wales, Highgate every Tuesday night. He also has written books on quizzing, cricket and about pop, including a column for The Spectator. He is available for quizzes at
The quiz was exquisitely constructed: two rounds on food and one round on all things underground.

Q:There were certainly shops in Victorian London that sold one of these ingredients, mostly run by Portuguese Jews. And there were Irish shops selling the other ingredient, for instant consumption. It took a Jewish immigrant from eastern Europe named Joseph Malin to put the two ingredients together, when he opened the first what in London’s East End in 1860?

Q: Each platform on the Victoria line, when they all opened in the late 1960s, had its own motif, unique to each station. Euston’s motif was the Doric Arch at Euston Station, and Blackhorse Road’s was a black horse. Which station had a ton of bricks?

Again I did the steamed artichokes as a starter. Use them while in season I reckon. These are Riverford Organics owner Guy Watson's pride and joy. They were so fresh they still had ladybirds on them.
Following my trip to Bologna (blog post soon) I was inspired by both autumn and Italy. I made a pear, gorgonzola, walnut and baby leaf salad, dressed with balsamic glaze, lemon oil and a sprinkling of Malden salt at the end.
The Cava Kir Royale's being poured.

Top: On Saturday night I allowed the TV cameras from BBC breakfast news in. With all these reality game shows based on supperclubs, I wanted to show the world the real deal, not a one nighter faked up for the cameras. The lovely Stephanie and her cameraman Pete were both enthusiastic foodies. I hope MsMarmitelover came across ok...but my hair was greasy and I was a little tired from the night before.
Bottom: The guest book, I'm trying to get an email list together (rather belatedly) and Michaelmas daisies from my garden.
Mat Follas came down to lend a hand on Saturday night. He looked rather fetching in a French maid's pinny don't you think? Here he is with Angie (left) and Lenny (middle) who did front of house to perfection as usual.
I was very upset on Saturday night as I had 8 no shows. There being problems with the Jubilee line at the moment, we waited for an hour for them to turn up. An underground restaurant is different from a conventional restaurant, every guest counts. Even though I still get the money, I hate waste and an empty table leaves a gap. Please at least let me know if you cannot make it. I felt very sorry for the two people left at the table by themselves. A very small quiz team (Team name '2 of us are good but the rest are rubbish') but they took things in their stride.They also left me an unusual tip: a Brixton pound! Special money you can only spend in the Brixton area. Another cheeky team called themselves the meat-loving vegetarians.
So, what to do with the leftovers? With the artichokes I made a dip, mixing the bottoms with creme fraiche, anchovy paste and mayonnaise. Serve warm.
With the leftover pears I made crumble. The leftover figs I baked again in the rest of the orange syrup for several hours in the Aga simmering oven. They are now a sticky condiment.


  1. I tried making some candied peels last year but I think I overcooked them in the syrup and they were rather unpleasantly soft. I will try again. Were yours soft when they were cooled or a bit chewy?

  2. Sorry to hear some of your guests failed to show - fools - the food looks wicked! Would love to see the BBC filming - but I guess it will have come and gone by now? Loving some of these recipes you've featured - will have to note them down! xxx

  3. They were softish but hardened up as they dried. You have to leave them to dry for quite a long time especially if you live in a damp place.
    My kitchen is warm and dry because of the Aga. In fact things tend to dry out too quickly, the opposite problem.

  4. Ah I see. That's weird as mine never hardened even after days. Not quite sure what I did wrong there.

  5. Hey Ms ML, long time no contact - I hope all is well with you? I saw The Underground Restaurant piece on the BBC this morning - it looked so fab'n'glam'n'properly interesting, especially in comparison to the 'professional' restaurant they visited for (snide, pessimistic) comments later on. And you looked fab too! One day - oh one day soon I hope! - I'll be making a booking. Meanwhile, if ever you fancy that foodie trip to Bath, you'd be very, very welcome at the Animal Disco table. All I need is enough advance warning to book us in for a lovely review dinner!

    PS. Isn't that 'Pop-up Restaurant' series on Virgin just aaaawful? To think, I almost applied for that! Ah, hindsight is such a tasty dish...

    M x

  6. I'm becoming an avid follower of your Blog. I'm sorry to hear about the no showers, they would have missed a treat I'm sure, what a shame. Being in Yorkshire it's a long way to London. But one day! Keep up the good work.

  7. Your blog is delicious I’ll definitely visit again.

  8. oh am so gutted I missed out on helping you with this!! Can't wait to come to your umami night (you could never be one of those one-nighter fakes). Great recipe too, thanks :)


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