Monday, 14 December 2009

Hello Upstairs!

Sherry night at The Underground Restaurant.

I devised the menu around the sherries, starting from dry, moving gradually sweeter. I used only to like sweet sherries like Pedro Ximenez (PX if you want to sound knowledgeable) but working with them so intensively the last couple of weeks, I've become a fan of dry sherry too.

The Menu:

Tio Pepe fino sherry with 7up, ice and a wedge of lime (refreshing especially with salty tapas).
Olives stuffed with anchovies
Fried padron peppers with Malden salt
Pan con tomate y ajo (toasted bread rubbed with garlic, topped with chopped tomato, olive oil)
A shot glass of gazpacho soup (cold tomato, bread and sherry vinegar soup)

Roasted sardines with fresh mint and lemon
Red onion confit, fennel confit
Game chips or fresh made chips.
Orange and black olive salad

A Spanish cheese board:
Tetilla ( a breast shaped milk cheese); a rosemary hard goat cheese; Manchego; Cabrales (a piquante blue cheese)
Kilburn honeycomb
Olive oil and aniseed biscuits, oatcakes

Two turron icecream
Liquorice and chocolate jelly


Andrew Sinclair from Gonzales Byass seemed a little shocked to be bossed around so much by MsMarmite, but hopefully he enjoyed the experience (next time bring a gimp mask). Certainly the guests appreciated his explanations of how to enjoy sherry...from the kitchen I could hear laughter. He did seem unprepared by the quirks of a home restaurant

"Where are the sherry glasses?"
he said looking askance at the collection of mismatched glasses of varying sizes (hell I've used candle holders in the past when pushed). Continuing with the theme of organised chaos, one set of larger blokes could not fit on a bench meant for three, meaning a garden chair was brought in and, lacking a cushion, a resourceful waitress (Bziffa!) used my pillow so that the guest did not literally freeze his arse off. I only discovered this when I went to bed and went looking for my missing pillow, finding it on the chair, bum-shaped dent still intact.

The ironing board was also brought into play when plating up space ran out. You have to be inventive in this game.

Your hostess threw on a little something she found in the closet...a flamenco dress matched with a Cath Kidston apron and an enormous red flower for my hair; I was a domestic vision in polka dots.
A guest came to visit me in the kitchen and confessed she was a friend of my upstairs neighbour. Who I have never met or seen. My other neighbours are very supportive of The Underground Restaurant and I always check if it's too noisy or difficult in any way. This last neighbour is new and I was a little worried.
Turns out she reads my blog! She thoroughly enjoyed the firework display in my back garden on Guy Fawkes night(1). It's all rather Lives of Others or Rear Window isn't it? How very modern and alienated!
I confessed to her friend that I stole the neighbour's copy of Vogue. It comes in the same wrapper as Vanity Fair, which I subscribe to, and one morning, no doubt bleary-eyed, I must have opened it by mistake.
I was disappointed, thinking that they'd sent me the wrong magazine but later saw a card from Vogue sent to the new and mysterious upstairs neighbour. Anyway, dear neighbour, I still have your copy of Vogue, albeit with slightly sticky pages, you can come down and get it any time... it would be lovely to finally meet you!


Padron peppers:
  • fry in a little olive oil till lightly browned then sprinkle with salt. One in ten is very hot...
Pan con tomate y ajo: the Spanish equivalent of bruschetta,
  • you toast the bread,
  • rub it with a clove of garlic then
  • add some chopped ripe tomatoes
  • with a little coriander, salt and lemon.
  • I also add a dribble of olive oil.
Gazpacho: not very seasonal but still yummy.
  • Mash up a couple of cloves of garlic, two red onions, a bunch of tomatoes, a green pepper finely in the food processor
  • Add a slice or two of stale white bread.
  • Season with a good sherry vinegar, salt and olive oil.
  • Strain through a sieve.
  • Chill
  • Check seasoning before serving.
  • Served on this occasion in shot glasses.
Sardines and confit:
  • Clean sardines, sprinkle with torn up fresh mint and good salt.
  • Cook in roasting oven of Aga or if you have a grill, put them under until skin looks crackly
  • Red onion confit: julienne(slice finely in strips) red onion finely
  • Season with garlic, lemon juice, salt, balsamic vinegar, butter AND olive oil
  • You can also add pink peppercorns or pickled peppercorns
  • Cook slowly on a low heat for several hours making sure they don't dry out. In the Aga you can leave them in the simmering oven covered with tin foil for 4-5 hours.
  • Fennel confit: julienne finely enough fennel bulbs for your guests (one between 3?)
  • Chop off the ends of several lemons, add them and squeeze on the juice
  • Add large chunks of butter (half a pack) and cover with oil
  • Season with salt and pepper
  • Cook very slowly for several hours, covering with tin foil if it looks like it might dry out
Game Chips or crisps:
  • Slice potatoes very thinly (easier in a food processor)
  • I fried them in a deep fryer till white in colour
  • Take them out, rest on kitchen paper, sprinkle with good salt
  • After they have rested at least 15 minutes, fry them again till golden
  • I can think of lots of different seasonings...but salt and pepper is always a winner
This dish reminds me of the best crisps I ever had...from a street stall in Madrid...

Turron Icecream:
  • I used two types of 'turron' or 'nougat' (which you can pronounce as 'nougah' or like my dad 'nugget' depending on how classy you want to appear). Turron from Jijona is soft and fudgy; turron from Alicante is covered in rice paper (still get a childish thrill from the idea of paper you can eat), hard and full of nuts.
  • Melt the packet of Jijona turron in some sherry (I used PX). Chop the Alicante turron into small squares.
  • Make a thin syrup by melting 250 grams of sugar with 50ml of water. Let it cool once melted.
  • Take 6 eggs. Separate the yolks from the whites.
  • Mix the syrup into the yolks, stirring.
  • Whip up the whites till stiff
  • Take 300ml of double cream and whip until it forms soft peaks.
  • Prepare a loaf tin by buttering it (or you can use ramekins as I did but I prefer the idea of slices)
  • Sprinkle some of the Alicante turron onto the bottom of the tin or ramekins.
  • Gradually mix all the ingredients together, folding softly.
  • But leave out half of the egg whites. Throw them away or make them into meringues or something. Oh allright you only need 3 egg whites for this recipe.
  • Pour the mix into your container(s).
  • Sprinkle with some more Alicante turron.
  • Put it in the freezer to harden up.
  • Take out of the freezer half an hour before serving so you can extract it from the mould.
  • Serve drizzled with Pedro Ximenez sherry.

(1)On Guy Fawkes night, I hosted a private party for a film effects company. They mentioned they might bring a few fireworks. I was stunned when they set up a professional standard display at the end of my garden. One of them, looking like David Essex, all blue eyes and swarthy sexy gypsy roughness, had a professional arsonist's license or something. The flats next door were hanging out of their balconies cheering "more more"... Who needs Parliament Hill?

Again severe lack of pix due to blogging/mac/picasa problems... my computer is full. I can't fit anything more on it.


  1. Please don't take this the wrong way're barmy. And I love what you're doing. And I will find my way to Kilburn more or less as soon as I can find someone to come with, because I'm a weed like that.

  2. There's some lucky diners around London. Gonzalez Byass - big fan.

    Is this the modern way of communication - you talk through the blog rather than through the floor?

    The ironing board! Great. Would have been good to know that before Saturday tho.

    Nugget ice cream sounds lush.

  3. Brilliant! Would loved to have been there...

  4. Wow... wish I could have made it. That sounds like your best menu yet.

    And the fireworks display sounds like it was incredible too!

  5. wow! what a magnificent menu!

  6. PJ: come on your own! I go pretty much everywhere on my own...
    James: why are you saying that you still talk to people directly outside of London? How very last century!
    Why the ironing board before Saturday?
    Justin: thank you
    F&T:especially as a certain handsome fruit n veg man was there eh?
    Luschka: thanks love...

  7. They were mixing sherry into the mulled cider on Woman's Hour this morning. Sounded good.

    Re ironing board - cooking for 20 in a closet kitchen last Sat.

  8. Ironing boards are wasted on mere ironing...

  9. I'd love to be a fly on the wall on your restaurant nights -lots of exciting things go on each week! I must come again because I am finding myself getting jealous with regards to menus I have missed out on! xxx


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