Thursday, 31 March 2011

B day: Supper Club: recipes and notes from The Underground Restaurant

It's out!
My book, Supper Club: recipes and notes from The Underground Restaurant, two years in the making, is published today by Harper Collins. Within it's beautifully designed pages (I love the smell of new books don't you?) you will find:

  • a brief history of supper clubs/underground restaurants
  • a chapter on MsMarmitelover (my background, family, childhood, politics and approach to food). It's probably the only cookbook that contains the word 'anal'
  • a 12 step 'how to set up your own supper club' programme
  • 120 tested recipes from me, divided into cocktails and nibbles; starters/small plates; vegetarian mains, fish mains, cheese chapter and dessert. All recipes work for Aga ovens and normal ovens
  • three themed menus; Elvis night, Midnight Feast Black menu and the edible flower menu
  • a chapter of meat recipes by other supper club hosts including Nuno Mendes of Viajante, Lex Eats, The Shed, Plum Kitchen from New Zealand, Once Upon a Table's Angie Ma from Hong Kong, Sheen Suppers, Mama Lan's chinese supper club, Ben Greeno, Rambling Restaurant, and Casa Saltshaker from Argentina
  • guest recipes from Hardeep Singh Kholi
  •  a worldwide directory of supper clubs with notes on the ones I have visited
  • a bibliography
  • the longest list of acknowledgements and thanks in the history of mankind
  • it's got a pink ribbon for a book mark! I really wanted a ribbon, and gold on the cover and in the binding. My mum, an artist, who has contributed some drawings to the book, always says her paintings sell more if there is a bit of gold.
You will discover the inside story of how I started a restaurant in my front room with the hidden motive that I might find a boyfriend, went up three dress sizes, remained single but got a book deal instead! 
Bon appetit!

Photo of MsMarmite with the book and a plate of marmite on toast: Paul Winch Furness

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The One Show

I was on The One Show last night, being interviewed by Jay Rayner in time for my book's publication tomorrow. The footage seemed to convert gardener Monty Don. He's more than welcome to come down and overhaul my 80 foot garden. I used to be a gardening fanatic but The Underground Restaurant has left me time short. Jay Rayner also interviewed legendary chef Pierre Koffman who is opening a supper club at his Knightsbridge restaurant.
 Lenny serving customers, Alissia in the background.
 That Jay Rayner is round my house!
 "Yes, conventional restaurants have stolen our clothes, but it's a compliment..."
 My hairpiece is so big it practically obscures Jay's head...
"If Pierre Koffman wants to do swapsies, a meal at his Michelin star restaurant for one here, I'm game" 
 Gardener Monty Don was converted to the home restaurant cause!

Here is the link: watch it from 9 minutes onwards but it only last six days. Apparently there is a way of keeping the footage, and if anyone knows it please write in!

Monday, 28 March 2011

The Underground Restaurant on the road: Camp Bestival/Bestival

Some of you that have read my blog from the early days know that I've always loved festivals and cooking at them.
We are thrilled to announce that we are taking The Underground Restaurant on the Camp Bestival and Bestival, winners of the Best Major festival at the Uk Festival awards. Tickets for lunch, early dinner or midnight feast can be prebooked. Adults £37. Children are welcome for lunch and early dinner at £20 for the children's menu.
More details here.
Those of you that are going or who live near to Dorset or the Isle of Wight, I hope I'll see you there! Dress up!
I will also be signing copies of my book Supper Club: recipes and notes from the Underground Restaurant at The Underground Night Market on May 6th and at Bestival!

MsMarmite in the Independent on Sunday

Kerstin Rodgers: 'All those no-salt cooks – have you tasted their food? Dreary'

Interview by Hugh Montgomery
Sunday, 27 March 2011
Rodgers says: My dream dining companion would be Julian Assange - it would be fascinating to get all the secrets straight from the horse's mouth'
Rodgers says: My dream dining companion would be Julian Assange - it would be fascinating to get all the secrets straight from the horse's mouth'
My earliest food memory... Suddenly having this thing about fried eggs when I was about four, and getting my mum to cook me one, which I loved so much. But then after that she made me a couple more fried eggs and I tried them and said, "I don't like them any more." I was quite a fussy kid! My mum was a good cook but also quite experimental, and it didn't always work out – she had a phase of making Japanese soup which tasted like dishwater.
My store-cupboard essentials... Marmite, obviously! I'm a Marmite baby and was brought up on the stuff. Also, good-quality pasta; Normandy sea-salt butter – I love it so much I could eat it on its own; ponzu, which is a kind of soy sauce flavoured with yuzu, which is a Japanese citrus fruit – if you put it on rice, it transforms it; and chestnut purée: if you don't know what to do for a pudding, mix some with crème fraîche or cream or yoghurt and it's delicious.
My culinary tip... Remember to salt to taste as you're cooking. I'm a great believer in salt, and I hate this government anti-salt thing: a decent sea salt contains lots of good minerals such as magnesium and zinc, which women are often lacking in, and if you talk to a doctor who actually knows their stuff, there is no definite relation between high blood pressure and salt. And all those no-salt cooks... have you ever tasted their cooking? It's dreary.
My favourite food shop... Quite a lot of Polish supermarkets have appeared near my home in Kilburn and they're great for discovering new foods such as green pickled tomatoes, which sound vile but are delicious. Eastern European food has a bad reputation, probably because of the Soviet years, but thanks to the Polish immigrants who have come over, there are a lot of goodies and gems we're only just discovering.
My top table... Koya, a brilliant Japanese noodle place in Soho. The other ones I love are Tayyabs [a curry house in east London], which is so cheap but amazing, and Polpetto [in Soho], which is all tapas-style plates. Sometimes with tapas restaurants, you end up paying a fortune and you're still hungry afterwards, but there they give you really generous portions and they also do really lovely flatbreads.
My dream dining companion... Julian Assange – it would be fascinating to get all the secrets straight from the horse's mouth. Also, Madonna: I like some of her music, but I'm mainly a fan of her career strategy. She's an amazing over-achiever, and it would be a bit like meeting the Queen. I'd have them round to my Underground Restaurant, because they're more likely to be relaxed and open there.
My desert-Island dish... Spaghetti with my own tomato sauce and lots of garlic. It's my favourite comfort food, because it's got loads of carbs in it. I hate the anti-carbs movement: in fact, I want to start a restaurant just called Carbs.
My pet hates... Meat-eaters on public transport: people who eat a lot of fried chicken as a diet really sweat and smell, especially when its hot weather and you're crammed under their armpit. Also, okra – texture is important to me in food, and I don't like things which are slimy.
My tipple of choice... A margarita. I've never had a decent one in this country, but I was recently talking to a mixologist and he was saying the reason was that the limes you get here are not the right ones: they're not the same as you get in the States. The key is getting the right balance of sour and sweet: the margaritas I make at home might be too sour for most British people, but I like food and drink that makes you wince a bit.
Kerstin Rodgers, aka MsMarmiteLover, is chef-patronne of The Underground Restaurant, based at her house in Kilburn, north London, and one of the country's most popular food bloggers (marmitelover. Her first recipe book, 'Supper Club' (Collins, £25), is released on Thursday

Friday, 25 March 2011

Video: early days of The Underground Restaurant

This little film was made by a student in the early days of The Underground Restaurant. I wouldn't let anyone film at that point, I was still very worried about being shut down, being arrested or similar, but Eva Krysiak the film student assured me it wouldn't be shown to anyone but her teachers.
I look thinner; running a restaurant, even part-time, has not been kind to my figure over the last couple of years. I was nervous, excited, passionate about this project!
My friend, the blogger Bellaphon, is featured in the interviews, he was a great supporter in the early days, someone I could go to restaurants with, obsess over food with, call up when I was feeling disheartened. It's really nice to have a foodie friend!
There are many supperclubs now, it's almost commonplace in London. Many start up, few last. Some only last the amount of time it takes to get an article in the papers! Others, intensely interested in food and the convivial sharing of it, the intrinsic subversiveness of turning private space into a public forum, continue and thrive.
My 'journey', my tips, twelve steps to starting your own supper club, 120 recipes with guest meat recipes from other supper clubs (Nuno Mendez, Ben Greeno, Rambling Restaurant, Sheen Suppers, Horton Jupiter, Lex Eats, The Shed, Mama Lan, Plum Kitchen and Casa Salt Shaker) and a world wide directory of supper clubs are described in my book out next week. I hope you will enjoy it!

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Drawings of The Underground Restaurant

My mum, Margaret Rodgers, is an artist and I asked her to do a few drawings at my home restaurant. Some of them will feature in my upcoming book.
 At The Underground Restaurant
 MsMarmitelover prepping
 Fish waiting to go in the oven
 On the Aga, timing is everything...
 Over the Aga
 Kitchen towel
 Near the back door
Saucepan rack and wire utensils

The Underground Tea

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Comedy Night at The Underground Restaurant: The One Show

Josie Long slayin' 'em with Jay Rayner looking on...
Camera crew filming Lenny and the cheeseboards... (great name for a group?)
Jon Richardson and Tim Basden wearing the crowns we made for the galette des rois earlier in the year...
Isy Suttie 

Chef's table of comedians...
No pix of food I'm afraid...can't do everything!

I can get a little stressed before some of my events. The bigger and more complex the event, the more stressed I become. It's almost like stage fright. I love comedy nights at The Underground Restaurant but cooking for the main room and having a sort of chef's table in the pantry, replete with the nation's quickest wits, requires organisation and a cool head.
This week I got word that The One Show with Jay Rayner, the Jay Rayner, uber famous and respected restaurant critic, were coming down to film. This is a great opportunity and hopefully will bring supper clubs to an audience outside of the London food blogging twitterati whilst, at the same time, spread the word about my forthcoming book Supper Club: recipes and notes from The Underground Restaurant (out March 31st). The BBC aren't allowed to advertise so I was desperate to wedge in a mention of my book. I had a copy of my book under my arm as I stirred the soup...totally unnatural but needs must.

It being St. Patrick's Day, I decided upon a simple but hearty Irish influenced menu:

Black Velvet (a cocktail of champagne and Guinness)

Home-made soda bread

Celeriac soup with goat's cheese cream and a green pepper and pecan salsa (adapted from Irish Chef Dennis Cotter's new book 'For the love of food' out in April)

Smoked undyed haddock filet poached with milk and chives
Champ (a traditional Irish potato mash with spring onions)

Irish cheeses from Neal's Yard: St. Tola; Milleen; Ardrahan; Crozier Blue and St. Gall with oat biscuits and Mostarda di fruta

Chocolate Guinness liegeois 

A cup of Barry's tea (I absolutely adore this golden hued tea)

The person who was supposed to help me prep didn't turn up so I did all the prep on my own. By the time my front of house team arrived at 6pm I was a little frantic, sweaty, and covered in flour. I did a quick spritz with the deodorant, changed my dress, and rubbed on some lipstick in order to be presentable for the camera crew. They'd just come up from Kensington where they filmed legendary chef Pierre Koffman who is starting his own Michelin starred supper club.
Josie Long assembled a fantastic crew of comics: Isy Suttie of Peep Show, Jon Richardson, Tim Basden of The Cowards and The Behemoth.
Among the guests I had seven vegetarians (five of which were a surprise so I whipped together a last minute 'store cupboard special' of of baked beetroot, Puy lentils, chili halloumi, roast tomatoes, pine nuts, oak smoked tomatoes with pomegranate syrup on a bed of rocket), two coeliacs and two with serious nut allergies.
Of the comics I only saw a little of Isy Suttie who was really funny. At the end I sat and chatted with the comedians, sharing a bottle of smooth Bushmills Irish whisky.
Jay Rayner is very tall with a curly glossy brown mane and a warm humourous manner. He put me at my ease for the Aga-side interview which was fortunate as by the time we came to film it, it had been a long day and I was not as sharp as I usually am. I tend to look up to the side when I'm thinking of an answer and that's an annoying tick on film, it gets worse when I'm tired.
We did of course all ask whether Matt Baker was being deliberately provocative when he asked David Cameron 'How do you sleep at night?'. They said the interview was running late and that's why the question was asked in a rushed way at the end.
The poor cameraman fell over at one point when moving backwards while filming a waitress, he then forgot his bag and made me jump at 2 am when he rapped on my bedroom window! But this film crew were not too intrusive, and Jay soon got all the guests joining in as crew, holding the sound boom etc, while they did vox pops (little interviews with guests).
It was a great need to be nervous at all...but you don't know that until afterwards!
Next comedy night, probably June.

Upcoming events:
March 31st: publication of my book!! Pre-order. Perfect gift for Mother's Day on April 3rd.
April 2nd: Chocolate menu with Trish Deseine.
April 29th: The Royal Wedding Banquet Banquet
May 6th: The Underground Night Market   Fantastic kletzmer band She'koyokh are playing as is Tom Baker on accordion. I'll be selling and signing my book. Bring cash to eat hot food after work, enjoy the cooking demonstrations, stock up on food for the weekend and buy crafts as presents or for yourself.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Comedy, conferences, dinners and market at The Underground Restaurant

Thursday 17th March (all sold out) it's Comedy Night with Josie Long!!!

Isy Suttie of Peep Show
Also on the bill are Jon Richardson

Tom Basden of the Cowards
and The Behemoth

April 2nd: The Underground Restaurant presents 'Chocolate'. We will be exploring this ingredient, raw and cooked, in both savoury and sweet dishes.

Dessert will be made by Paris based food author Trish Deseine who has written many books on chocolate. We are very lucky! Tickets £40 available here:

April 16th: private hen party with bookbinding workshop by Simon Goode.

April 29th: Dinner: The Royal Wedding Banquet!
Feel free to come in bridal wear, with crowns, sceptres, ermine, pearls and royal purple. The food will be royal. The bunting will boast the Union Jack. Tickets £40 here:

May 6th: The Underground Night Market
This time the Underground farmer's and craft market will be held in the evening starting at 6pm. This will enable the after work crowd to listen to live music, eat lovely food, do their shopping for the weekend, learn to cook at the cooking demos, and buy crafts for the home. Again we will have the Dragon's Den talent show: with food scouts from big brands plus experts in media and marketing, food entrepeneurs will learn whether their business and products are on the right track!
Tickets £5

May 13th: Hunter, gatherer, cook meal with Nick Weston who wrote the Tree House Diaries. A foraged menu with seasonal ingredients.
Tickets £40
May 21st: Underground University: How to start and run a supper club. After the book, the workshop. Talks and workshops, advice, hints and tips from supper club hosts, tax and business people, PR and marketing.
Tickets include breakfast and lunch, all beverages £100

Date change: June 4th: Underground University: Craft Day. We will learn how to make candles in vintage tea cups and other containers with the super talented Me Old china; also planned, how to make bunting and other crafts. More to be confirmed.
The day ticket includes brunch and tea, all beverages £100

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Trishna: posh Indian

As my publishers have declared that I have two award winning blogs, The English can cook and this one, on the fly leaf of my book, well I guess I better start writing something here again. I haven't actually won any awards at all and I don't allow all those soppy pretendy awards with cuddly bears and flowers 'Gee I really like your blog' badges.
I was invited to Trishna in Marylebone for a wine, beer, cider matching meal with Indian food.
Like Chris Pople, who I was sitting next to, I'm often a bit dubious about posh Indian restaurants but I have to say this one made me think differently about Indian flavours and cooking techniques. They have a new chef/owner, Karam Sethi, from North London, whose mum and dad were accountants. But, in a fit of bohemian rebellion, Karam decided at fifteen to be a chef. He's spent a few years in Delhi at top restaurant Bukhara and I'm sure this informs his fresh approach to Indian food.
We ate in a dark room in the basement. It was like a star chamber of food and wine bloggers.
This tasting was brilliantly led by Winechap, one of the Evening Standard's 1000 most influential Londoners. Like most wine bloggers, he's rather eccentric with his bushy beard, plucked eyebrows and cravat. Every so often he'd pronounce things like "Spain is the new Portugal" and "No one ever goes to the Tate to eat the food".
We tried some great wines, for instance a £150 bottle Riesling ('Uhlen'Spatlese trocken Knebel, 2005) that I could drink all day, from a family vineyard, steeply terraced. I don't even like Riesling so it was a pleasant shock to see what it could and should taste like. We also tentatively sipped some Indian wines: a Shiraz from Sula vineyards (north of Mumbai), 2009 and a Chenin Blanc, again Sula vineyards, 2010, that were...drinkable. Not terrible. Unlike a bottle which, desperate for a drink, I had in India in 1987, a clash between meths and sherry.
I had my first Tokaji which I've wanted to taste ever since I saw the film Dean Spanley where Sam Neill played a dean who, every time he drank Tokaji, reverted to a previous life in which he was a dog. The wine was resinous and a good match for cardomom but I didn't bark.
I enjoyed a Gewurztraminer ( 'Granos Nobles', Luigi Bosca, Mendoza, 2009), one of my favourite wines while being simultaneously light and sturdy enough to stand up to subcontinental flavours.
Ultimately though I'll always prefer lager to wine when it comes to Indian food. We tried Erdinger and Zatec. There were probably others, but I'm a cheap date.
I would urge people to visit Trishna, some really superb cooking going on there. I'd go back and pay. They also have a ridiculously cheap lunch deal for £10.
A hot cheesy football type snack.Delicious.
Coriander bream, a signature dish. So good.
Black pepper fish tikka. Fragrant, fresh, startling.

15-17 Blandford Street
London W1U 3DG
020 7935 5624
Underground: Baker Street

Sunday, 6 March 2011

The Jar Meal: using the American canner and pickling lime powder

 We used tea towels as napkins, it went with the utility chic.
Inspired by Simon Hopkinson's 'The Vegetarian Option' I made this simply canned bouillon.
The hissing American canner terrified me. But I overcame my fear and pressure canned!
  • You must make sure the jars are clean with intact seals and no nicks. 
  • Then fill your jars half with solids and half with liquid.
  • There are two methods: raw packing and hot packing. Delicate fruits and vegetable can be raw packed into sterilised jars. Other foods especially those that discolour should be hot packed.
  • Hot packing, fill the jars with the very hot food then top up with hot cooking liquid.
  • Salt. We found you need far more salt than you think. I added one teaspoon of salt to each half litre jar and after canning it still wasn't enough. Obviously the process of canning in some way reduces the salt level. 
  • Make sure you have one inch clearance at the top of each jar as the contents will expand.
  • Run a plastic spatula around the inside of the jar to allow bubbles to escape.
  • Hand tighten the jar lids.
  • Fill canner with boiling water to the lowest level. Put in the jars, the water should just cover the jars.(If not using a pressure canner with a special jar rest then put newspaper or a teatowel on the bottom).
  • Put a few tablespoons of white vinegar into the canner otherwise the jars get stained.
  • Close the canner and place on the high heat until pressure starts to build up. 
  • There is a dial on top. You need to look up the amount of processing time and at what pressure each item that you are canning should be at. This also depends on the altitude. Get the dial tested regularly. Place the little steam hat thingy on top of the vent.
  • When the pressure got to 10 I moved the canner to a lower heat and maintained it at that pressure for 20 minutes.
  • Then remove the canner from the heat and wait for the pressure to go down naturally and gradually before removing the jars.
  • I should have bought a special jar remover as it's very hot and delicate work (the jars are glass!). We used tongs and lots of 'ouch' ing.
  • Leave jars to cool for 24 hours. You will hear the lids popping. If the lid does not pop, then do not use that jar.
  • You cannot put oil or dairy into home canned products. You could get botulism which is invisible and tasteless.
  • Home canning improves the flavour of vegetables and fruit. It is an ecological option requiring no refrigeration plus it means that you don't waste any excess from your garden or allotment. Once the tomato season finishes I will be canning tomatoes for my pasta sauces which will last me the year.
  • I'm building up a proper pantry.

 Salmon rillettes, potted.
 Matt Day, who helped cook the meal said he quite fancied Mrs Elswood.
I ordered baby cucumbers and made my own dill pickles using pickling lime powder that I imported from the United States. The lime adds crispness to the pickles. This is the recipe:
1 k of baby cucumbers, halfed and quartered.
I cup of pickling lime 
1 litre Sarson's pickling vinegar
1/2 k sugar
2 tablespoons of salt
1 tablespoon of mustard seeds
1 Tbsp of coriander seeds
1 tbsp of black peppercorns
5 tbspns of dill weed

Soak the cucumbers in the lime with 2 litres of cold water. Leave overnight.
Drain and soak in cold water for 3 hours. Rinse a couple more times.
Make a pickling solution by combining the pickling vinegar, sugar, salt together and bringing to the boil.
Then add the spices and the cucumbers.
Leave to soak overnight.
Bring to the boil for half an hour.
You may then can them.
My dill pickles with the melba toast. Pic: Paul Winch Furness
The macaroni cheese in a jar with freshly grated truffle from @Mistertruffle. This man seeks to bring truffles to the people, he will sell them literally by the gram. He sold one gram to a guy that wanted to make an impressive meal for his girlfriend. Pic: Paul Winch Furness
 I associate Prunes in Armagnac with the 1970s, when my parents owned a house in the Armagnac region, in Condom, and we had them for dessert every day.

Some of my boozy jams...
The bouquet of carrots: vegetables are as beautiful as flowers.
Chris Pople who writes the brilliant blog 'Cheese and Biscuits' with witty restaurant reviews decided to get some experience behind the scenes. He was a very good waiter and made me laugh so much. A real tonic after a week of illness where my nose is blocked so badly I can't smell anything. Impossible to cook well if you can't smell. Pic: Paul Winch Furness
 The beauty of jars
 At the end we had a singalong to Elvis Costello's My Aim is True. Pic: Paul Winch Furness
Matt looking at the Aga and thinking 'Er what oven is this?'. Matt Day is exploring canning for a wine bar/ restaurant project. He's a teacher of wine and runs very reasonably priced cooking courses in Tuscany, Italy. Pic: Paul Winch Furness

Other people are using jars for art projects.