Saturday, 15 January 2011

Toques, hats and crowns

In retrospect spaghetti is too hard to cook for 31 people on a rapidly cooling Aga, in future, I'll stick to more forgiving shapes of pasta like penne and rigatoni. The first course, thinly sliced fennel, blood orange, pea shoot sprigs, roasted Jerusalem artichokes and tarragon was a seasonal hit dressed with Mrs Monk's dijon mustard and olive oil vinaigrette (a stallholder at The Underground Farmer's and Craft market). 
I served each table with a large galette des rois, this time with added orange flower water. The winner of the 'king' slice, which contained a pecan, got to wear a hand crafted crown made from wallpaper. 
One of my guests, Emma Marfé, makes hats and fascinators; she showed us a selection. 

Jerusalem artichokes roasted with thyme, olive oil, maple butter.

Two of the queens of their tables.... 
 Kind of whacky! My chef's hat... a toque often has 101 pleats, said to represent all the different ways you can cook an egg. Symbolically, an egg represents the universe. The taller the toque, the higher in rank the chef. Each inch of the toque represents a year of service, some say. The toque has also been the sign of a free thinker and, as only trusted chefs could cook for a king, poisoning being a frequent form of assassination, this chef's hat is a crown of sorts.
People always used to wear hats; head coverings denoted the profession, religion or married status of the bearer. In Tudor times only maids, girl children went hatless. We stopped wearing hats in the mid 20th century; short hair for women and central heating?
Emma Marfé
The teen in one of Emma's hats...
Upcoming events:
February 9th
Salt: a dinner exploring the different tastes of a selection of salts. 5 courses £40 Book here

February 12th
Mixed Grill: a food conference organised by Fire and Knives Food Quarterly, held at Conway Hall in Holborn.
Tickets £20: book here.
Set lunch by MsMarmite £25: book here. As the premises is licensed, wine can be ordered with your meal and from the bar.

February 19th
How to be a successful food blogger. All day conference with four talks/workshops/Q and A sessions with the top people in the field. Confirmed: Niamh of Eat like a Girl; Tim Hayward of The Guardian; Laura James, cookbook writer and online writer for Aga; plus, name to be confirmed, a food photographer. £100 includes coffee and home-made pastries; lunch at The Underground Restaurant, drinks and all workshops. Book here

March 4th
Jar food: a menu exploration of food in jars: pickles, confits, krauts, slow cooked foods and preserves. 5 courses £30. Book here.

March 17th
The Underground Comedy dinner with Josie Long, featuring Isy Suttie (Dobby on 'Peep Show') and Robin Ince among others. £40. Book here.

April 2nd
Chocolate dinner with dessert by Trish Deseine. Book here

April 14th
My book Supper Club: recipes and notes from The Underground Restaurant will be published. Pre-order here

April 29th
The Underground Royal Wedding dinner: why should they have all the fun? Come dressed in ermine and crowns, wearing a bridal gown or a groom's outfit. Foods fit for a king and queen. £40 Book here

May 14th:
Hunter, Gatherer, Cook: a foraged meal with Nick Weston, author of The Treehouse Diaries. £40 Book here.


  1. Love the chef's hat!

  2. Thanks! I look like Widow Twanky but she's going to do me a couple of fascinators...

  3. Some twenty years ago, I was conned into digging Jerusalem Artichokes out of an old guy's back garden - they'd run wild and some of them went down 3' into the ground - I never could work out what the attraction was (only had the limp tasting soup), but that photo makes me hungry to try some!

  4. A belated thank-you for Friday night, we had an amazing time! I've written a little blog post about it here:

    I am a secret supper club convert!

  5. That salad sounds divine. I've been experimenting with fennnel a little bit I have read that is it very tasty with orange and this salad could be a good place to start. But did you mix the artichokes with the fennel or was it a separate dish? It is funny you should also feature Galette des rois. Fellow blogger Petit Filoux was just writing about this the other day and I was sorely tempted to make it having never heard of it. I'm actually branching out and going to put my cookery course and new skills to use at the end of February cooking for 10 people for a friendly dinner party. I want to try and do this more so I might maybe do a little cooking side business one day. Or full time business (like you or a cafe) but I think it is all about small steps first in the right direction. I had thought of doing the galette for the pud you see...

    Also, on another note - I am so excited about the Nick Weston event. I'm broke broke broke right now but come the end of the month pay day I want to buy tickets and come with the friend I came with last time I visited. I told him if you're sold out by then you'll simply have to do another one! (here's hoping if disaster strikes!) Love the hat photos here and can't wait to see you soon! xxx

  6. CC: galette des rois is very easy and a good pudding, encourages participation and excitement...who will get the crown?

    I roasted the jerusalem artichokes separately and then put them on top..

    fennel and blood orange is a classic pairing.

    I'm very excited about the Nick Weston dinner!

  7. Could have pre-cooked spaghetti & re-heated in oven in deep roasting trays with a few ladles of water (stops sticking & makes steam, so evenly heated) & covered with foil.

    Never tried roasting ja in skins - shall have to try.

    @The Curious Cat - ha ha [a side business]. #Quicklybecomesfulltime

  8. Look forward to the book. Gosh your teen looks devastating - she's got the withering look down to a tee!


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