March: carameleon

Or how a bag of sugar gets reincarnated 3 times, including when one local celebrity chef swans into the kitchen to demonstrate how caramel’s really made, only for him to leave us with perfectly shaped, but of no use to us, candy discs!

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What we learned from this experiment is that a) absolutely no water goes into the sugar while you’re melting it (water just turns it into a sugary syrup), b) to have runny caramel you need to dilute it again at the end to stop it hardening, and c) temperature may be of the essence. So we went from sugary syrup to hard candy disks, to finally a drizzle of caramel that hardened on the plates and, er, on my chair… (and yes, prompting Diana to call me ‘toffee butt’).

Anyway. We’ll probably say this every time, but this Clapton Pot was SPECIAL. First to arrive were Doreen and boyfriend Tom. We’ve known Doreen for some time now, as she is one of the yeah!Hackney community. Anything Doreen doesn’t know about beer is probably not worth knowing. She also likes cats. And stuff you find on the streets of London.

When the lovely Lorna and Beth walked in with a tub of posh olives and refill wine from our beloved local shop Palm 2, our friendship was sealed. 2 hours in, they revealed they were sisters, but I’m still not sure…

Then Kim arrived; as it turned out she only had to walk a few doors down to join us, only to announce in the middle of the living room that this used to be her sister’s flat. Kim does video and light installations, and I’ve seen her work in a couple of shows – I’m still working on her to help me get tickets to a band she’s been doing stage design for.

And when he eventually turned up, having almost decided to give it a miss practically outside the front door, we gave Californian expat Hassan a lot of sympathy over his bad day and recent misadventures; so I hope Hassan will keep fond memories of this Clapton Pot gang doing their bit to show him the friendly side of London that evening. Besides, who needs California when you’ve got Clapton?

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We had started the day as usual at Ridley Road – first up, the famous TFC (Turkish Supermarket). I don’t want to be disloyal to our great Clapton Pond shops, but this place is truly amazing. They bake fresh bread every day, and the smell fills the shop as you go through the aisles. They have everything. Bonus: I found the Basra date syrup I had been looking for (to use in a future Clapton Pot cooking sesh) and it was cheapcheapcheap!

On our menu this time:
– zingy orange and red onion salad, with a lemon juice, rice vinegar and olive oil dressing, sprinkled with chopped fresh mint
– carrot, sweet potato, chick peas, caramelised shallots and prunes tagine (and lots of fresh coriander and mint), served with an Atlas mountain of saffran couscous with pistachios and sliced almonds.
– coconut flan, with a zigzag of caramel and a sprinkling of coconut snow (this turned out to be premonitory since it’s snowing as I type)

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This time of year it would be nice to eat something a little less wintery, but since it is positively Arctic out there these days, we all enjoyed the warming spices and flavours of this North African-inspired meal. Live feedback on the food ranged from ‘Ah, that’s amazing’ to ‘This is exquisite’ and ‘Mmmm – very tasty’, and variations of mmmms throughout the meal.

We had a lot of fun preparing for this month’s Clapton Pot, and know we’ll keep meeting some great people along the way, so hopefully many of you will become long-term friends. If you enjoyed the evening it’d be great if you could leave us a comment below, which hopefully will encourage people to sign up to the next Clapton Pot.

We’ll leave you with a blurry picture of a beaming Diana proudly posing for the camera at the end of a long, but amazing day.

Thank you all so much for coming, and see you soon in Hackney!

Violaine and Diana x

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