June: in elderflower heaven

Guess what: the day we were spending hours in the kitchen also coincided with the sunniest day of the year so far. Unlucky? Not us – we were really looking forward to our 6th dinner, and meeting our guests who, this time, turned out to be an all-female cast. Where were all the guys? Drowning their sorrows at the pub for missing out on a fab night out is my guess.

Tech ladies Arti and Megan were the biggest surprise of the evening, as they came all the way from Hammersmith. Have we really become that famous? It seems they have a local friend who told them about us, and in anticipation of a move East, they thought they’d come (very kindly with flowers) and check out the neighbours. Good call, ladies! We’ll be on your balcony with cocktails as soon as you’ve moved into your new pad.

Sarah didn’t have quite as far to go: she lives downstairs from me, and being a new Mum she was keen to meet some new people and get out of the house a bit (well, I’m not sure walking up a flight of stairs qualifies on that front). I’m really lucky with my neighbours, both in my house and those on either side, and across the street. Over the years we have formed some very strong bonds, and really can’t think of a better place to live.

Stephanie is Diana’s new flatmate and works in a restaurant  and as a nanny. I feel a little sorry for our respective flatmates who, once a month, see us plan menus, go shopping, do loads of cooking and then have fun with our dinner parties, only for them to be left out. I have promised my flatmate Simon a guaranteed place at our next dinner.

My friend Aurélie had mentioned another friend ‘who also lives in the Eastend’ for some time, and it’s only recently it was established Alex and I live only a couple of streets away from each other. Alex is a sustainability consultant in a communications agency. Also in attendance was Alex’s flatmate Kattie, who came with a bottle of the most delicious homemade elderflower cordial; it went down fantastically well with a few glasses of Prosecco. Kattie works in publishing, and most interestingly is involved in a ‘befriend an elderly’ community project called Dorcas that I was really particularly keen to hear about.

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After all the generosity from our guests, the onus was on us to deliver on the food. On the menu this month:

– a hot-and-cold red pepper soup, with parsley and a dollop of cream (hot because it was a little spicy, and cold because that’s how it was served)

– butternut squash gnocchi with fresh thyme, and wild mushrooms sauteed in sage and garlic

– chef Adrian’s fail-proof, no bake and super-moreish dark chocolate tart

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Both the soup and the tart were delicious (the latter seemingly particularly enjoyed by one guest we shall not name, who decided to polish left-overs from other people’s plates – that’s a big compliment, right?), but Diana and I were really underwhelmed by how the gnocchis turned out: so much work for such a weak result! Too much flour, too chewy and taking too long to cook… This turned out to be a recipe we’ll have to cross-reference and practice before we are ready to serve it again.

[Diana has since found both these recipes here and here confirming where it all went wrong)

Still our guests seemed happy and satiated – and to Alex who said a couple of times ‘I can’t believe you’d do all this for people you don’t even know’ we answered that this whole endeavour has totally exceeded our expectations, and it’s been great fun to meet our guests for the first time, and meet up again soon after. As it happens we’ve been in regular contact with quite a few of them, and most recently had a fantastic time over dinner at Sahar and David’s, who were our guests back in April.

Quite what we need to do to get more men to sign-up of their own accord (and not just rely on their girlfriends to do it, as it’s mostly been the case so far) is still something we’re pondering about. But our all-women evening was full of fun – and promising talk of future reunions. Vive les filles!

Violaine – & Diana

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2 comments

  1. Arti & Megan

    We thought the gnocchi was as AMAZEBALLS as the rest of the food and company. You guys are great ambassadors for the East.
    Can’t wait to move there and invite you both to enjoy our balcony and cocktails!

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