I’m writing this on the plane back home to Jersey following this month’s Clapton Pot. I’m not, thank goodness, fleeing the country after a disastrous dinner. Quite the opposite in fact. Last night’s dinner was, if I say so myself, quite a success!
With spring (sort of) in the air we wanted to bring some freshness into our menu so we were looking for lots of herby, bright flavours when planning our menu. Lots of herbs, though, means lots of prep, but for Ottolenghi’s gorgeous five-herb salad I think all the plucking was worth it. Violaine and I certainly thought so as we devoured the leftovers at the end of the evening!
We were at Violaine’s this month and after a hard morning’s shopping at Ridley Road (plus a quick duck into Sainsbury’s to unearth some porcini Mushrooms) we treated ourselves to a sliver of the Hackney Wild loaf from the E5 bakehouse that we’d bought for the starter along with some freshly sliced ham. (Rest assured, there was still plenty to go around!). There’s such an abundance of fantastic food producers in Clapton and Hackney so we do like to use the local shops when our budget allows. This loaf was well worth it – seeded and crunchy on the outside with a soft bouncy dough. I don’t think our guests had too much of an inkling after the toppings had been scooped on but it did come close to getting burnt to a cinder as we toasted it in preparation for our bruschetta starter … And on that note, here’s what we cooked:
– Toasted Bruschetta with Hackney Wild loaf from the E5 Bakehouse topped with goats cheese and broad beans marinated in mint, wild garlic and freshly squeezed lemon (this is a recipe from Polpo).
– Stefano’s porcini Mushroom Risotto, served with honey glazed baby carrots and Ottolenghi’s five herb salad with lemon and olive oil dressing and crushed hazelnuts.
– Violaine’s own fanned Apple Tart with vanilla ice cream.
My personal favourites off this evening’s menu were the brushcetta’s and the five-herb salad. At this time of year, I can never get enough of zingy flavours like lemon and mint so these really hit the spot for me. The whole menu seemed to go down well and, despite the fact that Violaine was convinced her pastry had gone awry, there were plenty of clean plates come the end of the meal.
We definitely found ourselves a good bunch this month. Alastair was our first ever guest to come bearing whiskey rather than wine. For a second we thought we might have a heavy drinker on our hands but it turned out that Alastair is a copywriter working on the Glenfiddich account. Phew. He was interested to hear our views on the selection of three bottles he had brought. And hear our views he did. Once the wine had been drunk and the whiskey cracked open, everyone was in high spirits and the conversation meandered from local news to Tinder to everything in between. Our other guests were equally worthy dinner companions. Olivia and Alice are good friends and both artists and teachers. Alice’s birthday was the day before and these two, from what I gather, had been nursing some serious hangovers. So thank you to both of them for peeling themselves away from the duvets! Alice also shared her ‘teacher’ impressions, which had us all in stitches. Megan works for a creative agency called Margaret. Margaret work with a lot of interesting clients including the incredible Punchdrunk theatre company so we were happy that she was so excited about coming to check out the humble Clapton Pot. Megan brought along her wonderful, and very entertaining, friend Jason who works in media. He told us that he was a little apprehensive about the evening since Megan had revealed very little of what she had in store! However, he soon eased into his surroundings and was truly great company. The fact that Jason insisted on washing up ALL the dishes for us meant he went straight to the top of our list of fav people : )
It was a real melting pot of characters this evening but it turned out to be a winning combination as we set a record and took the first ever #claptonpotselfie. If that’s not real friendship, I don’t know what is!
As it came to the end of the evening and we’d polished off the wine (& whiskey) that our guests kindly shared, the conversation took a bit of softer turn. Anne-Louise, one of our guests who’s a yoga instructor in the area, talked about her practice of waking up every day and thinking about what she’s grateful for. At the risk of sounding like an overly sentimental prom queen and deterring any potential future diners we might once have had, as our eclectic bunch of guests trickled out of Violaine’s door that evening I thought about how grateful I am for the Clapton Pot. The idea of sharing food with others around a table isn’t a new one but it’s certainly a good one and I can thank The Clapton Pot for giving me the perfect reason to do it every month!
Anna – & Violaine