Sunday, 2 November 2014

First World War Supper Club

If you're heading out for dinner in the rather exclusive North London area of Primrose Hill, a church might not be your most obvious choice of venue.  However, last night my friend Lou and I took over the kitchens of St Mary-the-Virgin, Primrose Hill, to hold our first ever supper club.  Taking the First World War as our theme, we served up 3 courses - all inspired by dishes eaten widely in 1914 - to 21 paying guests, with all the profits going to the church's youthwork.   

About a year ago, Lou and I began discussing the idea of trying something a little more ambitious in the kitchen than just cooking for family and small groups of friends; so BeckyLou's supper club was born!  Having decided to structure our menu around a theme, in this centenary year 1914 was an obvious choice.  Scouring the internet for inspiration we found an online edition of a cookery book first published in 1914: May Byron's Pot-luck; or, The British home cookery book; over a thousand recipes from old family ms. books.  This book provided a helpful reference point for recipes that would have been eaten in the war-time period, but rather than sticking slavishly to the dishes as they would have been made in 1914 we updated them and added a modern twist to create 1914-2014 fusion-style dishes. 

Over a number of months we practised and refined our dishes, boring our friends and family - and each other! - with repeat versions of the same dish until we were sure we'd got it nailed.  Then at the end of the summer, we sent out the invitations... and it all became very real.  Blessed with a half-term holiday prior to the day itself, I spent the week cooking (and washing-up), so that by the time we arrived at the church at 4.30 on the day itself there was very little left to do.  At 6.30 we were joined by Lou's husband, Robert, and my ace friend, Mary, who were our 'front of house' and waiting staff for the evening.  We put the music on (Elgar, Parry and popular songs of the period), cracked open the Prosecco and, at 7.30, the guests began to arrive....

In future posts I will be blogging about some of the recipes, particularly those with literary links, but in the meantime, to whet your appetite, here is our menu, with the name of the original recipe from Pot-luck in brackets:  

Aperitif: Glass of sparkling wine accompanied by Cheese Straws.
Starters: (Accompanied by home-made petits pains)
Memories of Summer:  Lettuce, Pea and Mint Soup (Green Pea Soup)
Smooth Chicken Liver Parfait (Potted Liver)
Main Courses:  (Accompanied by a selection of seasonal vegetables)
Buttery Smoked Haddock Kedgeree (Kedgeree)
Glam Mac’N’Cheese with White Wine and Four Cheeses (Boiled Macaroni Cheese)
Beef Cooked Tenderly in Stout (French Beef Stew)
Blackcurrant Trifle (Trifle)
Bakewell tart with Fresh Raspberry Puree, served with Raspberry Coulis and Creme Fraiche (Bakewell Pudding)

Coffee served with Anzac Biscuits

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