Sunday, 27 May 2012


I'm not a prolific Twitter user. I give it a decent go, but I've not yet perfected the iPhone-welded-to-my-hand-thumb-quivering-on-send look. Saying that, if you've not followed me yet, please do! I would. Once thing I am sure of though, Twitter is awesome. Whilst in Paris it gave me hints and tips on where to go, flooded my brain with ideas, overwhelmed me with love for the city of, well, love and kept the inquisitive beast within both fed and hungry.

Since coming home from my Parisian adventure, I've had a number of Twitcidents that have reinforced my passion for this game - being food in general - and given me huge grins. The first came a mere three days after getting home. I was having a bumper catch up on my Twitter feed when I spotted something interesting from Kerstin Rodgers.

Just one of Kerstin's many sets of shelves
Kerstin Rodgers, aka @MsMarmitelover, is one of London's leading pioneers in the London Supper Club scene, and runs the highly successful and popular Underground Restaurant. Having been gifted - at last! - her book 'Supper Club - recipes notes from the Underground Restaurant' for my birthday (post on that spectacular day coming soon too, trust me!) what I already believed has been reinforced. Kerstin's Supper Club is her lifestyle. She has no living room, having long ago converted this to a restaurant capable of seating thirty. Her gorgeous, dribble-inducingly huge kitchen has shelves and cupboards enticingly heaving all sorts of paraphenalia collected from travels including five years spent living in Paris and one in the South of France as well as kookily labelled bottles, jars, tins and packets.

How it all began...
It strikes me that I may be missing a step here. How do I know all this? Well, Kerstin runs a differently-themed dinner almost every Saturday, as well as being commissioned for larger-scale events, dinners and themed banquets both in her restaurant and elsewhere. Once my ticket home from Paris had been booked, the next important thing was to organise my welcome home event, and I suggested Kerstin's 'Food on Sticks' meal to my welcoming committee. Unfortunately this didn't work for some key people. So, I found myself miles from home the day before this meal, catching up on my Twitter feed, and Kerstin was asking for volunteers for the meal.

And I tweeted back that I'd be happy to help. Less than 24 hours later I was knocking on her door in Kilburn, ready to spend the day cooking and the evening helping to run the event.

And it was, in short, a fab day. Kerstin had been inspired for the meal by the book 'On a Stick!' by Mark Armendariz. As a vegetarian, Kerstin had adapted some dishes a little, which made for some mild panic, by all accounts a staple of the process. There were 20 guests being catered for (big love to those who, having paid, didn't show, meaning there were lots of things for us to nibble!), and the meal went like this:

  • Guests were welcomed with a frozen cocktail on a stick, with buried berries.
  • Salad on a stick - I wrapped balsamic dressing-marinated mozzarella pearls in basil leaves and skewered these with cherry tomatoes, while Chris Pople made 
  • bandarillas - silverskin onions , olives wrapped with anchovies and caper berries. 
  • I found speed-rolling twenty sushi rolls with avocado, sesame sprinkles and wasabi caviar a particularly tense experience, but also a filling one as the trimmings from each roll somehow found their way into my mouth...
  • Tofu dango balls were, and there's no nice way to put this, a massive pain in the arse. The recipe did not work without the addition of copious amounts of rice flour to reach the right consistency to make little mouthsized balls with (which took hours). The extra flour then made them heavy, so they stuck to the bottom of the pan whilst they were being poached, leading them not to rise like gnocchi should, and they possibly overcooked. Subsequent deep-frying had to happen on the sticks, which got caught in the net. Over half of the balls I painstakingly made ended in the bin. It was basically their tangy, spicy sauce which made these so moreish. 
  • Corn dogs were really popular as so few of the guests had ever had them before. And also possibly because I seemed to have a skill for making them look like incredibly lifelike phalluses (go on, I dare you to click!)
  • Baby aubergines with a spicy miso dressing were baked in a parcel to be opened at the table and were delicious
  • The pizzas on a stick never made it to the table. Clearly a case of too many cooks forget what's in the Aga...
  • Following a non-delivery of the fish she'd ordered, there was a mad dash to Waitrose to buy monkfish for spiced kebabs, which must have been good as I never got a taste!
And then there was the spaghetti and meatballs. This had been troubling Kerstin all day. Firstly, quorn mince does not readily form meatballs, so some tweeting revealed that xantham gum would be needed as a gluten-free binder. Then, chilling the meatballs in spaghetti nests did not help the whole to readily bind in a way that would encourage insertion of a stick and deep frying. Nothing we tried seemed to work, whether chilling, adding a thick tomato sauce or intricate origami-style wrapping. And then I uttered the fateful words:

"What if we made a parmesan tempura to help bind it together?"

So, that's what we did. By this point I was being regarded as the deep-fat frying queen. Having simply inferred that, yes, I had used an industrial fryer before so knew the basic fundamentals, I was then installed in front of the work-top fryer with the task of deepfrying everything I could lay my hands on. It wasn't until dessert that I finally made it into the restaurant to talk to some guests, and getting a seat to myself on the bus home was a cinch. I made a vague nest of spaghetti with a meatball in the middle on a slotted metal spoon, dipped the base of the spoon into a large bowl of tempura batter with parmesan added and lowered this into the fryer. I held it here for a few minutes while Kerstin jumped around like a small child on a sugar high, camera in hand trying to capture the moment. It had worked. All I needed to do then was slide the cooked batter from the spoon, drain on greaseproof paper and repeat 19 times... 

The meal was finished off with a medley of desserts:
Frozen grapes were a welcome palate cleanser after the spaghetti. Chocolate-dipped frozen bananas were a personal revelation: a crisp dark-chocolate shell enclosed a banana that had transformed into a cohesive, deeply sweet mush. Saffron-sugar candyfloss was delicate and intriguing, and a number of the guests enjoyed having a go with the candy-floss maker. The salted caramel lollies kept tipsy guests peaceful on the way home, like they were leaving a club.

It wasn't all roses. My floor-management skills came into play with a guest who felt that her dietary requirements had not been sufficiently catered for and that the unique experience did not make up for it (we were pleased to find her friends found her as irritating as we did!), and this caused a lot of stress for all of us. Not perhaps the way one would hope to learn that soy sauce is not gluten-free, but a memorable one at least. But in my view, such negativity was countered by the guests who wanted to come into the kitchen to share stories of cookbook porn, best meals, what they enjoyed, and, particularly memorably, to refer to me as a 'kitchen goddess'. 

I'm looking forward to working more with Kerstin in the future and would encourage you to go and experience a unique dining experience at her hands if you haven't done already. 

Later that night, on the way home, awesome Tweet moment two happened:

And the tweet moments continued the next week. I'm new on the dating scene right now (Mr Right, if you're reading this, get in touch!) and thought I'd use this to my gastronomic advantage. So I tweeted my favourite food critic, Marina O'Loughlin, for advice, and this is what happened:

When it comes to carrying on getting out there and meeting as many new people with food as possible (a girl's gotta eat, after all), what better encouragement could I have?