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Tuesday 31 August 2010

Our Guest Blog Post On -Supper Club Joys & Woes

Uyen Luu talks supper club joys and disasters

Uyen from Fernandez and Leluu’s supper club is back with another great guest post. This time, Uyen tells us the ups and downs of having an underground restaurant and what really happens when you let strangers into your home. Read on to find out about hair set on fire, the man who had a noodle hanging off his eye brow and marriage proposals.

‘How do you feel about having all these strangers in your house?’ everyone queries, have there been any incidents?’

Prepping and doing supper clubs is like living in a little capsule – we are in the kitchen, chopping, peeling, slicing, marinating, cleaning, cooking, tasting. It takes all day and we don’t stop, sometimes there isn’t even enough time for lunch or to eat dinner!

And then all of a sudden, at 7.30pm precisely (rarely are people too early or late), the door bell rings and enter a bunch of strangers, none you have met before but they all start to have a good time, downstairs in our living room!

So far, no one has rifled through my knicker drawer or hidden in the cupboard overnight. The amount of people who have been to our supper club and respected our home is a true testament to how honest and kind most people actually are.

Guests are told to get their own water, lick their spoons because they are not getting another one, and to quiet down after 11:30pm. Some guests help with clearing plates or getting tap water for everyone. When someone can’t finish their plate, I encourage others from the table to take the last bit and they do, because it’s a house dinner and you are not in a restaurant – the boundaries are completely different.

Some people are really polite, thanking us to the ends of the earth for the dinner. We are ambushed with compliments and gratitude. We get dinner invites and make new bonds and friendships with some of the most charming and charismatic personalities.

There have been a handful of bad stories, such as people not donating (not the ones who forget – the ones who forget are traumatized and come back straight away). And some people don’t eat anything because they’d come for a birthday party and don’t like food in general. Or there’s that couple that just had a blazing row at the front door and burst into tears. Once someone even got their hair set on fire (by accident – that was quite funny)!

Of course, there are many annoying last minute cancellations but that is to be expected at any eatery – underground or over-ground.  If you book to eat in our home, you shouldn’t really cancel on the day, but sometimes things happen and it’s understandable. We’ve heard of a lot of excuses; the dog chewed up my homework sort of thing. Once, we had a no show which we were really worried about because we never heard from them again.

There hasn’t really been a nightmare guest, just the noodle guy who had a noodle hanging off his eye brow and threw all his food everywhere because he was too drunk. Simon ejected him after we found him urinating in the street.

Drunkenness is not uncommon, because people get to bring their own wine; but even so, people have been very respectful.

Some people stay on really late. Sometimes, we don’t let them go and stay chatting to them into the early hours. A few times, people have slept over and we’ve started all over again at breakfast. Many of our guests are fantastic, we have so much in common. A few weeks ago, I met someone who had been to school next door to mine, then went to Central St Martins during the same years – in the same building – in Long Acre! The greatest thing and the most valuable thing is making all these new friends.

More than anything, there have been some great nights, singing, dancing, marriage proposals, birthday songs, jokes and stories told.

We always want to join the party but we have to work and cook so sitting down with guests for dessert is a godsend! To be honest, sometimes I feel completely exhausted and just want to crawl up like a baby in my bed. Once, there was a couple who were really funny but it was getting very late and I was at my last tether, so I was really rude to them. I’m still so ashamed about how I lost it with them, stamping my feet around the room, making lots of noises, and slamming doors! They were a little unhappy upon departure… Simon is always happy to talk to everyone and is so patient. Feeling so bad having upset my guest, I will never do it again no matter how tired I get.

We don’t expect people to treat our house like it’s a home as well as a restaurant. You can’t have the best of both worlds and decide which one you want to pick when it suits you. The truth is, people will cancel, some people will take the piss, some people will be a little rude – but that’s because it’s just the way some people are – if we are to welcome people into our homes from all walks of life, we have to deal with what all walks of life involve.

The 30-year running supper club owner Jim Haynes, rightly says: “there’s no point in trying to understand people; we have to tolerate people and accept them the way they are and welcome everyone equally and with open arms.”

To read more go to's blog here is a great website where you can find out about lots of exciting and even secret things to do all over London and the world. They have sections dedicated to adventures, food, sports, travel crafts and all sorts! Check it!

Friday 27 August 2010

Paella Recipe

by ferdie

Just recently we were invited to do a shoot with the Hairy Bikers, so this Monday just gone we popped over to the BBC to do it. It was a great deal of fun, not to mention an interesting insight into how a studio works and how (fast) TV shows are filmed and put together. I can't really tell you any more about that right now, big tease I know!! ; ) But what I can do is post up the recipe for the paella (see pronunciation below) that we made during filming. I always get asked for the recipe when I make it so here goes.
Me mum with her paellera!
INGREDIENTS: (This list is for an 18inch paellera which will feed 8-12 people)
Mussels and Fish stock
200g small prawns (2-3 cm pink shrimp for stock)
40g unsalted butter
500ml white wine
15g lemon thyme
25 fresh medium size mussels (not bigger than 2 1/2 inches)

Chicken and Chicken Stock
1 free range, corn fed chicken (or chicken wings if you're not comfortable cutting up a chicken)
1 lemons  (zest of and juice of)
3 chicken stock cubes (added to pint of boiling water)

good quality extra virgin olive oil - EVO
4 onions
1 red pepper (diced)
8 cloves garlic (chopped thinly)
6 very ripe large vine tomatoes (diced)
2 soft chorizo sausages
2 tsp smoked paprika,
2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp saffron powder or saffron

400g Calasparra (paella) rice (or Bomba)
1 large squid (body at least 8 inches) 
8 large king prawns (heads on)
150g fine green bean
100g fine (thin) asparagus tips
1 lemon (sliced)
10g parsley (for garnish)
maldon salt

Good ingredients = happy guests!
Prep ingredients,
clean mussels
clean and prepare squid (cut body into rings and separate the tentacles)
onions diced
tomatoes diced
dice red pepper
chorizo sliced
grate lemon for zest
trim beans and asparagus (if required)

Put the chicken into a non stick frying pan skin down to start, and brown off. It doesn't need any oil adding the fat from the chicken will be enough. Cook 10-15 minutes so the chicken is almost completely cooked adding the 1/3 of the lemon juice, the lemon zest and some salt and garlic 5 mins before the end. This gives a fantastic lemon flavour to the chicken and add to paellas complex and sumptuous flavour. Don't forget to de-glaze the pan the the rest of the lemon juice and some water,  add this to the stock.

For the fish stock put the butter into a pan, melt, and add the shrimp, some salt and the white wine. (if the shrimp are big enough and you want to use the bodies just put the heads in, they give the stock flavour) Bring to the boil and mash up the heads then add the thyme and turn the heat down a little. Put a sieve (or steamer) onto the pot, add the mussels and cover for about 5-10 mins until mussels have opened.
Discard the mussels that have not opened.
Strain the stock with a sieve.

You're now ready to start combining your ingredients!
Don't be shy about adding plenty of extra virgin olive oil when creating the base.
In the peallera:
Sweat onions with the red pepper, and garlic in EVO until the onions are clear.
Add a good chog (4-6 tbsp) of EVO, wait until the oil is hot and the tomatoes stir until emulsion starts to form
Add the spices and chorizo, wait until the fat from the chorizo starts to seep
Add mussels, chicken and green beans.
Add the mussels, the chicken and the stocks, and the green beans.
Add the rice bring to the boil and then set to simmer, top up with stock (or water) if necessary about 15 mins
When there's five mins to go lay the squid, the prawns and asparagus on top.
The rice should be cooked after about 20mins - check. You may need to turn the prawns once if they're really big ones!
Once rice is cooked put to one side and let it rest for 5 minutes.
Garnish with lemon slices and parsley.

HINTS AND TIPS: My auntie Paz usually does a stunner of a job, and gets the rice at the bottom of the paellera crispy, I manage it about 75% of the time, you've got to get the stock just right so the rice is perfectly cooked through out and dries to a crispy layer on the bottom!! Such a lovely crispy layer rich with flavour - socarat!

Paella is normally cooked on an open fire, often outside, if you're doing it on the stove, the paellera will likely cover more than one hob. It's very important to turn it frequently so the rice is evenly cooked!

If you can't get Calasparra - quite often tricky - I replace it with a medium grain risotto rice 75% and pudding rice 25%.
Paella Factoids

The Paella Rice
Traditionally made using  Calasparra rice, in recipes often see Bomba rice (a type of Calasparra rice) from rice growing river crossed area south west inland from the city of Valencia.

Paella is pronounced as follows:  pa as in (pa)nts, e as in (e)gg, and lla as in (ya)nk. Yup the two ll's sound like a y!!! : )

Paella Varieties:
Seafood Paella (Core ingredients):
mussels, tiger prawns, langostines, clams, squid, fish - usually a meaty textured fish that holds together and takes up the taste

Valenciana (the original)
canelini beans, lima beans, chicken, rabbit, green beans

Mixed Paella (my favourite, and the one I usually cook)
Other alternatives to my recipe upstairs are rabbit, eel, duck, snails and pork.

Fidua (Paella de Fideos)
This uses short noodles (videos) instead of rice, with boneless pork, cuttle fish, langoustines and mussels

Cheats Paella
In essence it uses a cast iron pot to get a more even rice cook but at the cost of the fabulous presentation and the crispy bottom that a paellera afford you. Boo! This does remind me of a wonderful dish Arroz al Horno - Baked rice which is completely different but just divine and great comfort food.

Arroz Negro (Black Rice)
Usually squid and squid ink, post on this coming soon.

Mariniera Rice (not really a paella but very similar with a little more sauce):
Prawns, mussels, cockles, clams, squid, baby octopus, monkfish - or similar textured fish

Be careful if you add cumin and change the fish ingredients to ham and sausage you end up with a Jambalaya, a New Oreleans dish apparently inspired by paella! : ) Which exactly what happened to me rather embarrassingly when I was cooking a paella for a friend in Malaga and incorrectly recalled the spice list.
Err... just doing a little quality control Simon!
I can't believe that we don't have a picture of the finished article! That's what happens when you leave Uyen and me mum on their own with a finished paella!!! It dissapears!!! Rapidly too!

Sunday 22 August 2010

Croatia Nights

Thanks to Qype and holidays, we won a holiday. (Read here and here and watch here). They have asked us to bring our holiday back to London and share it others. This is something we would do anyway. When traveling, our mission is always to discover the local cuisine aswell as laying on the beach. Neither Simon nor I have ever had any formal training in cheffing/ cooking/ restaurating but we love learning and discovering ways to make food.
To be honest, we didn’t eat the most amazing food in Croatia – that’s only because we went spontaneously and had no time to do any research previous to our trip and that’s to be expected going to holiday. touristy towns! However, it is always really exciting to go to a new destination. Walking around, discovering and seeking out places and judging them by how many people are inside, what the menu looks like, the prices, the room temperature, the atmosphere, the smell, the front of house, the location, the type of people inside and what is on the menu. It’s all a balancing act and on many levels, its judging a book by its cover as well as relying on your previous experiences to not fall into the tourist trap.
The Dalmation part of Croatia rely heavily on tourism, so it was a challenge! Even though we ate in the back alleys and low key restaurants sometimes, we were ripped to shreds with the poor quality and badly made food. Despite eating out 3 times a day, we only found a handful of wonderful places recommended to us by locals as well as the ones we gambled on. It gave us such inspiration and we bought it back to the supper club over three nights.

Here is the menu we devised:
Croatia Nights

Mackerel Pate w/ Garlic Bread

Black Squid Ink Risotto

Parma Ham With Melon & Prawn Cocktail

Tuna & Chips
Octopus Carpaccio w/ Capers
Pulled Lamb w/ Cold New Potato Salad
Orange Pannacotta With Vodka & Blueberries

We got some lovely reactions, here are some blog posts from our guests – The Food Archive & The Reluctant Londoner.
We had one of the best nights at Fernandez & Leluu, when one of our guests, Jody Wade, a professional pianist played the piano that had been left untouched since third grade piano lessons two decades ago! The house sparked, breathing, living electricity flowed through all our veins as Mia, our brilliant singer waitress sang, whilst Jody played and one of our loyal 5 timmer guest Nathan improvised beats – everything from Lady Gaga, Bon Jovi to Frank Sinatra. It was amazing!
Jody’s father, Jeff had come to visit all the way from Kentucky, USA, spoke to all our guests and wrote a poem about everyone within the song, ‘Making Whoppee’

“…and in the corner, there was {so and so}, they came from Texas, and loved the risotto; she had a friend she called her lover and in the garden, they made whoppee!”

This week's crowd was very international, from the US, to Sweden to Clapham! My best friend Fatima came for the first time, she now lives in Barcelona and we had a surprise guest, my lovely old friends from Zurich bought their Ayno, the little Hungarian Countess.

Having friends at the supper club is a very special thing especially because they traveled all the way, and that they are simply just friends coming to see a friend.

Tuesday 17 August 2010

Food Hero: Mich Turner/ Fairy Cake & Fruit Trifle Recipe

By Leluu
“Do you need any credentials to be a Blogger?” Queries Mich Turner – MBE, Queen of all the cake makers. She makes cakes for Elizabeth – The actual Queen, Barack Obama, Madonna, and Paul McCarthney – can you think of anyone more famous? She’s been on their doorstep with a cake! Even on her own honeymoon.
“No – we just blog about food and maybe someone reads our posts.” For someone who has worked so hard to be where she’s at, she seems a little surprised that anyone can be a blogger.
We were invited to spend an afternoon with Mich Turner and learn how to make fairy cakes – Mich Turner makes beautiful breathtaking cakes for her Little Venice Cake Company and you’d be stoked by how you couldn’t have possibly imagined those cakes even if you had been cooking up your wedding day since you were 8 years old! It is fantastic! Couture cakes! ‘The Bentley of cake makers’, says Gordon Ramsay; ‘Lachroix, baby, Lachroix!’ says Edina Monsoon! They are absolutely fabulous!

Mich Turner is a Food Scientist & Nutritionist, Harper’s Bazaar and Chanel Entrepreneur of the Year, author of 4 cookbooks, (Spectacular Cakes, Fantasy Cakes & Couture Wedding Cakes) a mother and a wonderful and beautiful lady. Mich has the classic English look, blonde and rosie-faced and has a charming and elegant aura – although, very authoritive but you’d want that – especially if you are having a master class – on making the perfect fairy cakes using Allinson Nature Friendly Flour.
And so, what is the difference between a cup cake and a fairy cake? According to Mich Turner, the cup cake, is American, inspired by the Victorians using a cup (pound) of flour, cup (pound) of sugar and of butter – they also used teacups to bake the cakes in. The fairy cake is much more traditional and its smaller and flatter, using only a thin glace of icing whereas the cupcake has tons of butter icing spread on top of it.
Now that I know the difference, I am not a fan of the cupcake as it tends to be too sweet for me, although I use a lot of sugar in my savory cooking, I can’t bear too much in desserts – being bought up on a Vietnamese diet, our desserts are more about palette cleansing and refreshment. However, I do love the odd fairy cake and have been making them all my life to my level of sweetness at random measurements of ingredients but now we had met Mich Turner, I learned that the recipe is so easy to remember.
For 12 fairy cakes


200g Allinson Nature Friendly Self Raising Flour
200g Caster Sugar (I use 170g)
200g Butter
3 beaten eggs
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Vanilla Essence

-Preheat oven.
-Put sugar and butter (from room temperature) together in a bowl and mix until you get a creamy texture.
-Add the beaten eggs in slowly slowly as you stir away. Having a Kitchen Aid would really help matters – but we’re still too poor for that – so its muscle all the way.

-Then, sieve in the flour and the baking powder and fold away, adding the vanilla essence too.
-Put in fairy cake holders and bake for about 15 mins or until golden on 180 degrees.

I have been baking these fairy cakes like mad to put into our fruit trifles. We usually buy from the market whatever is in season, sometimes mangos, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries etc (or a mixture). (This is not a very good picture- will post another one when have).
Fairy Cakes – Cut the fairy cake in half, removing the top harder crust (optional)
Fruit Juice
14 Sheets Gelatin per 1 Litre of Juice (makes about 30 glasses)


Cut the fruits up into small bite sized pieces and soak in Cointreau.
Then get some juice, like apple juice, peach juice or whatever you fancy  - heat it up slightly and put in some gelatin sheets to melt. I normally use 14 sheets for 1 litre of juice.

Pour the juice in to cover the fruit layer and set for a few hours in the fridge.
When it is set, place some more fruit in soaked in Cointreau on the top of the jelly. Place a slice of fairy cake on the new layer. Repeat the layer of fruit then another layer of fairy cake if you wish, and drizzle with some more Cointreau from the fruit mixture and top with fresh custard.
Mich taught us how to make some basic decorations. It was like being at school - such fun!
Mich Turner knows all stuff about fats, trans fats and molecules and atoms and probably the DNA of all her ingredients are spiraling in her head as she cracks an egg. She inspired Simon so much that he’s gone and written an essay on fats and trans fats of which he will be posting soon. Mich Turner says she never uses margarine because it is full of fats the body cannot absorb. She only uses butter in her cakes.

But she also talked about sustainability, how eating just organic is not enough.
When we think of fish, meat or eggs, we are more aware that we should be eating sustainable caught fish, organic and free range meat and eggs but things like flour seem secondary to our consciousness even though we may eat a lot more bread, pasta and cakes than the former.
Mich was also there to promote Allinson’s Nature Friendly Flour because of it being  a sustainable and environmentally friendly flour milled from Conservation Grade wheat from farms, which demonstrate their dedication to helping wildlife flourish. They have to dedicate 10% of their land to this.

Allinson is known to growing wildflowers and building ponds; erecting bird and bat boxes for nesting; planting hedgerows and trees to protect essential food sources, like wild berries; and prohibits the use of harmful agro-chemicals. They encourage biodiversity to ensure and help provide a sustainable environment for the future. This is number 1 in our books – knowing this, we will always buy Allinson and/ or Conservation Grade Products where possible.

The benefits of Conservation Grade Formulas include crops that are allowed to pollinate naturally, thus, letting wildlife flourish – increasing insects like bumble bees and bird life; using traditional methods such as crop rotation which in turn creates more of a harmonious countryside balance where wildlife helps farmers because they prey on pests in a healthy ecosystem.

We must be more aware of how our food is being produced and how it effects the environment. If Mich Turner uses Allinson flour and she is high up there on the food heroes list, - its only good practice that we should all exercise.

What an honour it was to meet Mich Turner – she is someone we look up to – a hard working person with such passion and creativity. You can see in her eyes that she’s been through a lot of work, a lot of hours, but you can also see how proud she is to be where she is and she has earned all her success from her good knowledge and determination to be the greatest.

For more baking tips, go to:
Thanks again to Wild Card PR.

How To Book / Attend

How To Book / Attend
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More Techniques, Basics and Corker Recipes

More Techniques, Basics and Corker Recipes
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