Even for people who enjoy cooking, sitting down to a feast prepared by someone else is one of life’s great pleasures.
Dinner parties are a great institution, long before Come Dine with Me turned them into public spectacles.
And of course, a trip to a favourite restaurant is always welcome.
But for those who enjoy finding things a bit off the beaten path, supper clubs can be an interesting option.
Chef Brian plating starter by Sean McKernan
And from Belfast to Paris to Buenos Aires, pop-up dinners – professionally-cooked meals in unconventional settings – are proving to be a hit with food cognoscenti.
In February, Team sugarpiece partnered with host Belfast Secret Supper Club to lovingly prepare and present a three-course meal (four if you count the aperitif) to a room full adventurous diners.
Secret Supper club table shot by Sean McKernan
The location was a secret, but thankfully the menu is not.
Here is the recipe, prepared by Chef Brian Donnelly, for a delicious three-course meal you can, with a little forward planning (the short rib requires 24 hours in the oven), cook at home.
Chef’s tip with this menu: buy the very best you can afford and let the ingredients speak for themselves.
Belfast Secret Supper Club & sugarpiece.com menu:
Braised Leg of Organic Chicken, Chorizo, Grilled Baby Gem Lettuce, Warm Mayonnaise and Saffron Sauce with Dundrum Bay Mussels
Sliced Moiled Sirloin served with Slow Cooked Coffee Short Rib, Buttermilk Creamed Potatoes, Glazed Carrot and Cooking Juices
Third Course: Individual Lemon Tart with Limoncello Zabaglione and Fresh Lemons
Secret supper club server and chef by Sean McKernan
Chicken, chorizo mussels with grilled baby gem photo by Jenny Holland
First Course: Braised Leg of Organic Chicken, Chorizo, Grilled Baby Gem Lettuce, Warm Mayonnaise and Saffron Sauce with Dundrum Bay Mussels
Stock: Two carrots, 1 leek, 1 onion, 2 cloves of garlic (diced) 5 white peppercorns sprig of flat leaf parsley, thyme, rosemary, half a lemon (un-squeezed), 500ml water
4 Organic chicken legs
Place all diced veg in a pot, place chicken legs on top and cover with water. Bring to the boil and reduce to a slow simmer for 1hr 15mins. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 30 mins, remove the legs from the stock, remove skin and break off the flesh in large pieces and place in the fridge overnight to completely cool.
Stock: 2 carrots, 1 leek, 1 onion, 2 cloves of garlic (diced), 5 white peppercorns, sprig of flat leaf parsley, thyme, rosemary, 10ml olive oil, 50ml un-oaked Chardonnay wine
300g fresh local mussels
In a pot heat the olive oil then place in the diced veg and sweat off for 10 mins over a medium heat. Add in the peppercorns and turn the heat up fully. Add the mussels and give them a quick stir around and cover for 3 mins. Then add in the un-oaked Chardonnay wine and stir the mussels once more, allow to cook for a further 2 mins and remove from the heat. Strain off the cooking liquor and allow the mussels to cool before removing the mussels meats from the shells, discard the shells and place the meats in the fridge. Make sure to reserve the cooking liquor.
1 Chorizo thinly sliced
Heat your oven to 220c place a heavy roasting tray in the oven for 10 mins to heat fully. Carefully remove the hot tray from the oven and scatter the chorizo into it. Place back in the oven. Try to do this quickly so as to keep the tray as hot as possible. Cook for 3 mins or until the oil has just started to be released. Remove, place in a bowl and set aside.
Grilled Baby Gem
2 heads of baby gem
Trim and cut the baby gem into quarters so the stalk remains. Rinse in cold water to remove any dirt and place on a clean kitchen towel to drain. Meanwhile heat a grill pan until it is smoking hot. Place the gem on the pan and leave to get a really dark colour and turn over so all sides of the baby gem is charred. Remove and leave to the side.
Warm Saffron Mayonnaise
3 Organic egg yolks, 250ml olive oil, 100ml sunflower oil, pinch of saffron, the reserved mussel stock, 5g dijon mustard, 15ml white wine vinegar
Cook off the mussel liquor until it is reduced by half. Add the saffron and place to the side to allow to infuse and cool. In a clean bowl place the egg yolks, mustard and white wine vinegar and mix thoroughly with a whisk. Now start to add the oils very slowly, a small amount at a time while whisking vigorously. Keep adding the oil until all the oil has been incorporated. Now add the mussel stock to the mayonnaise so the mayonnaise is runny. To check this simply take a dessert spoon and scoop out some mayonnaise and if the sauce does not run of the spoon just add a little tepid water to you reach the desired consistency. This is important because when you slowly heat the sauce it will thicken.
Heat your oven to 175C, place your chicken on a tray and then into the oven for 10 minutes to ensure it is heated through but not crispy, you want that soft texture of the poached flesh to remain. On a separate tray place the mussels, baby gem and chorizo and place in the oven for 5 minutes. Place the mayonnaise in a pot over gentle heat, whisking all the while so that the sauce doesn't curdle.
Arrange the chicken on the plate around the outside, followed by the chorizo, mussel meat and baby gem so that the plate looks attractive and simply spoon on the sauce from a height so that it splats onto the plate. Don’t worry if it gets on the rim, this will add to the overall just-thrown- together effect.
Coffee short rib, sirloin, mash and carrot by Sean McKernan
Second Course: Wilbert Forsythe’s Moiled Cattle served with Slow Cooked Coffee Short Rib, Buttermilk Creamed Potatoes, Glazed Carrot and Cooking Juices
3 kg short ribs, 4 chillis, 50g fresh ginger (grated), 1 litre strong coffee, 100ml maple syrup, 100g caramelised onion
Blend the 4 chillis, grated ginger, coffee, maple syrup and caramelised onion together. Place the ribs in a roasting tray and cover with the blended marinade ensuring the ribs are well covered. Cover the tray with tin foil and make sure the edges are tight so no steam can escape. Place in an oven at 100C for 24 hours. Remove from the oven and allow to cool, once the meat is at room temperature remove the meat taking care to remove all sinew. Place the meat in a bowl and add in 200ml of the cooking liquor and work in really well so the meat is absorbed.
300g Peeled Maris piper potatoes, 100ml buttermilk, 50g unsalted butter, 1 bunch of spring onions finely chopped.
Cover the potatoes with cold water and add a good pinch of salt, bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer and cook until tender. Once cooked drain and allow to steam off for about 15 minutes. In a saucepan, bring the buttermilk and butter to the boil. Add to the potatoes and mash. Mix in the spring onions and season to taste.
150g Carrots peeled and cut into 20mm slices, 15g castor sugar, 30g unsalted butter, water.
Melt the butter and sugar in a pan, add the carrots and start to cook, after 5 minutes add a little water, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Continue to cook , and once the water has evaporated add a little more until the carrots are cooked through. This method ensures you get the best carrot-y carrots you have ever eaten
Wilbert Forsythe’s Sirloin
Wilbert’s Mollie is probably the best meat I have ever eaten but if you can’t get your hands on that, try your local butcher or farmer directly. There are also schemes like boxa that do interesting and organic boxed meat options. You will also need a temperature probe that you can place in the oven.
You will need approximately 120g of meat per person plus 10% for shrinkage. Heat your oven to 140C and place the meat in a tray and the probe in the centre of the meat. Cook until the core temperature reaches 63C (medium). Remove from the oven and let rest for 45 minutes in a warm place. Turn the oven up to 250C and once the oven has achieved this temperature place the tray back in the oven and bring the core temperature back up to 63C. This high temperature will allow the outside of the meat to caramelise. Once the meat has cooled break it down as detailed above.
Place a spoonful of the broken-down rib meat in the centre of the plate. On top of the rib meat, place a spoonful of the buttermilk mash. Then place a generous slice of the sirloin, making sure to dab away any meat juices. Then spoon a little of the remaining juices around the plate.
Zabaglione and lemon tart photo by Jenny Holland
Third Course: Individual Lemon Tart with Limoncello Zabaglione, Fresh Lemons and Julienne Lemon Zest
For the pastry 500g plain flour, plus extra for dusting, 140g icing sugar, 250g unsalted butter, cubed, 4 egg yolk
For the filling 5 egg, 140g caster sugar, 150ml double cream, juice 2-3 lemons, 2 lemons worth of zest
The pastry: mix the flour and icing sugar in a bowl. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingers until crumbly. Mix in the egg yolks. If the pastry is still too dry, add 1-2 tbsp water until it comes together. Roll into a ball and divide in half (freeze one half for another recipe). Flatten out the pastry with your hands, wrap the dough in cling film, then chill for at least 30 minutes.
The filling: beat all the ingredients, except for the zest, together. Sieve the wet mix, then stir in the zest.
Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to about the thickness of a £1 coin, then lift into a 23cm tart tin. Press down gently on the bottom and sides, then trim off any excess pastry. Stab a few holes in the bottom with a fork and put back in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Heat oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3. Line the tart with foil and fill with rice or dried beans. Bake for 10 mins, then remove the tart tin from the oven, discard the foil, and bake for another 20 mins until it has the texture of a biscuit.
When the pastry is ready, remove it from the oven, pour in the lemon mixture and bake again for 30-35 mins until just set. Leave to cool, then remove the tart from the tin.
5tbs Sugar, 5 free range eggs, 50ml limoncello
Put the egg yolks, sugar and limoncello and whisk to combine. Place the bowl over a pan of boiling water and whisk continuously. When the mixture is creamy and has more than quadrupled in size the zabaglione is ready.
3 lemons, 60g sugar, 100ml water
Skin and segment the lemons into a bowl. In a pan bring the water to the boil and dissolve the sugar in the boiling water. Pour the liquor over the lemons and allow to cool.
Caramelised Lemon Zest
Skin of 3 lemons, 60g sugar, 50ml water
With a potato peeler peel the 3 lemons and cut the skin a la Julienne. Place all the ingredients into a pan and bring to the boil. Cook until the water has evaporated and a caramel has formed. Leave to one side to cool.
Take a dessert spoonful of the zabaglione and from a height drop on the plate to create a splat effect. Place a slice of the tart on the plate and arrange the 3 - 4 fresh lemons around and scatter the lemon zest.
Jenny Holland is the founder and editor of www.sugarpiece.com. A former newspaper reporter, speechwriter and singing waitress, Jenny is a committed home cook, bike commuter and newbie runner.
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