What happens if you cross 11 avid foodies with a private chef?…

I love being in the right place at the right time…which is exactly where I was early on a Saturday morning, sitting at my laptop when an email popped into my inbox from Luiz, the London Foodie. He was offering up a couple of spaces at his London Cooking Club the following weekend due to cancellations. I jumped on it without a second thought as spaces are highly sought after and I’d had a great evening last time I attended the evening of French Provincial Cooking using recipes by Elizabeth David. The theme of this month’s club was ‘The Best of British’ and I was very excited to learn that we were to have our very own chef on hand for the evening to help us put the finishing touches to our dishes. Our Private Chef, David Gillott, runs his own company, catering for dinner parties, functions, weddings and even offering cookery classes in your own home! Our epic menu was made up entirely of David’s own recipes with a British Theme…

The idea of London Cooking Club is for each guest to choose and prepare a dish from the set menu for everyone to taste, along with a wine to accompany it.

First up Gina Wessels, who writes a blog called Midweek Feast made mini Yorkshire puddings with roast beef…

Amazingly, it was her first ever attempt at Yorkshire puds, they were delicious and piled high with tender beef and some really good, hot horseradish sauce, which Im reliably informed I can pick up from Waitrose!

Hugh and Liz, our lovely hosts served rillette of salmon in perfect quenelles on melba toast…

We all seated ourselves around a huge table in Hugh and Liz’s open plan kitchen and tucked into traditional potted shrimps, made by May of Slow Food Kitchen fame…

Asparagus with hollandaise sauce also from Hugh and Liz…

Rosemary brought along what seemed like a never ending platter of fresh dressed crabs…

Believe it or not we were still only on the starters at this stage, the last of which was chilled watercress soup. I hit the jackpot and was served my soup in the highly coveted Gruffallo cup :)…

Next up Hana served a jerusalem artichoke pithivier…

I’d never heard of a pithivier before and was enamoured by the delicious mixture of artichoke, mushroom and puy lentils all encased in crispy puff pastry…

Libbie made one of my all time favourite dishes…kedgeree! Libbie’s a great cook but admitted she’s never even tasted a kedgeree before let alone made her own…luckily David was on hand to advise and the finished dish was amazing!…

The prize for most spectacular dish goes to Luiz and Gerald’s beef wellington…

The pastry was crisp, the meat was oh so tender and it was served with a potent wild mushroom sauce, which accompanied it perfectly…

Su-Lin’s English garden salad was the final part of the epic main course… potatoes, runner beans, lancashire cheese, sunblush tomatoes and mint in a honey and mustard dressing…

Finally it was my turn! I’d asked to make the baked egg and vanilla custard as it’s something I’ve never made before and as you may have realised by now…I’ve got a bit of a sweet tooth!

I made my tart on Friday night just in case it went wrong so there was still time for a second attempt. The finished product looked a bit more ‘rustic’ than I’d hoped…

But luckily David’s recipe (see below) produced an amazing tart, the buttery rich, lemon infused pastry, balancing the creamy custard filling and freshly grated nutmeg perfectly…

Earlier in the week I’d written to my good friend, Hannah, who’s Publisher of Imbibe Magazine and asked for her advice on what wine I should serve with my tart. She replied with a recommendation from none other than Kelvin McCabe, Head Sommelier at Zuma, who said that I should be going for a sweet wine with good acidity, light to medium bodied with clean citrus notes such as an Auslese Riesling, a young fresh Sauternes or a Coteaux du Layon. I visited a local wine shop and chose a half bottle of Le Grand Chai Sauternes 2006…deliciously fruity with mellow honey notes without being too overly sweet…

Last but not least, David took the floor and made us a layered dessert of rhubarb jelly, white chocolate mousse, rhubarb compote and a surprise layer of popping candy…

all topped off with some very ‘cheffy’ foam! It was a beautiful concoction and tasted pretty darn good too…

How we managed to fit it in after 10 courses I will never know but we all scraped our glasses clean! After a restorative peppermint tea, we dragged ourselves home to have a well deserved lie down! All in all a wonderful evening full of divine food and passionate foodies!

And here’s how you make David’s baked egg and vanilla custard …

For the pastry case you need…

225g flour, plus extra for dusting

pinch of salt

zest of 1 lemon

150g butter

75g caster sugar

1 egg yolk

1 egg

Rub together the flour, salt and butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Adding the lemon zest at the rubbing in stage made sure it was really infused into the mixture…a great touch! Stir in the sugar. Beat the egg yolk with the whole egg and slowly add these to the dry mixture until the pastry forms a ball. This stage got a bit sticky but don’t panic just wrap the dough tightly in cling film and put it in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees.

Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface until it’s about 2mm thick. Lay it over an 18cm/7inch flan dish, carefully pressing it into the corners and trimming the edge. Line it with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans. Put it in the oven to blind bake it for about 10 minutes or until the pastry is starting to turn golden brown. Remove the paper and beans, and allow to cool.

For the custard filling you need…

9 egg yolks

75g caster sugar

500ml whipping cream

freshly grated nutmeg

Turn the oven down to 130 degrees.

Whisk the yolks and sugar together. Add the cream and mix well. Pass the mixture through a fine sieve (I used a square of muslin in a normal sieve as I was worried mine wasn’t fine enough) into a saucepan and heat it to blood temperature. I’m not sure how important the temperature is but I realised I wasn’t sure what blood temperature actually was…I recommend going with your gut ;). Once you’re happy with it fill the pastry case with the custard until it’s 5mm from the top. Carefully place the dish in the middle of the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until the custard appears set but not too firm. Once cooked, remove it from the oven and cover the surface liberally with grated nutmeg.

Leave it to cool to room temperature before cutting the tart with a sharp knife. David recommended wiping the knife between cuts to keep it uber neat. Then all that’s left to do is sit back and enjoy…preferably wih a chilled glass of Sauternes! 🙂

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