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Plate Lickers is 1…our birthday party!

Last Saturday saw us celebrate the first birthday of Plate Lickers Supper Club!

It’s really hard to believe that it’s been a whole year since Ivana and I joined forces, came up with a name, found a venue, concocted a menu, filled a room with 30 hungry people and….fed them! From that day forward Plate Lickers has been going strong and with the amazing support of our guests has sold out everytime (sometimes in as little as an hour). We still love every minute of preparing for and hosting our supper clubs (ok maybe we don’t like the sleepless nights beforehand) and have met so many lovely people in our 12 month existence. We wanted to mark our anniversary event with a special Birthday party, the menu for which remained secret until the plates were put in front of our guests!

We had decided to return to one of our favourite venues, St Pauls on Hills Road where we had also held our Middle Eastern and the 2nd of our Childhood Memories events…

St Pauls

We welcomed our guests with a retro classic, a snowball, made with Advocaat, lime juice & lemonade…

Snowballs

Everyone helped themselves to a paper bag of olive oil roasted chickpeas and were given a choice of 4 flavoured salts to salt ‘n’ shake into their bags…

Salt 'n' shake chickpeas

Some mingling happened…

Mingling

Mingling

And then we took to the floor to say hello and introduce the first course…

Welcoming our guests

British asparagus, from Peter Elliott, who sells it from the roadside on the A10 near Hauxton, served with purple sprouting broccoli (or ‘psb’ as I like to call it ;)) and a drizzle of homemade hollandaise sauce…

Plating up the starter

Ivana

We called on Delia’s expertise for the hollandaise and it worked a treat, although we both agreed that we could have gone a tad easier on the lemon.

British asparagus & psb w/ homemade hollandaise

British asparagus & psb with homemade hollandaise

We decided to pop out and chat a bit about the main course before we served it up as it’s always quite a rush to get the hot food in front of our guests at this point in a supper club and we don’t feel we get to give it the full attention and description is deserves…

Welcoming our guests

We were really proud of this dish, our take on ham, egg and chips…

Ham, egg & chips

We used Dingley Dell gammon, smoked in-house by our favourite local butchers Northrops, who also deserve a special mention (especially Martin) for giving us consistently good advice. On this occassion we wanted to boil the gammon instead of baking it, on seeing just how big a 7kg joint of gammon was, I realised there was no way I was going to fit it in my fridge to soak overnight, so I lugged a huuuge saucepan along to Martin and he very kindly soaked it for me. The next day, we popped back in with a bag of chopped up carrots, celery, onions, a few peppercorns and bay leaves, which Martin placed around the joint of meat before vac packing it for us! We were essentially going to boil our gammon in a bag (or cook it ‘sous vide’ if you want to be posh about it :)) for 5 hours…there’s no way we could end up with anything but the moistest of meat!

We’d decided that we wanted to really push the boat out and challenge ourselves for this event, how better to do that than to poach 36 eggs! Until about a year ago, I had never poached an egg, but a sure fire way to get good at something is to do it en masse! My technique was to get a pan of water to a very light simmer (very small bubbles just breaking the surface), crack an egg into a small bowl or teacup, then using a balloon whisk, spin the water, creating a vortex. Gently pour the egg into the centre and DO NOT TOUCH! just let the vortex work it’s magic for 3 whole minutes. The success of your poached egg has a lot to do with it’s freshness but sometimes, I reckon you just get a stubborn one! All I can say is….persevere 🙂

The ‘chips’ part of our main course was based on the American dish ‘home fries‘, which we made by parboiling, then crushing new potatoes and roasting them in the oven with butter and onions.

We served it all up with our homemade ketchup and not so homemade mustard…

Homemade ketchup

I love the moment when we place the last main course in front of a guest and Ivana & I can take a deep breath and watch everyone tuck in!

Busy eating

The next course was the one that got people chatting the most…peanut butter and jelly popsicles…

Popsicles

Handing out popsicles

Unwrapping the popsicles

A layer of chocolate ganache mixed with salted peanuts and a sandwich of peanut butter swirled vanilla ice cream and blitzed raspberries…

The finished article - pb&j popsicle

Tucking in

After a quick party game of musical chairs to mix things up a bit and to get everyone chatting to people they may not have met yet, we rolled out the piece de resistance!…our giant 12 inch, fade, orange drizzle Birthday cake, which we sandwiched with homemade orange curd and iced with dark chocolate ganache and literally hundreds and thousands of hundreds and thousands…

The cake

This is what it looked like naked…

Decorating

Fade cake

Hundreds and thousands

and here’s the finished article before it was wolfed down…

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Slicing the cake

A slice of the action

Going going...

We offered our guests the choice to eat it now or to have a slice packed away in their party bags :)…

Party bags

and those who ate all of their dinner were awarded a special badge…

He licked his plate!

I think I say it every single time but THIS Plate Lickers was my favourite yet…so much fun! We couldn’t do it without guests who ‘get’ what we’re trying to do and come with an open mind, a sense of fun and are ready to be fed…for that I thank you all!

There’s no stopping us now, we’ll be announcing a June supper club in the next couple of weeks so if you would like to hear about it first, and you haven’t done so already, click here and join our mailing list and follow our #platelickers chatter on Twitter.

Branded

Thanks to Ozzy for the lovely photo’s. The full set can be seen here.

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Rhubarb and custard cake…

Rhubarb season has been very fruitful for me this year (apologies for such early pun usage). I’m lucky enough to know a lot of people who have been growing their own and I even discovered a little crop of my very own in the garden! I often make a delicious sticky rhubarb and ginger cake, which is a complete winner but I stumbled across this recipe on the BBC Good Food website for a rhubarb and custard cake and couldn’t resist having a go, with a couple of Afternoon Tease twists. Now is no time for modesty, I am happy to report that it turned out to be the most delicious cake, and fickle as I am, has overtaken all others as my current favourite! Behold my rhubarb and custard cake made with locally grown rhubarb and homemade custard…

Rhubarb and custard cake

Now, I can tell, you’re going to scroll down, see the length of the recipe and decide it’s far too much hard work, panic not! There are basically 3 main sections to prepare…rhubarb, custard and cake but they are all pretty simple and I guarantee you, it’s totally worth it. Although this may not be the quickest bake, it’s a great cake for a lazy afternoon’s baking! So without further ado…

For the rhubarb you need…

400g rhubarb

50g caster sugar

For the custard you need…

1 vanilla pod or 1 tsp vanilla extract

275ml double cream

3 egg yolks

1 tsp cornflour

25g caster sugar

For the cake you need…

250g butter, softened,

150g custard (either use my recipe for homemade custard or if you’d rather, you can use a shop bought variety such as Ambrosia)

250g self-raising flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

250g caster sugar

icing sugar , for dusting

So, to start, you need to prepare the rhubarb element of the cake by heating the oven to 180 degrees (fan). Rinse the rhubarb and cut it into finger sized pieces. Lay them in a shallow oven proof dish. It needs to be big enough for the rhubarb to lie out in one single layer or you will have an issue with some pieces cooking faster than others (mine was a little small in hindsight, I learnt the hard way). Sprinkle over the 50g caster sugar and shake the dish until all of the rhubarb is coated…

Rhubarb ready for roasting

Cover with foil and pop in the oven to roast. After 15 minutes remove the dish from the oven, have a peek and a little shake and pop it back in for another 5 minutes. You’re aiming for the rhubarb to be tender (but not a mushy pulp) and the juices to be syrupy. If it’s not quite there yet, just put it back in the oven and check every 5 minutes until you’re happy that the rhubarb is cooked. Then set it aside to cool.

For the custard…

You can use shop bought custard (Ambrosia for example) but I swear by Delia’s custard, which Miss Igs and I christened ‘crack custard’ due to its addictive qualities, after making it for one of our Plate Lickers Supper Clubs 🙂

Photograph by @photolotte for Cambridge Edition

Photograph by @photolotte for Cambridge Edition

If you are splashing out and using a vanilla pod, start by splitting it lengthways down the middle and scraping out the seeds. Then place the pod and the seeds (or vanilla extract) in a small saucepan, with the cream. Heat gently until it’s just below simmering point.

Whilst the cream is heating, you can whisk the egg yolks, cornflour and sugar together in a bowl.

Once your cream is ready, remove the vanilla pod (if using) and gradually add the cream to your egg yolk mixture in a steady stream, whisking constantly. When all of the cream has been added and it’s well mixed, pour the whole lot back into the saucepan and return to the hob over a gentle heat. You need to stir it constantly to make sure none of it gets stuck to the bottom of the pan. You can use a rubber spatula or a whisk at this stage. It will start to thicken gradually, if it begins to look a little lumpy, don’t panic! just get whisking and it will soon become thick and smooth. Delia also advises…

‘If you do overheat it and it looks grainy, don’t worry, just transfer it to a jug or bowl and continue to whisk until it becomes smooth again.’

When you’re happy with the consistency of your custard (it should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon without running straight off), pour it into a bowl and cover the surface with clingfilm so that it doesn’t form a skin. Now try not to eat too much of it before leaving it to cool for later!

The good news is that this recipes makes nearly double the quantity of custard you need for the cake! So once you’ve measured out 150g of your custard…you can do whatever you wish with the leftovers! I recommend grabbing a spoon and eating it straight from the bowl 🙂

Once the rhubarb and custard have cooled, you are ready for the cake making. This may all feel a bit long winded but bear with it…I promise that it’s worth every single second of prep!

So, for the cake…

Grease and line a 20cm (or 23cm) loose-bottomed or springform cake tin and heat the oven to 160 degrees (fan).

Save 3 tbsp of the 150g custard in a separate bowl for later. Put the rest of the custard in a large bowl with the butter, flour, baking powder, eggs, vanilla and sugar and beat until creamy and smooth.

Now for the assembly. Spoon 1/3 of the cake mix into the tin, add 1/3 of the rhubarb, then dot with another 1/3 of the cake mix and spread it out as well as you can. Top with another 1/3 of the rhubarb, then spoon over the remaining cake mix, don’t worry about being too neat about it. Scatter the rest of the rhubarb over the batter, then drip the reserved custard on top…

Rhubarb and custard cake ready for the oven

The original recipe said to bake it for 40 mins until risen and golden, then to cover the tin with foil and bake it for 15-20 mins more. Mine took quite a bit longer than this and after testing it by inserting a skewer into the middle (when it’s ready the skewer will come out clean) I actually cooked it for a further 30 minutes (so 1hour 30mins in total). After the intial hour of cooking, you need to use your judgement…just remember, if the skewer doesn’t come out clean, it isn’t ready, so just pop it back in for  5 minutes or so at a time and then check again. Bear in mind that the cooking time also varies depending on the size of the tin you use…a 20cm tin will need slightly longer than a 23cm tin. However, you can be safe in the knowledge that when it is ready it’s going to look and smell fantastic…

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Leave the cake to cool in the tin and when completely cool, sprinkle liberally with icing sugar and serve…

Rhubarb and custard cake

 

If you can resist polishing it off straight away, this cake keeps well for a couple of days and would be delicious served with leftover custard (if you have any).

Rhubarb and custard cake

A slice of rhubarb and custard cake

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Ma Barnard’s lemon drizzle loaf…

Last year my great friends Nic & Will got married (blog here) and as is the wont of mothers all over the world, Nic’s Mum turned up at the venue laden with a plethora of goodies that she’d been baking and freezing for months in preparation. It was safe to say that no one would be going hungry and I that I would be one very happy camper with that much cake around! 🙂 One of these home baked treats was an amazing tangy lemon drizzle loaf. I just couldn’t get enough of it and think I even managed a slice for breakfast. She was kind enough to share the recipe with me and now, to me, it will forever be called Ma Barnard’s lemon drizzle loaf…

Ma Barnard's Lemon drizzle loaf

It appears that I’m a bit of a butter purist and was a bit unsure about using marg, but having tasted the cake myself I knew that it worked very well in this recipe. On doing a little butter vs margerine research on t’internet I discovered this statement from Delia, the baking goddess herself…

Fats Flavour-wise it is said you can’t beat butter in baking. And certainly for purists that’s probably true – I see one leading chain store proudly advertises ‘made with all butter’ on its wrappings! My own opinion is that margarine – now it has improved so much in flavour – is very good for baking, and with the advent of soft margarine and the all-in-one method of making sponges I actually hardly ever use butter for baking. Very occasionally I use lard. Fats should usually be at room temperature for cake-making. Allow 1 hour to soften butter, block margarine and lard. Soft or whipped margarine can be used straight from the fridge (although in practice I usually allow half an hour at room temperature), but it is vital that any margarine that is high in polyunsaturated fats is always used straight from the fridge.

So with Delia’s words to reassure you, just give it a try and see what you think. But now over to the other baking goddess and in the words of Heather Barnard herself…

It is extremely easy to make, the most difficult part being grating the lemon! When the recipe says ‘put in a cold oven’ it means it! A warm oven will spoil it.

To make Ma Barnard’s lemon drizzle loaf you will need…

170g (6oz) Self Raising Flour

114g (4oz) Soft margarine

170g (6oz) Castor sugar

2 Eggs

4 tbsp Milk

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Topping: 114g (4oz) Icing sugar. Mixed well with the juice of the lemon

Simply…

Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Put the mixture into a 2 lb loaf tin and place in a COLD oven on middle shelf. (Heather uses a liner for the tin, as she says it looks better and it allows the lemon topping to soak in more. I didn’t have a loaf tin liner so I greased and lined my with greaseproof paper).

Switch the oven on at 190 degrees (10 degrees less for a fan oven) and cook for approx. 50 mins. Test the loaf by inserting a skewer into the middle, if it comes out clean, it’s ready.

When you’re happy that it’s cooked to perfection, remove it from the oven and prick the top all over with a skewer.

Pour the topping slowly all over the cake, making sure that it goes down all the cracks and holes, and leave in the tin until cold. This not only acts as the delicious gooey ‘drizzle’ element of the cake but also leaves a gorgeous crunchy layer on top!…

Ma Barnard's Lemon drizzle loaf

Heather also told me that you can vary the recipe by using an orange or limes, but lemon is a firm fave in her house. She suggests making two at a time as they keep for up to a week and will freeze well. The ones at the wedding had previously been frozen and were delicious! I have been making this cake a lot recently and it works like a dream every single time!

Thank you Heather (AKA Ma Barnard)!

Lemon drizzle loaf

Slice of lemon drizzle loaf

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Homemade marzipan treats…

There’s just about time for another of my last-minute-Larry Christmas present ideas…it’s not too late to whip up a batch of marzipan treats!

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My Mum is a huge marzipan fan but she’s also very particular about recipes that use raw egg. Unfortunately, marzipan is one such recipe, which gave me a bit of a challenge! After some internet trawling, I stumbled upon this little recipe from good old Delia. Although it still uses eggs, you have to spend a very achy arm inducing 12 minutes whisking them with sugar in a bowl sitting over a saucepan of simmering water, which in my mind, equates to cooking the egg and therefore reduces any risk…well that’s what I’ll be telling my Mum :)…

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The recipe worked really well, but I was a little bit impatient when it came to cooling the egg & sugar mixture and decided to mix the ground almonds in when it was still warm. The mixture was pretty sticky so I wrapped it in clingfilm and put it in the fridge for an hour or so until it was less sticky and ready to mould into shapes.

Now comes the fun part, the world is your lobster and you can freestyle your marzipan into any shape you like!

But if you need a bit of inspiration, I made small cylinders, which I inserted in the middle of pitted medjool dates. I also made discs, dipped some in melted dark chocolate and stuck dried cranberries and pistachios on top of the others before drizzling them with left over melted chocolate…

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It ended up being a lot of fun and I think they look pretty darn good, even if I do say so myself. 🙂

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A strawberry & vanilla pavlova that’d make Delia proud

After my yummy J+A lunch I headed over to Hyde Park where I had a date with the Kings of Leon, oh…and a few thousand fellow Londoners :). There had been group emails flying around all morning sorting out arrangements for the afternoon. My friend Rory said that he would be bringing champagne and pavlova for us to enjoy before the gig. I didn’t quite realise how serious Rory was…he didn’t just bring a standard shop bought pavlova and a supermarket bottle of champagne or cava. Instead we were spoilt rotten with…

Once we were settled on our blankets in the sun supping our champagne like a load of old lush’s, Rory delved into his bag and produced all of the lovingly homemade components needed to construct Delia’s strawberry and vanilla pavlova

He uncovered the meringue, made fresh that morning, spooned on the gorgeously vanilla infused mascarpone/fromage frais mixture, poured over pureed strawberries, topped with fresh strawberry halves and last but not least (I was most impressed by his attention to detail) dusted the pavlova with icing sugar….and, as I’m sure you’ll agree, it looked better than Delia’s…

and it tasted divine! Four of us managed to polish off the whole desert in a matter of minutes. It’s amazing what can be achieved with the aid of some tupperware, imagination, ‘can do’ attitude and a little bit of help and advice from Delia!

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