The Penthouse Kitchen

Come and enjoy our delightful Secret Supper Club in Chelsea…

Foodies are a Breed

Sadly, we have been asked by the managing agents of the property not to continue with our ‘Penthouse’ Kitchen. As of Monday 4 October, no more bookings will be taken.

Many thanks for all of your support over the past 6 months – we’ve had a fantastic time!

Pasta and Pavarotti

What better way to spend a balmy, Tuesday evening in August, than with your kitchen windows flung open, Pavarotti roaring from the hi-fi, and you embarking on your first ever Italian cooking lesson. This is where we found ourselves a few Tuesdays ago, having successfully persuaded our token Italian friend to teach us the art of homemade pasta.

We rolled up our sleeves and got stuck into the nitty-gritty straight away. Within minutes we were kneading away at our dough balls, with the aim to make them elastic and ever so slightly shiny. This part was great fun and a fantastic stress reliever. Once the dough was sufficiently malleable and shiny, we put them straight into the fridge for about an hour, had a generous sip of wine, and set to work on our porcini mushroom filling for the tortellinis.

The excitement really began when our Italian Maestro dusted off an old pasta maker, and showed us how to roll the dough into thin, long sheets. These can either be put through the machine again to make spaghetti, tagliatelle etc or cut into tortellinis or ravioli ready to be filled with an assortment of delectable ingredients. The lesson was a great success! We made some fantastic tortellinis, which went down very well at that week’s supper club.

There are a few pointers that I would definitely recommend when embarking on your very own homemade pasta. It is imperative that you:
1. Approach the task with confidence
2. Listen to some exuberant Italian opera.
3. Drink large amounts of wine.
4. Gesticulate excessively, like a true Italian.

If you follow this advice you are guaranteed to make irresistibly, delicious pasta. However, for some more technical instructions I’ve inserted a link to a great Jamie Oliver recipe:

http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/pasta-recipes/a-basic-recipe-for-fresh-egg-pasta

The ‘Penthouse’ Kitchen

The Glorious Twelfth

There are few dates in the culinary and sporting diary that top ‘The Glorious Twelfth’; and this year it coincides with our ‘Penthouse’ dinner on the 12th August (see Upcoming Events). It is one of the busiest and most celebrated days of the shooting calendar, marking the start of the shooting season for Red Grouse in the UK.

This much anticipated date sees hordes of shooting enthusiasts take to the heather, in an effort to win their share of the bootie. No other bird in the world makes such major use of its environment. Not only do red grouse eat the heather, but they also shelter, nest and rear their young in it; and typically don’t move far from their chosen area during their lifetime. The patchwork effect on grouse moors show where controlled burning has promoted heather growth as food and cover for the grouse.

If you are preparing the young birds for roasting, they only need to be hung for a day or two to tenderise the meat. Don’t be put off by the strong smell and dark meat – these meaty delicacies are packed with subtle flavor, and in our opinion, are far superior to any other game bird. They are absolutely delicious roasted very simply and served with tart berries, like red currants, black currants, raspberries or cranberries. The trick with grouse is not to let them dry out, so it’s best to cover them with bacon, foil, or even heather under foil, to keep them moist whilst roasting.

Here’s a little advice if you take to the moors yourself:

A Fathers Advice

If a sportsman true you’d be
Listen carefully to me. . .

Never, never let your gun
Pointed be at anyone.
That it may unloaded be
Matters not the least to me.

When a hedge or fence you cross
Though of time it cause a loss
From your gun the cartridge take
For the greater safety’s sake.

If twixt you and neighbouring gun
Bird shall fly or beast may run
Let this maxim ere be thine
“Follow not across the line.”

Stops and beaters oft unseen
Lurk behind some leafy screen.
Calm and steady always be
“Never shoot where you can’t see.”
You may kill or you may miss
But at all times think this:
“All the pheasants ever bred
Won’t repay for one man dead.”

Mark Beaufoy – 1902

The Tastes of ‘Little Italie’

After an incredible holiday in Italy last year, we have both become firm fans of Italian cuisine, and it was only a matter of time before our passion for all things Italian filtered into the ‘Penthouse’ Kitchen. We will now be hosting an Italian-themed supper club once a month, and having been inspired by Joska Biondelli’s exciting new venture, ‘Little Italie’, we will be using all his Italian imported produce, which is fresh, delicious and of the highest quality.

As we’ve decided to make this themed-dinner a monthly event, we thought we’d give Joska his own ‘Penthouse’ page, which you can now find under the ‘Recipes’ page.
For more details about what ‘Little Italie’ has to offer take a look at his webpage:

www.littleitalie.com

The ‘Penthouse’ Kitchen

“The Diamond of the Kitchen”

Beneath the warty black skin of these unassuming tubers lies a worldwide delicacy. The 18th-century French gastronome Brillat-Savarin born, appropriately enough, in the town of Belley, called this delicacy “the diamond of the kitchen” and was convinced that it is an effective aphrodisiac, proclaiming that “whoever says truffle utters a grand word, which awakens erotic and gastronomic ideas.”.

Because of their high price and their pungent taste, truffles are used sparingly. While in the past chefs used to peel truffles, in modern times most restaurants brush them carefully and shave or dice them with their skin on, so as much of this expensive ingredient can be used as possible. A few restaurants, such as Philippe Rochat in Switzerland, still stamp out circular discs of truffles flesh and use the skins for sauces.

Truffles establish a symbiotic relationship with the roots of suitable host trees like Oak and can swell to weigh well over a pound. Varieties include the Perigord Black Truffle (tuber melanosporum) and the Burgundy Truffle (tuber uncinatum/aestivum). Of the seventy plus truffle species, only seven varieties are actually edible. Traditionally truffles are foraged by pigs called ‘routing hogs’ or hounds but in recent times dogs have been trained up to sniff them out. Another intriguing method of finding the truffles is to observe where the truffle fly – ‘la mouche’ – lays its eggs; it is believed that they choose only the finest truffles in which to do this and linger in thin mustard coloured columns above the unsuspecting object which may be lurking one to three feet under the ground’s surface.

White truffles are generally served raw, and shaved over steaming buttered pasta or salads. White or black paper-thin truffles slices may be inserted into meats, under the skins of roasted fowl, in foie gras preparations, in pâtés, or in stuffings. Some specialty cheeses also contain truffles. The flavour of black truffles is far less pungent and more refined than that of white truffles. It is reminiscent of fresh earth and mushrooms, and when fresh, their scent fills a room almost instantly.

Truffles will probably be forevermore beyond the pocketbook of all but the rich. Gone are the days of the 1890′s, when a Manhattan bon vivant could serve gallons of truffled ice cream at his dinner parties, leading to a custom that made that particular dessert de rigueur fashionable at New York parties for years.

We are hoping to find early season fresh black Burgundy truffles for our starter dish on Thursday 29 July 2010 – blanched asparagus with a poached quail egg, hollandaise froth and grated black truffles. Delicious! The hunt continues…

Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin is an upside-down apple tart in which the apples are caramelized in butter and sugar before the tart is baked.

Tradition says that the Tarte Tatin was first created by accident at the Hotel Tatin in Lamotte-Beuvron, France in 1898. The hotel was run by two sisters, Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin. There are conflicting stories concerning the tart’s origin, but the predominant one is that Stéphanie Tatin, who did most of the cooking, was overworked one day. She started to make a traditional apple pie but left the apples cooking in butter and sugar for too long. Smelling the burning, she tried to rescue the dish by putting the pastry base on top of the pan of apples, quickly finishing the cooking by putting the whole pan in the oven. After turning out the upside down tart, she was surprised to find how much the hotel guests appreciated the pudding.

The Tarte became a signature dish at the Hotel Tatin and the recipe spread through the Sologne region. Its lasting fame is probably due to the restaurateur Louis Vaudable, who tasted the tart on a visit to Sologne and made the dessert a permanent fixture on the menu at his restaurant Maxim’s of Paris.

Tarte Tatin is definitely a new favourite at our supper clubs. Henny caramelizes the apples/white nectatines/apricots to perfection and makes an incredible puff pastry. You haven’t lived until you’ve tried it!

Rule, Britannia!

As my friends pack their suitcases and head off to exciting summer holiday destinations like Italy, Spain, Bali and New York, I console myself with the many possibilities of my own summer holiday at home. I’ve decided that this year is all about the “staycation”. Such a big part of holidaying for me is sampling local food and wines, going to the local markets and eating gigantic amounts of the fresh produce. So while my friends scoff down gelatos and pasta in Italy, Paellas in Spain and Apple Pie in New York, I’m going to concentrate on the pros of English Cuisine. There are so many delicious, traditional, yet versatile dishes right on our door step. The Sunday Roast, Bangers and Mash, Yorkshire Pudding, High Tea, Cornish Pasties, Pork Pies, Bread and Butter Pudding, Rhubarb Crumble, Summer Pudding, Stilton, Cornish Yarg, Wensleydale, FISH AND CHIPS, to name a few!

Check out Paxton and Whitfield or Neal’s Yard Dairy for some heavenly local cheeses. Wonder down to the market in Duke of York Square and sample the oysters, farmed just down the road in Maldon, and only a pound each! (The chap selling them is so friendly; he often throws an extra one in for free!) Another favourite for both me and Henny are the Higgidy Pies that are now on sale in most local supermarkets. They are delicious, inexpensive and add some edginess to the longstanding English pie traditions. Pies are definitely back in!

At our fortnightly supper clubs this summer we really are focusing on using locally sourced produce to make hearty traditional English recipes. Rack of lamb, stuffed quail, grouse and wild sea bass are some of our favourites.

So, having convinced myself that England is the place to be this summer, I wish a very happy holiday to all my jet setting friends; I’m not jealous in the slightest. This year, amidst the World Cup’s patriotic fervour, I’m going to enjoy Ascot, Henley, Wimbledon, the English football, the English weather, the English food, and the English summer, all with a good strong Pimms!

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