A dinner party a là Amelie

Amélie is a visually scrumptious film. Produced in 2001, it used the state of art digital technology to create a dream-like saturated image of Paris to represent the romantic, quirky and unique vision of the film’s protagonist – Amelie Poulain. While the film is not a food film as such, unlike Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s earlier work ‘Delicatessen’, food appears and/or is referenced in its numerous scenes. From the now-iconic images of little Amelie wearing fruit-jewellery, the cherry earnings and the delightful raspberry fingertips, to numerous comical incidents at the green grocer’s and the touching finale where Amelie imagines her love interest, Nino, getting the ingredients for ‘Miss Amelie’s famous plum cake’.  Having watched this film an endless number of times, I can (geekishly) recall all of the food references and scenes pretty much in their chronological order. So when it came to creating an Amelie-inspired dinner party, I was not stuck for ideas, the menu simply wrote itself into my note book. 

The menu

Appetitive

A raspberry gin and tonic with a board of French charcuterie, cornichons and torn baguettes 

Starter 

‘Il dort dans les choux-fleurs’

A warm salad of roasted cauliflower with capers, jalapeños and parsley 

Main 

M-eux Bredoteau’s perfect chicken 

and

Meme un artichaut a du coeur: braised artichokes, fennel and new potatoes 

Desert

M-elle Amelie’s famous plum cake 

The visual richness of the film also inspired the style of the table-setting: a rustic French theme with a few quirky injections of the filmic references and a touch of bright colours. 

The decor 

Instead of using a tablecloth, I chose a warm-coloured table surface, red in my case, and laid the table with a beige linen runner and a matching set of napkins. A selection of jumbo candles together with some jars&bottles containing flowers acted as a centre piece. For this occasion I chose simple, wild flowers and herbs: rosemary proved a gorgeous ingredient both in the meal and in the floral arrangement. Chive flowers have the most gorgeous colour and also make a perfect link between the decor and the meal itself. As a place setting, I would create individual bouquets, containing lavender, rosemary and any other rustic greens that you find appealing. A simple luggage tag attached to the bouquet will help your guest find their way and make them feel quite special. To add a bit of quirk, reflecting Amelie’s character, I took inspiration from the paintings that feature so prominently in the film – Renoir’s ‘Luncheon of the Boating Party’ and the most adorable ‘Dog’ and ‘Goose’ paintings in Amelie’s bedroom who talk to each other once their owner falls asleep. I have printed several copies of these paintings (A5 size), framed them into small photo frames, and dotted them around the table at different angles, so that each guest has a good view of at least one of them. To make the dinner even more interactive and playful you can take inspiration from the photo booth theme of the film, using props like the hat and mask of Zoro, to add a little fancy dress element to the night and give an outlet to your guests’ creativity which will certainly be flowing after a few glasses of vino. 

Recipes 

M-eux Bredoteau’s perfect chicken 

Makes 4

1 chicken 

250 gr mascarpone 

1 lemon – juice and zest 

1 lemon cut into slices

bulb of garlic 

a bouquet garnis (rosemary, thyme, bay leaf)

salt pepper 

olive oil 

Pre-heat the oven to 200C 

In a bowl mix mascarpone with salt, pepper and lemon zest and 1/2 lemon juice 

Find your way to get under the chicken’s skin (almost Sinatra style) and gently push the mascarpone mixture, distributing it evenly throughout. Try to keep the skin as intact as possible to ensure the mixture stays inside during cooking. 

In a baking tray make a bed of olive oil, lemon slices, crushed garlic gloves (skins on) and springs of herbs and stuff the chicken with a mix of similar ingredients ( a few lemon wedges, a bouquet garni and some garlic) 

Sprinkle the chicken with some sea salt and crack some pepper on it too and send it off to the oven for 40 minutes or until the skin is golden brown and super crispy. Make sure no blood seeps out when you poke the chicken with a knife. 

Serve the chicken in the cooking tray (the ‘bedding’ will cook into the most beautiful abstract background) and make sure to pair it with the side dish of braised artichokes,fennel and new taters. 

  

‘Meme un artichaut a du coeur’: braised artichokes with fennel and new potatoes 

Serves 4

2 medium fennels

12 small new potatoes

2 artichokes

1 white onion

1 lemon (1/2 juiced, 1/2 thinly sliced)

a large bunch of dill

200 gr butter

1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

maldon salt

black pepper

Method

Cut each potato in half lengthwise

Thinly slice the fennels and onion lengthwise 

Peel the artichoke and slice the hearts lengthwise 

Heat the butter in a large deep frying pan and place the potatoes in a layer. Sprinkle with salt and fry for 5 minutes till both sides begin to crips up

Top the potatoes with layers of fennel, onion and artichoke hearts, add more salt, lemon juice, a bit of water, cover with lid and cook on medium heat for 40 minutes until all ingredients are cooked through. Keep adding water and butter in small amounts to prevent burning.

Top with lemon slices and sprinkle with dill and olive oil. Cook further for 5 minutes.
This dish works well on its own or makes the perfect accompaniment to M-eux Bredoteau’s perfect chicken 

 

 

KinoVino Georgia with Russian Revels

I have never been to Georgia but having grown up on the Soviet Union I was lucky enough to be exposed to the unique vibrant cuisine of that country. The sights and scents of the Georgian stalls at my hometown’s markets are still very prominent in my mind and I love conjuring them up when cooking a Georgian meal. By obsession with this country might explain why I keep coming back to it as a theme for KinoVino. Having had the most wonderful gathering dedicated to Sergei Paradjanov with Georgian and Armenian cuisine, I decided to focus solely on Georgia for the April edition of KinoVino that took place at the beautiful (and may I add – very trendy) gallery, Calvert 22. My partners in crime this time were a fabulous culinary duet, Karine Baldry and Katrina Kollegaeva, a.k.a Russian Revels. Having been to their themed dining nights, I knew those were my kindred spirits. My KinoVino instincts did not let me down, Russian Revels were a joy to work with: super well-organised, full of great food ideas and above all Fun! Having worked with them, made me all the more fascinated by the influences of our shared Soviet past on our culinary identity. So I decided to pose some profound foodie questions and here’s what Karina responded.

How much does your cultural heritage influence your cooking style?

KB: Georgian or rather Caucasian influences are always on the back of my mind when I cook. If you want me to pick one prominent influence is herbs. When I first moved to the UK one of the most difficult things for me to adjust to was lack of herbs in abundance. A few sprigs in supermarkets were not enough to satisfy my craving.
Do you associate your cooking with the idea of Soviet cuisine?

KB: Of course, can’t cross it out… We all have our memories living and cooking in the Soviet times! Some of the dishes were heavily influenced by that time and the availability of the food ingredients.

Where does your love of food and cooking originate from?

KB: It originated during my glorious summers in the Northern Caucasus – being more specific a small Spa town called Pyatogorsk. I watched my Grandma cooking and was learning through eating her culinary delights.
What do you cook when you long for an authentic homely meal?

KB: Although I love my Caucasian food very much when I want a nostalgic moment I chop up my Olivier salad!

How would you describe your cooking style?

KB: Inspirational, improvisation based on all my culinary experiences!

What are your top 3 ingredients?

KB: Tomatoes, beetroot, herbs

What’s your ideal dinner party menu?

KB: Tapas style +sharing platters+ casual+ slow eating + good banter!

 

An Audrey-inspired seasonal meal

Nothing can beat a delicious meal. Whatever your tastes, good food can hardly be surpassed by any other human pleasures. However, I always believe (almost compulsively), that the right setting in which this food is consumed is equally important. Even when I have the most delicious plate in front of me, I simply can’t enjoy it if the table is not set in the right way or there is something in the surroundings that just does not ‘work’ with the meal. In addition to that, I love a meal that tells a story. The words ‘curate’ and ‘experience’ have been recently overused and have become a trendy cliché of sorts. Yet, I really do think that an element of curation (a carefully thought-out and sustained theme or idea) always elevates the meal and gives it this little extra, which might not be strikingly visible to others, but makes a whole lot of difference to the dinner host (me).

Having been indulging my obsession with finding and creating the ‘perfect’ setting for a dinner through the KinoVino gatherings, I wanted to take this pursuit further by starting a series of master classes on how to style a dinner party. It is always so rewarding and comforting to meet a kindred spirit who takes the colour and texture of the napkins, and the height of the candles as seriously as I do. I have found one in interior stylist, Hannah Bullivant, who co-hosted three KinoVino workshops with me. Her collection of props is my dream come true and any object that she pulls out from her old wooden crate (a piece of art in itself) that she uses to carry the props makes me want to jump up and down with joy (I do restrain myself though). As well as having found Hannah, I was equally lucky with having found the space for these events, as creating the perfect dinner table in a room that does not have the right vibe would be simply useless.

Green Lens Studios is a small venue/photographic studio, former stables just off Green Lanes, that has hosted some of the most memorable private and public events in my experience. Its owner, Yev Kazannik, has injected a lot of his own vibrant personality into the studio, making it a unique, cozy and characterful space, as versatile as your imagination allows it to be. Over the years, we held some film screenings, gigs, exhibitions, private dinners and discos, and now the new series of workshops. Giving off a vibe that’s evocative of a quirky loft and a rustic canal boat, the space has an amazing woodwork and is frequently flooded with most beautiful natural light; in addition, Yev’s amazing collection of vintage cameras and his own skills as a professional photographer, just make you want to take pictures as often as you blink, and not surprisingly most of them turn out pretty good. So it really was a no brainer when it came to the choice of venue for these workshops.

The last of these was thematically connected to the most recent KinoVino gathering with Eleonora Galasso, dedicated to food and film from Rome. Having served an Italian feast and delighted our guests with the screening of Roman Holiday, starring the inimitable Audrey Hepburn, I wanted to carry this mood over into our master class. As well as taking inspiration from the ancient city, both Hannah and I wanted to reflect the change of season in the theme for this event. We have both spent some time browsing Pinterest but the best inspiration came from simply looking outside the window or taking a stroll in the park. The colour scheme was pretty clear – earthy, rich, natural browns, dark yellows, deep reds and a bit of golden touches. By a great coincidence this colour scheme was prevalent in Eleonora’s cookbook too. Hannah created some truly delicate arrangements with pressed leaves, some spray painted copper and golden others natural, as well as some twigs and branches. When it came to food, there I was trying to tie in all those themes and moods (Rome, autumn and Audrey) into one or two dishes. Challenging myself to a bit of an invention test with the ingredients that were left behind the main KinoVino dinner (no waste!) and taking a brief flip through my treasured book ‘Audrey at Home’, I decided that an Alpine rosti with a chard, spinach and feta topping would perfectly marry all these concepts – it’s seasonal, thematically and gastronomically tied to both Audrey and the KinoVino meal, plus the colours of the dish would work so well with the colours and textures of our dinner table.

So when we gathered around the table there was a perfect sense of harmony, joy and playfulness (perhaps perceptible to just me but hopefully to all of us) in having created, dare I say, an experience of a meal, where each element was as important as another, and had a specific part to play. Would the meal itself have tasted any worse if instead of the rough grey linen napkin we had some disposable ones in different colours? I genuinely think it would have. So here’s to being slightly compulsive and approaching each meal with care and imagination, striving to create an ultimate harmony between the food, the setting and yourself.

 

An Audrey-inspired seasonal meal: an Alpine rosti with a chard, spinach and feta topping.

Serves 6

 For the rosti
2 large potatoes
6 small or 4 large sweet potatoes
2 eggs
a few springs of thyme
a tsp of fennel seeds
salt/pepper
olive oil

 Grate the potatoes into a bowl and strain the liquid. Add the rest of the ingredients, apart from the olive oil, and mix well. Lightly grease a non-stick oven-friendly frying pan with some olive oil and place on the hob. Once heated tip the mixture into the pan and distribute it evenly forming one thick ‘crumpet’. Fry on medium heat until the bottom starts to crisp up (aprox 5 minutes) then place in a pre-heated oven at 180C for 30 minutes.

 While the rosti is in the oven prepare the topping.

 1 large onion
1 red pepper

500 gr of chard
500 gr of spinach
3 cloves of garlic
1 tsp of chili flakes
juice of ¼ lemon
sea salt / pepper
olive oil

 

Cut the onion into feathers and fry until softens in some olive oil, salt and chili flakes. Cut the pepper into long strips and add to the pot together with the onions. As the peppers begin to soften add thinly sliced garlic, and roughly chopped chard and spinach, add more salt to taste, lower the heat and let it cook for 5-10 minutes. Once the spinach and chard have wilted take off the heat, add the lemon juice and stir thought.

When the rosti is ready (it should be crispy and golden, with a slight charring effect in places) flip it out of the pan onto a wooden board and top with the spinach/chard mixture and crumble a generous amount of feta on top. Add a last sprinkle of pepper before serving.

We played some David Gray to accompany the meal. Not particularly Italian or Audrey-esque, but felt rightly autumnal and appropriately nostalgic.

A perfect lunch at Green Lens Studios with Hannah Bullivant

It’s become somewhat of a commonplace to say that food has a magnificent power of bringing people together. As cliche as it may be, this keeps proving true time and time again in my case. Initially not the most communicative person, I have gradually opened up to the idea of meeting new people over a meal, largely thanks to attending supper clubs. The moment of starting KinoVino was definitely a sign that I was willing not just to meet but also to host a whole group of new people and (hopefully) treat them to a very cosy and intimate night of good food and wine. A step up from that was starting a series of masterclasses and lunches, both private and ticketed, where you spend about 5 hours in a very small group of complete strangers, in some cases; together you learn how to curate a dinner party, designing a menu in coherence with the season, the tablescape, the type of the occasion etc. Luckily, one of my closest friends happens to be the founder of the most beautiful studio in London, Green Lens Studios, and it is his space that proved such an organic and ideal a setting for these types of gatherings. In addition to that, I have found a kindred spirit in the event and floral stylist, Hannah Bullivant, whose instagram feed quickened my heart. Her approach to table arrangements and a very effortless seasonal touch ticked all the boxes in my check list for an ideal dinner party. Again, luckily for me Hannah was very keen to collaborate, and without really planning things to the minute details, she brought all the right things – the most beautiful lines, vintage candle holders and seasonal rustic flowers; the exact kind of things which even before being arranged into a table setting already promised a truly elevated dining experience.

Always looking to create a dialogue between the style of the food and the table on which it will be presented and consumed, we opted for a Spanish/Moroccan theme, with rough linen table cloth and napkins, clay trays and pots for flowers, and dishes like borani, whole roasted cauliflower with cumin, coriander roasted carrots and harissa lebneh. The floral arrangements featured not only the most delicate seasonal flowers but also some herbs that were used in the cooking of the meal itself. What can create a better coherence between all the senses during a dinner party, when the site, smell and the taste buds are all heading in the same direction!

Screen Grub. An interview with Calvert Journal

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London has a lot to offer even for the most spoilt foodies: Michelin stars, celebrated chefs, cuisines from all over the world. But just when it seemed there was nothing new left to cook, along comes Alissa Timoshkina of Kino Vino. Simply put, Kino Vino is a combination of a supper club and a film screening, with menus created especially by guest chefs to reflect the fictional world onscreen. You could call it the next Secret Cinema — in which you are invited to experience the atmosphere of film through food.

For Timoshkina, food and film have been passions for most of her life. “I have been working with film for a while, and have a PhD in film, and I’ve been cooking and hosting parties for as long as I can remember,” she says. The idea of integrating the two came on a trip to Cape Town during a visit to local vineyards. “I was very impressed with how eloquently sommeliers speak about wine and how it pairs with food, and after a few tastings I thought, why not to try and put on an event where wine, film and food would be thematically connected. The name sprung out immediately as in Russian it’s a very cool rhyme”, she recalls.

Timoshkina’s first supper club was based on Peter Greenway’s The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover: a classic roast dinner with a lot of red wine to reflect the deep and rich colours in the film. The following editions spanned a variety of film genres and countries: Ukraine with Olia Hercules and Soviet witch horror Viy, Greece with Despina Siahuli and classic romcom Shirley Valentine, Georgia with Russian Revels and Tengiz Abuladze’s The Wishing Tree, Oliver Rowe’s take on British food based on Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr Fox.

Timoshkina admits that in London, oversaturated with restaurants, food events and supper clubs, it could be quite challenging to stand out. “In our post-modern culture you need to have a mix of everything, people are not interested to go and just eat, they go for an experience rather than the food, they want something unique. Keeping up in London is a great challenge because people can get bored very quickly,” she says.

“People are not interested to go and just eat, they go for an experience rather than the food” Yet the main concept at the foundation of Kino Vino lies beyond trends and is quite simple: people sharing a unique moment. “What’s important to me is the idea of a gathering, of people coming together, something almost intimate when you watch a film together in a small group of people, laugh together, share food and wine, it’s a nice bonding experience”, Timoshkina says. “To me that’s quite special”.

We asked Alissa Timoshkina to come up with menus for some iconic films — both new releases and cult classics.

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Interview by Anastasia Fedorova

Originally published in Calvert Journal 

A Russian ‘zastolie’ dinner in Brighton

 

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The lack of courage and self-confidence are definitely the things a lot of us are familiar with, myself included. Having adored cooking and hosting dinner parties for the nearest and dearest ones, it took me ages to pluck up the courage to start cooking for the people I don’t know (not to mention the people who are paying money for my food). Starting KinoVino was a really magical moment as through this project I have found the perfect outlet for the more confident film curator and the very shy cook in me. After a year of working with some of the most incredible, talented and intoxicatingly inspiring chefs in the KinoVino kitchen, I have learnt a whole lot of invaluable practical skills and most importantly that it’s fine to take risk and sometimes just go with it! And with it I went, when my dear friends form Brighton’s Cafe Noor asked me to curate and cook a meal for their upcoming Russian-themed supper club. Having already helped out on a similar one dedicated to Georgian cuisine and music, I knew that the format works so well: people are treated to a feast of national dishes with each course being punctuated by a session of folk songs performed by a choir.

Hailing from Russia, I have never been the biggest fan of my national cuisine, always drawn to the Mediterranean shores or the Middle Eastern spices instead. But this was a good time to re-connect with my culinary heritage and of course to think how I could re-interpret it a little to reflect my own cooking style and taste. The challenge was on and I could not have been more inspired or excited to have take it. This was my 6th collaboration with the lovely couple of Cafe Noor, so I knew we were in (each other’s) safe hands. I chose a menu of true Russian classics (after all, taking a risk is a great thing up to a point) which included a twist on a traditional ‘bread and salt’ welcome nibble, a quint-essential summer soup ‘okroshka’, two types of buckwheat kasha, and an amalgamation of my two favourite childhood deserts, which resulted in an apricot tvorog stuffed blintzes.
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The night was a real delight, filled with lots of vodka shots and singing, both from the choir and our merry diners, with just the necessary dose of the crazy service adrenaline. So that’s the thing about lack of courage – it does feel incredibly rewarding once you manage to overcome it! Oh, and did I mention that we ended up feeding 50 people?
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RECIPES

Hleb da sol’: a take on a traditional bread and butter welcome snack

Serves 4

Ingredients
4 slices of Borodinsky bread or rye bread with coriander seeds
40 gr butter
a large budge of fresh dill
12 spring onions
4 radishes
+ a vodka shot (recommended dose a minimum of 2 per person)

Method

Make dill butter: in a food processor blend butter, salt and fresh dill until a smooth consistency is achieved.
Grill the spring onions: brush with some oil and throw on a griddle pan until scarred and soft. Add some sea salt.
Cut the radishes in thin slices.
Arrange individual ‘sandwiches’ with butter, onions and radishes with a bit of dill to garnish.

Okroshka: a summer soup
with salty yoghurt and horseradish sauce

serves 4

Ingredients 
1 medium cucumber
4 hard boiled eggs
8 radishes + 4 for decorating
1 small bunch of dill
1 small bunch of chives
1 small bunch of parsley
120 ml pouring yoghurt
4 teaspoons of horseradish

Method

Peel and finely dice the cucumber
Boil eggs, cool, peel and finely chop
Top tail and finely dice the radishes // leave some whole with leaves and slice in half
Finely chop all the herbs
Mix all together in a large bowl, season with salt and black pepper
Make pouring yoghurt: mix 60 gr of yoghurt with 60 gr of water and salt to taste.

To serve
Arrange the dry mix of herbs and veggies in plates with a dollop of horseradish, edible flowers, radishes with tops on, pour yoghurt from little milk jars once on the table

 

Telling a love story with food

It goes without saying that cooking is a very special process for me that makes me truly happy and creative. This experience is elevated to a whole new level when curating and cooking a meal for a very special occasion, like the one two weekends ago, marking the love story of a beautiful couple, about to get married. In English culture a hen night as a lot of negative connotations, drunken girls with crowns and gigantic inflatable penises; however, our version of a hen night could not be further from this negative stereotype. Planned as a complete surprise for the bride-to-be the evening took place at a beautiful cosy arts studio/events space, run by a close friend of mine. Green Lens Studios, is a stable conversion and a first sustainable photographic studio in London. It has the most special organic energy about it and as I have now found out, is perfectly well equipped to execute a 5 course dinner for 10. I have decorated the space and laid the table with field flowers, plates in paste colours and lots of candles, of course. The idea was to celebrate the love story with food, marking each of the five stages with a specific course. To accompany the food we had some projections (keeping the KinoVino vibe going) from personal messages from friends and family to some wonderful pictures of the gorgeous couple. A truly European duo they inspired an eclectic mix of Danish, Swiss and Italian cuisine, with dishes like a Kirsch-spiked summer berry tiramisu and an Alpine Rosti with lemon ricotta. The festive mood was enhanced by a bespoke cocktails – Lavender Aperol Spritz, as well as plenty more proescco and lovely Riojas. A truly special night that I am so proud to have co-plotted and catered for!

How to plan a party

I was recently approached by a really lovely life-style/foodie blog Khoollect to offer some party planning tips and talk about KinoVino. So here I re-share these and you can see the original as well as the KinoVino interview on Khoollect’s website.

My party planning tips 

Research
Research is essential, in my view, when planning a dinner party. Instagram and Pinterest are an amazing resource, so I always search certain tags, depending on the theme of the night and the style of the cuisine, and create a mood board before planning each event.

Keep decor minimal
When designing a tablescape, I try to select one or two key elements and let them be the stars of the show, with everything else being there in the background to accentuate those elements. For example, for my Greek-themed KinoVino I chose olive branches and bread as the two key elements. Both were displayed on the tables against the rustic beige of the linen napkins and tablecloths.

Think beyond the food
Try to envisage the meal as a journey for your guests. Where do you want to take them with it? And, where do you want them to arrive at the end of the meal? It’s not just about how they feel while they are eating, but also what kinds of memories linger after the event.

Consider the whole
Create a dialogue between the meal and the table-setting. Use some of the edible elements as part of the table decor but also think of the colour scheme of the food and how it will work with the colour of the tablecloth, the flowers, the plates or other decor elements in the room.

Make your own menu
Create individual menus for each guest that enhances their aesthetic appreciation of the table. It’s a really fun crafty moment of designing the layout and choosing the right font, shape and size. Also, menus are useful elements to guide the guests through the meal and make a lovely keepsake.

A Lunch in Spring

I enjoy a gathering with close friends around a table full of delicious food at any time of the year and time of the day. Yet, there is something extra-special about a table illuminated by the Spring sun on a Bank holiday Sunday. What is even better is a lunch that gradually turns into a dinner, while the wine still flows and the food resources seem endless. That’s the kind of lunch/dinner I had with my dearest friends recently, to celebrate Easter and the first rays of the warm(ish) sun. To accentuate the lightness of the day, I chose white linens and white tableware, with a little accent of colour coming from the flowers. The food was also all about the lovely contrast of pale and bright colours, as well as creamy textures and sharp flavours.

Our entree was a plate of beetroot pickled eggs stuffed with herbs. Followed by a creamy cauliflower soup with herby dressing. For main we enjoyed a creamy mushroom pie served with roasted new potatoes and a crunchy salad of broccoli, sugar peas and asparagus. The desert will be left out of the picture until I find the tune the recipe well enough for sharing. The meal was enhanced with some wonderful drinks: a white wine Sangria, and some beautiful South African wines – a red Cab Sav from Vergelegen and an amazing ‘special edition’ white from Steenberg. Add to that the wonderful company of the people I love, and I think this day would be by Groundhog Day of choice.

 

RECIPES

Cauliflower soup with roasted hazelnuts and a herb dressing 

makes 4
for the soup
1 large cauliflower
2 large shallots
3 large cloves of garlic
100 gr unsalted butter
100 ml double cream
olive oil
Maldon sea salt

for the dressing
fresh parsley
olive oil
lemon juice, 1/4 lemon

Method
1. Roughly chop the shallots and garlic and fry them on a medium heat in a pot until softened in butter and oil with a pinch of salt.
2. Roughly divide the cauliflower into florets, chop them into equal size chunks and add to the pot.
3. Keep adding a bit of water to prevent sticking and burning.
4. Once the cauliflower softens add more water (or veggie stock) to just cover the florets and cook for another 20 min. Add more salt if needed
5. Add the cream and using a hand blender blitz the soup until it reaches a smooth creamy consistency. Add cream/water and seasoning if required.
6. Leave to rest.
In the meantime
1. Toast the hazelnuts till golden brown (or even a tiny bit burnt)
2. In a food processor combine fresh parsley, olive oil and lemon juice and quickly whiz together
To serve:
Ladle the soup, sprinkle with crushed hazel nuts and drizzle the herby dressing in circular motion

Lunch a la Georgiana

In the anticipation of the next KinoVino gathering dedicated one of the world’s gastronomic gems, I have been craving all things Georgian. Knowing I could not wait till the end of April, I decided to create a little lunch featuring two of my all-time favourite dishes – lobio and khachapuri (a.k.a a bean stew and cheese bread). The abundance of herbs, spices and walnuts makes my head spin and their taste and scent make me genuinely happy. So here I share my (adapted) recipes, and I strongly recommend that you come to taste these dishes and much much more at the end of April.

Lobio (my version)
makes 2 portions

500 gr kidney beans (for a quick version use tinned, for a propper authentic version go the full way with soaking and boiling dry beans)
1 medium onion
4 cloves of garlic
1 large tomato
2 tbsp of tomato paste
1-2 tsp of adjika paste
200 gr chopped walnuts
large bunch of fresh coriander
1 tsp of ground coriander
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds/or ground powder
olive oil
Maldon salt

Heat a frying pan and try roast the spices (coriander and fenugreek). Add olive oil and thinly sliced onion (feathers), sprinkle with salt and fry for about 5 minutes. Things will start to smell amazing by this point. Add thinly sliced garlic and chopped tomatoes and cook for further 5 minutes. Add tomato and adjika paste, mix well, and throw in the beans. Cook for another 5 minutes. Add walnuts and fresh coriander, take off the heat, mix well and let it sit for a bit for all the flavours to infuse. Serve with an extra sprinkle of walnuts and coriander. A sprinkle of feta does not go a miss, though this deviates even further from the authentic recipe. But, if you are having this dish with khachapuri, you will get your feta kick there.

Khachapuri
makes two

For the dough:
500 gr white flour
150 ml water or milk
1 egg
1tsp yeast
1 tsp suger
1 tsp salt

For the filling
1 pack of feta cheese
1/2 pack of halloumi cheese
1 egg
1 bunch of tarragon (optional, but highly recommended)

To make the dough:
Warm the water/milk and dissolve the yeast and sugar. Leave for 10 minutes so things get bubbly.
Put the flour in a large bowl, make a well in the middle. Add the egg and the yeast water, and mix well until the dough forms into a soft ball. Cover with cling film and leave in a warm place for 2 hours. Come back to your dough to find that it’s about to spill out of the bowl. Just before your take it out of the bowl, prepare your filling.

Grate halloumi into a bowl. Add crumbled feta, one egg and a bunch of chopped tarragon. Mix well. This mixture is extremely salty and flavoursome, so there is no need to add anything else.

Tip your dough on a clean floured surface. Divide into two parts.
Keep adding more flour as the dough is quite sticky and gently knead for about 3 minutes. Flatten the dough out to make an even crêpe, place the mixture in the middle, then close all the edge to form a sack. Gently turn it around, so the sealed edges are now at the bottom, and carefully flatten the bread using a rolling pin.

Bake in a pre-heated oven for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Brush with a generous amount of melted butter and serve while the filling is super hot!
Lobio and khachapuri is a match made in heaven!