Tuesday, September 21, 2010

the story behind the menu

Nostalgia eh. Well this menu has something of a nostalgic air to it. Not because we’ve done it before but because I want to give some credit to the people or dishes that inspired me to run down this cooking path.
Perhaps the oldest dish is the risotto. The story behind this dish comes from my days as a student at North Staffs Poly in the mid 1980s. I stopped eating meat in 1985 and for most of the next year lived almost exclusively on beans on toast, sometimes spiced with curry powder and enlivened with slivered almonds, or packet savoury rice, usually taken with six slices of bread. Then in 1985-6 a very good friend of mine, H, who had is own house (bought for £9,000, I believe) started a little cooking soiree for a few of the malnourished on our course. H, myself and rich day cooked up some bizarre treats, including unleavened pizzas (unforgettable for the wrong reasons) and risotto. The only problem was that it wasn’t really risotto because none of us had eaten one, we had only heard the name and rice and vegetables had to be risotto. Well this one will have mushrooms and butternut and sage and lemon thyme and will be delicious.

The next dish will have to be chilli. This is what got me through my years studying for a phd in Bristol. There was also a fair amount of alcohol and other substances as well but the chilli would provide the necessary goodness to allow me to get away with all the other stuff. I could eat this in massive quantities back then. I think we’ll do this with some Mexican cornbread and one or two other little things.
Staying with Bristol, whilst I was there I shared a flat with mozz, whose ability to drink the entire flat dry of alcohol never ceased to amaze. On many nights, and days, we would be joined for marathon drinking and smoking sessions by mad dog murray. We would watch an entire series of auf weidersehen pet and then get peckish and I would knock up a veggie curry with whatever was in the fridge. In honour of those days, the third dish will be mad dog and mozz’s ruby murray.

The final main is a dish that I used to cook for my father when he was going through the latter stages of pancreatic cancer. This was a horrendous illness and my father lost his appetite for most things but the one thing that we could get him to eat was a thai beef curry with plain rice. In honour of my dad, who died before we set up the restaurant, this is the last main.
The first starter we will call Sarah harding’s soup. Many years ago this one one of the first recipes that I was asked for. It was a guy fawkes night and we had 20 adults and children coming around to see the fireworks skewing towards the houses opposite. I was left with the task of coming up with food and decided on a leek and potato soup and a sweet potato, honey, lime and chilli soup. It was the latter for which the recipe was demanded.
The next starter would have to be dedicated to steve tricks. Steve is a larger than life Londoner with a, sounds like a cliché, heart of gold. Knowing that I was vegetarian steve sought out the recipe for his favourite veggie starter at the London restaurant, le petit max. This dish was imam bayeldi and has been a mainstay of our restaurant since we opened, even appearing and being sold, once, in the day. This starter will be steve tricks’ meze with lavash.
The last starter is pea and mint tameyas and is dedicated to paul gayler, to whom we have already dedicated an entire menu. Top chef. We’ll serve it with a smoked chilli and yoghurt sauce, to which a debt is owed to paul bloxham

The desserts have a more current explanation. Cy and celia have recently moved into a house with great quantities of pears and apples, jo pinder also gave us pears, as did Jamie and wendy, ably picked by iwan, so the first dessert is iwan’s ‘folk’ pear and apple crumble. The next is the sticky toffee and we dedicate this to all the vegans who inspired us to try this for the first time. Specifically to the group of anarchists who used to occupy the hairdressers opposite. The last dessert is crème brulee, pure and simple, and I’ll dedicate this to phil, who came to my house about 13 years ago and loved it even though I’d left it in the oven until it had curdled, but none of us knew how it was supposed to be. He is very much missed by us all.

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