After the success of our first Cookbook Supperclub my friends and I decided that we wanted this to become a regular event in our diaries. Our plan is to book a supperclub every couple of months and post on our successes and failures.
My friend Laura hosted this supperclub and the cookbook choice this time was “Made in Italy: Food and Stories” by Giorgio Locatelli. We decided on a 4-course menu, including a pasta course and once the book had been circulated this is what we came up with:
Starter: Pan-fried scallops with saffron vinaigrette (Paula)
So to our thoughts on the nights cooking, first up was Paula’s hand-dived scallop dish. Paula’s husband dives and we get the best tasting sweetest scallops. This was a lovely dish, we all enjoyed it, in particular serving it with a celeriac puree. If there was any criticism of the dish it was the fact that the recipe stated not to season the scallops before cooking – something all of us would have done. We followed the recipe and all agreed that we would have seasoned prior to cooking. The recipe also asked for the scallops to be placed into the oven after pan frying, something we all refused to do as we cook these scallops all the time and they don’t need finished off in the oven. The recipe then asked that the scallops be placed in a bowl of saffron vinaigrette, again we did not do this, instead we drizzled the salad dressing over the scallops and around the plate as we did not want the saffron overpowering the sweet scallop. Altogether a very nice dish though and one we’d all make again.
Pasta: Pappardelle with broad beans and rocket (Michelle)
Next up we had Michelle’s pasta course, easily the best course of the night. It was a truly delicious dish and made good use of broad beans that Michelle had grown in her garden last year and frozen. No criticism of this dish whatsoever and Michelle says this will now be her go-to recipe when making fresh pasta. A complete success, and a recipe that we will all cook again and just as well given what was coming up next!
Main: Hake with tomato crust & wine, with a side of focaccia bread (Lesley)
I made the fish main. The recipe asked for thick fillets of seabass and as this is something we can’t get here my fishmonger recommended substituting with either hake or cod, I went for hake as its a fish I really enjoy. Where to start with this recipe? The recipe asks you to cook the fish in extra-virgin olive oil – I would never use extra-virgin olive oil to cook anything, particularly when you want a searing hot pan. As for the sauce that went with it, the combination of olives, fish stock, white wine, tomato and lemon juice made the whole sauce highly acidic, sour and salty, completely lacking in balance, one taste each of this sauce was all any of us managed. I served this with a basil and potato puree from the book which asked that the potato be simmered in its skin for about an hour before putting through a sieve and adding a basil butter I’d made earlier. Yes, I did actually simmer that potato and fail to see what I lent to the dish. I can’t say I liked the taste combination much either. No all in all a disaster except for the fish itself which was delicious.
To add insult to injury I also made the “foolproof focaccia”, I read and re-read and you’re still left questioning the method. I made the recipe twice as lack of clarity forced me to start again. The recipe does not ask you to kneed the ingredients only mix them together – you would always kneed a bread of this type. Poorly written and I got Michelle to read over it too and she agreed with me. Also the recipe contained far to much salt for any of our palettes and ended up in the bin. We both make bread regularly and were disappointed. Without a doubt the wooden spoon went to me for my efforts!
Dessert: Strawberry & mango lasagne (Laura)
Last up was Laura’s dessert, boy did we get a laugh at this! The cake tasted fine, the ice cream only just set, but the hysterics started when Laura unveiled her mango and strawberry lasagne. With nothing to bind it together if fell apart as soon as the knife hit it. A lot of faff and prepping for this dish that simply added nothing. The recipe said to cut the fruit, the only way I reckon you’d get it to remain in layers would be to use a mandolin, and even then I’m not entirely convinced it wouldn’t break apart, without something to bind it together.
We couldn’t resist sharing the photo of the lasagne once it had been cut – this is after all for a bit of fun as well as learning some new recipes!
Our Italian wine selection for dinner had us all trying some new wines (I’d definitely recommend the Pecorino with fish), mixed up with a couple of very nice cocktails:
Apperitive: Peach Bellini
Dessert: Moscato d’Asti
Cocktail: Porn Star Martini
So our overall thoughts for the night and the book? Its a great read, but not a book for those who need to follow recipes to the letter. You need to read through the recipes a couple of times, even then you’ll go back to it when you start cooking to check you’re doing it right. This is a cheffy book and you need to be able to interpret the recipes, we had a couple of complete disasters, despite following step by step instructions. What’s interesting is that even before meeting up last Thursday we were getting our excuses in via our messaging group, we all knew that there were things that just didn’t look right.
That said we had, as always, a really great night in. Lots of proper belly laughing and due to not eating much of the main, but still polishing off all the wine, we were all more than happy to take a turn on Laura’s karaoke machine. I can safely say that Paula and Michelle are two of the worst singers I’ve ever had the misfortune to hear – but hilarious nonetheless. Another great night and we are all already looking forward to the next one.