Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A Modern English Dinner Party

In 9 Courses [Menu]

Guest blogged by Amanda Berne, Senior Cookbook Editor at Ten Speed Press.

Photographed by T. Shane Gilman

picture photograph 2007 copyright of T Shane Gilman
Nyetimber - Champagne-style English Sparkling wine really does taste great after its been laid down for a couple of years (thanks for the tip Andrew)

Friday morning, well into the planning of our feast… recipes chosen, guests invited, wine pairings suggested… an e-mail comes in from Sam, my co-chef/conspirator—you know, the owner of this blog. Some highlights:

From Sam Breach
To Amanda Berne
Date Apr 20, 2007 5:21 AM
Subject arrrgh

"last nigh i stabbed my hand wit a skewer… cant move my middle left finger…i am try to find vicodene but i cant find it…why does it hurt so much?"

Uh, oh.

The quick story? Sam was in pain for the love of English food. She stabbed herself with a skewer while trying to rig some yogurt draining contraption in her refrigerator with skewers and rubberbands.

Don't try this at home. Really.

We had to feed 12 people in roughly 36 hours. Nine courses, including an amuse, fish course, soup course, appetizer, palate cleanser, entrée, cheese course, dessert and mignardise. The last thing I needed was a swollen, drooling co-chef with one hand. I offered postponement, but to my relief she didn't. My Sam, she's a trooper.

It's not like we just wake up, e-mail each other and say, hey, let's have a nine course dinner party for 12 tonight.

We started weeks before and the spreadsheet master, that's Sam to the mere mortals out there, got us hooked up on the Google shared spreadsheet so that we could start tossing ideas around. It was St. George's Day, some holiday in England, and Sam was set for an English feast.

I should offer — I'm not English, nor British even. I'm from Baltimore; not very helpful. What Sam doesn't know is that I might have inwardly cringed a little when she suggested that. English food is the butt of many, many jokes, some of which I might have made at one point. I mean, really, who eats faggots and feels ok about it after?

Here was a typical conversation during our planning process:

"Sam, how about we do rarebit?"
"Amanda, that's Welsh not English." Oh.

"Sam, how about we do mushy peas?"
"um, no, they are gross." Oh.
(I won on that one though; see later in post.)

Beans on toast? Gross.
Black pudding? Nope, can't really get it here.
Bacon pudding? Um, what?!? Ok, this one doesn't exist.

Getting the point? There could be no Sam down — I needed her.

But, for those who have met Sam, well, she's one tough broad, and Friday night she picked me up to go shopping and get started. We hauled everything up to her amazing apartment, and got to work.

First thing was first: We had to order pizza.

With that tough task out of the way, it was time to start prepping. That night we made Campari and grapefruit sodas; cleaned fresh sardines to marinate in malt vinegar; made chicken wingettes into stylish lollipops; ate pizza; prepped the tikka masala sauce; ate some chocolate; made mint oil; drank champers.


As usual, Sam woke me up at some ungodly hour to go to the farmers' market. She softened the blow with a cup of tea and promised to buy me a Claire's Square for my trouble. Bribery works, folks. Her hand was still swollen, but looking (a bit) better, but she still couldn't do certain things. Like zip her own coat—that's what friends are for.

We spent the next 12 hours shopping and cooking, with barely a moment to sit down. There were moments of panic (I won't tell you which ones), and moments of pure, unadulterated joy, while tasting all the dishes (and the Claire's Flapjacks, my new favorite treat). And many moments in between as we danced around the kitchen to BBC Radio 2 streamed in through the speakers. It was all-British, all the time from this moment on. Including the fresh English muffins that I bought from Boulette's Larder to cheer up my wounded English friend. It worked, especially with the salty English-style butter. Oh, and the lemon cake.

We finished down to the wire, I was out of the shower minutes before our first guests arrived, and the kitchen was clean with our stations set to plate each dish as it was served.

We went for a modern English approach...

picture photograph 2007 copyright of T Shane Gilman
Mini Yorkshire puddings with seared grass-fed beef, fresh horseradish sauce and watercress were the perfect starter for when guests arrived. A toast of good English bubbly that Sam had been cellaring for 2 years, was actually quite a nice way to start the evening. It was only when everyone was there that we told the guests our St. George's theme

picture photograph 2007 copyright of T Shane Gilman
If you've been to England and haven't scarfed down fish and chips, hot out of the fryer, 1 a.m. after the pubs close, then you haven't been to England. Our version, being the first course, was considerably lighter. We marinated fresh local sardines, made a mash of English peas, and home-fried paper-thin potato chips. Fried in groundnut (peanut) oil—um, ridiculous

picture photograph 2007 copyright of T Shane Gilman
Peas and mint are a classic English combination, so we prepared a super silky pea soup with a drizzle, polka dot and swirl of mint oil. The trick here is that you don't need to strain the soup—just blend like hell until it's as smooth as you want it. That could be up to five minutes

picture photograph 2007 copyright of T Shane Gilman

Curry houses are some of the best eating on the cheap in London, so we paid homage with the "Chicken Dippa Masala," which were yogurt-marinated chicken "lollipops" with a smooth, spicy, sweet masala. We were eating this out of the blender with spoons. Shhhhhhhh

picture photograph 2007 copyright of T Shane Gilman
Gin; cucumbers. Must I say more on the English-ness? And, yes, they were English cucumbers

picture photograph 2007 copyright of T Shane Gilman

I don't know when beef Wellington went out of fashion, but I say we make a protest to bring it back. Especially our deconstructed wellys with puff pastry circles, grass-fed filet, mushroom duxelle, seared foie, herb crepes and pan sauce. Rich? Yes. I might have licked the plate. Served with the cutest little kale-kissed Bubble & Squeak cakes ever.

picture photograph 2007 copyright of T Shane Gilman
I don't know why ploughmen only eat cheese. I think it's an English thing. But, I love Ploughman's lunch. Ours included an English Cheddar and Cheshire. We had rhubarb two ways to go with it – chutney and stewed – and salty English (syle) butter for the bread. At least what I hadn't used in cooking that day. Oops!

picture photograph 2007 copyright of T Shane Gilman
I found my new favorite dessert. Sticky toffee pudding. It's so wonderfully English, with a simple caramel made from cream, brown sugar and butter. I ate mine, and then the guy's next to me. Ok, I didn't eat his, but we split the remainder of someone else's. I know. It's a sickness

picture photograph 2007 copyright of T Shane Gilman
Finally, for a last bite, Maids of Honour, the small puff pastry tarts with a curd, almond and lemon-y filling

picture photograph 2007 copyright of T Shane Gilman
Each course had wine or beer pairings [like the Duchy Originals Organic English Ale pictured above] that we assigned, and we finished the night dancing to one of England's modern songstresses, Amy Winehouse

Next time any of you refer to English food as a joke, well, I'm gonna sic my one-handed English friend Sam on you!

Amanda Berne

Other Resources & Further Reading
Samanda Dinner One
2006 | Experimenting for England - English Dessert Recipes - What's For Pud Roundup
2005 | Teaching Tim 2 - Tips on making Chicken Tikka Masala

© 2007 Sam Breach at "Becks & Posh", This RSS Feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this material in your news aggregator, or at the aforementioned url, the site you are looking at might be guilty of copyright infringement. Please contact[AT]gmail[DOT]com to report any suspected violations. Thank you.
A Modern English Dinner Party


  • At 24/4/07 23:40, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oh my! I just got here thru Anne's blog and immediately I got captured with the fab photos and recipes of food here.

  • At 25/4/07 00:31, Blogger Beccy said…

    Sam, making bubble and squeak? Did she eat it?

    That's one guest list I would have liked to be on.

  • At 25/4/07 01:58, Blogger Gemma said…

    That all looks great, particularly the mini yorkshire puds and the deconstructed beef wellington. I have had both the nyetimber fizz (from my home county) and the Duchy ale recently and have enjoyed both but then I have been enjoying a lot of British ales in the last year!

  • At 25/4/07 03:24, Blogger thepassionatecook said…

    the yorkshire puds are a great idea... and i love that picture of the sardines!
    a truly great hommage to british food, i so regret not taking part in this challenge, but i was somewhat, umhh... challenged.
    next time, i promise!

  • At 25/4/07 04:20, Blogger B said…

    wow...what a marathon effort!! This looks like the most amazing dinner party, congrats to you both for creating such a swanky event. I love english food (even though I am an aussie) and you can't beat sticky toffee (or date) pudding for dessert. One of my faves....but the english sure know how to do puddings...yum!!

  • At 25/4/07 06:40, Blogger Alanna Kellogg said…

    I'm stunned into a food stupor, just reading about it all ... may you rest (and Sam, heal) ... for a week!

  • At 25/4/07 08:17, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It all looks so delicious, and I don't eat beef.
    I think I need to search out the Maids of Honour, I've never heard of them before, but now I have a quest!

  • At 25/4/07 08:56, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm with you on the sticky toffee pud...yowzer!

    I'm telling you, you could start charging for these dinners. Samanda is the hostess with the mostest.

  • At 25/4/07 09:35, Blogger Katya said…

    Please please may I have your sticky toffee pudding recipe? It looks beautiful, and I am searching for the perfect one...

  • At 25/4/07 10:58, Blogger Tea said…

    Seriously, you two are amazing. You pull off with three hands what most couldn't do with a dozen. You've most certainly done England proud!

  • At 25/4/07 12:54, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    That looks like one delicious multi-course extravaganza! I'm especially taken with your little Yorkshire puddings. So cute! Looking forward to seeing you both working the hostess stand on Thursday!!

  • At 25/4/07 14:32, Blogger Culinary Cowgirl said…

    Amazing. The starter is something I will have to make in the looks too good! Congrats on such a spread...even with "one hand down."

  • At 25/4/07 14:34, Blogger ChrisB said…

    That is a truely splendid English repast. As beccy say 'bubble and squeak' !! beautifully served not a bit like mine which is of course why you like it!!

  • At 25/4/07 14:59, Blogger christianne said…

    What a beautiful meal!!! And for such a large many're to be commended. Congrats!

  • At 25/4/07 15:15, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Amazing dinner, ladies! I am one of the six luckiest men in San Francisco!

  • At 25/4/07 15:20, Blogger Barbara said…

    Impressive Sam and Amamda.

  • At 25/4/07 16:31, Blogger So So Simple said…

    Wow what fun. Really enjoyed your tale and loved the originality of your English Food Menu.
    Look forward to sharing more of your dinner parties.

  • At 25/4/07 17:20, Blogger Nico said…

    I had a smashing good time and the food was brilliant! :)
    And the wine pairings... mmmm Thanks to the master chefs and hosts of the evening. Too bad there weren't any leftovers (at least that I know of).

    Shane, the pics are wonderful!

  • At 25/4/07 19:08, Blogger Catherine said…

    Really gorgeous, Sam. I love the bubble & squeak cakes and you've got my mind working on a beef sub for those yorkshire puds. What a spread!

  • At 25/4/07 19:59, Blogger cookiecrumb said…

    Oh, whew! I was so worried when I learned you were making Beef Wellington, not knowing you'd be modernizing it by deconstructing. Honestly, it can be such a steamy, gray mess. Yours looks wonderful.
    What an AWESOME dinner party. I volunteer to be galley slave, even if I can't sit at the adults' table, next time. :D

  • At 25/4/07 20:24, Blogger Dagny said…

    That all looks wonderfully decadent. And now that I am hungry once more, I am depressed by the thought that there isn't anything that wonderful in my kitchen currently.

  • At 26/4/07 10:48, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This was really, really lovely. Also it inspired me to get out of my rut in the kitchen and do something interesting for a change. Thank you, ladies!

  • At 27/4/07 15:31, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ten Speed Press rocks and so does the menu... bises, Ms. Glaze

  • At 7/5/07 13:06, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I would love to attempt this menu for and with a friend of mine who loves all things English! Are you planning to publish the recipes or can you direct me to where they are already available? What a beautiful meal!

    Cheers, Pam

  • At 7/5/07 14:40, Blogger Sam said…

    Hi Pam - let me see

    the fish & chips and soup we made up on the fly. the sardines were pickles in malt vinegar and onion for a few hours. We hand made the poato chips. A smiliar recipe to ours for the yorkshire puds is this one
    personally we wouldnt bother with the gin cucumber jellies again.
    The chicken dippa masala is adapted from two recipes found in Atul Kochaar's Indian Essence.
    The beef wellington is a decosnstructed version of one we founf by Marcus Wareing in The COok's Book but we also changed it by using foie gras instead of prosciutto. we made up the rhubarb relishes with the cheese. The sticky toffee pudding is Jamie Oliver's recipe and the maids of honour we found on the internet somewere, making sure we used puff pastry (some recipes state other kinds of pastry).

    hope that helps


  • At 1/9/08 23:41, Blogger Marianne said…

    I was riveted and enraptured until the bit about Amy Winehouse... why not Radiohead? They're Brits.

    Seriously, though - absolutely gorgeous. I am in awe!


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