Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Supperclub Challenge for Social Media Week London 2012: Craft Cakes meets Hungry Female

What a whirlwind week. I arrived back in the UK to find myself with only four days to plan for a Supperclub challenge hosted by the Great British Chefs in line with Social Media Week London 2012. The challenge was simple: host a supperclub or dinner party to raise money for Action Against Hunger's Love Food Give Food fundraising campaign. We needed to make at least two dishes from their suggested recipe list, blog about them and of course rally the troops to donate some dough.

I could only face such an undertaking with someone whom I knew was a maestro in the kitchen, who came in the form of Leigh Koh Peart, founder and owner of Craft Cakes. A talented and creative pastry chef hailing from (neighbour!) Singapore, we instantly agreed that we summon our South East Asian repertoires to bring a twist to the suggested recipes. 

The Menu
We are gluttons for punishment (pun intended). All we actually needed to do was produce a three course menu, using at least two recipes from the list. Our final menu was, erm, rather more elaborate...

Lychee Sangria & Nibbles

Tea-Soaked Eggs
Cucumber & Wood Ear Fungus Salad
Lemongrass Pork Skewers
Grilled Honey Soy Chicken Wings
Steamed Tofu topped with Crunchy Shallots
Asparagus & Prawns
served with Steamed Rice & Condiments

Tea & Coffee

We got carried away didn't we? We could hear our Chinese mothers going "Enough or not?". Having seconds is not an option, any guest to a Chinese house is going to be stuffed to the brim and rolling out the door. From the above menu it was the fish and the profiteroles that came from the Great British Chef's list where we then added our own touches.

Prep, prep, prep!
Holy moly. Preparing for a dinner party always starts off smoothly. You think there's all the time in the world, having breaks for soya bean milk (Craft Cakes made it fresh!), cheese toasties and for tasting (and tasting) lychee sangria, when suddenly you realise you have four other courses to do with 1.5 hours left. Panic sets in, the pace picks up, and there's silent work flurry for at least one hour. All this amongst desperate tweeting to let Social Media Week know you're taking the challenge seriously!

Chop, chop! Chinese-style cooking means lots of slicing and dicing before it hits the heat.

There's always that ropey moment when you think your guests will end up eating mushy slush. After some bicep exercise to strain fish stock though, our Fish & Bouillabaisse started coming together...

In the mean time, Craft Cakes made the batter for her profiteroles. The lady has a will of steel. Unhappy with her batch first time, there was no compromise: she re-did the entire thing until she got it to how she wanted. This separates the pros from the pretenders. 

"Hello brothers and sisters!" Maybe that's how one profiterole feels when it joins the rest of the team, a la those green three-eyed creatures from Toy Story. Aren't they elegant?

Crispy shallots take many South East Asian dishes from zeros to heros. Something in their sweet salty crunchiness. These went on top of the Steamed Tofu and Asaparagus & Prawns.

An hour to go and still so much to do!

Service, please!
And gratefully all dishes came out on time and we even managed witty banter with all our guests. We were in very honourable company of Wen, hubby Babs (and their gorgeous 3 week old baby!) from Edible Experiences, fabulous foodie fashionista friend J, Florian Dussopt from Annagram, Nathalie Malric from Peut Etre Magazine, and Craft Cakes' hubby R. Thank you all again for making the time to come - every bit of support was fantastic, we had many great laughs and made new friends.

Lychee Sangria: everything is beautiful when you have fresh lychees and booze.

(Image from dressyourdayswithdreams.blogspot.com).

 Cucumber & Wood Ear salad: I tried to recreate this ubiquitous dish from Beijing. I think the next time we should go full force with the Szechuan Peppercorns! Tea-Soaked Eggs: Another very familiar and delicious Chinese snack. You can infuse any tea flavour into a hard-boiled egg (shells cracked) if you soak them overnight. 

Lemongrass Pork Skewers: frying off pork mince within a lemongrass skewer infuses the meat with a faint whiff of lemongrass. I got the idea after a trip to Luang Prabang. The dipping sauce was simply soya sauce, lime juice and chilli. 

Grilled Honey Soya Chicken Wings with an addictive Spring Onion & Ginger dressing.

The Main Course: Fish & Bouillabaise sauce! We customised by adding lots of ginger, replacing parsley with coriander and giving it vinegary tang. Pan-fried fennel was an excellent aniseed flavour to have on top.

Asparagus & Prawns: We had spent a good part of the day before mincing heaps of garlic. It went in with the crunchy green stalks, prawn and chicken stock. 

Steamed Tofu: So easy but so tasty. The sauce was simply soya sauce, osyter sauce, sugar, onion oil. Topped with crispy shallots. 

And our traffic-stopper: a Matcha croquembouche! Craft Cakes filled profiteroles with Matcha cream, also stuffing them with fresh strawberries. They were served drizzled with a caramel sauce and hazelnuts. And if we can stop being modest, they tasted just divine. 

Craft Cakes and I were properly pooped the next day but arose happy and glowing from the experience. We were asked by Action Against Hunger to send our tweaked recipes across and if anyone would like to know more, we'd be happy to send you a copy. If you must indulge, then indulge for a cause. It's a great feeling. 

*Special thanks to Nathalie for posting pictures of our supperclub on her beautiful blog Dress Your Days with Dreams. She was in London covering London Fashion Week February 2012 and we were SO flattered to have her fashion photography eye on our food! 


Leigh said...

What a fantastic article Shu! I'm so proud of us! Yayyy!!!!!

Hungry Female said...

I'm proud of us too! Can't wait for the next one;-)

Baby Sumo said...

Congrats on doing such a grand job :)

Raelene Loong said...

Amazing! Well done both of you. SHU, I have so much to learn from you. You should be hearing from me soon for some of those recipes!

Ashley Robinson said...

This all looks amazing! A lychee sangria is definitely on the menu post pregnancy :)

Hungry Female said...

Yen, Rae: Thank you!

Ashley: Congratulations! Let me know if you'd like me to send the recipe, it's v easy!

Kathryn said...

Such a beautiful menu, and pictures, and post!!! Absolute wows all round ladies!!!

The Yum List said...

Wow! Dessert is a show stopper and I agree everything is beautiful with lychees and liquor. :-)

Hungry Female said...

Thanks Kathryn and Yum!