Crikey O Riley, there’s a nip in the air! The sun, who every now and then peers round our corner of the globe, seems to have brought with him the dawn of a new season. It’s a little like he disappeared some way round the world and returned with the souvenir of Autumn tucked under his poncho. For all of a sudden, I’m pulling on boots and jackets and at night time, an extra blanket and thick pyjamas. I’m not sure that I mind all that much but for the fact that we always seem to be at this point of the year. A recent read-through of the Salad Club blog in its entirety left me with the impression that we’re forever launching into Autumn, always and somehow just a step from putting another pot of soup on the hob and trading in easy salads for stomach-warming stews. It seems so funny that this is our British tempo, our natural, heart-beating pace of life, as if to suggest that once the froth of summer and its rather awkward, unwise choice of clothes (we’re not the best at it are we?) is packed away, we all quietly rejoice in the advent of Autumn, which stands rather proudly for practical, zipped-up boots, buttoned jackets and strident pacing through the city, the energy of the summer sun having charged us up for a new term and an onward- looking tenacity for plan-making. I’ve always liked it myself – the opportunity after a hot summer to see the leaves turn and fall, to take refreshment in the buttoning up of clothes and getting on with things.
So it’s perhaps unsurprising that Salad Club itself is picking up a little more pace after a summer of changes. A 16-hour-a-day, 9-day stint of cooking three meals a day for up to 60 hungry diggers, sparks and security at this year’s incredible Green Man festival has left my energy reserves on ultra low, with a cold wending its way through my body. What I learnt was worth it, however – that cooking for 60 is a challenge, but needn’t be a nightmare. Good planning, an ugly spreadsheet and a per head budget goes a long way to getting it right. Experience in cooking for large numbers at supper clubs also proved indispensable. And I certainly couldn’t have done it without the thoughtful and talented helping hands of Becky in week 1 and Rachael in week 2. Our success lay in pots of steaming soups, curries and stews with hearty, flavoursome salads topped with fresh herbs. We also owe a lot to the knowledgeable and patient local suppliers of meat, dairy, bread and vegetables for unloading their daily vans of beautifully cared-for foods on our doorstep each morning.
The opportunity for me to co-host suppers with the lovely Rosie Lovell at her inviting cafe deli has been a great start to the collaborations and a good lesson in cooking in small spaces under time constraints (the late night Thursday market shutters have to come down at 10pm sharp!) Last week’s supper took its inspiration from the weather as a Summer/Autumn crossover, including gazpacho with a bruschetta of minted pea, pecorino and green chilli; lemon roasted chicken with Moroccan salad and green beans with olives, anchovies, capers and basil and a pudding of orange and almond polenta cake with milk ice cream and passion fruit. Seconds all round and a happy bunch of punters! One guest in particular wins the prize for being Salad Club’s unofficial biggest fan. She’s managed to bag herself a table at about 6 different meals over the last year – lady, you know who you are and thanks for your support! Badge on its way in the post.
One of the great things about hosting at Rosie’s is the ease with which the set up comes together – no lugging of tables up 3 flights of stairs every weekend and an atmosphere already at the ready, thanks to her care and attention. Look at it down there looking pretty, cheeky Red Stripe hanging out on the corner and all.
In other back-to-school news, our business cards are at the printer’s (we’ll scan one up here when they’re primed and ready – we’re pretty excited about it), we have a number of private and secret suppers to plan for and a new batch of chutneys on the hob. Keep your eyes peeled for the sale of our jars and, quite possibly, some tea towels (woo ha!) In the coming months we’ll be taking to the wheels for some further afield locations and hope to pimp ourselves a van for a Salad Club take-off. Let us know if you spy any good ones on ebay! We hope to feed some of you soon.