Monday, 14 November 2011

The rise of the Succour Club

We all need a little comfort and reassurance from time to time, especially those that place their work in the public domain, artists, writers, chefs, even politicians! I've been plying my wares as a freelance writer for some time now and i've found that adding strings to the proverbial bow brings in new opportunities and with it new challenges. Along with demonstrations and cookery 'classes' at food festivals, the Guyrope Gourmet has found a new way to show off, the Supper club in a TENT. It has to be a foodie first.

Seeking succour through my supper club, I first mooted the idea on Twitter, and with a few wise words of encouragement from experienced  veterans, @jteramsden and @sabrinaghayour I released the bats so to speak.  The first Guyrope Gourmet supper club took place on Champs' Field campsite near Tadcaster. I'd chosen the site as Champs' Field is on a working farm and owners Angela & Andrew Kay are passionate about food. They raise Hereford beef and supply Waitrose supermarkets and have a small market garden growing a range of vegetables for their veg box scheme. Their Food from the Farm shop is packed with locals and passers-by. The shop is across the track from Champs' Field, so the Guyrope Gourmet supper club can claim to be a zero food miles event with 100% local produce on the menu (ok the chocolate in the dessert may have travelled a little).

With capacity of 8 covers and 50% of those turning up, the first event was a superb evening with two guests travelling up from Sheffield. I'd arrived on site in the afternoon to set up the restaurant and build a fire for my bread making. I'd brought rugs, fairy lights and candles as well as a handy 8 piece total dinner service I found in a charity shop for a fiver. The tent was transformed and with the use of a plug-in electric radiator, made for a cosy environment for a meal with strangers. I've cooked for numbers from my tent before, but I'd never tried to provide a three course meal to paying guests. With the basic equipment of a camping stove and no warm storage area, getting the timings right was paramount. I'd put together a simple menu using ingredients from the Food from the Farm shop. My whole philosophy about cooking is keep it simple and let the ingredients speak for themselves and there was no way I was going to divert from that philosophy for this new venture. I'd mulled over the running order in my head; light fire bake bread, make soup, make dessert and prepare veg.

Electing to hold my first supper club in November was a bit of a gamble, but I was blessed with a glorious day, with the sun shining down as I pitched the tent and kneaded my dough. Guests arrived at 7:30 and were greeted with a glass of prosecco and uttered coos of delight as they entered the tent. I was bowled over by the sheer enthusiasm they had for my little idea. From the off it was a success, with my four guests chatting and laughing as I heated the soup through and joked about my slightly burned fire-baked bread.

With a 'bivouac' of pan seared beef loin, braised fennel with parmesan and a sautéed potato & chard stack as a main course, the diners were amazed as I brought fine food to the table. I must admit, I was feeling rather pleased with myself. Sadly I was concentrating so hard on getting things right, I failed to get any good quality shots of my dishes. That's something I will have to rectify for next time.  By the time the mains were on the table I was able to relax a little and going my guests for a glass or two. Dessert was a chocolate mousse with fennel seed chocolate crust. 

The washing up was piled in a huge bucket, ready for the dishwasher back home and we retired outside to sit by the roaring fire. Knackered, elated, more than a little pleased with myself and slightly drunk I fell asleep by the fire dreaming of the next Guyrope Gourmet Supper Club in the Spring - anyone fancy it?