You know when you have those throwaway conversations that happen at dinner, and people run with it?
When Jackie Lee and I were guests at the fabulous Danny Kingston’s supper club, we had a conversation about having a team of foodies, with matching leather wrist bands (or something) who you could call on in a food crisis. Ho ho we all said, and carried on eating our delicious gooseberry fool.
Fast forward, dear reader, to the end of July. I get an email. The subject line says Catering Job HO!
I love food. I talk about food. I read about cooking. My bedside table has cookery books on it. My coffee table has (aside from a heap of Stuff) cookery books on it. A recent job interview ended up being 90% about food. I decided it was about time to actually DO something about it so I agreed to help Jackie out with prep for a 10 Anniversary party at the beginning of August.
I wasn’t available for the actual event, as it was my pa in law’s 75th birthday meal, but I was available the day before.
August 10th dawned bright and sunny. I got up at my usual work time of 6am, because I’d not been to Lewisham before and I wasn’t sure how long it would take to get there. I headed off around 8am, marvelled at the DLR yet again, and got to Lewisham at 10.30.
I stepped out of the station into the sunshine, looked around and got a text from Jackie to buy more supplies. Cue a short walk to Tesco where I found all the things we needed and got a taxi to J’s house because a) I was scared of getting lost when we had lots to do and b) 2kg of rice plus tins of black beans is heavy! Waiting for the taxi in the sun was lovely and odd. I had an interesting run in with the male locals because if you are a fat lady, you are either adored by the local boys, or loathed. I got both versions, and both made me laugh out loud, much to the chagrin of the lad who had made one of Those comments. I sat in the sun, drinking a can of Peanut flavour Nourishment because breakfast was needed, and I wasn’t sure if we’d have time to actually eat anything ourselves.
The cab got lost, but we got there in the end. It was straight to work upon arrival.
There was time for a quick look at the assorted recipes strewn across the dining room table, and then onto chopping and shredding slow cooked brisket. Once the whole lot was shredded and transferred to the serving dish, the most gorgeous smoky, spicy sauce was poured over the top. Brisket shall henceforth be known as Sponge, between it soaked up the whole panful of sauce like an aubergine soaks up expensive olive oil. Cue Jackie making another batch of the delicious stuff so that more could be added. The smell was amazing.
Next up: Saffron Spiced Rice. Jackie prepared onions, I prepped peppers. Peppers were to be my theme for the day, it turned out. The scent of the rice cooking wafted through the house like a tropical breeze. Tropical was also going to be theme of the day due to the heat.
Next up after that, I think, was baby peppers. Cut in half and deseeded. There were a lot of peppers. My fingernails ended up a curious shade of orange, but I got quicker at the deseeding as I went along. These were to be stuffed first with a layer of the spiced rice, then with a layer of black beans and then topped with cheese. This task takes a lot longer than you would ever think. Baby peppers might be wee, and cute, but what they lack in size, they make up for in the sheer amount of seeds they hold. I persevered, and then Jackie joined me for the stuffing after she’d finished doing the most amazing smelling grilled chicken ever in the kitchen. Which we didn’t eat any of, by the way.
I will say to you now, rice does not like sticking to the inside of small peppers. The black beans worked very nicely as a topping, because they sealed the rice in. Once covered with cheese, these were going to be lovely, spicy mouthfuls. I’m not sure I ever want to see black beans for a fair while though.
The hard work turned into these:
At some point I made the batter for sweetcorn fritters. I can’t remember exactly when I did this, but I know I did. Corn kernels, freshly ground coriander seeds, cumin, sliced spring onions, chopped fresh coriander, flour, eggs and water. Simple, and very, very good.
When the lovely Cindy arrived, she got started on guacamole, and I went back out for more beans, and to get some lunch. This time the cab driver didn’t get lost, and unloaded my shopping for me.
On to the baby burritos! I finished the last of the peppers, and then Cindy showed me how to roll the burritos. It’s not as easy as Cindy made it look, but I got there in the end. I was doing the veggie ones. Each burrito contained guacamole, rice, black beans, cheese and sour cream. The non veggie ones had added shredded chicken too. We had a veritable production line set up.
Jackie had to leave to go to a prior engagement, though she was going to come back as soon as she could and carry right on. We also carried on for as long as we could. Cutting out and baking pastry for tartlets, stuffing burritos, chopping up chicken for kebabs, frying off the last of the fritters.
I left at around 8pm, though I really wanted to stay a lot longer. Cindy stayed until 10 I think.
Jackie informed us that the event went off very well, and that everyone loved the food. That makes the aching back and sore feet very much worth it! Yes, it was hard work, but I felt a huge sense of achievement at the end of the night and would willingly help Jackie again. Next time though, I am definitely taking my own knives. You don’t realise how accustomed to using your own knives you are until you use somebody else’s.
These are the photos from the finished feast.
Baby Ceviche Pots
Jackie’s beautiful carrot cake.
Crab and avocado tartlets
I tell you, if I ever have an Event that needs catering, I know exactly who I’m getting to do it, and not only because I want that carrot cake.
Many thanks to Jackie for giving me the opportunity to do something that I had been thinking about tying for a long while.
All photos courtesy of Jackie Lee.