Category Archives: appetizers

Supper-Club Round Up and Recipes


On a beautiful evening in early August, we were delighted to welcome a select group of diners to our inaugural supper club held at the Bandstand Beds garden which has been mentioned in previous posts on this blog. Seventeen diners joined us for an evening of freshly cooked seasonal vegetarian dishes sourced from the garden itself and from the surrounding area of the common helping to raise funds for Bandstand Beds campaign to create better access to the fast growing plot aiming to further their skills sharing mission statement.

The evening was immensely enjoyable for all and sundry and managed to raise £425 for the project – a significant contribution to the £5,000 target. However, there is still a significant way to go before we have the full sum to get work under way so please don’t feel shy and donate to this very worthy cause that will allow more people to learn from this fantastic skills sharing project.

As ever, we have a little something to wet your appetite with two of our recipes from the evening: ‘Persian’ Ratatouille and Great Grandma’s Welsh Cakes (which were served with a delicious compote foraged from Clapham Common’s fruit trees). Both of these were a hit; so simple to do at home and make for an ideal weekend treat. Adapted recipes for your convenience and enjoyment.




‘Persian’ Ratatouille (serves 4 with rice)

Only ‘Persian’ in the loosest of terms with the addition of saffron and currants adding an extra dimension to a traditional staple of French home cooking. On the day we served this with Thadig, a method of cooking rice common to many areas in the Middle-East and beyond but it would also be equally well accompanied by boiled basmati.


1 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 white onion, finely chopped

1 can chopped tomatoes

1 pinch saffron

1 handful of currants

Sliced vegetable, including: red onions; pattipans; courgettes; squash; tromboncini (so long as you have enough to create the circular layered pattern pictured, roughly one of each of these vegetable and 2 of the red onions)

Salt and pepper to season

To serve:

Chopped coriander

Toasted flaked almonds

Preheat your oven to 200C.

Take an ovenproof sauté pan, frying the crushed garlic and chopped white onion in some olive oil over a medium heat. Once they have become soft and appear glassy, add the tomatoes, saffron and currants and allow the sauce to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring to allow the saffron and the sweetness of the currants to infuse into the sauce. Take care that the sauce doesn’t burn, stirring at regular intervals to ensure that the base for your ratatouille doesn’t catch.

Season the sauce to taste and remove from the heat. Ensuring that the sauce is evenly distributed around the base of the pan, begin placing the sliced vegetable around the edges of the pan in a circular pattern so that they stand upright and create a stacked effect – this will allow the vegetable to cook and their exposed edges to crisp and caramelise for additional flavour once in the oven. When the pan is full, place in the oven for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are crisp on the top but cooked in the middle.

Serve with a handful of chopped coriander and toasted flaked almonds.

Great-Grandma’s Welsh Cakes (makes about 18)

A long time favourite, Welsh Cakes have been given a make-over in recents years, with recipes being circulated by renowned food writers and even being stocked on the shelves of Marks & Spencer. However, none are quite so good as this recipe passed down from my great-grandmother, born in lovely Rhondda Fach.


450g self-raising flour
170g butter
155g granulated sugar
A pinch of nutmeg
A pinch of cinnamon
A handful of currants or sultanas
2 medium eggs
Caster sugar for sprinkling over once cooked
Take a large mixing bowl and the dry ingredients (minus the currants) and combine by hand. Once all the ingredients equally distributed, rub in the butter to create a fine bread crumb like texture to the mix. Add the currants and eggs and mix to a stiff dough. Once thoroughly combined, rap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for 30-45 minutes to allow to stiffen.
Once chilled, roll out the mixture on to a lightly floured surface to a thickness of 1cm (you may have to cut the dough in half to fit it onto you counter) and use cookie cutters to create perfectly round welsh cakes. Stack your Welsh Cakes on top of each other adding flour between each one to make sure they don’t stick together if necessary.
Take a heavy non-stick frying pan, or a traditional bake stone if you are lucky enough to own one, and place over a medium heat. Place a small amount of butter in the pan, ensuring a thorough coating before wiping away any excess with a paper towel to minimise the likelihood of ‘dodgy first batch’ syndrome.
Place the Welsh Cakes in the pan in batches of four or five at a time and griddle for approximately 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Once cooked they should still appear to have a thin line of moist dough still running through the middle but not be completely raw inside. Once out of the pan scatter with caster sugar and allow to cool while moving onto the next batch.
Repeat till all the dough has been used up and enjoy still warm with a well earned cup of Glengettie tea or save for later.

Sicily: Primi

*It has been a long time since our last post and with one new job and one new house it seemed about time to add a new post to the list too. As it is that time of year again we thought we would do a retrospective on our summer travels from 2016 (check out our instagram feed for pics).*

Don Corleone, A View from the Bridge, The Leopard: that would have been the total sum of my knowledge and experience of Sicily. Yet so much has been written about this wonderful island, the football to Italy’s high-heeled boot. More importantly, all of it is true. Sleepily defying any accusations of hyperbole you happily drive past swathes of olive trees, an incredible vineyard selling their produce by the gallon at the end of the street and Etna smouldering gently (or fiercely) above you.

As with all Italian holidays (and we’ve had a few now), it always comes back to the food. Sicily was never going to be a disappointment and we had some amazing meals, be that slow-cooked donkey in central Catania (sorry Charlie and Libby but they were very tasty) or making our own attempts at a few classics. Here is small plate recipe for you to try out, be that with friends in the warmer weather or to give you some inspiration before you go booking those flights for this year’s adventure.

Arancini NeroScreen Shot 2016-08-03 at 10.47.06

A shot of our own dinner which generally ended up being big affairs. Never get a shop thinking it will last you a few days – you’ll be lucky to get through the evening and have enough in the fridge for breakfast.

Traditionally the zenith of Italian ‘leftover’ cuisine, shelves of golden orbs are to be seen everywhere in Sicily and the rest of Italy, and who can blame them? Bitting into the crisp skin of an arancino al ragu with its pointed tip making it look like a fried teardrop is all persuasion anyone will need to start applying for Italian citizenship!

Meaning ‘little oranges’, arancini have a number of local variants. The teardrop shape is apparently far more of a Sicilian phenomenon while elsewhere they tend to broadly resemble their namesakes.

While we say this is a ‘leftover’ dish, we started making these with the soul aim of producing arancini. In the Italian food bible, The Silver Spoon, the recipe for ‘Arancini alla Siciliana’ equally makes no mention of using up what risotto has been left behind – it is a dish of the highest calibre in its own right. You are welcome to make the risotto on its own but whatever you do you won’t regret it!

Makes 16

For the risotto:

1 white onion, diced
1tbsp olive oil
1tbsp butter
50g oyster mushrooms (or chestnut mushroom if unavailable)
500g black risotto rice
300ml white wine
300ml stock
2 generous pinches of salt
25g parmesan, grated

For the arancini:

4 medium sized eggs
1 ball of mozzarella, in 1cm cubes
1ltr sunflower oil
100g fine bread crumbs

To make the risotto, in medium sized saucepan sauté the onions with the butter and olive oil until glassy. Chop the mushrooms finely before adding to the onions to soften. Once they have softened add the rice to the pan and stir to ensure that it is fully combined with the onions and mushrooms and get a beautifully rich coating of butter and olive oil.

Add the stock, white wine and salt to the saucepan and lower the heat to a simmer. Leave on this heat for 20 minutes or until the rice is soft and all the liquid absorbed. This is where you may need to muster all your patience and culinary judgement to make sure that the mixture is firm and not too wet but not underdone either. The answer is simply to taste the risotto as you go along, checking seasoning and adding any salt and pepper if required.

Once the risotto is cooked, stir in the parmesan and set aside to cool. You can leave this for a couple hours or even over night to help it dry out a little further. (If you want to have risotto on its own at this point, go grab yourself a plate and seize the moment – it would be a shame to let fresh risotto go to waste even if it is for a higher cause!)

To make the arancini, place the risotto mixture in a bowl with 2 of the eggs broken in and combine (this is to help the mixture stick together when placed in the hot oil). To make the balls themselves take a small amount in your hand and flatten it out, placing a cube of mozzarella in the centre. Compress the rice around the mozzarella to form as close to a sphere as you can get – you may need a little more rice to help complete the shape of the arancini. Repeat till you have used up all the rice.

Place the arancini on a plate and cool for 15 minutes in the freezer. With 5 minutes remaining, pour the oil into a saucepan deep enough to cover the arancini and place on a high heat. At this point you should also whisk the two remaining eggs in a bowl. You will also need to have the breadcrumbs ready in a bowl. When you remove the arancini, dip in the eggs followed by the breadcrumbs and plop straight into the now hot oil (you will probably have to do this in batches – we did ours only 5 at a time). Deep fry for 5 minutes before removing and placing on some kitchen towel to catch any excess oil. Serve immediately or as soon as they are cool enough to shovel them into your watering mouths.