Last Friday, the 12th of August, I held The Kinneagh Kitchen Pop-Up Italian Restaurant at Chat n’ Chew in Newbridge. To my surprise and delight, the event sold out the day before and we served 50 happy customers a four course meal (five if you count the tea/coffee) at €30 a head. This was my third supper club style night but my first being totally in control, having ran the previous two in conjunction with Joe at Salamander Coffee House. I gained a lot of knowledge and experience from my supper clubs last year but serving almost double the number of punters, this night was always going to be another steep learning curve!
With Chat n’ Chew open until 5pm, I knew I had to find another venue to prep and Niamh Swail at The Ivy Cookery School kindly gave me the use of her kitchen and also allowed me to borrow any equipment that I needed. Friday was a long and intense day. Ali and I left our home at 8.30am, did a quick but necessary(!) coffee run and at 9am began to prepare the four courses from scratch. The Antipasto Platter took the most amount of time, with nine different elements to be made, bought, prepared and ultimately assembled on the plate. The platter consisted of Prosciutto di Parma, Macroom Irish Buffalo Mozzarella (yes there are buffalo in Cork now!), Mossfield Cheddar from Co. Offaly, Sweet Cucumber Pickle, Lamb’s Liver Paté, Garlic and Chilli Cannellini Beans, Basil Pesto, a bed of Rocket Leaves and a selection of Brown Soda and Sourdough Bread. I chose to make an Italian style paté, making it with extra-virgin olive oil instead of butter, resulting in a softer consistency and the sweet cucumber pickle is a simple Darina Allen recipe I learnt at Ballymaloe. I got a lot of compliments and questions about the pickle, so I will post the recipe on the blog shortly. The sourdough bread was made with my starter and although it is a lengthy process, it is well worth the effort. The first course involved a huge amount of thought, planning and prep but I believe it was worth it – people got to sample things they might not normally choose on a menu as well as trying some of the countries finest local produce.
For the pasta course I served a Pugliese Pasta and Tomato Bake which I discovered a few months ago after buying The Silver Spoon Puglia cookbook. It’s a labour intensive dish with each tomato required to be halved, scored and salted before being added to the dish. Ali spent over an hour carefully carving in to SEVEN kilos of tomatoes – and did they look beautiful! Most of the flavour comes from a breadcrumb, parmesan and parsley mix that is added to the sauce and sprinkled on top before baking – it’s simple but elevates the dish to another level. We did have some issues with this dish on the night, as it took far longer than I expected to bake. I thought 40 minutes would do it but when I stuck the thermometer in, it read just 38 degrees in the middle. If you were there and noticed a little too long of a wait for your pasta, I apologise, but hopefully it gave you time to enjoy a little more wine and good conversation!
The main course, Buglione, is one of my favourite stews. Another simple affair, containing only five ingredients. The key to success is the Chianti and a good stock. I cooked the stew for six hours leading to tender lamb and deep flavour and although it can be cooked less, it does benefit from the extra time on the hob. The roast potatoes were flavoured with rosemary and olive oil, while the roast vegetables were perked up with a splash of balsamic vinegar to add a little sweetness. For anyone who wishes to make this Buglione, I will have the recipe online shortly.
I can’t look beyond Tiramisu for dessert, especially on Italian night. Ali, my brother and I live for it when we go to Italy – Florence, Bologna, Turin, Pisa, Rome, we have to have Tiramisu. If it’s on the menu, we’ll order it. I took a slightly less traditional approach and used crunchy Amaretti biscuits instead of lady fingers to add texture. These were dipped in coffee and Disaronno before being placed on the bottom of the dish and were topped with the mascarpone mix. I dotted a few un-dipped biscuits around for additional crunch and added some more Disaronno because…..well…..who doesn’t like Disaronno?! Plating the dessert proved difficult. We had a limited amount of plates on the night and so they had to be washed between the pasta course and dessert. Unfortunately they were still a little warm and when the Tiramisu was placed onto them, it instantly began to melt. Not to worry, still delicious.
The evening finished off with tea and coffee, allowing me the opportunity to grab a coffee myself and leave the kitchen to chat with people before getting stuck into the clean up.
Several people were integral to the success of the night. It never would have happened without the generosity of Yvonne and Seamus, owners of Chat n’ Chew. They were completely behind the idea from the outset and Yvonne was invaluable on the night, leading front of house, serving courses, making teas and coffees, and sorting all the finer details that I didn’t/wouldn’t think of as well as taking care of the 22 people that were seated downstairs. Louis and Liz, Chat n’ Chew staff members agreed to help out on the night too. Louis was a great help in the kitchen, his enthusiasm and passion was infectious when I arrived at 5pm, already tired after a tedious day of prepping. He ensured each plate looked immaculate and jumped into everything he was asked to do. Liz took care of the 28 customers upstairs and somehow found the time to wash plates between courses. Her affability kept customers at ease and her efficiency meant that she had everything ready to go when required. My younger brother Shane was a wealth of knowledge and practicality as always. He re-arranged the seating downstairs to ensure that tables didn’t impose on each other and re-worked the upstairs seating numerous times to get the right feel. He did taxi runs for equipment and the dessert and was the rock between kitchen and front of house. Niamh at The Ivy Cookery School was so generous in allowing me to use her kitchen to prep and to borrow plates and cutlery to allow the night to run as smooth as possible. She was a wealth of advice, knowledge and an invaluable resource for my many questions. Ali has been an incredible support to me over the past five and half years and as well as being chief taster for the past few weeks, she helped me prep everything on the day. She took on all of the tedious jobs: prepping tomatoes, dipping the biscuits for the Tiramisu, chopping all the potatoes and vegetables and assembling the finicky antipasto platters. I can honestly say that without her help, the dinner wouldn’t have been ready in time! She also put together the wonderful Italian playlist which really set the mood, gave a little speech to explain the menu and helped out with all of the plating and cleaning up – my starbar. The biggest thanks is, of course, reserved for all of those who attended. Family, friends and neighbours, it was so good of you to come and I hope you had a great evening.
Suppliers To Note: