Me posing as Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully. My Aunty Tracy is a big fan, so she bought me their NOPI cookbook for my birthday (because that’s what god mothers are for). But, with the book’s beautiful golden-edged pages and dishes inspired by his Soho restaurant, it wasn’t exactly a recipe book to refer to for a Tuesday night tea.
That’s where Jane Chico Mendes Cook (aka Hungry City Hippy) came in. Jane has one of the most successful lifestyle/food blogs… probably in the world(?) or at least in Wales. And I owed her dinner. Feck, no pressure then.
So it was down to NOPI to deliver. At first glance, it’s one of those intimidating cook books in which every recipe has reams of ingredients, some of them obscure. Was it ambitious to think that the Aldi’s in Ely would have ras el hanout? However, when I’d finished guffawing at how incredible the photos looked, I realised I actually had most of the bits and bobs at the back of my kitchen cupboard. And for those things I absolutely could not find, a quick Google of ‘substitute for X’ helped me out. I thought of it as putting my own stamp on it.
The first rule of dinner party cooking is to choose recipes where the majority of preparation can be done beforehand, so you don’t need to spend much time in the kitchen during the evening. And there were a few recipe options which ticked this box.
For starters I picked something which looked fairly easy, but risky. Celeriac puree with spiced cauliflower and quail’s eggs. Except I couldn’t find celeriac and I already had hen’s eggs in. So it became turnip puree (which appaz is a substitute) with spiced cauliflower and hen’s eggs. Where’s the risk? Well the spiced cauliflower is actually raw. But it was sooo delicious!
The beef brisket croquettes were a lot of effort, but absolutely banging. Cooked in Asian master stock (which I had to make from scratch) for four hours the day before until the meat was falling apart. Then set into patties and fried in breadcrumbs. And then reduced the stock to a sticky sweet jus for drizzling, accompanied by Asian coleslaw.
As a token nod to Jane-o’s outlook on sustainability we shopped local. We bought all the veg we needed around the corner at Canton Fruit Market – and it came to a very reasonable £8, with leftovers to spare. And we bagged a banging Welsh brisket for £18 from Burgess Butchers in Cardiff Market, which could have easily fed six people, if not more – not bad for £3 a head.
Did NOPI deliver? Oh yes! Everything was accounted for; bold flavours, subtle hints of this and that, and moreish textures. Asian cooking refined. Definitely worth consulting for dinner parties.