Supper club host James Ramsden delighted his guests with an allotment salad. With soil made from dehydrated vegetables, it partnered beautifully with some great London beers.
It no doubt hasn’t escaped your notice that there has been something of a renaissance in the world of beer lately. Non-descript European lagers have been jettisoned in favour of American and British beers that actually taste of something, beers you drink to enjoy as opposed to drink to get drunk. Of course, the latter is usually a happy corollary but, you know, not the point.
We did a beer and food pairing evening at The Secret Larder in association with Indie Ales. Charlie from IA, Sam and I sat down with a table full of the stuff and slowly sipped our way through IPAs and stouts and porters and lagers and ales until we’d formulated a menu.
The idea was to stick to London beers, with a London-themed menu – gruel, obviously (which was really a savoury porridge with smoked mackerel and celery cress) was served with Five Points IPA; the main of pork belly with peas and cider went with a robust East London brewery Foundation Bitter; we’d made a cocktail at the beginning of rhubarb, ginger, gin and Kernel Table Beer, which needs revisiting (in a good way), but the highlights of the evening were the dessert and the main starter.
For dessert we, wankily perhaps, wanted smog to be the theme. We made a chocolate and lapsang souchong cake which mightn’t have worked but did, serving it with rich tea biscuit ice cream and a malt butterscotch. Sat alongside Beavertown Smog Rocket – a smoked porter – it was sensational.
But it was this dish and its pairing that won the day. Allotment salad consisted of a soil made from dehydrated olives, grape nuts, poppy seeds and potatoes, carrots, pickled turnips, radishes, beetroot, roast shallot, goat curd and spinach. Fussy, maybe, but quite the looker, certainly the taster, and with the citrussy, floral Wu Gang Chops the Tree wheat beer was off the richter. Here’s how to make it. It may seem long-winded but each job is very quick for you to do, and you can do it over the course of one or even several days.
For the goat curd
500g goat yogurt
For the soil
A handful of pitted black olives, roughly chopped
100g new potatoes
4 tbsp grape nuts
2 tbsp poppy seeds
For the salad
½ red onion, finely sliced
100g caster sugar
100ml cider vinegar
3 banana shallots
A few baby spinach leaves
For the dressing
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
For the goat curd: put the goat yogurt in a muslin or clean tea towel with a pinch of salt, and hang from a cupboard handle over a bowl for 24-48 hours to drain the whey.
For the soil: Preheat the oven to 140C. Boil the potatoes until tender, then drain and leave to steam dry. Smash up without mashing and put on a baking tray with the olives. Dry out in the oven for 2-3 hours until completely dry and crisp. Toast the grape nuts in a dry frying pan and mix with the olives, potatoes, and poppy seeds with a good pinch of sea salt. Set aside.
Peel the turnip and cut into wedges. Whisk together the sugar and vinegar and tip over the turnip and onion. Leave for minimum 12 hours.
Peel the carrots and cut into chunks on an angle. Boil in salted water for 5 minutes, drain and plunge into cold water. Boil the beetroot until tender, drain, cool, peel and slice thinly.
Halve the shallots through the middle and peel. Toss in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 200C for 25 minutes.
Halve the radishes and store in the fridge.
Mix the dressing ingredients and store in a jar.
To assemble: Put a couple of blobs of goat curd on each plate. Scatter over the soil. Arrange the vegetables over the top, finish with spinach leaves, dress, and serve.