I'm now sitting cross-legged on my bed, watching the clouds roll by with a proper cup of tea i.e. made in a china teapot using the last of dad's precious aged tea leaves, with my favourite sort of music i.e. a youtube cooking show playing in the background. It's been a while since I've had a Sunday just doing nothing. School's over; the last week doesn't count really, since the only event left on the timetable is a barbecue. Projects and portfolios aside though, I've also been having quite a bit of other sorts of madness going on the past few Sundays. I haven't had the chance to write about them, and frankly, have pretty much given up on the idea of writing about them. But as I was flicking through all these photos to clear my desktop, I decided I do want to after all, and even if no one is interested in reading about someone else's Sundays, it's a way for me to relive and preserve these delicious memories.
Quite a few Sundays ago, I was invited by Daniel (of youngandfoodish) to do a casual bit of photography for Roast Sunday, a pop-up event with Ben Spalding, the brilliant former head chef of Roganic. You'll notice I don't do reviews of restaurants, reason being I simply don't eat out a lot at all because 1. I'm a student living on a budget who still wants to eat well so 2. I end up cooking a lot, which, incidentally, I love, so it works out all fine and dandy. As such I don't ever get invites to hip new foodie places and free food so I guess I'm not a very smart food blogger eh? but it's okay, I like working for my food, and clicking at a camera was a lot less sweaty than than pounding chilli for my sambal belachan.
It was the first Roast Sunday event, held at Bea's of Bloomsbury at Maltby Street, now achingly popular among food-lovers searching for proper grub on a Saturday, but which I'd never been because I spend my Saturdays working at the farmers' market. And so I was late. I arrived flustered and cold from the disgusting weather outside, but thankfully, was met with a warm greeting from Daniel and delicious fumes in the kitchen. The guests weren't there yet, the tables weren't set, but already there was a general buzz of excitement. Everyone was busy doing their thing, chopping cabbage or sautee-ing mushrooms, striding purposefully around the kitchen, while I un-purposefully wandered around trying not to get in the way as I peeked nosily into pots and pans and walk-in-freezers.
And then as the clock ticked closer and closer to the magic hour, that buzz became a full-blown flurry of activity as people started streaming in, hungry. The little rye crispbreads spread with chive butter though delicious did little to satiate anyone, in fact, probably making their tummies crave more. And more they got. Slices of proper aged Aberdeen Angus roast beef, served pink, with crispy, fluffy roast potatoes, buttery pearl barley, creamed cabbage, minted peas, and sesame glazed carrots, not forgetting of course the yorkshire puddings, and as Ben insisted, LOTS of gravy. Oh, and apple crumble just to round things up. I think I was about to faint in hunger on the spot watching the gorgeous food go past me and catching whiffs of the delicious smells without being able to actually eat the food yet. Ben and the other chefs must have noticed because they quite amusedly snuck me bites that had fallen off which only made me moan in anticipation for the second service (where I get fed) to come sooner.
It was an amazing afternoon- food, drinks, conversation and gravy-chugging competitions. I'm sorry to say that you probably can't get down to the next Roast Sunday because of my ridiculous lag in blogging, but I did hear that the other two Roast Sundays that followed were equally brilliant. You can, however, check out more photos and salivate and keep your fingers crossed for other Ben Spalding pop-ups, or check out other youngandfoodish events.
More recently, just last Sunday, I was sous-chef-ing at the at the plusixfive supperclub. It isn't my first time helping out, but that Sunday was a very special one. It was the supperclub's first birthday, so more a dinner party with invited guests, really, with proceeds all going to the awesome Action Against Hunger charity, and the theme for the night was pig, nose-to-tail. I've always been a fan of nose-to-tail eating, I've said it before but I'll say it again. It just makes so much more sense, pocket-wise and environment-wise, to use the whole of what's been sacrificed for our plates. Growing up in an Asian household, used to seeing heads on our fishes and bones in our meat, nothing really scares me at all about offal or other, let's just say, unusual cuts. In fact, give me intestines over a pork chop, any day. Matt the butcher (of Barbecoa) kindly sponsored us most of our meat, and as I met Goz to pick up our stash on Friday, the sheer weight of the bag holding my ribs, trotters and tails gave me an impending sense of doom. Indeed, what followed was a crazy porky weekend.
We started early, Christine obsessively making her mantous for the pork belly buns, me shaving pig's ears (why me again), and Goz peeling pig's brains (for scrambled eggs and brains). Already, though, the place was filled with delicious porky scents, the slow-brewed herbal pork bone broth bak kut teh, the Chinese preserved vegetable mui choy stew with peanuts, belly (and later the ears and stomach), and my 3-day sweet vinegar trotters and tails already cooked and simmering away to reach that stage of melt-in-your-mouth unctuousness. Also dished up that night, were Nonya chap chye mixed vegetables with pork cheeks, my bittersweet (I don't just mean taste-wise. It was an absolute nightmare slow-roasting a few kilos of ribs at 11 pm) coffee pork ribs, Wen's (of Edible Experiences) take on trotters, in a luscious red sauce made from fermented rice wine ang chow. The air had the distinct heavenly aroma of lard, freshly made from the fat of happy pigs, and indeed, everything that day was fried the proper way our grandmas would, in lard, not new-fangled 'healthier' vegetable oils. Lard also found its way into the night's dessert orh ni, a spoonful of yam paste , smoothened and enriched the way it's done traditionally i.e. with lard, sweetened with unrefined palm sugar gula melaka and topped with a golden gingko nut.
More photos here. It was another incredible night, memorable not just because of the food, but because of the people and conversations and the smell of pig that clung to all my clothes after that. (I went vegetarian the next day, and pretty much swore off pork for the next couple of weeks save for the one day I had to finish the leftover bak kut teh.)
Ok, I'm all blogged out. The clouds have gone, and the sun is making a rare welcome appearance again. I need to go water the basil plants. And maybe head out to bask in the lovely rays, or do something remotely more exciting than sitting on my bed. Or maybe I'll just make myself more tea, plus a little something more to tide me through the stretching long hours between lunch and dinner. I love Sundays.