Saturday, September 13, 2008

Adventure Gourmet – Cafe Spice Namaste, London

16 Prescot Street,
London E1 8AZ Map

Adventure Gourmet is a new venture by Cafe Spice Namaste where they offer masterclass demonstrations by well known chefs. The one I attended was a demonstration of vegetarian dishes by Paul Gayler, the Executive Chef of the Lanesborough near Hyde Park Corner.

Paul Gayler has been one of my favourite chefs ever since I discovered his Pure Vegetarian cookery book on a trip to Australia, and I'd used one of his recipes in my Cordon Vert Diploma exam so I didn't want to miss a chance to meet him and see him in action.

I arrived in good time and he came over and introduced himself to me and the others that had arrived. Cyrus Todiwala, the owner of Cafe Spice Namaste came over shortly and very soon we were all chatting and joking.

Very shortly we were off and Paul was demonstrating how to make various vegetarian dishes. The audience was a mixture of enthusiastic amateurs like myself and professional chefs and others with a connection to the catering industry who were interested in diversifying their menus to include some really good vegetarian dishes. It is really encouraging to hear this and it was interesting to be able to chat to a couple of the chefs and to be able to exchange ideas.

The first dish that he made was Fonduta of Celeriac, Mushrooms and Compte on Truffle French Toast. It was basically a mushroom and cheese terrine wrapped in very thinly sliced celeriac. This was served on French toast, made with brioche (a truffle puree was beaten into the egg) and it was fantastic.

It was like feeding time at the zoo when he finished each dish as everyone gathered around to taste it.

Next up was Soft Goats Cheese with Roasted Apricot Chutney, Cracked Pepper Pastry and Banyuls. Again, this was another tasty and well presented dish. The pastry was made with filo with crushed peppercorns between each sheet. During the preparation of each dish Paul Gayler offered various tips on alternate ingredients, especially when cooking the dishes at home, what could be prepared in advance, as well as various amusing stories.

After everyone had demolished the goats' cheese it was time for a Cauliflower Risotto with Liquorice and Raisins. The risotto is mixed with a cauliflower puree to give it the creaminess as well as having a few florets in there and, at the last minute a liquorice jus is drizzled on the risotto. Oh, and just to give it a final twist the dish is given a dusting of cocoa powder. It sounds really weird doesn't it, but take my word for it, it works.

From the risotto we moved on to Brik of Aubergine and Squash, Green Couscous, Tagine, "Ras al Hanout" with Pomegranate Labna. This is a Morroccan dish consisting of aubergine, feta and squash enveloped in a thin pastry and it tasted great. The couscous was flavoured with a coriander oil and it was served with a harissa sauce and the pomegranite labne.
Finally, he made a Vegetable Thai Green Curry with Lychees, Green Peppercorns and Beetroot Jasmine Rice.

The curry paste was very hot, but a great recipe. The lychees gave an interesting texture to the dishes and the beetroot rice added an extra dimension.

After the demonstrations were finished, we all sat down for a lunch provided by Cafe Spice Namaste. This was a three course meal that consisted of a selection of starters including Cyrus's acclaimed beetroot and coconut samosas and a wonderful paneer tikka. This was followed by a thali that included a superb aubergine dish and finished with a rose kulfi. During the meal we all had a chance to chat with Paul Gayler as he joined us for the meal. Cyrus was also there for part of it too.

It was a really enjoyable morning, the atmosphere was informal and friendly and I learnt quite a bit. It was great to be able to meet one of my favourite chefs and to taste some of his dishes first hand.

1 comment:

shiveringgoat said...

Wow i can't believe I missed this! looks really interesting. We went to Cafe Spics Namaste for the first time last night paneer tikka and apricot ice cream amazing! met Cyrus too seems fun bloke. I really like Paul Gaylor although I find his recipes too rich sometimes but would like to experience The Lanesborough at some Goat:)