• Back to Black

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    Beautiful concrete figurines by Kathy Dalwood

    I have a fascination with the colour Black. I am told it is not really a colour so I have a fascination with a non colour…just to be difficult. My Interest in Black food was first realised when a few years ago I went on a Valentines date to my favourite Italian restaurant.

    I devoured an inky black pool of squid ink risotto accompanied by copious amounts of red wine. Divine. At the end of a very romantic evening I looked into the bathroom mirror to find my mouth transformed into a liquorice smile…My mouth was black, my teeth were black. Valentines night and my seductive pool of black risotto had morphed me into a black toothed Mary Queen of Scotts. We cried with laughter at the Valentines chefs revenge. I am sure my tears of laughter were black too (and we did go out for four years after that so it wasn’t really a disaster)

    Since that moment I have had a black food obsession. Caviar, Black truffles, Black rice, Cuttlefish, squid ink…all delicious and all very very black. There is something dark and slightly unsettling about eating black food. Perhaps it is the association with darkness and thereby death? I love the idea of a monochromatic dinner with all of the dishes and drinks being black. So much so that when I went to a supperclub thrown by a A razor, a shiny knife and we realised or mutual interest in black food we decided to throw a dinner with precisely that. Bompas & Parr who we collaborated with researched and found that Black banquets were not a new thing and did in fact have a glorious history. Of course! One of the most remarkable was hosted by Grimod de la Reyniere in 1783.

    Inspired by the feasts of the past we devised an eight course menu of all black food. We found the perfect venue in the Quintessentially charitable pop up club in the House of St Barnabas. A beautiful Georgian house in Soho complete with a garden and it’s own chapel (from which we served black vodka and jellies)

    I designed the tables to have contrasting black elements in a variety of materials. Black concrete figurines, shiny liquorice towers and Black matte ostrich eggs. Black object filled with the blackest flowers nature can provide…Black Dahlias, Black Calla lillies and clusters of blackberries,  blackcurrants, Black grapes (grown in my very own garden)

    Let them eat black! And we did.

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    Our Black banquet menu

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    Black Pyramid Jellies by Bompass and Parr

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    A tower of Black Jellies in the Chapel at the House of St Barnabus

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    Deliciousness

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    We raided all the local charity stores for object…then sprayed them black.

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    Liquorice and Black Jack towers and Black Waterford Crystal glasses make the table setting complete.

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    Liquorice strands as napkin rings. Nice to play with pre dinner

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    Paul Glossop our very talented in house Director of Balloon artistry…Aren’t we lucky?

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    Dita Von Teese came to show her support… we love Dita.

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    The fun bit is getting to take the balloons home. Taxi?!

  • Sweet things – The Art of Genoese Confectionery

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    Last weekend I pretty much had the perfect Saturday. I spent the morning in Petersham Nurseries, one of my favourite London haunts. Petersham is such a beautiful and inspiring place, it’s like stumbling upon a perfect secret world. I dream of getting married in the just perfectly bucolic rustic surroundings. Yes it’s that fabulous.

    Anyway back to the sweets. We began with an insightful introduction into Genoa’s long tradition in sugar trading and the Romanengo family who have been conserving fruits and flowers since 1780 and whose confectionery we would be experiencing.

    After this we were given a demonstration of icing candied fruits and sweets and making chocolate truffles. Mouth watering. We indulged ourselves with Marron Creams, Marron Glaces, Mostarda di frutta with Formaggio Capretta, Fondant Lingue & Torronetti amongst other delectable Romanengo products and then we had lunch…Yes after all that gorging we had lunch which was heralded with the arrival of Prosecco with Romanego Rose syrup. Made simply from roses, sugar and lemon. Now this is an elixir to have in your life.

    Lunch was prepared by the nurseries Head Chef Skye Gyngell, being vegetarian I didn’t have the Quail which looked amazing but had a fabulous Robiola which is an Italian cheese made with Goats, Sheeps and cows milk. The lunch was an education in how these sweet-toothed delicacies can be used in savoury dishes, and to great effect. I have been smearing Rose Petal Preserve on pretty much everything ever since. Divine!

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    The sweetest Play-doh ever

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    A freshly made chocolate truffle. The Romanengo chocolate machine dates from 1860. Pretty impressive.

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    Hands down the best chocolate packaging ever.

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    The divine Rose Jamoil2

    This is a Nectar of the Gods…It tastes like Rose breath. Delicious in champagne for those like me who can’t drink it plain

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    Lunch for the Carnivores. Much finger licking.

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    Robiola. I now can’t live without this. Thanks Skye!

  • A Weekend of Period Sugarwork and Confectionery – Oh My!

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    Pastillage table Markers for Dita Von Teese made by the talented cake designer Margaret Braun

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    Pastillage table Markers for Dasha Zhukova’s Kova & T dinner in London

    The food historian Ivan Day is one of the most inspiring and informative people I have ever met. I am entranced with his recreations of historic tables and find his teachings on period food an endless fascination.

    Last weekend I went on my second Historic food course. We were shown how to make syllabubs, trifles, a Tudor Marchpane, comfits and pippin knots in Ivan’s kitchen which is a culinary alladins cave complete with an incredible array of antique Utensils.

    Lots of fun to be had including making Ice cream in the garden with a Georgian ice cream maker. Truly the most delicious ice cream I’ve ever tasted.

    Period sugar work and confectionery is something that I adore. The only time I truly wish to travel back in time is when I see the incredible sugar confections that decorated the tables of Royalty in the Rococo age. The tables were works of art, the sugar sculptures were made with the definition and detail that only a gifted artist could create. I have borrowed some of these opulent edible ideas and used them on table dressing for my own events. Nothing as spectacular as Ivan’s recreations but I live in hope…someday I will get a spectacular commission and Ivan, in- between creating dazzling museum displays and educating us on the history of food will finally give in and create a table that truly fulfills all my nostalgic notions.

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    A selection of confectionery we made at the weekend

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    The sort of kitchen equipment I’d trade my Moulinex for

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    A Pippin knot made from nothing but apple and sugar

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    Printing the Pippin paste

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    And here it is!

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    The moulds are so beautiful

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    Making a sugar pheasant

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    Antique sugar craft tools made from Ivory

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    More gorgeous implements

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    A selection that includes comfits, a version of hundreds and thousands that literally takes hundreds and thousands of hours to make!

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    Sugar sculpture is a precise art. The Spirit level is an essential tool.

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    The making of a Tazza

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    Tazza in construction

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    And finally the finished Tazza. This is hours and hours of work

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    Lunch being cooked in front of an open fire. Magical

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    You can eat this… or you can keep it for about twenty years. Not exactly throwaway

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    A monogrammed waffle maker… when a plain waffle just won’t do

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    A Georgian Ice cream making device . Lot’s of stirring, lot’s of Ice and the MOST delicious ice cream ever!

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    Ginger Ice cream made with an Ice cream mould . Delicious and stunning to look at the way I like my food


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    One of Ivan’s curious books. This is secrets for young ladies. We all need to know how to order a silk -worm …

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    …and remove freckles!

    http://www.historicfood.com/

    http://margaretbraun.com/

  • Edible Architecture

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    I absolutely adore fancy moulds. I found this gorgeous cake mould last week which I discovered is modelled after Notre Dame Cathedral. Love the idea of eating some fine Gothic architecture for afternoon tea.

    Luckily for all of us in the studio my assistant Makeda is a spectacular cake baker, I am a spectacular cake fancier…we have a pretty blissful working relationship.

    Armed with fancy Cathedral Bundt Pan and her delicious banana bread recipe Makeda got to work and in no time we were all eating Flying Buttresses with our tea. Delightful!

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  • The Joy of Jelly

    The most beautifully adorned table

    The most beautifully adorned table

    I recently spent the most delightful weekend on a Victorian jelly-making course hosted by the incredible food historian Ivan Day at his farmhouse in the Lake District. Ivan has been a tremendous inspiration for me, I love his passion for bringing back to life the forgotten food of the past in the most enthusiastic way imaginable. I have been obsessed by Victorian jellies ever since I saw images on Ivan’s website a few years ago. I couldn’t believe how visually exciting these decadent edible masterpieces were: worlds away from the lurid Chivers jelly rabbits that populated early birthday parties growing up in Ireland.

    I use jellies at every opportunity for my events. They make the most beautiful centerpieces and an interesting alternative to flowers: stunning to look at, slightly quivering and delicious. I love that the Victorians had edible table decorations, beautiful and indulgent but still incredibly practical. Guests could eat as well as admire the centre pieces on the table.

    The copper moulds that are used to make the jelly are in their own right the most beautiful objects. Ivan has a staggering collection and on the jelly-making weekend we used original moulds from the 1750s including the rare Belgrave, Brunswick Star and Alexandra Cross moulds. It was an unforgettable learning process and amazing to experience first hand the equipment and methods of a bygone time.

    Our jellies setting in the lake district snow

    Our jellies setting in the lake district snow

    I adore this jelly and would love to have a mould made with my own monogram.

    I adore this jelly and would love to have a mould made with my own monogram.

    Mixing gold leaf into the Gelatine

    Mixing gold leaf into the Gelatine

    The gold and silver leaf “turrets’

    The gold and silver leaf “turrets’

    The gold and silver leaf looks incredible in the clear gelatine. Like an edible snow globe.

    The gold and silver leaf looks incredible in the clear gelatine. Like an edible snow globe.

    There is something so Madonna / Gaultieresque conical bra about this pair of jellies. They were the wobbliest I have ever seen.

    There is something so Madonna / Gaultieresque conical bra about this pair of jellies. They were the wobbliest I have ever seen.

    This one reminds me of a jelly medal

    This one reminds me of a jelly medal

    The Jelly medal mould

    The Jelly medal mould

    One of my favourites.A wedgwood jelly obelisk. The beautiful china is encased in a layer of translucent jelly.

    One of my favourites.A wedgwood jelly obelisk. The beautiful china is encased in a layer of translucent jelly.

    A brunswick star jelly

    A brunswick star jelly

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