After probably around 30 hours of cooking and weeks of planning, I finally pulled off my first pop-up: a dinner fundraising for the British Red Cross Nepal earthquake appeal. Amazingly, it raised £1805.53 which is 80% more than I initially set out to which is incredible! A raffle and an impromtu – drunken – auction on the night definitely had something to do with the total. A massive thanks goes to Tristan, Jacqui, Hibah and Louise for all their help on the night and in the lead up to it. Without wanting this to sound like an Oscars speech I also want to thank all the businesses and people that donated the amazing prizes: Dishoom, Sugar Mountain, Ethos, The Beer Shop, Masala Wala Cafe, Little Nan’s Bar, Brockley Brewery, The Hill Station, Oval Space, Floravelaura, Flamingo Pier, Late Knights Brewery, XOYO, Mounira Almenoar, South London Soul Train, Jam Circus, Catherine Wilkinson, Brockley Deli, Komodo, New Cross House, Gospeloke, Thames Clipper and LEON. Oh and that Edith Bowman book…
Back to the food! Deciding the menu was one of the toughest tasks. I wanted the menu to be interesting enough for people to feel they had value for money, and also for them to taste things they might not have had before. I also decided to do a blend of Indian and Nepali cooking, largely based on what I’d learnt from my dad who was a chef. I was quite ambitious, not only in cooking for over 35 people, but also in giving everyone three starters and three curries each. But it worked, and everyone seemed pretty chuffed with the food.
Almost all the food was vegan and gluten-free, except the momos and chapatis contained gluten and the paneer (homemade cheese) and pea curry obviously contained dairy. I did alternative dishes for those with any dietary requirements – I made a lettuce leaf wrapped momo for gluten-free and an additional curry for the non-dairy and other dietary requirements. I tried to make buckwheat chapatis for the one gluten-free guest but that was the only culinary disaster of the evening… Even the sweets were gluten-free and vegan which made them not as rich and heavy as they traditionally would be with a high milk (often condensed) and sugar content. Even I loved the sweets!
You can follow the links below to find various recipes from the event. Why not host your own fundraising supperclub either for this cause or another that is close to your heart?
The starters were platters of one piece each of:
- Vegetable momos – traditional Nepali dumplings of mixed vegetables.
- Vegetable pakoras – Indian deep-fried vegetables coated in a spicy gram flour mix.
- Bara – popular Nepali black lentil street food snack pancakes.
Each guest got a dal bhat thali tray for their main which included all of the following:
- Dal bhat – a Nepalese staple of lentil curry served with brown rice and chapatis.
- Nepali Tarkari – a simple curry of mixed vegetables flavoured subtly with home ground spices.
- Muttar paneer – pea and homemade Indian cottage cheese and curry.
And finally, dessert was a couple of small traditional sweets which were easy to make in advance, served with masala chai:
- Mango burfi – traditional fudge-like fruity sweet.
- Pistachio peda – a very common sweet in Nepal that is often used for puja (prayer).
I spent the five evenings in the lead up to the event cooking, which took a lot of the pressure off on the night. Most things just needed heated up. The biggest challenge was making so many fresh momos and chapatis at once. I should have made these more in advance but I managed to pull it off ok – with some excellent help from friends Louise and Arzzita who got stuck into wrapping momos and rolling chapatis. I also had a bit of a mission with the urid dal (black lentils) when I was prepping the bara. Despite soaking them overnight the skins were being stubborn at removal and given there was one kilo of them it was quite hard to de-skin them efficiently. Tristan was drafted in and eventually, after several rinses in hot water and a lot of rubbing, we got the skins off most of them. I’ll remember to buy them skinless next time! I hadn’t made bara before so it was typical that it caused issues. In the end though they did taste just like ones I had had with my host in Thamel, Nepal, in 2011 so I was happy.
The only other thing I hadn’t made before was homemade paneer (Indian cottage cheese). Even though I’ve been vegan for over two months now, I really wanted to do a paneer curry and when I saw how easy it was to make it homemade I knew I had to. This recipe can be veganised by using tofu instead which works as a really good substitute.
Overall the evening was a great success and I’m super motivated to host events in the future. Edit (April 2016): I have just launched a new supperclub series, Ruby & Pickles, which will bring Indian-inspired vegan and vegetarian food to London. Read more about it on another post.