(Fltr: Christina of Thorngrove Table, Anne of Anne's Food, yours truly the passionate cook, and the organisers of this wonderful event, Andrew of Spittoon and Jeanne, the CookSister!)
It's only our second meeting, and already we have converted the UK foodblogging event into a Euro-foodblogging event - the first meeting had already had quite an international atmosphere, with all but two foodbloggers originating from outside the UK (Australia via Ireland, Austria, Japan, Philippines and South Africa), but this time round, I actually convinced Anne, a fellow blogger from Stockholm, to spend her last weekend as a spinster on British territory. And since we've started this tradition, any other foodbloggers on the continent or indeed, elsewhere in this world, let us know if you're interested in joining the next event, to be announced soon!
If you've never been to events like Royal Ascot, Wimbledon, or the Royal Regatta at Henley, you don't know what you're missing... even if you're not invited to the Leander Club, which allows you to not only enjoy a sit-down lunch, but also to get incredibly close to the rowers' changing rooms - and those men in lycra never fail to attract!), Henley really is an institution - and a quintessentially British one, more importantly. Fancy dresses, funny hats and men's dinner jackets in incredibly bright colours (if you intend to join a rowing team, make sure the club's colours are flattering, there is some quite strange combinations out there) prevail and so do sipping Pimms or champagne and a riverside picnic. What is most impressive, though, is that it is such a civilised event, drawing a most pleasant crowd and serving up an inimitable atmosphere.
Naturally, with five food/wine bloggers amongst us, our spread attracted the most attention and I swear we could have earned a lot of money selling our delicacies there had we not been too greedy... we started out with gorgeously refreshing bellinis (choice of strawberry, passion fruit and, my personal favourite, white peach) provided by Andrew, accompanied by some duck foie gras and truffle mousse on crackers which Christina had brought along (actually all the way from Bahrain). We also nibbled on some of my salmon roly-polies and seemed to give the crudites and dips a miss, obviously overwhelmed by the quantity and quality of the home-made food laid out on our blankets.
Anne had brought some herring and knaeckebrod from Sweden, Jeanne's masterpieces were the already quite famous pecorino & peppadew muffins and a feta & butternutsquash quiche, her friend Anthony provided a fantastic mackerel pate and Christina chipped in some dessert in the form of chilli-chocolate creams.
After ruining a most delicious chocolate & cherry cake by deciding to remove the stones before throwing them on, which made the cake far too moist and undercooked at the bottom, I feared it being photographed by everybody, thus publicly embarrassing me and putting an abrupt end to my foodblogging career... so it stayed home. But I did manage to bring the afore-mentioned salmon & cream cheese roly-polies and a round bread (pain cirque) stuffed with pastrami, watercress and a sauce of gherkins, capers, parsley, mayo and mustard - somehow a combination using the concept of my fig & parma ham muffuletta using the filling previously featured in my pastrami bagels.
I also made a bacon & asparagus quiche (see picture above and recipe below) which I had seen my friend Martina prepare the other day (although hers looked much prettier) and an Austrian speciality which celebrated its absolute height in the 70s, I believe: Jaegerwecken (read Jägerwecken) is a thick baguette, stuffed with ham, cheese, gherkins, parsley, cream cheese and boiled eggs, all chopped up. It seems to have come out of fashion a bit, but it's back high up on my list, as it's the perfect picnic food - stuff the night before, wrap in foil and slice on demand... make sure you bring a bread knife, though. I forgot mine and Andrew's managed to dig a hole into the plastic bag he was carrying and fell out somewhere between the Stewart's enclosure and Remenham Farm... so I ended up cutting 30 slices with a minuscule Swiss Army knife, which wasn't exactly an easy task!
Bacon & asparagus quiche
(yields 12 small wedges or serves 4 for a light lunch)
1 pack ready-rolled shortcrust pastry (ca. 350 g)
80 g lean bacon (preferably from the loin)
250 g thin green asparagus
100 g parmesan
225 ml single cream
Preheat overn to 200 C.
Grease a quiche mould and line with the shortcrust pastry. Top with grease-proof paper and baking beans and blind bake for 10 minutes. Remove beans and paper and bake for another 5 minutes.
In the meantime, cut the bacon into tiny cubes. I usually separate the fat and fry that first to release the grease, then remove the bits, put the lean bacon in and fry for about 5 minutes.
Cut the asparagus stalks to a length equalling half the diameter of your mould, then arrange them inside the quiche mould, forming a circle with the tips meeting in the centre. Chop the remaining asparagus and scatter over, sprinkling with the bacon.
Using a fork, beat the single cream and eggs, fold in the parmesan. Season, then pour over the asparagus and bake in the oven for 45 - 50 minutes, until the egg mixture has set. You will need to cover it with alu foil half-way through to prevent the top from burning.
Jägerwecken (Stuffed baguette)
(makes about 12-15 slices)
1 thick baguette (ca. 40 cm long)
2 hard-boiled eggs
300 g cooked ham, thinly sliced (I used Brunswick)
250 g cheese (Jarlsberg, Emmental or similar)
100 g gherkins
1 handful parsley
170 g cream cheese
Prepare the night before, if you can.
Hollow-out the baguette as much as you can to make room for the stuffing. Chop all the ingredients roughly and combine them with the cream cheese, then season. Fill the baguette, making sure you stuff it in as tightly as you can, then roll in cling film or grease-proof paper and reserve in the fridge until needed.