Artful artichokes resting on some tiles. Who cares why?
Sarah Beeny may be wrong about a lot of things – you don’t always need to be preggo on TV, you don’t always need to offer the death stare whenever anyone disagrees with you and you don’t always have to back people into submission (something she once did to me terrifyingly down the phone. She tried to convince me it was ok for her house to appear in Style after it had been in Hello, and I agreed with her gravelly voice of authority even though I knew my editor demands exclusivity. I then cowardly emailed her PR afterwards to say it was a no goer, feeling like that family on Property Ladder who put cladding on the house when they promised Sazzer B they wouldn’t). However, she’s right about one thing – you really do need to knock down all your walls and build a kitchen/diner/whatever, especially if you’re going to cook from Seasonal Spanish Food by Jose Pizarro.
After all, if there’s one sure fire way to lose points at Come Dine With Me – apart from falling asleep and dripping your hair in your avocado like Dawn from Preston – it’s when the host is constantly in the kitchen. “As the host was always in the kitchen, I’m giving him a……4” some drunk will slur in the back of the cab, holding the number card the wrong way up. Also, finishing off the dinner means that you miss out on all the action.
Some of the snippets I just about overheard going on at the dining table were:
“Was it worse than the time you accidentally shagged a junkie in his crack den?”
“Happiness is not meant to feel this way.”
“His penis is too big for that position.”
And by the time I was back in the room, serving up one of the many tapas courses (of which there were five) the conversation had moved on. So thanks, Jose. Because of your recipes I’ll never know when large becomes simply too much.
Let me explain. I’m in a book group – three girls, two gays, one book every six weeks or so. We probably spend about five to ten minutes each time on the book which only most of us have usually read, the rest of the evening is for drinking fizz, discussing boys, and eating food. But oh, the food! Since we’ve started we’ve had summer roasts, homemade pavlovas, even quails – it’s almost got competitive. With Jose’s two restaurants on Bermondsey Street being my favourite places at the moment I thought his new book would be ideal to uphold the standard.
But of course, I didn’t get home until 6.30pm and with guests arriving at half seven it didn’t give me much time to set the table, fluff the cushions and pick the perfect playlist – and pull together five courses.
I’d started the pudding the night before (it required part of it to rest 12 hours in the fridge) but everything else had to begin from scratch. Calmly rolling up my sleeves (there’s no point having a meltdown if my boyfriend’s not around to be at the receiving end, and the third rule of Book Club is that boyfriends are deffo not invited. The first is that you do not talk about the book at Book Club, and the second…well, you guessed it).
Jose’s Courgette Soup with Cheese
The soup was incredibly easy. Boiling some courgettes with chicken stock and then blending it with cream cheese, I began to think the evening was going to be ok. “This is delicious,” everyone cried, slurping it up in seconds. But then it was 8.50pm, and there were already three empty Proseccos nestling in my Recycling.
My still relatively-sober version
“Excuse me,” I cried, jumping up to head back to the kitchen. “Don’t talk about anything interesting!” The croquetas are practically Jose’s signature dish at the restaurants, so I was worried mine wouldn’t live up to his. I needn’t have – the recipe was straightforward, if time consuming.
Jose’s Ham Croquetas
The leek and ham innards had to rest in the fridge for an hour (they were the first thing I made after the playlist) but the dip n dunk approach to rolling them in breadcrumbs was fun – or about as much fun as being stuck in the kitchen can be when everyone else is swapping stories about dating Brazilian doctors (that was the most detail I ever really gleaned on that).
My version. Just pictured: The Book: Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher, in makes-a-surprise-appearance-at-Book-Group shocker
“Don’t take this the wrong way, because I really like them, but they taste like an upmarket Findus Crispy Pancake,” said one guest. “Can I be really uncouth and ask for ketchup?” said another. It was 9.30, we were all pissed, of course she wanted ketchup.
Jose’s Deep Fried Goat’s Cheese With Orange Blossom Honey. If only mine had turned out like this
I blame the alcohol for ruining the next course. It was all going a bit too well - the recipes working just that bit too perfectly. I’d fried my beetroot crisps like I was meant to and then chucked the goats cheese into the pan. It turned into a white, sloppy mess. “Oh, shit!” I shouted, re-reading the recipe. “I was meant to cover them in breadcrumbs.”
What necking two bottles of bubbles turns it into
Still, deep fried cheese goo with beetroot actually tastes pretty good, especially if it’s 9.55pm and your insides are sloshing with Champagne (we’d moved on to the good stuff by now).
Jose’s Pan Fried Pimenton Chicken with Mashed Potato.You want to dive in, right?
The chicken was easy, too. The only bit that took any time was peeling the potatoes (“He left me to go and be sick and then came back and carried on with the date” I heard at this point, as I snarled to myself, feeling left out). Doused in paprika and sherry they had a syrupy glaze which meant we ate them even though we were drunk-full, because they simply were that good.
Ah, the main reason for the book - as a placemat
“When are we going to get something green?” one of my guests asked, not outside of her rights of expectation. Fortunately the spinach, which I’d stirfried so sloppily that most of it littered my hob, was light and delicious.
Jose’s Apple Pie
I don’t remember much about pudding, other than it had to be prepared in three stages, and then took half an hour in the oven. Forcing it down at 11.30pm, I only remember that it tasted incredible, really vanilla-y, and that the pastry had kind of broken up as I’d heavy handedly rolled it on the only bit of my worktop not covered with dirty bowls.
And my version. See also: empty wine glasses
Eventually, at midnight, the guests left – drunk, full, and far more aware of each other’s gossip than I was. All the recipes were straightforward, successful (except when mixed with booze brain) and relatively easy. The only problem is that they all required immediate serving, so unless you have staff to cook them for you don’t really make good dinner party fare. Or simply get an open plan kitchen – something my boyfriend has, and I’m moving into his in two weeks! Did I mention that? Sorry, but I feel like I have to talk about my news now, seeing as I barely got to last night. So there you have it, Jose’s recipes. Perfect for people who actually have nothing to say to their guests.
Cost: £34.02 (not including items already in store cupboard
Soup * * * *
Croquetas * * * * *
Cheese * * (admittedly, not Jose’s fault)
Chicken * * * *
Apple pie * * * * * (probably - who can remember?)
Overall: 9/10 for delicious recipes, 4/10 for suitability for dinner parties. Maybe just go to his restaurants?
Published by Kyle Cathie. Original Photography by Emma Lee