Jun 17, 2014

Eat the Art Trail Post: 2013 to 2014 E17 Art Trail success story – Silvana Gambini

Having supped at Silvana’s Cocomero supper club, I wanted to know more about the charismatic host and her recipes.

The legend herself, photo courtesy of Cocomero blog
1. Please do tell us a bit about what makes your supper club special? 
My supper clubs are all about recreating the feeling of eating at my mother's table - delicious home-made Italian food that makes everyone happy!  

2. What’s next?
I'm taking bookings for the next supper club 'Lo Zio D'America' http://www.cocomero.co.uk/supper-clubs/lo-zio-damerica-supper-club to celebrate US Independence Day.

3. How did you get into supper clubs?
I went to a couple of local ones during the Appetite Festival last year and thought what a good idea they were - and certainly a lot more manageable than the manic - if very successful - drop-in pop-up Italian cafe I ran during the Festival!  To be able to take more time and give your guests a memorable food experience really appeals to me - it fits very well with the whole concept of Italian hospitality.

4. Any tips for others wanting to start their own?
Make sure you get everything legal in place - get your kitchen inspected by your local Environmental Health Food Safety Team, get your Food Safety Level Two certificate, make sure you have the right insurance cover, make sure you are on the right side of the licensing laws. The last thing you want is for your food adventure to go bad on either you or your guests! Voice of doom aside, I'd say just think about the kinds of details you appreciate when eating out and try to deliver those to your guests.

5. Any cooking tip you can share with us?
When you've switched off the oven after baking or roasting, don't waste the residual heat! Put a tray of cherry tomatoes, or pomodorini, cut in half (with each half topped with a sea salt crystal)  into the oven and leave them in there overnight or until the oven has cooled. Then remove the salt crystals and put the tomatoes into a sterilised jar and cover with extra virgin olive oil. You now have very own version of semi 'sundried' tomatoes that can be used in all manner of ways and dishes and can even be whizzed up in a processor with the oil to make a rich tomato paste. Perfect way of using up a glut of toms from the allotment or when they are selling for 10 a penny down the market at the height of summer.

6. What do you enjoy most about working with food in Walthamstow?
There is a real 'foodie' community here in Walthamstow now - people who love producing and eating good food.  You can see that in the something like the Waltham Forest Food and Drink Society Facebook group, set up recently by talented local baker, Elisabetta Iudica. It's a forum that has really taken off with everyone pitching in with great recipes, sharing helpful hints and tips and reliving their food memories - it's the friendliest local online community!  Locally there is also a trend of starting small and seeing where your food journey takes you - like the magnificent Aura Rosa Cakes and the lovely Lucy Scott Traybakes before them.  That's what I want to do - start small and build up a successful local business. 

7. Where is your favourite place to go out to eat locally?
Can't limit myself to one place and one type of food - sorry!  A pizza from Peppe's mobile wood fired pizza oven outside the Rose and Crown is like taking a mini break to Italy!  'Chocolate y churros' from Cafe Bonito on Wood Street is my decadent treat and the best full English in the borough is served at LOT 107, again in Wood Street. When I'm looking for a meat feast, it has to be Urfa, a Turkish ocakbasi restaurant on St James Street and for something more upmarket, Eat 17 on Orford Road always delivers the goods.  I could go on - and on and on and on and on....

8. Anything else you'd like to add?
Did I mention that celebrity chef, Gennaro Contaldo (Jamie Oliver's mentor and star of BBC 2's 'Two Greedy Italians') called my porchetta (aromatic Italian roast pork) 'the best porchetta this side of Rome!'?  Well if I didn't, I'm mentioning it now!  

The famous moment! Photo courtesy of Cocomero blog
I raved about the limoncello, so different to the sickly sweet neon yellow concoctions usually served. Silvana kindly shared the recipe with us. The ingredients do look very simple and given the distinct herby flavour I asked if she had changed anything to which she replied only accidentally using golden caster sugar – which it appears works just as well if not better. She hypothesised it might be the particular batch of lemon she used which were particularly zesty. I only hope when I attempt to make it at home it tastes half as good.

Photo from Cocomero blog
To access the limoncello recipe, it’s available here on her own Cocomero blog: http://www.cocomero.co.uk/2014/05/05/limoncello-easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy/

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