Thursday, 13 November 2008

LONDON LEG: Supper #46 - Cheam

I met Jake a few weeks ago as I trawled round Tower Hill with a camera crew filming me. They wanted to gage strangers reactions to the Choc Star Tour proposition. In full waitress mode I charged around with a tray of freshly baked - still warm in fact - ultra fudge brownies; wafting them before people, hoping to stop them in their tracks. Jake was one of the many who stoppped, one of the several who agreed to have me round for supper and, so far, the only one who actually came up with the goods and invited me. "I'll have to clear it with my other half first" he warned, "she might be suspicious".

I returned home and Googled him - as promised - and discovered that he had run for Mayor this year and was mad about motorbikes. Great combo, I thought and we made a date. Monday found me horrified by the weather. I read about Miami in the paper and felt a deep, anguished pang for my old life over there - how every morning you wake up in that city, in that state, being reached for by the most glorious and enticing light. Here I must make do with alternatives - chocolate is the obvious choice and on a day like that there was only one thought on my mind: chocolate bread & butter pudding.

It's best to make it at least 24 hours before eating so by Tuesday evening when it was time to steer Jimmy out into the suburbs those slices of bread were fully engorged with the rich, chocolatey custard surrounding them. I might well have broken into it en route and enjoyed the thing uncooked - I was that craven of its velvetty layers. Jesus, this girl needs some sunshine real bad!

THE SET UP: I have been asked to come at 7.30 for 8. I feel I've done pretty well to arrive at 8. Jake comes out into the street and guides me into a space opposite the house and tells me that they've all started without me. Wow, that's a first - but as I follow Jake into their house to be confronted by a table full of strangers that old magic descends. I can't really explain it other than to say it's a bit like acting; it's kind of other worldly, exciting, addictive. I can tell immediately that this is a table of laughs and that feeling at home would be easy.

WHO CAME: The really jolly neighbours, Ray and his wife, Jake, his girlfriend Ruth, her 30 year old son who's living with them, a friend of Ruth's from work and me.

WHAT WE ATE: Jake is cook tonight, he and Ruth take it in turns but I can tell that he gets a real macho pleasure from putting food on the table. This is adorned with a gold shiny strip of paper that stretches right the way along it and is peppered with bottles of wine, most of which I have to decline on account of having to get Jimmy back to SW9. Halloumi awaits me as I take my place at the end of the table. I love Halloumi in an extra special way. As I attempt to stuff the grilled cheese into the warm pitta pouches and then into my gob I hold back in order to converse with this table full of new people I suddenly find myself sitting with. "So what's this all about then? I'm intrigued", they ask me. "What do you actually do?". I gulp a slither of the tasty rubber cheese down and explain myself: London suppers, different backgrounds, chocolate as common ground, etc. They seem satisfied with my response and the eating and drinking continues.

Out comes the main course - a spicy beef stew with mashed carrot and butternut squash and a potato and roast carrot melange. The vegetarians down the end got stuffed oyster mushrooms; only Ruth's work mate is allergic. Jake laughs it off and pours more wine. I feel right at home: nice hearty cooking, the wonderfully maternal Ruth to my left, Jake the patriarch playing the raconteur and the neighbourly couple just oozing reassurance.

DINNER TABLE TOPICS: Pretty varied. From Ruth's son's drum n bass dj-ing exploits to Ray's prize winning sunflowers. Turns out most of them hail from Wandsworth/Battersea and I listen with delight as they talk about being Rockers "cos it was cheaper' and swapping boyfriends down at the Monday Club. "We didn't go out to get drunk in those days" says Ruth, "We went out and had a drink."

Jake and Ruth first went out when they were 15 and now years, marriages and many mod/rocker antics later they're back on. And Ruth has come to be accepted by Jake's other family - the bikers. I wet my pants a bit. "What do you mean!" I demand to know, "Can you hook me up with a dinner invite?!". "Could be tricky, they're very closed - especially after what happened last year". I vaguely recall a motorway murder. I remember Hunter S. Thompson's 'Hell's Angels'. My imagination starts running wild. Jake reveals his biker name to be 'Pyro' and what he does to car drivers if they mess with him on the road. I shimmy inwardly and increase the pressure. "I'm not promising anything - I'll see what I can do". And then, a ray of light - " I do have a friend who's a pole dancer. A bloke."

Oh well hell, that'll do! Bring him on! Can he cook, and then we eat and then have pud and then can he put his outfit on and dance for us?! I almost forget about the damn bread & butter pudding in my reverie and curse having to drive because I need some of that Rioja.

THE PUD: It's all bubbling at the sides; a great moist, dense bed of chocolate hotness. It smells like heaven. I mean, all these cold choc puds are great in the summer but what the hell's the winter for if not for eye-closing aromas like these? Ruth serves us all. Ray tells me he used to be a 3 Kingsize Mars Bar in a sitting man before he became diabetic. I feel bad. He doesn't and launches at the thing with vehemence. The cool double cream rivulets through the folds and we all enter our happy place. Apart from the work mate who's not really into chocolate, but hey, all the more for Ray!

1 comment:

Jake Willis said...

Sorry I have not emailed you, I have been really busy, but it was a pleasure to have you here, we may be hosting a few bikers ;-) here next year, so I may send you an invite.
The pudding was wonderful....

Take care and good luck. XXX