Gastronauts is a simple premise invented by my Twitter buddy @foodbling (Richard). He'd read about the Supper Clubs that had sprung up in New York and London and thought 'why not?'. Gastronauts has it's own website & Twitter account. When the call goes out that a dinner is being organised, it's a case of first in best dressed if you want to secure a spot. Most dinners are over subscribed and there's always a waiting list which is how I attended my first Gastronauts dinner in August last year. It's a lucky dip who you'll be sharing dinner with and chances are you'll know none of the people. This doesn't seem to be much of a barrier to a good time as you are sharing a meal with like minded people who are as interested in food and adventure as you are. Guests are asked to provide a bottle of wine on the evening and leave a contribution at the end of the evening to cover some of the costs of the meal.
Dinners are often themed or focus on a particular chef or style of cooking. The menu is the choice of the host. After our recent holiday in South America, I was keen contribute by running a dinner, recreating some of the dishes I had tasted as well as adding some twists to traditional ingredients. And who doesn't love a good theme night? Certainly, I do. There were lots of dishes to put together and some tricky plating so I even had a staging area. I did prep in the dining room and we dined in the lounge room, converted for the evening. I printed menus and created a Twitter hashtag #holagnauts for use during the evening. Not everyone is quite as exacting in their preparation as I am but this is the project manager coming out in me.
Pisco Sour (speciality of Pisco, Peru)
Empanadas slow cooked beef cheek or savoury potato (Peru & Bolivia)
Sopa de Quinua y Elote (Peru)
Sorbete Tomate Ahumado (Camp Hill)
Bifstec (Argentina) or
Rocoto Relleno (specialty of Arequipa, Peru)
Papas a la Huancaina (Peru)
Sopa de Paraguay (Paraguay)
Postre - Tres Sabores
I'd like to say I took lots of photos but alas, with all that food, wine and conversation, the photos are scant. Checking the photos other had tweeted, it seems that the Popsicle was a winner so, I've included the recipe below. At the end of the evening there were a lot of wine bottles and empty glasses on the table and a stack of dirty dishes that I'm still working my way through. I was having such a good time I forgot to put out my contribution bowl with it's little 'Gracias!' tag but people were kind enough to just subtly place some money on the table as they wandered out into the night.
Roasted Sweetcorn PopsicleIf I could say there was a food theme to the evening, that theme was 'corn'. It appeared in the empanadas, soup and bread. I wondered what I may be able to do to make a dessert from corn. After wading through dozens of caramel popcorn recipes, I discovered a recipe for a vegan Sweetcorn Popsicle on the website 'kirantarun'. The taste is unusual in that most of the sweetness is from the roasted corn, rather than the agave syrup. We like them so much that I made an extra batch.
- 4 ears of fresh corn
- 2 cups unsweetened full fat coconut milk (It's not as good with 'lite' - I tried it!)
- 2 tbsp agave syrup (from health shops & some supermarkets)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- Clean corn of husk and silk. Slice kernels off cob with a knife by running the blade of the knife along the cob, underneath the kernels. Run the knife away from you.
- Roast corn kernels on a lined baking tray in a 200c oven for 15 minutes. Do not skip this step as roasting concentrates the sugars and intensifies the sweetness. Allow corn to cool completely.
- Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. It is very satisfying seeing the mixture turn from white to yellow as the corn blends in.
- Strain the mixture through muslin or a new chux dishcloth to remove the solids and ensure the mix is velvety. You can squeeze gently at the end to make sure you have all the liquid.
- Divide mixture into ice block molds and freeze overnight.