Thursday, 21 October 2010

Meemalee's Kitchen at The Wild Garlic

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I'm staring at the biggest box of onions I have ever seen in my life. And all I can think is, "Oh boy".

About six months ago, I was chatting on Twitter, when someone asked me for a Burmese restaurant recommendation. I mentioned Mandalay as being the only place I knew of, and then someone else jumped in and asked if I'd do a Burmese night and cook for people.

The next thing I knew, Mat Follas, the chef and owner of The Wild Garlic and winner of MasterChef 2009, tweeted to me, "Why don't you come and cook Burmese food at my place?"

I am not a chef. I had never been in a professional kitchen. So I did what any normal person would have done in the circumstances, and I rang up my friend Kavey and screamed at her in excitement,

"Oh My God - is he joking? I'd love to do it. Do you think I can do it? What the hell should I say?"

Kavey is infinitely more sensible than me, and she said to me, "Play it cool and say yes".

So I said yes. Fast forward to October, and I'm on a train to Dorset with my husband and a suitcase full of century eggs and a rucksack full of fish balls.

This little video will tell you how it went:



It was and is the biggest thing I've ever done, and probably the coolest.

At one stage, I was hefting great stockpots of curry down the windiest, creakiest, most precarious stairs from the upstairs prep kitchen to the restaurant kitchen, and my only thought was how much fun I was having.

Christophene FrittersMatpe Bean FrittersCharred Tomato Salsa

Although initially panicked by having to work out quantities and timings, and the number of dishes on my menu, I'd done all the prep, and I knew that I had a full team behind me, supporting me all the way.

Then the diners started arriving and it was show-time. Service itself was frantic, but wonderful, and passed in a mad, lovely blur.
Wood-Ear Mushroom and Bean-thread Vermicelli Soup

My right-hand man was the lovely Terry Ireland (a semi-finalist in this year's MasterChef), but everyone, both front of house and in the kitchen, was absolutely fantastic.

Salads plated up

As the night went on, seeing empty plate after empty plate come back was an amazing thrill.

At one point, Mat came into the kitchen and said, "There's a dairy farmer out there who says he will give up beef for your Cinnamon Chicken".

I thought I'd burst with delight and excitement.

Tomato and Coriander PrawnsMogok Pork CurryStraw Mushroom and Spinach Stirfry

And then at the end, when I was knackered and flustered, Mat dragged me out to the diners and the whole restaurant applauded.

Tired though I was, suddenly I felt my heart singing with happiness.

Coconut Sorbet, Iced Tapioca Milk, Brioche

I thought to myself, "God, this must be what it's like being on MasterChef", and I finally understood why people become chefs for a living. I was almost tempted myself.

The icing on the cake was when Mat gave me a proper Furi chef's knife when I left to say thank you.

A present from Mat

Anyway, Burmese Night at the Wild Garlic was an absolute blast, and I think I will definitely do it again if there's interest - and this time a bit closer to home.

And all the recipes, including the one for Cinnamon Chicken, will be in the Burmese cookbook which I'm currently writing - although I haven't got a deal yet - hint hint to any publishers that come across this ...

Talking of thank yous, it wouldn't have been possible without the following people, so thank you so much to Mat Follas, Amanda Follas, Gill Anstey, Terry Ireland, Charlie, Sophie, Katy, Shannon, Tash, Zoe, Jen, Georgie, Steph, Emma, and Annie at The Wild Garlic.

Me and Terry

Thanks also to Will and Tom at delicious. Magazine for helping with prep.

Lastly thank you to Nick Tett Family Butchers, Fruit 'N' Two Veg, and Davey's Locker.

BURMESE NIGHT REVIEWS:

Certain photos copyright Kavey Eats, Lost in the Larder, The London Foodie - click the photos to see the photographer (thanks guys)

Film by Simon Stirrup. Music by Tom Phillips and Simon Stirrup.

33 comments:

  1. Awwww... congrats again, MiMi!

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  2. SO cool, MiMi! Huge respect to you, lady.

    Do hope you'll do another one again soon, either in London or in Kent ;)

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  3. Wow, what an amazing experience. And now I REALLY want to try this cinnamon chicken. Will be keeping an eye out for the reappearance of Burmese Night. :D

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  4. @Su-Lin - Thank you Su-Lin x

    @aforkfulofspaghetti - Thank you - it *was* cool. I'll keep you posted on the next pop-up :)

    @Nora - It was - thank you!

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  5. Kudos babe - awesome job and an amazing experience! You can take over my kitchen anyday!

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  6. Video is AMAZING!
    YOU were amazing!
    And ARE amazing!
    So proud to be your friend and to be able to come to Dorset and enjoy your professional debut!
    x x

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  7. Fabulous video of the night. It all looks amazing. You look so calm and relaxed.

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  8. @AussieFoodie- Thanks - you might regret that offer!

    @Kavey - And I am so lucky to have you as my friend xxx

    @The kitchen princess diaries - Calm or dazed - they're very similar :)

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  9. Wicked stuff MiMi, congratulations again.

    And brilliant video Simon, I recognise that second track from somewhere! ; )

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  10. I absolutely applaud both your bravery and your cooking! I would have been so scared. Brilliantly done.
    Cinnamon chicken you say? A book deal must happen!

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  11. @FoodUrchin - Thanks dude! Yeah, we only have one song :)

    @TheFastestIndian - Thank you Dr Ribena x

    @Lisa - Aww, thank you. That's the aim - hope someone's listening :)

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  12. They really should listen. There is precious little said about Burmese food.

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  13. That chicken sounds like it is rapidly gaining near mythological reputation. I must must must try it sometime. Roll on Meemalondonlee...

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  14. You are so awesome lady, I am genuinely awed to know you! Wish I could have been there to experience the big night, although thank you for letting me be one of your lucky practice guinea pigs! Will definitely be first in the queue for your cookbook when it comes out if only for that cinnamon chicken!

    That video just makes me want to give you a massive hug! I feel so proud to be your friend, seriously I'm beaming like someone's mum. Congratulations, can't wait to see the next instalment of Meemalee's Kitchen ^_^ xxxx

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  15. @Lisa - I totally agree :)

    @The Grubworm - I told you to come. Everyone told you.

    @BeccaRothwell - Aww, thank you Becca! That's one of the nicest things anyone's ever said to me ^_^ xxx

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  16. Thorougly enjoyed watching the video.
    The kitchen didn't look the easiest to work in,really well done!
    BTW the chefs jacket suited you,maybe you should wear it more often!

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  17. Fantastic write-up and wonderful video, MiMi - just sorry I couldn't make it on the night. I do hope you'll be able to do another Burmese evening soon. And can't wait for the book!

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  18. Absolutely fantastic - so, so very pleased for you; what a great speaking voice too! You are actually a natural for the small screen, who'd have thought. The food looked stunning and actually has my mouth watering...

    Still no publisher? Shame on the profession. I want that book!

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  19. @NorthernSnippet - Yes, it's quite a narrow kitchen! And I almost stole the chef's jacket :)

    @fran39 - Thank you - I'll add you to the imaginary pre-orders list x

    @chumbles - Shucks - now I'm blushing! Thank you :)

    @Stefan - Thank you!

    @Jo - Cheers me dear :)

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  20. The food looks AMAZING. Bravo you! I desperately want to eat some of the cinnamon chicken.

    You have a strangely soothing presence when talking to the camera. I think you should have your own cookery show. NO JOKE.

    Congratulations!x

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  21. Aw, well done MiMi, looks like it was a great success!

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  22. @Suzler - "Strangely Soothing Cookery with meemalee" - it just might work. Thank you :)

    @kake - Thanks me dear!

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  23. Congratulations - looks like an amazing night. The video is brilliant - great to see behind the scenes. I can't believe how many onions you had to prepare! Your food looks so delicious - hope you do one in London/surrounding area soon as I would love to come along!

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  24. @Sharon - Yes, it was Onion City!

    Thanks, and I'll let you know when I do my next pop-up :)

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  25. The video was wonderful, MiMi; thanks for sharing. The presentation on the dishes was, well, beautiful, artistic, tantalizing! Your work? ;) I am so looking forward to your next [ad]venture, and will do my best to be there!

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  26. Finally catching up... well done you! What an AMAZING experience! It's so good to move out of our comfort zones and do something massive like this as the feeling afterwards is incredible.

    A restaurant in Walthamstow Village has just closed down so there is a great unit in prime location if you'd like to open Meemalee's Kitchen on my doorstep!!

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  27. Mimi I've finally had chance to watch the video - it looks brilliant! Well done.

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  28. @Donna - Thanks Donna! I did have a bit of help with presentation, as the Wild Garlic brigade are the experts, not me :) Would love you to come the next one!

    @Sarah, Maison Cupcake - Yep, massive move out of comfort zone but so pleased I did it! Not quite ready to open my own restaurant though, but thanks for the offer :)

    @Brucey1 - Thank you! Remind me when you're doing your professional stint? Did I miss it??

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  29. Sounds Amazing Mimi I wish I had been there, when is your next one? I dont want to miss it this time.

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  30. @Tristan Welch - I'll pop you on the list and let you know asap :)

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Thanks for taking the time to comment!