LittleBee Kitchen Lebanese Lunch in aid of Princess Alice Hospice
at Mezzet, Hampton Court
Our 4th event was a lunchtime one, and took place at the award-winning Mezzet in Hampton Court. In-keeping with their cuisine it was a Lebanese-themed menu, with the usual LittleBee twists on the regular dishes. As ever, the focus was on fresh ingredients, with everything gluten free and without any refined sugar.
We kicked off with a mezze selection of starters. A fig and walnut houmous, a mahammara (crushed red peppers and nuts) both of which are on the Mezzet menu, and utterly delicious. In the place of the usual white Lebanese bread, we served the dips with caraway seed RAW crackers and crudities. Alongside were vine leaves stuffed with quinoa instead of the usual rice – increasing the protein content and adding a little twist to the more traditional version. We then enjoyed a little amuse bouche lentil & sumac soup. Lentils are of course such a great pulse to add into our diet., they offer not just great flavour, but are also filling, low in fat and a good vegetarian protein source. Fadi – the owner of Mezzet – added a great addition to these little soups, with a spoon of griddled onions and sultanas. Our diners were all raving about how tasty it was, and especially the little collection of goodies beneath the soup itself.
The main courses was a choice of chicken, fish or a vegan option, diners commented they were spoilt for choice as they eyed-up what others on their table had ordered. Turmeric-spiced grilled fish and saffron-infused chicken kebabs got big thumbs up, but the most unusual creation was the falafel boats which had been stuffed with buckwheat and drizzled with tahini. Mains were served with Mezzet classics “Beirut hearts bil zeit” (artichoke and broad beans) and “hindbeh bil zeit” (dandelion leaves). Everything was packed with flavour and scored top marks nutritionally.
As we digested the main courses, we were joined by our speaker for the event, Kasra Ghaharian. Kaz has some incredible credentials as a former elite cyclist, sports & exercise nutritionist, lecturer at Middlesex University and team nutritionist at WillGirling.com.
He chose to speak about nutrition and immunology across the winter months, which was incredibly pertinent as the cold snap had just arrived in the UK. Top advice was not to restrict calorie intake in the winter, as there are so many bugs and sniffles around you won’t have the energy to fight them off. He said that you can give yourself an extra layer of resistance by keeping your protein intake high – whether through animal produce, beans & pulses, or protein powders. He said it was pertinent to avoid binge drinking, recommending red wine over prosecco, and picking bottles of beer instead of pints. A good night’s sleep is also key to maintaining health through winter, and he suggested that taking melatonin and magnesium supplements can really help.
Before the dessert we included a pre-dessert course (so hot on the dining scene at the moment), offering a segue between savoury and sweet. These were little cocktails sticks of grilled halloumi, watermelon and mint – perfect little nibbles between courses.
And finally was coffee and dessert, which was a Date, Pear & Chestnut Cake served with orange blossom honey, cinnamon & labneh. The cakes were sweetened only through the pear and dates, and really helped demonstrate that sugar and other refined sugars aren’t required to create tasty desserts.
We were fundraising for the nearby Princess Alice Hospice (which is a cause close to the hearts of us LittleBees, and the owner of Mezzet too), and raised a total of £110.27.
All ticket sales, additional drink sales, and sales of the LittleBee merchandise – a tote, tea towel and wooden spoon – carried a donation to the charity.
Thanks so much to Fadi and the team at Mezzet for hosting the event, to Kaz for his excellent tips, and to all those who came along and supported.
LittleBee Kitchen Thai Vegan Supper Club
at Hong Thai, The Swan, Hampton Wick
Our 3rd supper club was at ‘Hong Thai’ at The Swan in Hampton Wick, a much raved-about (and deservedly so) authentic Thai kitchen within a Surrey pub. Having met with Simon the landlord – and him consulting with his kitchen team – we decided to make the event vegan, gluten-free and free from refined sugars. These key changes to Thai cuisine (traditionally using both fish sauce and sometimes sugar to flavour) made the menu really special and unique, as well as the inclusion of unusual ingredients, such as tempeh and coconut ice-cream (not widely available in many restaurants). In addition to the ticket price for the meal, we offered a vegan wine flight with a selection of white and red wines selected to specifically accompany each dish.
The evening began with a vodka based lemongrass and ginger martini, capturing those traditional Thai flavours. We then enjoyed a selection of three starters, spanning a light soup, a vibrant salad and a healthy twist on spring rolls. The soup was coconut milk based with mixed mushrooms and chilli, and was truly delicious. The trio of summer rolls made for a great alternative to the eponymous spring rolls found on all Thai menus; in using brown and white rice paper to wrap a seasonal raw vegetable filling, they were a healthier, lighter and tastier option to the common fried version – a zingy chilli and peanut dipping sauce served alongside complemented the dish perfectly. And finally the salad course which was cubed mango tossed with shallots, cashew nuts & coriander in a lime dressing with crispy tempeh. Tempeh was a new experience for many of our diners, and worked well as an alternative to tofu that is more commonly used in restaurants for vegetarian and vegan fare.
Between the starters and main course our guest speaker, Pete Banbury – a nutritional therapist and fitness expert, came and spoke to the diners about the ‘Blueprint for great eating’. It was an engaging and very informative talk – thanks Pete!
The main course for the evening was a jackfruit and butternut squash red curry, which introduced most diners to a new vegetable, jackfruit, a really versatile ingredient which can hold its shape and texture well when cooked, and can be used as an alternative to chicken, fish or seafood. The curry was served with coconut caulirice, steamed morning glory and long-stem broccoli in a sesame & tamari dressing. To finish the meal a dessert of barbecued bananas bathed in Thai whiskey, with a cashew nut brittle and Coyo ice cream was served – everyone left feeling comfortably full and well fed! And although a few fair courses were enjoyed, due to the bulk of the meals being fruit and vegetables and relatively low carb, no one experienced that lull of energy and uncomfortable bloating that can sometimes accompany an indulgent meal out.
The verdict from our diners was really positive, with everybody feeling that they had eaten a wonderful meal comprising fresh and healthy ingredients, and tried new food along the way. We were delighted to have shown how Thai food – often on the “treat” list for many of us – can be created in a way that is nutritionally balanced, and extremely delicious. Thanks again to The Swan for collaborating with us!
LittleBee Kitchen Supper Club in aid of Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund
at Shambles, Teddington
Our second supper club in March 2017 was at Shambles, the independently-owned Italian restaurant in Teddington. This was a fundraising event in aid of PCRF (Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund), a charity selected due to a poorly friend of the owner. There were some incredible prizes in the raffle, and the silent auction really got the room going; consequently the event raised an amazing £6530.
We were especially excited to be holding an event at an Italian restaurant because so many of us associate garlic bread, pasta, risotto and tiramisu with that type of cuisine. We worked closely with Massimo, the owner and Head Chef, to create some really unusual dishes that managed to keep away from the usual culprits. Our menu was also heavily steered around seasonal foods and ingredients which are understood to help people living with pancreatic cancer.
Feeding around 90 guests, we kicked off the evening with an Antipasti of monks beard, garlic, crispy polenta coated duck egg, roasted tomato thins & avocado oil – the monks beard component was an inspired addition from Massimo, it’s a green leaf that’s only in season for a limited period of time, so an unusual culinary first for most people in the room. Avocado oil is a lesser known alternative to olive oil , it is considered to be helpful in reducing cholesterol levels and is rich in beneficial monosaturated fats.
The Primi course was pearl spelt risotto with wild mushrooms, borlotti beans & chestnuts. As mentioned, this event was about introducing diners to a twist on the classic Italian fare, so switching olive oil for avocado oil and rice for spelt; spelt has a lower gluten level and for many can be tolerated where other gluten foods aren’t. This dish was quoted by many as their favourite of the evening and as we walked around the tables chatting to people about the nutritional choices behind the dishes we were really pleased to hear that for many it was the first time they had tried spelt and mentioned they would definitely cook with it again (the most classic line was “I’ve only ever fed my dog spelt!”).
There were two options for the gluten-free Secondi – Hake baked in a bag “cartoccio” with garlic, lemon & saffron, served with new potatoes, broad beans & leeks cooked with turmeric and pumpkin seeds, or grilled polenta with Mediterranean vegetables & pesto for vegetarians. There was a wonderful sense of theatre to the opening of the bags to access the hake and the verdict on this dish was that it was a resounding success. The turmeric was chosen due to its anti-inflammatory properties, understood as potentially helpful in supporting illnesses such as cancer, in addition broad beans are noted for being helpful in the diet for those living with pancreatic cancer. For the vegetarians tucking into the polenta, this was another “first” for many in the room. Polenta is quite a chameleon and can be used in so many ways, here it was masquerading as a piece of toast would do in a crostini; topped with the grilled veg and pesto it was truly delicious.
Our Dolce was a gluten-free, refined sugar-free carrot cake. Made with ground almonds & buckwheat flour, walnuts, cinnamon, dried fruit, ginger & bee pollen ,it was moist, delicious and the optional creme fraiche served alongside complemented the flavours well.
Thanks to Massimo, Margarita and all the team at Shambles for so much hard work. And sending love and support to Nik as he continues his treatment for pancreatic cancer.
LittleBee Kitchen launch Supper Club in aid of KingstonCAN
at The Fallow Deer, Teddington
We were so excited to hold our inaugural supper club at the fantastic Fallow Deer Café in the heart of Teddington, in the run-up to Christmas 2016. The venue is the heart of the town, and famous for its relaxed vibe and friendly feel. Al (aka Mother Deer) was quite the LittleBee guinea pig, signing up to host our first event. We worked together to create a menu that combined the three essential pillars of what LittleBee are all about – nutritious, delicious and exciting food. All the courses were gluten free, as well as providing vegetarian and dairy free options; it is widely understood that gluten and dairy are two of the biggest triggers of food intolerances / food allergies in the Western diet.
The event began with a low sugar Apple Crumble cocktail that Al dreamt up – vanilla liqueur, apple juice, fresh lemon juice and cinnamon (to give that Christmassy flavour).
The starter was a taste explosion – a sweet potato and parsnip patty with burnt chicory, local free-range poached egg and chilli harissa. From a nutritional perspective, we wanted to work with sweet potato as it has a lower glycaemic load for a carbohydrate (and it’s damn tasty too!), the natural sweetness from the potato combined deliciously with the bitterness of the chicory and the chilli hit of harissa.
A little amuse bouche punctuated the meal, with a mini broccoli and mint soup doing the rounds. The general verdict from our 50 diners was Oliver Twist-esque: “please sir, I want some more”. So many people automatically reach for the cream when creating soup, and this proved it’s not required.
We had a choice of two main courses. For the vegetarians it was a courgette cake & roasted cauliflower – this terrine-style dish is so easy to create at home, and refrigerate for easy lunch, dinner or even breakfast options. The other main dish was poached salmon (cooked in organic coconut oil, to optimise the health benefits), then marinated in raw local honey and tamari. Both dishes were served with pickled vegetables and winter greens. Here at LittleBee we’re big fans of always having something green on your plate, and we like to follow this rule even at breakfast time.
Dessert was a choice of a cheese board, or a dairy free (optional creme fraiche was served with the cake) chocolate cake made with raw cacao and aubergine. one of our aims at Littlebee is to introduce diners to alternative options when creating some of their favourite meals and treats to offer a more nutritious, as well as tasty, example of how eating well and healthily can be achieved. We had a few diners with ultra-sweet tooths feeling they needed a bit more of a sugar-hit than it offered, but the vast majority gave it an almighty thumbs-up. We were really delighted to have demonstrated how it’s possible to avoid refined sugars in a dessert.
The evening was a fundraiser for KingstonCAN, the William Rous cancer unit at Kingston Hospital, and we held both an auction and a raffle. The auction was a wide range of goodies from generous fashion retailers (donations from the likes of Mint Velvet, Dune and White Stuff), a hamper and goodie bags donated by health food store Panacea, food writers Amelia Freer and Deliciously Ella contributed signed copies of their books, and local traders and businesses offered services including beauty treatments, personal training sessions and dinners out. The auction was a rowdy affair, but some great bids came in for the tennis day at David Lloyd and the spa day at Pennyhill Park. To have made £1700 for the charity was beyond our expectations, and we would like to offer huge thanks to all those who attended (the ticket price included a donation too), bought raffle tickets, and joined in with the auction.
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