Summer of Supper Part 4&5 // Cologne
Summertime is travel time, and last weekend the Summer of Supper has organized two trips for its guests. Not by car or train or airplane, but by fork and knife. I missed the francophile team of Ceci n’est pas un restaurant with their journey through the Mediterranean on Friday, most regrettably I have to say when looking at the pictures from that night. But I was there on Saturday for the South London Food and Drinks Collective, a loose network of South London food lovers. Two representatives from London, Florian and his wife, had come over to Cologne to introduce the 30 Summer of Supper guests to the rich culinary landscape of the British capital.
Obviously, talking about British food brings up all sorts prejudices, and quite many of those are probably true. Right, Jamie Oliver would likely be a nobody if he hadn’t hurled himself onto Italian pasta, prosciutto and pizza but his home country’s pies and puddings. Correct also that the UK’s latest international shooting star, Yotam Ottolenghi, is not an Englishman but native from Israel. What only underlines the fact that London, for the longest time, has been a huge melting pot of culinary traditions and influences. This is even more true for the districts south of the River Thames: That area has traditionally been populated by immigrants from Asia, Arabic countries, the Caribbean and these days also from Eastern Europe, hence offers an enormous diversity of cooking styles and flavours. Making us discover these culinary treasures is the idea behind Saturday’s Summer of Supper food journey at Marien-Eck.
We start with what seems a pretty hazardous exercise in Germany that considers itself the ultimate ‘Kingdom of Wurst’: A platter of charcuterie and cured meat from local London producers. But hey, the aromatic slices of ham from pigs raised in hazelnut forests and the salami from dear and pork do instantly resolve any doubt. Secondly, we have burnt miso carrot, inspired by the Toast restaurant in Dulwich: A carrot from the oven covered with a thin layer of flower and finally deep-fried in a tempura-type of way, served with a miso sauce: Unusual and really tasty! The next stop on our journey takes us to Xinjiang whose culinary roots partially go back to the Uighur, West Chinas largest minority. Inspired by London’s Silk Road Restaurant, a spicy liver and kidney kebab with a salad from alga and cucumbers is sent from the kitchen. ‘Inspired by’ does by the way elegantly describe the fact that restaurants are not always eager to openly share their recipes. Some dishes on the Summer of Supper menu are ‘approximation dishes’ as Florian puts it: They were re-invented by the South London Food and Drinks Collective, trying to get as close as possible to the original taste experience.
From China, we move to the Caribbean, Jamaica, to taste a very lovely Jerk Chicken with sweet potatoes: The chicken skin gets dry-rubbed with that special Jerk seasoning that consists of Scotch Bonnet chillies and pimento mixed with cloves, cinnamon, thyme, nutmeg, garlic and spring onions. Then, to develop its particular flavour, the chicken has to be roasted over an open fire until its skin turns black. Luckily, the Marien-Eck is located in a pretty relaxed part of Cologne where the neighbours don’t consider an English lady‘s smoky guerrilla barbecue session in the street to be a problem. And so we reach our final destination without any incidents: A rich, creamy and freshly prepared strawberry crumble with crunchy oat flakes, a very traditional UK dessert, is closing our meal. Many thanks to the South London Food and Drinks Collective for this truly funtasty adventure! There is one more Summer of Supper event to look forward to on Friday 1st August with Kappesclub ft. pastascuitta who will celebrate summer with fresh produces from Cologne’s vicinity. See you around soon!