At the coolest party I ever went to (London, opening of some new club, many stories up, full of bright young things, depressingly long ago), we were greeted by a smiling Eastern European model with a tray of pear flavoured vodka shots. What a way to welcome your guests, I thought. It set the tone for the night – decadence, incredible hospitality, and the makings for the mother of all hangovers.
Having crossed the Rubicon of thirty, I find myself at fewer such glamorous occasions, and when I do, wondering whether I should really be there. But I refuse to get depressed about getting older. Partly because it is one of the few things in life which is entirely out of my hands so complaining is futile. And partly because there are advantages to not being in your twenties anymore: I have a much cooler home than I did back then. I am much better cook. And I have a really nice husband who does my washing up for me, rather than some punk who never calls.
When I launched my supper club (in said cool home, with good cooking and nice husband washing up afterwards), I wanted to keep the sentiment of those pear vodka shots, even if in a more sedate form. Offering people a welcoming treat is, in my opinion, critical to kick-start a good dinner party or supper club.
This is my Asian version of a gazpacho, a Spanish vegetable soup which is served cold. I served these in small Thai tea cups, but you could use ordinary shot glasses. They are garnished with a tiny tasty, pretty, fruity skewer. It’s the perfect way to welcome your guests on a hot summer’s evening (or a steamy
hot season evening) and introduces the palate to some of the Asian flavours to follow. Bangkok
Time: 20 mins (plus a few hours’ pickling time for the ginger)
Rating: Easy, just whiz it up in a blender
Serves: Makes 10 shots
1 inch knob ginger
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1.5 tsp sugar
1.5 tsp salt
½ large cucumber
1 clove garlic
1 kaffir lime leaf
1 small red chilli
1 stick lemongrass
Juice 1 lime
Small bunch/10g mint
Small bunch/10g coriander
Small bunch/10g Thai basil
200ml coconut milk
4 tbsp apple juice
1 tbsp sesame oil
Chunks of melon
Thai basil leaves
- First make some pickled ginger. Try to do this the night before, or at least several hours in advance. Combine the salt, sugar and vinegar in a jar. Add a little water if necessary until the salt and sugar dissolve. Slice the ginger as thinly as possible with a sharp knife. Add it to the vinegar mixture, close the jar tightly and leave in the fridge to pickle.
- When the ginger has pickled, prepare the other ingredients. Peel and chop the cucumber and apple. Very finely chop the kaffir lime leaf, lemongrass, garlic, chilli. Coarsely chop the mint, coriander and Thai basil. Put them all in a blender with half of the pickled ginger and add the coconut milk, lime juice, apple juice, sesame oil and water. Blend until smooth, add a little more water if needed.
- Pass through a coarse sieve and chill in the fridge.
- While the gazpacho is chilling, make the garnish. Peel and deseed the remaining cucumber. Chop the cucumber and melon into evenly-sized cubes. Thread one piece of cucumber onto a cocktail stick. Next take a piece of pickled ginger, roll it up finely and thread it on. Then thread on a piece of melon, followed by a Thai basil leaf and finally another piece of cucumber.
- Serve the gazpacho in small cups or shot glasses with the garnish skewer placed on the top.