In my experience though there is still that element of risk.
Here at Annie's because we run a 100% gluten free kitchen I knew I could serve up some tasty treats without that fear. After all, if I can't taste it, I can't serve it!
As usual I was far too busy in the kitchen to take photos so the images here were provided by guests (thank you!).
We were fully booked for the dinner - a lovely split of five returning guests and five newbies. Guests were prompt (one couple got caught behind a slow driver and were a little late but they soon caught up!) and seemed to relax immediately with one another.
The table was set with prawn crackers for guests to nibble on and as well as our usual still and sparkling water we also offered jasmine & green tea in Chinese teacups to help get diners in the mood.
We started in India. I served Vegetable (cauliflower) Pakoras and Batata Vada Chaat (potato fritters) on top of some Coriander Chutney. To accompany it we provided Tamarind Chutney and a Cucumber Raita. We had two dairy free guests at the table and their Raita was made with soya yoghurt. The appetizer went down well - so well that no one took a photo of their plate before eating! However, one guest did manage a snap of his empty plate...
The next course featured Indonesian cuisine. A lighter course after the fried carbohydrate of the first appetizer, we served Udang Goreng Kecap Manis - stir Fried Prawns in Indonesian Sweet Soy Sauce.
I had not been able to find any gluten free kecap manis so had made my own. I heated equal quantities of gluten free soy sauce with molasses sugar along with a star anise.
Once the sugar had dissolved and the sauce had thickened slightly, it was ready to use.
I fried off plenty of garlic which I then removed before adding the fresh prawns which had been quickly marinated in turmeric.
Once they started to change colour I reintroduced the garlic along with hot chillis (from our windowsill box!), tamarind paste and the kecap manis.
Innocent looking, they packed quite a punch!
We topped up the prawn crackers and provided everyone with bowls and chopsticks as we were heading to China for the main course.
We placed the serving bowls on the table and let our guests help themselves, in true Chinese restaurant style!
I made Sweet & sour Pork Cantonese Style, Lamb with Ginger & Spring Onions, Chinese Greens (bok choy and choi sum) and plenty of Egg Fried Rice. I say plenty because despite the fact that the protein to carb ratio was 2:1 the rice dish was the only thing that had anything left in it at the end!
I had a bit of a nightmare with the dessert which was Pisang Goreng (banana fritters). Now, I only eat bananas when a) there is nothing else to eat b) they are very ripe - but the fritters are usually thick slices of banana fried in a light crisp batter. Pandering to my own tastes (chef's perogative!) I prefer to mash the bananas (ripe!) into the batter mix and deep fry a tablespoon at a time.
What happens is that you get a gorgeous puff of yumminess - and don't forget I don't even like bananas but I love these! The issue was that for some reason the batter was sticking to the bottom of the pan (which has never happened any time I've ever made these before). The result was not only a delay but also affected the look of the fritters.
Interestingly, a number of guests had expressed reservations about the kulfi in advance of trying it. It appears that they had tasted kulfi in Indian restaurants before and found the taste overpowering.
I was EXTREMELY relieved that they all however loved my kulfi! I had flavoured it with saffron, cardamon and rose water, enough to provide a subtle taste to the ice cream that didn't overpower the palate.
Guests had been told that the coffee course would include chocolate lychees. I had made some during the week and whilst I could appreciate the taste of the ginger with the lychee and chocolate, I dislike lychees even more than I dislike bananas and I decided that texturally the combination was unappealing.
Instead I made white chocolates with chilli powder, a pistachio nut fudge and dark chocolate coated crystallised ginger.
Our dairy free guests had a plate of dark chocolates, some flavoured with chilli and others with crushed pistachios in them.
We thoroughly enjoyed our evening and were very pleased with the comments on twitter afterwards:
PKPWordsmith Phillip Khan-Panni
@anniesupperclub Such a splendid dinner last evening. Thank you Annie.
cinderelliekins Mrs Hughes
Just home from a wonderful and delicious evening at @anniesupperclub) - so happy and full! Thanks Annie, sorry we ate everything!!
Another fantastic evening eating at @anniesupperclub trying not to fall asleep on the tube home!
lovelybills Barbara Taylor
Just had a delicious 5 course Asian banquet @anniesupperclub in Bromley. Fine food & good company!