As many of you will know, I’m always on the lookout for something new to do so when @PopupReading appeared on Twitter I knew it was something I had to book. The idea behind the dinners is pretty simple. Ten strangers turn up for dinner at the home of one of the founders Anu, and then she and her friend Laura cook a meal for you.
The best thing about it is that between them Laura and Anu have a whole host of cooking skills from Spanish and South American to Indian and Israeli. Food from around the world – my idea of heaven!
I chose to book the Catalan themed night and took Mr A along as a surprise (although I did warn him on the way, as I thought he might find it a bit weird if we just turned up at a stranger’s house for dinner!)
We had a giggle on the doorstep that it felt like a bit of a ‘Come Dine With Me’ moment, and then Anu answered the door and instantly made us feel welcome.
Our companions for the evening were a mix of other food enthusiasts from the area and we all had a good time discussing various meals and recipes as we sat down to eat. There was a lovely little menu next to each of us, which was really useful as the courses just kept on coming!
We were told that Catalan food brings together the mountain and the sea so we started off with a selection of tapas, including Peixet can Ana (Trio of peppers and onion topped on Panga fish), Mandonguilles amb Sípia i Pèsols (Beef meatballs with a squid-based tomato sauce) and Fricandó (similar to a beef stew). But my absolute favourite was the girls’ take on the traditional Catalan Coca (flat bread), which was topped with caramalised onions, thyme roasted sweet and sticky figs and dollops of goat’s cheese.
What was great about Anu and Laura is that they are so passionate about their food and have sourced all of the ingredients so carefully. It really felt like we were eating traditional food from the area rather than a ‘tourist version’ of it.
With a menu of meatballs, stew, fish and salad I was worried that I might be full by the time the main course of Arròs negre amb Sèpia i Alliolli (Black rice with squid and Ali oil) arrived. But the portions were all well spaced out and came on large serving dishes which were placed in the middle of the table so we could help ourselves.
Luckily I had just enough room for the not one, but two, desserts of Absenta Gelat (Licor d’Anis ice cream with milk chocolate chips) and Peres a la safrà (Saffron-poached pears with dark chocolate).
The evening was a brilliant way to try new flavours and talk about food and travel with fellow enthusiasts.
After a busy night in the kitchen Laura and Anu joined us for a chat and it was really nice to hear about how they’d met (on a train home from work) and bonded over their love of food.
It also reminded me about enjoying little adventures close to home. Sometimes we get so caught up in planning our next big trip we forget to take advantage of all the cool things happening around us.