He Drinks Up Obstacles

Welcome back. Sorry about the gap between post 1 and 2. Turns out we had to do some catering in the intervening weeks. We’ve also been busy setting up our new prep space in Clapton. I’m going to follow the format from last time for now at least. As formats go I think it’s okay!

The season hasn’t really got going yet but we’ve had a few interesting bits and bobs in the last few weeks including our first proper show of the year at the Chatham Historic Dockyards. Nice show with lots of vintage cars and steam equipment. The dockyards themselves are well worth a visit with three battleships and the amazing 1830s timber built slip, a covered ship building facility. A great day out for all ages, I’m sure. If you do go, make sure you also visit Nelson Brewery on site. Some of the nicest beer I’ve had recently.

We also did a bit of private catering for a function at the office of Bibendum Wine who were a very nice bunch indeed. Bibendum is also the real name of the Michelin Man (the Bibendum restaurant now occupies the former HQ of the tyre company) and we ended up digging into the history of the mascot a bit. The original posters are pretty terrifying.

The wikipedia page on Bibendum gives an acceptable explanation of this frankly bizarre scene. Nunc est bibendum is a Roman toast, which translates as ‘drink up’ and the raised glass contains roadside obstacles. He drinks up obstacles that the other lesser tyre companies (represented by the freakish apparitions on either side) cannot handle, thus establishing himself as a lord-like figure in the world of tyres. I felt a bit better after reading this but it didn’t answer all my questions. (The pinz nez, for example.)

Now, a book:


The book of sauces by Ambrose Heath, published in 1948, is a vaguely useful book if you want to read lots of sauce recipes but is mainly noteworthy, to my mind, for its outrageous dedication to legendary food and wine man, André Simon.


If you’re not exhausted after reading that, here’s a couple of Devil Sauce recipes from the book.


Veal Kedgeree

Welcome one and all! Welcome to the first post in the new What the Dickens blog. (Well, actually second technically, but the first one was just an event page really.) From the relative safety of my 2010 vintage Ikea ‘FUROSKOG’ all-pine desk here in Clapton Park I will, on a semi-regular basis, relate powerful insights about the catering life, let you know what we’re up to and will also bang on about some old cook books that I’ve got.

So then, to business.

February is a quiet month in catering and street food so unless you’ve got a regular pitch (which we don’t at the moment) what you generally do is go for lots of coffee meetings and apply for various summer events. We’ve also been trying to move kitchen, which has been an enormous pain. We did however manage to squeeze in some catering. Early in the month we catered at the UK launch of food and travel network, Tastemade at their swanky new facility in Shoreditch. I didn’t know too much about them before but we had alot of fun at the event and got some really nice feedback. We also provided some street food type dishes for a private party in the Reform Club, which was a fascinating experience, in no small part because we got a look at the kitchen set up by the legendary Victorian chef, Alexis Soyer. We had some very informative chats with the staff there who told us that the kitchen is still essentially the same lay-out as it when it was built in the 1840s and Soyer had assisted architect Charles Barry with the design. At the time it must have been the most modern kitchen in the world. There’s a nice little piece about Soyer and his kitchen at the Science Museum Blog here.

We also catered some snacks for a fund raiser at the Charles Dickens Museum on Doughty Street inspired by Catherine (wife of Charles) Dickens’ , book ‘What Shall We Have for Dinner?’, which the museum has one of only a few copies of. Luckily, the whole thing is on Google Books. It’s really a collection of bills of fare but there are also some recipes at the back. Quite a historical month for What the Dickens.

As promised, here’s the first cook book bit. We’ve collected quite few odd books over the past few years and I’m going to post some thoughts about the ones I find interesting. First up: Modern Cookery Illustrated by Lydia Chatterton. Firstly, I really like the logo made of kitchen equipment and we at one stage considered ripping this idea off when we were getting our logo designed. Most searches seem to date this book as being published in 1938 although I have seen some claiming earlier. Mine has an inscription from 1944.
I particularly like “Hope you need this very soon”. Perhaps a reference to food shortages due to war time rationing. I also note that it seems to be signed ‘Lydia’, which is the name of the author so you never know, eh?

The book is quite a standard complete cookery guide with guides to buying, preparation, carving etc. Lots of standard recipes but there were some more unusual ones. The book has a nice section on ‘New Dishes From Left-Overs’. Plenty of sensible suggestions but stuff like this leaps out.

More typically, here’s a good general recipe for potted meats.
MC Potted Meat.png

The book also has a section called ‘Making the Most of Tinned Meats’. This Boston Supper Dish could be one to try.

Finally (for now anyway) there is this. Once you get over what a weird idea it sounds like, it’s basically just curried rice with veal. This is of particular interest to us as Kedgeree is one of our staple menu items and this is the first suggestion I’ve seen that it has been used as a more general term for curried rice with stuff. It’s also worth noting that it contains apples, which seems to come up regularly in older British curry recipes. I believe that apples are still a standard ingredient in chip shop curry sauce.

Okay, that’s it for now. I might come back to this book in a later post but I’ll try and do a different one next time.

Supper Club – 23rd July

‘The STOMACH is the mainspring of our body’s System, – if it be not sufficiently wound up to warm the Heart and support the Circulation, – the whole business of Life will, in proportion be ineffectively performed, – we can neither Think with precision, – Walk with vigour, – Sit Down with comfort, – or sleep with tranquillity. Unless the Stomach be in good humour, every part of the machinery of Life must vibrate with languor;  – can we then be too attentive to its adjustment!!!’
Dr William Kitchiner, 1822


What the Dickens! presents
The Homerton High Street Dining Society
Summer Feast
23rd July

As the plums are ripening What the Dickens is excited to announce the launch of a new series of supper clubs at Hatch in Homerton. Guests will be seated on communal tables and be invited to feast on a lavish array of traditional British fare. Diners can then help themselves to the delights on offer in the style of a traditional feast.

Course 1 – To Consist of –
Salma Gundi – The Original Concentric Salad Platter
Raised Rabbit Pie – Courtesy of ‘The Poacher’
Spiced Salt Beef – Old English Favourite
Further Salads

Course 2 – To Consist of –
Cornish Charter Pie – Chicken and Parsley in Cream
Leg of Mutton in Caper Sauce
Stewed Conger Eel
All accompanied with Vegetables o’ the Season

Course 3  – To Consist of-
Blackberry Sorbet
Cheeses – From Wildes of Totten’ham

Recently shortlisted as finalists in the 2015 BBC Food and Farming Awards, What the Dickens! was founded in 2010 by three friends Michael, Adam and Dominic who, disappointed with the complete absence of British food on the streetfood scene, decided to right  this injustice to British food culture.

In keeping with the approach to historic recipes What the Dickens! aim to prepare as much of their own food as possible from scratch. We use the best ingredients possible at all times including fantastic meat from the Rare Breed Meat Company and fish from Billingsgate Market.

Early Bird – £20
Standard – £30.
Further enquiries –  catering@whatthedickensfood.com.

Vegetarians – As we are serving traditional British foods it is unfortunately nigh-on impossible for us to accommodate vegetablists.