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A Magical Evening of Venetian Cuisine

Sometimes supper club evenings really work well, there’s not always a rhyme or reason and this was one such success. Perhaps it was the sun slowly setting over Dering Woods, casting a blancmange hued glow that made us all feel like film stars, or maybe it was the frission of excitement that Venetian culinary legend Russell Norman was cooking for us, possibly it was the simple joy of the open fire outdoor kitchen combined with an Aperol Spritz glow, the draw of the full moon and fantastic company that made the whole evening come together like a dream. Whatever it was, it worked.

Gooseberryfield Glamping is rather a special venue anyway, situated either side of an apple tree lined gravel track sit eight beautiful bell-tents pitched with plenty of surrounding space. As you park up you can hear the snuffles and scratchings of the resident pigs and chickens and in the centre of the site stands a Victorian tar carriage converted into a wood-fired hot tub.  A central fire pit area lends itself to the communal feel of this special place. Tucked away at the back of the grounds there’s a poly tunnel full of salad and vegetables which were to become the champion of our feast. We made our way to the terrace with its outdoor kitchen area, including pizza oven and Argentine Asado Grill.

Greeted with Aperol Spritz and bathed in beautiful evening light we feasted on rainbow canape creations, packed with caprese salad, pickled onion and anchovy pairings (a real Venetian delicacy Russell told us) and fig (freshly picked) and blue cheese crisp breads. The perfect aperitivo.

Fresh bruschetta waiting to go

The starter was a bruschetta as fresh as you possible imagine with garlic, oregano and cherry tomatoes picked and gathered only hours before our experience. As we sat down our host was applying the finishing touches of olive oil and crushed salt crystals to the sharing plates in the centre of the tables. The primo was a risotto or Risi E Bisi Pasta course with Carnaroli Risotto, white onions, fresh peas, Parmesan, Vermouth and served with loads of fresh garden mint. It was divine.

The secondo was Cod Cheeks and Soffritto, served with Bitter Leaf Salad, which tasted a lot better than it sounds, made up of radicchio, treviso tardivo, castelfranco and puntarelle. The cod cheeks were beautifully cooked, the segments just sliding perfectly apart under gentle pressure, served on tangy lentils flavoured with sage, red wine vinegar and a little Salsa Verde.

The finale or dolce, was a Tiramisu. It was the most perfect Tiramisu I’ve ever tasted. Let me put this into context, I really don’t like Tiramisu, in fact not at all, there I’ve said it, I find it’s usually a bit of a weird combination of pappy sponge and watery caffeine. But not this Tiramisu, this was extraordinary. The favours seemed dance around the palate from initial bitterness from the cocoa, to the palate-cleansing sourness of the mascarpone and on to the sweet Masala and real coffee soaked sponge. I think there was even some sort of rum in there too. The texture was so much firmer than you would expect, the tight layers gave a real body and substance to the dish, it was the culinary highlight of the evening for me,  and I’m a savoury starter kind of a girl! You’ll probably have to buy one of Russell’s cookbooks for the recipe, or indeed visit one of his Polpo restaurants in London.

Russell Norman with Gooseberry Field owners John and Kerstin 

Finally, I have to give a massive big up to the charity the event was supporting, 21 Together, which is an incredible community for people with Down’s syndrome. The charity offers training, therapies, events and support for parents, family, friends and carers. The goal of the charity is to raise expectations and provide tools to help realise the enormous collective potential of people with Down’s syndrome. Head to the website to subscribe for news, contact for advice or show your support by donating and sharing the story of this fantastic charity.

Other local suppliers:

The Good Shed in Canterbury (@thegoodsshed_) where locally grown watercress and cobnuts were sourced as well as cod cheeks.

Gary’s Artisan Bakery – a local bakery that supplied the sublime focaccia

Pictures by the talented @raphaelklatzko @lighttonestudios.


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AJ is a food writer, editor and PR.