The Bare Cupboard underground restaurant

February 21, 2010

I’ve always quite fancied the idea of doing an underground restaurant. Unfortunately, my studio flat is so small that I’d only be able to fit in about six people, and two of those would have to perch on my bed with the food on their laps.

So, when my friend Lea asked if I’d help her do a charity dinner party at her house, to raise funds for her sons’ primary school playground, I didn’t need to be asked twice. In fact, I said, instead of me just helping her, I’d cook the whole meal.

And that’s how I found myself preparing a squid and aubergine stew at 7am on Saturday morning. (As you are well aware, I love my food – but I’ll freely admit, even I struggled with squid at that hour in the morning!)

I’d suggested to Lea that I do a kind of Turkish/Middle Eastern-themed meal, which she was very happy with. So, we started with a spicy Turkish lentil soup, which I learned to make at a cookery course I did last summer in Istanbul, and which gave me the opportunity to convert a few more people to my essential Turkish ingredient, pul biber. To go with the soup, Lea bought a couple of loaves of fantastic Turkish bread from a local bakery.

For the main course, alongside the aforementioned squid and aubergine stew, I made another Turkish dish called turlu turlu  – a recipe I got from the Moro cookbook. This is one of those dishes that belies its simple ingredients. A tray of aubergines, courgettes, baby turnips and potatoes is seasoned with allspice and coriander, and roasted for about an hour. Then, once cooked, a combination of tomato passata and chickpeas is poured over the top, and the whole lot is garnished with plenty of fresh parsley and coriander. The last dish of the main-course triumvirate was saffron rice.

Finally, for pudding, I turned to a recipe by Dan Lepard that I cut out of The Guardian – a peach saffron cake, which I served with some plain yoghurt.

Some very satisfied customers waddled home late that night, and Lea raised more than £100 for the school playground, which is fantastic. I had a lot of fun cooking the meal, and can’t wait to do something like this again. Now I just need to find someone else willing to lend me their kitchen and dining room.


8 Responses to “The Bare Cupboard underground restaurant”

  1. What a wonderful idea for charity! Your meal looks very impressive, I especially like the look of that dessert!

  2. jasnieres Says:

    You’re the wee girl – as your Dad used to say.
    Come over and do one here – I’m sure it would be a great success with my more adventurous French friends.

  3. jasnieres Says:

    ps. The idea of an “underground” restaurant is a new one for me.

  4. Ailsa Says:

    Looks superb Lindsey. I’m thinking of asking you to do one at mine to raise funds for Greyhound Gap…

  5. Yes please – I’d love to come and cook for your dog lovers!

  6. What a great thing to do – and that picture of the stew is superb!

  7. Thanks Omnivorous Bear. It’s a recipe I cut out from a newspaper years and years ago, but one I keep returning to – because it is just so tasty.

  8. mangocheeks Says:


    What a wonderful thing to do. Everything looks great, especially the peach saffron cake.

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