As the pioneer of the supper club movement in the UK, Kerstin Rodgers– otherwise known as Ms Marmite Lover is well versed in creating the convivial atmosphere of a traditional raki table. Fresh from her Istanbul travels, Kerstin has taken the flavours, ingredients and culinary techniques of her adventures into her North London kitchen, creating a fine feast of food for our first underground Raki 20 dinner, to be enjoyed with Yeni Raki.
“When I’m travelling, I always have check-in luggage so I can bring back liquids and I try to get everything shrink-wrapped.” Kerstin explains, as she rummages through a basket full of oddly-shaped treasures she’d picked up from Istanbul’s famous Spice Bazaar.
He is playing and experimenting with ingredients
“I’m playing and experimenting with these ingredients, which nobody else is using over here.” She enthuses, as she holds up a parcel of Salep -the ground root of wild Orchids. “In Istanbul I saw sellers with their Samovars, which are big Turkish kettles selling it as a wintery milky drink, but I have other plans for it.” Next, she produces an unusual foil-covered item, “This is Bottarga, it’s grey mullet roe -shave it onto things and it gives an instant umami hit.”
Next up are packages of wonderful bright green pistachios, black apricots, pink and rose rose petals cover her table. There’s deep-red spices with intriguingly descriptive names of ‘Ottoman spice’, “Smoked spice” and ‘Salad spice’, alongside Middle Eastern favourites of sumac, paprika, cardamon and saffron. “It’s interesting to see things that we’re a bit iffy about used as a desirable quality in different places -it’s why I love to travel.” These flavours will be used in her meze dishes on the night.
“Raki is the perfect thing with meze”
“Raki is the perfect thing with meze. It’s very convivial with lots of small plates and everyone dipping in. When I do a supper club I talk to the people about the ingredients about the food stories behind them all. Why I’ve paired these flavours, where I got my produce from, etc. That’s where I’m coming from, and I hope it’s an interesting meal for people as a result. I want my guests to be intrigued and inspired by the ingredients. The fact that I went and spent eight days in Istanbul, I’m getting it from the horses mouth and I’m thinking with my Western sensibility about how to work with these ingredients and produce something that’s a little bit experimental but firmly within a home cooking tradition.”