I adore Italian food and even in a city like London where we are spoilt for choice, my good fortune to have had many an Italian adventure often leaves me unsatisfied. How many times have you been seduced by local food and charm whilst on holiday, only to be deeply disappointed when seeking the same at home? Roberto and Fabio who run the Back Door Kitchen Supperclub had the task of bringing Italy to us with their Calabrian dinner. I think they did much more than that: I think within the few hours of an evening we’d been magically transported to Calabria.
Upon arriving at their delightful abode, these two gentlemen greeted us with typical Italian charisma. Welcomed with a spot of prosecco we were introduced to the passionate heat of the Southern Italian state.
As Calabria developed along rocky mountains next to a seaside, these Mini Peppers Stuffed with Calabrese Mousse are an example of food off the terrain. Filled with a tuna mousse these felt light and bright with parsley and crunchy pepper.
My personal favourite were the Suppli Di Zucca, Pepe Rossa, Mozzarella E ‘Nduja Calabrese or Arancini balls stuffed with Red Pepper, Mozarella, Calabresean Nduja. Our hosts enlightened us by saying cooking from this region is actually rather spicy and red peppers feature heavily. Nduja is their soft and spreadable chilli pork sausage which provides a savoury peppery-ness similar to Spanish chorizo. Super super super crunchy on the outside and a soft middle as vulnerable as a perfect soft-boiled egg.
We had endearing stories of Italian cooking culture regaled to us throughout the meal and some knowledge behind what went into the splendid Gnocchi Di Ricotta, Salsiccia Piccante, Melanzane E Basilico or Riccotta Gnocchi, Calabrian Sausage with Aubergine and Basil to you and I. There’s a small science in making gnocchi, best to keep the flour very minimal so they aren’t heavy lumps. We ate every bouncy cheesy pillow that was coated in racy spice and sweet vegetables.
And what I find with supperclubs is that you can speak (at great length as we did) about recipes with the cook, who are often more than happy to share. Polenta Verde Con Cozze was a stunning avocado-green polenta (being blended with broccoli) and crowned with a generous portion of orange mussels. One dish that made me fall in love all over again with food from the Boot-Shaped Peninsular. I could taste each ingredient individually and in ensemble, it was a gentle surprise that the polenta was piquant from chilli pepper.
My only regret was not having a second stomach to stuff myself silly with Polpettine E Finocchi Brasati. Pork Meatballs lovingly cooked for hours in white wine (to Mamma’s or a Grandmamma’s recipe I’m sure) were globes of moist happiness. Braised fennel topped with breadcrumbs were beautiful, I was taken away by the slow-cooking that intensified their sweet liqourice.
Finally, a White Chocolate Mousse filled with Strawberries, Basil and in true homage to the area, Chilli. My only small nitpick would be it could have been lighter in texture but the flavour combination was a revelation.
I genuinely felt we were amongst kindred spirits in Roberto’s and Fabio’s company. They looked after us as they would have old friends and we felt the passion and commitment to their cuisine. Thank you introducing the hearty zeal of Calabria to us, and we would certainly hope to return to more of your Italian suppers. Il piacere e tutto nostro!