Our flat has been host to a few parties over its time- but never a film premiere.
On Saturday night that changed. One of my oldest friends has just finished the final sound mix on his debut feature- a project he wrote, directed, edited and produced himself.
Champagne was needed, most definitely. It also called for a spread. Nothing elaborate, just a small collection of pieces that a crew of us could pick at while toasting his success. We were after things that could muck in together and didn’t require a lot of supervision.
The jumping off point were the fresh radishes crowding the frames of the market that morning. To start with I contemplated purchasing them as a novelty centrepiece (is it just me, or do radishes, cabbages, artichokes and frisee sometimes look much prettier than bouquets that are for sale?).
And then my thoughts jumped the channel.
Note; this is not a recipe. It’s just a collection of companionable items, splayed on a platter. It’s a French answer to the problem of antipasto; and the definition of elegant sufficiency. All you need is fresh baguette, organic butter, salt and slivered radishes. It’s deceptively simple, but shockingly effective. The radishes are full of crunch and bitter bite. Before they get too strident the butter steps in to swaddle and calm them. Meanwhile the salt shines a small light on these often unsung heroes of the kitchen.
If you’re ever dithering for what to put out while serving drinks, in those awkward moments before everyone settles in and gets on with the business of making new friends, or mocking old ones, then this is a good one to shelter in your arsenal.
Both pre slicing the bread and using a mandolin on the radishes will make it easier for guests to navigate. But as with any simple collection of flavours it comes with a caveat. Great things don’t come cheap (something anyone who’s ever made a film knows all too well).
Don’t even think about putting this out if you’re using supermarket baguette. If your butter is ezi-spread from a plastic container – walk away now. And if your salt appears as miserable little pricks that huddle in a porcelain jar along with stale grains of rice – you’re dreaming if you think this will taste good.
So buy some good stuff. Break open the bubbly. Call up some friends. Make some new ones. And invite some of these other fellows along to join the party.
Other stars that appeared on our table:
Coffee aioli with artichoke leaves and asparagus spears
Polenta triangles with roast tomato relish
Quail eggs with paprika salt
Rye bread with smoked salmon and creme fraiche
Nduja (spreadable Calabrian spiced pork paste) with baguette spears
Caerphilly cheese with pear slivers
On a properly organised cheese platter- see how here
For dessert we had small bowls of indecently rich clotted cream topped with brown sugar, which over the course of a film melts and melds into a cap of oozy caramel. There were fresh berries and squares of very dark and dangerous brownies. It was grand.
Radishes, salt, butter, bread
1 platter. 1 bread knife. 1 mandolin (or confidence to cut radishes into slivers)
1 baguette, cut into 1 cm thick slices
70 grams of good quality, cold butter
8-10 radishes, cut into slivers on a mandolin
2 tablespoons of sea salt flakes
Here’s how we roll
1. Rinse the radishes well to get rid of any errant dirt. Slice them into thin crimson rimmed moons- you want them thin enough to be able to see the label on the champagne bottle through them.
2. Lay out the baguette slices on a platter with the cold butter, salt flakes and radish discs. Encourage people to make their own. If anyone’s floundering, bread; good chunk of butter, radish then salt is a good order.