Wedding Bells in the Spanish Mountains
Curry Leaf Cafe's first OUTDOOR WEDDING EVENT was for one of Chef Kanthi's friends in the mountains ABOVE Barcelona. It wasn't without its challenges, as Kanthi reveals…
Are you crazy?
In December 2015 I received a call from Angel, a good friend of mine and a regular at Curry Leaf Cafe. He told me he was getting married to his Czech girlfriend, Stepanka. I was so happy to be invited to the wedding in May in sunny Spain. Little did I know he had other intentions... He asked me if I would create a Curry Leaf Cafe menu for their wedding lunch. The first sentence that came out was “Are you crazy?” He asked me to sleep on it.
We'd not done an outdoor wedding before, let alone one in Spain. And the fact that is was a friend's put extra pressure on the occasion. But the answer was always going to be yes.
This will never work
In February I decided to fly to Spain to check out the venue in person; only then could I start planning the menu. After a torturous but scenic route up the mountains above Barcelona, I arrived at my destination: a small holiday villa some 30 minutes away from the nearest town. What had I let myself in for, I wondered? The kitchen could only cater for 15 people at a push, and was equipped with little more than pots and pans. My first thought was ‘this will never work’. But the bride and groom had their heart set on the place, and I had to admit it was beautiful. A quick trip to a visit to the catering supplies company in Barcelona gave me a rough idea of what we could rent in terms of cooking equipment. One thing there was no shortage of was 'planchas' – traditional cast iron griddles used by the Spanish to chargrill meat and seafood – so I mentally added some tandoori options to the starter course. By that evening I had another three courses planned out, making a total of four. Why, I thought to myself (not for the first time), can’t I make things easier on myself?
Change of plan
On my return to the UK, I realised that the wedding was set for the same weekend as the Brighton & Hove Food and Drink Festival. Bad news… I spoke to Angel in the hope that he would consider changing dates, and amazingly he agreed to push the wedding date back by a week. The man clearly had his heart set on curry! A few months later, in April, we got together again to work out the details: wines, glassware, service staff, kitchen equipment rental, pots and pans, plates, bowls and so on. Angel and Stepanka decided to go for biodegradable plates and cutlery, which I really liked as it would cut down on waiting staff, washing up and of course the environmental impact of the event. Win win.
Fast forward a few more weeks and, after a hectic series of bank holidays and Brighton & Hove Food and Drink Festival events, Gouranga Bera (head chef at our Brighton Lanes cafe), kitchen manager Damian Gomez and myself boarded a flight to Barcelona with two suitcases full of Indian spices and my sexy I O SHEN Japanese knife. We managed to plan the whole thing – from logistics to shopping lists – during the flight, and made it to the villa at 2am.
After a fitful night's sleep I awoke to the realisation that we had 24 hours to create a four-course menu for 100 people. We drove to the nearest town and rushed into the tiny supermarket, praying we’d find everything we needed… only to discover that nobody there knew what ginger was! I sent an SOS to the groom and told him to find ginger somewhere or the lunch was not happening. With that solved – I still don't know where he got it from – we bagged a free-range chicken for Chef Gouranga to make a quick curry from. Meanwhile, back at the villa, Damian and I busied ourselves peeling 15kg of onions and 2kg of garlic.
Father v Father cookoff
The prep went on until 9pm. That afternoon we'd discovered that the catering hire company had made a mistake. Instead of two fryers and three pots, they'd delivered three fryers and two pots. Figuring that I could deal with this the following day, I went to judge the BBQ competition that was about to take place between the bride and grooms’ fathers – a spectacular showdown between two nations and two fathers on the traditional wooden BBQ in the villa's garden. Chargrilled pork marinated in Czech beer, spices and honey versus traditional Spanish sausages – the real winner was me and the rest of the guests. Both equally delicious.
After a quick breakfast the next morning, we carried on with prep while the a makeshift bar and tables were set up in the lovely back yard. Both fryers were connected and the ovens were on, the planchas were set and then disaster struck – the electricity tripped under the load. Thankfully, there was another kitchen in the villa next door, and we had that spare fryer due to the mixup by the catering company. We soon had the second kitchen up and running, prepping half the menu in one kitchen and the rest in the other.
The starters were all done in time and sent out to tables. Now the biggest issue was explaining the menus in three languages! Thankfully, the bride and groom were only too happy to help me out with that. The multinational gathering of guests had nothing but compliments for the food, and the kids' menu we created was also a big hit with the younger members of the wedding party. I like to think that we introduced a lot of young palates to the pleasures of Indian cooking that day. After the meal, a gin and tonic bar was set up on the terrace and a Spanish band began playing – giving Gouranga, Damian and myself time to clear up and join them for a well-earned drink.
The next two days we spent relaxing and walking around Barcelona tasting some great (and some not so great) local dishes. It also gave us time to reflect on the challenges we'd faced and what a great job our team had done in rising to the occasion. A Spanish groom and Czech bride (who live in London) getting married high in the Spanish mountains, catered for by chefs from Brighton cooking South Indian food. That's what we call multicultural.
So, who’s getting married next?