Friday, 12 February 2010

Last Night's Dinner and the Tradition of Formal Hall

I know what your thinking and the answer is no, this picture is not from a cookbook. In fact, this picture was taken last night in the Pembroke Kitchen.
The dish, Parmesan custard topped with asparagus, edamame beans, and purple sprouting broccoli was served with anchoïade sauce. The recipe came from the Pier Cookbook by Greg Doyle, one of the worlds top Chefs. We served 140 of these last night and it took one chef an hour to garnish them; this food requires effort!
Food is important, but there is much more involved in hosting the nightly Formal. The best China plates and glasses are polished by hand each morning, a chore that can take several hours. In addition, the Hall and Old Library must be cleaned and made ready several times a day.
Why all the effort? Easy, Formal Hall is a special event, steeped in history and tradition; as such, the nightly dinner receives the attention it deserves!
A special dinner though is nothing without the guests. As Pembroke students, you are in the unique position of enjoying Formal on most nights of term. With the event comes certain traditions of etiquette, being well dressed, wearing gowns, and saying grace are but a few. However, mostly you’re expected to behave maturely and enjoy the evening. The courtesy you show the staff, the respect you show for your surroundings, and the comments you leave on the food blog, lead me to believe that our efforts are much appreciated!
After the Parmesan custard we served leg of lamb cooked sous vide at 58C for 5 hours. The lamb was served with a fondant potato and a cassoulet of flageolet beans and thyme. The lamb was carved to order in the kitchens, and the picture below would not have been possible otherwise (carving the lamb ahead of time results in the slices turning brown from the release of steam in the joint).
And to finish the meal we served pancakes, homemade of course. Sasa worked in the pastry department on Thursday and spend much of the morning making the 300+ pancakes required for last night's dinner. To top the pancakes we served homemade/pacotized green apple sorbet and a warm Calvados sauce!
Melkam Megeb!


  1. As a Frenchman, I must confess that I was slightly afraid of what I was going to eat in Britain when I left Paris in October. Five months later, you have proved me wrong and you have destroyed my prejudices against cuisine in Britain in a tasty way. It's always a good thing to get rid of some prejudices, above all if this is achieved thanks to delicious meals. You've enlightened both my taste buds and my spirit. So, basically, thank you very much for all the work you do in the kitchen !

  2. Pembroke formal is the best :)


  3. The dessert was great :) But the Vegetarian main course option was a bit dry. Please put more sauce on it next time!

  4. Fantastic first course, and the pancake dessert was wonderful. The veggie main course was "inoffensive" - bland and a bit dull. Maybe more sauce? Really impressed by all your efforts though!