I started catering for music festivals! It is very hard work, but, oh so much fun!
Last weekend I helped caterng for Hyde Park Calling festival.
We had to feed several hundreds of mouths last weekend including Neil Young, The Pretenders, The Killers and Bruce Springsteen and his crew (125 of them to be exact). Boy, were we not running! But that is partly why I love working as a chef, it’s that adrenaline feeling that I get from the madness of getting things ready for service in no time and having your head on a million things at once.
We had two menus on offer: an Asian one and a Mediterranean one. They chose the Mediterranean one which meant I had to prepare several trays of Vitello Tonnato (of all things) for them.
I mean, back in Argentina that was the dish we had for Christmas Eve every year, mainly because it’s easy to make in advance and it’s served cold which means you don’t have to slave in front of the oven before serving it. This makes things a lot easier on yourself. I suspect this is why head chef Jason chose it as well.
Except for cooking the veal (which was roasted), I made everything else: the tuna sauce and I sliced several kilos of veal (by hand).
It was my first experience being backstage and I enjoyed it enormously.
Although I am not a huge fan of Bruce Springsteen, I still enjoyed the show a lot.
It was a far cry from the first time I saw him at my first ever rock concert, Amnesty International in 1988 in Buenos Aires.
I was quite young and I had gone with my sister, Malila, more to see Sting than Peter Gabriel or Bruce although I had a very nice surprise when I heard them both live.
Because it was the first concert of that scale in Argentina, tickets were sold out quite quickly and I talked my sister into going to the stadium quite early to get a good place (even back then I wanted to be at the front).
We arrived at around 7 in the morning and, after a few hours of queuing, the roadies decided to open the gates and let us run for our lives. We could hear the roar of the people behind the second gate who had not been allowed in. After some time relaxing on the grass, I started noticing that everybody was getting up, and, more by reflex than anything else, I got up too and started doing what everyone else was doing which was trying to get even closer to the stage. You just followed the flock.
And that is when I lost my sister and her friend. In the sea of people that River Plate stadium had become.
Now, in my young mind what I thought was this: here I was, having anticipated this concert for months, having queued since the early hours of that morning and there was no chance in the world I was going to miss that. So I stayed, enjoyed the whole thing and decided to look for my sister when the show was over. So, imagine my joy when I found my dad waiting for me at the gates. Totally oblivious to the concern I had caused, quite innocently all I could think of was how tired I was and that it was going to be very nice to have a lift back home as opposed to going by bus. This all happened in the Stone Age, remember, before mobile phones and all that technology.
What happened was this: my poor sister panicked at the thought of having lost me, checked in all the emergency units at the stadium, then went back home and said to our grandmother: “Please don’t worry but, did Gaby come back home?” To which she replied: “But wasn’t she with you?”
The show itself was fantastic: Peter Gabriel, Sting and Bruce Springsteen were all great but I especially remember Bruce’s performance because he was the last act. We were all dead tired, not only from having queued and from being crushed in a crowd of people but also from several hours of shows because Amnesty was marathonic. It was more like three concerts all rolled into one.
As I said, I had gone to see Sting because he had played River the year before and I missed the chance of going, silly me.
But I still remember feeling I could not possibly stay standing any longer and Bruce coming on stage and shouting: “Are you ready?” and kicking off his set with Born in the USA. And the madness started all over again. Only those who have been in River Plate stadium for a live concert know what I am talking about. I remember thinking: “if this man can get us going, then he can make even stones dance”.
So it was a nice feeling of the story coming full circle when this time all I had to do was come out of the kitchen (it was literally next to the backstage area) and getting into the front row from backstage.
Now, my photos didn’t turn out spectacularly good so when I was browsing through them to decide which were the more acceptable ones, imagine my surprise when I discovered the Argentinian flag, amongst the crowd of Londoners! It’s just one of those things that photography has: sometimes there is a nice detail in the picture of which you were not aware at the time of snapping the photo but which only comes out as you develop or edit them.
Vitello Tonnato adapted from El libro de Doña Petrona by Petrona C. de Gandulfo
1 tongue or 1kg veal
For the sauce:
6 anchovy filets
½ coffee-sized cup vinegar
1 tbsp. mustard
1 boiled egg yolk
Boil the veal with the vegetables in water. When it’s cooked, take off the heat, drain and leave to cool in its own stock.
To make the sauce: using a blender or food processor, blend the tuna with the anchovy fillets.
Place the yolks in a deep bowl and whisk them while you add the oil in a trickle (you are making a mayonnaise here), until it thickens, then add the tuna and the anchovies, pepper, vinegar, mustard and mix forming a light sauce, adding a little bit of water to it, if necessary. Or use some of the stock in which you cooked the veal.
Once cold, slice the tongue or veal in very thin slices, cover with the sauce and sprinkle with the capers and the chopped egg yolk (back home we also use the egg white which makes it more colourful).
This dish is infinitely better with home-made mayonnaise as we make it in Argentina, but, if you prefer a cheat’s version, you can use ready-made mayonnaise.
If you have leftover sauce you can also add it to some boiled pasta to make a nice pasta salad or do as I did and have it on some sliced bread. Yummy!