Dina's Club, Diana Cooper's Devon supper club for foodies
PUBLISHED: 17:33 14 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:45 20 February 2013
A quintessential foodie and founder of Tideford Foods, Diana Cooper recently started a supper club. Helen Stiles found out what was on the menu.
Where did the idea of Dina's Club come from?
I'm quite a sociable person and much as I like to think that I'm in everybody's soup, it's much more fun to cook for people who are going to eat it with you. A supper club was an obvious choice. What could be better than an evening out with fab food (hopefully), great company and delicious wine?
So what's on your menu?
I was idly dreaming of balmy summer days on the beach barbecuing freshly caught sea bass and crab and thought that what we need for a Valentine's meal are treasures from the sea, to remind us that summer is just around the corner.
Britannia Seafoods at Beesands is a marvellous place to buy seafood; you can almost watch them catching it. So we will start with a shot of velvety crab bisque - soup for the soul - followed by quails' eggs with asparagus and lime hollandaise, tiny delicately flavoured eggs with sexy asparagus to suck on.
For the main course we will feast on home-made linguini with 'sea treasure' - scallop, clams, mussels and some fresh wet fish (maybe some cod or bass, caught off Slapton), with a warm spinach and pine nut salad. Then for dessert, figs and chocolate - thought to be some of the world's greatest aphrodisiacs (the fig is believed to have been Cleopatra's favourite fruit, while the Aztecs linked the cocoa bean and sexual desire), so together they will certainly cause a 'rumpus'.
To finish off this dramatic dinner, dripping Elmhirst cheese (from Sharpham) - in my opinion possibly the best cheese in the world.
How did your passion for cooking start?
All my life I've been devising recipes, travelling, eating, trolling through wonderful delis and collecting cookery books. I'm always looking for the one thing that everyone wants to eat.
I'm inspired by ingredients. I brought back some basil seeds from Italy and planted them. Next thing I knew we had a greenhouse full of fragrant organic basil so I made pesto and sold it to Riverford.
Inspired by this I began to think about what else I could create. As we were rearing Norfolk Black turkeys at the time, Christmas hampers seemed the obvious answer. The hampers contained a plump bird, soups, Stollen cake and a vegetarian loaf.
You're famous for your soups. What inspires your recipes?
The soups are devised from food combinations that I like such as pear and Stilton. I was inspired by a school trip to Normandy when I first ate Camembert with pear. I loved it, and I remembered that wonderful combination. I just knew it would make a great-tasting soup.
Combinations are really important to me, marriages made in heaven for the taste buds. Take crab and mango, it makes a fab salad and a very sexy soup.
Many of the the soups for Tideford come from journeys I have made, Moroccan vegetable soup, discovered in the souk in Marrakesh (incidentally one of our best sellers). In fact, we always have a shot of soup with our aperitifs at the supper club. Last month it was Jerusalem artichoke, though I like to keep it as a surprise shot!
How do I get to sit at your table and taste your food?
Get on our supper club list! We send out invitations to dinner, places are given out on a first-come first-served basis. At the moment they are held at Fingals, a truly delightful hotel near Dittisham, with inspirational hosts Richard and Sheila Johnston, where we can entertain around 18 members. You can always make a night of it and stay.
The location may change from time to time, perhaps to a picnic on the beach, or dinner on a boat going up the Dart.
The supper club costs 25 per person. For more information about dates call (01803 712787).