Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Party on - party off!

Plan A was to have the usual family party, have everyone round, whip up an extraordinary array of canapés, M favouring small food rather than meal-sized portions and then having a main meat feature with a cornucopia of vegetable accompaniments (bearing in mind the various familial vegetables proclivities). But it was decided this year to go to Plan B instead; I would contribute a few delights to the Boxing Day meal and travel to them instead of the usual vice versa. My intention was to make the Beef Wellington canapés that were consumed so incredibly speedily at my last ‘at home’. And then at M’s behest I would make Jamie Oliver picnic loaf, the one that looks like a giant lumpy doughnut or a bread snake that has swallowed a line of hard-boiled eggs. I thought that it was rather more picnic than Boxing Day buffet but she wanted to taste it for herself. For the finale I thought I would reprieve my favourite ever Chocolate Mousse recipe from Joël Robuchon, definitely a crowd pleaser.

Sadly however, a sudden dash to hospital meant that we moved swiftly to Plan C, no family get together and taking it in turns to visit the hospital instead. Fortunately Uncle D came back from hospital after a few days but has since made a couple more visits and I honestly can’t believe it for the food even if they do favour steamed puddings for dessert.

But Plan C did mean that we had a few unexpected items burning a hole in the fridge and the first priority was to ensure that fine beast of beef fillet found a new home. And one nestling alongside a mound of fabulously fluffy mash potatoes seemed ideal.

We started the meal with a new appetiser from Waitrose/Ocado, a pork and apricot concoction in a non-edible wooden boat. It was okay but my Beef Wellingtons would have been much tastier. I didn't make a dessert because we had a couple of sweet goodies at hand but this is definitely make this.

Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse
Serves 6-8 ~ from Joël Robuchon - Cuisine Actuelle

140g bittersweet chocolate preferably Valrhona, finely grated or chopped 30g unsalted butter, softened 4 large eggs, separated 1 level tablespoon vanilla sugar 50ml double cream, chilled
6tbsp icing sugar

- Melt the chocolate in an uncovered double boiler over gently simmering water.
- Add butter and stir frequently removing from heat before the chocolate pieces are melted, the residual heat will continue to melt it.
- Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside to cool.
- With an electric mixer beat the egg yolks and vanilla sugar until thick and lemon coloured.
- Whisk this into the cooled chocolate mixture until thoroughly blended.
- Whip the cream until stiff, with a rubber spatula, fold the whipped cream into the mousse mixture until thoroughly blended.
Set aside.
- With an electric mixture, combine the egg whites and icing sugar and whisk until stiff but not dry.
- Whisk 1/3 in to the chocolate mixture and combine thoroughly.
- With a rubber spatula gently fold in the remaining egg whites.
Do this slowly until no streaks of white remain.
- Transfer to a 2pint/1.1 litre serving bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

This mousse recipe is sublime and continues to showcase Joël Robuchon’s genius; the touch of whipped cream elevates it beyond your usual chocolate mousse recipe.
The only challenge is that I normally halve this recipe when I’m pleasing a smaller crowd and whipping 25ml double cream is quite tricky with a conventional mixture, fortunately now my beloved Bamix can help me out with this task.

And the special M request:

Rolled bread of Parma ham, nice cheese, egg and basil
Jamie Oliver from Happy Days with Naked Chef

Bread dough made with 1kg strong bread flour
10 slices of Parma ham
8 large organic eggs, boiled for 8 minutes and shelled
400g cheese (a mixture of Cheddar, Fontina, Parmesan or any other cheesy leftovers, grated
2 handfuls fresh basil
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

- Allow your bread dough to have its first prove and then dusting the dough with flour as you shape it into a long rectangle about 1 cm thick - this should end up being about 1m long and about 18-20 cm wide - Along the middle of the bread, lay out your Parma ham, eggs, cheese and basil. - Drizzle with extra Virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. - Pull the dough over the filling so it forms what looks like a cannelloni shape. - Then what you need to do is bring one end round to the other so they join up. - Pinch and pat the two ends together firmly to form a doughnut shaped loaf. - Transfer to a flour-dusted baking tin, allow to prove for 15 minutes, dust with flour and place in a preheated oven at 180o C for 35 minutes until golden.
- Allow to cool and slice when you’re ready to serve, if you’re lucky it will still be warm in the middle.

The recipe does mention the optional additions of sun dried tomatoes and olives but as they are optional I have opted to leave them out. My paternal grandmother wasn’t a fan of tomatoes and pretty much everyone on her side of the family share this distaste. Some have tempered the hatred and allowed tomato ketchup or tomato sauce on a pizza to creep into their lives others have banished all traces of the dreaded red stuff from their lives (I think you can guess which camp I fall into!) So you can’t blame me really, it’s in my genes!
If Plan A had occurred, I think the tomato-dodgers would have outnumbered the tomato worshippers so I would have been vindicated. I will find some reason to make this for M, I can vouch for the fact that it makes a tasty brunch on subsequent days so it won't be wasted.

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