Sunday, January 27, 2008

Stuffed Yorkshire Pudding

M&S sell these crusty Yorkshire puddings with a little extra, lurking inside the crisp batter shell is a succulent stew of steak and a light gravy. I wanted to accompany it with something green so stirred up this melange of finely sliced leek rounds, a few handfuls of frozen petits pois and some shredded lettuce.
And I succumbed to a couple of new plates in the January sales (and yes hard to believe my restraint but I only bought two!) so here is my Julien Macdonald white platinum lace plates. What was a surprise is that the way the platinum reflects the surroundings I was convinced these were black and silver; it was quite a surprise to find when I got them home that they weren’t. They are rather lovely though! I seem to have been attracted to quite a few pieces of Julien Macdonald's loveliness, I can only assume he has seen into my oh so sparkly soul and is designing with me in mind. Well I like to think so anyway!

Friday, January 18, 2008

So how was it for you?

So I did it, I cooked along with Gordon Ramsay Cookalong Live as did seemingly many other late eaters around the country. Firstly as promised, I had to make a late substitution for the starter as it seemed pretty pointless attempting the original salsa without the tomato, olives and coriander. The only thing was that I started it at 9 o’clock as per the schedule but then I had to cook the new potatoes first and I hadn’t boiled the kettle – naughty! So I had to play a little catch up during the gap left for eating aka the advert break and Gordon’s culinary guest challenges. With it being January, unsurprisingly summer truffles were a little thin on the ground so I added a little drizzlet of truffle oil to the crème fraîche dressing and it was very good! I hope that Gordon was impressed with my choice of crockery – yes, another excuse to get out the Royal Doulton Gordon Ramsay finest.

Scallops and new potato salad with summer truffle dressing recipe

Serves 4

* About 12 new potatoes

* 10 large scallops

* 1 medium-sized summer truffle

* 2 tbsp rock chives, chopped

* 2 tbsp crème fraîche

* Juice 1 lemon

* 1 tsp curry powder

* Olive oil

* Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Boil the new potatoes in salted water until cooked, drain and set aside.

2. Trim the scallops and slice each one in half horizontally, so that one scallop produces two even slices. Mix the curry powder with 3 teaspoons of salt and use to lightly dust the scallops. Heat some olive oil in a pan and sauté the scallop slices quickly - roughly 30 seconds on each side.

3. Whisk together the lemon juice, crème fraîche and a little olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Finely chop some truffle pieces and add this to the dressing.

4. Slice the potatoes into rounds that are the same thickness as the scallops. Arrange an alternating circle in the centre of each plate - potato slice, scallop slice, potato slice, etc. Allow for 5 slices of scallop per plate.

5. Arrange a handful of frisée in the middle of the circle. Drizzle over the crème fraîche and truffle dressing. Finely slice any remaining truffle over the top. Serve immediately.

And I forgot the chives as the method didn’t remind me to add the chives at any stage so clearly someone else forgot them too! I also popped the slices of potatoes in the pan with the scallops to add a little colour. The dressing on the salad was delicious and I’ll definitely use this again. I don’t normally use crème fraîche in my salad dressings but I’ll remember this for next time.

The steak and chips recipe I followed word for word - fortunately no nasty tomatoes sneaking in here!

The centrepiece from Gordon's Cookalong Live menu is this glorious steak and chips recipe

Serves 4

For the chips

* 4 large Desiree potatoes

* 2 tbsp Groundnut oil

* Salt and freshly ground black pepper

* A generous pinch chilli flakes

For the steak

* 4 sirloin steaks (approx 200g-250g each)

* Salt and freshly ground black pepper

* 2 tbsp groundnut oil

* 25g butter

For the salad

* 1 tbsp white wine vinegar

* 3 tbsp olive oil

* Salt and freshly ground black pepper

* 120g rocket

* 50g parmesan, shaved

1. To make the chips: preheat the oven to 220C/ Gas 7.

2. Fill a large pan with boiling water, add a pinch of salt and place over a high heat. Cut each potato in half lengthways and then place the cut side down onto the board. Cut each half potato into 1cm thick wedges.

3. Add the potato wedges to the boiling water, bring to the boil agai

n and boil for 3 minutes. Drain in a colander and then place the colander sitting over the pan, off the heat, to allow the wedges to dry further. Add the groundnut oil, salt, pepper and chilli flakes and toss well to coat.

4. Tip the wedges into a large baking tray (big enough so that the wedges sit in one layer so they crisp up evenly) and shake the tray until they are evenly spread out. Place the tray in the oven and cook for 30 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Sha

ke the tray once or twice during cooking to ensure even cooking.

5. To cook the steak: place one large or two smaller non-stick frying pans over a high heat and leave until smoking hot.

6. Place the steaks onto a large chopping board and if one needs to be cooked well done, roll it flatter with a rolling pin so that all the steaks can all go into the frying pan at the same time. Season the steaks on both sides with salt and black pepper and once the frying pans have reached temperature, add approximately two tablespoons of groundnut oil.

7. Carefully lay the steaks (the well done one first) in the hot frying

pan. Tilt the pan away from you so that the fat is touching the side of the pan to ensure the fat is cooked and golden. Shake the pan to make sure the steaks aren’t sticking. Fry for 3 minutes on one side and then using tongs turn the steaks starting with the first steak you placed in the pan. Fry for 2 minutes and then add the butter to the pan. Spoon the melted butter over the steaks to baste them. Remove the rare steaks from the pan and set aside on to rest.

8. Leave the medium/ well done steak in the pan to cook for another minute. Remove the steaks from the pan and leave to rest for a few minutes on a large plate. Spoon the juices from the pan over the steaks to add extra flavour.

9. While the steaks are cooking, start making the salad. Pour the white wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper into a salad bowl and then whisk to combine. Place the salad servers together over the dressing, place the rocket on top and then using a vegetable peeler shave the parmesan onto the rocket. Leave until you are ready to serve and then toss.

10. To serve, lay out four plates, place a steak onto each plate, pour over the juices from the resting plate, divide the chips between the plates and add a spoonful of salad.

The sirloin was just perfectly cooked, I don’t normally baste the steaks with butter but it added that little special cheffy quality. The chips had a nice touch of heat with the chilli flakes but I should have added a tad more - how very outré of me! I am not sure how everyone else managed with one large potato but either my potato was enormous or you were supposed to have spares for backup as I had a little potato mountain left over. I wasn’t sure if I had room for chocolate mousse but in for a penny…

Gordon Ramsay brings his Cookalong menu to a close with this sumptuous chocolate dish

Serves 4

* 150g dark chocolate

* 250ml crème fraîche

* 284ml double cream

* 25g icing sugar, sifted

* 1-2 tbsp coffee liqueur (optional)

* 2 chocolate covered honeycombs (frozen for 10 minutes)

1. Break the dark chocolate into small pieces (reserving 25g for grating later) and place in a bowl that fits snugly over a pan of boiling water. Leave until the chocolate has completely melted and then remove from the heat and set aside.

2. Add the crème fraîche to the melted chocolate and whisk until combined. Put the double cream and icing sugar into a separate bowl and whisk with an electric whisk until it forms soft peaks. Fold the chocolate mixture into the cream, add the coffee liqueur and stir to combine.

3. Remove the chocolate covered honeycomb bars from the freezer, remove the packets and wrap them in a clean tea towel. Place the tea towel under a chopping board and press down hard on the chopping board to crush the honeycomb. Open up the tea towel and tip the crushed honeycomb into the mousse and gently fold through with a spatula. Spoon the mousse into four small serving dishes and then grate over the remaining chocolate and serve.

I left out the optional coffee liqueur being so over coffee despite my somewhat impressive coffee cup collection – well they are so useful. Even for a little mousse it seems occasionally. I am pretty exhausted after the cooking marathon and I have managed to take my kitchen to brand new heights of utter destruction! Oh my! Now I need a wash up-athon!

Update: It was terribly remiss of me not to mention how delicious the chocolate mousse was and how so very quick. When I made Nigella's 'Instant Chocolate Mousse' I was slightly thwarted by it needing chilling and as there was no room in the fridge I had to leave it to set a little of its on volition - which it almost managed. However I still had to serve it more soup-like than I would have liked, thus not being as instant as the recipe implied. Though I have to admit the infamous dessert-botherer - the lovely E(D) didn't seem to mind, it was a dessert to be heartily consumed however curiously liquid! But Gordon 's creation was pretty instant also (especially deploying the much loved silver Bamix) and it didn't need to firm up in the fridge. Though he did say it might, and when he made it live he left out the coffee liqueur to ensure it didn't get too sloppy which was an extra convincer for me to avoid the dreaded coffee flavour. And it worked, the mousse perkily sat in the little espresso cup like a bronzed Mr Whippy with its chocolate dusting of dandruff and tasted fabulous. And the Crunchie shards at the bottom of the cup were a pleasing touch. I will definitely make that again especially when I what a quick chocolate hit!
Oh another point, I only made half the specified recipe amount as I thought that whipping up a quarter of the ingredients might have defeated my Bamix a little, and there was a veritable mountain. Clearly my employment of my Gordon Ramsay espresso cups was considered stingy as I'm sure I could have eked it out to a generous 3 cups or maybe even 4, but even a chocolate lover like myself felt that was an adequate portion.
I haven't found anyone else who cooked along with Gordon, I hope a few more go for a later Sunday dinner tonight as it was rather fun, despite the ensuing kitchen mayhem!

On your marks...chop!

Okay I’m ready! I’ve been to Waitrose and stocked up on the ingredients for tonight cookalong with Gordon Ramsay cookathon. I’m sharpened my knives and assembled all the pre-requisite kitchen paraphernalia – I’m not normally so hot on the mis en place but I thought it would be fun to really join in. It’s been touted as the first live cooking show that you can join in. Not true as D and I are aficionados of the Sunday Lunches they used to do on Good Food on UKFood. Though I never actually cooked along to any of those shows.

This menu looks very straightforward, though I’d have to make so many alterations to the Scallops and Salsa starter it’s hardly worth me doing (I’d have to lose the tomatoes, olives and coriander) so to make sure I’m not really cheating I have substituted this scallop dish with another of Gordon’s dishes - Scallops and new potato salad with summer truffle dressing instead.

I hope he won’t mind. In fact I think I’ve given myself one marginally more challenging than that intended for tonight but hey, at least I’ll be able to enjoy it!

I have added my little hat to the cookalong live map which is filling up rather nicely and am pleased to see the proliferation of little Waitrose hats rather than Tesco (thought there’s a lot of those of well). Waitrose we well prepared and had piled their scallops high, the people either side of me on the fish counter seemed to be clutching very similar lists to mine and it seems that I won’t be alone in my ministrations tonight. I guess the latest of the hour will dampen many an ardent spirit but as MC can duly testify, I am not afraid of dining late occasionally!

I can’t bring myself to say “ready, steady cook” so instead it will have to be “on your marks, chop!

I'm only happy eating happy chickens!

I know I'm a little late but I wanted to add my support to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver's campaign to raise the awareness of the dreadful plight of both egg laying and bred for meat chickens. I was fully aware of battery hens and have not knowingly eaten a battery farmed egg for many years but the programmes did raise that niggle of 'not knowingly'. When we buy our eggs we can bypass the cheap eggs and go straight to those from happy chickens and personally I am a huge fan of the Clarence Court Cotswold Legbar chicken eggs and in fact many of their finest ovoids - all can be viewed on their marvellous hen-cam! I recommend a dawn or dusk visit as otherwise you'll be staring at the chicken sheds and wonder if a fox got there before you.
But I can make a choice when I buy my eggs of chickens but do I really know what's going on when I buy a ready made dish? The whole concept of using 'wet eggs' and the scary looking 'long egg' really sent a chill down my spine. I think like many I am going to have to ask a lot more questions and look more closely at what I am buying in the future. I only want to eat happy chickens.
If you haven't done so already, please add your support to the Chicken Out campaign, perhaps the supermarkets will listen eventually and these awful intensive practices will finally be outlawed.
Click here to add your name to the list - and you'll be rewarded with a happy cluck!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

It's quite easy being green

It’s funny that when Stephanie cited “Veggie Friendly” for this month’s blog party I wasn’t at all bothered unlike a certain vegetable dodger I know who veritably raised an eyebrow over the phone at my assumed deprivation. I don’t know why she thought I’d struggle despite my love of meat, I am a huge fan of a well turned out cauliflower cheese, will rhapsodise over seasonal English asparagus or purple sprouting broccoli and of course I’m never going to say no to a Gratin Dauphinoise or creamy mashed potatoes. I’m also rather partial to a sprout! Though I don’t think I could ever be a vegetarian and that’s mainly because if I were dining out at a restaurant that doesn’t presume to be vegetarian I feel that the only options I have to select from would be tomatoes or goats’ cheese, and that’s never ever going to happen!

I had some unusual ideas about presentation, my vast array of tableware and crockery didn’t immediately set a theme so I thought I’d do something more original. Many years ago a catered event I was at had all the dinky canapés served on glass deep glass/Perspex trays that were filled with grass or pebbles or flowers. I couldn’t find suitable trays and am pretty convinced I’d struggle with the grass and/or flowers I’d like in January so opted for photo frames with suitably verdant images instead. I think they turned our rather striking. And now all I have to do is adorn them with canapés!

Firstly I thought I’d tackle some teeny loaded skins, I steamed the baby new potatoes and then carefully scooped some of the soft potato out with a coffee spoon. I topped about a quarter with a sautéed mushroom duxelle finished with a few dropped of heady truffle oil. Some of the potatoes had a traditional Cheddar cheesy topping and others with cooler blobs of Boursin. The last remaining skins were packed full of basil pesto. Definitely fiddly but a great start!

Next I decided to make little creamy leek tarts but for a change I made tart cases from sliced white bread. I rolled the crust-less slices very thin with a tiny rolling pin (a fortunate addition to my yet unused ravioli making tray received as present many years ago) and cut the slices into 2 ½ “ circles. These circles I encouraged gently into my mini muffin tray and baked them for 10 minutes at 180 C until they were slightly golden. Then I filled then with a tasty leek fondant sautéed with double cream and a spoonful of herbs de Provence mustard – delicious!

The butternut squash risotto worked well on the white Chinese spoons which looked rather handsome against their bed of ‘astro turf’. The butternut squash was a perfect companion to the risotto, if I wasn’t being friendly to vegetarians I might had added a little pancetta but on this occasion I resisted.

To my delight I’d been able to purchase more of the gorgeously unctuous Camembert with truffle butter from Waitrose and though it may seem a bit of a sacrilege I topped the sautéed chestnut mushrooms with a little knob of this wonderful cheese and popped them under the grill. These were truly fabulous and the truffly Camembert stuffed mushrooms were possibly my favourite herbivore canapé.

I’d also been able to get some lovely locally grown (well Kent as I bought it from the Canary Wharf Waitrose) purple sprouting broccoli and made a soupçon of gruyere cheese fondue to accompany the emerald spears. It’s a shame they don’t stay purple though!

The only disappointment was the mushroom pizza. I’d been delighted to see that Waitrose sold a mushroom and crème fraîche pizza but I didn’t spot the small print under the base. I read the ingredients for the fillings and sauce carefully to ensure no tomatoes slipped through but when I started scanning the ingredients for the pizza base and read flour, yeast etcetera I stopped reading and didn’t notice the entirely unnecessary additional base of tomato sauce until I remove it from the box to cook and wondered why the mushrooms were tinged with red. Curses, what a waste! I did bake it and I did try it but after a while all those smidgeons of tomato tipped my anti-tomato meter into the overload section and I couldn’t stomach another mouthful. Damn those red fruit/vegetable/salad ingredient whatever it is! I thought the whole idea of a crème fraîche base is as an alternative to tomato for those of us who’d rather avoid it but why have two sauces, so redundant!

For the drink I eschewed a cocktail in favour of the more akin to the theme flowery Jasmine white tea leaves served in the wonderful little glass cups that D bought from the tea shop in Covent Garden to accompany these fabulous triffid-like blooms.

I hope that as an ardent vegetarian I can tempt Stephanie to try some of my petite delights this month. I am sure they’ll be lots of interesting green morsels to sample this month and when the guests have assembled on Saturday I will post the entries here.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Terribly tardy tidings of 2008!

I just seem to be in a permanent state of playing catch up. As soon as all my little ducks are in a row (and I have many a duck to have in a row!) then a large duck destroying spanner is thrown into the works. As soon as my blog is bang up to date I then have a flurry of exciting bloggable events (not that I’m complaining about that) coupled with some sort of lurgy, tons of work deadlines or random blog writing-preventing impediments thrown at me. The end of last year was just a heap of time consuming, sleep depriving small matters of flood and pestilence though thankfully no fires! And due to all these domestic obstacles I was extraordinarily lax in my annual Christmas card creation activities. Yes I know, it would be so much easier to avail myself of a box of two of John Lewis’ finest but I like to make things a little more interesting for myself. So in lieu of an enormous pile of gastronomic delights to reminisce about and drool over, here is the belated card I put together as a humble apology for my dreadful lack of festive missives. I utilised some of my photographs from this years fabulous feasts and with a bit of help Photoshop managed to construct a passable albeit hasty e-card. If the little trees were slightly larger I could perhaps run a competition to ask you to identify which images from my blog I selected. Though even though you can’t see it very well you may be able to guess what I might have used for my star!

For those of you I have dined so elegantly and tastily with over the last few weeks I promise that eventually all will be revealed and you’re going to once again be able to relive that honey and chilli ice cream, the pudding of the day, the magnificent bird within a bird within a bird, the deconstructed crème brulee, the second annual Cambridge seafood festival, the most stunning melt in the mouth Daube de Boeuf “Mamon Novelli”, the cheesiest day ever, the finest of the fine dining at the French, bubble and squeak, Jamie’s delicious lamb, a plethora of beautiful crockery (and hardly any of it mine!), adventures with a Flavour Shaker, the shiniest and pointiest new Global knife and so much more. Firstly there's a tiny matter of a not so tiny party to organise and maybe then I can chain myself to the laptop and blog 'til it's 2009.

A tasty 2008 to you all!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Today I have been mostly eating cheese

D has driven me back to London with the car laden with Christmas and sale shopping booty, but it’s that awkward time of the day. It is way too late for lunch per se but just a tad early for dinner, that means that eatery options are somewhat limited. That special aroma that wood fired oven baked pizzas emit mingled with garlic juices draws us in to Pizza Express. We are led to our little round table and glancing around note something quite peculiar. We seem to be the only people in here not with child, and I don’t mean pregnant but we are unique in the fact we aren’t dining en famille. So as you can imagine the noise level and the amount of post-Christmas glitter and pink marabou (the hair ornament of choice it seems) is higher than I would expect.

We pounce on their new cheesy mushroom starter though need much reassurance that it’s not goats’ cheese wrapped in Parma ham on a fat mushroom, but it wasn’t (thankfully) it was an unctuous melting soft cheese and was rather delicious! To go with the mushroom with had some incredibly cheesy and garlicky bread. Yes, more cheese!
I had the non-tomato pizza on the menu, the crème fraîche based pizza with ham, mushrooms and lashings of cheese on that lovely crispy Roma base. D went for something more olive-y and tomato-y, well each the their own! We started the day with our oozy cheese sandwich of mozzarella in carrozza and then finished with two more cheese dishes, Gromit would be so proud!

Mozzarella in carrozza

We’d spotted the idea whilst flicking through a stack of our old favourites – Olive, Delicious and Waitrose Food Illustrated and when I mentioned to D that I didn’t think I’d ever had eggy bread she thought we really should address this. I suspect this particular version first came to my attention when Nigella extolled the virtues of these soggy and pulpy mozzarella in a carriage (a bread one, I assume) on Nigella Bites when it first hit our screens. She recommended using ‘white plastic bread’ as the texture does rather lend itself to squelching the two halves together in the eggy, milky mixture. Be prepared to get a little messy!

We made some sliced mozzarella sandwiches out of our crustless white bread and dipped each side into a little flour. Then the floury sandwich was flipped over in a shallow dish of beaten egg, milk and black pepper. The whole sandwich was fried in a little oil and butter until tinged with golden brown.

The recipe did suggest perhaps a little leftover Parma ham could be added to the sandwich before anointing in the egg-blushed bath, but the likelihood of there being any leftover meat products in this house was slim and none and today was no exception.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

A taste of Novelli

Over ten years ago I visited the long-gone Maison Novelli in Clerkenwell with F. My only memory is the most awesome daube de boeuf , which was the archetypical eat-with-a-spoon dish, it just melted in the mouth and instantly made me a life-long fan of this French classic. And when D had the sudden, random and rather excellent idea of venturing forth into a possible blizzard to check out Jean-Christophe Novelli’s pub the White Horse in Harpenden, I was crossing my fingers that I could relive that dish. We figured that at least of we got stranded there; there would be some good food to eat! But the weather held out and we arrived in the bright, white beamed ceiling restaurant full of square tables and chairs upholstered in intriguing fabric emulating button-back Chesterfields. The tables are all set with generous wine and water glasses that tinkle together as you walk along the wooden floor, it’s like a little symphony if you don’t tiptoe enough. We start by tearing into the scrummy herby and slightly beery bread that arrived on our table in a terracotta plant pot and consult the menu.

D selected the White onion and almond soup, black olive and truffle puff pastry for her starter, which did look very fine, though if I am being picky the puff pastry was a little 'caramelised'.

I plumped for the Scallops ‘sweet and sour’ roasted, celeriac purée, crushed herbs belle de fontenay, apple purée which were succulent and sweet with the cacophony of creamy purées and the cake of wonderful smashed belle de fontenay potatoes. Quite excellent!

And I got my dearest wish! We both pounced on the Daube de boeuf “Mamon Novelli” pot braised beef with liquorice, Chantenay carrots, pancetta, pomme mousseline which was definitely worth waiting for; just as I remembered, moist, meaty and marvellous. Utterly sublime and that wasn’t just the mash! Well done Jean-Christophe’s mother!

For my dessert I went for the Chocolate fondant, infused Tonka bean, prune and Armagnac ice cream. The chocolate fondant wasn’t as oozing-in-the middle as it should have been which was a tad disappointing and therefore a little dry but I enjoyed the ice cream and some of D’s parfait instead. And to be honest I was a little full from all that indulgence. I should say that they did happily remove it from the bill as they agreed it wasn’t the finest exponent of the chocolate fondant art.

D’s Iced peanut parfait, almond praline, Columbian chocolate truffle was rather a stunner though, I probably would have been tempted apart form a deep-seated fear of peanut butter; it just sticks to the roof of your mouth – ugh! But this was very good, I guess icing the peanut butter would prevent the tendency to cling to everything it touches, good move!

I am very grateful that D was willing to tackle the potential perils of the long drive to this almost empty but boutique-hotel elegant restaurant and apart from the minor transgression in my dessert (all forgiven now) this was a fabulous three forker! Oh and that daube, the stuff of dreams!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

'Today's pudding' at the Cambridge Chop House

As soon as I hear of a new eatery called the Cambridge Chop House that boasts of a ‘pudding of the day’ on the blackboard outside my carnivorous little heart demands a visit. So gathering a little band of like-minded meat eaters we enter the curiously empty place. We descend the stairs and immediately wonder if we are the first diners since the tape scissoring and Champagne cork popping. We have a little nose around the cavernous basement; with the elegant Fornasetti clad wall and the dramatic pictures of cows grazing dreamily against the backdrop of the stunning gothic façade of King’s College.

We may be downstairs but it’s so white, well lit with lamps and overhead spots and full of pale wood and interesting alcoves. For once I don’t have to complain about grainy photographs.

Today’s pudding turns out to be the one I was hoping for - steak & kidney served with mash and greens and D and I decide to share one of the fine beasts.

With a mighty pudding ahead of me I settle for a light Smoked Salmon, Herbs and Lemon for a starter. And the rose-tinged slices go down very well. LLcT and E(D) seem rather taken by their Baked Duck Parcels with Sweet and Sour Cucumber but then they’re not indulging in a proper suet pudding.

And now for the main event, our plump Steak and Kidney Pudding arrives with a flourish on a platter and is then split between our two plates and adorned with some mash and broccoli. Maybe because it was decanted onto the two plates or because of the dense ever so meaty interior but both D and I are craving a bit more gravy. Our waiter fortunately overhears us and produces a little jug of the much needed lubrication.

The mash maybe is not quite as buttery as I would have wanted (well it is my specialist subject!) but is the perfect medium to soak up all the meaty juices. It’s a shame initially we didn’t have enough of those. Apart from this initial slight lack of moisture, the pudding was rather fabulous though - you could definitely describe it as 'packing'! Clearly the Fray Bentos and the extremely bizarre Goblin efforts of my childhood have been completely and spectacularly trounced.

LLcT and E(D) have to run off to cram their heads full of historical facts or to flaunt a paintbrush at college and all D and I have planned is a thoroughly exhausting afternoon of shopping! So to fortify ourselves further we feel that a dessert is in order. Just for a change I go for the Chocolate Tart & Ice Cream, which is a very acceptable finale to our pudding-themed meal.

D opts for the ‘when in Rome option’ of Cambridge Burnt Cream and for those who haven’t been made aware of the age-old dilemma of ‘who did it first?’ the local belief is that Cambridge Burnt Cream was the genesis of the world famous crème brulée. And who am I to argue with those cows staring menacingly at me! Two pudding forks for the Cambridge Chop House.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

How does one make a hasselback potato?

We’ve got some delicious lamb for Sunday lunch but D and I had a hankering for some Hasselback potatoes and sat pondering the best way to make them. The knack is of course to thinly cut the peeled potato but not all the way through. The most common method seems to be to insert a metal skewer through the bottom part of the potato and then cut through until your knife hits the skewer. But therein lies the rub, ‘until your knife hits the metal skewer’, D and I feel much too precious about our knives to inflict such treatment on them. After scouring a few recipes we find that another common suggestion is to place the peeled potato into a large spoon and then the sides of the spoon would again prevent you from slicing the potato entirely. Again though, these seems somewhat perilous to the knives. I guess if you have a large bowled wooden spoon to hand, maybe a seventies salad server buried at the back of the kitchen cupboard that might work but we wanted to come up with alternative.

In the end we decided that the handles of two wooden spoons could be placed either side the plump peeled potato, would act as a barrier to slicing the potato all the way through but not jeopardise our prized blades. It did work, though a little tricky. The flat bowls prevented the wooden spoons from rolling all the place but they weren’t particularly keen on staying stride the errant potato. Clamping them down would have been useful but not terribly practical, in the end D held the spoons as I weald the knife. Afterwards MC reckons he could construct a suitable wooden contraption that would be the perfect Hasselback potato maker but as handy as it would had been today I guess it’s a rather niche product.

We take our beautifully sliced potatoes and baste them with melted butter, season them and pop them into 180C oven. We bake them for 45 minutes basting them again partway through the cooking process.

The effort is worth it and the resultant potatoes are both crunchy at the rims of the fanned out slices and soft and fluffy on the inside. And they go very well with the garlicky lamb, the lightly gingered carrots and sautéed cabbage.