Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Too many tomatoes in the world!

Tonight there's a new special starter of duck liver parfait (ah that rings a bell, I had really enjoyed its smooth creaminess earlier) but inexplicably it comes with yet another tomato concoction since my first taste of it so now it seems three out of the five starters have tomato in them. The fourth has blue cheese so I guess it's Hobson's choice of Cured Organic Salmon Plate - Braised Fennel, Lemon, Parsley and Caperberry Purée. I really enjoyed my Galantine of Local Game Birds once it had been de-tomatoed so perhaps the scallops can be rescued from their tomato drowning tomorrow, it's worth asking.
The amuse bouche is another quirky dish of Carrot and Ginger jelly with Ginger crumbs and watercress. When presented it did look scarily like a half of tomato but clearly my obsession is affecting me now and I'm seeing things. It could also be compared to an egg yolk deprived of its white. It's firmer than a jelly, and it slices into pleasing golden crescents which work well with the Ginger crunch.

The Cured Organic Salmon Plate - Braised Fennel, Lemon, Parsley and Caperberry Purée wouldn't necessarily be a dish I'd normally choose off the menu. I'm not entirely sure why, I love salmon but its treatment in this case sounds a tad austere. I suspect the thought of the strong tang of the caperberries makes my mouth pucker slightly in my mind. The salmon was really good though, a small slab of translucent moist flakes revealed in every mouthful. They was nicer than I thought but the accompaniments were still a little too feisty for my sadly delicate tastes. But it's good to try something new so I far from regret it.
I can only assume this aversion to bitter, tart or spicy is due to eating rather mild food as a child. At home we'd have something as exotic as even garlic very, very occasionally so my abiding memories of family dinners consist of simple comfort food, cauliflower cheese, fish pie, cottage pie, roast beef with boiled potatoes, sprouts and unusual yet very distinctive untainted-by-meat gravy, boil-in-the-bag cod in butter sauce, Findus crispy pancakes (just wrong but enjoyed at the time I guess!) meat and potato pie (from the chippy), mash potatoes (made from Smash invariably - oh the shame!), bacon butties in white floury 'oven-bottoms', in fact white bread doorstops thickly buttered featured heavily also. Because of regular trips to Paris and my parents many French friends and associates, I think we occasionally dabbled in more French bistro food than my peers, home-made quiche Lorraine with cheese pastry, French onion soup, pâtés, omelettes, soft cheese possibly Boursin, chocolate mousse, thin crêpes and those very fine-crusted apple tarts. We also had a metal rotary cheese grater from Paris, several fondue sets and all the necessary accouterments for consuming snails! This was considered very daring and the mere thought of such decadence to my grandparents would be greeted by a screwed up face and a loud declaration of "foreign muck!" But then they seemed to believe that good clean food came from a can, a mere whiff of tinned boiled potatoes, those flaccid slightly slimy tinny ovoids will instantly transport me back to regimented meals of Goblin steak & kidney pudding (if you ever get the chance, just say "no!"), butterscotch Angel Delight, tinned carrots, being forced to "just have five" tinned grey pea bullets and slices of flabby ham edged with a nasty jelly (you've guessed it from a can). I never had a very happy relationship with milk, when I drank it at home it had to be really cold and not a trace of cream. M would carefully pour off the top layer from the silver topped bottle and squirrel it away for her next coffee. If someone shook the bottle to mix up the cream and the milk, then that bottle wasn't for me. Gold top was always too creamy full stop! Hmmm do I sound rather fussy? School milk was so repellent I struggled daily to get the merest sip down. But my grandparents went one ghastly step further and only had sterilized long-life milk; Which pushed me well over the edge to total milk avoidance. Their attempts to initiate me in the fine art of drinking tea hit a large UHT brick wall. It was until decades later I discovered that black very weak Earl Grey is also tea, so I can join in this tradition now.
Apparently my grandmother used to be a decent cook in her time but by the time she had to feed a reluctant granddaughter for those long summer holidays she had hung up her apron and it had become all about convenience and the dullest grey most undemanding foods. It wasn't until adulthood that I dared to even try a pea again (and still never tinned) and an offer of mushy peas would probably make me run a mile!
Her one saving grace in the culinary arts was a fresh very nutmeg-y and voluptuously wobbly custard tart (maybe you couldn't get those in a can!) and also (possibly out of desperation) she permitted me to have a possibly unnatural amount of strawberry jam sandwiches. She bought only the thinnest of sliced bread which the jam would pleasingly seep through, stain and generally make me very sticky fingered! Some fond food memories but definitely not good preparation for forming an adventurous palate in later life!

My main dish was today's special - Rump of Lamb with Pistachio Cream, Prune Jam, Crusted Potatoes. The lamb was tasty but tricky to cut as a rump can be, perhaps I should have requested a steak knife and saved my fingers battling to produce bite-sized morsels. There was a pleasing subtle crunch to the prune jam which I later discovered was due to the inclusion of figs which made perfect sense when explained as the texture couldn't have been mere prune. The dish had a great flavour and I rather relished the slightly quirky pistachio cream and prune/fig concoction but I do wish I hadn't had to go five rounds with the lamb before it relinquished any meat. Maybe that serves me right for remarking on the bream dish being "almost too easy to eat" yesterday, today I'm exhausted!

After missing out last night I was determined not to be thwarted tonight and I secured an Assiette of Priory Orchard Apple - Apple Tatin, Apple and Blackberry Crumble, Blackberry Sorbet. Though typically tonight it's all about the Orchard Plum and Cognac Soufflé which every other table seems to be eagerly awaiting to emerge from the kitchen. I hear 'sotto voce' repeated apologies and explanations for the delay due to some recalcitrant oven whilst I tuck into my dessert which hasn't sufferered a similar fate. The Tatin tastes as they normally do, with the pastry being a little soaked by apple juice and caramel for the pastry to add the pleasing crunchy texture to the dish I had on Christmas Eve. But then normally the pastry doesn't protrude beyond the apple-y mosaic so of course it will serve as a sponge for all the fruity oozings, which I'm guessing the Tatin sisters had in mind after all. Maybe my recent tatin was an impostor! Tyler has anticipated my craving for crunch and there's a tasty autumnal treat of a darkly berried crumble with an abundance of biscuity topping. There's also a damn fine punchy blackberry sorbet which it's delectably smooth. this is one of the stars of to tonight's meal, the others being the Pistachio Cream and the Prune Jam. Maybe I'm having a purple and green moment!

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