Cookies and Pate

Cookies and Pate
Once again I managed to turn a holiday into an excuse to spend 12 hours a day in the kitchen, this time with a rather perfect background of Jazz recording next door, intoxicating blue sky and for that matter intoxicating amounts of wine.

 Although I particularly enjoyed the saxophone production line assisting me when making 80 canapés for the concert, the most successful recipes turned out to be duck liver pate (only in france) and chocolate chip cookies of which I couldn’t make enough…
Disclaimer: Unfortunately I had no scales or measuring jugs etc so I did mot of the amounts by sight… but I’ve written roughly the right amounts

Cookies
These cookies may not look much like cookies, more like misshapen slabs but I have testimonials that the are pretty damn good.

Makes roughly 30-40
500g butter
500g caster sugar
1tbsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
500-600g flour (until you have the right consistency)
pinch of salt
200g chocolate chips

1. Cream the butter and sugar together till light and fluffy.
2. Beat in the eggs one at a time with the vanilla extract, you will need to beat pretty hard to combine.
3. Add the flour a bit at a time with the salt and mix hard. You want to have the consistency of a stiff cake mix, not quite as solid as your average biscuit dough.
4. Finally stir through the chocolate chips.
5. Scoop ice cream size balls of the cookie dough onto a greaseproof paper lined tray and bake in the oven for 12-15mins at 180oC until the dough has spread out and the cookies are golden brown, just starting to crisp up on the edges, you may have to separate the cookies. Leave to cool and harden up, serve.

Pate
I’m not sure yet whether this pate will work out of france because it is so very french, mostly duck livers and garlic… I also realise the prospect of eating duck liver might freak some people out so there is an equally rich mushroom pate recipe below which pretty much looks the same too. Usually you would use brandy or port for this but all I had was wine… Likewise for the really daring feel free to set the alcohol in the pan on fire (flambé) I was just a bit scared of burning down someone else’s house.

Makes A lot.
900g duck livers
400g butter
pepper and salt
thyme
6 shallots
10 garlic cloves
200ml white wine
200ml red wine

1. Heat 200g of butter in a pan and add the shallots, garlic, pepper and lots of salt. Sweat for 5-8mins or until soft. Add the thyme.
2. Add the duck livers and brown all over, add the alcohol and bubble it off as quickly as possible (here is where the flambé comes in)
– you may want to do this in batches depending on your pan.
3. Blitz the livers mix and the rest of the butter in a food processor till smooth, pour into a dish and leave in the fridge to set.

Mushroom Pate

Makes a lot
150g butter
4 shallots
2 leeks

12 cloves garlic
700g basic white mushrooms (mix this up a bit and add different mushrooms for different flavour)
salt and pepper
tarragon
200g creme fraiche

1. Sweat the shallots, leeks and garlic in a pan with the butter, salt and pepper until soft. Add the tarragon and mushrooms and bubble until most of the liquid from the mushrooms has gone.
2. Blitz in a food processor with the creme fraiche, then pour into a dish and leave in the fridge to set.

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Dustbin Tales

Dustbin Tales
            A good friend of ours is one of my favourite types of people, the sort of person who will eat anything. I cannot stand fussy eaters. (I know I contradict myself a bit on this because of not liking cheese but you know what I mean) So of course I am always delighted when he comes round to dinner or drinks and I can palm of some of my latest invention on him. He is always a grateful receiver of any cookies, brownies or cake that are left lying round the house which I baked as a stress reliever and can’t persuade any of our family to eat any more. So I was delighted when I was asked to cater his 21st birthday. I had absolutely free reign on a savoury and sweet canapé spread; I could experiment with mini macaroons, cheesecake bites, three different sorts of dip and mini toad in the hole. I made mini satay chicken, white wine jellies, chargrilled squid and mini apple pies. Most of all I got to make a spread sheet to organise the whole thing – brilliant! The only request was that I make a cake like the one his mum made for him every year for his birthday.

            As I mentioned before this friend was famous for eating everything, so his mum had come up with a dustbin cake. A chocolate cake with the top sliced off, topped with all the disgusting gummy sweets he wasn’t allowed most of the year and then the top of the cake placed over them. Now I wanted to go one step further for this cake. So I planned a 4 layer chocolate cake, of which I cut out a hole in each layer. I filled the hole with gummy sweets, smothered the cake in chocolate icing with a few token gummy worms making their exits down the sides and topped the whole thing off with a pure chocolate disc lid. On this lid I piped lines coming off the centre and added on a fondant handle and there you have it a pure chocolate dustbin. I was later told that this was breakfast for weeks afterwards, ah well better to over cater than under….

When In Bruges…

When In Bruges
If you haven’t yet been to see the 39 steps in the Criterion theatre I would strongly advise getting a ticket (not that it seems to be going anywhere soon, they just celebrated their 3000th performance….). After you’ve been to see the fast paced, british slapstick comedy piece of genius, you might be peckish (we certainly were at 10pm). We headed over to what can be described as possibly too trendy for the group of Cambridge students that encountered it but I was very glad that we did go there because despite the overly trendy feel of exposed piping and industrial staircase the food was delicious and very good value. A restaurant called BELGO. I’ve been told the beer was rather good but I’m afraid the meagre sip of honey beer I tried just tasted like beer to me – I clearly haven’t had enough beer to taste the subtle nuances of different flavours. I did like the exciting looking test tube that one of the beers came in, and exciting presentation does always make me like things better, but I’m still not sure I would’ve liked any of the beers their no matter how superior their glassware.
Having ordered and declaring ‘I am a Snob’ to order the Snob mussels (well employed someone else to do it on my behalf – I was chicken), we were impressed when the starters came within minutes – did I mention it was 10pm? I made a very wise choice with the duck salad. It came warm with soft and crunchy croutons ( I do mean this), a perfectly on the cusp of soft boiled egg, some sort of delicious dressing (I would love the recipe) and hidden treasure troves of black pudding. Passing the salad round it got approval from all areas. Although a close second was the chicken liver pate which came with giant sourdough croutons and was rustic but spreadable with a salty smooth flavour – pretty sure I can create this one at home, watch this space. The melting gruyere cheese croquettes were never going to be my choice not only were they too cheesy for me, but also served with beer relish… however I was assured from all sides that they lived up to the hype and a very popular option round the table. There was also the lobster bisque which looked like a rather dull butternut squash soup but one sip was enough to show the there was a really deep seafood flavour, it wasn’t grainy and it wasn’t too thick or thin, I was almost jealous but luckily I was having the snob mussels for main, champagne, cream and lobster.

 
The blondie decided to splash out on the ‘add half a lobster for £10’ deal, although all of us were questioning whether surf and turf really expanded to include pork belly… As I’m afraid has been the case before I think the lobster was some what of a disappointment. The lobster lovers out there will probably heavily berate me for saying this but as my opposite dining partner said, lobster really only tastes properly fresh if it is cooked from living in a pot of boiling water (now I’m off to hide before the witch hunt comes) and this one was probably frozen… The sauce on my mussels was absolutely heavenly, full of flavour, decadent and the mussels weren’t chewy or overcooked. My only gripe was possibly I would’ve preferred to be offered bread to mop up the sauce, the fries were nice, but they were nothing special. I believe the same was said of the classic mussels, they were excellent too. I’m afraid I didn’t here much about the pork belly and half chicken as they were sitting down the other end of the table.

We finished the meal around midnight with a surprise plank of shots appearing from somewhere. I am still not entirely sure what these shots were but the menu described them as SCNAPPS SHOTS: MIXED SHOT STICKS IN A VARIETY OF FLAVOURS. I believe I smelt, apple, vanilla, chocolate… etc
Probably should’ve gone for the waffles/ice cream, the salted caramel flavour looked really good. Belgo – I shall be coming back!

Peas Please Louise: Mummy had a little lamb….

Peas Please Louise: Mummy had a little lamb….

Loosely based on a Fat Duck this is dedicated to my mum – Happy Mothers Day.

Ingredients (serves 2)
Lamb
2tsp fennel seeds
1 dried bay leaf
salt and pepper
3 juniper berries
dash lemon juice
800g rolled, boned lamb breast, cut in half widthways to make two pieces
Pea Puree
300g frozen peas
½ garlic stock cube (or 2 cloves crushed garlic)
pinch of salt
60g butter
dash of cream
dash lemon juice
4 sprigs dill
Caramelised Onion Gel
1 large white onion
1 large red onion
knob of butter
1 leaf gelatine
Pickled Cucumber
¼ cucumber stick
100ml olive oil
100ml white wine vinegar
black pepper
splash of lemon juice
3 sprigs dill
pinch of salt (3g)
pinch of sugar (5g)
Lamb Jus
Reserved caramel onions
Reserved lamb juice
Spelt Poppadoms
200g flour
water
oil
1tsp fennel seeds
50g spelt
pinch of salt


1.     For the Pickled Cucumber, peel and halve the cucumber lengthways. Halve lengthways again then halve widthways. Mix the oil, vinegar, pepper, lemon juice, salt, sugar and cucumber. Leave to marinate.
2.     For the Caramelised Onion Gel, peel the onions and slice into rings thinly. Put in a frying pan with the butter and cover, leaving over a low heat for 30mins. When the onions are golden and caramelised, remove from the heat and pour over 150ml water immediately, then cover. Leave for 5mins, and then drain the onions, reserving the liquid. Soak the gelatine in cold water for 1min then mix into the onion liquid. Place in the fridge for 1-2hrs until set*. Puree the remaining onions and reserve.
3.     For the Puree, Pour boiling water over the peas with the garlic. Leave for 3-5mins, topping up with boiling water if the water goes cold, until the peas are a bright green and do not feel frozen but feel a little tender. Drain and puree wit the butter and cream, leave aside.
4.     For the lamb, place in a shallow dish and pour over the spices. Then pour over boiling water and leave for 7mins.
5.     For the Poppadoms’, mix the flour, salt, fennel seeds, 2tbsp oil and spelt with water, adding until it forms a firm dough (roughly 100ml-200ml water). Split into 3 pieces and roll out thinly. Heat up 3tbsp oil in a pan till hot, fry each piece for 4mins until crispy, turning halfway.
6.     For the lamb, drain and reserve the liquid. Heat 1tbsp oil in a large pan and sear the lamb for 2-3mins on each side. Meanwhile mix the onions and 300ml reserved lamb liquid and heat to boiling, simmering for 5mins until it forms a jammy gravy.
7.     To serve, warm the pea puree and spoon a large teardrop onto the right side of the plate. Delicately place four cucumber pieces on the left of the tear drop on each plate at different angles. Chop each lamb piece into four slices and lay on top of the teardrop. Gently spoon over the gravy on the lamb. Spoon out dabs of the Caramelised onion gel and dot between the cucumber Finally break up the poppadum and place a shard between each lamb slice facing upwards, finish with dill sprigs.

*alternatively place in freezer for 30-40mins