A Taste of Autumn – Saturday, 3rd October 2015

Saturday’s “A Taste of Autumn” was both another enjoyable and convivial evening, thanks to my lovely guests.

butternut squash ravioliWhilst the diners chit-chatted, updating old friends, or getting to know new ones, I set about getting the first course on the plates.  This was home made Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage Butter.  I had pre-prepared the ravioli and frozen it, to be cooked within minutes in boiling water (the ravioli rise to the top when they are cooked)  and finished off with the sage butter and some thin curls of Parmesan.  The starter seemed to hit the spot and one of my lovely guests rated it as “tip top”!venison casserole

The main course was a Venison Casserole with Chestnuts, Port and Orange – it looked, smelled and tasted just like Autumn!  The venison, flavoured with port, garlic, juniper berries and thyme gave it a rich, rounded flavour and was cooked for several hours, rendering it soft, succulent and tender.  I served this with roasted purple carrots (currently available at Waitrose) and creamy potato and parsnip mash, enriched with both  butter and cream, in addition to the usual slop of milk.

Pudding was a ‘James Martin’ recipe of Spiced Plum Crumble – the plums were gently poached in a syrup of wine, cinnamon, star anise and nutmeg before being buried under a soft crumble mixture.  A choice of Vanilla Ice-cream or Vanilla Custard completed the dessert.

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Fillet of Beef with Whisky & Grain Mustard Cream Sauce

Steak in Whisky Cream Sauce Ingredients (to serve 8)

Fillet of Beef
1 tablesp. olive oil & a knob of butter
4-6 banana shallots
6 tablesp. whole grain mustard
20g brown sugar
Approx 600 ml double cream

1. First make the cream sauce:  Heat the butter and oil in a heavy based frying pan and add the shallots, stirring occasionally until just lightly golden.

2.  Add the whisky, bring to the boil and cook briskly until reduced to about two-thirds.

3.  Add in the grain mustard, brown sugar and double cream. Simmer the whisky sauce until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Season with salt and pepper and set aside until required.

4.  Drizzle a little olive oil over the fillet of beef and season with salt and pepper.  Roast in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees C for approximately 25 minutes.  The fillets needs to reach a temperature of 63-65 degrees C for medium rare, 70 degrees for med and approx 75-77 degrees C for well done (I used a probe to check).  Leave to rest for approximately 10 mins and then slice into thick steaks.

5.  Reheat the cream sauce and drizzle over and/or around the steaks.

Sabayon (From Raymond Blanc’s Kitchen Secrets)

This Sabayon is the basis for the Iced Coffee Parfait.  It can also be used to make mousses and fruit gratins – taken from Raymond Blanc’s “Kitchen Secrets“.  I have a Thermomix and used this to create the sabayon.  I have included both methods below.

Ingredients

4 medium egg yolks
50g caster sugar
125ml Muscat or other sweet dessert wine
1 tablesp lemon juice or to taste
150ml whipping cream

Thermomix Method:
Grind the sugar for up to 20 secs, speed 9.  Insert the butterfly whisk and add the egg yolks.  Cook at 50 degrees C for 4 minutes on speed 4.  Add the wine and continue to cook at 80 degrees C for 5 minutes, speed 3.  Remove the jug and plunge into a bowl of iced water for a minute or two.  Dry off the jug and replace.  Continue to whisk at speed 2 with no heat for another 5 minutes or until the sabayon has gone cold.

Traditional Method
In a large, heatproof bowl, whisk the egg yolks, caster sugar, wine and lemon juice together for 1 minute.  Stand the bowl over a bain-marie of barely simmering water, making sure it is not touching the water and whisk for 7 – 8 minutes (I recommend using an electric whisk) until it reaches 78 degrees C, resulting in a light, fluffy sabayon.  Remove the bowl from the heat and place over a larger bowl of crushed ice.  Continue to whisk until the sabayon is cold.

In another bowl, whip the cream to soft peaks and then fold into the cold sabayon.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use or freeze.

Iced Coffee Parfait (from Raymond Blanc’s Kitchen Secrets)

This was the dessert presented at the Supper Club Night – A Taste of France, taken from Raymond Blanc’s “Kitchen Secrets” from which I have already tried a number of recipes successfully.  A lovely dessert, but unfortunately, although the rIced Coffee Parfaitecipe states 10 – 12 servings, I found them to be rather meagre portions and would suggest that this dessert would better serve 8.  I attach a photo* from the book which shows a decent thickness to the slice – those that I served my guests were rather thinner!

Ingredients:

450ml prepared sabayon
75ml strong espresso coffee (ristretto)

For the Garnish:
50g shelled pistachio nuts
30g flaked almonds
30g icing sugar
2 tablesp. kirsch or Cognac (I had neither and used Almagnac)

For the caramel sauce:
70ml water
150g caster sugar
1/2 teasp arrowroot

To make the iced coffee Parfait: In a large bowl, gently fold the sabayon and coffee together.  Fill a terrine with the sabayon, smooth the top and freeze overnight.

To prepare the garnish: Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.  Mix the nuts with the icing sugar and alcohol of choice.  Scatter on a baking tray and bake for about 7 minutes until lightly golden and crunchy.  Allow to cool.

To make the caramel sauce:  Put 20ml of water in a small saucepan and add the sugar.  Leave for a few minutes, then dissolve over a medium heat and cook to a dark golden brown caramel.  Add the remaining 50ml water to stop the cooking.  Mix in the diluted arrowroot to thicken the sauce and leave to cool.

I must say, I struggled with this method of making caramel sauce, as the sugar kept crystallising, even though I had left it a few minutes before cooking (this is key).  In the end I did it the only way I knew how, which was to dissolve equal parts of sugar and water together over heat (I used 150g of each) and then boil until the required caramelisation occurred.

To serve:  Dip the terrine into hot water for 4 – 5 seconds to loosen the parfait, then run a warmed knife around it and turn it out onto a board.  Cut into slices with the warm knife.  Drizzle the caramel sauce onto individual plates and place a slice of parfait in the middle.  Scatter the caramelised nuts around the parfait and serve.

Supper Cub Night, 9th May 2015 – A Taste of France

Almond Syrup

Almond Sugar Syrup

Tapenade  |  Coq Au Vin Blanc  |  Iced Coffee Parfait

We were 12 diners for Saturday’s Supper Club night – “A Taste of France” and, as usual, my diners made for interesting and entertaining guests. The menu for the evening started with a welcome drink: “L’Amande Pastis.  This was a cocktail made up of one part Pastis (an aniseed flavoured French aperitif) to one part Almond Sugar Syrup and topped up with Soda Water to taste.  This would traditionally have been shaken with ice in a cocktail shaker, but as I would have had to this 12 times, I elected to premix the cocktail into a large glass pitcher jug and poured this over ice in individual glasses for guests as they arrived.

The starter was a black olive tapenade spread over toasted thyme and roasted tomato bread.  Ideally, the bread would have been freshly toasted and still reasonably warm when it arrived at the dinner table, but with 12 diners to cater for, I had to pre-toast the bread and serve it IMG_1288cold with the tapenade spread on top.

The main course was a white wine version of Coq au Vin – Coq au Blanc.  The recipe was taken from a cook book by Harry Eastwood: “The Skinny French Kitchen“.  Harry – despite her name – is a female and grew up in France.  She wrote this cook book in an effort to control weight and still enjoy traditional French brasserie cooking, keeping as much as possible to the original recipes but using much less fat, and therefore reducing the calorific value of each of the dishes in her book. I found the recipe slightly flawed in that it calls for the chicken to be cooked on the hob for 2 hours.  However, this rendered the chicken into a state of near disintegration and as there was rather a lot of liquid (almost 2 litres for 12 servings at the start of cooking) I found it was impossible to present it well on the plate.  I would recommend that the stock be reduced by half and that the cooking time, too, is reduced to just an hour, since the chicken will have already been partly cooked in the browning process in the pan, leaving the chicken meat still on the bone and retaining its shape, rather than falling off and into the sauce!

The dessert – “Iced Coffee Parfait” – was taken from Raymond Blanc’s “Kitchen Secrets”.  The recipe states 10 – 12 servings, which I relied upon.  However, in reality the servings were meagre and I would have preferred that they were a little more generous.  It was a lovely dessert, and I will certainly add it to my repertoire, but with a note that the recipe would better serve 8 than 10-12.

Tapenade

This starter was included in the Supper Club event – A Taste of France.  Easy to make and perfect for a supper party, as you can make it ahead of time.  My only tip would be to bring it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before serving (improves the flavour) and serve on some toasted roasted tomato & thyme bread.

Ingredients:

2 garlic cloves, peeled & finely chopped
100g anchovy fillets
100g salted capers, rinsed and drained
100g black olives (the crinkly ones) pitted and weighed AFTER pitting
3 tablesp extra virgin olive oil
A squeeze of lemon juice
Salt & Pepper

1.  Put all the ingredients, except the olive oil, into a food processor and blitz until the mixture forms a coarse paste.

2.  Add the olive oil and blitz again.

3.  Add lemon juice to taste and scrape out into a jar, smooth down the surface and cover with a thin layer of olive oil.

This will keep in the fridge for up to 10 days.

Coq Au Blanc (recipe taken from “The Skinny French Kitchen” by Harry Eastwood)

The recipe serves 6 and was ‘road-tested’ for the Supper Club – A Taste of France on 9th May 2015.

Ingredients:

1 Tablesp. Olive Oil
6 lg chicken thighs, skinned and on the bone
3 med. carrots, cut into small dice
3 med. onions peeled and finely chopped
3 tablesp. plain flour
400 ml white wine
500 ml Chicken Stock (I would recommend halving this quantity as the reality was a lot of liquid)
Bouquet garni of thyme, parsley and 3 bay leaves
250g button mushrooms
1 tablesp. tarragon leaves, chopped
Salt & Pepper

1.  Heat the olive oil in a large casserole dish, then brown the chicken pieces over a medium heat, turning them until they are golden all over.  Remove from the dish and set aside.

2.  Add the carrots, onions and celery to the dish, letting them absorb the juices for a few minutes.

3.  Next, add the flour to the dish and coat the carrots and onions thoroughly, turning them until there is no loose flour left.

4.  Add the wine and stock gradually, making sure to scrape up any left over flour from the bottom of the dish along with the bouquet garni.  Bring to a slow simmer.

5.  Leave to simmer (it needs to be a gentle tremor – not a furious boil) for 2 hours with the lid on.  (I would personally recommend halving this time to avoid the meat falling away from the bone and into the sauce).

6.  Add the mushrooms and cook for a further 30 minutes with the lid off, turning the heat up slightly to thicken the sauce and intensify the flavours.

7.  Sprinkle with the tarragon and sea on with salt and pepper.