Monday, June 23, 2008

My Weekend

I wish it would be weekend every day....;-) Took it very easy this time. Started my Great British Menu Project Friday night. I printed out the recipes from the BBC website and went shopping. My plan was to make the starter and dessert for Sofie. Tried to get plum tomatoes but had to settle for vine tomatoes. I was not going to infuse the onion cream with bacon as Sofie and myself are veggies. The recipe did not state per step how long things will take so it took me longer than the estimated 1.5 hours (incl. prep time time was estimated for 3 hours).

So, I threw the tomatoes in boiling water, peeled them and deseeded them, catching all the juices. Cut the vegetables (carrots, leeks, celery and shallots) small and fried them over a low heat for a couple of minutes. added the tomato paste, basil stalks, bayleaf and garlic and let it bubble for a while before adding the juices from the tomatoes and some tomato juice. This was left to simmer for an hour. The smell was real rich tomato-y. After the hour was up, I took the pot of the heat and left it to cool.

At this stage I had finished a bottle of wine with my dad and was ready to go to bed. So I covered the pot and left it overnight.

The next morning, I strained the 'soup' through a muslin into a bowl. That took quite some time as I didn't want to squeeze. I didn't want any pulp in the soup. After a couple of hours I had enough juice collected and brought it in a pot to the boil and simmered it until it was reduced by a third.
Soaking the gelatin and adding it to the liquid. The tomato jelly was served in a martini glass so I had to buy some. Thanks to Carraig Donn, I didn't have to break the bank. They had lovely Martini glasses with a green tint....matching my Denby. So after the liquid was cooled and before it started to set, I poured it into the glasses and chilled them in the fridge. For the onion cream I sauteed some onions until soft and mixed them with some cream before processing them in a food mill. I then beat the rest of the cream until soft peaks and mixed the lot together.

I then went on to prepare the dessert. I made a couple of Creme Brulee in the past and they always turned out nicely. I am not very good in following recipes but I was determent to do it this time. So I separated 9 eggs, mixed them with caster sugar. I thought I still had enough vanilla pods left (the recipe was calling for 2 pods) but I only had one left. So I used my Vanilla Sugar instead of the normal caster sugar to get as much vanilla flavour as possible. Heated the cream and had it infused with the pod. Mixed it all together and brought it back to a simmer to thicken the cream. The recipe wanted to have the cream in egg shells.....something I didn't want to do so I poured the cream into ramekins. I normally bake my brulee in a bain marie but the recipe just wanted me to chill the mixture.....after a couple of hours....nothing was setting in the ramekin so I went back to the old method and baked it in a bain marie and et voila set nicely.

Then I went into the garden and picked some strawberries (there is nothing better then picking them and eating them straight away). They needed to be marinated in Banyuls wine. So I went Saturday morning to Bubble Brothers and asked Austin about the wine and sure enough he knew what I was talking about. He didn't have the Banyuls but the best next thing. A Mas Amiel 2005 from LANGUEDOC-ROUSSILLON. An expensive marinate but the result was well worth it. I heated about 150ml of the wine together with Star Anise, caster sugar and a bit of water and stir until the sugar dissolved. Poured it over the strawberries and left it to marinate for about 30 minutes before serving it with deep fried tarragon.

For the main course I simply choose to cook spaghetti with a lemon cream sauce for which I sliced my last leek, panfried it a bit in olive oil, added some wine and let it bubble down before adding cream, lemon zest and chives.

Did we like the dinner? Yeap we did. Did I learn something? Yeap, the starter was too rich as a starter. I will have to reduce the amount of jelly and cream. The original recipe calls for a Croque Monsieur which I left out and will do so for the final meal as it is simply too much. Our main course was lovely and light but something I normally do for myself anyway but the dessert was so yum that I was glad that I got the wine. It was well worth it.

Project Completed: 20%
Musical Background: 96fm
Fun Factor: 50%


Irish Wine Contemplations said...


Brilliant Post!!! Well done.It's amazing how labour intensive all of these dishes are!

How did the starter taste? It sounds like a really powerful dish but was it delicious? I'd imagine some nice little croque monsiours would add some nice contrast in texture and flavour that might offset the power of the tomato jelly and onion cream.

The dessert sounds really great too! Poached strawberries with creme brulee is a really decadent treat. Did you have a glass of the mas amiel along with the dessert? Did it work well as a pairing?

That's some serious inspiration to try out some of these more complicated dishes.


Julian said...

Hello Elke,

Hear hear. A really impressive post. How can you be so organized, and have pictures and everything too? A great start to the week for those of us who dream much more than we actually do.

Elke said...

Thanks Will, the tomato jelly was indeed a powerful dish. The cooking intensified the flavour of the tomatoes. I have to reduce the amount I serve for the starter especially if I am going to serve the croque monsieur as well which I will do. The onion cream wasn't as smooth as I wanted it to be as I didn't cook the onions long enough but the texture went still nicely with the jelly. We had a Bordeaux Rose with the meal but I expected a bit more punch from the Bordeaux which it didn't deliver, so it was a bit lost on the jelly. Will have to go for a full bodied red next time.

We had a glass of the Amiel and it was perfect. I am so glad I went for the wine as it really made the marinade. The star anise added a nice kick to the lot. All in all I was quite proud of the dishes.

Will cook the ox cheeks on Friday. My dad will try them for me to tell me how they are. I think the cooking time will be very important to avoid chewiness. And my dad is brutally honest, so he won't pay me any compliments if they are not deserved. Will let you know how that went.


Elke said...

Julian, read that you have been busy as well ;-)

It was actually fun taking the pics at every stage. I thought if Carol can do that when she cooks Keller....I should be able to do something similar.

Again, Austin was a star recommending the Mas Amiel. It was perfect for the strawberries.


Anonymous said...


amazing post!!!!

Enjoyed it soo much....... :-)


Elke said...

Glad you enjoyed the post. Was fun writing it.

Read your recipe for the Gnocchis. Have you ever tried to make them? I tried it once and they disappeared in the cooking water...:-(


Anonymous said...

Good question! ;-)

In this case I bought the Gnocchis. I made it several times homemade, but the result was not satisfying.
But I don´t give it up, I will make it quite quite soon again.
In general, I think that Gnocchis are such kind of pasta that you should buy fresh in an italian shop, as you need a lot of time to make it.


Elke said...

Hi Martin, let me know next time you make them. If you have a foolproof recipe....please share it ;-)