A tangy Greek yogurt ice cream served with poached pears and nuts.
For the ice cream, I make a custard from 250 ml double cream, 60 g sugar, four free-range egg yolks and half a vanilla pod. Whisk in a paste made from a heaped tablespoon of corn starch, this helps keeping the ice cream in shape later.
Whisk in 500 ml of Greek Yogurt in the last few seconds, remove from the heat. Let cool down, then chill. Churn it just after the main course; chilled well, this only takes about 30 minutes in the ice cream machine.
Poach one or two pealed and cored pears with 1 tablespoon of sugar and one start anise each in 250 ml water or rice wine vinegar. Take the fruit out after approximately 30 minutes, increase the heat and reduce the liquor to a thick honey consistency.
Poaching in rice wine vinegar will probably need sweetening with honey or apply jelly but makes a nice sharp contrast to the sweet ice cream.
The version in these photos uses a Balsamic Caramel. Good old Salted Caramel or simple Balsamic Glaze would also be nice, and so would be natural dark honey.
Add some toasted and chopped pistacho or macadamia nuts for added crunch and good looks.
A household favourite: seared filet of white fish, served on a potato and mushroom ragout with Sauce Vierge.
If you’re using dried mushrooms, get them soaking at least 6 hours before the event. Use a 1:1 mix of hot water and cold milk, add the dried mushrooms, and stir occasionally. For fresh mushrooms, prefer Girolle, King Oyster or Cep.
I have also used fresh artichokes instead of mushrooms.
Steam some waxy potatoes, then drain and let cool down.
Now, prepare the Sauce Vierge, or my variation thereof – it doesn’t need to be done early, but it can be done early. Something else out of the way? So, take fresh flat parsley, a few mint leaves, and a couple of spring onions or shallots. Wash if you must, but be sure to dry well, and chop finely. Add some chopped capers (I prefer the salted, crispy type, but make sure to remove the salt without rinsing). You could also add finely chopped anchovies, or olives, or other herbs (sorrel comes to mind), depending where you want to take it. Add a sprinkle of sea salt, a tiny bit of nutmeg, a little black pepper. Mix well and set aside.
For a genuine Sauce Vierge experience, add petals of small skinned tomatoes.
Filet the fish. I usually use Sea Bream, but Red Mullet or Sea Bass are also OK. Leave the skin on, prick the remaining bones.
Heat a frying pan. Chop the potatoes into thick slices, and fry gently in a small amount of butter and olive oil. Add coarsely chopped spring onions (for a spring onion potato ragout) or finely diced red onions (for a red onion potato…), drain the mushrooms (keep the liquid!) and add the ‘shrooms. Fry and stir. Add a splash of dry white wine and a splash of the mushroom soaking liquid (multiples of this combination as necessary to keep it all nicely moist – moist, not wet!). Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
Meanwhile, heat another pan with a little 1:1 butter and olive oil. Toss the fish filets in some salted and peppered corn fine semolina. Gently sear the fillets on their skin side. Give them the time to almost cook through just from the skin side; this leaves the meat tender while crisping up the skin. Flip over for the last 30 seconds only to ensure they are cooked through.
Meanwhile, heat a ladle of olive oil (maybe 100ml) until it is very hot but not yet burning. When you see or smell smoke from the skillet, it’s too late and the oil too hot. When it’s just right, hot but not yet smoking, pour over the herb mix prepared earlier, and toss it violently to wilt the herbs while cooling down the oil. The herbs release all their oils in the process. Add a splash of lime juice or too, to taste.
Plate up, serve with a crisp white wine and enjoy.
250 g fresh and ripe Elderflower
1 l Water
1 kg Sugar
1 unwaxed lemon
1 tbls citric acid or juice
Mix sugar and water, bring it to the boil. Let it cool down a little, then add the finely sliced lemons, additional lemon juice or citric acid to taste. Now add the unwashed flowers, stir, then cover and let rest in a cool place for 2..3 days.
Now filter the liquid through a muslin cloth and discard the solids.
Bring the syrup to the boil, then bottle into sterilised bottles.
Following is for a 240 mm round baking tray. You need a springform tray (one where the rim can be removed) or one of those where the bottom comes out.
100 g dark chocolate (go for quality and high cocoa content)
150 g soft unsalted butter
150 g sugar
4 free range medium size eggs
50 g ground almonds
50 g corn starch
50 g normal white wheat baking flour
50 g fine dried bread crumbs
1 tablespoon of baking powder (unless you use self-rising flour)
1 tablespoon of vanilla sugar (or equivalent amount of vanilla extract, aroma or genuine vanilla)
Melt the chocolate in a bowl over hot water or *very* carefully in the microwave oven at very low power setting. This works quicker but it is easy to burn the chocolate in the micro.
Mix butter, sugar and vanilla, whisk until slightly foamy.
Separate the egg yolks from the whites, whisk the egg whites stiff.
Mix almonds, flour, corn starch, bread crumbs. Add a tablespoon of dark cocoa for an extra boost if you want.
Check that the chocolate has cooled down but is still runny or very soft. Must be under 80 C so that the eggs won’t cook in it.
Mix the egg yolks into the chocolate.
Add the almonds, etc, to the eggs and chocolate. Mix.
Gently add the egg whites to the mix. Traditional cooking wisdom calls this to “fold in the whites” using a thin metal spoon, careful not to knock out too much air. I prefer using a whisk, just don’t use it for whisking. Instead gently rotate it to fold the egg whites into the batter mix. I find it is easier to evenly distribute the whites using the whisk; the traditional spoon method is likely to break more of your stiff whites.
Preheat the oven to 180 C. Use Top and bottom heat or convected air.
Butter the form really well, especially around the corners.
Bake for 45 minutes.
Rest for 3 hours. Remove it from the tin when the time is right. Too soon and it will break, too late and it will be soggy. You need to judge and find the sweet spot, but if you have a good baking tray where the sides come off or the bottom can be pushed up, the highest risk is in that you burn your hand, wrist or arm on the hot tin. Every time…
Well, I say millefeuille but really we are talking about three sheets of double-layered filo pastry, but it does make for an excellent starter!
It’s impressive, it has the Wow! factor, and it isn’t all that hard to make. A great way to start a dinner party.
My Goats Cheese Millefeuille is a small stack of double-layered filo pastry, flavoured with fennel pollen and baked crisp. In between the sheets is an assortment of textures and flavours such as molten goats cheese, roasted beetroot, raw fennel shavings, raspberries and blueberries.
The exact choice of incredients for the filling isn’t very important so long as they combine well and offer variety in texture and aroma.
Goats cheese is required unless you change the name of the dish. I usually use the types which are rolled in ash, and melt them in a frying pan with a spot of butter.
Roasted beetroot, lightly tossed with balsamic vinegar, a small splash of lime juice and a sprinkling of salt works beautifully.
Soured cream will provide moisture, or perhaps a spoonful of roasted fennel puree, the Missus’ favourite.
Raw fennel shavings are always nice and, speaking of shavings, Parmesan cheese shavings could also work well.
A fruit component is, in my opinion, essential. Fresh raspberries, blueberries or blackberries work well and look great. Blood orange or grapefruit fillets could also work if your citrus fruit filleting skills are OK; the fruit can’t be soggy or it ruins the filo.
For the filo sheets, the method is simple:
Buy a pack of good quality filo sheets. Prefer the not frozen variety if you can. Roll out one, and cover generously with melted butter (warm, not hot!). Give it a generous sprinkling of fennel pollen, then add another sheet of filo pastry. Not everyone has fennel pollen in the spice cupboard (and it is a little bit on the expensive side unless you are foraging). Alternatively, course black pepper or fresh nutmeg shavings also work well.
Cut the double-layer into the required size, maybe as large as a playing card, using a pair of scissors. Place on baking parchment, then bake at 190 C until dark golden, approximately 10 minutes.
Take out of the oven, very gently transfer onto a cooling rack and leave there until it is time to assemble. Use the pictures and your own imagination as a guide!
This was very moorish and a good addition to my vegan repertoire: a tomato tarte.
Instead of the usual puff pastry used with Provencale tarte, which is rich in butter and not suitable for vegans, I made a light and crisp pizza base. I covered this with tapenade from dried tomatoes, garlic and black olives. I added a rich layer of extra lush and tasty beefsteak tomato slices, sprinkled with salt and chilly oil.
I don’t know, but it is a good way of using up surplus courgettes and is very tasty with cheese.
Grate about 1 kg of courgettes into juliennes. Add a red pepper, two red onions, one glove of garlic, perhaps an apple, all finely diced. Add two teaspoons of salt, mix well, cover and let rest for 24 hours.
On the second day, combine 500 ml cider or white wine vinegar, 4 tablespoons caster sugar, two teaspoons turmeric, ground coriander and ground ginger each. Optionally add chilli for heat or a cinnamon stick for depth, and two or three star anise are never a mistake in my view.
Bring this to the boil, then reduce the heat. Drain the courgette mix and add to the boiling liquor. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, perhaps adding a little cornflower to thicken the liquid slightly.
Meanwhile stearilize jam jars in the oven at 140 C for 10 minutes, then fill with the hot relish, close the lid and let cool down.
Something with bacon and peas, cheese and pasta, we thought might just do the trick on this chilly November evening.
Monica Galetti showed her Agnolotti on Masterchef The Professionals the previous evening and we were thus inspired, but failed to take up her 15 minute challenge.
This is abote Agnolotti, or Ravioli, or any other shape of filled fresh pasta, filled with a cheesy cream, served with crisp bacon and peas – almost like a Carbonara, but not including the raw egg yolks given the richness of the pasta filling.
Prepare a medium thick roux: Melt a heaped tablespoon of butter, then sweat a heaped tablespoon of plain white flour until the flour is cooked, then add hot milk, stirring vigorously and simmering gently all the time. Then add a good amount of grated Gruyere cheese, a pinch of salt, a large pinch of black pepper and a little ground nutmeg.
Let the sauce cool down, perhaps even in the fridge.
Roll the pasta to a fairly thin sheet, then pipe a strip of the filling, fold over and form little ravioli pasta. Monica’s method was to pipe a strip of filling, then squeezing the separation. I used the handle of a cooking spoon, which I could roll a little to either side gentry to push back the filling, then push down to seal the pasta. I thought that worked pretty well.
Poach in not not quite boiling salted water for a few minutes, taking care that the pasta doesn’t stick to the pan bottom.
Fry strips of smoked bacon until crisp, add mushrooms and peas, butter and white wine. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Gently toss the pasta with the sauce, serve and enjoy.