Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Roll me up Scotty!

It's hard not to resist any of the delicacies from Peyton and Byrne in London or their take home goods, as I am a sucker for good packaging. So it was pretty exciting when they released their book Peyton and Byrne British Baking from which we chose to bake Chocolate Swiss Roll. This is one of the many recipes that we have tried from this book.  So far so good -we can recommend the spiced ginger bread and the marshmallow tea cakes.

A basic chocolate sponge, filled with cream and raspberry jam before being rolled. Topped with a layer of piped chocolate ganache.

Verdict: The ganache icing was delicious, I would say that the sponge was a little on the dry side, but I think that is my baking not the recipe. 
Would we make this again?: This weekend perhaps. There is no better time to perfect the swiss roll other than the Queen's Jubilee.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

French night

We really worked for this one, completing a record five recipes in the one night. Really getting through the cookbooks here. We've cooked from around 40 (maybe a third of the way there).

Unfortunately we couldn't make it to our friend Mark's birthday dinner at Eau de Vie.  So we invited him and a few others around for a dinner party on Friday night.  We have a few theme menus up our sleeves so we gave him the option of French or British.  Being a man of distinction, Mark of course chose French.

On the French menu was Croque Madame from Bill Granger Everyday, Lyonaisse Terrine from Professional Charcuterie, Canard de l'Orange from Classic French Cooking, Gratin Dauphinois from the Pleasure of the Table and Saint Honoré from The Art of French Baking.

Painstakingly placing what seemed like the smallest potatoes
in the worldin to a pretty arrangement (not just on the top layer either!)

A lack of foresight meant that Thursday night after work was spent making Veal stock (which would be the start of the sauce for the canard de l'orange), the Lyonnaise terrine and preparing the dauphinois potato.  This all meant that our Friday was slightly less frantic.

Always been a big fan of anything small (or big for that matter) so the Croque Madame's made with baguette and quails eggs were a hit in my eyes.

Canard de l'orange -A really tasty dish.  Full of butter -we all felt our arteries tighten a little that night. Probably has something to do with the book being published in the 1970's (a simpler time before calorie counting and low GI).  The food styling was our attempt at replicating the glamorous over the top vibe of the book.  It looks a little amateur, but I can assure you the taste far exceeded the look -and that's what really counts right?

The birthday boy with his Saint (dis)Honore cake.
1. Croque madame -We made as canapes with quails eggs and sliced baguette for our arriving guests.  They went down a treat.  Everyone likes mini stuff though!
2. Lyonnaise terrine -Pork, veal and chicken livers encased in crepinette.  Great textures and flavours.  We served it with toasted challah and some homemade chutney.
3. Gratin dauphinois -The decision to use kipfler potatoes was a bit of a time kill, but it looked great! Surprised by the lack of cream or any kind of liquid in this dish. 
4. Canard de l'orange -The hero of the night.  We made 2 for ten people.  It could have been significantly less, it was so rich that only a small amount was needed.  The flavour of the sauce amazing, but seeing a pound of butter being casually whisked in was not.
5. Saint Honore -A few melt downs over the choux pastry ring, the saint honore cream and the overall presentation but everyone seemed to enjoy it.  It was the perfect ending to a night of excess.
Would we make this again?:
Yes, maybe, yes, yes with half the butter and yes to get it right.

Friday, 18 May 2012

The deconstructed sandwich

Intrigued a little by deconstructed sandwich? What if I say lettuce soup? Uh-oh, now you've lost interest.  Apologies.

It was a couple of weeks ago when we realised that we didn't own a single Italian cookbook.  Maybe this is because we are self proclaimed pasta experts (not really).  This sudden actualisation then spurred on the purchase of The River Cafe Cookbook -I know, ban right?
When doing the obligatory look through our recipe list to figure out what to eat I always kept going back to Lettuce Soup au Gratin The Silver Spoon (re-released last year).  It first caught my eye in the initial recipe selection because of the belief that when something sounds so unappealing, it's got to be good.  Or at least if there is a recipe for it, how bad can it really be?
Thursday night was the night.  When picking up The Silver Spoon, it turns out its purely an Italian cookbook, over 1000 recipes -who knew? It's just too bad that The River Cafe Cookbook had already been ordered.

Lettuce ... lots of lettuce. I thought that I would try to mix up the flavour a little bit by using 3 different types.  I guess its comparable to mixing glacier water, purified still water and tap water - you can tell the difference.

It shows here who is the messiest in the kitchen.
The recipe reads like French Onion soup, but substituting the more flavoursome ingredient onion for lettuce. The lettuce was simmered for a while, then in slow stages the beef stock was added.

After the soup simmered away for 30 minutes it was put in ramekins with some toasted baguette and gruyere cheese then grilled.

Verdict: The soup alone, pre bread and cheese was not the best, but once combined with the other staple sandwich ingredients it all gelled together rather nicely.
Would we make it again?: Let's just say it's not going to be a soup that I crave, but the more I think back on it, we'd talked it down so much that don't think we gave it a fair chance.  If it was served up to me again I would be really happy.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Eccles Cakes

St John's Eccles Cake from Nose to Tail Eating: A Kind of British Eating by Fergus Henderson.

Troy tried these last year at St. John Restaurant in London. We were a little apprehensive about a strange looking pastry to be served with cheese, but there was no need. They were really incredible! It is always nice when you get caught by surprise. We did have a photo of these wonder's, but this was before our camera got 'stolen' / fell out of my bicycle basket while joy riding in Paris.

Puff pastry filled currants mixed with sugar, spice, and all things nice (..butter).

Unfortunately we didn't have any Lancashire cheese to accompany them, but we did have some aged goats cheese.  Perfect with our nightly glass of vino.

Verdict: Next time I will roll the pastry thinner than this book recommends.  8 mm was a little too thick for the pastry to cook through properly.  A little background research into Fergus' recipe showed that he'd modified the execution from book to book.  We brushed cakes with egg whites then coated them in sugar, where a new recipe calls for egg yolks, no sugar and thinner pastry.  I must say, the newer models look a lot more delicious.
Would we make this again?: Yes, Great Britain night is coming up and these are certainly on the menu. This will be our chance to perfect them to the St. John standard.  Watch this space!

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Christmas take THAT

In preparation for last Christmas Troy tested his boning skills and made a monstrosity of a roast to take to a family dinner over the ditch in New Zealand. The beast was ten birds, each one painstakingly de-boned then stuffed into the larger one.  You may have heard of the Turducken (turkey, duck, chicken), this was more of a whatthefacken (turkey, goose, duck, chicken, pheasant, guinea fowl, partridge, poussin, squab and quail). After the disappointing news from New Zealand customs that any aerial birds are not allowed in to NZ our whatthefacken spent 10 days in the MAF freezer at Christchurch. We argued that this was probably the longest flight the turkey had ever been on (why deny 10 birds their final flight), next we tried to pass it off as a rabbit.  All in vain.  New Zealand customs was however able to leave it in their freezer at the airport for us to pick up on our return to Melbourne.

A few months later we defrost the birds for Christmas take two. A quick pop into the local Asian store on Chapel Street and we are sorted with tinsel, Christmas crackers and a Santa sack full of presents (including a boob for Uncle Gary).
Because it was a bit of a mish mash of families everyone provided there own little Christmas traditions and games along the way.  Every ones favourite Christmas songs were included in the play list, even some of our favourite non-Christmas songs surfaced.  A high point was when Brittney sang an inspiring Whitney Houston song at the top of her lungs -just like Christmas all over again!

We had to add a challenge dish to our Christmas so a Celeriac Salad from Turquoise by Greg Malouf was chosen. This was one of the books we got from Greg when we had a dining experience at Momo for Troy's birthday, and he signed this book to Lowrider (this was before we got him, but already owned a cookbook, does that mean that Lowrider was meant to help on this one?). Also on the menu was Claire and Nuffy's beetroot and feta salad, twice cooked potatoes, Jill's broccoli salad, Caroline's stuffing balls, and roasted carrots and pumpkin.

We really did overestimate how much food we could actually eat.  The recipe in question -Celeriac salad that Mum made is in the top right corner.

The BEAST. Complete with layers of honey roasted pumpkin, bacon and caramelised onion, bird, and more bird and a little dodo bird.

Everyone had a lot of amusement with the presents given out.

The finale - Bombe Alaska, dessert fireworks. Like we hadn't already eaten enough, but there is a bit of theatre to the dish so everyone seemed to regain a little more room.
Bailey's soaked sponge, 2 layer of ice attack, Salted caramel semifreddo with praline and chocolate and hokey pokey semifreddo, with the Italian meringue and a fiery flame of Grand Marnier.

Verdict: I'm going to say the overload of salads made it a bit of a blur, but so tasting notes on the Celeriac salad was lost in the moment, but the extravagance of it all was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone.
Would we make this again?: We would recommend second Christmas. It was really relaxed -great fun to belt out Christmas carols, it was also great to bring a few families Christmas traditions together. Oh, but back to the salad, it was hard to decipher with all those other ones on offer, but it was yum. Celeriac is a favourite with us all.