Sunday, 29 May 2011

The Great Bank Holiday Foodie Weekender - Part One.

Ah, the end of May Bank Holiday. Unpredictability of weather, combined with wonderful seasonality of ingredients makes for a perfect 72 hours of viable cooking time. And what is better than 72 hours of cooking time? 216 man hours of cooking time!

Straight after work and a rummage through my freezer and cupboards, I headed to Wiltshire with R and S with no set plans other than to cook and eat outside of our usual weekend boundaries, and perhaps to relax a little too. A nice detour into Winchester en route for some local sausage and mash/grey mullet/steak and chips at a trip advisor-recommended pub set the weekend in motion nicely.

We picked some recipes and went in search of provisions. We stopped short of buying an ostrich egg (soft boiled in 25 minutes and makes enough scrambled egg for 24), but did splurge on some edible goldleaf and  fabulous chocolate. Both absolutely essential.

Meal number one: Soft-boiled duck eggs with poached asparagus and jamón ibérico:

Just a little snack, you see, to get us going for what was to come. I have the possibility of a trip to Barcelona soon, where I am assured that jamón ibérico grows on trees; this alone is enough to make me reach for Easyjet before consulting my schedule.

Then we set to work on a highly complex, multi-layered 'Intensément Chocolat' recipe from the Maison Ladurée sucré book.

Layer one: macaron. This is made the same way as a single macaron: sieved ground almonds, icing sugar and cocoa powder, folded into two egg whites whipped until firm. This was then piped onto a circle of greaseproof paper and baked at gas mark two for 25 minutes:

Layer two: mousse. Four egg whites and a pinch of salt were mixed until foamy, sugar added and whipped until firm before the yolks were added and gently mixed in with the hand mixer. A third of this was added to a cooled mixture of melted dark chocolate and butter before the ensemble was added back into the remaining egg white mixture and combined gently. This was chilled for a few hours whilst we worked on..

..Layer three: cake. Two egg whites were whipped with sugar until firm before the yolks were mixed in. To this was added a sieved mixture of flour, cornflour and cocoa powder before this mixture was also piped onto a greaseproof paper circle. This was baked at gas mark 4 for twelve minutes.

A ganache was prepared by heated cream being poured onto chocolate to melt it, before adding butter to smooth the mixture. While this was left to cool, we moved on to assembly time! 

(Clockwise from top left: cocoa syrup, chocolate mousse, chocolate cake, chocolate macaron base, chocolate ganache)

The macaron disc formed the base and on top of this a layer of ganache was spread. This was left to chill for a while while we ate dinner (see below!). Then a layer of mousse was piped onto the surface before the cooled cake layer was added. A cooled boiled cocoa syrup of water, sugar and cocoa powder was drizzled onto the cake layer until absorbed. On top of this was piped a second layer of chocolate mousse. This was chilled in the freezer for half an hour. 

Keeping up?

The whole ensemble so far was coated in a cooled chocolate glaze, made in the same way as the ganache but with milk instead of cream. All we needed to do then was to smooth the surfaces, add some goldleaf as decoration and voilà! 

I can attest to it tasting amazing. For reference, we used Valrhona 68% chocolate, golden granulated sugar and whilst the recipe suggests potato starch we substituted for cornflour.

Dinner this evening was kangaroo. S had looked up recipes online and found a delicious recipe hailing kangaroo as a lean, carbon footprint-friendly meat before realising that said website was Australian. We wanted to do something more special with this exciting meat than simply serving it up as steak and the recipe we opted for served the steak medium rare with beetroot, a shallot and port accompaniment and anchovy butter.  10 peeled shallots were placed in a small saucepan of water and brought to the boil before being drained and some of the water reserved. Once cooled, these were peeled and gently fried in a tablespoon of butter with a teaspoon of sugar and a third of a cup of the reserved cooking water. Once tender, about ten minutes later, the heat was turned up and a third of a cup of port added to reduce. With maybe a little more for luck. R made some lovely potato rösti with charlotte potatoes (specially selected for their waxiness) and just-right tenderstem broccoli, and whipped up the anchovy butter - three anchovies to a tablespoon of softened butter and a few drops of lemon juice. Meanwhile we had boiled two large beetroot which were peeled once tender and chopped.

The kangaroo was cooked for three minutes on each side and we added some of the anchovy butter while it was still in the pan before slicing on the diagonal. 

Kangaroo most closely resembles beef, with a wonderfully rich flavour and was nicely tender. We think it would barbecue well as long as it was medium to rare. The anchovy butter complimented it beautifully - we used salted anchovies (and unsalted butter) which served as the only seasoning necessary.

Check back tomorrow to find out what we cooked next! 

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