Tuesday, 25 September 2012

A Birthday Supper for Thirteen in Chichester

On Saturday evening I was employed to cook up a feast for birthday boy Duncan. He’d had the brainwave to hire the colossal and gorgeous East Pallant House, a Georgian townhouse in the center of Chichester, and fill it with his friends, then hire a chef (moi) and pianist to make the evening extra special. 

Together we devised a three canapés and three courses which would appeal to all his friends (chicken being the common denominator for the main course).

With my little brother Toby as head waiter, we got through the evening to rave reviews and I became the ‘amazing scotch egg girl’ for the thai-style canapĂ© of prawn scotch eggs (see recipe below)! Hats off to Tobes for doing some excellent serving in the midst of some rather excitable guests!

This is what I cooked:

Proscuitto & Melon bites, Pea, Mint & Parmesan Bruschetta and Sesame Prawn Scotch Eggs with Sweet Chilli Dip
Smoked Salmon Rosette, Sweet Cucumber Salad

Pan-Roasted Chicken, Slow-Roasted Tomatoes, Braised Lentils, Basil Oil & Aioli

(v) Asparagus & Gruyere Tart, Slow-Roasted Tomatoes & Braised Lentils
A choice of Almond Tart with Strawberries or Chocolate & Caramel Tart

Sesame Prawn Scotch Eggs

I made these first for a Christmas drinks party and everybody loved them. I saw the recipe in Waitrose Kitchen and it's by Ravinder Bhogal who I had never heard of (and still haven’t – must look her up). While the basic prawn paste takes seconds, the peeling of the eggs is a bugger and even though their assembly consistently makes me question why I bother  - the result is so good that I forget the pain!

Makes 12 (or 24 halves/48 quarters, but allow for casualties)
  • Gently lower 12 Quail’s Eggs into boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Remove to a bowl of cold water and peel. Toast 5 tbsp Sesame Seeds and cool.
  • In a food processor blitz: 500g Raw King Prawns, ½ tsp Chilli Flakes, 2 crushed Garlic Cloves, 1½ tsp grated Fresh Root Ginger, 1 tsp Caster Sugar, 1 tsp Toasted Sesame Oil, 1 tsp Soy Sauce and 1 Egg White. To this add 4 Salad Onions, finely chopped.
  • Get 3 Shallow Bowls. In one combine the Sesame Seeds and 125g Breadcrumbs. In another 2 whole, beaten Eggs. In the last 3 tbsp Flour.
  • Divide the prawn mixture into 12 even balls (wet hands keep it from sticking too much). Flatten each ball, place an egg on top and gently mould the prawn around the egg. Dip each into the flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. Chill for 30 minutes.
  • In a large pan heat 1.5 litres Vegetable Oil until a cube of bread turns golden in 40 seconds. Fry the scotch eggs in batched for 2-3 minutes until golden brown and crisp. Drain and sprinkle with a little salt.
  • Serve with some Sweet Chilli Sauce.

n.b. They are best served immediately but I made them in advance and then reheated at 200C for five minutes, which worked out fine. 

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Roasted Figs with Gorgonzola, Walnuts & Honey and Fig Ice Cream

It’s taken a few years to get over that childish, September back-to-school feeling but I love the month now. The crisp air smells of autumn but the summer sun has not left, hay bales dot russet fields and my favourite fruit is in season: Figs!

Now, a fig that has fallen from a tree in the sticky heat of Italy or Madeira, say, is a different thing to the imported figs I managed to buy. Their plump and purple velvet skin broke to reveal a rather dry center, so they needed a little help in the flavour department.

Some I stuffed with the classic combination of blue cheese, walnuts and honey and then tied them up in the leaves from our figless fig tree to enhance the fig flavour. When roasted, the sweet and salty taste was delicious with the perfumed fruit. I then came across this great Fig Ice Cream recipe from Delicious Shots (see her beautiful pictures) in which you cook the figs down with sugar and honey and mix into a vanilla custard then churn. The ice cream comes out with the fig seeds looking rather like vanilla seeds and making a pop in your mouth which I rather liked but it may not suit everybody. It has a lovely pale lavender colour with the chunks of figs still visible and looked gorgeous in these exquisite blue bowls handmade by Rosemarie Durr in Kilkenny, Ireland.

Fig Ice Cream from Delicious Shots

 2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 egg yolk
1/2 cup sugar, divided 
2 cups figs, quartered 
2 tbsp honey 
1/2 tsp vanilla bean extract

In a large saucepan, combine the figs, half of the sugar and honey. Let it macerate at room temperature for 20 minutes. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens. At this point, break down the fig (as much as you like) with a potato masher, cook for 3 minutes more. Let it cool completely, cover and refrigerate it for a couple of hours  until well chill. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the rest of the sugar and egg yolks until pale yellow. In another saucepan, combine milk, heavy cream and the vanilla bean. Heat the mixture until just begin to boil (but don't let it boil) Temper the milk mixture over the eggs, mix well and return the saucepan to the heat. Cook for three minutes more stirring well. Don't let the mixture come to boil. Let it cool completely, cover and refrigerate it for a couple of hours until well chill. When ready, combine well the figs and the milk mixture and pour it into an ice cream maker and follow manufacture's instructions.