I’m on the verge of something very exciting. The wonderful No84 Café and Eatery at Echo Square in Gravesend have agreed to let me run a pop-up restaurant….dates and full details to follow but the first of a three is on Saturday April 27th and the theme is pork and apples.
Roundwood Farm in nearby Meopham, rear rare breed pigs which roam freely amongst the apple orchards. The lovely Bev who runs the farm with her husband will be coming along to give a short talk on the evening too. It should be really good but as you know it will all hang on the food – no pressure then.
On Saturday, I decided to do a practice run on the dessert I have in mind. Arlette with pressed apple terrine. I know Heston Blumenthal has a recipe in his ‘Heston at Home’ book and I found another version on the internet by Mark Jordan. Both recipes are a layered dessert with ‘wafers’ and fillings layered up like a classic millefeuille. The Mark Jordan version used opaline (a ‘glass like’ caramel wafer) rather than the puff pastry caramelised wafer favoured by Heston. I thought it might be more impressive but having tried both the Heston version is by far the easiest to make.
It is simply puff pastry rolled paper thin and liberally dusted with icing sugar and then baked between two baking sheets to stop the pastry rising. You end up with gorgeous, sweet, caramelized pastry, which actually tastes nothing like pastry. Working quickly when they come out of the oven you can cut them into the desired shape using a template.
That said, I will adapt the recipe for opaline to give me my caramel ‘sculptures’ to decorate the finished dessert. It involves making a simple caramel by melting sugar, pouring into a baking tray lined with parchment, allowing it to cool and then blitzing the whole thing in a food processor. The resulting powder is then finely dusted onto a lined baking sheet and put into a hot oven for one minute to re-melt. It really does come out like caramel coloured glass.
Phew, that bit nailed, now onto the pressed apples. Actually that was also straightforward, at least to start with. Copious amounts of peeling, coring and slicing on a mandolin later, the apple slices (all 2mm thick) were neatly layered on yet another baking sheet (by now I had to borrow some from the neighbours) each layer being brushed with an apple flavoured sugar syrup that was allowed to turn quite dark (the finished taste bearing a resemblance to that of a really lovely, deeply caramelized tarte tatin). Then came the deceptively simple instructions:
“Place in a low oven (90 degrees) for 13 hours weighted down with something heavy.”
Really? What the hell can I use?
Wall bricks! Perfect. I found two buried in soil in the garden (don’t ask!), hauled them in washed them stuck them on top of the apples (protected by yet another baking sheet) and 13 hours later had the most amazing pressed apple terrine to slice up using the same template as before and 2 lovely warm wall bricks to use as hot water bottles in my apple pie bed!!
The apple jelly came next. I didn’t have the pectin powder stated in the recipe, you try finding it in Tesco/Asda/Sainsburys/Morrisons, so tried a number of substitutes including pectin sugar, arrowroot and agar-agar but nothing really worked. I started from scratch and made a simple apple jelly using some good quality apple juice and gelatine and it made a fine jelly but it didn’t work at all layered in the dessert. It made it too unstable. I tried cubing it and serving it on the side but my band of intrepid tasters all agreed the jelly wasn’t necessary.
So the final version went something like this:
• A slice of pressed apple terrine
• A caramelised wafer
• Piped cream flavoured with a few drops of rosewater
• A caramelised wafer
• A slice of apple terrine
• A caramelised wafer
And sprinkled on the top the following mix:
Crystallized fennel seeds, vanilla seeds from the pod, sea salt, crumbled wafer (the unused bits from slicing the wafer) and some broken bits of opaline. Also dotted on top, some small cubes of peeled apple. Sounds over the top but by god it tastes good.
I served it with some good quality ice cream, a shard of opaline and butterscotch sauce.
Thank you to my trusted tasters, I’m now happy with my dessert. If anyone has a surplus of apples, a couple of wall bricks hanging about and a spare 18 hours, message me and I’ll send you the recipe.
Once we hit forty, women only have about four taste buds left: one for vodka, one for wine, one for cheese, and one for chocolate.
Gina Barreca Born 1957 – Humourist and Academic
Lily Bollinger 1899 – 1977
“I only drink champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad.
Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone.
When I have company I consider it obligatory.
I trifle with it if I’m not in a hurry and drink it when I am, otherwise I never touch the stuff unless I am thirsty”.
I don’t run to Bollinger champagne, or any champagne for that matter, I am supposed to be the Frugal Gourmet! A nice Cremant Bourgogne same grapes, same method, slightly different place and a fraction of the price; or even more affordably cheap fizzy generic wine 2 Euro a bottle and a dash of home made fruit sirop to make a Kir Royale. Lovely and very affordable
If you read my last post you will know that I’ve been very virtuous and walking each day but it also gives me an excuse to look out for fruity autumn treasures and surely there is no doubt that the damson is a real gem.
I love damsons and I chanced upon the most glorious stash two weeks ago so armed with two carrier bags, Jim and I made our way back on Saturday. Within 20 minutes or so we had picked just shy of 7lbs. They were at the perfect stage of ripeness and it was tempting to gorge on them but no doubt that would have had disastrous consequences and anyway I had other things in mind.
Like the rest of the nation (except Jim, who incidentally doesn’t like Strictly either, but that’s an ongoing argument between the two of us!) I am hooked on the fabulous Great British Bake Off and was inspired to make something I had never made before – Queen of Puddings – no, it isn’t a moniker for the majestic Mary Berry although it should be.
A quick Google search soon bought up the recipe used on the show a couple of weeks ago, which version is of course, attributed to the great Mrs Berry herself. It comprises a bottom layer of baked custard, a thin layer of homemade jam using summer fruits and a meringue topping. Since I had damsons galore, I decided I would make a few changes to the recipe.
First off, the bulk of the damsons were destined for jelly rather than jam…you try stoning 3lbs worth of damsons…far easier to push the whole lot through a sieve and the end result is just so wonderfully deep purple, red and well, jammy. So on that basis, I thought I would make a damson and apple compote for the middle layer instead. That decided, it needed a further twist to really elevate it into autumn, so I decided to fold roasted, chopped hazelnuts into the meringue, sprinkling a good portion on top. Hazelnut meringues are very popular in France where you regularly see them piled high in boulangerie windows. That sorted, all that remained was to give it a go.
And the results? There were five of us for Sunday lunch and the fight for seconds almost caused a revolution. I can honestly say that I have never seen a queen made such short work of, since Marie Antoinette suggested cake!
For the custard:
600ml/1 pint full-fat milk
25g/1oz butter, plus extra for greasing the dish
1 lemon, zest finely grated
50g/2oz caster sugar
3 free-range eggs, yolks only
75g/3oz fresh white breadcrumbs
For the compote:
1 medium sized cooking apple, peeled and cored
4-5 tablespoons of castor sugar (or to taste)
For the meringue:
175g/6oz caster sugar
3 free-range eggs, whites only
50g/2oz chopped roasted hazelnuts (plus a few for sprinkling on top)
• Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3 and grease a 1.4 litre/2½ pint shallow ovenproof dish (one that will fit into a roasting tin) with butter.
• For the custard base, very gently warm the milk in a small saucepan. Add the butter, lemon zest and the 50g/2oz of sugar, stir until dissolved.
• Lightly whisk the egg yolks in a bowl. Slowly pour the warm milk into the eggs, while whisking.
• Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the base of the buttered dish and pour over the custard. Leave to stand for about 15 minutes, so the breadcrumbs absorb the liquid.
• Carefully transfer the dish to a roasting tin and fill the tin halfway with hot water. Bake the custard in the preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes until the custard has set. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool a little.
• Meanwhile, put the damsons into a pan and warm over a gentle heat. Once they’ve softened and released their juice, remove the stones. (I removed them from the heat, let them cool slightly and simply fished them out). Add the chopped apple and stir gently until it resembles a soft compote although retaining some ‘body’ .
• Add the sugar and cook for a further three minutes.
• Whisk the egg whites using an electric hand whisk on full speed until stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed. Add the remaining 175g/6oz sugar a teaspoon at a time, still whisking on maximum speed until the mixture is stiff and shiny. Fold in the toasted chopped hazelnuts. Transfer the meringue mixture to a piping bag. (I didn’t pipe and it was still fine).
• Spread 4-5 tablespoons of compote over the set custard, then pipe the meringue on top. (or spoon making some lovely peaks). Sprinkle with the remaining hazelnuts.
• Lower the oven temperature to 150C/300F/Gas 2 and return the pudding to the oven (not in the roasting tin with water) for about 25-30 minutes until the meringue is pale golden all over and crisp. Serve warm.
As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists.
Joan Gussow (born 1928) is a professor, author, environmentalist and gardener
Edible, adj.: Good to eat, and wholesome to digest, as a worm to a toad, a toad to a snake, a snake to a pig, a pig to a man, and a man to a worm.
Ambrose Bierce born 1842 – died after December 26, 1913.
Americain writer, journalist, humuorist and critic
Jean Gabon the definitive Maigret
My Friend Maigret 1949 – George Simenon.
Maigret leaves rainy Paris to solve a case in the warm, Spring Midi region on the Mediterranean coast. He takes with him Mr Pyle – a detective from Scotland Yard, London who is studying Maigret’s “method”. After walking around the small, quiet seaside village where the murder has taken place they go to the local cafe for diner and Maigret asks….:
“Do you like Mediterranean cooking, Mr Pyle?”
“I don’t know it.”
“Do you want to try it?”
And, Paul, the proprietor, suggested:
“Some small birds, to start with? I’ve cooked a few on the spit, brought in this morning.”
They were robins, Paul unfortunately announced as he served the Englishman, who could not help gazing tenderly at his plate.
Got a few Robins around the house at the moment, they show up well against the snow.
Hmmm perhaps not.
Alfred E Neuman
We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavours and furniture polish is made from real lemons.
Alfred E. Newman Born 1954
Americian magazine personality
I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food I’m cooking.
Julia Child 1912 – 2004
Americian chef, author and TV personality
For my very old friends Mitzi and Roland who have found each other again after too many years and are now victims of cupid’s arrow.
Thonas Wolfe 1900 - 1938
There is no sight on earth more appealing than the sight of a woman making dinner for someone she loves.
American Novelist 1900 – 1938