In my last post I said that I was about to prepare dîner for some French friends who recently got married. I wanted to do something special for them (and for me cos its nice to push the boat out sometimes). I posed the question at the end of the post – Fit for a marriage or a one night stand? I think I managed to get in to the marriage zone
So what did I cook?
I used the occasion to cook up a couple of recipes out of Essence which I posted about here and a couple of other dishes. So from the top;
An Amuse Bouche
velouté of pea and coconut with coconut froth
A really nice little recipe this, easy to do and full of flavour. I was to busy to faff about taking photos of each stage, but essentially you simply flavour a good chicken stock with sweated onions and celery, add coconut milk and peas, puree and sieve.
Making the coconut froth was a little more involved, you simply add coconut and chicken stock together with a gram of lecithin to help emulsify the foam. The recipe called for a stick blender (which I don’t have) or the use of a liquidiser (which was rubbish) to create the froth. Fortunately I have a hand powered swizzle stick (being frugal) that did the job nicely. The only difficult bit was getting hold of the lecithin as its a rarer ingredient and the process was not helped by my inability to pronounce the name correctly! Blank looks and shrugs all round.
Here’s a picture of the finished article, its not in the most suitable of glasses but still looked nice, the two different consistencies of the soup and the froth kept the two components separate until the finish.
It went down a storm, which was good foot to get off on, I think this one will be reappearing again soon!
stuffed courgette flowers with a salad of flowers
Bit of an invention this one. I was in the garden staring at my courgette plants that where in profuse flower. I like courgettes but there is a limit. Then I had a rare light bulb moment eat the bloody flowers. A quick cruise on line and I had mapped out a basic recipe.
You need a bunch of courgette flowers, see below
mix up a tub of ricotta, a bit of lemon, finely chopped mint and a good turn of pepper. Carefully check each flower for bugs and stuff a couple or more teaspoons of mix into each flower. Gently twist and seal.
Quickly mix up a tempura batter using 200g of flour and some bicarb (or self raising flour) and about 300g of very, very cold sparkling water. Dip the stuffed courgette flowers in the batter and fry 2 or 3 at a time in a deep oil until brown. Keep the finished ones warm in a low oven until the rest are done.
We grow some flowers around the house with an eye for the table and I thought a salad of roses, nasturtium and borage flowers with some bitter salad leaves would be a pretty and tasty contrast. I thought it worked quite well, what do you think?
Julie liked it and has already asked for more!
braised blade of beef with nettle risotto and spring onions
Another Essence recipe, but took a bit more doing than the first one
First of get a blade of beef, being in France this is not so straight-forward as the is no equivalent standard cut. My butcher who is a real star sorted through his collier cuts and picked out the sections from the planche as the cut is called in France and I was off.
I made up a stock and braised the beef for 5 hours in the coolest of ovens, then rolled and chilled the whole lot in to a sausage shape
I split the cooking stock in half, one half I reduced to a glossy rich sauce, the rest I saved to help finish the beef.
I picked about 40 spring onions (we’ve got loads) and blanched them until soft and set them to one side.
Then I pick some nettle tops, (we’ve got loads of them as well cos we like to leave a few doted about for the butterflies), I blanched and finely chopped them.
Then on to finish the dish. Cut the Beef in to disks, then in to a warm oven to finish with the remaining stock.
Make the risotto, straight forward enough, just don’t rush it, and use good quality stock.
Refresh the onions.
Risotto on plate, beef on risotto, add spring onions and sauce et violà, un plat.
A stong tasting dish bursting with flavour, with the spring onion providing a clean almost watery contrast to the beef that was so tender it fell apart as you nudged it with a knife. Lovely, tasty and frugal three out of three winners, my head will grow so big I won’t be able to get back into the kitchen.
I live in the Loire as long as you buy decent cheese and serve it at room temperature you couldn’t muck it up if you tried. I did make some bread caraway seed bread buns which where tasty.
dessert des cygnes
A fairly simple dish of a rich creme anglais made with a vanilla pod and seeds together with some piped choux pastry made into swans filled with fresh cream.
To be honest this is where the wheels got a little wobbly. The choux pastry components where a little clumsy and fresh cream in France is always a bit rubbish so the cream was a bit soft for the dish but c’est la vie .
Everything was very tasty but I think it didn’t quite hit the mark. Here is a picture, I think you can see what I mean.
Never mind. Overall I think dîner was fit for a marriage and no marriage is perfect!