Saturday, November 05, 2005

23rd post 5th line

I am awake this morning at 5.00am wondering what we are going to cook for an extra-special dinner tonight. And I thought I would do this meme as well, though I have another meme I have started and yet to finish!

So what was the fifth line:

"To get through one of these efforts means loads of stamina."

Oh so true today. We have only half formed the ideas for the dinner and it is going to be lots of work:

To drink: Moet
To eat: Smoked salmon on chive blini & Rare roast lamb on tapanade bruschetta

To drink: A Hollick Sauvignon Blanc
First course: Smoked trout and kipfler salad

To drink: A Pinot Noir
Main: Hand-made peking duck ravioli with asparagus and broccolini

Dessert wine: Cheese Course
Yet to be decided a creamy french brie and crusty bread.

Dessert: Raspberry Souffle

Okay I started the above on October 8 and I have finally returned to this post and am able to say that as things turned out, the entree was perfect and very little work was involved. Unfortunately I have no photographs of that dinner. In the end we did not make the dessert and had the cheeses instead due our having to make the pasta from scratch - which basically took the entire day!

November 6 - I finally get to return to this post having just farewelled our lunch guests - but this time I have photographs of the lunch we served so I wanted to post about it in its entirety. With this lunch I decided that I didn't want to prepare an entree so I decided to go into a bit more detail with the starters to have with the champagne. One canape I just cannot go past is the herbed pikelet - it is so easy to prepare and the results are very rewarding visually.

Herbed pikelets with smoked salmon, creme fraiche, capers, lemon and chives

I found the recipe for these pikelets in my littlest but handiest book called Small Food (snack-sized bits to share with friends) by Murdock Books. There are always things that I can pick from this book to serve to guests with champagne on arrival. Sometimes when I get that little bit stressed I almost call off making these pikelets off, but thank goodness I don't because they always make great first impressions

Herbed pikelet
1 cup self-raising flour
2 eggs lightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsely
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage

smoked salmon
creme fraiche

Sift the flour into a bowl and make a well in the centre. Gradually add the combined egges and milk, mixing the flour in slowly. When the flour is incorporated, add the parsely and sage and season well. Whisk until a smooth batter forms.

Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat and spray with cooking oil spray. Drop heaped teaspoons of batter into the pan and flatten them to give 5cm circles. Cook until bubbles appear in the surface of the pikelet, then turn and brown the other side. Lift out to cool on a wire rack.

To top - take thin slices of salmon and cut into 1 cm wide strips and curl into a rosette. Drop half a teaspoon of creme fraiche on the pikelet then place rosette of salmon, a caper and a very small thin slice of lemon. Arrange chives on top.

Prosciutto and zucchini bruschetta (from a previous post)

Chilli and basil prawns with rocket bruschetta

With the bruschetta - I usually rub the toast with a clove of garlic and drizzle some extra virgin oil on top prior to placing the topping. These were green prawns that we marinated in basil oil, chilli and garlic and briefly sauteed prior to serving on top of the rocket - easy peasy.

Braised belly of pork in a rich glaze, truffled mash, asparagus and wilted spinach.

This main was incredibly easy to make. It is the first time I have worked with pork belly. I had been impressed a couple weeks early when my sister roasted a pork belly so I decided to see what else I could do with it. I found this recipe on the web and it is from Gordon Ramsey - it was F.A.N.T.A.S.T.I.C the reduction which I spooned over the top really made it. I served it with a truffled mash - I used dutch cream potatoes, lots of cream and butter and after mixing through the truffle oil, for good measure I drizzled some basil oil over the top too.

1 whole pork belly joint, about 1kg
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped
1 celery stick, chopped
a head of garlic or 6 fat garlic cloves, peeled
100ml sherry vinegar
200ml soy sauce
1.5 litres brown chicken stock
5 star anise
20 coriander seeds
10 white peppercorns
10 black peppercorns

To prepare the pork, use a sharp filleting knife to cut off the skin, leaving a thin layer of fat about 5mm thick. Remove the rib bones and discard. Even out the thickness by taking a slice from any thicker areas and placing where meat is thinner. You should now have an even sheet of boned pork belly. Roll this up quite firmly and tie into a neat, even-shaped roll. (I did none of this I got my butcher to do it!)

Heat a shallow flameproof cast-iron casserole or deep saute pan (with lid) until you feel a strong heat rising. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and brown the pork joint, turning until caramelised all over. Remove to a plate.

Add the remaining olive oil to the pan and saute the vegetables and garlic for about 5 minutes.
Deglaze with the sherry vinegar and cook until reduced by half, then return the pork joint to the pan, placing it on top of the vegetables. Pour in the soy sauce and stock, then add the whole spices. Bring to the boil and partially cover the pan. Braise slowly over a low heat, or in the oven at 170°C, Gas 3.

I took the lid off for the last 45 minutes.

Cook for 2- 3 hours, basting occasionally with the pan juices, until the meat feels very tender. To test, push a metal skewer into the middle of the joint; there should be a little resistance.

Lift out the meat and set aside to rest on a warmed plate. Strain the pan juices into a pan and bubble to reduce to a glossy brown glaze.

To serve, remove the string and cut the pork roll into portions, or thick slices. Arrange on warmed plates and surround with wilted spinach and steamed asparagus. Serve with pomme puree.

Chocolate cloud cake and strawberries

Of course Niki inspired me to make this it is Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Cloud Cake. I am resigned to the fact that eventually I will end up baking every single cake that Niki and Nigella has done or will do though it will take some time as I need reasons to bake and don't do so indiscriminately - I am so happy I finally had a reason to bake this one.
250g dark chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solids *
125g unsalted butter, softened
6 eggs: 2 whole, 4 separated
175g caster sugar
2 tablespoons Cointreau (optional)
grated zest of 1 orange (optional)
23cm springform cake tin
For the cream topping:500ml double cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Cointreau (optional)**
half teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 180ÂșC/gas mark 4. Line the bottom of the cake tin with baking parchment. Melt the chocolate either in a double boiler or a microwave, and then let the butter melt in the warm chocolate. Beat the 2 whole eggs and 4 egg yolks with 75g of the caster sugar, then gently add the chocolate mixture, the Cointreau and orange zest.#

In another bowl, whisk the 4 egg whites until foamy, then gradually add the 100g of sugar and whisk until the whites are holding their shape but not too stiff. Lighten the chocolate mixture with a dollop of egg whites, and then fold in the rest of the whites. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake is risen and cracked and the centre is no longer wobbly. Cool the cake in its tin on a wire rack; the middle will sink as it cools. When you are ready to eat, place the still tin-bound cake on a cake stand or plate for serving and carefully remove the cake from its tin. Don't worry about cracks or rough edges: it's the crater look we're going for here. Whip the cream until it's soft and then add the vanilla and Cointreau and continue whisking until the cream is firm but not stiff. Fill the crater of the cake with the whipped cream, easing it out gently towards the edges of the cake, and dust the top lightly with cocoa powder pushed through a tea-strainer. Serves 8-12

My extra notes
*I used two 100g Lindt 70% bars of chocolate and I don’t think the 50g made a huge difference
**I used brandy instead of cointreau and I also used the orange zest
#(I didn’t know how long to beat at this stage so I decided to beat the eggs and sugar till the mixture was creamy and thick)


Sarah said...

Hi there,

I really like your blog - you've got great photos!

I loved ur pics of the chocolate cloud cake too. I'm a huge Nigella fan, and my on own little food blog I'm trying to work my way through her first book, How to Eat.

I also made some blini (from How to Eat) recently, which I also topped with smoked salmon, but the batter was a bit different - it had yeast in it.

Have you ever tried a yeasted version? I'd be really interested to hear what you think of it compared to the ones you made.

xox Sarah

Lushlife said...

Hi Sarah
Thank you so much for the kind thoughts.

I have to say that until recently I thought that Nigella was merely a "celebrity cook" but after baking her chocolate cakes and buying Feast I consider her my style icon and look forward to purchasing many more of her books. I love the ideology of your cooking blog!

I have popped by your blog - so much to discover so little time and checked out some of your cooking adventures and will leave my comment there about the blini.

About Me

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Mother of two with one of each. Wife of one.Dogless. Busy working five days a week, baking and cooking when time allows. Writing rarely these days. Wishing I had time to read more often.