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Sunday, 25 April 2010

Griddled wild tiger prawns with wild garlic risotto and asparagus

Mr F and I are lucky enough to live a stone's throw from Broadway Market which has a great, proper fishmonger (Fin and Flounder, 71 Broadway Market) selling a veritable cornucopia of spankingly fresh and sustainably sourced fish and seafood.  Once or twice a week we head over to pick up something for supper.  As a relative newcomer to the joys of all things piscine Mr. F knows no fear - he regularly returns home to present me with a few pearly white squid or a clattery bag of clams.  Last Saturday we decided upon some huge wild tiger prawns.  The helpful fishmongers recommended cooking them simply in a hot pan for about a minute and a half on each side.

Our favourite vegetable stall was selling bunches of pungent wild garlic (which is to garlic what chives are to onions) and some early asparagus.  We eagerly fell on these, and decided to cook a simple risotto with fennel and wild garlic to go with the prawns.  As pink and green look so pretty together, we went the whole hog and added the asparagus into the mix.

I marinaded the prawns for a little while in olive oil, a sliced red chili, a sliced clove of garlic and parsley.  I am not sure how much it added to the flavour given that I cooked them with the shells on, but it gave me the opportunity to take some atmospheric food photos, like this:

To serve two you will need:

For the risotto

A mug of risotto rice (arborio or carnaroli)
An onion, finely diced
A fennel bulb, finely diced
One bunch of wild garlic, stalks removed and the leaves finely sliced
One clove of garlic finely chopped
Butter and olive oil
A glass of a light, sharp white wine (sauvignon blanc for example)
Vegetable stock
Lemon juice to taste and zest of half a lemon
Small handful of grated parmesan
A handful of finely chopped parsley

Melt butter with olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat and add the onion and half of the diced fennel.  Cook until translucent but not brown, about ten minutes.  Add the rice and stir until it also starts to become translucent around the edges.  Add the garlic clove and remainder of the fennel.  Turn up the heat and add the white wine.  Stir until the wine has evaporated.   Reduce the heat, then begin to add the stock (which should be in a pan on a low heat) ladleful by ladleful, stirring regularly.  When the rice is creamily falling off the spoon whilst retaining its texture it is ready.  Turn off the heat and add the wild garlic, lemon juice and zest, parmesan, butter, and parsley.   Taste and adjust seasoning.  Leave your risotto for five minutes to settle before serving.

For the rest

Four wild tiger prawns
One bunch of asparagus
Lemon juice

Whilst the risotto is resting, boil a pan of water and heat a griddle pan.  Cook the prawns over a high heat for a minute and a half on each side.  If they are very thick then it is also worth holding them on their backs for a few seconds to ensure that they are cooked.  Cook the asparagus in well-salted boiling water for between 2 to 3 minutes depending on thickness.  Drain and dress with a little olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, and season.

Serve the dish with wedges of lemon, finger bowls and a receptacle for the shells and heads.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Burnt sugar cream puffs

For some reason I have recently gotten into the habit of denying that I have a sweet tooth.  In response to interrogation on the subject of predilections for puddings I am likely to respond "Oh well, you know, I'd rather have a plate of cheese any day".  Now, I have been known on some occasions to order cheese in place of pudding, but I do love sweet things, particularly those which involve copious amounts of luscious things like cream or creme patissiere or mascarpone.  I don't know why I've been disavowing them of late.

As we don't serve meat chez Chateau Forkful I feel dutybound to ensure that the final course (cheese always before pudding if it's going to be served) offers a richly satisfying end to the meal.  Tiramisu often makes an appearance on a menu, as do dense flourless chocolate cakes served with lashings of creme fraiche or thick double cream.  For a recent Friday night supper party I decided to make some choux buns filled with creme patissiere lightened with whipped cream and covered in burnt sugar.  They were a big hit and also came in handy the following morning when making breakfast with a rampant hangover was an impossibility.

This recipe serves 8 to 10 people.

For the choux buns

180ml of water
180 ml of whole milk
180g of unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon of salt
180g of flour (sifted twice)
6 large eggs

Preheat your oven to between 200 and 220 degrees, depending on how hot it gets.  Position one rack in the top third of the oven and another on the bottom third.  Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.

Bring the first four ingredients to the boil over a medium heat.  When the butter is melted tip in the flour and stir vigorously until a dough forms.  Continue to stir for 1 to 2 minutes more, until a film forms on the bottom of the pan.  Put the dough in a large bowl and leave it to cool for a few minutes.  Give it a prod now and again.  When it has coolled a little add the eggs one by one.  You will need to stir it very well after each egg: the mixture will look like a curdled mess, but some serious elbow grease should see that it all comes together to form a smooth and shiny dough.  Put teaspoons of the dough on to the greaseproof paper, about an inch and a half apart.  You can neaten the dough by shaping it with a wet finger.

Bake the puffs for 15 minutes.  Reverse the baking sheets and reduce the temperature to 180 degrees.  Bake for a further 30 to 35 minutes.  You want the puffs to be deep golden brown and dry.  If they are not sufficiently cooked through the finished dish will go soggy in a matter of minutes.

For the creme patissiere filling

300ml of whole milk
100ml of double cream
6 egg yolks
90g of caster sugar
30g of plain flour
30g of corn flour
One vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped out
300ml of double cream, whipped

Place the milk and 100ml of cream in a saucepan and bring to steaming point.  Cream the eggs and sugar together in a bowl and then mix in the flours.  Add the vanilla seeds to the milk and cream mixture, and then pour the whole lot on to the eggs in a thin stream, whisking as you go.  Return the mixture to the pan and cook over a low heat until the mixture bubbles and makes a smooth, thick cream.  (I had a hairy moment when it looked as though I had over-cooked it and had made scrambled egg a la patissiere - some vigorous whisking got me back on track, so fear not.)  Taste to make sure that the flour is cooked.  If the mixture looks as though it is getting too thick but still tastes a bit floury, add a little cold milk or cream and keep stirring.

When the creme is cooked, transfer it to a bowl and press some greaseproof paper on to its surface.  This will ensure that a skin doesn't form.  Chill well (for at least two and a half hours).

When you are ready to fill your buns stir in the whipped cream.  This is best done by adding one spoonful to slacken the creme patissiere and then adding the rest of the cream bit by bit. 

Then, slice the tops almost entirely off the buns and fill generously with the creme.

For the burnt sugar

300g of caster sugar

Heat the sugar in a non-stick frying pan until it is melted and deeply golden.  Then, carefully dip each bun into it (burnt sugar really burns so you may wish to use gloves for this bit.  I tried to do it using a fork, but it made the operation much harder and much, much messier.).  Position your buns either in a single layer on an enormous platter, or, as I did, in a mound on a plate or cake stand.  The sugar will set hard making them fiendishly difficult to extract neatly, but it looks really dramatic and, after all, it's the taste that really matters once they're on each plate!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Paris recommendations

"Two posts in one day!" I hear you cry.  Why yes, dear readers, but this one is only a list of recommendations from my and Mr. F's recent weekend in Paris.

The first thing I would advise you to do is to seek out one of the numerous markets.  I had resolved to visit one of the ones listed in our Time Out guide, but a friend and Paris resident recommended Marche D'Aligre near Bastille.  Go.  It's phenomenal and makes Broadway and Borough Markets look more than a little lacklustre by comparison.

Amazing fish

Amazing shellfish

Amazing sauerkraut (?)

In terms of restaurants, I would entreat you to go to L'Os a Moelle (3, rue Vasco de Gama).  It's one of Steingarten's favourites, and we ate an extraordinarily delicious and balanced meal there (35 euro for a four/five course menu, excluding wine). 

We tried to go to L'Ami Jean (27 Rue Malar), but it was fully booked.  I've heard great things though.

Our friend took us to L'Olivier (88, rue Ordener), where we had a good meal served up in hefty portions.

There were a couple of nice patisseries near to where we stayed: Le Moulin de la Vierge (166, avenue de Suffren) does an incomparable coffee eclair and the window displays at Patisserie Traiteur Secco (Rue Jean Nicot) are mouthwatering.

Rhubarb crumble cake...finally

This cake is the bastard child of Martha Stewart's breakfast muffins (specifically the streusel component) and a basic vanilla sponge.  The idea presented itself to me following the delivery of some hot pink rhubarb (with thanks to Ocado).  Usually I just make a compote, flavouring the stewed rhubarb with either orange juice and zest, or with fresh ginger, but this time around I decided to be a little bit more adventurous and incorporate the rhubarb as a sweet-tart element in a luscious cake.

Rhubarb compote is spread on to an egg rich vanilla sponge mixture (like custard you see!), before a buttery streusel topping is scattered over and the whole lot baked in the oven til golden brown.

To make this you will need:

For the rhubarb compote:

400g of rhubarb
About 100g of caster sugar (or to taste, but making sure it stays sharp)

For the cake:

100g ground almonds
50g of plain flour (or tipo 00)
150g unsalted butter
Half a teaspoon of baking powder
150g of caster sugar
A vanilla pod, split down the middle and seeds scraped out
4 eggs
Pinch of salt

Butter for greasing

For the streusel topping:

75g of unsalted butter
75g of plain flour
75g of icing sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees.

Roughly chop the rhubarb and put it in a pan with the sugar and a splash of water.  Cook until it becomes a thick mush (technical term).

In a mixing bowl, combine the butter and sugar for the cake.  Beat until fluffy, and then add in the eggs, salt, and the contents of the vanilla pod.  Combine without over-mixing.  Then sift in the flour and add the almonds and baking powder and mix a little more.  Pour the mixture in a 23 cm spring form tin that's been well buttered.

In a small sauce- or milk pan melt the butter for the streusel.  Add the flour and icing sugar and mix (off of the heat) until you have a crumbly mixture.

Distribute the rhubarb evenly over the sponge mixture.  Spinkle the streusel mixture on top.  Bake the cake for about 25 minutes (although you may want to check after about 20 as the sponge element is quite thin and won't need too long to cook).  Et voila!  Delicious with creme fraiche or greek yoghurt.


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