Wednesday, 18 July 2012

S is for...

Singapore Slings with sweet and sour shrimp spring rolls followed by scallops and crispy Serrano ham on puréed salsify and sorrel sauce. Next up,  I served smoked salt and Szechuan pepper squid with samphire salad and saffron mayonnaise, followed by succotash and socca bread. Next, we ate sweetbreads and Sauerkraut followed by seared springbok steak sashimi with spring onions, soy and sesame.  The main meat of the day was squirrel, stewed with sage and sherry and served with sautéed sweet potatoes and spinach. Something sweet was needed after all that savoury, and the sugar hit started with a shot of satsuma and Sauternes soup, followed by strawberry soufflé with strawberry semifreddo, strawberry sorbet and star shaped sablé biscuits. Back to savoury for cheeses beginning with S. I served up Serra De Estrela, Soureliette, Selles Sur Cher, Shropshire Blue and Stinking Bishop with sunflower seed soda bread scones.  The finale of this sizeable supper came in the shape of star anise sponge sandwiches and spoonfuls of sea salt caramel.

I may not be known for my restraint when shaping a letter-themed menu, and I've talked before about Richard having to reel me in sometimes, but it's never my intention to see guests go home so stuffed they feel sick, it's just that I sometimes get a bit carried away and on S night it was easy to. There really is a superabundance of foodstuffs starting with the letter S and it really is no overstatement to say that S night's spread was especially substantial. We kicked off the evening with Singapore Slings and sweet and sour shrimp spring rolls, while the CD player belted out the likes of The Smiths, The Sugarcubes, Sonic Youth, Sophie's Pigeons, Scissor Sisters, The Sisters of Mercy, Steps, The Shins, Sir Mixalot (we like big butts and we cannot lie), Snivelling Sluts, Silverfish and Sinatra. Guests brought a pleasingly excessive amount of wine, from Sancerre and Sauvignon Blanc to Saint Emilion and Sauternes and that was all before the scotch hit the table.

Singapore Sling

Invented some time before 1915 at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore*, this cocktail tastes like fruit juice but packs a  hefty punch. You have been warned.

Per person

1 measure of gin
1/2 measure of cherry brandy
A splash of Cointreau
A splash of Benedictine
3 measures of pineapple juice
A squeeze of lime
A dash of grenadine
A dash of angostura bitters
Soda water

Shake everything except for the soda water with ice, pour glasses and top with soda. 

*Info from Wikipedia.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

rooibos tea with rum truffles.

I'm no fan of rooibos or red bush, or whatever you want to call it. It tastes like sticks to me and smells like the discarded water from boiled peas. I'd rather go thirsty than suffer this appalling drink, but others find it refreshing for some reason. Richard always drinks it post-caffeine curfew after 6pm, which I've always found strange, as he usually has such excellent taste. You probably like it too. Everybody else seems to. Feeling that perhaps it was time to concede defeat and bow down to majority rule, I served rooibos to the R party alongside rum truffles. I went thirsty.

Rum truffles

50g dark chocolate, finely chopped
50ml single cream
1 tsbp light muscovado sugar (optional)
A forkful of dark rum
A knob of butter (to help set the forkful of rum)

Melt the sugar into the cream over a gentle heat, stirring until it has fully dissolved. Stop stirring and scald the cream before pouring over the chopped choc. Leave to stand for one minute before stirring in with a rubber spatula until you are left with a smooth, glossy ganache. Add dark rum to taste - try to restrain yourself from going too overboard or else your ganache won't set. Stir in the butter until it's melted and leave to cool completely and set. You can pop it in the fridge to speed things up if you like. Roll teaspoon sized balls between your hands before rolling in sifted cocoa and serving.

R is for... Rachel, Red Chester Thomas, Reblochon and Roquefort served with rye bread and raisin relish


I didn't have time to go into town to visit the usual suspects - Paxton & Whitfield or Neal's Yard. Instead, I went to the end of my road to a recently opened little canopied delicatessen with no name. They sell all manner of freshly made breads, pastries, cakes, meringues and tarts and also sell a good range of cured meats and some nice cheeses. If you want to find this unnamed Streatham gem, look no further than Streatham Hill station. Literally. You'll have gone past it of you do. Or, if you're coming up from Brixton, jump off the bus outside the station and it's just across the road.

Rachel is a semi-hard goats milk cheese (top right in pic) from Somerset. It has a firm texture and, although quite subtle in its goatiness, it has a mild and lingering sourness.

Reblochon (bottom right) is a French cows milk cheese made in the Alps region of Haute-Savoie. It has a washed rind and is smear-ripened and is delightfully gooey with a slight nuttiness. Famous for its starring role on tartiflette (hold on to your hats, the recipe will be coming at you with the letter T. Watch this space.), it needs no potato to hold its hand to make a lasting impact on a cheeseboard.

"Red Chester Thomas" (bottom left) is what it read on the label, but it was a label that was sort of in between two cheeses - this one and another one. I asked for Red Chester Thomas, so I assume that's what it was, but I've looked up Red Chester Thomas and have found absolutely nothing to suggest it exists, not even a foot note. We thought it tasted exactly like Red Leicester and, now that I've googled Red Chester Thomas to within an inch of its life and have been left wanting, I think it probably was Red Leicester after all, or at least that Red Chester Thomas is pretty much unidentifiable from Red Leicester. 

Red Leicester is a hard cows milk cheese made in, er, Leicester. It's all right, but not one of my great favourites. If I'm honest, I've always thought of it as Cheddar's slightly less attractive cousin. I wouldn't turn my nose up at it, if it happened to be under it, but I probably wouldn't rush to replace it, once the last slice had been scoffed, either.

Roquefort (top left). Hmmm, Roquefort. I am particularly partial to a bit of blue, and this classic cheeseboard stalwart didn't let me down. Creamy, crumbly and tangy, this ewes milk semi-hard French cheese packs the perfect pongy punch.

Rye Bread

We didn't take a picture of this for some reason, but it was very nice. I'd make it again. And now, thanks to my pains in typing up the recipe, you can too. Good.

7g sachet of fast acting yeast
450-500ml lukewarm water
400g wholemeal rye flour
1 tsp salt

Pop the yeast and 100ml of the water in a large mixing bowl with 50g of the flour. Mix it all up, cover in cling film and leave in the airing cupboard, or somewhere warm, for 6-8 hours or overnight. Add the remaining flour and enough water to make a soft dough. Knead for a few minutes until soft and slightly sticky, then cover with cling film and pop back in the airing cupboard for an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

Knock the air out of the dough by punching it. Knead again for a minute or so and work it into a nice shape - I just made a casual round lump of bread, but you can do as you like. Plonk it on a baking tray lined with baking parchment and cover it with a clean tea towel before popping it back in the airing cupboard for another hour.

Preheat the oven to 220°C (200°C Fan)

Dust the bread with flour and bake for 30 - 35 minutes, or until nicely golden with a hollow sounding bottom.

Raisin Relish

This is less a recipe and more a list of ingredients that I chucked in a saucepan with no particular thought for measurements or accuracy, before fiddling about with the balance of flavours until I was happy - too sweet, add more vinegar, etc. This had onion, grated apple, raisins (obviously), butter, soft brown sugar, salt and red wine vinegar in it, and that's about as specific as you're going to get out of me on this one, until I decide to make it again with closer attention to detail.