I thought I’d left that behaviour behind. Guests at our supper club often comment on how calm and serene the kitchen appears to be. But the blind cooking rage returned last night as I wrestled and sweated, trying to create something from a pretty random selection of produce sent to me by Forman & Field of London.
I’d somewhat naively agreed to participate in a Valentine’s Cook Off using a box of mystery ingredients with the aim of creating the best Valentine menu. I would be competing against a cunning and notoriously evil group of my fellow food bloggers.
‘I will crush them’. (Said in an Ivan Drago style voice)…
Tearing open and unpacking the mystery box, my excitement turned to puzzlement and then finally to panic I was confronted with the following luxurious, but utterly disparate selection of items…
H. Forman & Son Royal Fillet of Smoked Scottish Salmon
Formans Marinated Anchovies with Garlic
Mrs Kirkham's Lancashire Cheese
Moniack Castle Horseradish Sauce
Plantation Cottage Tarragon Jelly
Formans Brandied Cherries
Regent’s Park London Honey
What the hell could I do with this lot?
Sitting down to sob inconsolably and bang my head upon the table, I thought…and thought…and then, after about half an hour, ideas started to come to me, tumbling forth in an unconscious stream….
…It’s a Valentines menu, so it seemed obvious that it should be quite indulgent but also light, (so as to facilitate any après meal fumbling that might possibly result).
The Royal Fillet of Salmon was too good an ingredient to do anything with other than serve it sliced…
I could make a dessert out of the Honey and the Brandied Cherries…and I could incorporate the tarragon and the horseradish somehow…the anchovies, I had no frigging idea what to do with these, so…. errr…thought the best option was to pretend they didn’t exist and kicked them under the sofa.
There, a plan of sorts…now to refine, and tweak, cook, scream and swear as it all goes utterly tits up and finally force ‘E’ to eat the resulting mess…
Here’s the finished menu and recipes….
All recipes serve 2.
Sliced Salmon, Scrambled Egg Tart with a Tarragon Jelly glaze.
Salmon and scrambled eggs are a classic match, I thought it would look more impressive and elegant in a tartlet case, with the tarragon jelly brushed inside to glaze and give an interesting contrasting flavour.
For the Shortcrust Pastry: -
200g plain flour
Pinch of salt
75g cold butter, chopped
1 small egg
Sift the flour with the salt. Rub the flour and butter together till it’s a crumble consistency. Add the egg and water and mix to form a smooth dough. Cling film and refrigerate for 30mins before using.
Roll out the pastry and line 2 greased tartlet tins, leaving the pastry overhanging to be trimmed later.
Line with greaseproof paper and baking beans, and bake at 180C for 15 mins.
Remove the beans and using a pastry brush coat the inside of the tarts with the Tarragon Jelly.
Return to the oven and bake for a further 10 mins.
Remove and put to one side to cool.
For the Scrambled Eggs: -
4x Large Eggs
Large Knob Butter
1 Tbs Double Cream
Salt and Pepper
I shouldn’t really have to give a scrambled egg recipe, but in the interests of completeness…
Add the knob of butter to a saucepan over a low heat and melt until foaming.
Beat the eggs with a fork, season and then pour into the saucepan. Stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the double cream and turn the heat down low, stirring regularly. The idea is too cook slowly until just set and creamy. Remove the eggs from the heat just before they seem ready.
Spoon into the tartlet cases.
Drape with sliced Salmon (Be generous).
Beetroot Jelly, Salmon and Horseradish Cream.
I’d made a Beetroot Jelly before, and knew that this flavour partnered with Horseradish and Salmon is an absolute classic. I pictured how it would look and how simple it should be, but the whole thing turned out to be quite fiddly to assemble and get right. I used Agar Flakes to make the jelly as ‘E’ is a Pescetarian but if you’re not bothered about such things, you could swap for Gelatine, as it’s much cheaper.
First make the Beetroot Jelly
You’ll Need: -
250g Cooked Beetroot
375ml Vegetable Stock
½ Tsp Caster Sugar
3 Heaped Tsp Agar Flakes
Grate the beetroot into a saucepan and add 250ml of the stock. Simmer, covered for 10 minutes.
Pour the remaining 125ml of stock into another saucepan and sprinkle over the agar flakes, leave for a couple of mins and then warm through stirring now and again until all the flakes have dissolved. This should take about 10 mins.
Pour into the beetroot pan and stir together.
Pour the mixture through a sieve into a bowl, do not force the mixture through.
Set the bowl over a larger bowl filled with ice, and stir slowly with a metal spoon until a gel begins to form. Spoon the jelly into a small flat-bottomed bowl lined with Clingfilm. Ideally you want the beetroot mixture to be at least 1cm thick.
Refrigerate until firm. This should take a couple of hours.
Next, make the Horseradish Cream.
You’ll need: -
100ml Crème Fraiche
2 Heaped Teaspoons Moniack Castle Horseradish Sauce
1 Tsp finely chopped Chervil or parsley
Mix all of these ingredients together.
To Assemble: -
Using a square cookie cutter, or sharp knife cut an 8cm x 4cm oblong out of the Salmon Fillet and place in the centre of the plate.
Cut a piece with the same dimensions from the beetroot jelly, and place on top of the Salmon.
Finally top with the horseradish crème, and garnish with some finely chopped parsley or chervil.
Regents Park Honey Parfait, with Ginger Crumb and Cherry Coulis
This is a bit of a cack handed homage to the beautiful Regents Park Honey Ice Cream Sandwich they serve at The Restaurant at St Pauls. It’s awesome, truly one of the best things I’ve eaten anywhere. For this, I made my own gingerbread and blitzed it up, but you could save time by blitzing some bought gingerbread biscuits, I doubt anyone would notice.
For the Honey Parfait
3 Egg Yolks
90g Caster Sugar
225ml Double Cream
75g Regent’s Park London Honey
Line two small (6cm across, 4cm deep) ring moulds with Clingfilm.
Break the eggs into a bowl and add the sugar.
Heat the honey in a saucepan until melted then pour over the egg and sugar mix.
Whisk the eggs, sugar and honey over a saucepan of simmering water until doubled in volume.
Remove from the heat and whisk until cool.
Whip the Double Cream until at the soft peak stage, and then fold into the honey mixture.
Pour into the lined moulds (you’ll have some extra, so pour that into a tub), and freeze until set (at least 3 hours).
For the Gingerbread Crumb
110g Plain Flour
1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
½ heaped Tsp ground ginger
¼ heaped Tsp ground cinnamon
25g unsalted butter
50g soft brown sugar
50g golden syrup
1 tsp treacle
Sift the flour, salt, soda and spices.
Heat the butter, sugar, syrup and treacle until melted and then cool.
When ready, pour into the dry ingredients and mix to form a dough.
Refrigerate for 30 mins.
Pre-heat the oven to 190C, and grease a baking sheet.
Roll out the dough to about 5mm thick, and cut out biscuit shapes.
Bake in the oven for about 7 mins, but keep an eye on it. Gingerbread although seemingly soft, hardens as it cools – it’s very easy to overcook, so be cautious.
Cool on a wire rack.
To Assemble: -
Blitz a couple of the gingerbread biscuits to a fine crumb and sprinkle onto a small plate.
Stone and Blitz a handful of brandied cherries to make the coulis.
Un-mould the Honey Parfait, and dip each end into the gingerbread crumb.
Top each with a whole brandied cherry and spoon cherry coulis around the plate.
Honey Oatcakes served with Mrs Kirkham’s Cheese.
I wanted to use as many of the ingredients as possible, but still had some of the excellent Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese left (Lets forget about the anchovies yeah?). In the end I decided to use some more of the Regents Park Honey to make some honey oat biscuits and to serve these simply with the cheese at the end.
You’ll Need: -
90g Rolled Oats
60g Regents Park Honey
Small pinch of salt
Melt the butter, add the salt, honey and oats and mix until combined.
Pour into a greased baking tin and bake at 170C around 25-30mins or until golden.
Remove from the oven and leave a few mins to cool, then cut into squares.
So that’s that. ‘The stuff that I cooked’.
I think that the tartlets and the honey parfait dishes worked best. Overall I was fairly pleased with how most of it turned out.
*Needle skidding across Queen's ‘We are the Champions’*
But, what’s this?
You think I’m an incompetent fool who doesn’t know his arse from his elbow and you could rustle up something far more impressive with the same ingredients?
Leave a comment telling me what you’d have made with the same ingredients, or failing that; utterly berate me for being a culinary clown and ruining such beautiful produce. The best and most entertaining replies will be entered into a prize draw to win a Forman & Field Hamper worth £60.
PS: Make sure to leave an email address or Twitter name so you can be contacted. The competition closes on the 10th February.