Thursday, August 25, 2016

Rose scented macarons

It's funny those things you put off. Pastry was the only area of the kitchen I never got round to in all the hotels I worked in, so I've taught myself over the last 10 years. Macarons were that thing that I was always scared to touch. But, then, like everything else, someone asks you if you can do it, and the answer is always 'yes of course!'. And so it was, a couple of years ago.

That first time, the first batch around midnight was a disaster, but the second batch at 2am turned out pretty good. It's all about learning from your mistakes. This time round they were simple - what's the big fuss - it's only meringue really.
Rose syrup to flavour the macarons. Also nice to flavour prosecco. Apparently.

I started this batch, above, at 5am on the day of the event (a wedding afternoon tea), only then realising I didn't have any ground almonds. Nightmare. This is when the Vitamix comes into it's own. Whole skinned almonds blitzed down even finer than the ground almonds you can buy. Result! The trick is being gentle with the folding, and sieving 4 times. Oh and a bit of patience......

I used this recipe and flavoured it with rose syrup which you can buy at asian food shops.

How far apart to pipe macarons? There's a handy template here - you just place your greaseproof paper over it and pipe into the circles - life made easy!

Grilled lobster with garlic and herb butter

Grilled lobster with garlic and herb butter, crushed Anya potatoes and French beans wrapped in pancetta
Sometimes simple is best. People can get carried away with lobster dishes, maybe it's best to enjoy it as it is - this is what the host of this party asked for, and it went down really well with everyone!

This was a farewell dinner for the owner of the rather impressive Bibury Court. It has been run as a hotel for nearly 50 years, but small one off boutique hotels are very hard to make work financially. A couple of years ago they reverted it back into a large country house and were letting it out as a whole venue. Pretty amazing for a wedding! We did their Christmas and New Year catering in 2014 - 5. But now, sadly, it has been sold to a wealthy individual who is converting it back into a private house. That's going to be some awesome house!
Much to the horror of the waitresses you have to split the lobsters live and put them directly on to the grill pan. If you let lobsters die naturally the flesh breaks down and is mushy & disintegrates when cooked - not good to eat. This is why they need to be cooked fresh - you have to respect your ingredients! 

If you've ever sampled lobsters in a restaurant and found them tough, this is most likely when they are pre-cooked and refrigerated, then heated up when serving - the same as if you're buying them cooked from a supermarket. Sacrilege. 

Cooking lobster deserves love and attention. You need to cook it absolutely at the last minute before serving, even if this makes a bit of stress in the kitchen. 

Because this is being finished with garlic and herb (chives, sage and thyme from the garden outside the kitchen I was cooking in + tarragon and dill), you cook the bodies slightly less, then take the legs off and put them back on the grill pan to finish cooking. The legs can then be cracked and kept warm and added to the head cavity to garnish just before serving. 
Then the lobster bodies get a brief poaching with the garlic & herb butter in the oven to get the flavour through there just before serving, taking care that it's just cooked, soft & delicious! 
This was the hottest night on record this year, which is why the guests delayed to a 9:30pm start - by which time the air had begun to cool (well in the restaurant area at least! #chefslife).
Golden beetroot and baby leaf kale salad to accompany
The secret ingredients? You can add crushed pink peppercorn and ground cardamon to the garlic butter. Every bit helps!
The lobster's revenge!