Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Halibut baked in salt crust

Seabass baked in salt is a Sicilian speciality. It was seabass that I cooked in the salt crust for a family last December near Chipping Norton - they were celebrating Chanuka at the same time as a 70th birthday. The family were originally from Italy, hence the Italian theme.
As it was their father's birthday, his sons were hellbent on revenge and played a blindfold wine tasting session. Their father was given glasses from his wine cellar (he had visited the vineyards where he had brought his wine from), and glasses from various budget supermarket plonk. Could he tell the difference blindfold? The result? Well that would be telling, but it certainly made the sons' night!

The idea of this dish is you make a verrrrrrrrrrrrrry salty dough which you bake the fish in. You can add herbs, lemon, capers, peppercorns of various colours etc to flavour it. The fish bakes in the steam created inside the salt crust and takes a little of the salt seasoning like you would expect - it's just enough salty twang, not overpowering like you would think from that much salt; instead it's delicious and very moist.
Raddichio braised in red wine and balsamic. By the time the wine and balsamic has reduced to a glaze the raddichio is ready. You can also sprinkle them with parmesan and flash them under the grill. Something I discovered on holiday. 
It's a bit of food theatre - you take the fish in salt crust to the table and let the guests break it open, warning them not to eat the crust! They have another plate with the accompaniments in front of them, and aioli to go with it which is the traditional sauce. Real Italian food is about big flavours done simply - and it doesn't get better than this! Why complicate everything?
You bake the fish skin side up so the skin sticks to the crust and comes off when you remove the top crust. It's always good trying something out for the first time at an event - it has to work, there is no room for error. It did too! Worked in the one above too, which was a halibut version I cooked the night that my Mum and I were planning her 70th birthday road trip around NZ.

What a fun dish - why don't you try it!? I used this recipe, with a little adapting along the way.....

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Warm chocolate mousse? Who knew it's a thing?

It's always interesting when you take on another chef's menu. Maybe it's like a Times journalist being asked to write a one off piece for the Telegraph - it's the same kind of language, but someone else's world.
Trio dessert - Raspberry Eton mess, glazed lemon tart and warm chocolate mousse
So it was with the menu we served last Saturday. You hear scare stories sometimes of chefs not turning up at events, or bowing out at the last moment when something else more lucrative comes along. I just can't understand them: once you've committed to a job, you've committed to it, and that's that, whatever else comes along - your clients put their trust in you, and you should honour that!

Not everyone thinks like this however, but I'm always there if you need to pick up the pieces. This party near Bourton-on-the-Water was one that another chef had backed out of a week before the event, so I took on the same menu.

Warm chocolate mousse? I've never heard of it either, but, wow! What a revelation! It's like a light version of chocolate fondant. Still soft in the middle - heaven! We served ours in a cup & used this recipe.

It actually works quite well re-heated in the microwave the day after cooking - if you've got any leftovers that is!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Herefordshire Hanger steak with blackberries and sloe gin.... oh and game chips!

Crazy right now, looking back through the photo archives and finding hundreds of dishes and events I haven't done anything with. Must have been busy or something.
This was actually a dish from the end of November last year near Burford. A birthday event for a couple who owned a restaurant, an ice cream bar and a cafe in Cheltenham. No pressure then!

Hanger steak was a new find of mine from earlier in the year, at the wedding where the bride and groom flew in by helicopter. Hanger steak has far more flavour than fillet and sirloin if truth be known, and it's cheaper, so why isn't it as popular? You guys are missing out!