Sunday, August 23, 2009

For The Gourmands

Just a little note about what we fed to Matt On The Cat to say thank you for taking us out on the good ship Snailspace to watch the first night of the fireworks.

Starters was a warm chicken liver salad. No pictures exist of my version of this rather yummity classic dish so this is a library shot, stolen from google image search, of something a bit similar; if you want to make it you'll need (to serve 4 as a starter)...
400g chicken livers; a handful of cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped; a goodly load of green salad, torn up or otherwise dissected (I used little gems, but more or less anything will do except the insipid, ubiquitous, bland and worthless iceberg); a couple of teaspoons of honey; a goodly splash of balsamic vinegar; a drop of olive oil; milled black pepper to taste.

Plonk the lettuce onto four plates. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Throw everything else into the pan once the oil is hot. Stir it around a bit. Once the livers look as if they're pink(ish), divvy up the portions on top of the lettuce, pouring any liquid over as well.

There now, wasn't that easy-peasy.

Now, onto mains...
That's it before being ovened to juicy pinkness.

It's called Gigot de Pré-Salé Farci. In truth it's an ersatz version of true Mouton (or Agneau) de Pré-Salé (if you can read French it's explained fully here, essentially the real thing is mutton or lamb fed on pasture that is often inundated by seawater which makes the meat salty: pre-salted, in effect). I'd never made it before, but I'll be doing it again - mmmm, mmmmm, mmmmmm.

Again, for four (unless you're very hungry, this will give you a bit left over)...

1kg boned shoulder of lamb; 2ish cloves of garlic, finely chopped; a handful of fresh rosemary sprigs, broken up into little bits; a couple of teaspoons worth of fresh sage chopped up ever so little; shedloads (ok - about 5 or more tablespoons) of chopped fresh parsley; half an onion, chopped fine; half a teaspoon ground ginger; a couple of pinches of salt; black pepper to taste.

Put half the rosemary straight into a roasting tin.

Lay the lamb flat, skin side down.

Chuck everything else into a bowl and mix together well to form a dry, herby stuffing. Spread this stuffing over the lamb and then comes the difficult bit...

Roll the lamb tightly and secure with sting, enclosing the stuffing. If you have a very friendly butcher (thank you, Mr Voisin's van man), borrow a meat stitching tool and stitch the joint up like I did. If not - just tie it up and don't worry.

Sprinkle any bits of left-over or fallen-out-the-lamb stuffing around the roasting tin with the first bits of rosemary.

Whack it into the oven at Gas 4-5 (180° plus a bit) for about an hour and ten (perhaps an hour and twenty deending on your oven); the meat should be pink inside. Carve and serve with whatever veg and carbs you have to hand (we had sautéed courgette from Shazzerooneypoos' garden and whole boiled anya potatoes from the same source - thank you Auntie Sharon).

On to puds. Oh, come on, there's always room for pudding.

If you're doing French themed stuff, it's hard to beat a decent crème brulée. Here's me doing the brulée bit.You'll need (for four) about 600ml of double cream (be generous, it won't go to waste); a couple of vanilla pods (I have used vanilla essence on occasion, but it's never as good); half a dozen egg yolks; about three tablespoons of caster sugar.

Plop the cream into a sauce pan with the vanilla pods. Heat very gently and don't let it boil; it does need to get as hot as can be without boiling, though.

Meanwhile, beat one tablespoon of sugar into the egg yolks - keep going until it gets nice and bubbly.

Remove the vanilla pods from the hot cream (clean and dry them, thrift fans - they're very expensive and can be used again, my lot are on their third usage and are still giving out loads of flavour).

Pour the cream onto the egg yolks and sugar mixture, beat together thoroughly.

Divvy up the mixture into ramekins (or whatever ovenproof serving dishes you're going to use); place in a roasting tin with an inch or so of warm water in it (this is a Heath Robinson bain-marie).

Pop into the oven at Gas 4 (180°) for about 20 minutes.

Leave to cool and refrigerate to allow to set. This is best if you can do it 12 hours or so before serving. I only had about 2 hours to play with and as a consequence the crème was a tad runny (still yummy, just a bit runny).

Just before serving, sprinkle sugar over the top of each and melt it (to the extent of burning - it's great if it gets quite bitter). I use a hand held torch designed specifically for the purpose, but it can be done under the grill. It can also be done with a plumber's blow torch (oh, yes it can, I've done it).

Allow the burnt sugar (that'll be caramel, then) to harden (a couple of minutes) and plop the yummy puds in front of your guests.

There you go - one French infused meal, relatively quick and easy. Have fun.

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