Monthly Archives: December 2012

Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck – part 3

The Fat Duck part three – phew ! Well I suppose if 14 courses took us four hours to finish, three posts does seem to do it justice. (Here are parts one and two).

The Fat Duck hot and cold tea

The deliciously crazy hot and cold tea

So we’d now completed the appetiser and main courses. Before going to the dessert courses, our palates were cleansed with “hot and iced tea” which is another perfect example of Heston’s ability to mess with your mind – making something as simple as a cup of tea raise all the eyebrows on our table, even thoughwe all knew exactly what it said was – not only was it printed on our menu, but the waiters told us as they served it. As you sip your tea from the glass cup, you taste the tea, experienced hot on one side of your mouth, cold on the other. We later looked up how this was achieved, but you know what, all I want to remember was that OH. MY. GOD. moment when I took my first sip. Just delightful stuff.

clove caramelised blackberries

Clove caramelised blackberries

First dessert was clove caramelised blackberries, served with a 2009 Passito di Pantelleria from Sicily. The blackberries came on one plate, and then the waiter passed around a tray full of silver cachons where four cornets with hojicha tea ice-cream where nestled. Again, that contrast/harmony of hot and cold, and sweet and woody and tart worked perfectly.

The Fat Duck BFG

The “BFG”

The “BFG” (Black Forest Gateau) came next. At this point, I was about at bursting point. But who can pass up something that looked like a tower of cake that ended almost like a full stop, with a quinelle of silky vanilla ice-cream ?

the Fat Duck whisk(e)y wine gums

Whisk(e)y wine gums

Final two desserts – we’re on the home stretch ! Whisk(e)y wine gums, stuck on to a map indicating where the corresponding whiskey came from, and to be eaten in a certain order. All I can recall is that while not a whisky drinker, these were deliciously alcoholic wine gums – except for Laphroaig. It was so strong and peaty that even being following three wine gums (there was five in total) couldn’t take away that smoky flavour. In fact, that seemed to be the lingering flavour in our mouths for the rest of the evening.

The Fat Duck petit fours

Coconut baccy and a wax-sealed envelope containing an edible white chocolate card

Last dessert was the petit fours of the meal – appropriately called “like a kid in a sweet shop”. Edible white chocolate Queen of hearts card, coconut baccy, apple pie caramel with edible wrapper and aerated chocolate of mandarin jelly.

NO MORE I hear you say ! Actually, by the time the sweets came, I have to admit we were all pooped from eating. But gosh what a luxury ! The Fat Duck is certainly somewhere I’m lucky enough to have experienced – the detail that goes into everything from the food to the cheeky waiters – simply makes for an totally enjoyable evening. It may not be for everyone, but if you love food and having a ball of a time eating it, I’d strongly recommend it. Heston Blumenthal certainly brought the fun back into food.

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Heston Blumenthal’s the Fat Duck – Part 2

Mad Hatter's Tea Party

Edible gold leaf was all that was left after the fob watch dissolved before our eyes

This is the second installment to our epic dinner at Heston Blumenthal’s the Fat Duck (if you want to catch up here’s the first and third parts).

The theme of the menu on the night fit perfectly with the whimsy of Heston, and added to the pure fun of the evening. So it seems fitting to begin this post with the course with that name – the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party (c. 1850).

The menu told us we would be eating mock turtle soup, pocket watch and toast sandwich.

Mad Hatter's Tea Party

Mad Hatter’s Tea Party – a “fob watch broth” on top to be poured over mock turtle egg

Again, a two-part course. First was an edible watch made of gold leaf-covered consomme which dissolved before your very eyes in the teapot, and which made the base of the mock turtle soup. The stock was then poured over a small mock turtle egg of turnip mouse and swede gel on top of which were small enoki mushrooms, and a terrine of alternating layers of pressed cured pork fat with braised oxtail, with cubes of turnip, black truffle and microherbs.

Sound of the sea

Sound of the sea

“Sound of the sea” was the next course, paired with Daiginko Masumi Nanago sake, from Myasaka Brewery in the Nagano Prefecture. The freshness of the sake complemented this dish – which famously leans on your sense of sound to entice, stimulate and enhance your sense of taste and smell. I have absolutely no idea what’s in it but essentially it’s an entirely edible plate of sand (tastes of seaweed and miso and goodness knows what else, with the texture of sand when you first eat it, then it seems to almost dissolve on your tongue), on top of which are various slices of seafood (razor clams, oysters, sea urchin, salmon roe), nestled along the shore line with seaweed and foam. Of course you are meant to eat this while you listen to the sound of waves crashing, with seagulls squawking (do seagulls squawk??) above. I have to admit, if the entire restaurant weren’t all eating the same thing, I would have felt more than a little foolish with my eyes closed, earbuds that came out of a large conch shell in my ears, smelling the dish before exclaiming how you could actually smell the sea, before we ate it. Did I love the dish ? I have to say, no – my love of the purity of Japanese sashimi overpowered the complexity of this dish. But was I impressed and amazed ? Absolutely.

salmon poached in liquorice gel

Salmon poached in liqorice gel

The next dish – salmon poached in a liquorice gel, with artichokes, vanilla mayonnaise and golden trout roe – didn’t quite hit the spot with me either. I think the liquorice gel overpowered the oh-so-delicate salmon and the dish just seemed very heavy.

Duck with blood pudding and umbles

Bay duck with blood pudding and umbles

Bay duck with blood pudding and umbles came next. Apparently the phrase “eating humble pie” came from “umble pie” – a pie made from umbles, which is the heart, kidneys, liver etc of deer. The duck was brined in a spice liquor before being cooked to pink perfection, fat perfectly rendered, with crisp skin on top. Gorgeous – although an enormous serving meant that I had to leave half behind to fit in the remaining five courses.

Good grief, this post is already crazy-long. Third post for the Fat Duck desserts coming up !


Heston Blumenthal’s the Fat Duck – Part 1

Oak moss from the course that paid homage to Alain Chapel

This post on the Fat Duck is just too long to have in one – there’s so much I want to record for posterity so that I can relive the meal –  and rather than put anyone through reading the War and Peace of one dinner, I’m separating the meal into three posts. Here’s the second and third parts).

The Fat Duck is such an indulgent treat for all your senses. Apart from divine food, the entire experience is, in a word, FUN.

There to celebrate D’s 40th, we were treated to a unique dining experience, tucked away in the village of Bray (about an hour’s drive from London). Not coming from England, even just being in a village is quaint to me, and with another Michelin starred restaurant at the Waterside Inn and Heston owning the nearby pub – the Hinds Head – this small town packs a punch per square inch in the culinary stakes.

Balls of beetroot with cream

A combination of the anticipation of the evening, and a few pre-dinner cocktails at the Hinds Head meant that we were arrived at the Fat Duck already pretty happy. The matching wine flight with our meal pretty much ensured that we left happy.

As we settled in to our champagne, we were given beetroot cream balls – balls of what I can only describe as beetroot flavoured balls of air with a slick of cream. I love beetroot – it has this wonderful earthy flavour. And to enjoy that flavour in something so delicate was the start of the meal.

I think what makes things special is attention to detail. The beetroot balls were served without any cutlery, so we had to eat them using our hands. The cutlery was laid down after this, and I was almost stunned when I realised that they had not set the cutlery the wrong way around for one of the four of us, but that they had noticed L had picked up her beetroot ball with her left hand – and was therefore left-handed. I mean, COME ON.

We then had some nitro poached aperitifs – we had a choice of vodka and lime sour, gin and tonic, or Campari soda, mixed with some egg white that was then cooked in liquid nitrogen, which is at a temperature of about -200C (-328F), so we each had a cold meringue that we popped whole in to our mouths, to experience the crisp outer shell crack and release the cocktail within.

Truffle toast at the at Duck

The truffle toast that we all wanted more more more of

We then were served a red cabbage gazpacho with pommery grain mustard ice-cream. Yep, you read right – the menu seriously screws with your head. Tangy red cabbage served on savoury ice-cream. The whole ice-cream thing really made you think you should be eating dessert but then your palate is served a savoury dish. This was paired with a 2010 Fume Blanc from Turkey.

Chicken liver parfait in a crayfish cream with jelly of quail

Chicken liver parfait in a crayfish cream with jelly of quail

Failing at not sneaking a peek at the other tables being served who were ahead of you on the meal, didn’t deter from the showmanship of the next dish – jelly of quail, with a crayfish cream, chicken liver parfait, oak moss and truffle toast. Our glasses were topped up with the same Fume Blanc and the incredible thing was how different the exact same wine tasted with different food. The first part of the dish arrived at our table – a square of moss, with four plastic containers that each held a single strip of “oak moss and pine” gelatin film that dissolved on your tongue. This is was served to prepare us for the parfait of chicken liver in a crayfish cream and a sliver of jelly of quail and truffle course. The chicken liver parfait in the crayfish cream was silky smooth, paired perfectly with the crunch-teeny-tiny-wish-there-was-more toast speckled with flecks of pungent truffles. As we were served this part of the course, the waiter tipped water on to the oak moss, which was sitting on some dry ice, so you felt like you were enjoying an early morning walk amongst the mist in a forest.

Heston Blumenthal's snail porridge

Snail porridge

Next was one of Heston’s signature dishes, the famous snail porridge. Poached snails and thin shavings of fennel on top of tiny squares of oatmeal in a vibrant green complex savoury porridge of parsley, butter, garlic, shallots, almonds, Iberico ham and dijon mustard. I have to admit, the idea of a savoury porridge was almost appealing to me – Chinese congee or rice porridge is a favourite of mine, but eating the snail porridge with oatmeal was truly a surprisingly delicious treat. A dry and crisp 2011 Chateauneuf du Pape, Clos la Rocquete from the Rhone Valley was paired with this course.

Roasted foie gras with barberry, braised kombu and crab biscuit at the Fat Duck

Roast foie gras with barberry, braised kombu and crab biscuit

Perfectly roasted foie gras with barberry, braised kombu and crab biscuit was served next, paired with a 2011 Pinot Gris, Signature, Rene Mure from Alsace. Bursting with flavour, the pillow-light softness of the the foie gras with its savoury flavour was completely in harmony with the crispness and sweetness of the crab biscuit.again. A wafer thin slice of kombu added umami to the dish.

That’s six out of 14 courses. This might be a three-post post – I’d better get cracking on the next courses !


Carol’s Christmas Mince Pies

I love a good mince pie. How could you not love a festive, icing sugar topped tender pastry, enveloping a deeply comforting warm mix of fruit, candied peel, spice, even some nuts and brandy. There’s the additional joy of being able to eat one you made yourself, still warm from your oven.

I found a jar of Tiptree brand mince filling in my supermarket. My favourite store-bought jams are Tiptree, so into my basket that jar went. I do need to caveat though, that the Tiptree mince ended up being very treacly (for want of a better word) and almost too alcoholic (never thought I’d ever say those words) for my liking. I have since found that Marks & Spencer do a mince filling which is Red-Riding-hood just right.

Nigel Slater has a really easy recipe that I used – I used a variety of tart cases rather than a tart tin just because I don’t own a tart tin, and perhaps my pastry was thicker, I only managed to make 12.

Ingredients makes about 12 – 18 tarts, depending on thickness of your pastry

  1. 150g unsalted
  2. 300g plain flour
  3. good pinch of salt
  4. 1 egg yolk
  5. a little cold water
  6. 375g good-quality mincemeat
  7. icing sugar for dusting

Method

  1. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the flour in a food processor.  Pulse until you have what looks like coarse, fresh breadcrumbs
  2. Add the salt and pulse to mix
  3. Add the egg yolk and pulse again to mix well
  4. Add just enough cold water to bring the dough together. Add one teaspoon at a time – it’s surprising how little you actually need
  5. Bring the dough together on to a floured board and knead gently for a few minutes until it softens
  6. Reserve half of the dough, then roll the remainder to about 5 mm
  7. Preheat oven to 200C/390F
  8. Cut out 12 discs of pastry to fit the bottom of your tart tray/tart cases. Place the pastry in the bottom of your case, smoothing them up the sides so the edges stand very slightly above the top of the edge
  9. Fill each one with a dollop of mincemeat. Be generous.
  10. Roll out the remaining pastry and make a further 12 discs of pastry
  11. Slightly dampen each of these round the edge with cold water then lay them over each tart and press firmly to seal the edges.
  12. Cut a small slit in the centre of each pie and bake for 20 minutes till golden
  13. Let them calm down for a few minutes, then serve warm, dusted with icing sugar
  14. Store any leftover pies in an airtight container

Vietnamese fresh rice rolls

Sorry for the hiatus – it’s been a crazy time at both work and play, I realise I still haven’t written any posts on our UK/Spain trip or had the time to even read my favourite foodie blogs (you know who you are). Things are thankfully winding down as the year draws to a close so I really need to dedicate some time to catch up.

A quick post on a GENIUS idea for making Vietnamese rice rolls. I love these – the herbs keep the rolls so light and add a fresh punch of flavour to each bite.

The genius idea is from Gordon Ramsay. I’ve made these rolls before and meticulously had plates and bowls lined up so that I could individually add each ingredient before rolling them up. It a fiddly affair and always ended up taking a really long time and making a mess, which meant that I made them less than I would have liked to.

Ramsay’s tip was to make a huge bowl of noodle salad with all the ingredients, so it’s just a matter of taking a small handful of the noodle salad, placing that in the rice roll and rolling it up. Simple. Why hadn’t I thought or realised this before ??

This recipe is very adaptable – add more or less of anything to your taste.

Ingredients makes about 12 rolls 

  1. 12 round rice paper sheets
  2. 50g dried rice vermicelli noodles, soaked in hot water until soft, then drained
  3. 50g raw prawns, cooked in a small amount of water – reserve the cooking liquid
  4. large red chilli, seeds removed, finely sliced
  5. large handful shredded iceberg lettuce
  6. large handful coriander leaves, chopped
  7. handful mint leaves, chopped
  8. handful of basil leaves (Thai basil if you can find it) chopped
  9. 1 – 2 tbls fish sauce
  10. splash sesame oil
  11. juice of small lime
  12. 100g bean sprouts

For the sauce:

  1. 4 tbls hoisin sauce
  2. few teaspoons of the reserved cooking liquid from the prawns
  3. 1/2 small red chilli, seeds removed, finely sliced
  4. 1 tsp peanuts, lightly toasted and crushed

Method

  1. Mix the noodles, prawns, lettuce, chilli and herbs together
  2. Mix the fish sauce, sesame oil and lime juice and dress the noodle salad
  3. Dip the round rice paper sheets in a bowl of hot water for a few seconds until you feel it soften
  4. Add a small handful of the noodle salad along with some bean sprouts lengthwise and roll – the rice paper will continue to soften and become “sticky” which makes it easier
  5. Set aside on a plate – don’t keep them too close together or you run the risk of the rice paper sticking to each other and tearing

For the dipping sauce:

  1. Mix the hoisin, prawn cooking liquid and chilli together, top with the crushed peanuts

Grown up Honey Joys

Honey Joys with macadamia nuts

I can’t remember when I last bought a box of Kelloggs cornflakes. But for some reason, browsing through the cereal aisle I had this insane craving for Honey Joys and so a box ended up in my pantry.

I made some changes to the classic recipe – substituting the sugar with more honey, making it less sweet, adding crushed macadamia nuts, but essentially they are still the sweet treats that took me back to the time where they were proudly on the same table as fairy bread and chocolate crackles at children’s parties (for those of you who didn’t grow up in the 70s in Australia or New Zealand, fairy bread is white bread with butter and hundreds and thousands sprinkled on them, and chocolate crackles are a combination of rice bubbles with cocoa, desiccated coconut and hydrogenated coconut oil, served in cupcake cups – how times have changed !).

Ingredients makes 24 mini cupcakes

  1. 45g butter
  2. 1 tbls sugar
  3. 3 tbls honey
  4. 50g macadamia nuts
  5. 3 cups cornflakes

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 150C / 300F
  2. Wrap the macadamias loosely in a clean teatowel and crush with something heavy like a rolling pin
  3. Melt the butter, sugar and honey together in a large pot until frothy
  4. Add the cornflakes and nuts and stir well so that everything is evenly coated
  5. Spoon into cupcake cups
  6. Bake for 10 minutes
  7. Cool