Friday, February 09, 2007

Lunch Sunday 4 February 2007

  • Stracciatella Soup
  • Smoked Wild Icelandic Salmon on Potato Latkes and Crème Fraise
  • Roasted Fennel with Lemmon Oil Dressing
  • Braised Phesant with Forest Mushroom Sauce, Stir Fried Savoy Cabbage and Vacherin over Fresh Potatoes
  • Lemmon Tart with Rosemary Mascarpone and Green Tomato Jam

Stracciatella Soup for me is nothing but a method for making plain chicken broth more interesting. By the same token I only ever have it when I happen to have particularly good chicken broth. To make chicken broth into Stracciatella mix an egg, parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs and a pinch of nutmeg together and blend into the broth after whirling the broth quite fast. Whirling the broth is supposed to ensure the egg mixture breaks up and does not clump together. I actually think it is fun to put a dollop of the mixture on the bottom of a bowl before pouring in the broth leaving it to the diner to break up. Salt and pepper to taste.

Alternatives, to this recipe are to add finely chopped parsley, coarsely chopped spinach (then apparently it is called an Italian Wedding Soup), semolina (instead of the bread) and you can skip the nutmeg. Actually I prefer skipping the nutmeg.

For the Salmon recipe it really helps to have a brother who is an enthusiastic salmon fisherman, who catches more than he consumes of Icelandic Salmon and is generous with his catch. If this is lacking in your family I highly recommend getting one as they are really handy. Alternatively, use high quality farmed salmon. Try to find salmon that has very little fat marbling. Wild salmon is basically nature’s tri athlete and has no fat other than what is in its muscles. Farmed salmon in contrast are really sloppy city cousins who feed on junk food and have completely unnecessary fat deposits. There is no similarity in taste but farmed salmon has been getting better at the top end of the market.

I would normally serve this dish with blinis but I am very bored with those mainly because of certain friends who keep asking for them. The potato latkes are something I learned to make in cookery school about 15 years ago and have never made since. I was reminded of them when I came across a recipe for them in a women’s magazine. Sadly I did not rip the recipe out of the magazine because I’ve forgotten the recipe and my Cordon Blue book is somewhere at the bottom of a moving box.

From a very hazy memory I grated together about 400 grams potatoes (half coarsely and half fine), two shallots and a handful of finely cut chives. I then squeezed as much liquid out of the potato mixture as possible before adding 1 egg, 1 egg white and a tablespoon of flour and a pinch of salt. I then formed pancakes from about a tablespoon of the mixture and fried them in Olive oil. I actually fried the latkes twice, first with very little oil, because I was afraid that doing them in one go would leave them very oily. I don’t know if this is really a part of the recipe but it worked as I the latkes where not oily at all. I got 14 latkes out of this recipe.

To serve I put the crème fraise on top of the latkes, some more chives on top of the crème before adding salmon on top. I served the latkes with cold champagne although white wine would be the obvious choice.

The Roasted Fennel recipe is from my newest favourite cookbook the River Café Cookbook. You cut up the fennel into ½ cm slices in such a way that the stalks remain whole and then roast the slices until cooked but “al dente”. I did this in my sandwich maker which worked just fine. After roasting toss the fennels in a dressing made by beating five parts olive oil into one part lemon juice, drizzle with sea salt and serve. The Rive Café recipe is a little different but not that much.

I got the Phesant from my friend James, who was invited for lunch, and I must say having friends that are enthusiastic hunters is quite cool as well. I had four guests and three Phesant which was a lot but not ridiculously so as basically we had ½ bird left over. The birds where fresh and had not been hanged which my guest preferred but I think is a shame as game really needs to hang to get the full taste.

To make this dish you need to start by reconstituting about 50 grams of dried mushrooms, I used mixed forest mushrooms. You do this by pouring about 400 ml of warm water over the mushroom in a bowl and covering the bowl. After about 10 minutes remove the mushrooms and rinse any remaining grit under running water. Pour the mushroom water through a very fine sieve or paper to get any grit out and set a third of the liquid aside. Mix the remaining liquid with about equal amount of white wine.

To prepare the Phesant clean it of any bits and pieces such as stray feathers and fat. In a braising pan that is large enough to cover with all the birds inside, fry all sides of the birds until brown and remove from the pan. Soften one large onion and two cloves of garlic in the pan before adding back the Phesant. At this point there are two options you can either add all the mushroom and wine liquid, cover and leave to simmer in a 160 degrees Centigrade hot oven for about 40 minutes or you can do the difficult method. The difficult method involves pouring in about a fifth of the liquid covering, letting the liquid reduce to almost nothing, adding more liquid etc for about 20 – 25 minutes at high heat. You then remove the birds and add any remaining liquid to make the sauce. I had other things to do so I selected the easy method. I also added three sprigs each of rosemary and thyme, a dozen or so black pepper corns, three bay leaves and salt to taste.

The lazy method is also good if you like me underestimate the time it will take to get through to main course because by turning the birds and lowering the heat you can prevent them from drying out. This way, even if you leave the birds in there for more than 90 minutes, they will still be moist when served.

While the Phesant is cooking fry the mushrooms in butter and when they have absorbed the butter start to slowly add in the remaining mushroom liquid. The objective here is to reconstitute the mushrooms in such a way that they regain some volume. Do too much though, and the mushrooms become soggy and unattractive, so pay attention.

For the Savoy Cabbage you need a sliced clove of garlic, 50 grams cubed pancetta, ¼ cup each red vine and stock and naturally enough Savoy Cabbage. Prepare the cabbage by removing the thick white central stalk and tearing each blade in half. Fry the pancetta in a large pan until brown, add the garlic and fry until soft. Add the cabbage to the pan and heat through. Add the liquid and simmer until it is completely gone.

For the sauce remove the Partridge and pour the remaining liquid through a sieve into a sauce pot. Add about a teaspoon of sauce thickener (maisana or flour or even roux if you can be bothered) and the mushrooms and reduce until you have achieved the desired thickness.

For the potatoes add them to the pan with the Phesant for the last twenty minutes or so. You heat the cheese in the oven with the Phesant inside its box for about 10 – 15 minutes. When you remove the Phesant you also remove the potatoes and put them into individual small bowls, crush them and drizzle with sea salt. When it is time to serve the birds you pour about a tablespoons worth of cheese over 4 – 5 potatoes per person.

To serve cover a plate with the Savoy Cabbage and place the Phesant on top. I carved the partridge in such a way that each guest had two medium slices of breast cut along the whole breast with half a leg placed over. Pour over the sauce and serve with the potatoes.

Served with: Chataux Montrose 2001, (Pessac-Leognan)

The Tart is a classic Italian Torta di Limone although I took the recipe from the River Café cookbook. It is made from butter, sugar, almond flour (in equal measures), ½ measure polenta, eggs (about 1 egg per 300 grams of the other stuff) and vanilla extract plus the juice and rind of lemon. My innovation is to serve it with the Rosemary flavoured Mascarpone and green tomato jam. To make Rosemary Mascarpone you need Rosemary flavoured honey and mascarpone cheese which you whisk together until you have the desired flavour. I like the flavour of the Rosemary to be very much in the background but you can add more of the honey if you actually like a stronger taste. The green tomato jam I buy in the South of France from a particular farm but I’m sure you can find it everywhere these days. The combination of these three somewhat diverse flavors really works.

Served with: d'Arenberg Riesling, The Noble (a very fine Aussie dessert wine)

Hey presto one Sunday lunch!

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