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The next three challenges!

Posted on January 26, 2020 at 11:30 AM Comments comments (1)

Challenge No. 2 - Confit of Salmon with sweet dill pickled vegetables 

The time had come for the second challenge. I this case I opted this time for a relatively simple confit salmon, using Rick Stein’s with sweet dill pickled veg. It’s not a huge dish (more of a starter) so we’ll have cheese for seconds!

It was pretty straightforward. The pickling liquor was simple and the mustard mayonnaise was easy but delicious. The fish was cooked in the sous vide at 50˚ for 20 minutes.

Overall a very successful dish. The only downside was that the charred lettuce could have been more charred and perhaps presented more attractively. Definitely a dish to do again and again!

Challenge No. 3 - Roast Game Bird with all the trimmings

This was a apparently straightforward one. I used the two pheasants that Mary E had given us and opted for the Leith’s Cookery Bible version aas the basis, but also looked elsewhere for other options. The inclusion of Game Chips was one idea and clearly what the challenger had expected. Bread sauce was also a must, apparently. The Game Cook Book also suggest butter-fried breadcrumbs and brussel sprouts.

I obtained some pork fat from our fabulous butchers to bard the breasts and it was a pretty straightforward process. There were two sizes of bird, so the bigger one cooked for 40 minutes and the smaller 30 minutes. Game chips were made in the fryer and were really good (the mandoline was necessary for the thinness of the chips).

As with so many of the recipes, presentation has proved to be a challenge. What colour plate? How do you make such a dish attractive? I made a great port and redcurrant sauce to go with it and although it was very tasty, it looked like a home-cooked Sunday lunch.


Comments from the reviewers

1. Very moist pheasant

2. Breadbcrumbs, chips and bread sauce all worked well

3. Gravy tasted better than it looked – too ‘grey’

 

Challenge No. 4 - Baked Alaska with Nutella Ice Cream

This took a lot of preparation. The Baked Alaska with Nutella Ice Cream was from Monica Galetti’s ‘The Skills.’

It called for brioche for the base of the Alaska, so I made this the day before, along with the Nutella Ice Cream.


Both were relatively simple but the ice cream should have been cooled a bit more before churning in the ice cream bowl. As with so many recipes, the preparation uses a lot of bowls and stages – see below…


When it came to the making the Alaska, I made a base from the brioche and spread Nutella over the base. I made the base from piecing together the brioche, having cut it from the side, but it would, in hindsight, have been easier if I had cut across the bottom in a circle.

Assembling was straightforward – until it came to the Italian meringue. The meringue (my first effort) had been good in spite of the need to get the temperature of the sugar solution to 121˚.

Once the ice cream was on the base, I had to pipe the meringue onto it, but it was difficult to get pattern even and attractive. It was tasty but a mess.


Reviewers’ comments

Delicious! Presentation in need of work – piping was wibbly wobbly and the brioche base was visible. Ice cream was fabulous.

 




 

First Challenge - Wonton Soup!

Posted on January 8, 2020 at 11:35 AM Comments comments (4)

The reality hit home on New Year’s Day when I was asked ‘What is your first dish this week?’ Oh, hell. I really do now need to get my mind around the challenge. Do I start easy first or head in with a real challenge? It’s partly now coloured by the fact that still post-Christmas I am wanting simple and not too heavy. Perhaps a soup or light pasta dish? So decision was made. Wonton soup for Saturday lunch. The menu this time was from the RAF 100 cookbook, a great source of recipes from all over the world. The Bobotie is excellent, so it is a much-used book. Part of the challenge is to look at various recipes but almost all suggest pre-made wonton wrappers, but I want to go the whole hog, so they have to be made.


The recipe is quite straightforward on first view but if one wants to make everything from scratch (stock, wontons, etc.) then it is a time-consuming exercise. Therefore in preparation for serving tomorrow, the broth needs to be made. To begin with, I have had to make the chicken stock. I jointed the chicken and boned the legs and then roasted the carcass to put in the stock-pot. Once made, the stock is then used in the broth, which comprises pork, dried shrimp, spring onions and ginger. This is then left in the fridge overnight before making the dish.



The big day – challenge number one, Wonton Soup, will be done.

The first thing was to skim the broth, which after a night in the fridge (the broth – not me!) looked very clear. The wontons were the next job, as the dough needed making and resting. It’s a simple pasta-style dough in this recipe, but with only one egg for 250g of plain flour and some water (for pasta I use 300g of 00 flour and three eggs).


While the dough rested I made the filling – chopped pork, prawns, ginger, spring onions, sugar, salt, pepper and soy.

Once rested, the dough was rolled out using a pasta machine. Whilst the recipe suggested rolling as thin as possible, a 7 setting was too thin to handle so I opted for 6. The sheets were cut into 9cm squares and kept under cling film to avoid drying out.

The wontons were assembled by putting a dessert spoon of filling in the middle and then bringing the edges up and pinching them, giving a little twist to seal the edges.

 

The broth was finished with pak choi and spring onions, and the wontons put in boiling water for 6 minutes. The recipe called for egg noodles, too.


Review

The wonton soup was a real success. The broth was light yet tasty and fragrant. The wonton were delicious, with a really flavoursome filling. However, here are a few pointers for next time:

1. The wontons were too thick where twisted, so it is either important to seal without twisting and perhaps steaming to reduce the chance of leakage

2. The dough was perhaps a bit too thick, so maybe I should persevere with thinner dough.

3. The recipe called for egg noodles – too much, unless you are only serving a couple of wontons

4. Maybe some other veg for garnish – thinly sliced carrot or baby corn perhaps.

 

60 weeks of challenge

Posted on January 7, 2020 at 4:25 AM Comments comments (665)

Nick’s 60th Challenge

At midnight during our New Year celebrations in the Pavilion, with Jools Holland’s Hootenanay on in the background, Suzi presented me with my 60th year challenge. Admittedly I am not yet in my 60th year – that comes in about 7 weeks – but the slip of paper contained 60 challenges. I had long bemoaned that whilst I can cook to a reasonable level, my skills centred around a few key basics and baking.


The challenge was designed to stretch my knowledge and skills and to introduce ideas, recipes and food I had never heard of, let alone cook. The challenge requires a weekly dish to be produced. In some cases, such as in sugar work, the skills will have to be put into a dish of my choice.

What on earth is Bulgogi or Luqaimat? Part of the challenge means that I must research the dishes, look at their histories and select a recipe from the myriad of recipes available. So I am going to produce a weekly blog of the background and preparation and the result with photos and videos, as well as reviews from my biggest critic - Suzi!


Why do this? Good question! Mainly because I want to stretch myself and because sometimes we eat out and think ‘We could have done that better at home’ and I want to make that true more often!

It’s also about lifestyle. As one approaches a big milestone, I want to make sure that the second half of my life(!!) is as good as the first and this is just part of making sure that in 2020 and 2021 I move forward, physically and mentally. Having had a major scare in 2019 I want to make sure that it doesn’t happen again, and I don’t unduly stress my loved ones.