Sunday, July 19, 2009

What's so special

We travel with increasing velocity towards our summer holiday. Swine flu fever has taken over our house and I’ve been banned from flying (along with the rest of our family). If things continue at this pace I’ll be holidaying in an oxygen tent in hospital. The last menu was one of my least favourite of recent times, although it seemed to be generally well-liked. I can’t really put my finger as to the reason why but I just felt that we did not really push ourselves; I didn’t get that excitement that you can feel when you really feel that the food is special.

That brings me nicely to the name of our next menu, ‘what’s so special’. This menu will run for the five weeks that precede our week off. The thought of a three and two week menu or two and three week menu was not a pleasant one but I also get very bored when we have to prepare the same stuff week-in, week-out. The compromise is that we will give ourselves some flexibility by having unannounced specials, although I shall be putting the details on the webpage. This gives us a chance to do a few things. First we get to run down stocks of stuff that we have in the freezer, things that we couldn’t bring ourselves to throw out. This means that one of the first desserts that we shall be doing is a white chocolate risotto, which will allow us to use the stock of white chocolate parfait that I couldn’t bear to discard a couple of menus ago. We will also be re-visiting the beetroot gazpacho, something involving smoked almond pesto and also the wild garlic malfatti. It will also allow me to stretch out a little and put on some dishes that I haven’t had a chance to do yet. Technically demanding dishes (Parisian gnocchi, gougeres) are sometimes left off menus because I can’t be bothered to give myself that extra hassle. However what we usually find is that by week two of the menu, we are pretty well grooved and the prep becomes more formulaic. This extra time means that during this menu these dishes will appear. The Parisian gnocchi will be based upon a dish that I once cooked at home based on a recipe by Thomas Keller, the owner/chef of the French Laundry in California. It is a true delight to eat because the gnocchi are made from a choux paste and are as light and delicate as gnocchi can be. The gougere is a baked choux paste, a profiterole, and I have wanted to do a savoury version because our sweet version was so unpopular. This will be Mexican profiteroles with a savoury cheese filling and a chocolate mole sauce. In my head it tastes like heaven. As some of you will be aware profiteroles were the break dish for me in my vegan chef mode and so it is unlikely that there will be a vegan version. The good news is that a vegan customer of ours has promised to send her vegan Yorkshire pudding recipe to me and if that works profiteroles could be back on the menu again.

One other promised vegan dish is spaetzle, which I tried some years ago on a skiing holiday in Austria. I tried to get a recipe for these on Friday, so fingers crossed.

The next menu, as it looks at the moment, is

Special (probably beetroot gazpacho with avocado sorbet)
Feta and watermelon salad (the salads may also be specials)
Meze with lavash. The meze are likely to be from around the world rather than north African or Spanish or greek or ……We’ve been talking about various things and whilst most will be familiar to you, there should be dishes that we’ve never done before on this dish (in a bid to empty our store cupboard) You’re probably sick to death of lavash so if you are let me know.

Stir fry with Indonesian cashew sauce (my own favourite dish) there is a chance that this dish will change to buddha’s delight or disappear altogether if I get sick of stir-frying.
Risotto with mutton and red pepper ragu (this can be ordered as veggie with other stuff possibly)
Pineapple, butternut and plantain curry ( a nod here to Jamie oliver, pukka)
Special, which I haven’t decided yet but is likely to involve cous cous, halloumi and tomatoes. What about a burger?

Raspberry ripple cheesecake (this could be altered over the course of the menu because on the last menu we mis-judged the gooseberry season and the bushes had been stripped at hendrewennol when we came to the final week)
Chocolate fudge cake (could revert to type and put sticky toffee or maybe have both)
Special (I’ve given the game away; this is the white chocolate risotto with some berries)

The kids are getting on my back about tea so I’ll bid you all farewell. Vino’s off on holiday so he hasn’t given me any selections so here are some of mine

Understanding electricity: official secret’s act
Therese: the bodines
Doesn’t make it alright: the specials
Consolation prize: orange juice
Backwards and forwards: Aztec camera
Lucia di lammermoor: Donizetti, 1955 berlin
Simpatico: joan of arc
Slipslide: the world can wait
This fragile army: the polyphonic spree

Love and light


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