Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Special Supper for Friends



Do you ever stop and think about the meaning of life? But this just makes you sad because you realize that nothing you are doing actually gives you any sense of purpose or a sense of self? With the primary problem being that you have no passion other than eating, reading and watching TV.

So what exactly is wrong with that?

My name is Deborah and I have a friend, Mariette, who is passionate about cooking and good wine. I am passionate about eating and good wine, so what the hell, let's create a cook book that combines our passions. Cooking and eating, and lets not forget our favourite wines.


Let us just be clear here, there is nothing wrong with our lives, we are both happy upper middle class folks with good jobs in amazing relationships. We just needed a mission. And this is it.

So the format of this cookbook will be vastly different from most, as it is written from my perspective. That of a person that dabbles in cooking, but really has no clue and doesn’t like vegetables - to that of Mariette, a person passionate about cooking but she doesn’t like red meat.

We have agreed to try everything, once we have decided on writing a seasonal Saturday cookbook. The book will encompass all possible meals you can have in a month, i.e. brunch, lunch, dinner and even the occassional breakfast. Obviously, dependant on the meal, you would have more than just one course. In this book we will endeavour to supply you with the know how to prepare an entire meal with everything that goes with it, including the wine.

As we go along we will try different things and experiment, some of which we will caution you against eating.

I will assist Mariette in cooking and thereby testing how easy her instructions are to follow. At the same time I will comment on the overall cooking/ watching experience. We will try to match the food to a season. I am particularly looking forward to the July Wimbledon strawberry dedication. As Mariette explains the intricacies in the creation of the food, I will explain the tasting, even if I don’t like it. I will suffer and try to keep my snide sarcastic fast food loving taste buds under check.

So basically there is something for everyone. I hope to learn how to cook and appreciate vegetables and by so doing assist the useless people out there who would like to make something that doesn’t get created by following the instructions from Woolworths, as well as catering for those food aficionados that would like to broaden their knowledge and ideas. By creating a full menu per meal it will also assist those like me, who aren’t sure what should be served together.

So in theory this should be a fun entertaining romp through the psyche of Mariette and I where hopefully we find purpose and meaning through food and wine; experimenting and experiencing new flavours, textures, and hell entire food groups, while hopefully not creating an extra fat roll and an alcohol problem.

So join us as we start in Autumn, for our first seasonal Saturday meal… (made on a Monday because even though we are sad and pathetic with no purpose or meaning our lives are too full to start for at least 3 weeks and our Saturdays are booked.)

After each meal, we will add the new menu, recipies, instructions, and comments, to this blog. SO check back at least once a week. Please feel free to add any comments, recipe suggestions, or whatever.

My comments are italicised. Mariette's instructions and comments are in normal, non-italicised, text. So let's get on with it.


Special supper with friends
(6-8 people)


Menu

Starter

Baby Marrow and Broccoli Soup with puff pastry lids
Served with gorgonzola cheese

Wine: Kleine Zalze Family Reserve Sauvignon Blanc
Boekenhoutskloof Chocolate Block


Main

Peppered Fillet Steak
Red Wine and Cream Sauce
French Beans tossed in butter with roasted almonds
Mushrooms a la Bordelaise
Mashed Potatoes

Wine: Meerlust Rubicon
Nitida Shiraz


Dessert

Crème Brulee

Wine: Paul Cluver Weisser Riesling Noble Late Harvest


Three weeks since our brainwave to do this cooking exercise and we are finally starting tonight.

Seems simple enough, bit worried about having to eat broccoli soup, but am sure I can force the beans down. Then I get the full list of recipes and menu today I am most afraid. Because, let's be honest, this doesn’t sound very hard, I mean I have made steak before, but I have never wrapped it in cling wrap and let it rest. Initially I was feeling a bit neglected because Mariette was doing the soup and crème brulee the day before. How was I supposed to make that? We decided to invite people round for each occassion. Unfortunately for them there is no such thing as a free meal. They have a very specific purpose and that is to taste the food. We hope to get criticism and opinions in order to present the best possible dishes. Our first meal was for the parties involved in the effort and partners. These include Mariette and husband Alan (who made the Crème Brulee), Diane ( who arrived late from hockey and ate the food backwards) and I, and last but not least the critical photographer Anthony and his partner Herman.


Shopping list:

Fruit and Vegetables:
200g baby leeks
400g broccoli
600g baby marrow
600g French green beans
1.5kg potatoes for mashing
250g each Portabellini / Shitake / Brown / Button mushrooms
Garlic
Parsley
Lemon

Meat and Fish:
1kg beef fillet

Dairy and Eggs:
Gorgonzola cheese
1l single cream
1l double cream
1/2 dozen eggs

Other Groceries:
1.5l fresh vegetable / chicken stock
Box of French puff pastry
50g slivered almonds
Vanilla Pod


From the cupboard:

Salt
Black Pepper
Nutmeg
Dried chilli flakes
Olive oil
Sugar
White wine
Red wine
Medium cream sherry



From the fridge:

Unsalted butter

Time Planner

What can be done on Friday night / Saturday morning:

Set the table
Make the soup (it must be cold when you put on the puff pastry lids)
Roast almonds
Cling wrap the fillet steak
Make the crème brulee


Plan of Action:

2 hours before serving the first course, start preparing the following:

Make sure the puff pastry is totally defrosted
Rinse the herbs
Rinse the beans
Top and tail the beans
Cut the gorgonzola cheese into smallish squares
Peel and boil the potatoes
Cut garlic slivers
Cut the mushrooms in halves or quarters if they are quite big
Roll the fillet steak in crushed black pepper
Beat an egg yolk with some milk

1 hour before serving the following can be done:

Switch on the oven for the soup
Dish up the soup and do the puff pastry lids
Seal the fillet
Mash the potatoes and keep warm
Blanche and refresh the beans

CRUNCH Time - ½ an hour before serving:

Put the soup in the oven
Do the mushrooms up to the stage where you remove it from the sauce and keep it warm
Organise all the ingredients for the main meal (I usually put all the saucepans as well as the ingredients for each dish together, then I do not have to panic when the pressure is on)
Turn the oven up to the correct temperature for the fillet when the soup is done
Warm up the plates for the main course as well as the moulds you want to use for the mashed potato

Preparation for serving supper

Relax and pour the wine for the first course

Starter:

Serve the soup and don’t forget the cheese (I usually give each guest a little individual bowl with cheese and everyone an add as much or as little as they like)

Main:

Before clearing the table in preparation for the main course, put the fillet in the pre heated oven
Clear the table
Make the sauce for the mushrooms
Melt the butter and toss the beans in the melted butter
Take out the fillet and cover to keep warm
Use the pan juices to make the red wine and cream sauce
Pour the wine for the main course (Your darling husband or a partner can fulfil this duty)
While the sauce is bubbling away start dishing up
Put out the plates (Speed is of essence from this point forward as you don’t want to serve cold food. It needn’t be piping hot, but it should be quite warm)
Dish up mashed potato
Cut the fillet into portions and dish up
Dish up mushrooms and then the beans
Remove the moulds from the mash potato
Lastly drizzle the sauce over the meat (alternatively the sauce can be served separately and the guests can pour it over themselves)
Take the crème brulee out of the fridge
Serve the main course
If you are going to use the grill to do the sugar topping on the dessert make sure it is switched on


Dessert:

After clearing the table, you can quickly add the sugar to the crème brulee and caramelize it.
Pour the wine and serve the dessert


Baby Marrow and Broccoli Soup

What would you need to prepare the soup:

4l sauce pan
Chopping board
Small sharp knife
Colander
Blender / Liquidiser
Measuring cups
Measuring spoons

Ingredients for the soup:

75ml olive oil
200g baby leeks
150ml dry white wine
400g broccoli
600g baby marrow
1.5l fresh light chicken/ vegetable stock
100 ml cream
25ml medium cream sherry
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Gorgonzola cheese squares for serving

Method:

1. Heat olive oil in a sauce pan over low heat
2. Add leeks and sauté in oil
3. Be careful not to brown the leeks
4. When the leeks are soft, add the wine
5. Turn up the heat and reduce the wine until 30-40ml of syrup remains
6. Rinse the broccoli and break into florets
7. Rinse the baby marrow and cut into rings
8. Add vegetables and stock to the leeks and reduced wine
9. Bring to the boil
10. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 – 25 minutes
11. Cool down the soup
12. Add to the blender in batches and blend to a smooth consistency
13. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
14. Stir in the cream and sherry
15. Save in the fridge until needed
16. Heat the oven to 200C
17. Pour soup into bowls or cups – be careful not to fill it more than 2/3
18. Use a saucer or ring mould to cut circles out of the puff pastry (big enough to fill soup bowl or cup
19. Paint the rim of the soup bowl / cup with water and attach the puff pastry
20. Paint the puff pastry with egg yellow
21. Put the soup bowls / cups back in the fridge until the oven is ready
22. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until the puff pastry is golden brown
23. Serve immediately with little gorgonzola cheese squares


What would you need to present the soup:

Oven proof cups / soup bowls that can take about 250 -300ml of liquid
Saucer / ring mould big enough to cover the soup bowls (this is used as a guide to cut out the puff pastry lids)
Small bowls for serving individual portions of cheese


Considerations:

Always use a light coloured stock otherwise the soup will have a murky colour instead of a fresh green colour.
If you do not have fresh stock, rather just use water instead of a stock cube. Stock cubes are very salty and will change the taste of this subtle soup.
If the vegetables are boiled for too long, it will have a bitter taste and loose the vibrant green colour.


Peppered Fillet Steak



What would you need to prepare the prepare the peppered fillet:

Frying pan suitable for the stove top and oven
Cling wrap
Tongs
Flat plate

Ingredients:

1kg beef fillet
Freshly crushed black pepper
Salt
100ml Olive oil
Cling wrap

Method:

1. Carefully remove the sinew from the fillet steak
2. Wrap the fillet tightly in cling wrap in a tight roll
3. Leave the tightly rolled fillet in the ridge for 6 hours or overnight
4. Heat the oven to 220C
5. Remove the cling wrap
6. Spread the crushed black pepper in a plate and roll the fillet in it until it is well covered
7. Sprinkle some salt over the fillet
8. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan that can be used in the oven as well
9. Seal the fillet in the frying pan on all sides on the stove top
10. Put the fillet in the oven for between 10 – 15 minutes (medium – to – rare), 15 – 20 minutes (medium – to – well done).
11. Take the meat out of the oven
12. Cover and let it rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.
13. To serve the meat, cut into portions between 5cm and 7 cm thickness


Ring the changes:

The fillet can be rubbed with Dijon mustard before rolling it in the crushed pepper. That will pack some extra punch.

What would you need to present the main course:

Big dinner plates
Ring moulds or any moulds of your choice



French Beans tossed in Butter served with Roasted Almonds


What would you need to prepare the French beans:

3l sauce pan for beans
3l bowl for ice water
Non stick frying pan
Spatula
Knife

Ingredients:

400g French green beans
100g roasted almonds
50g unsalted butter
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Method:

1. Rinse beans
2. Top and tail beans to remove the tough stalk and tip
3. Bring a sauce pan with lightly salted water to the boil
4. Add the beans
5. Return to the boil and boil 1-2 minutes for extra fine beans and 4-5 minutes for thicker beans
6. Immediately remove beans and plunge (refresh) into a bowl with ice water
7. When cool, remove from ice water and keep in an air tight container until needed
8. Melt the butter over low heat and add the beans
9. Stir continuously until heated through and add the roasted almonds slivers
10. Serve immediately


Roasted Almonds

1. Heat a non-stick pan over low heat
2. Add the almonds and stir continuously until golden brown
3. Remove from heat before the almonds get too dark and burn

This can also be done on a baking tray in the oven, but I could never manage to do it without burning the almonds.


Considerations:

If you want to keep the beans a bright green colour it is important to make sure that the water is salted and boiling rapidly before you add the beans.
Never cover the top of the pan with a lid.

Ring the changes:


Chilli and Bean Stir Fry

Ingredients:

400g French beans
25ml olive oil
2-3 fresh chillies chopped finely
1-2 cloves of garlic thinly sliced

Method:

1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan or a wok
2. Add the beans and chillies
3. Stir fry for a minute or two
4. Just before removing from the heat add the garlic
5. Be careful not to burn the garlic
6. If you want to make the dish more substantial, add red pepper cut into thin strips and/or sliced button mushrooms



Mushrooms a la Bordelaise (adapted from a recipe by Gary Rhodes)


What would you need to prepare the mushrooms:

4l flat sauce pan for mushrooms
Measuring cups
Measuring spoons
Knife


Ingredients:

250g each Portabellini / shitake / brown / button mushrooms
120 ml olive oil
4 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
400ml red wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Dried chilli flakes
80g finely diced unsalted butter
Juice of a lemon
Chopped flat leave parsley

Method:

1. Cut the mushrooms in halves or quarters if they are very big
2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan
3. Add the mushrooms
4. Add the garlic and sauté for 4-5 minutes shaking the pan to prevent the mushrooms sticking
5. Add the red wine
6. Shake the pan until the juices sizzle
7. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle over the chilli flakes to taste
8. Continue to cook until mushrooms are well browned and tender
9. Transfer to a warm dish
10. Reduce the pan juices over high heat
11. Add the butter gradually
12. Once all the butter is melted, add the lemon juice
13. Pour over the mushrooms and garnish with parsley


Considerations:

Never wash mushrooms, just wipe them with a paper towel or dry cloth if required
Store mushrooms in a brown paper bag at the bottom of the fridge – this will prevent them from sweating and getting mouldy




Mashed Potato

What would you need to prepare the mashed potato:

4l sauce pan for potatoes
Potato masher / ricer
Clean tea towel
Measuring cups
Measuring spoons
Potato peeler
Knife


Ingredients:

1.5kg potatoes peeled and cut into rounds
150g unsalted butter
150ml double cream
Salt and pepper
Grated nutmeg

Method:

1. Boil the potatoes for 20 – 25 minutes in salted water until tender
2. Drain off the water using a colander and put over a low heat to dry
3. When totally dry, use a potato masher / ricer to mash the potato
4. Add the butter and cream a little at a time until potatoes are fluffy and smooth
5. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg
6. Cover the an with a clean tea towel to keep the potatoes warm
7. If you use a lid the condensation will drip down and spoil the soft consistency


Considerations:

Never mash potatoes in a food processor as it turns it into a mess that resembles and tastes like wall paper glue
If you want super smooth results, press the mashed potatoes through a strainer or a sieve. This is very time consuming, but the result is well worth the effort.



Ring the changes:

Super Mashed Potato

Cook 2 – 3 cloves of garlic with the potatoes and mash them together with the potatoes for super aromatic potatoes

Add chopped fresh chilli to mashed potato

Add pesto to mashed potato (do this just before serving otherwise the pesto will turn grayish and although it still taste wonderful it will just look awful)

Add horseradish cream to mashed potato

Add wholegrain mustard to mashed potato

Add grated parmesan cheese to the mashed potato

Salsa Verde

What would you need to prepare the main course:

Food processor / pestle and mortar
Measuring cups
Measuring spoons
Knife


Ingredients:

4 cloves garlic
50ml chopped parsley
25ml chopped basil
12 chopped anchovy fillets
16 chopped gherkins
50ml capers
50ml Dijon mustard
60 – 70ml olive oil
Salt and pepper

Method:

1. Add all the ingredients into a food processor except for the oil
2. Blend until everything is mixed
3. Add the oil gradually until it forms a sauce
4. Add more oil if the consistency is too stiff
5. Serve with grilled meat


Considerations:

The salsa verde can be prepared in a pestle and mortar, but this will take a little longer to do.

Cream Sauce

What would you need to prepare the cream sauce:

Frying pan used for the peppered fillet
Measuring cups
Measuring spoons


Ingredients:

Pan juices from peppered fillet
150 – 200ml red wine
150 – 200ml double cream

Method:

1. After removing the fillet, put the pan on a hot plate
2. Add red wine to pan juices and turn the heat down
3. Reduce to a third of original amount
4. Add cream and bring to simmer
5. Serve with peppered fillet steak


Considerations:

If you do not use double cream, be very careful when bringing the sauce up to a simmer as it will split when overheated and that looks very unattractive when serving.

Crème Brulee

(Adapted from: Bistro Cooking – Patricia Wells 1989)

This is my husband’s speciality. Whenever we have Crème Brulee it is made by him. He takes great pride in it.


What would you need to prepare the crème brulee:

2l sauce pan
2l mixing bowl
Whisk / Electric beater
8 medium sized ramekins
Oven proof rectangular bowl at least 6cm deep


Ingredients:

1 Vanilla bean
½l Single cream
½l Double cream
125ml vanilla sugar
6 large egg yolks
125ml light brown sugar

Method:

1. Heat the oven to 150C
2. Cut the vanilla bean in half length wise
3. Scrape out the tiny black seeds
4. Combine the cream, vanilla and vanilla pod halves in a heavy sauce pan
5. Bring to the boil
6. Remove from the heat and cover
7. Steep for 15 minutes
8. Remove the vanilla pods
9. Combine the vanilla sugar and egg yolks and whisk until well blended
10. Add the vanilla cream gradually and mix well
11. Place 8 – 10 medium ramekins in a roasting pan or oven proof dish
12. Pour the cream mixture into the dishes
13. Add enough boiling water to the pan to reach halfway up the side of the ramekins
14. Bake until the mixture is just set in the centre but still trembling
15. Start checking after 20 minutes
16. Should not take longer than 30 minutes
17. Refrigerate for at least an hour, but preferably up to 24 hours before serving
18. Remove from the refrigerator
19. Sieve the light brown sugar evenly over the top of the baked cream
20. Use a blow torch to caramelize the sugar – be careful not to burn the sugar
21. Alternatively glaze under the grill for several seconds until the sugar forms a firm crust

What would you need to present the crème brulee:

Blow torch / Grill


Considerations:

This dish depends heavily on the quality of the ingredients: the freshest free range eggs, really good cream, authentic vanilla and above all a careful cook.
If you use the grill to caramelize the sugar, it should be extremely hot and the custards should be very close to the grill for the shortest possible time in order to preserve the velvety texture of the custard.


The concept behind today's dinner is a special dinner but with food that everyone will recognize with a slight twist. So because it was the first day Mariette broke out the Meerlust Rubicon which, let's be honest, most normal people will never do, but it was our first dinner and a special occasion. Any good South African blend would be a great replacement and since I am going through my blend phase I will be sure to provide you with ample alternatives.

So how did the people react to the meal and how did the wine and food matching go....

Starters:

I have learned that one needs to stretch the pastry evenly over the soup bowls, or else, instead of puffing up it sinks into the middle. Oops, oh well, I only did two so Mariette and I got the flops. But bizarrely enough the soup wasn’t that bad. Although it had a slightly odd vile green color, the pastry and cheese disguised the taste of the broccoli so well I ate half the bowl. So this is definitely one way to con the meat eaters into eating vegetables.

We tried both feta and gorgonzola in the soup and the common consensus was that the gorgonzola won hands down.

Wine: there was a slight split at the table on this one, half the folks thought the Kleine Zalze went better with the wine because it has a light refreshing fruity taste. The rest of us liked the sweet yet bitter chocolaty undertones of the very unique Chocolate Block from Boekenhoutskloof. In the end the red won out as it seemed to go better at our autumn dinner - with the fires going - red wine just made more sense.

Main:

One thing I never realized was how much preparation went into preparing a meal of this magnitude or the amount of elbow grease mashing requires. Next interesting concept for me is that peppered fillet doesn’t necessarily mean fillet steak like you would expect to have in a restaurant. It is more like really nice expensive beef; apparently this is because the fillet wasn’t cut up first. What made it rather divine were the large chunks that it was cut into. Even Mariette and Alan the non meat eaters had a taste and commented favourably. I was rather chuffed and had seconds, as I just love meat and potatoes. When it came to the sauce served with the fillet, the cream sauce won out by far. The primary reason being that the salsa verde has too much of a kick for fillet, but it would be rather yum with lamb and even ostrich.

The youngest of the party felt that the salsa verde went really well with the mash and that the nuts from the beans should go into the steak sauce. Fusion or youth, either way when it is on your plate, combine away to your hearts delight.

The beans were a hit. I personally thought they still looked like vegetables and were not disguised enough. Everyone else liked it, so who am I to argue. The mushrooms were yum, but then I was instructed in the fine art of mash and mushroom making - two of my favorite things (bizarre I know) so I am a bit biased. What I really enjoyed about the mushrooms was that we used four different types of mushrooms so whenever you took a mouthful it was like a taste explosion in your mouth. All in all the main meal was a hit.

Wine: well obviously there is no question, the Meerlust won hands down 5 to 1. The one being Di who was eating in reverse order due to her late arrival. However, once the Ntida had breathed a bit, it was actually really nice, but shiraz I think can be a wee bit over powering for fillet.

Dessert:

This was made by Alan the day before, so I happily did nothing. Little tip, he makes a tester to taste the custard and check out the taste and consistency before serving it to the guests. So armed with his mini blow torch we were ready to go. Mariette decorated it with strawberries which I thought went very well with the custard. All in all - 6 out of 6 loved it.

The wine, however, I didn’t think went well at all, but then I am not a fan of dessert wine. I was out-voted completely and everyone else reckoned it was a perfect match.



It's now the day after the night before. It was such fun - who knew that being on your feet for hours could be so cool. I have topped and tailed and blanched and refreshed and am feeling most proud of myself. Note to self - next time change into comfy clothes - work clothes and boots are too tiring to cook in.

2 comments:

Alan said...

At the proud husband of Mariette, it is perhaps fitting that I make the first comment.

A tip for the Crème Brule. Ensure that the cream does actually boil. The odd bubble isn't enough. But don't overdo it either!

This first dinner was a great success, followed by much gnashing of teeth. Since we don't have a full-time maid, we were cleaning up until after 2am, Tuesday morning. There were 6 glasses per person (36 glasses in all), countless plates, and a truckload of cutlery. Mariette never does anything in half-measures.

Louise said...

WOW!
sounds fantastic.
If you want people to test, taste, pick me pick me!!!!!!!!!!
it sounds devine, and I am also enjoying the tone of the writing. informal. and Informative.
but put me on the waiting list, i'll open up saterdays for this.

Well done to the two of you,
I'll buy the book.

Suggestion: 2 things. What does the dishes work out to? Attach a money value to dishes. Some of the stuff you are referring to, i'm not 100% sure where you'd buy it - give South African references like try Woolies for Under R20.??
just a thought....


xxx