Saturday, 28 January 2012

Dinner Chez Bruce

Last night I had a trip to glamorous Wandsworth in deepest sarf London for a (much belated) birthday meal for a friend at Chez Bruce.

We had a most excellent night with plenty of quality food and wine. It may be a reflection of the brilliant standards of this restaurant but I feel it may have had something to do with the fact that my friend's brother is the pastry chef and his fiancée was also having dining with us. Any road, I'm not complaining, we had a most exceptional night, I'm just saying that my experience may not be described as "typical".

Now there aren't any photos, I'm afraid. I have still to get over the sometime awkwardness of taking photos in restaurants and it just didn't seem appropriate last night.

We were greeted with a glass of some bubbly. Once we'd ordered, we had an extra starter of cream of celeriac soup with a warm gougère (which I know now are small cheesy choux pastry pillows) and chanterelles. The soup was sublimely smooth and rich with the delicious mushrooms adding a real earthy note. This boded well for the meal ahead!

My "proper" starter was an oxtail tartlet with garlic purée, snails and red wine. Bit of an odd one this. A slightly untidy pastry case filled with tasty oxtail but I'm lost as to what the snails brought. The other starter on our table was the salad of pig's head with beetroot, mustard, comté and crackling which was a perfect example of a warm meaty salad: full of individual flavours that combined in glorious harmony.

My risotto nero (very salty or "heavily seasoned" as I was corrected!) was accompanied by a perfect slice of sea bass and some chewy squid. There was also a sauté of broccoli and garlic which seemed to have got lost on their way to another dish. An unsatisfying main with mixed highs and lows.

Whilst trying to decide what to have for dessert we were persuaded to have some cheese (mind you we didn't take much convincing). The cheeses were great not least of all a very unusual soft cheese made with a combination of goat's and cow's milk. The port we had to accompany the cheese was sublime.

I was so full, I wasn't even sure if I wanted a pud so I just asked for a "surprise". What I got in return was the booziest rum baba I have ever had. Thankfully the grilled pineapple and chantilly cream offset the booze, just. The apple and custard toasted sandwich was exactly what it says it is. Although slightly more refined that you can make at home with your Breville.

The meal was great (really as it should be when you're out with very good friends) with very well cooked food deeply rooted in classic French cuisine that, on the whole, was hard to fault. It came as little surprise when I later found out that Chez Bruce has one of Michelin's shiny stars. I'd go back in a flash.

I must also make mention of the front of house. Our waitress was brilliant: warm, witty and genuinely welcoming. The sommelier also managed to completely surprise me. As we were discussing our first wine option she declared "I know you". This came as somewhat of a surprise as I was pretty confident that I'd never clapped eyes on here before. Apparently she recognised me when we first arrived but couldn't work out where from. It turns out that over 15 years ago she was on a kids camp that I used to work on. Ridiculous. Apparently "I haven't changed much at all". I think we finally worked out that that was a compliment! Banter like that, from the pair of them, just added to our evening.

Chez Bruce on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Banana curry soup

My new foodie chum at work recommended this banana curry soup to me. I was more than a little sceptical but with a hand of rapidly-ripening bananas to use up (and dental issues) I took the opportunity to give it a bash.

Quite to my surprise it was actually pretty good. The flavour of the spices in the curry paste really sang out. Each mouthful started with a sweet note but it wasn't overpowering. I think the bananas also contributed to a lovely texture.

I can't imagine this is a soup I'd go out of my way to make time and time again. I think its place is as a way of using up leftovers or as a store-cupboard standby.

4 bananas, peeled and cut into chunks
2 cloves garlic, sliced
Onion, thinly sliced
1 pint chicken stock
1 dsp madras curry paste

1. Sweat onion until soft. Add the garlic when the onion is almost done.
2. Add the curry paste to the pan and fry off for three minutes.
3. Add the bananas and fry briefly.
4. Add the stock and with another pint of water.
5. Bring it to the boil and then simmer for about 20mins.
6. Liquidise until smooth.

It's very good with naan bread as opposed to toast!

Friday, 6 January 2012

Gourmet Gaming

Gourmet Gaming has a great concept for a food blog: cooking the food from video games. Brilliantly simply and endlessly entertaining.

I love to play video games and I love to eat. Preferably at the same time.
What's even better is eating the food from the game I'm playing while I'm playing it.

Check it out if you're at a loose end on a Wednesday

Monday, 2 January 2012

Goose-fest 2012

I've been trying to convince the family to have goose at Christmas for a couple of years now without much success. However, I managed a break though in that I was "allowed" to cook goose for a new year's treat. The family just love turkey too much for Christmas. I think it's down to the fact that Dad cooks it over night, so when everyone wakes up on Christmas day the house has the smell of gently roasting turkey aka "Christmas".

I managed to secure a Goodman's Goose from a local farm shop. Now for a post with goose I have surprisingly few photos of the goose. Whilst cooking for six there just wasn't an opportunity to take photos. This was the first piece of poultry I've ever bought, however, that came in its own box.

In order to celebrate the goose, I came up with what I thought was a seasonal meal that had more than a passing reference to a typical French festive feast (and was capable of satisfying six):

Pea and parsnip soup
Roast goose, celeriac purée, braised red cabbage, mélange of vegetables, roast potatoes and apple sauce
"Bûche de Noël" and chestnut profiteroles

Pea and parsnip soup

A deceptively simple soup with the pea and parsnip working very well together. The sweetness was off set with bacon lardons, toasted walnuts and a Parmesan and chive cream. I topped the whole lot off with some parsnip crisps liberally doused in cumin.

Roast goose, celeriac purée, braised red cabbage, mélange of vegetables, roast potatoes and apple sauce

The goose was terrific. Very meaty, more like lamb than anything with wings. The accompaniments all went very well with the goose and each other. The celeriac purée was a revelation (that Koffman knows what he's doing). It felt like a very luxurious roast.

"Bûche de Noël" and chestnut profiteroles

A chocolate roulade with chestnut cream and choux buns filled with chestnut cream. I love chestnuts and as far as I'm concerned you can't have enough at Christmas time. They are a perfect partner to chocolate. My only slight issue was that portion size wasn't the uppermost thought in my mind when I conceived this. To say it was a massive pud is an under-statement. At least I didn't go for a trio of desserts...

PS To make sure I made the most of my goose, I rendered down all the fat, froze the carcass for making stock (once I've got some more poultry bones) and had the goose liver on toast with a great deal of creamy garlicky mushrooms.

PPS I recently realised that it's been nearly an ENTIRE year, since I last had someone round for dinner. That's ridiculous!

The recipes:

Pea and parsnip soup (basic soup recipe from The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit)

1 onion, finely chopped
3 parsnips, peeled, woody core removed and chopped
750ml chicken or vegetable stock
~500g frozen peas
For the garnishes:
~100g bacon
1tbsp grated Parmesan
2tbsp snipped chives
4tbsp double cream
Walnut halves
1 parsnip
Ground cumin

1. Sweat the chopped onion and parsnips for a few minutes until soft (sprinkle salt on the onions and use a lid on the pan). Use a low heat to avoid colouring the veg.
2. Once the onion and parsnip are soft add the stock. Bring to the boil then simmer gently for 10mins.
3. Take the pan off the and add the frozen peas. Leave to cool.
4. Once cool, liquidise the soup and pass. The soup can then be re-heated just before serving. Don't forget to season to taste with salt and pepper and a touch of lemon juice.
5. For the bacon garnishes, chop the bacon into lardons and fry until crisp.
6. Mix the Parmesan, chives and cream. Use as much or as little cream to create a smooth end result.
7. For the parsnip crisps, peel the parsnip. Then using the peeler shave off thin strips of parsnip. These then need to be fried, a few at a time, in vegetable oil. Take them out just as they begin to go golden and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle liberally with the cumin immediately.

Roast goose, celeriac purée, braised red cabbage, mélange of vegetables, roast potatoes and apple sauce (recipes from The Cook's Book ed. Jill Norman, The Guardian and Sauces by Michel Roux)


~5kg goose
For the roast potatoes
~3lb floury potatoes, peeled and cut to same size pieces
~3tbsp duck/goose fat
For the celeriac purée:
1 celeriac, peeled and chopped into 1" chunks
3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1" chunks
2oz butter
3 garlic cloves, crushed
50ml milk
1tsp Dijon mustard
For the red cabbage:
~900g red cabbage
4 slices bacon, cut into lardons
2 red onions, thinly sliced
2 red apples, grated
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, whole
½tsp each of nutmeg, ground cloves, cinnamon, all spice
2tbsp muscovado sugar
4tbsp red wine vingear
For the vegetables:
9oz Chantenay carrots
9oz Brussels sprouts
7oz tenderstem broccoli
2oz butter
100ml vegetable stock
Lemon zest
Apple sauce

For the goose:
1. Prick the goose all over with a skewer, paying particular attention to near the parsons nose, underneath the wings and along the side of the breasts.
2. Cover the legs with foil and lay the bird on its back on a rack in a roasting tray. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Roast in a pre-heated oven for 1h at 200°C.
3. Decant the fat and turn the bird over. Roast for another hour.
4. Turn the bird over again (it should be on its back again), remove the foil and roast for a further 30mins.
5. Once cooked rest for 15mins and carve.
NOTE: I found it quite difficult to "carve" because the bird is just so large and the meat is so tender. I would be tempted to remove the wings before roasting next time. The key is to portion the goose (so the breasts are removed whole etc.) rather than try and cut of thin strips.
For the roast potatoes:
1. Place the fat in a roasting tray and put in an oven at 220°C to warm up.
2. Par boil the potatoes for about 5mins until the surface of the potatoes are just beginning to crumble.
3. Drain the potatoes and leave to cool in the colander above the pan for a few minutes.
4. Put the potatoes back in the pan and shake to roughen the edges. Then add to the hot fat mix gently to ensure the potatoes are coated in fat.
5. Turn the temperature down to 200°C and roast for 1 hour, turning after 30mins.
For the celeriac:
1. Boil the celeriac and potato chunks together until soft (~15mins). Drain.
2. Melt the butter and gently fry the garlic until soft (but not coloured). Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.
3. Use a potato ricer and and add the celeriac and potatoes to the pan and mix thoroughly.
For the red cabbage:
1. Fry the bacon and onion in a knob of butter. Once the onion is soft add he spices to the pan and fry briefly.
2. Add all the other ingredients and put the lid on. Leave to braise for ~2hours, stirring occasionally. If the pan looks to be drying up add liquid such as water, vegetable stock, or red wine.
3. Before serving, remove the garlic and bay leaves then season.
Note: I made this the day before to give plenty of time for the flavours to develop. Orange zest and juice could be added to give a further zing.
For the vegetables:
1. Prepare the vegetables so that they are approximately the same size (i.e. halve the sprouts/carrots etc.)
2. Melt the butter in a large frying pan together with a splash of olive oil.
3. Fry the vegetables until nicely browned.
4. Add the stock to the pan and bring to the boil. Cook until the vegetables are tender (~5mins).
5. Add the lemon zest and season before serving.

"Bûche de Noël" and chestnut profiteroles (recipes taken from Delia Online and adapted from an Olive recipe)

Bûche de Noël


For the base:
6 large eggs, separated
5oz caster sugar
2oz cocoa powder, sifted
For the filling:
8¾ oz sweetened chestnut purée
1tbsp double cream
For the decoration:
2 oz dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
10 fl oz double cream less 1 tbsp (see above)

1. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar until pale and thickened.
2. Whisk in the cocoa until blended.
3. Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks.
4. Mix a third of the egg whites into the yolks mixture. Then fold in the remaining egg white until combined.
5. Spread the mixture into a 13"x9" greased and lined swiss roll tin. Drop the tray a couple of times to remove the air bubbles and flatten the mixture.
6. Bake at 180°C for 20mins. (It should be springy in the middle.) Leave to cool.
7. Meanwhile mix the chestnut purée and cream.
8. Sprinkle a sheet of silicon paper (that is 1" bigger than the cake) with icing sugar and turn the cake out on to it. Liberally spread the chestnut purée all over the cake.
9. The cake now needs to be rolled. Use the edge of the silicone paper as a guide, roll the base over lengthways into a long roll, keeping it on the edge of the paper.
Note: In order to get a tight roll, the first part of the cake should be folded and "broken" onto itself. This will give a tight core around which the rest of the cake can be rolled.
10. Whip the remaining cream until its spreadable and cover the cake (no need to do the ends).
11. Melt the dark chocolate and use a fork to leave strands up and down the length of the cake.

Chestnut profiteroles

60g butter
75g plain flour
2 medium eggs , lightly beaten
2 oz dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
200ml double cream
180g sweetened chestnut purée

1. Heat the oven to 220°C. Butter a large baking sheet with a little butter and sprinkle with water.
2. Put 150ml cold water and the butter into a saucepan and heat until the butter melts, then increase the heat and bring to the boil. Take off the heat and quickly add the flour and a pinch of salt. Beat vigorously until the mixture forms a soft ball. Leave to cool slightly then gradually beat in the eggs until it turns to a thick, shiny paste.
3. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag with a large nozzle and pipe or spoon 24 mounds of the mixture onto the baking sheet, about the size of a tablespoon. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 190°C for 20 minutes, or until they are puffed and golden.
4. Remove from the oven, make a slit in the side of each one and return to the oven for 3-5 minutes to dry out. Cool on a wire rack.
5. Melt the chocolate and dip the top of each choux bun to coat.
6. Whip the cream to a spreadable consistency and mix in the chestnut purée. Transfer to a piping bag.
7. Force the tip of the piping nozzle into the bottom of each bun and fill with the chestnut cream.
Note: To serve, I made a quick chocolate sauce using dark chocolate, double cream , caster sugar and water.

Related Posts with Thumbnails