The old work gang of Hammers came over tonight, for what turned out to be, a very civilised Friday evening.
It was styled as the first part of a Come Dine With Me quadrilogy. I'd planned a pretty good seasonal three courses:
Jerusalem artichoke soup
Roast chicken with all the trimmings
It all went rather well. The soup bought a hush to the dining room for the first time since everyone arrived. A good sign.
The roast chicken was also well received. Quite an accomplishment for a Friday night post-work affair, I thought given that not only was a chicken roasted it was accompanied by roast potatoes (obviously), lemon carrots, purple-sprouting broccoli and celeriac purée. I even managed to make a decent gravy from the roasting juices, which is a first for me.
However, clearly the most interesting part of the evening (well for me anyway) was the dessert of baked Alaska. Given the fact that the whole gang seemed to have given up the ghost and decanted to the sofa to adjust their waist bands and digest, I wasn't entirely sure I was going to get the chance to make it. It would have been a tad frustrating having been up the night before making the sponge base, roasting the rhubarb and defrosting egg whites. Thankfully sense, or was it just plain greed, prevailed.
This is a pud of contrasts. The light ginger sponge as the base, which had a delicate warmth, worked well with the fruity rhubarb. The sweet meringue was offset by the tartness of rhubarb. The combination of temperatures and textures worked remarkably well.
I was going to make a separate orange sauce to accompany it but held-off as it seemed that that might just push everyone over the edge.
I'm not sure there's much of a recipe to give for the Baked Alaska, it's more of an assembly job, unless you're making all the individual components. What I did was make an 8" Victoria sponge (using the usual 2444 mix) with a teaspoon of ground ginger. I used my usual recipe to roast about a pound of forced rhubarb.
Just before assembly I made the meringue. Four egg white were whisked until stiff then 7oz of caster sugar gradually added until the meringue was glossy and stiff. To assemble, the cake base was first put on a roasting tray. The juices from the rhubarb were brushed over the cake then the rhubarb spread all over in a single layer. Next softened vanilla ice-cream was piled on. (You should really put it back in the freezer for 10 minutes or so before doing anything else.). The the meringue was slathered over everything making sure that there were no gaps. The pud was then baked for 10mins at 200°C until brown. (I used a blow torch to add some extra depth of colour).
You have to serve this pretty quickly. It also needs easting all in one go, so make sure you've got plenty of people around who are still hungry! (Mind you I did toy with making individual ones, which may have been more elegant and slightly less extravagant.)
PS. This is what my dinner the following night, made with the left-overs, looked like. It was just as tasty especially with the potatoes and chicken fried in goose fat...