Total Pageviews

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Napkin folding - the Bishop's Mitre

I call cloth : napkins and paper: serviettes to make life easier but I am not correct here. The words napkin and serviette mean the same thing - it just depends where you are from and what your preference is. Their origins are from the French, German and Dutch. Lovely cloth napkins make such a difference to a table setting and are so much nicer than using paper but they are a lot of work to keep clean. There are many ways to fold them, here I've explained the Bishop's Mitre which never fails to appeal. My napkins are 50cm square (16 inches) but the bigger the piece of cloth the better. Large cloth napkins are very impressive. I hope you can make head and tail of this! Reading from left to right:

1. lay napkin on the bench
2. fold the napkin in half
3. fold bottom left corner into middle
4. fold top right corner into middle

1. the napkin is now in this position 2.turn napkin over and straighten up 3. fold napkin in half
4. make sure two points are sticking out

1. fold right hand flap in behind the front right point
2. turn napkin completely back to front and repeat so both flaps are secured
3. place your hand inside the bottom of the folded napkin and carefully position upright
4. position Bishop's Mitre on the table

Monday, January 18, 2010

Duck Liver Parfait with Blood Orange Glaze

Duck livers are a bit hard to come by so use chicken livers instead but do try to find them if you possibly can. We have a quail/duck farm close by otherwise; I would go to David Jones or hope a good butcher might be able to get them in for me.

The duck liver parfait recipe is my adaptation of a Damien Pignolet recipe. The jelly glaze topping is my own recipe.

Parfait ingredients:

600g duck livers cleaned of any green parts, blood vessels and fat
5 sprigs thyme
1 small bay leaf
1 clove garlic unpeeled and lightly crushed
50ml Grand Marnier
50ml Armagnac
100g unsalted butter
pinch sea salt
pinch white pepper
pinch grated fresh nutmeg
125ml double cream lightly whipped

Jelly Glaze ingredients:

300ml water
50ml Grand Marnier
2 x 5g Titanium gelatin sheets
4 slices glazed blood oranges, halved
10 small fresh bay leaves
16 whole peppercorns

Parfait method:

Toss the livers in the herbs and alcohol and leave to marinate overnight. Then remove the livers and set aside, discard the bay leaf and the garlic and strain the marinade into a small saucepan and reduce it until 2 tablespoons remain. Set aside. Melt the gelatin for 5 minutes in cold water until it softens, squeeze out and add it to the hot marinade. Stir until dissolved. Set aside.

Melt the butter over a low heat and add the livers, gently turning them until they change colour on the outside but remain pink on the inside. Turn them constantly for about five minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a clean plate and place them in the fridge for half an hour. Strain and reserve the cooking butter. Set aside.

The livers need to be cold before being pureed otherwise they will taste bitter. Puree them in a food processor with the marinade and strained butter until they are very smooth. Add salt, pepper, nutmeg and half the whipped cream. Turn the parfait into the bowl containing the remaining cream and fold it into the cream, very gently.

Lightly grease an 800ml capacity terrine with light cooking oil. Turn the parfait into the terrine and smooth down the surface. Cover with a lid or baking paper and refrigerate for at least six hours.

Jelly method:

Heat alcohol and reduce to one tablespoon, add the water and bring to a simmering point. Turn off heat. Melt the gelatin sheets in cold water until they soften, squeeze them out, add them to the hot flavoured water, stir until dissolved. Set aside to cool.

The setting procedure for the jelly is a three-stage process so leave plenty of time. Either start very early in the day or do it all the day before so there is no chance of it being under set! If the jelly is not firm it will slip off when the parfait is sliced thus ruining presentation and all your hard work.

Remove the parfait from the fridge, pour a thin layer of the gelatin mixture over the top and refrigerate again until set. Decorate with oranges halves, bay leaves and peppercorns. Spoon another thin layer of gelatin mixture over the top and refrigerate until set. Finally, pour the rest of the gelatin mixture over the top to set again.

Slice the parfait using a hot, cleaned knife between each slice. Serve with dry toast.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Food Vine's first birthday........

In late 2008, I decided to put together a food blog. Frustrated by the complications of recipe book publishing – the road I ideally want to travel - food blogging seemed the answer to instant publication. I have been writing and adapting recipes for years and I really wanted them to be in just one place and accessible to everyone who shares my interest. One year later, I have discovered that blogging is not the ideal solution for an online recipe book but I am slowly working on a change to rectify this.

I began The Food Vine with the best of intentions and found myself posting two or three recipes a week, making a good start in 2009. Later in the year, we went to France where I thought I would do loads of work so went armed with piles of papers and journals together with many exciting ideas in my head for future recipes not yet realized. Alan was not impressed with our over-weight baggage and I was even less impressed when it just did not happen. We found ourselves so busy with house renovations and decision making that cooking, apart from the basics, barely featured, and then my computer went down and remained down until we returned to Sydney, five months later.

With my first year up plus two months into my second it is now time to say something about these recipes, taking photographs and putting together the food that I love to make and to thank everyone who has read and commented on my work. The Food Vine has had about 3,000 hits since conception, I am pretty pleased with that and I hope 2010 will see even more.

Writing and adapting recipes for my own use is one thing but to write them for an unknown audience is quite another thing, altogether. I cannot assume you all know every culinary term or how to execute them and not wanting to insult the intelligence of the experienced cook, I have tried to include references to basic cooking principles but in the hope that most readers have a basic understanding of the fundamentals of cooking.

The introduction header is the key to whetting the reader’s appetite but it alone is not enough; an experienced cook will quickly scan a recipe and instinctively know whether it will work or not. Another will quickly assess whether the ingredients are too costly, too difficult to come by or it is just too lengthy or complicated. A good recipe should be articulated in a tone that does not assume experience, it should be easy to understand, be inspirational, clear, concise and consistently formatted with the nett result being: ‘it works’! Taste, texture, ease and uniqueness come into play as does keeping things streamlined and relatively simple. In other words, it is a long process and it takes hours! If weeks go by and I have not posted a new recipe, now you know why!

There are quite a few complex recipes on the Food Vine but many relatively easy ones too but enough variety, I hope, to suit all cooks who want to ‘have a go’. For all of us there is a time to take the short cut and a time to go the extra mile, to push the boat out for that special occasion. From the time a recipe is read, the decision made to go through the cooking process, the plating up and lastly the moment of taste… well, that’s were the promise comes in…..we all make promises when we share recipes.

I would like to think that my recipes and adaptations have whet your appetite; made you want to call them ‘your own’ and I hope I have been up-to-date where I could be. I hope too that I have explained techniques enough and they have taught you something. A good cook must master a technique in depth, first and foremost. However, a recipe is not cast in stone, it is an idea, with hopefully a minimum amount of time spent on reproduction, which you are free to change and adapt, just like me.

I use our Canon G9 camera on the macro, no flash, setting for all my food and drink photography. The art of taking food photographs is all about timing - every second counts before deterioration sets in - it is difficult and there are no second chances but it is great fun and as equally creative as cooking. Alan is always there to help me out especially at ‘critical point’ time and he is a wonderful and enthusiastic supporter of all things Food Vine related.

I want to say a special thank you to all those good friends who contributed to “the weekly post” during the first few months of The Food Vine. Unfortunately, the idea did not work as well as I had hoped so it was abandoned. Your contribution and support meant a lot to me and I am sure many benefited from your input.

My “Kitchen Tips” are worth printing out to have on hand. A lot came from my year at the Cordon Bleu school – not part of our curriculum - just little asides from teachers worth recording at the time. The rest are things I have happened upon and it is ongoing!

In addition, just three more to welcome in 2010:

‘a good cook is one who cooks the same thing over and over again to perfection and not necessarily a cook with a large repertoire’

‘good kitchen equipment is worth investing in ….despite the expense’

‘cook by your senses: touch, smell, taste, look and listen – cooking is noisy’

A very big thank you to my readers and an especially BIG thank you to my “followers”