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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

kumatoes with goat's cheese and mint

My kingdom for a good tomato....

Wherever you live I'm sure you will agree that a really good, sweet testing tomato is hard to find. Nigh on impossible actually unless you live near a farmer's market or grow your own. How I long for the heirloom varieties seldom seen and there's nothing but nothing like a real true blue green tomato!

For me, the nearest thing to offer in lieu of the above is the Kumato, developed in Spain where it is known as the Olmeca. These tomatoes are green to reddish brown and are sweeter than our usual red varieties due to their high fructose content. They have a long shelf life and are considered gourmet tomatoes.

I've married them with fresh goat's cheese, torn mint leaves and a splash of extra virgin olive oil and a little vinegar. The result is a stunning, fresh, sweet tasting salad reminiscent of days when 
all tomatoes tasted good!
printer friendly recipe                          

Monday, January 16, 2012

it's a wrap!

For a very long time mastering the technique of egg wrapping eluded me. Until that is, my friend, Anne came along – who not only showed me the how to but also gave me the what with. And that is the perfect egg! Simple once you know how.

Essential requirements: several one to two day old eggs, a deep pan, a small cup, a minute timer, two spoons and a lot of courage.

Fill the deep pan with water, heat to simmering point - keep the water at that point. Crack an egg into the small cup, swirl the water clockwise with a spoon, slide the egg into the swirling water AND, very quickly, using two spoons, wrap the flowing whites over the top of the immersed egg. Repeat process with each egg. Put the timer on for 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon.

Believe it when I say this takes quite a bit of skill and quite a few eggs before you get the hang of it. The result is beautiful and the perfect egg should be soft in the centre and ooze gently out of the solid white case. Thank you Anne.

Bon Appetit!

Monday, January 9, 2012

sea urchins!

No recipe, what a pain but not in the neck! Instead, a little story about one of my favourite things just in case you come across them. Not that I would recommend handling them, leave that to the experts but eating them is a whole different ball game!

Sea urchins have long been regarded as an effective remedy for neck ache due to their high iodine and mineral salt content and are said to give a boost to virility. In ancient times gourmets celebrated their fine flavour and always served them alongside oysters at feasts and banquets.

I'm happy to say I'm not a sea urchin gatherer but I have enjoyed their multi coloured beauty from far above the ocean floor. Sea urchins are exceptionally delicate creatures, concealing in their spiny shell a soft centre and a very much sought after coral.

Scissors are used to open the mouth of the sea urchin to sever the connective tissue then tweezers are needed to open up a hole large enough to remove the delicate coral with a teaspoon. This coral is the reproductive glands and a true delicacy. Connoisseurs consume their catch raw with a little lemon, straight from the sea. The animal robed of its element goes off quickly but stored in ice they have a longer shelf life.

Sea urchin paté is made from sea urchin flesh, hake and butter and is used to enrich sauces, soups and scrambled eggs. More often than not sea urchin flesh is gently cooked, added to a béchamel sauce and served in the shell, au gratin, as in the above photograph.

Sea urchins are harvested in many places in the world and I am sure there are many ways to serve them that I don't know about nor have the time to research. My own experience comes from Spain, where I took this photo and where the true flavour of the sea is never more evident, than it is here, in every dish.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

fillet steak Rossini

Fillet steak Rossini style was purported to be invented by the great French chef Auguste Escoffier for the Italian composer, Gioachino Rossini in the 1800s. This dish comprised; tournedos of beef fillet cooked in melted butter, topped with foie gras and garnished with black truffles. The meat was served on a warm crouton and accompanied by Madeira demi-glace sauce and scatterings of finely chopped chervil. One can only imagine the taste and flavour imparted by these heavenly ingredients.

So, what's the Italian version for this very same man? Well, it has to include three other great Italians: prosciutto, parmesan and marsala.

There is one essential trick in getting this recipe right. It's making sure the steak is tied together firmly and evenly and time allowed for the 'setting' stage in the refrigerator for thirty minutes plus before cutting and cooking.

The other obvious change is fillet steak Rossini in Italy is stuffed while the French version is topped.

Ingredients to serve 4:

1x 800g eye fillet
2 x 200g packets of prosciutto
500g fresh parmesan cheese, cubed or very roughly chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
string or stretchy gauze
4 tablespoons brandy
4 tablespoons Marsala
150ml beef stock
150ml cream
salt and ground black pepper to taste
Chervil to garnish
Go-Between or baking paper for rolling steak


Slice the fillet lengthways down the centre but do not cut all the way though. Bend the meat out and lay it between two pieces of Go-Between or baking paper.

Using a meat hammer or heavy rolling pin or wine bottle to flatten out the meat so it is all the same thickness.

Line the whole, flattened fillet with prosciutto, line again with chopped parmesan and another layer of prosciutto. Season.

Carefully roll the fillet and secure tightly with string at 4 – 6 intervals. I used stretchy gauze my butcher gave me simply because it's a safer bet to hold the roll together (see photo). But I do have reservations about using gauze; it marks the finished meat and is almost impossible to remove before serving. If you can use string successfully you will get a better visual result.

Wrap the rolled, tied meat in cling film and place in the fridge to 'set' for at least thirty minutes. This firms up the meat and helps to keep the stuffing intact. Remove the meat from the fridge, remove the cling film and cut it into four steaks. Try to cut the steaks so each piece of string is centred in each steak.

Heat the butter and oil on a moderate heat in a medium size frying pan and cook the steaks to your liking. The length of time depends on how thick you have cut your steaks and how you like them cooked. Personally I prefer steak medium rare, this will give enough time for the parmesan to soften and melt and the prosciutto will be warmed through. When the steak is ready flash with the brandy and set alight. After the flames die down remove the steaks to rest and keep them warm. Remove the string.

Turn the heat up on the pan and add the Marsala, cook out the alcohol, scrapping up the residue in the process and reduce to a scant amount. Add the beef stock and cook for ten minutes or until reduced by half. Add the cream, cook a little longer on a low heat. Strain the sauce, check seasoning.

Pour a little sauce into a circle on each plate and place the steaks on top. Scatter over the chervil and serve immediately.

Note 1: Go-Between is made of food-safe polyethylene and is pre-cut for freezing, it separates individual freezer portions but also makes an ideal non-stick rolling aid for pastry or meat. Use two sheets of baking paper if Go-Between is unavailable.

Note 2: I use 1-2 tablespoons of the product; Bowles Veal Glace which I add to this sauce before the cream stage. This product is sensational and gives a wonderful sheen and flavour to any brown sauce when you don't have the time to make your own demi-glace.

Fillet steak Rossini printer friendly version, click here: