Monday, 30 July 2012

Gastronomically speaking

What a wonderful time we all had recently at the Gastronomic Symposium held in Dublin. It is not often us chefs/food writers and general gastronomes can get together to discuss some of the wider cultural and historical themes in gastronomy as well as enjoying the hospitality of some wonderful Michelin chefs and linking up with kindred spirits from all around the world. We had two and a half days of some very interesting papers covering a wide range of subjects from the not so simple breeding and harvesting of specific unique potatoes  in Northern Ireland to the claret consumption habits of the 19th century Irish aristocracy! In between we had a whole range of interesting lectures which can all be found here:

London Olympics - We would rather cook!!

With the eyes of the world on the London Olympics we wondered whether anyone would have time to spend at our cooking school! Well the answer is a resounding yes. We have students starting today for a full week's programme of fine dining learning how to create wonderful gourmet dishes to reproduce at home. This is not as surprising as it might at first seem given the extraordinary interest in good food and wine around the world and the fact that more people then ever enjoy the fun of home cooking for their friends and relatives. It's all very well having a beautiful kitchen but if you have never learned  to cook how can you put on a show? Masterchefs often like to exhibit the charms of the ancient magicians implying that they and they alone have the ability to work the magic of gourmet food. Yes of course someone with a classic French gastronomic education along with a lifetime of work creating great food in some of the world's best restaurants will have great expertise and knowledge. But there is a wonderful simplicity to great food. Our students will be taken through the process of creating 37 individual classic dishes over the course of five days. With three course lunches and four course dinners to prepare to Michelin standard, there is a lot of hands on preparation and learning to be done. Adults learn by doing and so what better method than actually working through the process and methods to produce a sensational lunch and dinner each day.  All this using good quality local food and making the best of ones own resources to ensure an economical nutritious discipline holds in the kitchen.We endeavour to ensure all our students are equipped to return home and reproduce those wonderful dishes for their family and friends having had a wonderful holiday in the process.  Once students have those skills and knowledge they carry it with them for the rest of their lives. They can also pass it on to their children and grandchildren. That is as important a legacy as those of the Olympic games don't you think!?

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Saumon Steak Princesse

We all enjoy a salmon steak and here is a simple delicious quick dish taken direct from the French Master Chef Larousse himself! 

First cut some steaks of equal thickness from a large fresh salmon. Prepare the fish fumet, strain and leave to cool. Lay the steaks in a fish kettle with a small amount of funnet and poach gently for six minutes from the time that the fumet begins to simmer. Drain and skin the steaks and arrange on the serving dish; keep warm.
Use the cooking liquid to make a Normandy sauce. Garnish the steaks with slivers of truffle warmed in butter and green asparagus tips. Serve the sauce separately. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Crème Caramel

This has to be one of my favourate French desserts and when made well it is so hard to beat! For 8 persons you will need: 1-1/3 cups granulated sugar 1-1/4 cups whole milk 1-1/4 cups heavy cream 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, or 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract 3 large egg yolks 2 large eggs 1/8 tsp. table salt 1/4 cup full-fat sour cream 1 Tbs. brandy, rum, or bourbon Method: Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Bring a large kettle of water to a boil. Have ready eight 6-oz. oven-safe ramekins and a heatproof 2-cup measuring cup. Put 1 cup of the sugar in a heavy-duty 3-quart saucepan and stir in 1/3 cup water. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar is melted, and bring to a boil, about 2 minutes. Brush the side of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water to wash away any sugar crystals and continue to cook, without stirring, until the edges of the syrup begin to color, 3 to 5 minutes more. Gently swirl the pan to encourage even caramelization, and cook until the syrup turns dark amber, 1 to 2 minutes more. Immediately pour the caramel into the measuring cup, then quickly distribute the hot caramel among the ramekins, swirling each ramekin to coat the bottom. Set aside. Combine the milk and heavy cream in a 3-quart heavy-duty saucepan. If using a vanilla bean, scrape the seeds from the bean into the pan and add the bean. Bring just to a simmer over medium-high heat, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, whole eggs, the remaining 1/3 cup sugar, and the salt until smooth. Whisk in the sour cream and brandy. Remove the vanilla bean (if used) from the cream mixture and gradually whisk the cream mixture into the egg mixture. If using vanilla extract, stir it in. Skim off any foam. Stir the custard if using a vanilla bean and pour or ladle it into the ramekins. Set the ramekins in a large roasting pan. Carefully pour the hot water into the roasting pan so that it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover loosely with aluminum foil. Bake just until the centers of the custards wobble slightly when jiggled, 35 to 40 minutes. Carefully transfer the ramekins to a rack to cool to room temperature (silicone-tipped tongs work well for this), about 30 minutes. Chill completely in the refrigerator, at least 4 hours (cover when cold). About 30 minutes before serving, unmold the custards by placing the bottom of a ramekin in a small bowl of very hot water for 30 seconds to soften the caramel. Run a small knife around the edge of the custard to loosen. Put a small serving plate over the ramekin and invert. Holding the plate and ramekin together, shake firmly up and down, if necessary, to release the custard. Remove the ramekin (some caramel will stay in the ramekin). Repeat with the rest of the ramekins and let the custards stand at room temperature until ready to serve.

Real French delicacies

Real French delicacies