Saturday, 17 October 2009

Taking stock of autumn menus

Back to the weekend and back to Broadway Market.

List-making – or put another way, creating menus – seems to get easier. I'd pretty much sorted out my ideas by last night, even with a little after-work Friday inebriation.

But that's not to say that I didn't spend my usual time sitting up in bed with a coffee and various cookbooks. Soup remained a question for the day – what was I going to make? I settled on an idea from River Café Easy: an artichoke and potato soup.

Now buying fresh artichokes – even if it were the season – would not be considered. Like soaking and boiling beans for hours, life is just too short for some things, so I bought artichoke hearts.

Cut them up and then cook gently in a little oil. Add some chili flakes, chopped flat leaf parsley and some garlic, then some chicken stock. This was a first – the first time I've used some of my own home-made stock in a soup. Cook for around 15 minutes and then add a diced potato and some more stock. Cook until the potato is cooked, then mash a little with a potato masher and serve, drizzled with virgin oil and topped with crostini – toasted slices of ciabatta, rubbed with garlic and drizzled with more oil.

I was completely wowed, but it was certainly okay and made a change.

Tonight gave me the chance to use yet more chicken stock in a way I haven't before – this time, as part of a sauce for salmon. This is a dish of my own creation and I'm rather proud of it, even though its getting refined every time I do it.

Chop a couple of shallots and a couple of sticks of celery and soften them in some olive oil. The add some very good quality cider and reduce. Add around the same amount of chicken stock and reduce further. Strain. Make up some beurre manié (half and half of plain flour and softened butter, mixed together). Drain and rinse some green peppercorns, and then crush them a little. Add to the strained sauce. Whisk in the beurre manié to thicken.

In the meantime, poach salmon fillet in more cider. Serve the salmon with the sauce.

To accompany this, I boiled some swede, celeriac and carrots together, then pureed them, mixed in a little butter and added plenty of black pepper. I also served some mixed mushrooms that had been very gently cooked in a little olive oil, with a squeeze of lemon juice.

Great, earthy tastes – perfect autumn fodder. Very comforting and also pretty healthy: oily fish and three portions of fruit & veg.

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