Sunday, 31 October 2010

It's a good thing I don't do this for a living

Blimey! Anyone doing this cookery lark for a living must have the stamina of a marathon runner! I'm absolutely knackered! But everything is now done for tomorrow.

I started this morning with the quince and medlar jelly – it took far longer to boil than I expected and is setting only slowly. My fingers are crossed – it tastes lovely.

Then came the first chocolate bark – plain chocolate (72%) melted gently over water, with a teaspoon of espresso granules added while it was melting and then some finely chopped candied ginger before it was spread in a lined baking tray and sprinked with a very small amount of sea salt, to really get the palate going.

After lunch, I bashed on with the ganache for the chocolate cake – something was bound to go wrong this weekend and it was this: the thing split. So I had to hare round the corner and buy more double cream and start again. Second time lucky ...

That cake is now sitting in the fridge with it's rich coat on, waiting until tomorrow morning to be decanted into a cake tin for transportation to the office.

After getting the Boeuf Bourguignon going – I looked at the clock and realised that, with a two-and-a-half hour cook minimum, it needed to be in the oven – I set about the second chocolate bark.

So, melt more dark chocolate in one bowl and some white chocolate in another bowl. Strip the seeds out from two vanilla pods and decant into the two chocolates.

Take a lined baking tin and carefully pour the white chocolate into half the tray. Pour the dark chocolate into the other half and gently use a spatula to make them meet in the middle. Then have a bit of fun feeling artsy and creating patterns that Jackson Pollock might have appreciated.


Well, apart from the rest of the Bourguignon (mushrooms to prep, bacon to cut up and these, together with whole small onions to brown in butter before joining all the other ingredients in the oven for at least half and hour) and an apple and blackberry crumble that I have sort of promised The Other Half.

When I analyse what I've actually done, and when I read Bill's blog, about his training at Ballymaloe, I can scarcely believe how tired I feel: it's not even just mental, but I'm actually aching physically.

Not that any of this food is exactly out of place on Halloween – or Samhain, as Pagans know it; the time of year when light turns into dark. The dark, velvety richness of bitter chocolate; warming ginger and unctuous cream. And that's before we think of the Bourguignon, with dark flesh, root vegetables and fungi cooking slowly in blood-red wine. And the blackberries and apple, buried beneath a bed of flour, butter and sugar, waiting to drip their juices into the soft, brown sugar they're coated in.

All in all, perfect autumn fodder.

And with that, I will leave this post for today. Knackered, but with a sense of achievement. Not least because, only two years ago – or perhaps less even than that – I would have been completely intimidated by what I'd set myself to do this weekend. It hasn't gone completely according to plan (what ever does?) and it's involved it's tearing-hair moments – or tearing baking parchment moments – but while I've felt irritated at times and tired this afternoon, I've never felt that I've lost control. And that really is a personal step forward.

All that remains now is the eating and, tomorrow, the selling!

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