Friday, 12 November 2010

The weekend starts here

It’s almost 6pm on Friday evening: the weather outside is frightful, but there’s a warming mug of Bovril by my side, Dino Crocetti’s singing about how It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas and the dinner is cooking gently. The weekend has begun.

I have small tuna steaks to pan fry. They’ll be accompanied by a mushroom gravy – which is nowhere near as strange as it sounds. This is a Rick Stein recipe and works very well.

I’ve diced celery, onion and carrot (that Mirepoix thing again) and these will sweat in a little olive oil before you add white wine, a pinch of dried chili and a handful of dried mushrooms, and reduce.

Once you’ve achieved a good reduction, strain, and then whisk in a little beurre manié (half and half butter and plain flour, blended together) to thicken.

Stein suggests puréed potatoes with garlic: I’m roasting a bulb and simmering a mix of carrot, pumpkin and swede (a matter of what’s in and what needs using up), which will all go through the potato ricer later. There’ll be some wilted spinach on the side.

As I start to pull together ideas for Christmas dinner, a series of ideas have presented themselves – and now I need to do some practice.

Consommé might get a run out this weekend – not a meaty one, though: I’ll try a vegetable one (cheaper, to start with, and thus less of a disaster if it doesn’t quite work).

When I was in Waitrose this afternoon, I picked up a bag of rhubarb. I’ve found a simple recipe for a rhubarb sorbet online at Gastronomy Domine, a very interesting food blog I’ve just discovered, which enticingly advertises itself as offering posts about: “Recipes, reviews and the ruination of my figure”.

Contrast that with another blog that was discussing a pink grapefruit sorbet (another flavour I’m considering), and the writer was suggesting that if, like them, you couldn’t find pink grapefruits, you could use ordinary grapefruit and add an artificial colour.

At which point I swore at the computer screen and rolled my eyes. If someone seriously believes that there is no difference in flavour between a grapefruit and a pink grapefruit, then they have a problem. ‘Just make an ordinary grapefruit sorbet’, I wanted to say. ‘There’d be nothing wrong with that – but there’s something hugely wrong with trying to fake something in such a way.’

The rhubarb will be diced and very gently cooked in a lidded pan with caster sugar and a little water. Then it’ll spend the night draining through a sieve. “Let gravity do its work,” says Gastronomy Domine.

Tomorrow, the cold syrup will be chilled and then popped into a box in the freezer. Sine I don’t have an ice-cream maker, I’ll have to manually whisk it up every half hour or so until I get something that is recognisable as a sorbet.

Finally, in terms of the weekend, I’m going to have a bash at profiteroles. How that will go very much remains to be seen – and as yet, I haven’t a clue what I’m actually going to feed The Other Half and myself for our actual meals!

But that can wait until tomorrow morning for serious consideration.

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