book review, Chef, Cookbooks, Food, Recipes

Rosemary Shrager’s ‘Absolutely Foolproof Food for Family and Friends’

A few years ago my friend Siobhan and I headed to Swinton Park in Yorkshire for a residential cookery course with Rosemary Shrager.  the location is beautiful and Rosemary herself gives the course and while she can be a tad scary she was great fun. We had an absolute ball and learned lots.

I use the recipes from the course regularly and also have a few of her booksthat are well-thumbed so I was delighted to receive a copy of her new book ‘ Absolutely Foolproof Food for Family & Friends’ from Octopus Books.

When I saw the title I assumed the book would be full of quick and easy recipes for everyday meals which is not like the Rosemary I love. My assumption was wrong – this is a book for dinner party dishes that you can impress with such as  Venison Carpaccio of Sea Bass with a Pickled Carrot Salad and Roast Crown of Pheasant , dishes for larger celebrations such as Salmon en Croute and even detailed instructions on curing pork and salmon.

There  is a lovely introductory section detailing all the kitchen equipment you may need (the only thing I’m missing is a potato ricer!), what knives to use and how to use them.  The recipe sections are divided by main ingredient such as vegetables, poultry, game and pasta. Each section begins with a very detailed technique complete with step by step pictures and complete with tips and ideas and possible variations on the main recipe.

My pet peeve as you know is cookbooks without finished photos of each dish – this book unfortunately falls into this category. This surprises me as I learned so much about presentation when I was at the Cookery School but the detailed technique pictures are good. The other thing that I found strange is that there is no dessert section in the book.

So what did I cook? Well for a change I gave my main taster  the book and asked him what would he like for dinner. The choice : Scallops en Papilotte with Curried Coconut Milk and Pak Choi and Roast Venison with Chocolate Sauce and Braised Chicory. 

I was unable to find either pak choi or chicory so I decided that as a starter the pak choi could be omitted and I picked up some curly kale to use with the venison. Rosemary uses loin of venison in her recipe but as I had two venison steaks (farmed I will admit)  in the freezer I used those.  I spent a very pleasant afternoon prepping the dishes – the recipes are well laid out and easy to follow.  The sauce for both dishes can be made ahead of time making them ideal for entertaining.

I julienned the vegetables for the scallop dish so when it came to dinner I just had to cook the scallops, assemble the parcels and put them in the oven for 10 minutes.

There was a lot going on this dish flavour wise but it all worked and the pak choi wasn’t even missed!

I decided to try the recipe for Fondant Potatoes and this was the only one I had any problem with – and I think it was my own fault for not adding enough stock. However I finished them in the oven and they were so tasty – they may even replace roast potatoes as my favourite!

The chocolate sauce took  time – and a lot of ingredients – but it was so worth the effort and it complimented the venison perfectly.

I would have preferred to serve the dish with chicory but he loved the kale (I stir-fried it with orange zest and juice).

Was it good? Well the Chief Taster certainly thought so …

This book has already earned a place on the ‘favourites’ shelf and if anyone can tell me where I can get partridge then Roast Partridge with Cabbage, Bacon and Apple is the next recipe I want to try  and Stuffed Yellow and Red Pepper Rolls has also been requested……

My verdict – if you want to impress your family and friends with your cooking then you need this book.

Pssst – if you want to try the Chocolate Sauce here’s the recipe:

What you need: 

  • 100g butter ( I don’t think I used quite this much!)
  • 150g leeks, finely chopped ( I used 2 leeks)
  • 1 rasher smoked streaky bacon, chopped
  • 250ml red wine
  • 2 tsp redcurrant jelly
  • 300ml game or venison stock  (I had to resort to beef stock)
  • 120 ml port
  • 15g 70% chocolate, finely chopped

What you do:

  • Melt 30g butter in pan, add the leeks and bacon and cook gently for 15 minutes.
  • Add the wine and the redcurrant jelly and simmer until reduced to a syrupy consistency.
  • Add the stock and simmer until reduced by half.
  • Finally add the port and simmer to coating consistency.
  • Season then strain through a sieve into a clean pan (I prepared ahead to this point)
  • Reheat gently and stir in the chocolate until it melts
  • Cut remaining butter into cubes and whisk into the sauce a few at a time.
  • Check for seasoning and serve.

Happy Cooking !

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Cooking, Food, Recipes

Dining á deux – Romance is in the air!

Romance is definitely in the air and what better way to celebrate than with a delicious dinner á deux?

This was my Valentine’s meal last year but looking at the dishes I think it deserves another outing……….. see what you think!

Starter : Seductive Scallops on a Pea & Mint Purée

According to my fishmonger, Jason, this dish cannot fail to stir the romantic juices! You can make the purée in advance and reheat just before serving. The trick is to have everything ready before you cook the scallops as they are best served immediately. Allow 3 scallops per person.

To make the puree – heat 125 g frozen petits pois, knob of butter, 50 ml chicken stock andseasoning in a small saucepan and alllow to simmer for 3-4 mins. Then whizz in food processor with a small bunch of mint (chopped) and Voilá!

To cook the scallops make sure your pan is red hot, add a little butter and oil, and sear the scallops (seasoned with little salt & freshly ground cumin) for 1 min each side. You want a nice caramelised colour.

Serve the scallops on a dollop of purée with salad leaves drizzled with balsamic vinegar.

  

Main: Romantic Roast Duck Breast with Plum Sauce

I used the frozen Barbary duck breast from Lidl for this – one at €5.99 is enough for two! (I hope they still have them!)

Again you can make the sauce in advance and reheat when needed. To make the sauce sauté 1 chopped shallot in a little olive oil for a few mins. Add 250g red plums (half a punnet), stoned and cut into wedges alond with 50g demerara sugar and stir til the sugar dissolves. Finally add 50 mlred wine and 300 ml beef stock and simmer until the sauce has reduced and thickened (should take about 15 mins)

Turn your oven to 180C /Gas 4.

To cook the duck – score the skin with a sharp knife and season well. Place the duck breast(s), skin side down, on a cold pan and bring up to temmperature. (this will stop your meat seizing up ) and cook for 6 mins. Then turn the duck over and add 25g butter, 1 star anise and a sprig of thyme to the pan. Baste the breast(s) with the juices and then transfer to pre heated oven (check your pan is oven proof, if not transfer duck to roasting dish!). Roast for 5-6 mins for pink or 10 mins for well done. Baste the duck with the juices and allow to rest for 5 mins before carving.

Serve the duck breast on a bed of mash with plum sauce spooned around.

Dessert: Decandent Chocolate Cocktails

This  rich, luscious chocolatey dessert looks really well served in martini glasses.

Mix 2 tbsp of your liqueur of choice (I used Cointreau but I want to try Mint Baileys…) into 170ml ofdouble cream. Remove 3tbsp of the cream mix and reserve for later. Then heat the remaining cream in a small saucepan until just boiling.

Pour the hot cream over 50g dark chocolate pieces (70% cocoa please!) and stir to melt the chocolate. Divide the mix between 2 martini glasses and allow to cool.

Whip the remaining cream and spoon over the chocolate ( think a pint of guiness!). Then allow to chill in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.

Timing

To make sure your meal flows smoothly make the dessert, pea purée and plum sauce in advance. You could also make the mash a little ahead of time if you want.

Set your beautiful romantic table, make yourself beautiful/handsome. Pour the champagne.  Then return to cooker and sear the duck (I advise wearing an apron for this part!). When you have transferred the duck to the oven, cook and serve the scallops.

Allow the duck to rest while you reheat the sauce and the mash – plate it up and enjoy.

All you need to do with the dessert is dust with cocoa – using a heart stencil of course.

Now the rest is up to you………………

Happy Cooking!