Sunday, July 29, 2007

The lovely bones.

Fergus Henderson. If you were lucky enough to have caught him in Australia at Victoria's Taste of Slow a year ago, you 'd likely have your own opinion but you'd have to agree with me on this (if nothing else): His manner of speaking is a joy to listen to and, in spite of that, he still manages to come across plain as plain and delightfully so. He does what he knows best and hasn't changed in the face of all the name calling, occasional worship and being a bit of an object of American obsession.

In an interview conducted a few years back, his professional situation would have put any chef in a similar position over the moon. Still, with a successful restaurant, a highly acclaimed book being re-released, a new restaurant and another book in the works, Fergus Henderson was staring down something that could not be sweetened by any amount of success.

Parkinson's Disease.

With all the competitiveness portrayed in the media of the underbelly of the culinary world.. Mr. Henderson's next meeting with the Guardian journalist was a more pleasant read with the news that he is well, he's back in the kitchen and his book, Nose to Tail Eating, is still enjoying unwavering popularity.

I do rather enjoy this book. A good relationship with a decent butcher has become a bit of a casuality from all my shifting about in the past few years but I'm fortunate: a few mates have put me in contact with a local who raises pigs. If you are lucky to have access to good butcher (lucky you!), and can acquire some tails.. do check here. Yum.

This winter chill means one thing: it is salami season.

And anything else you can put in a casing.. another classic : boudin noir. Black pudding.

We made a classic recipe with brandy and oats. Stuffed some natural casings and gently steamed to avoid burst puddings and voila!

Perfect for a fry up with eggs and toast for breakfast.

Green as

Right up there with lemons, for me, are limes.. and in everything from tom yum pa to tortilla soup. That bright flavour of the lemon mixed with a sour tanginess that has a natural affinity with salt, think margaritas..

Guacamole is one of those dishes that benefit from the addition of lime juice for two reasons. First, it enlivens the tastebuds, lifts the lovely waxiness of the avocado and blends with the onion/garlic/salt combination to perfection. Second, it inhibits the (enzymatic) browning of the avocado pulp. Rubbing a little on the cut surface of the fruit and leaving the stone intact will slow down this reaction should you not use the entire avocado.

This almost never happens as I love guacamole on everything from tortillas filled with seared beef and salsa to leftover chicken sandwiches. When I am in the mood for Mexico, this addictive wee condiment adds its unctuous, rich taste and a fabulous shot of colour.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Savour 2007 (Part 2 -Fromages!)

The last class of Day #1, Le Plasir de Decouvrir (the pleasure of discovery), was all about cheese glorious cheese. Now while I have a familial attachment to all things Italiano (and formaggio is no exception), credit must be given where credit is due and regional French cheese is most deserving of praise. So to Gilles Méreau from Maison Vauron and Ray McVinnie, who orchestrated this cheese tasting, well done indeed.

What a line-up. First, the tasting was delivered in courses based on the origin of the milk. Goat was first. This seemed to be a strange concept to many in attendance who expected strong goat flavours. However, after tasting, there was a clear method to the madness.. It is springtime in France. The milk is obtained from goats feeding on tender spring grass.
Translation: for a fresh unripened pyramid sprinkled with ash there is no better timing and the mini pyramides (Jacquin) were divine indeed.

The second was a small crevassed 'cupcake' of cheese 'Le Maître Seguin' and although slightly underripe, melted into a creamy paste that lingered through layers of delicate cream and mild lactic notes. And the last, the highlight of my weekend was a Sainte Maure de Touraine at a decent stage of ripeness. The sublime interior of this green grey raw milk beauty melted luxuriously. The section closest to the rind already oozing and the slightly firmer interior melted without resistance.

Served with Sancerre (Henri Bourgeois). Words fail me.

The second course, all cows milk cheeses, included some of my favouites. Chaorce, Langres and Munster, in all their pungent complexity, were paired with the wine of the region, Gewurztraminer (Albert Mann). Now I know, as when I have mentioned this match to a few people before , they always assume the wine to be far too sweet. However, many French varieties finish dry even with all the typical floral and turkish delight, associated sweet aromas wafting out of the glass. With muenster, this wine positively shines! Pungent as typical washed rinds are, I think it is the savoury sticky exterior that complements so well and that sweetish milk, sweet hay thread holding it altogether.

The last course were spicy blues both made from ewes milk. The Onetik Bleu de Basques Brebis had a mild saltiness and zip that was a solid match when paired with the sticky (Pacherenc-du-Vic-Bilh). This wine, with the 'other' cheese (Roquefort) truly illustrated the affinity blue cheese has with sweet wine. My only sadness came from the sight of crumbly piles of the prince of blue cheeses remaining on tasting plates (and in napkins!). Ok, perhaps it isn't everyone's cuppa but this HUGE spicy blue is adorable even though it enjoys contraband notoriety. Anyone willing to give it a fair go, in spite of the pungent aromas, would have pleasantly discovered a beautiful fullness of flavour, a complex yet clean finish and a real revelation in combination with the wine. A near ethereal experience.

To Gilles and Ray, merci beaucoup!