Saturday 26 February 2011

There are drawbacks ... having kitchens in two different houses, in two different countries. And I don't just mean those occasions when reaching into the cupboard at a critical moment for sugar that I know I bought only a couple of days ago, only to remember that in fact the sugar is sitting in a different cupboard half a continent away (and the shops are now closed, and anyway, people are arriving for dinner in twenty, improvise!)

No, the drawbacks can be more complicated than that. Like the evening before last, when I'd decided to make cream and walnut tart for dessert, and put the pastry shell into the pre-heated oven to bake, as I then focused on getting the cream reduction underway.
Except that I'd forgotten I wasn't in Italy, where the fan-assisted oven setting on the right-hand oven is two turns anti-clockwise from 'off'......which is what I did. In London, however, that setting starts the self-clean function going, which means that the temperature is raised to a planet-scorching level of intensity...and it was only as the distinctive self-cleaning-hot-metal smell wafted into my consciousness that I realised something might be wrong. 
By which time, the self-clean self-lock facility had also come into play (a little gizmo which prevents non-existent children from immolating themselves by opening the oven door during the self-clean process), and all I could do was watch helplessly through the glass panel as the pastry shell burnt to a crisp, and I wrestled in vain with the locked door, willing the oven to cool down sufficiently for me to get the bloody thing open. 
Which eventually it did....and it was just as I finally retrieved the sad and sorry burnt-offering that the cream - unwatched - effortlessly boiled over and flooded the entire hob.

It was (sigh-makingly) more like the Keystone Cops, than cooking.

Tonight's Dinner:

Steamed Prawn Won Ton.

Slow-roast Pork with Garlic & Star-anise; Spinach sautéed with Spring Onion

Chocolate Mousse, with fresh Raspberries

Sunday 20 February 2011

Recipe: Poached Egg on a Potato Galette, with Leek Sauce

Think of this as a first cousin to Eggs Benedict - although, you could be forgiven for comparing it also with a more prosaic 'egg and chips' (which may sound rather ho-hum, but where the flavour-combination of runny egg yolk with cooked potato is in fact incomporable, IMHO). The addition of the leek sauce in this version lifts the dish to a whole different level, though, and makes it something you could readily serve to guests without blushing.

The success of the dish depends on getting the eggs right - cooked a point, so the yolks are still runny, but the whites are perfectly firm. Over the years, I've researched countless methods for poaching eggs, and found that everybody seems to advise a different approach: add vinegar to the water (or not); make whirlpools before you drop the the raw eggs in;  aim for (or avoid) the areas of water which are bubbling most fiercely; stir the water around the eggs as they cook, to wrap in their 'tails'....and in fact none of these methods has ever really worked for me. The method I use (which I recently discovered is very similar to that advocated by Richard Olney) is to heat water to a boil in a large sauté pan, and then to turn off the heat, and poach the eggs inside  individual serving rings for exactly three minutes, with the cover on the pan. Use tongs to remove the rings, once done, and take the eggs from the water using a slotted spoon. If you don't have individual serving rings, then use the forms from small tuna cans, with the top and bottom removed (which can also subsequently be used btw, on a baking sheet, to shape individual pastry shells, in the absence of appropriate false-bottomed flan tins)

For two.

Ingredients: 2 large Eggs; 2 medium-sized Potatoes; the white part of a medium sized Leek; 2 tbs Butter; 2 tbs Oil; 100 ml White Wine; 100 ml Cream; Seasoning.


1. Dice the Leek finely, and sauté it gently in half the Oil and Butter for five minutes or so, until softened; add the Wine, raise the heat to bring to a boil, and then add the Cream. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook, stirring regularly, for five minutes or so, until the sauce has thickened. Keep warm, and taste and adjust the seasoning just before serving.

2. Peel the Potatoes and cut them into matchstick-thin julienne (do NOT wash them once peeled, as it is the starch in the potatoes which makes the galettes stick together...washing them will remove the starch). Heat the remaining Oil and Butter in a heavy frying pan over high heat, and then arrange the julienne strips in two 'cakes' in the pan. Season the Potatoes, press down lightly on them, and after a minute or two, gently ease the blade of a palette knife underneath, to ensure they aren't sticking to the pan (as you do so, tilt the pan slightly, to allow more oil and butter to run beneath each galette). After four minutes or so, use the palette knife to turn each galette over, and repeat the process; adjust the temperature throughout to maintain a high heat, but not so high that the galettes start to burn. Four minutes on each side should be sufficient.

3. Poach the two Eggs using the method described above.

4. To serve: on warmed plates, place each poached egg on top of a potato galette, and spoon leek sauce over the top. (And for a more formal presentation, sprinkle with chopped parsley).