Sunday, 9 August 2009

Restaurant Night ... Again

Sorry to be so remiss with the old blog. I really should get back into the habit of updating regularly, but to be fair I've been a bit busy of late. First of all there was a trip down to London with Koios for the first leg of her birthday treat. We went to St John's Restaurant in Smithfield, which was excellent for traditional British cuisine (although a little let down by cheating with things like capers and, frankly, tomatoes) but not actually wildly brilliant cooking wise. I mean, it was great, but nothing terribly exciting. That's the problem with traditional British food. What can you do with it? I had chitterlings, which they fried up with some white beans. It was delicious but, in the end, just fried chitterlings and white beans. Kno' what I mean? But more to the point, we had a truly lovely night with much chat, much wine and slightly mushy waxings lyrical about our splendid partners.

Next day I spent with Brother and Gaura, eating brunch at Fortnum's (poor, poor pancakes, undercooked in the middle) and then dinner at a Chinese - which was excellent. I was feeling slightly delicate of tum after all the rich food, and won ton soup with some rice and garlicky veg was absolutely perfect. It was good to see them, and I was very thankful for a free place to rest my head in the big smoke.

Back home it was nose to the grindstone for my latest bout of insanity. I'd decided to do one of my restuarant nights - this time for Phid, Wheeler, Phid's parents, and all the neighbours. That's 10 in total. We decided on only 3 choices for each course, and after much humming and hawing - and enormous quantities of free food being showered upon us by neighbours, who kill things with gay abandon - this was the menu I ended up printing out:

Starters
1.
Fishysoisse - Chilled leek and potato soup with a hint of haddock. (The hint of haddock was a little spoon of haddock ice cream).
2.
Trio of Mezze - Bite-sized moussaka, chilled Greek salad soup, and prawns - possibly with tzatziki. (The 'possibly with tzatziki' reference was to the fact that I'd made tzatziki and, with the help of Epona's hypodermic syringes - which she uses on the horses, and which I obviously boiled to within an inch of their lives, despite them already being clean - injected it into the prawns. I used a skewer to make a little channel inside each king prawn, but the amount of tzatziki I could get in there was minimal. People noticed the taste, but didn't really know what the hell was going on until I told them. Not sure it was worth the effort really!)
3.
Epona's Shrooms - Local chanterelles, plucked lovingly from the earth by The Mushroom Fairy (or Epona, to you), fried in butter with shallots and a soupçon of cream.

Main Courses
1.
Rambling Duck - From the spices of Araby adorning its skin, to the deep freeze of next door from whence it came, this wild duck has seen the world. And now it's cold roasted and served with local plum & Greek ouzo relish. Huzzah!
2. Teetering Timbale of Woodcock - Gaze at its magnificence! Gasp at the beauty of the little pastry bird adorning its crust! Guffaw as it all crumbles to rubble beneath my knife! My first ever timbale. It's got woodcock in it*. God help us all.
*Also fois gras. But no dolphin, whale or fur.

3. Fifi's Robust Cullen Skink - Looky! Something Epona didn't kill! (It was probably our other neigbour, Ku'ula Kai). This is Cullen Skink with a little more va-va-voom - squid, prawns and mussels, to be precise. Served with Auntie Fisher's Rosemary Rolls.

All main courses served with cold parsley potatoes, English Breakfast salad, and a smile*.
*Subject to availability.

A Selection of "Afters" - Cheese course, coffee, flavoured teas.

Now, a thing or two about the 'afters': Phid's dad is mad keen on ice cream, but hates cheese. Won't eat it, the dam' fool. So, to throw him a bit of a curve ball, as our colonial cousins would say, I decided to combine the two. O yes. That'd fox him. So, with great glee, I proceeded (basically, by using Fisher's mechanical genius and getting her to actually do it) I removed the skin of half an Edam cheese. I then filled this with salty caramel ice cream. I also filled a camembert box with creamy apple ice (different to ice cream - it's much rougher in texture), and instructed Fisher to make my vanilla ice cream into Stilton by putting it in a Stilton pot, and watching as she made blue lines with food colouring.

It fooled him ... not for a moment. But it was a success, I think. Certainly the caramel ice cream was delicious, and I shall make it again. The apple ice was too grainy for my liking, but the vanilla was excellent. Vanilla pods are so much better than essence it's ridiculous.

The other 'afters' were either an apple jelly (not good - didn't go down very well, but were meant really as a garnish for the apple ice than a proper dessert) OR a chocolate mousse with peppermint cream. I used fresh mint from the garden for the cream, and Fisher made the mousse with a little rum. We made the mistake of making a first batch with incredibly dark chocolate, and while Fisher liked it a lot I couldn't stand it - way too cocoa-y. So she made it again, this time with Bournville. Much, much better - and she didn't melt the chocolate entirely either, leaving little bits of unmelted chewy bits, which were delicious!

The trouble with this situation was: I'd foolishly given one person in each couple a different sweet thing. I thought this meant there would be a sociable exchange of food. But no. All the people with the chocolate mousse devoured it with the speed of Gonzales, and promptly looked around for more. Those with the crappy apple jelly just looked affronted and sad. I shall know better next time.

Afterwards, we went to the sitting room, where Shah promptly fell asleep in his chair and Epona regaled us with stories of him conducting auctions in his sleep where, on numerous occasions she'd been sold, and never for a very flattering price.

The neighbours hung on til about midnight, then made their separate ways up the road. The rest of us stayed up a little longer, but it wasn't too long before we hit the hay.

Next day, Epona took us mushroom gathering, and we came away with a big basket full of beautiful chanterelles. They're the only mushroom I'd ever be confident picking. They look like nothing else, with no gills, and are a nice, distinct yellow/orange colour. Phid and her parents took the mushrooms away with them, to cook up for a risotto that evening, and I hear it was a triumph.

We went for lunch at Gloaburn, then to Branklyn Gardens for a brief wander. All very pleasant - and then we parted. I spent the rest of Saturday playing PS3 and generally chilling - and today I've sorted the Blind Soc newsletter (I hope), written my blog, and tried not to think about exercise. I have to do some, but my loins are distinctly ungirded.

Hey ho. The time approaches. Might as well bite the bullet. To run or not to run, that is the question. To swim? Perchance to bike? Ach ... they're all crap. I hate everything. Boo.

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