July 2012


Take a warm, sultry summer’s evening.  All our guests have finished dinner and we offer the option of taking a digestive.  Last Saturday we gently cajoled one such guest into sampling Compass Box’s ‘The Peat Monster’….the result could have been summed up as unadulterated pleasure and satisfaction.

A malt whisky that combines malts from Islay, Mull and Speyside  the best of the princely regions of whisky distillation.  Smokey yet with the sweeter elements of a Speyside, ‘The Peat Monster’ provided its recipient (a Catalan gentleman with a sound knowledge of ‘The Malt’) with all that was asked of it with the exception of its indulgent twin – a quality Cuban cigar.  Cheers!

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So, I came home with our biggest fish yet yesterday. A 5 point something kilo Bonito and what a beauty.  Designed like a sports car, glistening steely greys and blues.  Muscular and silky with fins like razors.  This fella is currently served up as a starter  –  ‘Bonito Niçoise’ with all the usual accompaniments; gem lettuce, soft boiled egg, french beans, tomato, anchovies and olives.  Once the fish is filleted it is cut into 100g portions and when it comes to the cooking I poach the burgundy red chunks of flesh in salted simmering water (toss in a bay leaf for good measure) for 4 minutes before slicing them in two to show the lush contrast of the still tender red interior before mounting them on top of the salad.  A good glass of white wine and you’re done.

 

Last week we played host to a family who came to La Rectoria to celebrate a 40th Birthday….Grandma, Son (Birthday Boy), Wife, Sisters, Other halves, Kids and the dog!  One of the requests was that we make and provide a birthday cake.

Now, I came up with the following type and style of cake earlier this year when we had a similar request with the instruction…’she doesn’t like chocolate’.  After some humming and haing the idea that was agreed on was a fruit and pastry cream cake on a genoise sponge base.  Thus this idea was replicated again here.

I’ll give the recipes for the component parts in subsequent postings.  But for now, here are the mechanics as to how the birthday cake was ultimately put together. So here goes.

Step 1 -Take one genoise sponge.  Top Tip #1 on making the genoise once cool, wrap it in cling film and freeze it down.  This cake freezes without compromising on its quality.  The principle reason for freezing is that at this stage in assembling the cake it can be cut, hallowed out and generally manipulated more safely whilst reducing the likelihood of damaging it and thus avoiding any mishaps that might occur.  An obvious secondary reason is that the genoise can be made some days in advance of it being required.

Step 2  – Hollow out the sponge – following on from top tip#1, hollowing out the cake is undertaken more safely when the cake is defrosting.  I crisscross the cake at about 1cm intervals with a knife to a depth of about 1.5cm leaving a perimeter of sponge of  about 1cm wide.  Then taking a fork the sponge can be gradually and carefully gouged out until you are left with a hollow centre.

Step 3 – Filling with pastry cream.  On to your flat and hollowed out genoise spoon in a generous quantity of that most lush of custards, pastry cream ensuring that you have enough to cover the entire surface to a depth of about 0.75cm.

Step 4 – Decorating with strawberries – in this case strawberries are utilised to form the number ’40’ and to mark the perimeter of the decorated surface.  Here I simply cut the strawberries in half and gently secured them in the pastry cream with the flat surfaces of the berries facing outwards on numbers and forming straight edges on the perimeter.


Step 5 – Decorating with kiwis.  The peeled kiwis were quartered, the white core removed and then cut into 0.5cm slices and these then placed firmly on the pastry cream covering the surface so that pastry cream is bearly visible.

Step 6 – Covering with apricot nappage-  Using about 50grams of apricot jam to which is added a very little water, this is heated to make the mixture more homogeneous.  The resultant nappage is subsequently brushed on fruit to give the finished cake a brilliant sheen.   The cake is now finished and ready to be ‘suited and booted’ with candles.

Step 7 –  Candles lit and ready to go.  Apply the chosen candles,  40 in this instance.  Light them and parade the finished cake to the ‘Birthday Boy’ in this case and blow……fffffffffffffffffffffooooo

 

Per molts anys!  Happy Birthday