Tuesday, 1 January 2008
New Year's Menu
Happy 2008 to all who sail in her!
We had a very pleasant, low-key evening last night. A continuous stream of good food, while we watched Poolhall Junkies - classic Christopher Walken.
The best single dish we'd tried in Switzerland was a creamy white wine and garlic soup, so my husband requested that as a starter for our meal. I did some research, and none of the recipes I could find sounded like what we had tried. There is a Spanish garlic soup that is the pre-tomato version of Gazpacho. There are American versions thickened with potato and roasted garlic. But nothing that would be creamy and luxurious and still contain a punch of almost raw garlic and harsh white wine. So I made it up as I went. I softened the white part of a leek in some butter, added 8 whole peeled cloves of garlic and half covered them in vegetable stock, then covered them in cheap chablis and simmered until the garlic was soft. I pureed it with a stick blender, then just before serving added a slug more wine, a dash of double cream and half a finely minced clove of garlic and reheated, seasoning with freshly ground white pepper. I wanted a garnish to add extra luxury to the meal (it was a celebration, after all) as well as relieving the pallor of the dish so I sauteed some langoustine tails in butter and garlic, stacked the langoustines in the bowl so their backs showed in the soup and sprinkled a little of the browned butter and garlic over the top. Delicious! My husband has raised the possibility of it reappearing (with lots more langoustines) as a pasta sauce, which I think would work really well. We drank more of the chablis with it.
For our main, we had pheasant. It had been partly boned, stuffed with pork sausagemeat and bramley apples (not by me) and barded with bacon. Alongside it in the pan I roasted chunks of butternut squash. Savoy cabbage sauteed in butter and sprinkled with nutmeg completed the plate. I'd been thinking about various sauces, but decided that anything more than the pan juices would be too many flavours. The bird was a little dry - I am still adjusting to a new oven - but the flavour was excellent. With that we broke out the good wine glasses and drank a stunning 2003 Gartelmann's Diedrich shiraz, from a lovely vineyard in the Hunter Valley. Fortunately we've got a few left, because it has plenty of life in it yet and we don't have much chance of getting any more.
The 2 best puddings I had in 2007 were the muscat caramel custard from 32 Great Queen Street and the plain pannacotta that we made in the cooking class in Florence. I've never made caramel custard before, so I was a bit nervous about giving it a try (and my husband eats dessert so rarely I wasn't going to be able to do a test-run). A friend, who also hadn't made caramel custard before had a go and it didn't work for her, so I decided that my safest bet would be a hybrid of the 2 desserts. I retained the quantities of cream and dessert wine, but set it with leaf gelatine instead of making an egg custard. It set too firmly - I should have used 2 leaves instead of 3 but it was still on the desirable side of rubbery. I'd intended to use a Rutherglen liqueur muscat, but ended up with a Bimbadgen botrytis semillon, so I should have added more wine to the cream, I think. I finished the glasses with a little float of more wine, and a marron glace. If/when I make the pudding again, I wouldn't use the marron glace - in my mind the flavour had gone really well with the liqueur muscat but was a bit too sweet and mealy for the semillon. I'd probably just use a Jules Destrooper almond wafer on the side instead. We finished the bottle of semillon, and saw the New Year in happily.