Monday, 18 October 2010

Home on the range: The Big Birthday Blow-out

So it's kind of become traditional that birthdays = Boy cooking like he's never cooked before (and me losing him for most of the day to Borough market). So on Saturday it was that day, and I was well excited.

I had no idea what I was going to get. After a pork and silton burger at Borough I was cast loose, while he sourced his supplies. I had a kiwi smoothie, do love a kiwi smoothie, and tried to re-ignite my hunger pangs... it was 3pm by now...

Back home and the scene was set: candles, flowers, Cinematic Orchestra CD on... I was waiting. And couldn't resist a nosey:

Mmmm. I was banished, the first course was up:

Fried Scallops with saffron potatoes, asparagus and samphire (courtesy of Ottolenghi)
serves 2 as a starter

200g potatoes, peeled and cut into little cubes
pinch of saffron
1 small tomato
20g samphire
4 asparagus spears
4 medium-large fresh scallops

For the aioli:
4 garlic cloves, peeled
50ml olive oil
50ml sunflower oil
1 free-range egg yolk
 1 tsp white wine vinegar
1/8 tsp Dijon mustard
pinch of salt

Make aioli first: heat oven to 150 and roast the garlic cloves wrapped in a sheet of foil for 25-35minutes. Remove, cool and mash with a fork. Mix the olive and sunflower oil. In a seperate bowl, combine egg yolk, vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt and a good grind of pepper. whisk by hand or in a food processor while slowly drizzling the oil. The end result should be thick (like mayo) so adjust oil accordingly and season to taste.

Put the potatoes in a medium saucepan, cover with cold water, then add the saffron and a generous pinch of salt. Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer for 6-8 minutes so the potatoes are still slightly firm. Drain and cool. While the potatoes are on, cut the tomato into 4 wedges and remove the seeds, cut each quarter into a fine dice (about 1/2cm).

Wash the samphire then throw in a pan of boiling water for just 1 minute and scoop it out and rinse in cold water. Trim the asparagusand cut each spear into 3cm pieces - drop in the pan from the samphire and simmer for 2-3minute then drain and rinse in cold water.

To serve heat 2 large frying pans with 1tbsp olive oil each. When piping hot add potatoes to one of the pans. Toss them to get some colourand then add asparagus and samphire to warm them up. Taste and season. At the same time, give scallops a good season and pop in the other pan. Sear for 30-50 second til each side is just cooked (want to keep them good and let in the mouthy). Divide warm scallops and veg between two plates ans spoon a wee dollop of aioli, garnished with the tomato and a drizzle of oil. Definitely one to impress and impress it did. Especially accompanied with champagne...

 After I went to heaven and back with the first course, out came the wine from Artisan and Vine: Birichino Malvasia Bianca. It smelt like the breeze on some exotic holiday: eldeflower, jasmine, lime. But it was just teasing you, like a woman wafting her perfume, the first sip revealed it was pleasingly bone dry. But then I was distracted by the sound of roaring flames from the kitchen.

Someone was getting a bit enthusiastic with his flambéing. Round two was up:

Chicken with tarragon sauce (courtesy of John Torode's Chicken and Other Birds), served with a roasted garlic and carrot mash and green beans
Serves 2

2 chicken breasts skin on
100ml brandy
100ml creme fraiche
handful chopped parsley
handfull torn tarragon leaves

Heat a heavy frying pan over a medium heat and add a little olive oil. Season the chicken well and pop skin-side down into the pan. Cook for a good 8 minutes, then turn and cook the same. Check it is cooked through, then remove it from the pan and keep warm.

Crank up the heat on the pan to very high (everytime I read this instruction I hear Jim Carrey in the Mask: 'Smoooooooooooooookin' It haunts me). Add the brandy and carefully (uhum) flame it to burn off the harsh alcohol taste. Shake or stir to get in the good pan juices and sticky bits on the pan. Stir in the creme fraiche then taste and season. Bring to the boil and reduce by half. Add most of the parsley and tarragon. Serve the sauce with the chicken pouring over the brown juices that come with the rested chicken. Sprinkle with the remains for the herbs and serve. Voila!

And that was were the cooking ended and we moved on to Waitrose's apricot tart, ice cream, cheese, more cheese, port... well the Boy couldn't stay in the kitchen all night after all.

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