Tuesday 9 July 2013

Pea bavarois and mint sauce. The perfect summer starter?

Perfect? I think so. This is summery and sweet and savoury. Essentially a chilled mousse, this is, of course, posh mushy peas and vinegar. Like all fine food, the roots are in the soil. Bavarois is a pain in the arse to pronounce. The French just slur the whole word, of course. But, as I am in possession of a slightly soft 'r', mine comes out something like 'bumble-waz'. However, this is one of those cooking words for which there is no english equivalent. Mousse it isn't. Bavarois (meaning Bavarian in French) is a puree of fruit or veg, folded with whipped cream and set, in the fridge with gelatine (or some modern chemical that doesn't involve the 'murder' of the innocent - ahem).

This is a joy for dinner parties as you only have to turn them out from the moulds and make pretty, in my case with pea shoots, bacon, Jersey Royal potatoes, a mint sauce and a garnish of onion crisps...

Ah yes... onion crisps. One of my first posts ever was about my difficulty making crisp, delicate, desiccated onion slice. In fact, I didn't ever finish the post, probably because I had to admit defeat then. I suppose it shows that I have learned something these past nine months that I forgot that I didn't know how to make them and just got on with it. But first the Bavarois recipe.

This is enough for eight starter servings (of the size in the pic above). Finely chop 1 large or two small shallots. Gently fry this in 25g of unsalted butter until soft and translucent. To the pan add 300ml of milk and bring to a simmer. Add 500g of frozen petit pois. Don't use garden peas as they are not as sweet. Simmer the peas for two minutes until just tender. Now blend well and pass through a fine sieve. Soak two leaves of gelatine (four small ones) and mix in with the warm puree. Vegies can use about four teaspoons of agar agar powder (boiled in water as per instructions). This will change the texture though, giving a firmer set.

Whip 150ml of double cream to soft peaks. You know they say 'don't over-whip, invariably without qualifying what over-whipping looks like? This is one occasion when it's important. Over-whipped cream is when it stops being cream and starts being butter: it gets claggy. I can't say 'whipped' any more without thinking of Stewie and Brian in Family Guy. Anyway, mix the pea puree with the cream. Taste and season. It will need salt and maybe some white pepper.

Oil some dariole moulds or small pudding moulds with a thin coating of something neutral tasting, like grape-seed oil. Fill the moulds with the pea mix and chill for at least two hours. No harm will become if you leave them for a couple of days in the fridge. 

To release, dip the moulds in hot water for a few seconds and then bring the mould down sharply on the plate. They will ease out. Serve soon afterwards; a warm room will bring about their collapse.

These benefit hugely from a little minty acidity. I add crispy bacon and onion crisps for crunchy contrast and small potatoes for carbo-bulk.

So... onion crisps. Fine slice some onion with a mandolin  On Silpat lined trays, bake at 80°C for two hours. Remove. Raise the oven to 120°C. Brush the onion carefully with a little oil, sprinkle a little Maldon from a height (a couple of feet, no need for the ladders) and return to the oven for a few minutes. Don't wander off! Stay with the oven and watch these mothers. You want a tasty gold. In unwatched seconds they will go a bitter brown or a binnable black and then you've wasted all that effort.

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