Monday 9 June 2014

Pasta, pork, peaches

Pasta, pork, peaches. Not all together. Fear not. I just love alliteration as much as the next hack. I can't even follow through with the picture look, having failed to take a shot of the dessert. You'll have to do with the brioche.

Pasta was the starter. A new dish of dill pappardelle, crab, asparagus and pea shoots in a beurre blanc (a butter and white wine sauce). 

The crab pasta dish started out in the week as a Jason Atherton salad. Not sure why I changed. Possibly the knowledge that the friday booking included three children. Is there anyone under 12 who doesn't like pasta? Is there anyone over 12? I haven't used crab before in the restaurant, mainly because it is prohibitively expensive. On this occasion I was feeding two groups and the inimitable Pat at Green Lanes Fisheries did me a great deal. I made my own pasta, partly because it means I get exactly the shape and thickness I want and also because I like to roll it with herbs; chives on Friday, dill on Saturday. I choose pappardelle because it's easy to handle and has more structure than say, an open lasagne. This was combined with the best of English asparagus which I steamed, but perhaps I should have chargrilled it. A light sprinkle of lemon verbena herb finished off the dish.

Everything I serve is made from scratch. OK, I don't mill my own flour or press rape seed but I like the idea that you can only get that meal on that night in my gaff. The fact you can flavour your dough to suit the dish is beguiling too. Admittedly  making your own pasta might seem like a OCD turn too far. It's cheap and I'd like to say it's easy. OK. It is easy... there are only two ingredients: 00 flour and eggs so how come get more stressed about serving pasta than any other single ingredient? It's partly because I daren't make it fresh just before serving. Too often I've found the dough isn't quite the consistency I'm after so won't roll right. Or a tiny grain of something sticks in the rollers and shreds the dough. So make it earlier and store it? Yes, but then I remember the time I made ravioli and the filling was just a tidge too damp, not so much that it was a problem when I checked an hour later but just enough that it left me with miserable, sticky, sulky dumplings as I ripped the bottoms off them that evening. This weekend I layered well floured pappardelle with greaseproof paper, making sure the pasta strips didn't touch.

Home made dill pappardelle. Well behaved on this occasion.
Pork was roast belly, one of our most popular mains. I always use a free range, orchard fed pork from Julian at Wades Hill Butchery. This gives me a succulent meat and an excellent crackling. There's no secret to good crackling. Make sure your skin is dry when it goes in though, it's obviously harder to crisp up something damp. I do my belly(!) at 240°C for 20 mins and then for a 3 - 5 hours (depends on the joint) on 140°C. After the hot blast, I put the pork on a rack, under which I put a lot of diced carrots, leek, onion and celery. I add white wine and water to this. The veg takes up all the fat and juices and is the base of the gravy.

One tip with crackling: have your butcher score the skin into squares rather the the more traditional diagonals. It makes it much easier to portion up your meat when you cut into existing grooves rather than across the glass like crackling.

Brioche was for a revisit of a 2013 dessert; pan fried brioche, this time with peaches poached in a elderflower syrup, raspberries, marscapone and almond brittle.

For dessert, I briefly poached peaches in elderflower syrup, served on crisped brioche with crunchy almond brittle and vanilla marscapone. I'd had some issues with the syrup but I added new flowers, picked from my garden on a warm and sunny day. This seemed to work. I'm not sure it was because of the harvesting conditions; correlation is not causation after all. Whatever, the final suryp is both heady and flavoursome. Peaches work well with elderflower. Forgot to take a picture on both nights. Sigh. This is a bad shot from 2013.

Not the dessert I served

Friday was Tony (in red on the right) and his extended family. This shot is my homage to the Brady Bunch.

Saturday was Natalie (centre) and friends celebrating her birthdays. Not all of her group were feeling camera confident so this shot is less, um, structured than most ('that'll do'). Nat's one of the estimable LYDS people and will be reviewing her evening soon. I'll put in a link when she does.

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