Sunday 8 March 2015

Plum crumble and Marc's 50th

Poaching stone fruit

“Are cherries nice?” Asks Etien, my 14-year-old son and supper club staffer. He says this while standing in front of a punnet of cherries that he was stoning; half done, the berries lay groaning in front of him, disgorged, slowly tumbling down the carmine mound. “Are cherries nice?” He repeats. I glare at his question, hoping my incredulity would self-weaponise into a deadly, dad-ly death ray.

“Why don’t you try one?” He looks at me pityingly; that brand of effortless, sneering disdain only youth can conjure. I thought he was about to launch into a new meme - whatever/YOLO/your Mum/can you even lift/yoowanschom? (If this last sentence means nothing to you - rejoice! You’re a better parent than me.) But no, the world spun backwards on its axis for a heartbeat and he popped one in his mouth.

I waited. He chews and puckers.

“Hmmm. Alright.” But that would never be enough. “Not much flavour.”

And there he was correct.

I’ve just noticed that I’ve unwittingly used the ‘Thought for the Day’ intro structure. Use some anecdote, witty or profound… or neither… and then do a handbrake turn into your god of choice. “So after visiting the donkey sanctuary on that damp Sunday, I remembered what Jeeeeezus said…" I suppose if I have any faith (I don’t) it’s in the restorative, palliative and collectivist qualities of food shared.

Back to the bland cherries. They can be can't they; a little flavourless? It's why I poach them in a spiced syrup to which I've added a dash of creme de cerise, a good quality French cherry liqueur. I spice the syrup with orange peel, black peppercorns, star anise, cloves and cinnamon first - it keeps for months in the fridge. The colour from the cherries stain it a luscious deep pink. I cook the cherries for maybe two minutes, then a handful of blueberries. Finally the plums for no more than two minutes. Plums are brilliant - in colour and floral flavour. Whatever plum duff is, I should make it. 

Lift out the cooked fruit, dressing with a little of the poaching syrup, sprinkle with the crumble - in fact the biscuit base from my cheesecake (this time made with a little less salt). Pile it all around a good squidge of sweetened, vanilla mascarpone.

Marc's centre in black. Mind, so is everyone else.
The occasion was Marc's 50th. His second time with us, but his wife Nili's fourth I think. He'd ordered a beef wellington but I'm used to them now so no fuss. It's actually a quick dish to prepare. One change this time. I added some home-made babaganoush to the mushroom duxelle (as you do). I thought the smokey element would work. I think it did.

Making beef wellington isn't hard; cutting it into good looking, even portions however... I've tried serrated knives, boning knives, cook's knives. Sheesh. Maybe I need thicker pastry? Currently, slicing is a two man job and there still needs to be a little panic of pastry restoration work between each.

Etien helping me... my way.
Etien helping me... his way.
Drinks and nibbles in the lounge

Simon enjoying beef wellington and port gravy with potato dauphinoise and green beans
Starter had to be light so I did a lambs lettuce salad of goats cheese, fig and walnuts dressed with fig vinegar and sesame oil. The figs were just right, soft and jammy.

Tonight, not for the first time, I noticed the intrusion of something called a 'selfie stick. It won't be the last time I'm certain.


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