Wednesday, 14 January 2009

come dine with me


Desperate to host having watched about 600 hours of the afore-mentioned greatest television programme ever made, and wanting to cook something more exciting and challenging than casual slop for myself, I decided to create a dinner party menu and just hope that people would turn up. (Actually a pretty safe bet in our house)
After putting in some research - ie spreading out all the cookery books on the floor and reading them all very slowly ( lot of spare time on my hands) - I decided to follow a recipe of Alistair Hendy's, whose book, Home Cook I have come to worship and adore but whose author photo makes me want to kick him in the shins. My usual culinary impulse is to put as many ingredients as possible in, not unlike my sentence-writing, but in this case I decided to trust the book, only deviating slightly quantity-wise to suit the imagined 2 guests I would be receiving. As it turned out, about 12 people turned up to eat this tiny supper so next time I will be following to the letter...

Hendy's Hungarian Goulash

1kg braising steak -cubed
3 tbsp flour
3 tbsp olive oil
2 red peppers sliced
2 onions sliced
2 fat cloves garlic chopped
2 big tbsp paprika
2 cans chopped tomatoes
bunch of parsley, bay and thyme
750ml Beef stock
soured cream and flat leaf parsley for end

"Toss the meat with some seasoned flour, brown all over in hot fat in a casserole until it looks dark, then lift it out. Do this in batches so as not to sweat the meat, and hang on to the remaining flour.
Next lightly blister the peppers by flash frying them in the leftover fat, then remove and keep to one side.
Add the onion and garlic to the remaining fat in the pan and fry until well softened and touched with brown, then sprinkle over the paprika.
Add the saved flour, stir through and cook for a few minutes more, stirring occasionally to stop it catching.
Add the tomatoes, stir and let it bubble, then tip in the meat, the herbs and enough stock so that the meat is covered and bring to a bubble again.
Put into a 150c or gas mark 2 oven and gently braise for 2 hours, stirring in the peppers halfway through cooking time.
When you take it out, stir in some soured cream and scatter with parsley. Serve with loads of rice. (I also sprinkled a bit of saffron into the rice before serving - mostly out of panic that i had so many people to feed - but it was a nice addition.)

for pudding I made my favourite pudding to cook and to eat, which is exactly how it's introduced in the book that I learnt it from. It's a great one to do as it seems terribly impressive to any guests assembled, who, on this occasion, included; a representative from the gay patisserie, an ad exec once mistaken for the ghost of Andy Warhol, a cosmology student and two drunken lotharios home from the pub. In fact it is relatively easy and cheap to make, although the one moment of pure fear during caramelisation is heart-stopping enough to convince you that what you have produced is a HUGE achievement.

Rowley Leigh's Tarte Tatin
2 lemons
2 kg cox's apples
125g butter
125g Caster sugar
200g puff pastry
A proper pan - v heavy with straight or almost straight sides, about 24cm diameter, that fits in your oven, finding this pan is about two thirds of the trouble of making this...

- Peel and quarter the apples, remove their cores and roll them in the juice of the lemons in a bowl to stop them browning.
- Smear the softened butter v generously all over the base and sides of a pan and pour the sugar on top, shaking the pan to make sure that it is evenly distributed.
- drain the apples of juice and arrange them in the pan in concentric circles on their sides as tightly as possible, embedding them in the butter/sugar mix.
- Put the pan on the fiercest heat you have.
- While keeping a beady eye on the pan on the heat, roll out the puff pastry into a disc about 2cm wider than the rim of the pan and leave to rest on a sheet of greaseproof paper in the fridge.
- watch the sides of the pan very closely. You are looking for a good, rich caramel colour. Move the pan around on the heat so that it caramelises evenly. (this is the terror part. when the phone will never stop ringing but you can't answer it because of the shrieking panic in your head and the caramel doom feeling.) This whole process will take between 10-20 minutes depending on your pan and heat. When it is done take off the heat.
- when the pan has cooled down a bit, drop the pastry disc onto the apples, letting the edges hang over the sides of the pan.
- Bake in the oven (220c gas mark 7) for 15 minutes (I always forget)
- when it's done take it out of the oven and let it rest. Then perform the great plate trick.
place an inverted plate bigger than the pan, over the top. grip v firmly, deep breath and flip over, thus, one hopes, moving tart to plate in one quick, pain-free motion. so unlikely.but delicious.

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