Miracle Fruit is something that I've been wanting to try for a while. As I alluded to recently, a friend had managed to get hold of some from somewhere and ever eager to try out anything new, I was literally giddy with excitement about the prospect of scrambling my tastebuds. For those that don't know, Miracle Fruit (Synsepalum dulcificum) is a small berry which essentialluy turns sour and bitter things sweet.
After I'd made a brief mention on my blog of Miracle Fruit, I was approached by mberry.us, who offered me some of their tablets to try out. Confident they would withstand the Pepsi Challenge against the berry, I was more than happy to give them a go and give them my verdict.
Fast forward about a month and an issue with the post, they arrived in tact (and may I say, some rather swish packaging) and I promised I would give them my 'Kent Brockman'.
In a nutshell, I could honestly, hand on heart, tell no difference between the fruit and tablets. They were absolutely brilliant.
Mme Phantom and I spent Saturday night raiding the cupboard for various sauces, liquids, fruits and food to sample once the tablet had dissolved.
Vinegar tasted like sherry, Guinness (bought specially for the evening) had pseudo-chocolate overtones; lemons tasted oh so sweet and delicious (like lemon sherbert or fresh lemonade), sweetened Japanese vinegar tastes like caramel; pommegranate just tasted sweet, with no bitterness and limes... Oh my goodness... THE LIMES. It wasn't not all eye-opening though. Lager tastes rank (although it always tastes rank in my opinion) and raw sugar felt like sand in your mouth.
The way it works, is that you dissolve a tablet in your mouth and then you're good to go. Hardly a difficult preparation procedure, really. I think they'll be wonderful for dinner parties as an 'after meal sensation'. I'm currently trying to establish how to incorporate them into a meal - mainly, with a bizarre food combination which will only work with Miracle Fruit.
mberry offer a range of Miracle Fruit products from the fresh berries themselves to the dried tablets I tried. I had a scoot around other Miracle Fruit vendors and their prices were cheaper (the next nearest I found for 20 berries was £19.99). I'm unsure as to whether shipping to the UK would preclude the fresh berries themselves, however in all honesty, why bother when you can just use the tablets. Simply brilliant. You can follow mberry on twitter at mymberry They also have a Facebook group under the name 'mberry' (but you have to request to join, not become a fan - sort it out guys!)
Anyway, apologies for the poor shot again. I have a new camera on my new MEGA-SUPER DELUXE Nokia N900 that is being kicked around a sorting office at the moment by underpaid Vodafone staff. When that arrives, then we're in business. Sorry, IF it arrives... but that's another story
Well, hello there.
Today, I went to the local market and bought my fruit and veg for the next week or so and then took a trip to my butchers and picked up a load of meat. My butcher is in Stourbridge and sells top quality meat at very reasonable prices.. A winning combination, obviously.
Anyhoo, the weather was thoroughly miserable today. The rain was more like some kind of eerie mist straight out of a Stephen King book. The pavements were covered in trodden-in leaves and were, in places, a danger to life and limb. A real autumnal Saturday.
While in Stourbridge I went to my usual array of shops, which range from the geeky to the ridiculous - I'm thinking principally Gamestation and Home Bargains. The result? No games, but I did buy a chopping board, which I sorely needed - Hurrah,
Anyway, I was pottering through Stourbridge and lo and behold there was a Farmers Market on. Laden with my meat that I'd bought, I had a quick nose and noticed a game stall - and not of the geeky variety, either. This stall had all manner of game for sale and I picked up some woodpigeon. 8 breasts for £5. Sweet.
So I set to work this afternoon making the dinner. I'd bought, rather fortuitously some chestnuts when getting my fruit and veg this morning and thought I could make some roasted chestnut mash, to go with my freshly bought pigeon.
Now, with game, the obvious sauce to make is red wine based. I think I may have mentioned this before on here, but I'm tea-total, so not having red wine in the house is hardly unusual - although I sometimes have it in for cooking purposes. This however, was not one of those times. My mind harked back to when I had pigeon at the Fat Duck. It was served in 'pickling jus' - so I thought I would make some of that.
For the spiced jus, I used:
About 200ml of water
Some cardamon pods (about 6)
A pinch of cinnemon
A pinch of paprika
About 6 cloves
A pinch of sugar
A couple of drops of lemon juice
A teaspoon of sugar
A dried chilli
A capful of vinegar
I mixed it all together and left it to infuse for about 2 hours. Then I sieved the bits out and left it until I was ready to start cooking. Here it is in the pan, infusing.
The only issue with what I was going to make was the sheer amount of last-minute processes that I was going to be required to complete. The very fact the pigeon cooks almost instantly presented all kinds of problems, so I apologise for the following amount of information in advance. Try and keep up - it was worth it in the end!
To make the mash, I roasted about 10 chestnuts in the oven on Gas Mark 8 for 20 minutes. I skinned them and whacked them in the food processor until they were chopped finely. I left them to one side to cool, until the rest of the mash was done, so they could be incorporated.
When I was ready. I then salted the potatoes and cooked them on the hob and added black pepper, milk and pepper when they were done, just before I added the chestnuts and they were ready to serve. As this was doing, I caramelised the onion in muscovado sugar and put them in the oven on a reduced heat (Gas Mark 1) to keep warm.
I finely chopped some mushrooms and grated some parsnip very thinly and fried them off in the pan. I set them aside in the oven while I completed the rest of the dish
I then heated up the jus and added half a teaspoon of arrowroot to thicken it up and while it was thickening I finally heated up the griddle pan and added the pigeon breasts. They needed 3 minutes either side and they were very pink, which was absolutely perfect. I assembled the food on the plate and oh boy, did it taste good.
It was probably the best thing I have ever created. It just all came together and the seasonality of the whole dish really made it for me. The sweet, yet lightly spiced jus on the delicate, yet distinctive pigeon flavour was a real winner. The mash was superb. There really are no words. It was nutty, creamy and it really was a taste of autumn on a plate.
Frustratingly, I really need to source a camera. It's genuinely doing my head in. The pictures in no way do the meal - or indeed the presentation, justice. I think I can source one for my next update, so until then, you'll have to suffer the turgid colour and resolution of my iPhone (and excuse the kitchen roll in the background. Sorry.
The weather is dreadful. The wind is howling and mother nature is currently attempting to drown all living creatures with the rain. Yikes! What better time to shut myself away in the kitchen and pretend I'm in a different country. To that end, I decided that I would get the lamb chops which I'd put in the freezer a couple of weeks ago out, allowed them to defrost and then attempted to make my version of a popular dish, Moroccan Lamb. Now, I love lamb. I'm not talking about those fluffy little things skipping gaily around a field. I'm talking lamb in the sense of 'on my plate, in my mouth' lamb. You know what I mean?
I really didn't know what the final dish was going to look like. I wanted to use culinary foam; ideally coconut. I wanted the sweetness of the foam to be balanced by some spices. Anyway, I opened up my cupboards, donned my thinking cap and got cracking. To set the scene more clearly, here is me, in my thinking cap:
Firstly, I created the coconut foam mixture. For this, I simply followed my own recipe, which can be found here.
I then blended some spices in my pestle and mortar to coat the lamb chops in, which included
- Tiny-eeny-weeny bit of sugar.
- Yellow Pepper
- Red Pepper
- Green Pepper
- Lemon juice
- Black Pepper
- Thinly sliced garlic clove
- A handful of sultanas
- Onion, caramelised in muscovado sugar and a drip of balsamic vinegar
When the chops were cooked, I plated up. I got the foam out of the fridge and added the foam as a finishing touch.
It sounds a lot more processes and more hectic than it actually was.
The first thing you'll notice about this, is that I haven't got a new camera! However, the colourful nature of the dish was really quite pleasing on the eye. But of course, was it pleasing on the tastebuds? Well, this blog post doesn't come with a confessional corner warning, so you can be assured that I found the whole meal worked very well. If I was being overly critical - and we're talking nit-picking really - I would do it again with 1 less kebab and slightly fewer cloves. However, as something I made up out of my head on a wet Saturday afternoon, I was really rather chuffed with it.
Eat well - and if you go out, remember your brolly!
Having recovered from the male version of H1N1 that had over-taken my body for the last couple of weeks, I decided to have a bash at making a soufflé this afternoon. Saturday is my 'faffing about in the kitchen' day. Saturday mornings are usually spent at the local Market buying all manner of fresh fruit and veg for the week at insultingly low prices. If my arms don't ache from carrying the goods back to the car, the trip has been an unqualified failure. So anyway, back from the market and with the house-work done, I decided to set to making a treat.
A little known fact about soufflé is that a Serbian scientist proved in 1987 that they are the best dessert of all time and if you didn't agree you're a Communist and a deviant. So there.
Eagle-eyed readers may recall a soufflé that my grandmother made last year. It was a total triumph and because soufflé is the greatest dessert ever made, I thought I'd have a bash at it. I followed the same recipe as I blogged about before, but added a tablespoon of Grand Marnier into the mix to give the flavour a bit more depth. Hurrah. Interestingly, this recipe doesn't use a bain marie, which most souffle recipes require. Also, this time, it only needed the 10 minutes at Gas Mark 7, not the extra 5 at Gas Mark 4.
Anyway, as you can see, it certainly beat a slice of cake in an afternoon.
It tasted just superb. It was light, tangy and sweet. The Grand Marnier was a nice addition and proved an additional layer of flavour, which blended nicely into the citrus of the orange and lemon. They're difficult to get right - in fact, in terms of getting it right. Every. Single. Time. it's probably one of the most challenging things I've come across. This recipe that I use does however have a 100% hit rate.
P.s Don't forget the clocks go back tonight. I'm refusing to bow to this and I'm going to live an hour in the future. I'll send all you suckers a postcard :-)
It's going to be a double-post day! I'm kicking off with something which should rightfully be on my sister-blog. But since I've recently revived The Belly Rules The Mind, I thought I would post this here instead.
I'd like to claim credit for this soup, which was eaten on a cold, dank, miserable Sunday evening last week, but I can't. This soup was entirely the invention of Mlle Phantom using the following ingredients
Half a cauliflower
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1.5 pints of vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
Dash of double cream
Salt and Pepper to taste
Mlle Phantom sweated the onions, half the cumin and bay leaf in the butter for five minutes. Just before they are about to turn brown, she added in the cauliflower and coated them in the onion and butter mix.
Following that, she poured in the stock and the rest of the cumin and simmered for about 20 minutes. she then added in the cream and stirred. She removed the bay leaf and then poured it into a blender and whizzed it until smooth.
It's at this point that she added the seasoning. Back on the pan to heat up again and it was ready to serve with some fresh bread, still warm from the breadmaker. Delicious.
The soup was just the ticket to combat that 'I've got to go to work tomorrow; the rain is coming down and it's dark by 6.30' feeling that you get at this time of the year. The heat from the cumin resting neatly along the flavour of the cauliflower. The texture was just right. A good blitz in the blender ensured that it lost the grainy feeling. I think if you sieved it, and served up a slice of crispy, salty bacon with it in some form, it would work as a seriously good flavour combination and amuse bouche.
A final thought really, I really need a new camera. The iPhone is many things, but it's pretty shocking. Donations greatfully received. It really doesn't do the soup justice as it looks so washed out. Rest assured, it tasted a gajillion (yes, that's a number) times better than it looked.
I'm sat here on my virtual deathbed. 50% of the population call it 'man flu'; 50% call it DEATH DISEASE. I'll let you, gentle reader be the judge of what I'm infected with. To assist in your deliberations though, this is me. Right now...
On to more important things. Bread. Now, I love bread. Nothing beats a nice crusty chunk of bread with some soup, or big, fat sandwiches for work. Also, nothing beats the smell of a bakery, which is a fact upon which I think we can all agree. I've been meaning to do an update on homemade bread for absolutely ages. Ever since I was given a breadmaker for my 28th birthday, in fact. So today, with the absence of work and a fresh loaf baked last night, I thought now was as good-a-time as any.
In the dark ages, y'know when women didn't have the vote, an honest job was working t'mines, Noel Edmunds was a popular TV celebrity and I didn't have my wonder-machine, I was never into the pre-sliced, bog-standard loaves that you could buy in bright polythene and tried, where possible, to get them from the bakery in a supermarket or, indeed, a bakery. I never quite realised however, to what extent actually owning a breadmaker would change my life. I make about 3 loaves a week, which sees to all sandwiches and toast and it tastes THE BEST.
Admittedly, being an impatient male, the 3hrs 24min it takes to make is agony - particularly in view of the smells emanating from the kitchen in the last hour - but it's so worth it in the end.
It took a while to get what I would consider to be, the perfect loaf. I'd used various recipes, with differing proportions of the ingredients, to varying degrees of success. I then tried various yeasts. There's the bread yeast which you just add in straight from the packet and then there's the yeast that you have to activate first in a sugar solution. This is my preferred version.
Anyway, onto the recipe. I have my breakmaker set to the following:
- Dark crust
- 3hrs 24min
- 600g of strong white flour
- 1 Tbsp yeast
- 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 Tsp salt
- A knob of butter
- 13fl oz of warm water (split up to activate the yeast)
The great thing is of course, is once you have the basics down, the versatility of the bread is only limited by your imagination. Herbs (my personal favourite is dried rosemary), spices, oats, sultanas etc. It's just delicious.