Saturday, 28 June 2008

Dinner party experiments and secrets, oh and steak dinner too!!!

Tonight we thought we'd practise the starter for our dinner party in a few weeks and that's the Chilled melon soup. I feel its one of the hardest to achieve for the dinner, as its all about the depth and balance of flavours.

Stuart Gillies Head chef at Boxwood Cafe said that secret to this dish is a good rich stock , as this is the basis for this soups depth. We've cheated a bit, as we just don't have the time or the kitchen to do a 12hr stock that can be reduced and reduced all day. So we've bought an unusual rich vegetable stock called Vecon and doctored it with bashed lemon grass and torn basil. If Delia Smith endorses using bought ready made components then so can we!!!! He the mans feels there is no shame in doing this , because were not professionals and were not trying to achieve Michelin stars here , just nice well made food.

I'm writing this as we make it and the smell of the stock right now is amazing , really fragrant and reminiscent of Thailand.

If you want to try this , the quantities are not exact as were just getting a feel right now.

We've bought :

2 Cantaloupe melons , (orange flesh)
bag of fresh basil
a stalk of lemon grass
Creme fraiche
3 tspns Vecon vegetable stock - found in Holland and Barrats. They're really good for obscure and unusual ingredients.
100-200mls sunflower oil or a very very generous slug

Take a litre of water and add 3 tsp of the stock, add in a handful of basil leaves torn, and the lemon grass stick bashed

Start to boil and reduce down , this will help infuse all the herbs. It took about 10-15 mins and reduced by half. Remove from hob and decant into a jug to pop in the freezer to start the chilling process.

Whilst this is happening scoop out the flesh of the melon

Take the rest of the basil and the sunflower oil and blend together to create a runny paste. This will be used to garnish the top of the soup.

We've now blended the melon and realised that Stuart Giles probably sieves it , so were giving that a try right now! It removes all the fibrous parts and makes a much smoother liquid.

After about 20 mins remove the stock mix from the freezer and add 2 ladles of it to the melon mix, taste as you go along to make sure you get a good balance of the 2 flavours ; sweet and savoury. Add in 2 tbls of the creme fraiche and blend well with a hand whisk , to combine and froth. You should have a pale peach liquid in front of you, ours is a bit dark ,due to the colour of the stock, as its a very dark brown. I think if we were to make the stock ourselves , (if we can face it that is), we could control the colour a bit more with the ingredients we use. I may be on the hunt for another well made pre cooked version , possibly Joubere's, although it doesn't have the intensity of flavour that the Vecon one has.

Pour into the jug and return to the freezer for another 10-15 minutes to further chill.

After this time , ladle into a bowl , pour in the centre a small dollop of the basil puree and serve.

The Boxwood version serves it with some small bite size pieces of Iberico ham in the bottom before pouring it in to increase the savouriness and compensate for the melons sweetness. All adding to a better finish on the taste.

This is a deconstructed version of the classic Parma ham and melon dish.
For our own dinner tonight , were having griddled rib eye steak served with salsa Verde and sweet potato chips. One of my favourite meals , nothing quite like a lovely juicy savoury steak!! Probably not the normal combination here, but we wanted something a bit healthier than normal chips and well salsa Verde is my all time fave with anything really!!

Our Salsa Verde is made with 2 bags of parsley, 4 anchovies , juice of a lemon , 4 glugs of olive oil , tbls capers, 2 cloves of garlic, all whizzed in our little bowl blender.

The sweet potato's are just cut up with skin on , olive oil is heated in a dish in the oven as this helps the crisping process , as does sea salt on the potato's. I then add some spices. They take well to savoury and sweet seasonings like Cinnamon, garlic salt , all season and then roasted in the oven until going crispy and chewy! I also like dipping them into an M&S sour cream dip!!!!

Sometimes its just really nice to be in pj's , have fun making some nice food together and just be in our own space , with a bit of this thrown in to add to the action/relaxed juxtaposition chill vibe!!!

Wellllllllllllllll the finished article is really yum if I say so myself. I'm not normally immodest , but its delish and I'm really chuffed with our efforts tonight!!!! He the mans says its too sweet , so Ive just finished his bowl!!! Looks like our starters decided, (as long ads we can repeat it), now we have to sort the main dish and dessert. Have to keep that secret as a little bird might be watching and may spoil it for our guests!
For anyone reading my Reiki life blog , they will be familiar with the hearts that come to me everywhere . Check out the heart that turned up in the middle of that bowl!!!!! Can you believe it , how wonderful to even be in my food.

Its been a busy day and evening , signing out now to enjoy a after dinner Mojito , just served to me by he the mans!!! He the mans has just made himself his new found Caipirinha cocktail!
Enjoy x


Monique said...

What an odd combination, at least for someone as finicky as I about food. I would certainly love to try it.

Your cantaloupes look wonderful.

And your heart in the soup, how great is that!!

Hana Mi said...

you think its strange and then you taste it and its like, ahhhhh that actually works in weird!

Hana Mi said...

way was the word I left out there at the end , lol . Cupcake asked me a question and my multi tasking is wobbly this morning!

Monique said...

You also forgot "a" - LOL.

Just teasing....

I bet it is wonderful. I can't get over the picture of the cantaloupe. I haven't seen anything that gorgeous in our stores in a loooong time. The produce sucks.

Barbara has a recipe I am going to try for african peanut soup. It look and sounds soooo odd but I just know, like this, that it will be yummy.

Hana Mi said...

Im really surprised by that bit about produce , I always remember buying amazing fruit when travelling through USA.

It can be hit and miss here too , depends very much on the store you go to.

Oh yes I saw that recipe too , really unsual combo , but seems like it would be very savoury & tasty.

Monique said...

It is hit and miss. It seems this year has been more miss though.