Saturday, 12 May 2007

The Kitchen Wars

It's no wonder I've always been suspicious of the oven. I’m not one for surprises and until you open that door it’s almost impossible to be sure things are as they should be. For fear of the temperature dropping I almost always try and restrain myself from opening until the cooking time is up and sometimes that leads to unpleasant surprises. In this instance instead of finding burnished golden pastry I found something that looked like it hadn’t even been touched by the merest hint of heat. ‘It’s a disaster!’ I cried. The writer didn't even look up as he instructed me to turn up the heat and give it another ten minutes. He ignored my protests that the beef would be overcooked and that the pastry manufacturers had deceived me. He knew best. Ten minutes later I had two golden parcels of Beef Wellington.

Beef Wellington
Radicchio, rocket and avocado salad
Modern sticky date puddings

I will spare you my Wellington recipe partly because you can find it in the Gourmet Traveller Party Food cookbook (a lighter twist on the retro classic) and partly because I’m still smarting from my near brush with disaster.

Instead I will share something with you that has no hidden surprises; a simple little salad of peppery greens, creamy avocado and a zesty dressing.

Radicchio, rocket and avocado salad

1/2 cup radicchio leaves
1 cup rocket leaves
1 avocado sliced
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
shavings of hard goats cheese (optional)

Whisk together the vinegar and olive oil and season well. Rinse the salad leaves and place in a large bowl with the sliced avocado. Slowly add the dressing. Use the smallest amount possible to give the leaves a glossy coating. Scatter over the goats cheese if using.

Individual sticky date puddings

The Writer requested a very moist sticky date pudding for dessert. I wanted something as far as possible from those cakey reheated offerings that spring up all too often at cafés and restaurants. I combed my books and the internet for recipes and with a few modifications the lightest, fluffiest little pudding was born.

Serves 3-4

1 cup chopped dates
juice of one orange
1/2 cup water
1 tsp baking soda

60g butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 egg
2/3 cup flour
pinch of cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup cream

Butterscotch Sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
40g butter
1/3 cup cream
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 180C/350F. In a saucepan combined the dates, orange juice, water and 1 tsp of baking soda. Let it fizz and bubble. Stir for around 5 minutes until it reaches a jelly like consistency. There should be a some liquid left so add a little extra water of necessary. Set aside to cool.

In a bowl cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in the egg until well combined before adding cream. When smooth add date mixture and stir through. Finally add the flour, cinnamon and baking soda.

Pour the batter into greased ramekins. Mine were quite large and this amount filled three but it should do for four smaller ones. Place the ramekins into a larger roasting try filled halfway up with water. Pop it into the oven for 35-45 minutes until the puddings are golden on top and have risen slightly. Un-mould onto serving plates.

In a saucepan combine the brown sugar and butter over a low heat. When sugar has dissolved mix in the cream and vanilla. Allow to bubble and thicken slightly. Pour over puddings and serve immediately.


Cindy said...

Looks like your oven anxiety was unfounded in the end! I love puff pastry (especially in this weather) and your little pudding looks incredible.

Mel. said...

I'm not a big fan of puff pastry (and beef), so for this post, I've only got eyes for your gorgeous looking little pudding. I love miniature sized food offerings of any sort (mini chocolates, marshmallows, pizzas, etc.). Your version of the sticky date sounds like you've found yourself a great recipe, so I'm definitely going to try this soon.

Little Foodie said...

Wow! It's turned cold again here - I'd have loved this whole menu for dinner last night. Delicious! Amanda

Truffle said...

Cindy- thankfully yes. I'm a terrible fatalist. I love puff pastry too- probably far too much than I should!

Mel- dessert is always the best part of the meal so I think you're focussed on the right bit! Thanks for reading :)

Amanda- Thanks so much! I hope it turns warm again there soon because I'm planning to visit!

Anh said...

I am dying to have a bite into your pudding. Oh I am on sugar high!

Freya and Paul said...

The Wellington looks delicious but I understand your stress! At least it turned out perfectly! And I love the salad too!

Truffle said...

Thanks Anh. I'm hoping to make many more puddings this winter. Wonderful comfort food and great for any sugar craving.

Thanks so much Freya and Paul. I love the way the zesty salad almost makes up for that rich pastry!

Patricia Scarpin said...

Truffle, what a delicious menu! My husband would drool over the beef Well