Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Cooking–The good bits and the bad bits…

I fear this blog is getting rather patchy, which is not the point at all. I get all gung-ho and blog properly, then get caught up in life and time drifts by and shyness sets in and no matter how many times I think I should put so-and-so on the blog, I never do. Madness.

So, to recap I have been cooking from Heston Blumenthal at Home. And actually I still am. I’m not going to reprint recipes, unless you specifically want them, but I would urge you to buy the damn book. I think, if I’m being honest, it has made me change the way I think about cooking meat. Heston’s method of cooking low and slow is not without merit, despite it being a bit of a lengthy kitchen job at times. However, having sounded that cautionary note, I used his method of cooking a leg of lamb (studded with blanched garlic, rosemary and anchovy) in a 100C oven for about 4 hours and not only was the cooking time very hands-off, the meat tasted extraordinary. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

On the other hand, not so much with the Pommes Boulangère. Now, this may be something to do with me and my ovens, but I have never had any kind of potato gratin, be it cream or stock based, cook in less than an hour and a half. In fact, I’ve gone with Jeffrey Steingarten’s method after much experimentation and found his slightly fiddly method the most successful – recipe reprint on request. So when Heston tells me my mandolin-sliced potatoes will cook in 50 minutes in a 150C oven, forgive if I am sceptical. TWO AND A HALF HOURS LATER, having turned the oven up to 180C, we had a gratin. Luckily the lamb is very forgiving… Again, the taste was extraordinary, the cooking stock comprising reduced white wine and lamb stock infused with rosemary, but I would love to know – if anyone has any tips on this – how you do cook a gratin in less than an hour.

Last night, just to throw it into the mix, I made his cauliflower macaroni cheese, albeit with penne. Although I didn’t add the deep-fried florets, the dish was a hit. To prècis – because it’s not complicated – you simmer most of the cauliflower head florets in around 400ml milk until tender, then blitz until smooth. Cook the pasta. Add 240g of grated Gruyère and half as much Parmesan to the cauliflower sauce, then cook until melted. Add a good 1/2 tbsp wholegrain mustard, then toss with the pasta and the reserved raw cauliflower florets. Scatter with more grated cheese and bake until bubbling. You could add ham or cooked pancetta if you were being cavalier about your red meat intake, but both my boys wolfed it down, despite allegedly not liking cauliflower.

Cauliflower – it’s a man’s food