30th July 2011
Cooking With Mother
Mum's up for a weekend visit.
Mostly visiting me, though she did spend a day with Rachel's Mum. Hey, just 'cos we split up doesn't mean our Mums have to!

We started off the weekend with a shopping trip to the Farmers' Market, where I feasted on Oink's Hog Roast rolls, and a California Coffee Company coffee. You know - the people that operate out of those ex-police boxes.
They make the best coffee. Except for Kilimanjaro Coffee on Nicolson Street. They make the best coffee.
But I still like the California Coffee Company's Java roast. In fact I've got a bag of their beans right here. Well. In the kitchen. I don't sit and hug it or anything. Not with the lights on, at least.

Anyway, we finished the day off with a very satisfying return visit to David Bann's most excellent vegetarian restaurant on St Mary's Street. The savoury courses were just great, and their Chilli Margaritas as good as I remembered. The desserts were a bit disappointing, but maybe that was only in comparison. They didn't seem to show quite the same sure-handed inventiveness in the matching of flavours.
I was particularly impressed by their beautifully aromatic tarragon-butter spinach, and a delightful banana chutney which perfectly complemented their Thai-style tofu fritters, which Mum ordered for a starter.
According to the waitress, who seemed well-informed so I trust her, they leave the bananas to almost-ferment, before mixing with turmeric, cumin, fennel and fenugreek.
Update: I emailed that nice Mr Bann to ask him how to make his chutney so I could have a go for a curry party (Oooh mister that burns!) and here's what he told me:
I think the waitress was confusing the banana chutney with something else on the menu, we do some fermenting but not the chutney. It's a fresh and quick chutney to make, sliced ripe bananas with lime juice, a little sugar, a splash of water but first gently toast the aromatic spices in a dry pan. We use ground coriander, cardamom, cumin and fennel seeds but you could use whatever spices you like. Add the banana, lime juice, sugar and water and cook gently for only 5 mins or so removing from the heat before the bananas break up too much. Easy!
Mum's main course were chilli crepes served with a chocolate sauce. Not only did the sauce complement the crepes, but it was also delicious with our side order of rosemary and thyme sprinkled chunky chips. I think there may a meal with chips and chocolate sauce in the offing!

Suitably inspired I decided to recreate Bann's tarragon spinach when I cooked Mum's leaving dinner tonight.
At the Farmers' Market we picked up some of Stichill Jersey's Eildon Blue Cheese which needs eating, that I thought that might go well with broccoli, and we also bought some rather nice looking whitecurrants (since all the gooseberries on offer looked sad and mouldy), that I decided need a crumble to bring out their best side.
The rest, as they say, is history...

Broccoli and Blue Cheese Soufflé
main veg
The soufflés are quite small - Mum and I ate 2 and a half each quite happily, but we didn't have much else with them. And then we were stuffed.
I'm not exactly sure about the milk quantity - I just used enough to lubricate the broccoli and start the white sauce.

Makes 6

Put a baking tray in the oven and preheat to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.
Separate the eggs and whisk the egg whites until stiff.
Crumble the blue cheese.
Rub 6 x 200ml ramekins or one large dish with melted butter and, if you want, dust with grated parmesan cheese or fine white breadcrumbs.
Steam or blanch the broccoli until quite tender, remove most of their stems, and purée in a blender with a little milk.
Cook the butter and flour gently in a pan for 2-3 minutes, then gradually add a little milk, whisking until you have a thick paste. Cook a little, then add the broccoli, the cheese, a grating of nutmeg and a little salt and heat through. You should have a thick sauce at this stage. Add more milk if it is more like cement.
Off the heat whisk in the egg yolks, then whisk in a spoonful of the egg whites before carefully folding in the rest.
Pour into the ramekins almost to the rim then cook on the pre-heated baking tray for 8-10 minutes or 25-30 minutes if making one large soufflé.
Serve with the red pepper sauce.

The Red Pepper Sauce
Cut 2 red peppers in half and deseed them.
Place the pepper halves under a grill until the skin chars, and the flesh softens, then put them in a plastic bag to cool.
Peel the skin away from the peppers, then blend them together with a little cream and paprika or cayenne pepper.
Heat gently in a small pan.
Very tasty I thought.
Though they are difficult to turn out. It might be best to serve them in their ramekins, with the sauce on the side.
If you must turn them out, run a knife around the edge, turn them upside down on a small plate, then flip them back up again using a fish slice underneath them, and slide them onto the plates.

Tarragon Butter Spinach
side veg
Serves 2

Chop the tarragon leaves quite finely, and heat gently with the butter in a small pot. Leave to infuse.

Wash the spinach, put in a large pot, cover and shake it around over the heat until it wilts.
Squeeze dry (if there is any extra water). Feel free to use the juice in your broccoli soufflé mixture. Set aside.
I finely chopped up my spinach at this stage, but the result was a bit too much like creamed spinach. It's better only roughly chopped.

When you're ready to serve re-heat the spinach in the tarragon-flavoured butter and serve.
Lovely aromatic spinach - the flavours complement each other well.
I'm not sure if you particularly need to infuse the butter first, since spinach cooks so quickly anyway you might try just throwing the spinach and the chopped tarragon into a pan and wilting them together in butter.

Whitecurrant Crumble
dessert veg
Serves 4

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.
Clean the currants and put them in an ovenproof dish with a pinch of salt and a scattering of caster sugar - about a tablespoon.
Mix the flour and butter with your fingers until you have rough breadcrumbs then mix in the demerara with a knife.
Scatter over the fruit.
Bake for 30-40 minutes or until turning nicely golden on top.
Serve with custard.
Not bad. The currants are tart enough to work in a crumble, and the pips aren't too annoying.

Real Egg Custard
sauce dessert veg
The quantities here aren't critical, you want enough cream for the number of people you have to feed, enough sugar to make it sweet enough for the dish you are serving it with (you can add more sugar once you're heating the custard), and as many egg yolks as you need to thicken it to your taste.
You can get it surprisingly thick if you add loads of yolks.
The quantities below are a good starter, though I would probably use 4 eggs and a little less sugar - I like my custard thin.

Serves 4

If you happen to have some vanilla-ed caster sugar already made up, so much the better, otherwise slit or cut the vanilla pod and put it into a saucepan with the cream, bring to the boil and leave to infuse.
Whisk the egg yolks with the caster sugar, strain the vanilla-flavoured milk into the yolks then return to the saucepan.
Gently heat the custard whilst whisking vigorously until you it thickens. Don't let it curdle or turn into scrambled eggs. You can do this in a double-boiler if you like.
You might be able to rescue curdled custard by plunging the pan into cold water and whisking like mad. You could also try adding a teaspoonful of cold water to the mixture.
If you are afraid of scrambling your custard then a teaspoon of cornflour added to the cream will help to stabilise the mixture.

Apparently you can also use Sauternes (or other dessert wine) as the flavouring for special occasions.
Heat the wine and whisk it into the egg yolks before the cream.

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