Once again, this Valentine's Day was marked by my constructing an elaborate three-course meal, as is my wont. This year, all three courses were experimental, and all three came from Lorraine Pascale's "Fast, Fresh and Easy Food". Rather than blog about each course individually, I have decided to deal with all three together.
Starter: Red Pepper, Tomato & Basil Gazpacho with Salt & Pepper Croutons
Ah, Gazpacho soup...
Memories of Red Dwarf aside, this was a very quick and easy soup to prepare. It consisted of roughly cutting up all the ingredients, stuffing them into a food processor, blitzing until fairly smooth, then transferring them to the liquidiser and finishing off. From there, it was a simple matter of chilling in the fridge overnight, and then making the croutons before serving.
Note: I originally tried to liquidise the soup using the liquidiser from the start, thinking that was an obvious step. However, it turned out that the blades hacked through the low-level ingredients, and then couldn't get any traction on the higher ones - the additional step of using the food processor was required.
Eating this was a bit of an odd experience, what with it being a soup, but served cold. But it was nice - lots of flavour, a nice texture, and the croutons were great. Huzzah!
Main: Five-spice Roasted Duck Breasts with Cherry & Shiraz Sauce & Sesame Noodles
I'm a little confused by this one: if the duck is cooked entirely in the frying pan, in what sense is it 'roasted'?
In the event, I found this course to be rather difficult to handle. There was a lot going on all at once, and everything seemed to take longer than it should. In particular, I found I just didn't trust the duck when it first came from the pan - I felt it needed chopped up and then given several more minutes. And even so, I wasn't 100% convinced (although we seem to be okay...).
All in all, I wasn't terribly happy with this course, although LC really liked it. Every time I've had duck, I've found it to be quite fatty, and that really put me off of the crunchy skins, and thus I lost a lot of the flavour.
On the other hand, the sauce was absolutely brilliant, and the noodles were quite nice too.
Dessert: Chocolate Mousse with Raspberries
Like the Gazpacho, these were put together on Wednesday and chilled overnight. And they were pretty spectacular. Huzzah!
I did have a couple of issues putting these together. Firstly, my mixer singularly failed to properly beat the eggs - I had to complete this task by hand (which wasn't entirely easy!). Then, I misread one of the instructions, and so added the chocolate and cream to the egg white, and then added the egg yolks to the egg whites, and only then realised that I should instead have added the yolks to the cream... the next step was to gradually add these mixed ingredients to the whites.
Still, it all came together well, and everything was fine. So that's good.
Two successes out of three is pretty good.
I've had a lot of success with Lorraine's various books, and they're quickly coming to rival Hugh's "River Cottage Every Day" as my go-to cookbooks. Though quite often I do find that they don't come out looking much like they do in the book - sometimes, more pictures of the dish as it is prepared would be very useful.
#5 "Pathfinder: The Dead Heart of Xin", by Brandon Hodge