Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Diamond Jubilee Strawberry Crumble Crunch: Sort of Eton Mess without the Eton.

How could you not like a recipe with a reference to Diamond Jubilee. It sounds so chipper and British and what-have-you. I have actually wanted to make this for a long while, only when it was released it was ... cold and rainy here. And winter-like. And no strawberries in season.

But then Christmas came and yay for strawberries and heat and all things sweet and Heston-like.

This recipe was published by Heston Blumenthal for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, and thus is actually one I can link the recipe to. It's found here.

Like many Heston dishes, it has several elements brought together. Thankfully for this though, none are overly taxing, and all can be prepared for final assembly just before serving.

So the components are:
  • Crumble
  • Strawberry and rose compote
  • Marbled cream
  • Meringue pieces and freeze-dried strawberries to serve.
Let's get into it.


So if you've made a crumble before, this is familiar-ish territory.

Take your crumble elements:
Here we have sugar, almonds, flour and salt in a food processor, and process it.

 Add in some butter. Pulse into nice lumpy bits. (You could almost certainly do this by hand if you didn't own a processor). (Looking at you Feep. ;)
 Then pop it in the oven to bake. After about 20 minutes we have golden crumble stuff. Let it cool and put it into a container until needed. (I did mine the night before to make it easier).

Strawberry and Rose Compote

While the crumble is baking and making your house smell like amazing baking cake-smells, chop up your seriously-I-know-it's-Christmas-but-six-dollars-a-punnet-these-better-be-good strawberries. (Obviously you may be able to get regular ones, not the variety I got).
Wash and hull your strawberries. Side question: Why do you hull strawberries in England? No-one does that here. I've only seen reference to it in English cookbooks. Is there something different with English Strawberries? Anyway. I did as told, and hulled them. (That's cutting the middle bit out)
Then chopped half and quartered half.  (This is so that some turns sauce-like and pulpy but then you still have strawberry bits in the finished product too. Don't skip this and think it will be better, it won't)
Add in your fructose (fruit sugar). When packing it away, if you have evaporative air-conditioning, (this time) put it in a zip lock bag or it will become a hard solid mass that you will need to throw away.
 Mix it up.
Make some lemon juice. If you don't have kids or don't believe in spoiling them with Heston Blumenthal desserts you can put in vodka.
 Interestingly, a short time later the fructose took otherwise dry chopped strawberries and immediately started making them pulpy and nice looking ruby colours. Add in that lemon juice.
Cook it on the stove for 6 minutes. Mmmm. Thick syrupy, bright red niceness. Resist the urge to eat it all with a spoon and tell your guests there is no dessert, you have become French and will serve cheese instead. Let it cool.

Add in the rosewater (easily found, supermarket sells it in the "ethnic food" section. And the elderflower cordial (which I was surprised to find also in the supermarket section. But I'd already bought a nicer one at the speciality grocer.)
 Add in the quartered strawberries.

Mix and set aside for assembly and serving. Doesn't it look delicious? And less work than it felt like it deserved. Maybe I've gotten so used to complex dishes, the easy stuff throws me.

Marbled cream.

Last stretch! Whip some cream. Then fold through a good quality yogurt.
 And again leave it until ready to serve. You do swirl through a little of the strawberry mix which I did, but then forgot to photograph, sorry.


Take your nicest glass bowl. (Thanks Granny, miss you! She would have totally approved of this dish, most of her favourite things in it.) Pour in the compote (after swirling some through the cream).
Top with the marbled cream. (You can see faint marbling in the picture.)
I actually decided to layer mine - compote-cream-compote-cream. Which I quite liked the look of, and distributed the ingredients a bit more.
Then top with crumbled meringue pieces, and crumble. I did this at the table, since it was obvious that we were going to have leftovers and I didn't want it to all go soft. No one minded. It was also supposed to have freeze dried strawberries, which I wasn't able to find in time for the meal - my usual supplier of these things having sold out. I also used supermarket-bought meringues. It was Christmas eve and I was busy. So there.

Result & Guest Opinions

It was very much a mess on serving. Sloppy and messy and inelegant.

It didn't matter.

It was so tasty! All the guests loved it. One even noted that when I was serving and it was all wet and messy he was getting prepared to be all polite and not saying anything.. but then it was perfect! The sloppy strawberry compute was sweet and a little bit sharp from the lemon and contrasted beautifully with the cream, but not overly rich because the yogurt gave a slight balancing sour note. The broken meringue pieces and crumble gave different degrees of both sweetness and texture against the soft compote.

Lessons learned:

  • I think layering it worked beautifully. If it was for a dinner party, I think it would look amazing in those stemless wine glasses to serve.
  • I think a bit more whipping of the cream might have helped a little - recipe says to medium peaks - I'd err on the firmer peaks side, so that you get a soft body to it once the yogurt goes in.


A seriously good summer dessert. Almost all of it can be prepared ahead of time, it makes the strawberries shine. As its on the messy side, perhaps less dinner-party and more casual family lunch vibe, but all the better for it.

Next time? Not sure, I have a picnic to plan for my daughter's birthday, so maybe after that.

Also: Seeking help and advice: In other news, I will now be going to London for a few days in May (as a side trip of my Italy trip). I would desperately like to get a table at the Fat Duck. (As per my sidebar above). But I'll be travelling solo - any hints on getting a table that don't require me to be uber rich and staying somewhere fancy?

I only really wanted to go to London see the British Museum and eat at the Fat Duck. Maybe not in that order. Any suggestions gratefully considered.

I lucked out and got a table-for-one at Dinner and am absolutely ecstatic! Thanks for the help folks. (On the plus side, since its in London, I don't lose a day of sightseeing.)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Peach and Parma Ham Salad

I should subtitle this - "The most expensive salad I've ever made".

So this was for Christmas eve, which was of course about three weeks ago, but seems like longer. Life has been busy. And hot. Very hot. Of course, 'tis the season, here anyway.

So Christmas eve, we wanted easy, prepare ahead meals. Because we couldn't predict how hot it was going to be and didn't want to be spending the day cooking.

I've been eyeing off that Peach and Parma Ham Salad from Heston Blumenthal at Home recipe for a long time, and was certainly influenced by In Search of Heston's take on it. Christmas even seemed perfect as an opportunity.

And it was good. So. Good.

  1. Shake a bunch of stuff together. Make a vinaigrette
  2. Reduce some balsamic vinegar
  3. Slice up the peaches, ham and Gruyere cheese
  4. Toss the salad in the vinaigrette, add the other stuff
  5. Make fancy and serve.
Seriously easy. It ends up more assembly than anything.

Let's take a look shall we?

Make a vinaigrette.

(Just as an aside, I can't believe that's the correct spelling. It just looks wrong).
So a mustard vinaigrette - oil, seeded mustard and vinegar. Plus a little salt.
 Whisk it together. In this case, you also add some ground cloves. And that's it.

Reduce some balsamic vinegar.

Take a tiny amount of balsamic. Realise this is ludicrous and double it for handling purposes.

Heat it until it gets reduced. Don't get distracted or it becomes more treacle-like than you intended.

Oops. It does taste a lot better than the bought stuff (which can be very sweet, as Phil over at In Search Of Heston notes). Given how inexpensive balsamic is, I'd recommend putting in a large-ish whack then then just keeping some for leftovers. The trick seems to be keep an eye on it, ignore Heston's assertion it will take 10 minutes and just grab it off when it's down to about half. I listened to the 10 minutes thing and while it tasted fine, it was almost thin toffee consistency when cool. (As you'll see).

Slice up your ham, peaches and Gruyere.

So. About that ham. I don't buy Parma ham normally. This is the first time I've ever bought it. I've eaten it in restaurants before, but never bought it.

I bought the correct amount - 180g. Which is quite a lot.
When I went over my budget later that day, I thought there had been a mistake. I actually called the grocer. Because I genuinely didn't realise it was $130 a kg. I was mortified and glad I called and didn't visit in person. I felt like such a plebeian.
So. Yes, this will be the most expensive salad I've ever made. Is it cheaper in the UK? I have to wonder. Anyway, I think this was almost twice the weight of ham you actually needed for that portion size. I used about 2/3 the amount for 5 people and it was really more than needed. So halve it I'd say. (And read the label in the shop so you don't embarrass yourself.).
You then chop up the peaches, which I forgot to photograph me doing, and shave the Gruyere.  When shaving your cheese, you want nice thin slices - so use your cheap peeler on the left, not your excellent quality on the right. Otherwise you get thick cheese, and this recipe really wants thin and delicate.

Toss the salad leaves in the vinaigrette

 And season.

Ready to assemble! 

Dressed rocket...
 Plus yummy peaches... (ripe is good).
 Plus the Parma ham and Gruyere.
 Drizzle with your toffee-like nicely reduced balsamic and you're done!

Lessons learned

  • Watch that balsamic, ignore the time frame and pull it off when thickened, not sticky. This means it will get to the sticky stage once cooled. Instead of almost toffee. Which tastes good, but makes it hard to make it pretty. (See above)
  • Order less ham. Or more guests. Whichever works for you.

Guest Opinions

Very appreciative. (Yes mum and uncle, you can come to dinner again. Braddles, you missed out!)

This really is a dish where the highest quality ingredients make it sing. I really don't think regular ham would work here. The Parma ham is salty and almost prosciutto-like without being tough at all. It contrast beautifully with the sweet softness of the peaches and the cloves in the vinaigrette lift it.


This would make an excellent dinner party starter. It can be mostly easily prepared ahead of time, then assembled when ready with limited fuss. If you have great peaches in season, I think it is worth it.

And.. I'm going be in Italy next year in springtime. (First northern hemisphere trip ever - whoop!) So I will certainly think about trying this again there!

Next: Strawberry crumble-trifle-like thing.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Beef Tagliata - Steak and salad gets an upgrade.

It's summer. It's hot, and just the tie for a nice steak and salad recipe. The picture looks easy enough. Steak and salad. And you know what? For once, it actually was simple.

Here are the steps:
  1. Cook the steak
  2. Infuse olive oil with herbs, then add lemon
  3. Slice up your steak.
  4. Put dressing over the lettuce and serve.
See? Totally doable. Maybe that steak and salad you're doing tonight might benefit from an upgrade?

Okay, I started by preparing the ingredients. This is a good idea, because while the meat is cooking you're going to be doing a lot of meat flipping.

 Crush some garlic, make a long piece of zest and juice your lemon.
 Get a plate ready with a wire rack.
 Wash an dry your rocket. (Or mixed salad greens, as that's what I had on hand.)
 Heat up a heavy bottomed fry pan and add the oil.
 Season your steaks with salt.
 Start to fry them, flipping every 15 seconds.

If you have a family who prefers their steaks medium to well done, take out yours while you finish theirs off.

 Okay, all done and resting on their rack.
 Discard the extra oil (but keep the pan as is for those tasty meat flavours).

Rub the lemon strips to get the oils moving.
Heat up some oil (Heston calls for 120g - but really I think this was way too much.  Unless you were making it for a lot more than 4 people.)
 Infuse the garlic and rosemary in the heated oil.

Add the lemon juice.
Then strain the whole lot. I didn't expect this infusing to make as much a difference as it did. Definitely good smells at this stage.
Add the juices from the steak plate and mix it all up.
Slice your steak thinly. You can see my I-like-it-rare steak and husband and childling's medium.
Spoon over some dressing. (As I mentioned before I found there was a lot more dressing than needed, even allowing for us making it for three people.)
Dress the salad with the same dressing.
Add parmesan shavings.
(Apologies for the head shadow. My junior photographer is still learning.)

This was an excellent dish, dare I even say it a midweek dish. Never thought I'd say that about Heston! The infused lemon, garlic and rosemary flavours definitely added to the overall tasty. This was a delicious and unfussy dish.

Doing it again (and we will) I'll dial the oil right back, maybe even using half the infused oil in another dish, and then just making half the amount of dressing. Very tasty, but I didn't use a good portion of the dressing and still felt it had a little too much.

Guest opinions:
  • Really tasty! 
Next time: More summer dishes - Peach and Parma ham salad and Diamond Jubilee Strawberry Crumble Crunch.