Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Macerated Strawberries with Black Olive Puree

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Time to dust off an old friend, or should that be enemy? It's the return of The Fat Duck Cookbook, a series of the most complex, detailed and process-based recipes of pretty much any cookbook that I own. A book that has taken up hours, day's and even weeks of my life preparing dishes yet the results are just so rewarding along with the new methods that the book teaches. Almost like learning to cook all over again.

So today's challenge is a dessert of macerated strawberries with a black olive puree, accompanied by an olive oil biscuit, rocher of vanilla ice cream and a strawberry tuile and pistachios, dear god! The full recipe uses leather essence and ewes milk cheese as well as using pistachio's to create a scrambled egg side dish. Just your average Fat Duck dessert then...

I couldn't get hold of leather essence and decided to simplify the dish further in order to gain better understanding of it, so omitting the cheese and pistachio scrambled eggs but using pistachio's for garnish as they are one of my favourites.

Starting the dish the day before I used hulled strawberries and icing sugar blitzed together to create a base for the tuile. After cooking the mixture to 95C I spread it out on a silicone lined baking tray. The book suggests using a pallet knife to smooth the mix but I tilted the tray to spread the mixture to get a more thin and even result. Into the oven at 60C for 24 hours it goes until dried out and ready to be broken into rough triangles.

The beginning of the tuile

Another advance item was the olive oil biscuit. Looking over the ingredients it reads like a traditional shortbread just with a few notable additions. I didn't have T45 flour, which you can find online at Shipton Mill for a hefty delivery charge, so I used 00 pasta flour which is also used for pastry, a similar composition to T45. Mixing the butter with the sugar and then the dry goods gives a dry dough that when moistened with egg yolks you get a decent biscuit dough which is then wrapped in cling film and placed in the fridge overnight to firm up.

Biscuit dough

Once chilled I rolled the dough out to a rectangular shape, freezing it for an hour to harden and then baking in the oven and cutting into rectangles after. The tuile was mostly dried after around 22 hours in the oven so that was broken into shards and kept in an airtight container between sheets of greaseproof paper (top tip!).

The black olive puree was up next and as luck would have it I'd purchased the very sort of olives requested by the book which are Kalamata that possess a fragrant aroma. Blanching the olives three times in boiling water and pureeing with fructose gives you a grainy puree, pass it through a sieve to become smooth and add a touch of olive oil (in this case Sicilian) gives shine to it.

Black Olive Puree

It really does seem weird making a sweet puree with olives and given that I really don't like olive's tasting was something I wasn't looking forward to. However after a teaspoon full of the stuff my opinion changed, unlike anything I've tasted before, almost smokey in flavour with incredible depth. Really making you think 'how the hell does someone come up with this?'

The strawberry syrup is a straightforward concoction of hulled strawberries, fructose and a bain-marie. Cover the bowl and set over a pan of simmering water for a recommended six hours, luckily mine didn't take quite that length of time.

Strawberry Syrup prep

Finished biscuits

Final mis-en-place consisted of crushing pistachio's and toasting coriander seeds. To plate up I placed the ice cream in the fridge for around an hour to soften for ease of quenelle action. Just before serving I macerated the strawberries with fructose and orange flower water (incidentally, don't take a spoonful of orange flower water, it burns!) in a sous-vide bag under vacuum. I momentarily shit myself as the bag compressed the strawberries and I worried for a second that they may have ended up reduced to a pulp.

Sous-vide Strawberries

Thankfully that wasn't the case and the smell coming off them was incredible. Plating up commenced with two drags of black olive puree going in alternate directions, standing the strawberries up and topping each piece with a coriander seed. Spooning over the syrup and then garnishing with a handful of pistachio pieces.

First part of the plating

The next part was the most nerve-wracking. After doing a practice quenelle I'd placed the ice cream back into the fridge thus making it too soft. A quick return to the freezer for 10 minutes made the ice cream return to the desired texture and with warmed spoon in hand I went for it. Safe to say I could do with practice but I was pretty pleased with my first attempt.

Topping the quenelle with the tuile left the dish looking stunning, proud is an understatement, perhaps The Fat Duck are in need of a new addition to their pastry department? Yeah dream on... Anyway after all this preparation I guess we better eat it....

The final plate

The strawberries first off tasted fresh as anything, real clean taste, the coriander seed was unusual for me, it didn't spoil the dish but it didn't really integrate as well with the other flavours, god knows what cheese would have brought to the dish. The puree, as tasted previously, was brilliant and worked so well with everything giving almost a tempering to the sweet flavours around the plate. Its a wonderful dish and one of the more satisfying to make from the book.

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