There's no place like home!

There really is no place like home when it comes to entertaining.  No expensive taxi fares, babysitter all the hastle of getting ready hours before you need to.  When you can kick back in the comfort of your own home and let someone else come and do all the hard work for you.  Not only will you be waited on hand and foot, wined and dined like a king, but there's no washing up!!

The world is your oyster as well, whether you are after a homely traditional Sunday roast or a fine dining tasting menu, you decide.  With the input of the chef, they will create a tailored menu to suit the occasion.  This is something I have  done on accasion over the years.  Many of them have been for charity auctions where the winning bidder would get a three course meal for 4 and two bottles of wine, these have raised hundreds of pounds for local community charities.

Most recently 4 gernerous auction winners were treated to a sumptuous three course meal which they chose from a selection of dishes.

Starter

Chicken ballotine,  crispy quails egg, marinated mushrooms, chicken crackling.

Main

Tandoori monkfish, dhal,  Bombay Potatoes, fish pakora.

Dessert

Bitter chocolate tart, Praline & Salt flakes, boozy raspberries, cinnamon cream.

Each course served in the relaxed souroundings of your own home with friends and at the pace you want. No pushy waiters or kitchens struggling with the checks.  This particular starter as shown below was a delicious chicken balotine with crispy quails egg and marinated mushrooms.  The Balotine was made with feeee range chicken and using the whole bird.  the breasts were removed, some was set aside for the mousse for the balotine and for the crispy quails egg, the rest was battened out thin, laid over Parma hamand then the mousse spread over.  The centre of the balotine was made from the brown meat which was slowly braised  along with the bones, white wine, herbs, garlic to create intensly flavoured flaked meat for the rillete.  Once this was all rolled togeter and lightly wrapped in cling film, it was gently poached and then finished in foaming butter to brown the outside and give depth of flavour.  Importantly it was then rested before carving.

The crispy quails eggs were made by soft boiling them for 2 1/2 minutes refreshing in ice cold vinegar water.  The vinegar helps break down the shells to make them easier to peel.  Then coating in chicken mousse and using a technique called pane.  This is a process that starts with coating in seasoned flour, then dipping in egg wash and finaly rolling in bread crumbs.  Once the posh scotch eggs are made they are deep fried until crisp and golden.

For the mushrooms it is best to use an exotic mix which has the likes of Enoki, Shimeji and Eryngii.  These are all quite small mushrooms and it means that they can be left whole, this looks much better on the plate.  To marinate them make a grain mustard and Virgin rapeseed oil vinaigrette, then place the raw mushrooms into this and leave refrigerated overnight to get the best results.

The chicken crackling is made by removing the skin from the chicken when raw and then seasoning with salt and pepper and roasting through a hot oven.

Serve all of the components of the dish with baby leaves, watercress and red chickory.

 

Chicken ballotine, crispy quails egg, marinated mushrooms, chicken crackling.

The different elements of the main course, a true Indian feast.

The main course of Tandoori monkfish, dhal, bombay potatoes and fish pakora combines many elements and subtle spicing.  The key to this dish is balance and texture.  It really lifted a Saturday night takeaway into something quite special.  When trying to elivate a curry into something that is a little bit special meants taking the dish and breaking it up into constituent parts, this way the different textures, flavours, heat can then all be experienced individually and in different quantities meaning every mouthful is different.  It would be really east to take a spiced dhal and serve it with a piece of tandoori monkfish, but really, where is the finesse or theatre in that.  When doing private dining in someones home it is all about theatre and wowing not only the client, but more importantly their guests as they could be your next clients.

The dhal incorporated two different types of lentil, chickpeas, spinach, onion, garlic and herbs & spices. Then a mix of lightly warmed garden peas, shreaded mange tout are placed on the dhal, the dish is then built with the tandoori roasted monkfish, radish, fresh chillies and cumin pickled shallots.  To finish it off, a light saffron cream and curry oil bring a couple of other flavours as well as colour on the plate.  The result is not just any curry dish. 

When having a curry you usually have some sides with it.  This dish was no exception.  The trimmings of the monkfish were perfect for creating little bite sized pakoras.  The fish was coated in a light spiced gram flour batter and deep fried.  Really, perfect as a starter snack or accompaniment to a meal.  The other ide was Bombay potatoes.  Using good old red potatoes, peel and dice to about one inch pieces, cook in saffron water until par boiled, drain and then transfer to a roasting tin and treat like roast potatoes, add cumin, coriander and fennel seeds.  When cooked and crispy, add fresh coriander, crispy onions and some curry oil.  A great addition to any meal.

Tandoori monkfish, dhal, Bombay Potatoes, fish pakora.

Bitter chocolate tart, Praline & Salt flakes, boozy raspberries, cinnamon cream.

To finish, every meal needs a good dessert.  And chocolate goes down on most peoples list of favourites.  Especially if you add in a good slug of booze!!  This dessert was no exception.

Bitter chocolate tart, Praline & Salt flakes, boozy raspberries, cinnamon cream.  A good chocolate tart is a must for all chefs and it's not just about the filling, it's really important to be able to make good pastry as well.  This recipe is a Nico Ladenis one and in my opinion it is one of the best chocolate tart recipes around.

Praline is something that scares many people and chefs as it involves melting sugar, which can easily burn.  The sevret to a good balanced praline is the same weight of sugar to nuts.  When making the praline use a heavy based pan over a moderate heat with the sugar added when the pan is cold, thus heating the sugar up gently and allowing it to melt and then caramelise.  Do not be tempted to stir and mess with it too much or you are at risk of it crystalising.  The nuts can either be roasted or raw depending on the flavour and style of the praline.  Also any nuts can be used, this particular recipe used almonds.  The addition of sea salt flakes works really well with the praline and the chocolate and helps balance the sweetness.

For the boozy raspberries you can use whatever alcohol of your liking.  I used brandy and cassis and marinated the berries overnight to get a good result, but not making them too mushy and soft.

The cinnamon cream is just the same as making Chantilly, but substituting the vanilla for cinnamon.

All in all the balance and blend of flavours and textures all work well in this dessert as ther is soft and silky, rich and creamy, crumbly and buttery and tart and boozy.  Together, a fitting end to a lovely meal.  

So, the secret is really to listen to the brief of the client, interpret what they have asked for and then take them on a journey where they can visit all of their senses by means of visually stunning food that smells great and tastes even better.

Thanks for reading

Stuart Brown