When I got back to Istanbul, I wanted to eat some lamb because I, who was indulging in duck meat, I’d forgotten to eat lamb while in France. So I made lamb shanks as the taste of beef bourguignon, which I’d pulled off not long ago, was still lingering in my palate. Well, it just happened to be another dish that I had to brag about. Maybe I’m born a slow cook. I mean literally I can’t cook fast, and if I have to rush, I panick and freeze to the spot. That’s why I’m still a home cook, not a chef. But this might change after the dinner I had with a woman, who came to my dinner last Saturday.
This lamb shanks I made by incorporating a beef bourguigon recipe into traditional lamb shanks was the best I’d made and tasted. The fall-off-bone tenderness is just a beginning and the rich flavours and aromas were just incredible. I didn’t even need a fork to eat.
The main concept of my blog, which seems to have become blur and people tend to be confused about, is to share food with other people and extend our gastronomic experiences, enriching food culture, and ultimately spread love and humanity. I felt it seemed a pity that only I and lucky Mr.O were enjoying this special food and all the cheeses I brought back from my French holiday.
This time I was serious about letting people know about this amazing dish, plus interesting wines and cheeses of France. I knew French expats and local foodies would appreciate this rare opportunity to discover new tastes. So came my dinner event, Soirée des Gourmands.
I wrote up a tentative menu, which had changed close to the dinner for the availability of ingredients and number of guests. As my place had a limited capacity for space and stock, I kept it low profile and didn’t make a huge fuss, advertising and shouting all over the internet. People with a good nose can catch this event, I thought.
I am really grateful for people who came to join my dinner despite the distance they had to travel. Especially, Dolores, a Spanish woman I mentioned earlier came to my door not only to share food but also her experiences of her chef training program, Ferrandi Paris. If you’re dreaming about being a chef or curious about what it’s like to cook in a big commercial kitchen, you can read all about it on her blog, Don’t Touch My Knife. I love the blog title. I should have a catchy name like that. Hmm… she travels with her professional knife.
Th main dish was cooking slowly waiting for the guest and the fig hazelnut bread just came out of the oven in a much more satisfactory result. While making the entree, I realised that the avocado wasn’t ripe enough to use! Alas! So came the improvised fix-up, pumpkin soup shooters with parmesan crisps, whose artful touch impressed the guests from the start.
The table was set, candles lit, and a bottle of Savagnin 2008 was awaiting the guests as nervously as I was. Phew….a sigh of relief came out when the guests loved both of my entrees, Pumpkin Soup Glass with Beetroot Salsa and Salmon Souffles and the Spanish woman found the wine very interesting, it being her first time tasting such wine; like Porto wine in white. So woody and bushy, as if walking through a damp autumn forest. The photo credit goes to the French photographer guest (for French, here.) Thanks for the photos. Next time she will bring her own camera. 🙂 My souffles with smoked salmon and Comte cheese didn’t make to the blog this time, because of an unexpected disaster but I will post about them again.
We talked food non-stop while eating and when the topic came to olive oil, I suggested a spontaneous olive tasting, which they loved. I love the spontaneous experiment for the sake of enriching knowledge, too! Turkey olive oil vs Greek olive oil and extra-virgin vs ordinary. If you’re a serious foodie, it isn’t difficult to pick out Greek olive oil and they passed the blind tasting.
The main arrived and as soon as the plate was placed under their nose, smiles appeared on their faces, and touching the meat with a fork, the chef Dolores laughed in amazement, “Oh my God, How long did you cook it?”
Ah, please excuse me for the photos in Instigram, which I did to disguise the dull and pixelated images shot under a dark lighting.
The below is the previous lamb shanks I made. The recipe was the same except that the one I cooked for the event had pickling onions and I used an old Polish sweet wine, which had a bit of the Porto-like flavours. Both lamb shanks had dried porcini mushrooms instead of button mushrooms and I think that was what gave the richness and earthiness in the aroma, which they loved.
We switched to a red wine and polished the plate. It’s only half way but we were already full. However, we can’t give the stinky French cheese a miss, no matter how full we are; half of the reason they were there for. 🙂 Yeah, the Comte was excellent with Savgnin wine.
Sorry, dear guests, I completely forgot about the bread! Oh….next time… It will be a reason to come back to my dinner. Fair enough? I’ve been enjoying it with camambert almost every night after the meal. 🙂
Finally, the dessert, Chestnut Chocolate Cake served with vanilla creme anglaise.
I planned for a light dessert after all the food we had to eat, and also wanted to use up the chestnuts in the freezer. It’s a kind of autumn ritual in many countries to eat chestnuts. On my last trip to France, I had a layer cake with chestnut cream and cassis (blackcurrent).
I made creme de marron (sweetened chestnut paste) from scratch and combined it with cocoa powder and mixed nut flour. So it was flourless cake. I wanted to achieve the same lightness in the texture as the one I had in Salat, in France, not too heavy and with chocolate garnache, but it seemed that, with my recipe, the chestnut flavour was swallowed up by the chocolate flavour. So I will make the cake with no cocoa powder but with chocolat garnache on top or chocolate mousse in the centre. We all learn from mistakes, don’t we? And I share my mistakes and disaster stories with you to provoke your ideas so if you’ve made chestnut cake before, your feedback would be appreciated.
Recipes for Pumpkin Soup Glass with Beetroot Salsa and Salmon Comte Souffles are to be revisited so please enjoy these recipes for now.
Best Lamb Shanks with Porcini and Wine
Ingredients (serves 4)
4 lamb shanks
3 garlic cloves
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 carrot, chopped
handful of dried porcini mushrooms, ripped
2 bay leaves
2 whole cloves
1 rosemary sprig
2 cup red wine
1/3 cup sweet spirit (optional)
2 cups stock, chicken or beef (I use water and 1 cube of demi glace)
20-24 pickling onions
grapefruit peel (or orange)
1. First, soak the porcini in hot water – keeping it in mind that you will add the liquid into the pot with meat.
2. Heat a little oil in a cast-iron pot and brown the shanks, all sides, for 2-3 mins, and take them out onto a plate.
3. Sautee the chopped onions, celery, and grapefruit peel in the same pot and add the shanks, garlic, carrots, red wine, porcini and its water. – add more water until the shanks are fully submerged.
4. Place bay leaves and rosemary on top and pierce the cloves into carrot cubes – so that you can take them out later.
5. Bring it to boil and cover the lid and simmer for 2 hours – make sure to turn the shanks 2-3 times during the cooking.
6. Check the meat and take out the cloves, the fruit peel, and rosemary sprig before adding pickling onions. Simmer for 1 hour more.
7. Let it sit till it’s served or ideally overnight. Enjoy it with mashed or steamed potatoes.
Chestnut Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Creme Anglaise
200g creme de marron (*sweetened chestnut puree)
2 eggs, separated
100g butter, softened
100g brown sugar
50g cocoa powder
50g nut flour – a mix of almond, linseed, hazelnut
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cognac
1/4 tsp ground ginger
a pinch of salt
1. Preheat the oven to 170’C and line a cake tin with parchment.
2. Whisk the egg yolk and sugar until creamy. Mix the softened butter and chestnut puree, and add it into the egg mixture. Whisk well to combine and sift in the nut flour, ground ginger and cocoa power. Mix well.
3. Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks and fold 1/3 into the batter and mix well. Fold in the rest of the whites gently.
4. Pour into the tin and bake for 40 mins.
Vanilla Creme Anglaise
2 cups milk
80g (6-7 Tbsp) sugar
4 large egg yolks
1 vanilla bean
1. Warm the milk in a saucepan with sugar and a split vanilla bean.
2. Once bubbles appear on the side of the saucepan, remove it from the heat, cover and let it steep for 1 hour.
3. Make an ice bath (cold water+ice cubes) and place a small glass or metal bowl with a strainer over it.
4. Whisk egg yolks in a bowl and gently rewarm the milk. Gently pour the milk into the yolk, constantly whisking.
5. Pour it back into the saucepan and heat over low heat, stirring constantly with a spatula, until it thickens.
6. Immediately strain it into the bowl in the ice bath and discard the vanilla bean.
7. Stir until cool. Use it straight or keep in the fridge up to 4 days.
NB: For orange creme anglaise, you can replace the vanilla bean with grated orange peel.
- Chestnut Almond Cake (gluten-free) (Azeliaskitchen.net)