Last brunch

It’s Saturday. This might be the first Saturday lesson in Superior Cuisine. I can’t remember. Whatever. It’s the last lesson. A poignant moment but also a bit of a party mood in the class, despite exams being on the other side of the weekend. Everyone relaxed, a cheeky disregard for the rules—led by chef, and a different format to the class.

Les Verrines. 5 in all:

  1. Cheesecake de Crabe Frais, Coulis d’Orange Sanguine = Crab cheesecake with a blood orange coulis.

  2. Suprème de Volaille Fumé et Salpicon de Mangue, Noix de Coco et Coriandre = Smoked chicken with mango, coconut and coriander salsa.

  3. Perles de Melons Marinées à la Liqueur de Litchi et Tuiles aux Baies Roses = Melon marinated in lychee liqueur with pink peppercorn tuiles.

  4. Petite Verrine Roquefort et Brunoise de Racines Rouge Glacée = Roquefort cheese and glazed beetroot brunoise verrine.

  5. Verrine de Guacamole et Ceviche de Maquereau = Shot glass of guacamole and marinated mackerel. Not really a shot glass. Maybe my kind of shot glass :-).

I wondered about the difference between Les Verrines and Les Canapés. It turns out that Une Verrine is a small, thick-walled glass container that serves a solid or liquid starter, main course or dessert in a vertical manner.

Chef did all the mise en place. Then plucked people out of the crowd to do the plating up. Quite the cabaret.

Plating up Les Verrines

Mr Fire Gun on the smoked chicken

Brioche loaf

The cheesecake was actually upside down, which makes sense if you want the base to remain crispy. To me it was more like a trifle. The base, or topping, was brioche, blitzed with butter and roasted in the oven. The juice of a blood orange was reduced to a syrup with sugar and white wine vinegar. Reduce too far and it goes bitter. The crab meat was mixed with cream cheese, mayo, wasabi paste, cayenne pepper, chopped pickled ginger and chives. Syrup at the bottom, crab in the middle. Brioche on top. See what I mean about trifle?

The smoked chicken was diced. The mangos were chopped to a rough macédoine. Diced red chilli was added with some sugar, lime zest and juice, and chopped coriander to complete the salsa. Coconut flakes were toasted giving off an amazing aroma. Chicken at the bottom. Salsa on top.

Time for a side story. I came into demo one morning to find Bruce Lee (not his real name, from Vietnam, and another close compadré from the Intensive Cuisine crew and fellow member of Group C) and Mr Fire Gun excitedly discussing “cartooli”, something they both wanted to add to their exam dishes as a second dough element. I learned that Bruce had made this “cartooli” thing in one of his free interpretation dishes and had since been perfecting it at home. He had some impressive photographs. It took me ages to figure out what they were talking about. What the hell is a “cartooli”? It turns out it’s coral tuile. FFS. I couldn’t stop laughing. In between giggle fits, I explained that coral were fish eggs and that “tooli” was tuile and that there were many types. It got even funnier when Bruce and Fire Gun were trying to explain to chef what they were planning to do—still using the expression, “cartooli”. So now tuile has become a bit of a thing for me.

Ginger wine, vodka and lychee liqueur

I tell you this because there’s a tuile in the melon verrine. Flour and icing sugar were sieved into a bowl and mixed with egg white to make a paste. Melted butter was beaten in a bit at a time. This was spread thinly onto a silpac mat, sprinkled with crushed pink peppercorns and salt and baked in the oven. Delicious. Many, many melon balls were noisily extracted from a Honeydew, Canteloupe and Galia. Chef took pleasure banging his parisenne against the side of a metal bowl to free each ball. He’ll never get an audition with his local Calypso band. The melon trimmings were blended into a purée with mint leaves, ginger wine and lychee liqueur. This mixture was added to the melon balls and they were left to marinate. Melon mix in. Tuile on top. Simple.

Left to right: Crab cheesecake, marinated melon and smoked chicken with mango salsa

Roquefort cheese was beaten until soft, then crème fraiche added. Beetroots were cut into brunoise and cooked in olive oil. Thinly sliced pears were laid flat inside a vacpack bag with lemon juice, salt and olive oil. Then compressed, as they say, in the vacpack machine. Walnuts were covered with sugar and water and reduced to a syrup, drained and deep fried, just like before. Endive was thinly sliced and dressed in olive oil, salt, and the liquor from the compressed pears. Cheese at the bottom. Endive on top. Garnished with walnut and pear.

Roquefort cheese, glazed beetroot brunoise, compressed pear and candied walnut

Lastly the mackerel.

Mackerel is another fish which has a unique aspect to its preparation. As usual, remove guts, head off, fillet, blah, blah, blah. But then…to remove the bloodline, a v is cut down to the skin. And when you pull it away it brings all the remaining bones with it. Groovy! After washing, the fillets were cut in half lengthways and then into bitesize pieces. Kinda important for a verrine, which is being eaten with a teaspoon. The mackerel was cured for 15 minutes in vodka, diced chilli, red pepper and red onion, lime juice, zest and salt. Tossed and left for another 15 minutes in the fridge. It needs a minimum of 30 minutes in the cure to “cook”. Guacamole was made with avocado (obviously), lime juice, green chilli, red onion, coriander, and interestingly some sour cream was added. Lovely. Guac at the bottom. Mackerel on top. Garnished with chilli, spring onion, coriander and dill.

Marinated mackerel ceviche with guacamole, chilli and spring onion

I’ll skip the practical on Monday. Two reasons. I may well have a hangover from Meatopia on Sunday. And I want to do a practice run for the exam on Tuesday.