Rhubarb fool is a great seasonal dessert when fresh fruit in the UK is in pretty short supply. Early in the New Year ( Happy 2019 everyone ) and many of us are thinking about trying to shift the extra weight we may have put on over Christmas. I’m not sure I can go as far as something really healthy, but what I do have is an idea to revitalise any jaded party palettes. As it is time for the earliest of the season’s rhubarb, what about this delicious sweet? Forced rhubarb will be available from good greengrocers but it can be pricey, you can wait for the season’s main crop. The best forced rhubarb comes from the rhubarb triangle in West Yorkshire.
We chefs can sometimes overlook simple classic dishes that have pleased people for a very long time. The fruit fool is a versatile and first-rate example of an underrated culinary star, tart fruits with sweetened cream. You can make them pretty much throughout the year starting with rhubarb, then strawberries, gooseberry and elderflower is delicious and finish with late season raspberries in Autumn.
My Rhubarb Top Tip
I was bought up from an early age by three formidable ladies, my Mum and the aunties Elizabeth and Mary, all incredible cooks. Peeking over the kitchen table I watched them pickle, preserve, knead, ferment, blanch, pluck, peel and chop with carefree abandonment. My guess is a little must have rubbed off on my shoulders. They were all armed with Mrs. Beeton, Robert Carrier, the Bero book and all became particularly big favourites of the Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady.
I do not remember if my tip for today was in the book, but I remember it was full of beautiful illustrations and lots of old country lore. I am pretty sure most people are aware that the leaves of rhubarb are poisonous, but they do have a use. If you have a badly burnt pan leave it to soak for a couple of hours with some torn up rhubarb leaves covered with water. The carbonised food should then be easy to shift with warm soapy water and a scourer, please make sure you rinse thoroughly.
My Rhubarb Fool
I’m not sure if the purists would serve a fool on a biscuit base but I like the butter ginger biscuit base which adds a nice little contrast to the softly whipped cream and poached fruit. The choice is up to you if you wish to leave it out. So while I am not going to win any points for calorie-free food I think this is winner on flavour. Enjoy
You can adapt through the changing fruit seasons with rhubarb, gooseberry, raspberry and loganberries. This recipe is adapted from one by one of my culinary hero’s, Simon Hopkinson. I like the flavour combination of rhubarb and orange with the buttery ginger biscuit base. You can make it with caster or golden sugar but again I like to use soft brown sugar for the added extra toffee / caramel flavour.
I’ve recently featured a lot of soup recipes. From a really tasty store cupboard classic to a spicy Thai inspired coconut fish soup. In the run-up to Christmas I’ve just time for one more, a rich Shellfish Bisque. Now as you would expect living on an island and working as a chef, I have recipes for lots of different shellfish bisque recipes. Traditionally a bisque is a French soup. You can make your shellfish bisque can be made from lobster, crab, prawns, and crayfish. The shells are used to make a stock and then you incorporate the meat into the finished soup.
What is the difference between soup and bisque?
Bisque is thought to have derived from either the word Biscay, as in Bay of Biscay. Biscay is famous for oysters and other shellfish. Alternatively, the name could have evolved from the shellfish being twice cooked, in French, “bis cuites”. Certainly, when I make crab or lobster bisques in commercial kitchens the shells are first roasted lightly, then simmered with vegetables and herbs before being strained. Traditionally a bisque is thickened by grinding up the shells and you need some pretty powerful industrial food processors to accomplish this. At home, you can thicken with flour or adding a handful of rice to the cooking stock. The name bisque is now often used for thick and creamy roasted vegetable soups.
I have slightly altered the recipe to allow for the fact the most household food processors are not built to break up extremely tough crab shells. Using prawns gives a slightly sweeter if less intensely minerally flavoured soup but it is never the less a real show stopper. This would be an ideal start to your Christmas day dinner.
Now I have already posted how much I adore cooking and eating great seafood. You have to excuse me but come on everyone I live on an island. In Jersey we are graced with some of the most amazing seafood you will eat. Now you may positively love lobster or crave freshly picked crab, but my favourite ( astute readers may have guessed already ) is the succulent scallop. So here is my recipe for Diver caught Scallops with Lentils and Bacon. If you visit Jersey you can also choose mackerel in season, skate, and plaice. If you like shellfish then mussels and oysters are grown in the clear waters around the island. In short, an abundance of fish and shellfish.
Whenever I cook scallops I always think of the actress Uma Thurman stepping out of a gigantic scallop shell. In one of her earliest roles as Venus in the madcap film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, it is a striking piece of cinematography. The whole scene is beautiful and I like to think that this is a beautiful dish. I’m not the most refined and elegant cook but this is really a simple but stunning recipe. It pairs the sweet scallops and tomatoes with a hint of smoke and saltiness from the bacon.
The Wine Choice –There are an awful lot of flavours and textures in this dish, so we need a wine that has similar attributes. The strongest flavour on the plate is going to be the bacon but if we choose a red to match solely to that we lose the delicacy and subtle sweetness of the scallops. Likewise, if we match a delicate white purely for the scallops we risk the wine being overpowered by the savoury bacon and sweet tomato flavours. A Sancerre Rosé, made from the Pinot Noir grape, dry with aromas of strawberries and gooseberries covers all the bases.
Scallops with Lentils and Bacon is ideal as a fantastically tasty starter or suitably scintillating summery lunch or supper served with crusty French bread.
Delicious sun-ripened summer vegetables from Jersey
We are coming to the end of a beautiful Jersey Summer. What do you think of when you think of food and Jersey summer? Is it some of our amazing seafood? Fresh strawberries and thick Jersey cream? We are lucky to have so much fantastic food right on our doorsteps from the humble hedge veg, dedicated producers big and small, and all fishermen and farmers. I think this rather special version of Ratatouille called Confit Byaldi captures the best of our island, our horticultural heritage, and delicious sun-ripened local produce.
When I made the first trial batch of Confit Byaldi my daughter and I sat and ate a massive bowl just on its own, it really is that good. I suggest it would be lovely at lunchtime with some fresh crusty bread or tasty supper piled in a baked potato. As a side why not serve Confit Byaldi with some sauté, local diver-caught scallops or pan-fried sea bass or with grilled Halloumi and Jersey Royals. The recipe for Confit Byaldi is not complicated but does involve a little preparation so is perhaps best made a day in advance and the flavours, if you can leave it alone, do improve overnight. As an added bonus the red pepper sauce is brilliant with pasta or as an accompaniment for grilled fish like Sea bass and Bream.
Confit Byaldi 4 generous servings
For the Pepper Sauce
2 Red Peppers, remove the seeds and stem and cut into chunks
1 teaspoon Parsley, washed, dried and finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
For the Red Pepper Sauce
Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed pan and sauté the onion of twenty to thirty minutes until soft, add the garlic stir and cook for a couple more minutes. Add the red pepper, chopped tomato, any juices, thyme, bay leaf, sugar and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Simmer for twenty minutes the take off the lid and simmer to reduce any liquid for another ten minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. When cool, remove the herbs, season generously and blitz in a food processor until smooth. ( This can be made in advance ).
For the Confit Byaldi
Heat your oven to 325 F / 160 C / Gas Mark 3. Spread a layer of your prepared pepper sauce in the bottom of a twenty-centimetre oven-proof casserole or baking dish. From the side of the dish, arrange a row of alternating slices of the sliced vegetables, overlapping so that just a little of each slice is exposed.
Continue overlapping the vegetables in a close spiral until the dish is filled. Sprinkle with the thyme, season well with salt and pepper and drizzle with the olive oil.
Cover with baking paper and foil and crimp edges to seal well. Bake until the vegetables are tender when tested with a paring knife, roughly two hours. Uncover and bake for a further thirty minutes to colour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
You can now cover and refrigerate overnight if you wish. Serve cold or reheat in 350-degree oven until warm as required, carefully lift from the tray with a spatula and drizzle with tomato dressing.
For Tomato Dressing
Gently mix ingredients together in a small bowl.
What to Drink? In the Walt Disney film Ratatouille, the world-famous chef Thomas Keller invented a version of Confit Byaldi which was served to the imposing restaurant critic with a bottle of Chateau Latour. If you cannot afford this I would recommend a classic French Syrah or good Australian or Argentinian Shiraz, a great match for the rich umami sweet vegetable flavours.