By now you should have enjoyed two delicious courses, drank some fine wine and, most importantly, now just be staring into each other’s eyes. If you can draw yourself away long enough, we have one more little treat for you.
Our final retro treat for you is a real blast from the past. This is a really fun dish, and sharing a large one makes it even more exciting. Just imagine sinking your spoon through the crisp outer layer into marshmallowy meringue, then boozy smooth ice cream, all the way down to the chocolate brownie base. With all that on the spoon it’s going to take all your will-power to feed this to your loved one, and not shove it your own gob.
A traditional baked Alaska usually has a sponge base but I thought chocolate brownie sounds a bit more decedent and if this is not the day to spoil someone then when is?
The impressive thing about the baked Alaska is that it goes into the oven to cook the outside, and the ice cream within stays frozen. To protect the ice cream it is surrounded by a layer of Italian meringue. This differs from a normal meringue (French meringue) in that instead of sugar being mixed in, very hot sugar syrup is mixed with the egg whites, which cooks them. This process means you get a very stable meringue which will hold its shape for days in the fringe compared to a normal one which will collapse after a few hours.
Remove the ice cream from the freezer and allow to soften slightly at room temperature, then bash in the booze.
Scoop the ice cream into a cappuccino cup or similar sized mould, pressing down tightly. Put it back in the freezer to harden.
Using a mixer, whisk your egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
Place the sugar and water into a pan and slowly bring to the boil until the syrup reaches 121C, using the probe I told you to buy in the last post.
Whilst whisking, drizzle the sugar syrup into the egg whites in a steady stream, (ensuring it doesn’t hit the beater in your mixer, as this will cool the syrup and cause it to solidify)
Keep whisking the eggs whites and sugar syrup for about another 5 minutes.
Cut a disk of chocolate brownie about 1cm larger than the mould you used for your ice cream.
Place your meringue mixture into a piping bag.
Remove the ice cream from the mould and place onto the brownie base. Pipe the meringue around, encasing the ice cream and ensuring there are no gaps.
At this point you can either bake in the oven at 200′c, or if you’re feeling flash and cheffy, and want to impress your girl, whip out your blow-torch, and cook the meringue until nicely browned. (Please just put it in the oven if you’ve had a few glasses of wine).
Serve and eat immediately, before the ice cream melts.
Now its time for the main event. The main course needs to be impressive and this really fits the bill. Take this to the table and carve a piece of tender meat wrapped in crispy pastry and its sure to seduce. The rest is up to you.
The second of our classic dishes is a take on beef wellington. I love the original made with a whole fillet of beef and carved at the table in front of everyone it’s a real showstopper. I have made this with a piece of venison fillet which has a more interesting flavour than the standard beef, and will give you and your partner something to talk about for weeks to come. (Honestly, the Photographer won’t shut up about it now!)
Serve this with the two veg of your choice and the only other thing it needs to go with it is some more wine to help set the mood.
10oz venison fillet
1 Savoy cabbage
100g button mushrooms, sliced
¼ tsp thyme chopped
500g puff pastry
1 egg beaten
6 slices Parma ham
1Tbsp vegetable oil
Sauté the mushrooms in the butter along with the thyme. Season, then whiz in a food processer till it makes a coarse mushroom pate. Leave to cool.
Heat the oil in a heavy pan until very hot. Season the venison fillet and sear on all sides until browned. Place on a plate to rest.
Remove 4 large leaves from the cabbage and cut out the stalks. Bring a pan of water to the boil then blanch the leaves for 1 minute. Refresh in cold water. Remove from the water and place on kitchen paper to dry.
Pull out a length of cling film. On it lay the cabbage leaves. They need to overlap to form a sheet longer than the fillet and wide enough to roll round it. On to the cabbage lay the slices of ham in two rows of 3, making one large sheet of ham.
Take the mushroom pate and spread it over the ham. Place the fillet on the middle of the sheet of ham.
Now lift up the edge of the cling film furthest from you and fold the cabbage and ham over the venison. Roll it up in to a sausage and twist the ends. Place in the fridge while you roll the pastry.
Roll the pastry out into the thickness of a pound coin, making it longer than the cling-filmed parcel and wide enough to wrap round it.
Un-wrap the parcel and place in the middle of the pastry. Brush the edges of the pastry with egg then roll the pastry over, folding in the sides to form a neat little package.
If you have any excess pasty you can use it to decorate the top of the wellington. Something romantic and heart shaped should do the trick.
It can now be chilled until you sit down for your starter. When you are ready, brush the top with egg and bake at 200’c for about 20 minutes then allow to rest for 10 minutes.
You can cook it to the same level you like you steak, and the best way to do this is to invest in a digital meat probe. It might sound fancy, but they are quite cheap now, and available even from some supermarkets. Cooking temperatures are as follows:
It’s not every day that a man turns up at my kitchen door with a deer on his shoulder, but when it does happen it’s very exciting. The dog certainly found it fascinating and kept looking through the kitchen window hoping that itwas a late Christmas present. Unfortunately I had to disappoint the mutt as I had plans for this beast.
With most animals, different cuts of meat should be treated in their own way, some benefiting from long slow cooking, others a quick fry, and all the stages in-between.
I wanted to use the whole animal in one dish in this case, but I kept the loin to one side for something a bit special, which I’ll show you soon.
So I butchered and diced all the meat, then roasted the carcass and made a venison stock to give the pie a great flavour. At home it might not be practical to butcher your own deer and make a stock, but diced venison is readily available, and a good quality fresh beef stock would make a good substitute for venison stock.
Venison and Red Wine Pie
For the pie filling:
1kg diced venison
500ml red wine
1 onion, diced
100g button onions
100g streaky bacon, diced
40ml vegetable oil
1tsp thyme, chopped
30g plain flour
Salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
For the pastry:
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
500g plain flour
2 eggs, beaten
In a hot pan brown all the venison using the vegetable oil. Do this in batches so the pan is not over-crowded, and to ensure the meat gets well coloured. When each batch is done place in a bowl for later.
Now in the same pan sweat the onion for 4 minutes. Add the meat back to the pan with the thyme and some seasoning. Now add the red wine and stir, scraping all the bits from the base of the pan. Pour in the stock and bring up to the simmer. Reduce the heat and cook for 1 and a half hours.
After this time fry the bacon in a frying pan, then using a slotted spoon, lift into the venison pan. Fry the mushrooms off in the bacon fat then add to the stew.
Cook the stew for another 30 minutes then beat the butter and flour together. Take small pieces of the butter mix and drop into the stew. Stir this in and keep adding more until the stew reaches a nice thickness. Check the seasoning and transfer the stew to a shallow container with a large surface area so it will cool quicker.
While the filling is cooling make the pastry. Rub the butter and flour together until they resemble fine breadcrumbs. Mix in the salt, then the eggs. Add only enough of the milk to bring all of the mixture together into a ball.
It’s best to rest the pastry for at least 1 hour in the fridge before rolling.
Pre-heat the oven to 200′c.
When rested, roll out the pastry and line 6 tart tins. Spoon the venison into the pastry cases and brush the edge of the pastry with the beaten egg. Roll out 6 disks to top the pies and drape over. Crimp the pastry down, joining the lid to the base, and trim off any excess pastry. Make a small hole in the top of each pie for steam to escape.
Brush the tops of the pies with egg and bake for 30 minutes until golden and bubbling.
Remove from the tins and serve with mashed potatoes, as the dog looks on in hatred.