Thursday, 21 March 2013

Perfect Meringues

@peterdelicious on Instagram

It has just occurred to me that I was meant to maintain a steady stream of posting throughout this long trip I've been on this week and I haven't. Long story short, at some point someone must have coughed on me and now I'm sick. So we're lucky I'm doing this, since I haven't accomplished even half of the things on my 'to do while away' list. If I ever catch the person responsible, I am going to make them pay.

Having fulfilled my recent French fantasy (well, one of them... I don't think I've told you of the one involving chilled Mumm, the penthouse suite of the Hotel de Vendome and an unthinkably large portion of fromage blanc au miel de fleurs. I think that's for another time.), I found myself with egg whites on hand.

A familiar drudgery.

I am sick of freezing them because I never seem to come back to the hard little bags of albumen once they have been squirrelled away in the ice box. So I decided to try turning out some of those huge, billowing meringues that you see under cover of glass in all the Parisian bakeries. They are usually expensive, which irks me, because they're made from just egg whites and sugar, and also make me think of Eton Mess which the French probably don't even know about. Shame.

These are what 1950s American teens would call a 'snap'. And they have gooey middles. I feel it important to point that out. 

Meringues

You will need:

5 egg whites (125g)
250g caster sugar

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. We're going to go the Swiss meringue route here: dump the sugar and whites into a heatproof bowl and whisk over simmering water until you can no longer feel grains of sugar when you rub a little of the mixture between your fingers. I know this sounds strange, but it works: the sugar will dissolve.
  3. Remove from the heat and beat with an electric mixer (for ease) until cool, around 10 minutes.
  4. Dollop the mixture onto the prepared sheets, put them into the oven and immediately switch it off. Allow the oven to cool fully before removing the meringues. I left them in there over night and they were fine.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Madeleines


Just recently, while smoking shisha in St. Germain, I reached a decision.

(Before we go any futher, let us just take a moment to be seduced by the alluringly alliterative nature of that statement. Truly, it puts me in the mood to go and order rillettes de veau in Rio De Janeiro, nibble daintily on a bowl of pilaf in Poznan and sip velveteen Merlot in Marlow.)

I wanted to make something French. Not croissants, because I value my sanity. But something exotically unfamiliar and crowd pleasing to hand round with tea after the coq au vin I was planning.

My ability to make any firm plans being weakened by the heavy scent of apple scented molasses tobacco, the idea lay dormant until I reached my kitchen at home some days later, tired, grouchy and wearing an airline uniform that had taken on the aroma of the passenger cabin of a Boeing 777-300ER.

Ultimately, it came down to the fact that I hadn't used my madeleine tray in years. And let's be realistic, it was never going to be croissants, not least because you don't eat them after coq au vin.

(As if that were the only reason.)




I am 80% pleased with how they turned out. Moist, and good flavour, but I want the hump that you get on a commercially produced madeleine. The hump, but none of the oily synthetic taste. I'm thinking I might try adding baking powder, but a friend tells me I just need to bake the batter in those little scalloped boat tins rather than a flat tray. Will I justify the expense? We shall see.

Madeleines

You will need:

30g melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
75g egg yolks (5 medium)
60g caster sugar
45g plain flour
1 tbsp water

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. The madeleines will be in there for  a scant 5 minutes, so make sure it's at temperature as you don't want to leave the batter hanging around.
  2. Put the vanilla, sugar and yolks into a heatproof bowl suspended over simmering water. Whisk gently until the yolks are warm to the touch. Remove from the heat and beat on high speed with an electric mixer until thick and creamy. This will take 9 or 10 minutes. You will be bored.
  3. Add the water. Whisk in.
  4. Sift over the flour and fold in gently. Next fold in the butter.
  5. Grease your madeleine tin and fill each indentation half way with batter; bake for 5 minutes. Cool on a rack.
  6. Serve dusted with icing sugar. Makes 24 2" madeleines.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Gin Parlour @ The Jekyll & Hyde


The Angela Langley, one of the best cocktails I have ever tasted (and the source of major drink envy, since I didn't order one)


Eek.


In my desperation to post without having anything to post about, I am doing something that I don't think I've done before: a review of a bar. Well, not a review as such, but a call to attention. I had a great time there; you should go.

I have, on the subject of not posting very often, been trying to come up with a 31 before 31 'bucket list' type thing, which would give me LOADS of material to write about, but thinking of 31 food related things proved exhausting and if I include the non-sugar fuelled items, it just becomes impossible. Maybe I'll do a 32 before 32 after my birthday in June, which gives me a lot more time to focus on item number 9 on the list: 'Have an international smash hit single with my orchestral version of Try Again.' (Call me, Timbo. Let's make it happen.)

Now, to the matter in hand. I went to this amazing gin parlour. In Birmingham! Of all places.

The Jekyll & Hyde is a pub with a twist; it has another venue within. Downstairs they do beers and cocktails, which are lovely, but it's what they have upstairs that is amazing and, as far as this boy is concerned, unique. A juniper room. A botanical paradise! A velvet rope screened parlour dedicated to that most fragrant of hard liquors, gin.

My Gin Sling was good. But I wanted Jude's Angela Langley.

It was love at first sight.

The Jekyll had, when I visited, 84 gins at the bar. I could have stood and gazed at the bottles in awe all night had it not been for the lovely cocktail waitress who saw that we got a table (I don't think they allow standing drinking upstairs, so we were lucky to get in without a reservation.), and seated us.

I won't lie - we didn't know where to begin. The gin menu seems, at first glance, to be an overload of information. There are cocktails, 'flights' (that's bar code for a selection of gins and mixers to play with as you please), notes on tonics and a few flavour profiles of the different gins available.


I thought this was fantastic. Whereas I would have been more than happy to sip Tanqueray Ten and tonic all evening (and did finish with one), it was great to see so many fun and varied ways to enjoy Mother's Ruin being presented.

Service was smooth and the presentation was top notch. I'm afraid I only have a few Instagram shots (@peterdelicious), since I never thought I'd be blogging about the place, but you can see that the drinks look beautiful. When ordering martinis, we were asked which gin we'd like, what proportion and type of vermouth the bartender should use and given a choice of garnishes - olive, lemon, grapefruit, orange and lime.


The Jekyll even makes its own tonic for those who are brave enough. I went for Fever Tree, but next time I'm going to try theirs.

I also loved the fact that this was a place that knew what a Negroni was and even does one that uses half parts of Campari and Aperol. I mean, for me, that's worth an air fare for, so no excuses.

It's not a perfect experience - I don't know how I feel about some of the cocktails coming in tea cups (it feels rather too Shoreditch for me) - but it's definitely a fantastic night out. I say go. Now!

Let us disclose: in the interests of being fair and open, I should say that I visited The Jekyll & Hyde with friends of my own accord. I paid for all drinks myself (well, a 1/3 split). I'm not doing a sponsored review, I just genuinely liked it. So there.

The Jekyll & Hyde
28 Steelhouse Lane,
Birmingham
B4 6BJ
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