Sunday 21 December 2014

Cooking a 3-course meal!

For the past few years I have had a 'To Do' list consisting of 12 things I need to accomplish that year - it's a variety of items, including learning new skills, going somewhere new, a physical challenge...etc.  One of my remaining ones for 2014 was to cook a 3-course meal for 4 people.  As a major foodie, I love eating and being around food, but I'm just not much of a cook myself - I'd much rather someone else made it!

However, in the spirit of my annual challenge, I settled down one cold wintery evening surrounded by cookbooks and online recipes to select my menu for my Mama and sisters.
I opted for:

A Jamie Oliver starter - "Favourite Winter Salad" with halloumi, fennel and pomegranate.

A BBC main course - "Stuffed Trout" and purple spouting broccoli

And a 'Serious Eats' dessert - "Fig Tart".

First up a trip to the supermarket to stock up on the ingredients...

Including some items I don't think I've ever bought before!

Then, feeling like a star of my own 'Come Dine With Me' show, the cooking began.  I started with dessert, with visions of 'Great British Bake Off'...

First up was the pastry - desperately hoping to avoid a 'soggy bottom' for my (non-Paul Hollywood & Mary Berry) audience.

While the pastry was left in the fridge for a couple of hours, I set to work on the crème patisserie (pastry cream).  A lovely smell of orange filled the kitchen as I carefully transferred my custard between saucepans and bowls, keen to avoid a scrambled eggs mess - my only previous experience of custard making!

The orange creme pat joined the cooling pastry in the fridge and I moved onto main course.

Kicking off with the fish stuffing.  Yes random sounding I know, but it's what the recipe called for.  

I whizzed up hazelnuts, almonds, pine nuts, anchovies, garlic and capers.

Before combining with eggs, crushed grissini, mint, parmesan, lemon zest and seasoning.

It looked and smelled tasty.

Then, confusingly for my foodie brain, I switched back to dessert as the pastry and cream had now set.

The pastry had been arranged into a flan dish and cooled before I spread the pastry cream over it...

Next it was time to surround myself with one of my favourite fruits, as I halved about 20 figs.

After snapping some fig beauty shots (with my awesome new camera - what do you think?!)...

I carefully arranged the figs on top of my pastry cream.

Before smothering them in a sugar-butter finisher and popping it into the oven.

While the tart cooked, I filled the trout with my nutty-cheesed stuffing...

...and tied them up!

The fig tart came out of the oven (much before the allocated time), looking tasty - it was a challenge to leave it to cool on the side.

I switched to the salad starter, beginning with making some croutons

Then making the plates up with the lettuce, fennel, yoghurt dressing and watercress - adding the colourful pomegranate - bizarrely to me, totally in season in December.

The fried halloumi (aka squeaky cheese) was added just before serving.

Fuelled up by the tasty starter (and the compliments from Mama and sisters), I set to work on the next course...frying the fish

And boiling the purple broccoli (which sadly lost its purpleness once cooked)


A yummy main course, though there was perhaps too much cheese for my taste in the stuffing.

Finally it was pudding time and we tucked into the (delicious - if I might say so myself!) tart.

Not a soggy bottom in sight!

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