Le Serre Nuove – Thoughts from Glasshouses

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Blueberry & Chocolate Ice Cream

The New Year begins with detox. The Christmas excess and the couple of extra pounds your girth is showing implies that the resolutions of the New Year should be of healthier eating and more exercise. The promises to eat more certain types of food and the promises to cut down on the things that are worse for you; I had made a similar resolution to do that, but I got a new toy for christmas, a new ice cream machine, and was itching to have a play with it. So I lasted three days.

Two of my favourite ingredients are Cacao and Blueberries. Cacao is basically raw chocolate – or more specifically cocoa solids without any cocoa butter, and has gained increasingly popularity in the UK not least as a result of the efforts by Willie Harcourt Cooze, who launched his own series of Cacao products and ‘delectable’ chocolate range. It is amazingly versatile and can be used in a variety of ways (see my earlier post for Venison Stew as an example). The thing I like about it the most is that you can determine how ‘chocolately’ you want to make it, by reducing or adding more sugar, cream or butter. I’ve made this previously by using very little sugar, it is very bitter and a little sour, but a fantastic flavour. Blueberries too, are a very sweet fruit, and very refreshing, and the sweetness of the blueberries compliments, and contrasts, the bitterness of the cacao.

I decided to make this as a chocolate ice cream with a blueberry purée through it. If you wish, you may prefer to simply make a chocolate ice cream, and serve with fresh blueberries.

Blueberry & Chocolate Ice Cream
For the Chocolate (for a Ganache)
100g Cacao
100g Cream
30g Sugar (or to taste)

Grate the cacao and melt over a ban-marie. Add the sugar and cream and mix together until the sugar has dissolved. Leave to cool and thicken.

For the Ice Cream
700 ml Milk (I used Jersey Cow’s Milk in this instance)
6 egg yolks
75g sugar

Separate the egg yolks and whisk together in a large bowl. In a pan hit the milk and sugar over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved (do not let it boil). Slowly, and ensuring you are whisking all the time, gradually add the milk and sugar mixture to the egg yolks. Whisk until the mixture has combined. Return to the heat to allow the mixture to thicken slightly, until it coats the back of a spoon. Mix the ice cream and ganache together and chill for about 6 hours.

Meanwhile, blend 400g of blueberries in a food processor. Pass through a sieve to form a purée.

Once the custard has chilled, churn in your ice cream machine (per your manufactures instructions), normally about 30 minutes. You can either add the purée five minutes before it has finished churning or simply mix together before hand. Serve immediately or freeze for up to a week.

Given how cold Scotland has been recently, and even though we have just had Christmas, this did not feel out-of-place in the depths of winter. It is was a welcome change to some of the food we’ve had recently, and certainly made me start thinking about the summer and not about VAT increase.

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My Favorite Stew

I cannot remember where this came from, but this is one of my favourite recipes that I have played around with recently. I love the way in which venison and chocolate work so well together (Richard Corrigan serves a wonderful chocolate ravioli with venison) and Rowley Leigh was the first chef who I really saw use these ingredients together. The chocolate cuts through the flavours of the meat and really strengthens the taste, adding bitterness and a great sharpness to it. The darker the chocolate the better too (or go the whole hog and use Cacao it is certainly worth it).

Chocolate Venison Stew

1 kilo shoulder (or haunch) venison, diced,
A bottle of red wine (a good Merlot based one would work best.. or a Rioja)
2 tablespoons of olive oil,
2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
2 crushed garlic cloves,
a handful of rosemary and thyme,
2 bay leaves,
1 teaspoon of crushed juniper berries,
Half a teaspoon of crushed peppercorns,
Half a teaspoon of salt.

Combine the ingredients into a marinade, add the meat  and leave overnight.

When you are ready to cook you will also need:
2 tablespoons of oil,
100g of Serrano ham fat or fatty bacon, cubed.
1 large onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
70 grams of bitter black chocolate, grated.
salt and pepper to taste

Fry the ham or bacon in a casserole dish. Remove just before it the oil discolors, and keep to one side. Pat the meat dry (who make also wish to flour the meat) and gently brown before removing and leaving to one side.. Add the onions and carrots and soften over a medium heat in the same pan. Add the marinade, and bring it to a simmering point (that it when it starts to gently bubble). Return both the venison and ham to the dish, and add the spices. Cook in a low-medium oven (i.e. at about 150) for 1 1/2 hours until the meat is tender. You make want to add a drop of water to ensure the meat does not dry out. Return to the hob, and grate the chocolate into the dish, bringing the sauce back to a simmer point or until the sauce is of a decent thickness. Serve immediately.

This is like cooking the Julia Childs version of Beef Burguignon,  as it take can take a few hours, and most of the techniques are classical: Cooking each element in the same dish first, adding and returning them add at different points as it cooks. Try not to use a too spicy wine (like a Syrah) as it can kill the chocolate flavour, and do not go over board with the chocolate – Dairy Milk will not work either!

Regardless of how long it takes to cook – it is worth the wait and great to banish the Autumn blues.

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