Archive for May, 2008

An unbeatable mass of mousse

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

Purists would say white chocolate can’t really be called ‘chocolate’, as it does not contain the essential cocoa solids. Instead, it is made from cocoa butter, sugar, milk solids and lecithin.

Make sure when you’re buying white chocolate that it contains cocoa butter – some inferior brands use vegetable fat. Green & Blacks does an up-market white chocolate which can be found in food stores and most supermarkets. Or you could go all-out and source Valhrona’s wonderful Opera Chocolate.

Not only is its status as a chocolate under fire, but white chocolate is also difficult to work with. When melted, the cocoa butter in white chocolate can occasionally split, creating an oily compound that can be recovered by re-emulsifying.

To do this, melt a small amount of butter or chocolate and whisk back in the ‘oily’ compound.

As with other chocolate, the melted product rapidly turns lumpy and grainy when water is added. To save the mixture, just bring some cream to the boil and add the chocolate a little at a time.

This is a dessert I have being doing on and off in the restaurant for 20 years. What a scary thought!

When I first started doing it, two regular customers used to travel from outside Dublin to the restaurant just for the mousse. I hope you like it too.

White chocolate mousse with raspberry sauce

250ml cream
1 vanilla pod
4 egg yolks
80g caster sugar
2 leaves of gelatin
675g white chocolate
1.25 litre of lightly whipped cream

For the sauce
Raspberry sauce
500g raspberries
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp of water
Extra raspberries and cocoa powder for serving

Sauce method
First, make the sauce by placing the raspberries into a pot, adding the sugar and water and keeping it on a low heat for a few minutes.

Remove the raspberries and place into a blender to puree. Then pass the mixture through a fine sieve to remove the seeds. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

Mousse method
Cut the vanilla pod in half and remove the seeds, then place the pods and the cream in a stainless-steel pot. It is a good idea to place a film of cold water on the bottom of the pot before you add the cream, as this stops it from burning.

While you are bringing the cream to the boil, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla seeds for one minute.

When the cream boils, add half of it to the eggs and sugar and mix, stirring constantly. Then add the remainder of the cream and return to the heat, mixing slowly with a wooden spoon. Cook on a low heat for about two minutes.

The chocolate should be cut into small pieces and added to the mixture, a little at a time. Stir until the chocolate has dissolved, remove the mixture from the heat and cool slightly.

Soak the gelatine in cold water. When it becomes limp, remove it and squeeze it to remove excessive water. Place the gelatine in a pot, along with a few tablespoons of the chocolate mixture, and leave it on a low heat until the gelatine dissolves.

Strain the mixture through a fine sieve and add to the chocolate mixture. If you can’t get gelatine leaves, use 10g of dried gelatine, dissolved in a little warm cream and strained into the mix.

Cover the chocolate mix. Lightly whip the cream in a stainless steel bowl. Then fold the cream into the chocolate mix, a little at a time. Now divide the chocolate into moulds, or a bread tin lined with cling film. Cover and place in a freezer for about five hours.

To serve
Remove the mousse from the freezer and place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes before serving. Place the mousse on the plate, add a little sauce, arrange the raspberries and sprinkle with cocoa powder.

Succulent summer strawberries

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

Strawberries conjure up images of long summer days spent outside in the garden. During my childhood, strawberries grew in our small garden and we devoured them on site – they never got as far as the kitchen table.

Strawberries are a good place to start if you’re interested in growing your own food. They require little maintenance other than watering. With a decent enough summer, fresh garden strawberries can grow until late August.

Two years ago, I grew some Alpine strawberries in my garden to include in my photography book, Food for Life. To my surprise, I was able to grow enough to use some in the restaurant, as well as having enough for use at home.

As with all fruit, you should smell strawberries before buying them. Don’t put your money down if they don’t have that wonderful, unmistakable strawberry scent.

Sable and strawberries with crème anglaise

Ingredients, serves four
2 punnets fresh Irish strawberries, washed and with leaves removed
Crème patisserie
Sable pastry
Crème anglaise
20g icing sugar for dusting
50ml raspberry coulis for garnish

Crème Anglaise
9 egg yolks
130g icing sugar
1/2 litre cream
1/2 litre milk
1vanilla pod

Sable pastry
416g flour
250g butter
166g icing sugar
8g salt
3 yolks
1vanilla pod

Crème patisserie
4 eggs
4 egg yolks
180g icing sugar
150g flour
1vanilla pod
1/2 litre cream
1/2 litre milk
200g butter

Method: crème anglaise
1. Heat the milk and cream with the vanilla pod in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.

2. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and sugar until smooth.

3. When warm, add the cream/milk mixture, little by little, to the eggs and sugar, stirring constantly.

4. Return to the pan and cook over a low heat, stirring constantly until the liquid coats the back of the spoon. Remove from the heat, pass through a fine sieve and cool quickly in cold water.

5. Store in a covered container in the fridge until needed.

Method: sable pastry
1. Dice the butter and cream until the mixture is smooth and white.

2. Add the sugar and salt and mix. Then add in the flour and finally, the egg yolks, and combine into a ball.

3. Remove the pastry from the bowl and flatten it out on a tray lined with parchment paper. Cover with film and allow to rest in the fridge for at least an hour.

4. When the pastry is ready, roll it out into a 4mm thickness. Rest the pastry.

5. Cut disks with a 5cm diameter round cutter. Rest the pastry.

6. Bake in the oven for 6-7 minutes at 175 C, until golden brown.

Method: crème patisserie
1. Whisk eggs, yolks and sugar in a large stainless steel bowl until smooth.

2. Heat milk, cream and vanilla pod in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.

3. When warm, add a little of the milk mix to the eggs, stirring all the while. Add the remainder of the milk mix to the eggs/sugar stirring constantly.

4. Return the liquid to a low heat and cook, stirring constantly (make sure the eggs don’t scramble on the bottom of the pan). The mix is ready when it coats the back the spoon.

5. Mix in the flour, place in an oven dish, cover with parchment and cook at 150 C for 25 minutes.

6. Let the mix cool a little and buzz in the diced butter when still warm.

To serve
1. Place five dots of coulis, (decreasing in size) from 12 o’clock to 3 o’clock on the plate. In between these, place five dots of anglaise, again decreasing in size. Draw a cocktail stick through them to make heart shapes.

2. Assemble the dessert by placing one sable disk on the board, and piping crème patisserie from the centre of the pastry out to the edge.

3. Quarter the strawberries from the top of the cone to the base.

4. Place the strawberry quarters (narrow end towards the centre) around the sable to make a flower shape. Put a dot of crème patisserie in the centre and place another pastry disk on top.

6. Repeat the above (crème patisserie and strawberries) for this layer. Place a sable on top, and place a dot of crème patisserie in the middle. Dust half of the pastry with icing sugar, using a knife to help you get a sharp line. Place half a strawberry on top (with the green leaf still intact).

7. Place the sable stack in the centre of the plate, on top of a small dot of crème patisserie.

Kevin Thornton is a Michelin-starred chef and owner of Thornton’s Restaurant on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.

Clafoutis with a kick

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

Clafoutis is a French take on baked egg custard and, despite custard’s connection with stodgy school dinners, it is in fact a wonderful dish to round off a meal. The dessert has changed little since its creation in 19th-century France.

The trick to achieving a light clafoutis is to add lots of fruit. My favourite sweet clafoutis is one made with griottines (black cherries marinated in kirsch). Other soft fruits work well, however, such as raspberries, blueberries and apricots. Savoury clafoutis are also sometimes on the menu at Thornton’s. I serve courgette clafoutis with spring lamb and wild garlic sauce.

When I first cooked this clafoutis recipe at home for my parents, my dad remarked that he could get drunk on it. There certainly is a kick from the kirsch, but you can omit the alcohol if you like and the recipe will still work well without it.

Clafoutis can be cooked in a flan dish, but at Thornton’s we serve individual clafoutis, as indicated in this recipe.

It is delicious served with fresh vanilla ice cream as the cold of the ice cream contrasts well with the heat of the dish.

Warm cherry clafoutis with lemon sabayon

Ingredients, serves six
300g pitted, halved black cherries
80ml kirsch
sachet of gelatine
500ml milk
250ml cream
1 vanilla pod (split)
6 eggs
150g granulated sugar
100ml flour
5g melted butter as needed
5g granulated sugar as needed

5 eggs
75g granulated sugar
Juice of 2 lemons

The dish
Caster sugar as needed
Vanilla ice cream

Whole black cherries
Sugared vanilla beans

Method: clafoutis
1. Marinade the cherries in the kirsch overnight. Dissolve a sachet of gelatine in water as per instructions on the packet. Set aside for a few minutes.

2. In a large saucepan combine the milk, cream and vanilla pod and bring to the boil.

3. In a small bowl combine the eggs, sugar and flour and whisk to incorporate. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add a quarter of the boiling liquid to the egg mixture, whisking constantly.

Pour the egg mixture into the rest of the cream mixture, turn the heat down low and continue to stir constantly until the mixture thickens to a loose pudding consistency. Discard the vanilla bean. Remove from the heat and cool in a basin of cold water.

4. Preheat the oven to 150C. Arrange six ring moulds 10cm in diameter on a parchment-lined baking sheet, brush the moulds and sheet with melted butter and dust with granulated sugar.

5. Line the bottom of each mould with marinated cherries and pour the cooled cream mixture on top, barely covering the cherries.
Place in the oven to bake for 12 minutes, or until the custard is set and begins to bubble. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Method: sabayon
1. Fill a medium-sized saucepan with 5cm of water and bring to the boil.

2. Combine the eggs, sugar and lemon juice in a separate bowl and whisk to incorporate. Set the bowl into the saucepan, ensuring that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.
Reduce the heat and continue to whisk until the sabayon is light and thickened. Remove from the heat and set aside.

To serve
1. Spoon some sabayon on a plate, set a clafoutis in the centre and carefully lift off the ring mould.

2. Sprinkle the entire dish with sugar and caramelise the sabayon and clafoutis with a propane torch if you have one, or quickly, under hot a grill.

3. Place a scoop of ice cream on top of the clafoutis and garnish with black cherries and a vanilla pod.

Kevin Thornton is a Michelin-starred chef and owner of Thornton’s Restaurant on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.

Meeting the vegetarian challenge

Sunday, May 4th, 2008

Eating out can be a frustrating task for vegetarians. My partner and youngest son were non-meat eaters for 12 years, and finding a restaurant with good vegetarian choices was never an easy task.

But living with non-meat eaters challenged me to develop lots of new vegetarian dishes, and I am proud of the vegetarian menu at Thornton’ s.

A ridiculously high proportion of vegetables consumed in Ireland are imported from other countries. When cooking with vegetables, try and opt for locally grown, seasonal produce, which should have a good flavour.

Ingredients – open celeriac ravioli with St George mushrooms and shallot sauce

Celeriac mousse
1 diced shallot
200g celeriac, peeled and diced
100ml cream
3 egg yolks
1 whole egg
7g sea salt
4g fresh milled pepper
10ml of truffle oil
Butter for the mould

Ingredients – lasagne
12 celeriac slices (thinly sliced)
1 celeriac mousse
2 shallots
5 strings of chopped chives
10g unsalted butter
12 sliced St George mushrooms
4 morel mushrooms
10ml olive oil
250ml water
Sea salt
Fresh milled pepper
Sliced spring truffle

Ingredients – truffle sauce
1 diced shallot
100ml of truffle juice
200ml of vegetable stock
5g truffle trimmings
20ml Madeira wine
Drop of truffle oil
20g unsalted butter, cubed
Sea salt
Fresh milled pepper

Ingredients – garnish
12 peeled pearl onions
12 morel mushrooms
12 white turnips, washed and peeled
12 slices of truffle
10ml truffle oil
5ml olive oil
1tsp honey
5g unsalted butter
100ml water
Sea salt
Fresh milled white pepper

Method: celeriac ravioli
1. Heat a pot and add the truffle oil, then add the celeriac season with salt and pepper. Cook on a low heat for ten minutes without colouring the vegetable. Add the cream and bring the mixture to the boil. Reduce the heat and cook until the celeriac is soft.

2. Remove from the heat and pure´e the mixture in a blender, then cool slightly.

3. Mix in the egg yolks and whole egg, taste and correct the seasoning.

4. Butter a medium-sized terrine dish, add the celeriac puree and put the lid on top.

5. Place the terrine in a bain-marie (a container half-full with hot water) and put it in the oven at 110C for approx 50 minutes.

6. Stick a knife into the mousse to test if it’s done – if it comes out clean, it’s cooked.

7. Remove from the oven and let the mousse rest for 20 minutes. Place a tray on top of the terrine, turn it upside down carefully and remove the terrine from the mousse. Cut into slices for use in the lasagne.

Method: lasagne
1. Heat a pot and bring the water to the boil, along with the butter and sea salt. Add the sliced celeriac and cook for two minutes. Remove and season with pepper.

2. Season the St George mushrooms and saute in a hot pan, using a drop of olive oil. Add the chopped chives, taste and correct the seasoning.

3. Assemble the lasagne by placing a slice of the celeriac mousse in the centre of the plate, then laying a celeriac slice on top.
Add another layer of mousse and place the sliced mushrooms on top. Place a few slices of truffle on top of the mousse, then cover with a slice of celeriac, then mushroom, then truffle.
Finish off the top with a whole St George mushroom.

Method: truffle sauce
1. Heat a pot, add the oil and saute the shallot without colouring it.

2. Add the truffle juice and Madeira and reduce by half. Add the vegetable stock and reduce the liquid by three quarters, taste and season. Fold in the butter and serve.

Method: garnish
1. Melt the butter in a pot, add the pearl onions, season and pour over 20ml of water. Cook at low heat for five to ten minutes, and correct the seasoning.

2. Heat a little olive oil in a pan, add the turnips and season. Add the honey and cook over a low heat for a few minutes (do not let the honey caramelise, all you are trying to do is take the bitterness out of the turnip). Add the rest of the water and cook over a low heat for a few minutes, then correct the seasoning, When all the liquid has evaporated the turnips should be cooked.

3. Wipe the mushrooms clean with a cloth, then heat a little truffle oil in a pan. Add the mushrooms, season and saute for one minute. Remove and serve.

To serve
Place the lasagne in the centre of the plate, arrange the vegetables around the plate, add the truffle sauce and serve with new potatoes.

Kevin Thornton is a Michelin-starred chef and owner of Thornton’s Restaurant on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.