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Monthly Archives: August 2010

Over pints of Rebellion, the local bitter, the parishioners of Bray
are beginning to mutter darkly about the man who catapulted their
genteel Berkshire village into the foodie stratosphere. While they do not deny that Heston Blumenthal and his idiosyncratic
servings of mustard ice cream, crab biscuits and oak moss have done much
for Bray, they fear that Britain’s most famous purveyor of molecular
gastronomy may finally have gone too far. Not content with turning The Ringers pub into the Fat Duck restaurant
– which was named the world’s best in 2005 – and taking over the Golden
Hind, where champagne sells for £13.50 a glass, Blumenthal has now
seized control of The Crown, the last remaining traditional drinking
hole. His expansion has left some pub-goers claiming they are the victims
of a creeping culinary colonialism, and given rise to suggestions that
the chef is trying to turn Bray into "Hestonworld". To add to the controversy, the village is also fizzing with talk that
the TV chef’s acquisition of their last refuge from the pre- and
post-Fat Duck crowd, came at the expense of his old boss Marco Pierre
White, the original bad-boy of TV cheffery. According to the gossip, White fancied taking on the pub and challenging his former employee on his own home turf. The Crown is a paring knife’s throw from the front door of the Fat
Duck and the presence of White – the youngest chef ever to have been
awarded three Michelin stars – would certainly have increased
competition in Bray, whose restaurants already boast seven Michelin
stars between them. Management at The Crown confirmed White’s interest, telling the
Guardian on a visit this week that "Marco was in for it", while local
sources with knowledge of the sale confirmed that he had expressed
interest to the previous leaseholders. The chef himself did not return
calls. However, Blumenthal’s camp denies that he bought The Crown to
shut out his rival. "We bought it because it became available and it was
a good deal, but we don’t have any plan for it," said Monica Brown,
Blumenthal’s spokeswoman. "Our only plan is to keep it as a local village pub. Marco coming to Bray wouldn’t have had any effect on Heston at all." Judging by the first reviews, Blumenthal is struggling to maintain
the pub’s reputation as a cosy local boozer. Smart uniforms for staff,
new deep-pile carpet and bottles of £200 vintage Dom Perignon champagne
have transformed the ambience – to the dismay of many locals. The menu, devised by Ashley Palmer-Watts, head chef at the Fat Duck,
features flourishes such as Genoan bangna calda anchovy dip, marrowbone
sauce with steak and a mandarin and thyme-infused soup for dessert. But the layers of smoke-stained paint that have been stripped away
from its walls and The Crown’s reupholstered chairs are, according to Di
Evans, who was drinking a mile away in The George, concrete proof of
Blumenthal’s growing influence in the village and how it "irritates the
hell out of the people in Bray". Many former Crown devotees have now decamped to The George, where the
bitter is 20p a pint cheaper. "They call it Hestonworld, like Rick
Stein in Padstow," Evans said. "The Crown was a good pub which did great
food. They have a bit to live up to." Another drinker said: "I haven’t been in there since he took over.
There’s a feeling he is trying to create Heston’s kingdom and buy up all
the pubs over there. Still, good luck to him. It’s his money and he’s
put Bray on the map." Blumenthal now dominates the High Street in Bray, with The Golden
Hind and The Crown bookending the Fat Duck and his hi-tech development
kitchen. He is also putting the finishing touches to his biggest opening
yet – Dinner By Heston Blumenthal – at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in
Knightsbridge, London, which is due to open in December. His swelling empire, which also includes TV work for Channel 4 and a
major advertising contract with Waitrose, echoes that of Gordon Ramsay,
who in June announced he was shutting The Devonshire, his gastropub in
west London, after it "failed to meet expectations". And, as Evans points out, it also bears comparison with the strategy
of Stein, the TV chef who specialises in fish and seafood and has opened
four restaurants in the small Cornish fishing port of Padstow. But there remains a degree of puzzlement as to why Blumenthal would
want to run a second pub when he made his reputation by creating
£150-a-head haute-cuisine extravaganzas. Pat Goodman, who worked in The Crown before Blumenthal took over,
bemoaned the loss of its cosy English pub ambience. What’s more, she
said, the chef himself had also loved and regularly used the pub. "The atmosphere is soulless," said Peter Langdon, who used to dine regularly at The Crown. "Any week night you went there would be a little crowd of locals and
those people don’t seem to be there as much, so it feels more like a
chain restaurant." An anonymous online review from a regular complained that Blumenthal
has "ruined this great pub" while the local newspaper last week
published an irate letter from a former customer complaining about price
rises. The restaurant blogger Douglas Blyde warned that the new acquisition
could become "a holding pen for Fat Duck diners". Janice Eden-Bayley,
clerk to the parish council, said she had heard similar grumbles. "The previous landlord and landlady had been there donkey’s years,"
she said. "They were well liked and it was a really lively traditional
village pub. I do get the feeling people were upset at losing their
local pub."

© Guardian News and Media 2010

www.thefoodieshandbook.com

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September sees both the beginning of harvest and the first signs of autumn. Game is at its best this month as are our home grown leeks, marrows and tomatoes. Vegetables in season are: aubergines, beetroot, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, celery, chanterelle, courgettes, cucumbers, fennel, garlic, green beans, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, mangetout, marrows, okra, onions, parsnips, peppers, potatoes, pumpkins, radishes, sweet corn, swedes and tomatoes. Fruits in season are: apricots, Asian pears, bilberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, cherries, damsons, figs, gooseberries, melons, nectarines, peaches, pomegranates, plumbs, raspberries, redcurrants and strawberries. Seafood’s in season are: Dover sole, grey mullet, haddock, halibut, herring, lobster, pilchards, plaice, prawns, red mullet, sea bass, sea bream, shrimps, skate, squid and turbot. Meats in season are: duck, grouse, guinea fowl, pigeon, quail, rabbit and venison.

Christmas cake is a rich dark fruitcake
usually fortified with brandy or dark rum, coated with an apricot
glaze, marzipan and covered in a white icing. Traditionally eaten at
Christmas. Several recipes
exist for Christmas cake, however I have only come across one that
works without fail. The following family recipe is based upon the
classic English Be-Ro recipe. To produce take 350g/12oz of plain flour,
225g/8oz of unsalted butter, 225g/8oz of caster sugar, 4 medium hens
eggs, 225g/8oz of currants, 225g/8oz of sultanas, 225g/8oz of raisins,
100g/4oz of glace cherries, halved, 100g/4oz of cut mixed peel, 100g/4oz
of ground almonds, a teaspoon of mixed spice and a quality brandy.
Macerate the currents, sultanas and raisins with the brandy overnight.
Preheat an oven to 150° C/300° F gas mark 2. Grease and line a cake tin, use either a 23cm/9inch round or 20½
cm/8inch square tin. Sieve the flour and mixed spice into a bowl. Add
the almonds. Beat the eggs together with the milk. Soften the butter.
Cube and cream together with the sugar. Slowly stir in the flour and
then the egg mixture. When completely mixed, add the dried fruit,
cherries and mixed peel. Stir until evenly distributed. Place the
mixture into the prepared tin and protect with brown paper. Bake for
about 3½ to 4 hours. Remove from the
oven and allow to cool slightly. Turn onto a wire rack. Pouring a small
amount of brandy over the cake whilst warm. Allow to cool thoroughly.
Wrap with greaseproof paper and then tinfoil, store in an airtight
container. Store for at least 4 weeks before use.

This is a classic hot German dessert consisting of apples, flavoured with cinnamon and raisins, baked within a crispy pastry case. To produce strudel take 500g of cooking apples, 150g of melted butter, 150g of demerara sugar, 100g of raisins, 100g of toasted and chopped walnuts, 50g cake crumb and 1tsp of ground cinnamon and prepared strudel paste. To produce strudel paste take 300g of strong plain white flour, 200ml of warm water, 40ml of quality vegetable oil, 1tsp of salt and icing sugar for dusting. Sieve the flour and salt together into a bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the oil and water. Work into a ball and knead for upto 10 minuets until smooth. Cover with a moist cloth and allow to rest for 2 hours. Preheat an oven to 190°C gas mark 5. Roll out the pastry as thinly as possible on a floured surface, cover with a damp tea towel and rest for 15 minuets. Using the floured backs of the hands stretch the pastry, working from the centre of the dough out to the edges. Do this gently and slowly until almost transparent, you should just be able to see the backs of the hands. The apples should be pealed and cored, then sweated in butter until soft. Next add the remaining ingredients and stir. Remove from the heat. Brush the strudel paste, which should be in a rectangular shape, with melted butter. Sprinkle the apple filling evenly over the dough, and starting at one end roll the dough and filling into a sausage shape. Lift onto a baking tray and brush with melted butter. Cook for 30-40 minuets. Dust with icing sugar. Serve warm with ‘Chantilly’.

The body of an acclaimed French chef has been found hidden in a freezer, two years after he went missing. Detectives discovered the frozen corpse of
Jean-Francois Poinard after his girlfriend Guylene Collober, 51, told
her daughter "something unfortunate" had happened to him. The 71-year-old’s body is believed to have been secreted in a freezer at their home in Lyon for up to two years. He was found in the foetal position and covered with plastic bags. Ms Collober is said to have made the revelation to her daughter during a night out. Her daughter told police, who found Mr Poinard’s body at the flat. Ms Collober is said to have collapsed in tears when officers arrived, saying: "I think you’ll find what you’re looking for." A police spokesman said: "An initial examination suggests the body could have been there for up to two years. "A full post-mortem examination will be carried out to discover the precise cause of death." He
said Ms Collober had been taken into custody and charged with hiding a
body and that further charges would depend on the findings of the
post-mortem. Mr Poinard was a famous chef in the 1970s and 80s, and ran a series of restaurants in the French culinary capital of Lyon. He has been described by food critics as one of the ‘great names’ in gastronomy.

You don’t have to have an expensive machine or a magic ball in order make your own ice-cream, a freezer will do just as well. Home-made ice-cream is healthier and tastier than anything you could find in the shops. The flavour possibilities are endless: brown bread, chilli chocolate, golden syrup, liqueur, soft fruits, marmalade, etc, etc. A basic vanilla flavoured ice-cream is easy to make. Begin by setting your freezer to -21°C. Next gently heat 300ml/10fl oz of full fat milk. It should be allowed to simmer but not boil. Meanwhile place a bowl onto a damp cloth. Add 100g/3½oz of castor sugar. Separate 4 medium eggs and whisk the yolks. Discard the whites. Combine the egg yolks with the sugar in the bowl. Slowly pour the heated milk into the combined sugar and eggs, whisking continuously. Return the mixture to the pan. Heat gently. Stir continuously until thickened. Remove from the heat. Slice 2 fresh vanilla pods lengthways and remove the seeds with the tip of a knife. Add the vanilla seeds to the mixture in the pan. The vanilla flavour will infuse into the mixture. Allow to cool. While still warm blend 300ml/10fl oz of double cream into the mixture. Return the pan to a low heat. Whisk until the ingredients are fully combined. Remove from the heat. Next pour into a shallow container and cover. Place in the freezer for 2 hours. Remove from the freezer and mash the mixture with a fork. Make sure to break any ice crystals which have formed along the sides. Cover and return to the freezer. After a further 30 minutes again remove from the freezer and mash with a fork. Repeat this process for up to 4 hours, until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Keep covered in the freezer until ready to serve.