Thursday, 3 September 2009

La Rentrée

The rose-like artichoke

Sleep with the fishes...

Plunge a skewer into the flesh, if it emerges warm, the fish is cooked.

For this private dinner I decided to produce a theatrical meal, food that involves labour on the part of the diner as well as the cook.
Paul of Riverford Organics delivered globe artichokes, plucked fresh from the field that morning. Artichokes are a member of the thistle family. It took some time to trim the prickly leaves and steam 30 of them, so I got up at 5am to tackle this workload. Artichokes are one of my favourite foods, an aphrodisiac they say, and they contain a compound called Cynarin which enhances the sweetness of other foods. It's a kind of miracle fruit. If you eat artichoke then drink plain water, the water will taste sweeter. They also contain anti-oxidants, which are anti-ageing; when I eat them I not only feel horny as hell, I'm also getting younger by the minute. I served the tender perfumed artichokes with a Dijon mustard, olive oil and lemon dressing.
The main course was rainbow trout baked in salt. I mixed various herbs; thyme, rosemary, lavender, and lemon zest into the salt and egg white mix. You place a bed of salt below, lay the fish and mound a little snowy duvet cover over the body of the fish, leaving the head and tail exposed. Bake for 25 minutes in the hot oven of the Aga. You'd think the fish would be very salty but this is not the case. It's spectacular to eat, cracking off the salt crust and peeling back the skin to get at the moist flesh.
This summer in France, continuing on my long-standing search for vintage French linens and crockery, I found French maid style pinnies perfect for my volunteer waitresses Alyssia and Angie. I now have a staff uniform! I'm going to insist they wear stockings and suspenders to complete the picture... maybe I should do a fetish night?

A full house...

Angie with the petit fours birthday cakes she made

Sommelier Alyssia in her little apron!


  1. I can't imagine steaming 30 artichokes! You are amazing. And I've alway wanted to bake fish like that in a salt crust. Maybe I'll give it a go! I love reading about your dinners.

  2. YUM. I didn't know they had artichokes!

  3. Hurray! The Queen of the Underground Restaurants is back in the saddle. Here's to a triumphant autumn and winter ;)

  4. I love this meal - artichokes are my favourite though I agree with Italian Dish - how did you steam 30 artichokes? It takes me ages just to boil one in a pan! And it requires a BIG pan -am I doing it wrong?! The salt fish sounds amazing too - would love to try that! I'm booked in for the 5th of Dec so can't wait. I'm coming with a friend who is a big foodie too. Oh and just so you know I dedicated a little award to you on my blog - I hope you don't mind? xxx

  5. Thankyou Curious, so sweet and looking forward to meeting you.
    Italian dish: this salt dish I believe is from Sicily.
    Fingersandtoes:artichokes are Guy Watson's pride and joy, rightly so.
    Signe: thanks gorgeous x
    30 artichokes..I did have a slight losing the will to live moment, rather like when I spent 6 hours frying aubergine slices for aubergine parmigiana. But did not resort to the Keith Floyd coping technique of glugging back wine.

  6. I think artichokes are just wonderful. So much so I wanted a bunch of them as my wedding bouquet and the thought of whoever catches it will have a brillant meal the day after! Much more useful than flowers. Alas everyone thinks it's a silly idea :(

    The menu here sounds great. I love how the tables have been set. Another successful dinner at the UR!

  7. I too have always wanted to bake fish in a salt crust. I will add this to the list of 'must make'!

  8. Ah, sweet artichokes...fantastic..,


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