A Blonde, A Brunette & A Redhead Walk Into A Kitchen…

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It’s about time I gave you some actual aphrodisia, one from the book, no less. As I may have mentioned, the only actual aphrodisiac with any real effects is booze. So on tonight’s dig-in-and-share menu, it’s three ways with beer, and it’s all about the environment – sharing, sticky fingers and getting messy.

We’re kicking off with a big pot of moules en biere blonde (mussels poached in lager).

beer_steamed_mussels_hp

For our main, we have slowly Guinness-braised sticky beef ribs with a crunchy spring salad.

sticky ribs

And finally, feed one another some raspberries while you dig your spoons into a white chocolate and Framboise (raspberry beer) mousse.

mousse

Moules
– 1kg (2lbs) of mussels
– 4 shallots
– 2 pints (or 1.3l) of biere blonde/light lager
– 1 teaspoon of coarse grain mustard
– 250ml of cream
– 1/2 cup of fresh chopped parsley
– 1/2 cup of fresh chopped thyme

Ribs
– 2.5kg (5lbs) of bone-in beef ribs
– 2 pints (or 1.3l) of Guinness
– 1 bay leaf
– Worcestershire sauce
– a tablespoon of brown sugar
– 100mg of butter
– 50mg of flour
– some cloves
– 2 shallots
– some black peppercorns
– 500ml beef stock
– 2 cloves of garlic
– 1/2 cup of freshly chopped chives

Salad
– half-a-dozen radishes
– a big handful of spring onions
– 1/4 cup of freshly chopped coriander
– 1 red onion
– a handful of red cabbage leaves
– 1 stick of celery
– 1 teaspoon of creamed horseradish & a glug of olive oil for the dressing

Mousse
– 300g white chocolate
– 8 egg whites
– half a lemon (for juice)
– 50g caster sugar
– 500ml of Framboise (raspberry) beer
– 10g of milk or dark chocolate
– a sprig of freshly chopped mint
– some raspberries

So let’s get started. Like several of the best stories ever told, we’re going to start in the middle. We need to get that beef going, because it’s going to melt off the bone and dissolve slowly in your mouth. Place a rack of ribs in roasting tin with a couple of halved shallots, a couple of cloves of peeled garlic, and a bay leaf. A teaspoonful of peppercorns and three or four cloves won’t go amiss. That should be enough seasoning, but feel free to add a little salt.

Now mix 500ml of beef stock, a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce, a pinch of brown sugar, and a pint of Guinness. Keep the rest of the Guinness to one side, since you’ll need more when it reduces during the amount of time it’ll be in the oven. Pour over the beef – it should cover it to about 2/3rds the way up, and cover. Place in an oven pre-heated to around 170 degrees (340 in old money), and immediately turn the heat down to 130 (260) degrees, for about three hours. Every 30 minutes or so, add a little more Guinness and baste. You probably want to remove the cover with about 15-20 minutes of cooking time to go, and push the heat back up to about 170 degrees.

Next up, it’s time for the mousse, because it’s going to need the fridge time to set. We want to melt 400g of white chocolate into 100ml of the Framboise beer. Break it up in a bain-marie and melt it slowly, mixing it into the beer as it melts. Whisk up 8 egg whites with a squeeze of lemon juice until they form soft peaks. Add the sugar and keep whisking into peaks – be careful not to overwhisk. When the chocolate is melted into the beer, add one-third of the egg-white mix and whisk it together quickly. Now fold the remaining egg-white mix slowly in. Spoon the mix into two glass bowls or glasses, and leave to set in the fridge, probably around 3 and a half hours, so should be timed to perfection after the ribs are done. Soak the raspberries in a glassful of the beer. Serve with some shaved or grated milk/dark chocolate, those raspberries and a little chopped mint.

Finally, at T minus 15 minutes, it’s time to get the beef out, and prepare the mussels.

Take the ribs out and lay them on a serving platter, being careful because they may just drop apart (if you’re lucky). Melt the butter in a pan with the flour, stirring continuously to ensure it cooks through and doesn’t burn. Take whatever liquid is left in the bottom of the roasting pan and strain into the pan with the roux, and the remainder of the brown sugar. Keep on a medium heat until the sauce is reduced to a glossy, sticky mix. Pour this over the ribs, and sprinkle over the chopped chives. Cover to let rest while you get on with the mussels.

Scrub and trim the mussels’ beards, and discard any open ones, then tumble them into a nice big pot with a lid. Pour in the lager, together with the rest of the ingredients finely chopped, saving just the cream, the mustard and half the chopped parsley. Whack on the heat, cover, and bring to the boil. Probably 4 or 5 minutes of boiling should be enough to cook the mussels. Stir the mustard into the cream, and add this as you bring off the heat, stirring well into the beer. Discard any mussels that haven’t opened, chuck on the rest of the fresh parsley, and serve in a big bowl for you to both plunge into, with a nice big tearable piece of crusty bread between you.

By this time, the ribs should be hot but not scalding to the touch, allowing you to dig in with your fingers into all that stickiness. The salad should be all nicely chopped, with the horseradish whipped with a fork into the olive oil dressing.

This is meant to be one of those playful meals, rubbing shoulders with one another, and licking the sticky sauces off one another’s fingertips. You could always pair each course with the beer used in it’s preparation (I would certainly do so with the framboise at the end, since there should be plenty left over), but I’d probably stick with a fresh sauvignon-style crisp dry white with the mussels, and a nice big fruity red wine with the beef.

 

 

 

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So Long And Thanks For All The Fish Tacos

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The fact that my fishmonger’s new assistant looks slightly like Amber Heard has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that I’ve been mucking about with fish an awful lot recently.

So, today, since my adventures in tasting menu heaven were sadly curtailed due to the guest of honour’s ill-health, I took another look at one of my fishy standbys:  tacos with mojito salsa.

So, by way of a starting point, make a fish chilli, just like you would a beef one, but substitute a tender white flaky fish. I’m using flounder, and since it is fresh, pale and tender (rather like the fishmonger’s assistant), it doesn’t need to be over-cooked, so I’ll add it last. Lightly fry some garlic, onions & chopped chilli peppers, before adding red kidney beans, and finally chopped tomatoes (I’m using fresh chopped cherry tomatoes and a bit of passata today) and a little tabasco, maybe a tiny bit of coriander (though there is plenty elsewhere, so maybe not). Simmer and stir for 8 minutes or so, then add the fish, chopped into small chunks (it’ll break apart anyway). About another ten minutes on a medium heat should probably do it. An alternative to a white flaky fish would be fresh sardines as they hold up to these flavours pretty well too.

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Now it’s time for the salsa, and this is the bit that makes this dish. Lots of yummy fresh, sparkly ingredients. As you can see, I’ve got garlic, onion, radishes, green apples, celery, peppers and fresh coriander, and it gets blitzed, along with one mojito. Yes, a mojito. The cocktail. Mix white rum, mint and lime in a tall glass and pour it into the salsa. Actually, I used vodka in place of the white rum, just because I had some to hand. My radishes are super hot, but kick in some tabasco or chilli peppers if yours aren’t, and maybe another half a lime’s juice to really make it crackle.

Finally, layer hard taco shells with some rocket & coriander salad, the fish chilli, and the salsa. Blows your head off, but in a very very good way.