Flavour Saviour - August 2010

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By Philip Brocklehurst of Yellowwedge Cheese

The foodie press has been obsessing of the late about new ways of flavour, from Laura Santtin’ is Umami Paste of the arrival of Pierre Herme’s Strawberry and Wasabi Macaroons in the food hall at Selfridges, which to my enlightened St Margarets readers is surely all so much rose water under the Emma Brigewater spoon-rests by now. But the eagle eyed may recently have spotted the crest of the latest flavour wave about to break up upon your culinary shores - Verjuice, or Verjus, an ancient condiment now enjoying a revival, thanks in no small parts to new South African producer, The Verjuice Co. Happily Yellowwedge are their first London stockist.

Verjuice is an unfermented grape juice made by pressing unripe grapes. It has been with us since the middle ages and it was originally used in many contexts where today we’d use either wine, lemon juice or vinegar. The Verjuice Co makes varieties from red and white grape, and the caramelised Verjuice syrup.

In my kitchen we’ve already been using Verjuice to deglaze roasting pans and to enrich casseroles and stews, in reductions, beurres blancs and more. I find it works really well in cutting the richness of a creamy sauce. And as the summer months roll round it’ll be appearing in salad dressings, soups, pasta sauces and fruit salads - in fact if your round for dinner any-time soon it’s very likely there’ll be Verjuice involved somewhere! The caramelised Verjuice syrup is great brushed onto roast chicken towards the end of cooking, used on the barbeque, or you might like to drizzle some over fresh young goat’s cheese like Trickle or Charbis Feuille.

As I mentioned, the mainstream food press are catching on fast to the offerings from The Verjuuice Co [the Evening Standard and the radio 4 food Programme are the latest as I write this], so strike while the skillet’s hot and be on the vanguard of the Verjuice cognoscenti, before it starts appearing on the shelves of very Tom, Dick and Harvey Nicks. Elsewhere on the page I’ve included some of my favourite summer recipes, a couple now enlivened by the addition of Verjuice. Let me know when you’re resulting them up, I’ll bring the cheese…

EDITOR’S COMMENT

Philip will be our regular food contributor. You can contact him at foodphile@mystmargarets.com

A Summer Garden Supper

To my mind… The only thing better than sharing good food with good friends, is shearing it OUTSIDE in the garden on a balmy summer evening. Mojitos in the sun to start, lanterns and candles by the end, and in between platters plied with the best the season has to offer. And for the menu here not only and you buy all the ingredients locally [yellowwedge, Armstrong’s, Zoran’s and the Streets should cover it] but most of the work can be done in advance, leaving you all the more time to relax and enjoy that Mojito.

Tarragon Chicken

Use one skin on chicken breast per person, the day before the poach the chicken in water and as it comes to the boil add a mirepoix of finely diced carrot, celery and onion, and a couple of springs of tarragon. Simmer for 10 minutes and then allow to cool in the poaching liquor. Remove the skins and wrap the breasts in foil, reserving the liquor. On the day mix 60ml mayonnaise and a desert spoon of the stock per chicken breast with some chopped fresh tarragon. Slice the chicken, cover with the mayonnaise and chill for at least three hours. Serve with the slices of lemon and some more fresh tarragon scattered over.

Salad of Chicory, Pear, Blue Cheese and Pecans

Make a salad of chicory, dried pears, broken pecan nuts and crumbled Harbourne or Beenleigh blue cheese, and dress with simple vinaigrette using 1 part Verjuice, 1 part cider vinegar, 5 parts olive oil and a dollop of whole grain mustard.

Griddled Asparagus

In a ridged pan griddle some asparagus spears which have been tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper. Sprinkle with a few drops of white Verjuice and serve at room [garden] temperature.

Potato and Rosemary Sourdough Pain Grille with Gruyere

Take thin slices of potato and rosemary sourdough bread and drizzle with good olive oil. Top with grated Gruyere and place in a hot oven around 8 minutes. Serve warm.

Pea, Pancetta and Parmesan Caesar

If ever I am stranded on a desert island please, please let it be blesses with a pea plantation, for I cannot imagine life without peas. This dish celebrates their sweet earthy flavour and compliments it with salty, creamy savouriness.

Per Person:

  • 100g Peas
  • A small handful of pea shots
  • 25g Pancetta cubes
  • 1 Tablespoon of grated Parmesan
  • A few drops of white Verjuice
  • 2 tablespoons Caesar salad dressing [you can make your own but I always buy Cardini’s]

First slowly fry the pancetta until it has realised its fat and is nicely crisp. Blanch the peas, refresh in ice water, and drain. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and stir in the warm fat from the pancetta. Divide into individual ring moulds and chill for an hour or so. The finished rounds will not completely hold their shape, but that is part of their charm. Try this with some poached salmon and buttered Jersey Royals.

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