Wednesday, 9 November 2011
Today I had lunch at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. I'm no restaurant critic but it was a truly wonderful meal.
The menu is full of surprises and combinations you wouldn't imagine. The infamous meat fruit is charming, incredibly realistic and delicious. I went with my friend Helen (it was our bon voyage lunch - she's about to go off on a long trip) and her main of chicken with cooked lettuces sounded a bit odd but oh my - I'll never question cooked lettuce again.
All of the dishes needed to be balanced on the fork. Eating one element alone often didn't quite work, but when you had a little of everything - BAM. The brown bread ice cream with salted butter caramel and malted yeast syrup (and a touch of apple and lemon) needed careful balancing. The most magical part of it was that every bite is different - each one a unique combination. It seemed to evolve as you ate.
I adored the Autumn tart - figs and blackberries with vanilla cream and blackcurrant and perfect pastry and biscuit ice cream. (I just can't stop raving. I should probably take a step away from the computer and calm down before I post, but I don't want to. You're just going to have to live with the barrage of delicious/mind-blowing/delighful/wonderful. And yes, if you're confused, I did have a starter and two puddings.)
As a final 'sweet taste' we were given tiny pots of Earl Grey ganache (made with a mixture of milk and dark chocolate) and a long finger of a shortbread-esque biscuit, flavoured with caraway seeds. I've never tasted a sucessful Earl Grey dessert before. I've never tasted caraway in a sweet dish before. Each element was delicious, but together? The combination totally blew me away. It seems so unlikely and difficult to imagine but they blended and enhanced each other perfectly.
This cake also works on an unusual-but-good combination. I chose the recipe because I was intrigued by the ingredients. Lots of treacle, sunflower oil, wholemeal flour, ginger, lots of raising agent and parsnip? As I was putting it together and baking it I was pretty unconvinced.
Yet I liked the first slice. The second? Even more. It just keeps on growing on me. I can only really describe it as dark gingerbread with a nutty taste. The drizzle adds a lovely contrast. It's perfect with a cup of tea and a book (I'm currently addicted to an Icelandic Saga to the point that I missed my tube stop this morning because I was so entranced).
Ginger Root Bundt Cake
(adapted from Short & Sweet by Dan Lepard)
For the cake:
100g dark brown sugar
100g black treacle
150ml sunflower oil
150g parsnip, roughly grated*
4 chunks of stem ginger, chopped
75g plain flour
75g plain wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground ginger
For the drizzle:
50g icing sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon (approx)
finely grated rind of 1/4 lemon
Carefully grease a bundt pan with butter and dust with flour, making sure you get into the cracks and don't forget the central funnel (you can also use a normal 20cm round cake tin - line it with greaseproof paper). Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan).
Separate one of the eggs and set aside the white. Place the yolk and the other egg into the bowl of a stand mixer with the dark brown sugar and whip for 5 minutes - the mixture should be paler and have increased in volume. Add the treacle and oil and whip again until smooth and fully combined. Add the parsnip and ginger and stir to combine. Sieve in the flour, wholemeal flour, baking power, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger and fold in. Finally whisk the remaining egg white to soft peak and gently fold into the mixture.
Spoon into the prepared tin and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer can be inserted into the middle and come out clean or with a few small crumbs. Turn out immediately and let the cake drop down from the pan in its own time (a little boiling water can be poured onto a towel to place underneath the rack if you like - the steam seems to help it unmould).
While the cake cools, sieve the icing sugar into a small bowl. Finely grate the lemon into the bowl. Add the juice litle by little until you have a smooth icing that dribbles off the spoon. Place the cooled cake onto a plate. Either drizzle onto the cake with a spoon or place in a small piping bag.
*Dan suggests you can also use swedes or turnips. You can also use 100% wholemeal flour instead of a mixture.