Missionaries’ Dinner

Last week we were asked to cook for Magdalen’s very own ‘secret’ drinking society. It barely needs to be said that there are few higher honours in the food world than a gig like this one. We settled on a simple yet delicious menu, with a delicate fish starter, an aggressively carnivorous main and a scoffable dessert, it was as follows

Poached Smoke Haddock with Jerusalem Artichoke Veloute and Aerated Pomme Puree

12 Hour Rib Eye Steak, Celeriac Puree, Red Wine and Bone Marrow Sauce and Truffle Honey Carrots

Plum Frangipane Tart with Tonka Bean Ice Cream

The two vegetarians at the meal threw a mild spanner in the works but we visited the market on the morning of the event and worked out a rather involved main course for them. Having unsuccessfully bandied around about 200 different ideas we eventually settled on serving them a faux cannelloni made from celeriac and filled with roasted butternut squash.

For something that we developed on the day of the event we were actually rather pleased with this joint effort, the technique was not one we’d seen before – though I am sure it has been done elsewhere at some point. We even managed to practice the dish before service which it turned out was actually rather sensible given how intricate plating became in the midst of blow torching five kilos of premium beef.

The full description:

Celeriac and Butternut Squash ‘Cannelloni’ with Wild Mushrooms, Violet Potatoes and Beetroot Puree

A collective idiocy seemed to descend for part of the day though. Having visited Tesco (other supermarkets are available) to purchase ingredients, we somehow contrived to walk all the way back to the kitchen, and get thirty minutes into cooking before noticing we had left half the shopping in the supermarket. Thankfully they had managed to put it aside for us and it finally found its way into the fridge before it delayed prep for too long. There was also a side incident where Josh, despite his undeniable cooking talent and a good degree from Oxford, managed to engineer a situation in which he sieved our precious veal stock straight down the sink rather than into any pan. Not sure whether to laugh or cry we subbed in some sheepishly purchased beef stock for the sauce. Embarrassing.

Despite these minor hiccups the dishes came out pretty much as we had envisaged them. The pomme puree for the starter we made super-light by siphoning it through a cream whipper and it was revelatory, unbelievably delicate. The main was gorgeous in its red-blooded simplicity, almost primordial. The dessert went down a storm, the almond-coffee-vanilla echoes of the tonka really reinforcing the beautiful flavour of the tart without drowning out the plums.

Overall the event was a success, the main in particular demonstrated how simple cooking can be when you have first class ingredients and don’t overcomplicate matters – having a waterbath is also rather handy. Happy days.

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