About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006
The Missing Link
I'm not saying my kitchen is anything like that of say E Bulli or The Fat Duck, but occasional experiments are performed. Not on any molecular level, it's more like when something hasn't gone completely according to plan and intervention is called for. Sometimes nothing can be done, like early in the ambitious phase of my cooking career when I thought that scallop quenelles with truffles sounded absolutely fabulous. Never mind that I had never made a quenelle before or ever handled a truffle and it was only a small trifle that I didn't actually have a recipe, not to mention that it was for a dinner party that same night, I had supreme confidence in my abilities. So the scallops were pureed and seived, then amalgamated with egg and cream, formed into lovely quenelle shapes, placed in the baking tray, hot water poured in when tragedy struck, Right before my eyes, everyone of them behaved like the polar ice caps during global warming - they sadly melted.

Little bits of truffle floated in the warm creamy sea of dissolved quenelle mixture. There was no way to save the situation for if the egg and cream hasn't incorporated properly, it can't be stabilized. Maybe if I started over again and properly chilled everything and very slowly added the mixture back into another batch of pureed scallops, but there wasn't time. What I can say is that the uncooked mixture tasted divine and when I confessed to one of my dinner party guests what had happened, we quietly consumed the leftovers, kind of like quenelle sushi.

In the kitchen on the weekend I decided to make that British classic Toad in the Hole. In my childhood when I first heard of it, I thought it sounded disgusting. The thought of little toads peeping up from their little burrows was repellent. Until I tried it and was hooked. Puffy batter enclosing a quality pork sausage, served with onion gravy is an elementally winter dish that warms the soul and even better is not too hard to make. A simple Yorkshire pudding batter poured over some lightly browned snags and baked in a hot oven whilst you make the onion sauce. Even better, there were some leftover baked onions, extra flavour and no tears. Too easy.

So long as you have everything else that you need.

With the sausages and batter in the oven, I chopped the onions and browned them off in some butter, added some flour, then looked for some liquid to add. No stock on hand, but that's okay, some secret sauce and water would be fine. When I first met my future wife D, she knew I could cook. One of the first meals she cooked for me was a meat casserole, which I thought was quite tasty. Of course I asked what she had put in, D told me it was a secret. After we were married I was to discover what the secret was. Gravy granules. The only problem at the moment was that we were out of them. How could I boost the flavour and colour of the onion sauce now that it tasted completely watery?

Worcestshire sauce is an onion sauce ingredient that adds both colour and flavour, but too much overwhelms a dish. What about some soy sauce? Okay, in that went. Still thin. Some quality Dijon mustard, check. A dash of red wine vinegar, essential to balance the sweetness of the onions, fine. But it still wasn't right. I racked my brain, always a painful process, searched the cupboards for inspiration, nothing seemed right. Then I saw it, the bright red squeeze bottle that probably graces every home, tomato sauce. I was desperate, so grabbed the bottle and gave it a good squeeze right into my fledgling onion sauce.

And you know what? It came up a treat. Not classical onion sauce, but good enough to eat.
  posted at 7:22 am

At 8:01 am, Blogger Reb said...

Goodness - I haven't come across Toad in the Hole for yonks! My mum's secret gravy-to-pale-and-wartery ingredient is Parisian essence. Just a little gives a really deep colour and rounds out the flavour a bit. But I love the idea of marty sauce!

At 9:45 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi reb, my mum used to have Parisian essence, but I have never bought a bottle myself. Does that make me a food snob? I hope not. The marty sauce filled out the flavour quite nicely, but also added a touch of sweetness. On reflection, perhaps some tomato paste that we did have in the fridge would have been better, but there wouldn't have been a post.


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