Not just vegetable bling
If you love tomatoes like me then you’ll love Fondue de Tomatoes. It’s a great accompaniment for meat or fish but, frankly, just chuck it on crusty baguette and enjoy the tomato flavour on steroids. Isn’t it annoying that the bought tomato in Britain is such a depressing specimen—perfectly round, uniformly red, full of water and without exception, utterly devoid of taste? Basically plum tomatoes were blanched, refreshed in ice water, peeled, deseeded and roughly diced—that’s called Concasse. Before blanching the eyes were removed from the tomatoes and the bottoms lightly crossed with a knife. Finely diced shallots were sweated in butter with crushed garlic. The diced tomatoes were then added along with a Bouquet Garni and seasoning. A cartouche went on and the mix was cooked until almost dry.
Duxelles sèche is a mixture of finely chopped mushrooms, shallots, and parsley cooked slowly in butter until it becomes thick. To make a white duxelles it’s necessary to add a small amount of lemon juice so the white button mushrooms do not darken. It delivers a real umami punch and there should be no taste of lemon at the end.
Now I know duxelles as that inner layer of mushroom wrapping a Beef Wellington but it’s way more versatile than that. As a stuffing it has legs, say in ravioli or pushed under chicken skin where it can absorb juices during roasting. Use it as a simple garnish. It’s delicious on toast. Alternatively, stir it through scrambled eggs or fold it into mashed potatoes.
Apparently turned vegetables are a thing. I don’t mean vegetables that are on the turn or have turned bad. I mean root vegetables that have been shaped into little grenades using a peculiar knife with a short curved blade. On our first day we were warned most chefs hate turning and we would too. Presumably because it’s time consuming and mind numbing.
Technically a turned vegetable has 7 sides, is 50mm long and about 20mm wide at its thickest point. It’s fair to say we all squared up to our mooli with some trepidation. A mooli is not the easiest vegetable to turn because the bloody thing is translucent. Trying to see the sides form as turns were made proved quite difficult and some of the shapes produced looked more like disturbing disfigurements than anything remotely uniform. I’m tempted to cry “life’s too short” but presentation is important. And it doesn’t stop there. You can really bling root vegetables by glazing them. This involves boiling them in water, butter, salt and sugar to form an emulsion. Beneath a cartouche the vegetables take on a sweet sheen and become Légumes Glacés. To be honest, these little suckers taste great, particularly the baby onions.