Tag Archives: creamy

Overture’s Mushroom Vol au Vent, Cream Sherry, Shaved Truffle and Parsley

17 May

This is my interpretation of the Mushroom Vol au Vent main course I had in Overture restaurant at the Hidden Valley Wine Estate in Stellenbosch.

I must point out first of all that this Vol au Vent is as far removed from the Seventies buffet staple filled with some dubious looking prawn cocktail as it is possible to be.

The Chef at Overture, Bertus Basson, has elevated the humble pre-bought classic to fine dining status and I managed to get the recipe. Result.

As you drive into Hidden Valley you are surrounded by stunning scenery that is the contrasting backdrop to an architectural, modern building that houses the wine tasting area and Overture restaurant with its beautiful dining terrace taking full advantage of those spectacular views.

We opted for the 4 course Chef’s Menu with wine pairings, there are also 5 and 8 course options and the menu changes daily.

After ordering our food the professional waitress (who also had a personality, very rare) brought us the bread (below bottom). Not just any bread basket though, the ciabatta and bricohe were accompanied by a smoked aubergine puree, red salt, confit garlic, aioli and a selection of olives all served on a slate tile, my new favourite thing. Everything looks good on a slate tile.

My starter (above top) was Variations of Beetroot, Buffalo Ridge feta, balsamic onion. The contrast of the sweet roasted and pureed beets with the sharp salty feta was wonderful along with the finely sliced lacey, crisp toasts. The Washer Up had the Chicken liver parfait, smoked raisin, verjus jelly, raisin jus (below) which was light and creamy. It was followed by a Peach Sorbet palate cleanser.

My main course: Vol au Vent, mushroom, brandy cream, celeriac, Brussel sprouts was the standout dish for me.  Beautifully crisp and light pastry with an intensely rich and creamy mushroom sauce that was perfectly seasoned and totally moreish. The roasted Brussel sprouts and celeriac gave the dish amazing flavour and I don’t usually like them at all. All topped off with some slivered truffle, you can’t go wrong with truffle and mushrooms can you. This dish was heavenly.

The Washer Up ordered the Pickled Ox Tongue, gnocchi, mustard, roots (below) and really enjoyed it. He was trying to overcome his fear of eating tongue and did. Something about being made to eat tongue out of a tin when he was little apparently. The palate cleanser was a Berry Thyme Sorbet, fresh raspberries, milk jelly.

The desserts were huge, surprisingly so, but we managed to force them down. Coffee Souffle, vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce served with a Chocolate Grappa shot. And a Deconstructed Lemon Meringue Pie, cinnamon crumble, lemon ice cream.

Overture restaurant is consistently awarded and in the Top 10 restaurants in South Africa which is a lot to live up to. I’m pleased to say that this place doesn’t disappoint, the excellent food and service is definitely up there with the best.

The secret to a light and very well risen Vol au Vent is (I now know) piling three layers of puff pastry on top of each other, glazing with egg wash in between each layer, cutting a circle in the middle of the square half way through the pastry and, very importantly, trimming the edges so that it can rise evenly.

 Following these steps, and making sure you chill your pastry before you put it in the oven, should result in perfectly puffed up pastry. Well if it worked for me….

You then leave them to cool before removing the circle from the top of the vol au vents.

And then hollowing out the inside so you can fill it with gorgeous creamy mushrooms.

In my version I used Greek yoghurt rather than cream (those chefs love a bit of butter and cream) and I used a sweet sherry rather than brandy because that’s what I had. Mushrooms and sherry are a classic combination anyway, oh and I added a bit of fresh parsley.

*Remember to defrost your puff pastry in the fridge overnight before you need it*

Mushroom Vol au Vent Recipe

Makes 3, vegetarian. Adapted from Bertus Basson

Prep time: 30 mins (not including defrosting) Cooking time: 20-25 mins

  • 1 roll/block puff pastry (defrosted in the fridge overnight)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 100 ml milk
  • 500 gr mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • a big splosh or 2 of sweet sherry or brandy
  • 3 sml pots (375 ml) Greek yoghurt
  • salt & black pepper
  • 3 tbsp cream cheese
  •  a big handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped plus leaves for garnish
  • milk to thin sauce if necessary
  • a couple of thin slices of black truffle, finely julienned (optional)

Whisk together, the egg, sugar and milk with a fork for the glaze and set aside. Roll out the puff pastry on a floured board to a 12 x 12 inch square about 2-3 mm thick. With a sharp knife cut into 9 equal squares 4 x 4 inches each. Three rows of three (see picture above).

Stack three squares on top of each other, brushing with glaze in between each layer. Repeat so you have three stacks of three.  Put these in the fridge for about 15 minutes to chill. Preheat oven to 180 C and line a baking sheet with baking paper.

Remove from the fridge and trim the edges with a sharp knife. Brush the top with the glaze (if you haven’t already) and use a round cutter or glass to cut a circle in the centre of each square about half way through the pastry. Place on the lined baking tray and bake for 20-25 minutes until puffed and golden brown.

Leave to cool then remove the circle from the top of each one. I kept mine  to top each one off, like a little hat. Now hollow them out by removing as much of the pastry as possible from inside.

For the filling, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over a medium high heat and cook the onion and a pinch of salt for about 4 minutes until softened and starting to brown, then add the garlic & thyme and cook for a further minute. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until nicely browned.

Add a couple of sploshes of sherry and cook out for a minute then add the yoghurt, stirring to combine. Season well with salt & black pepper and cook to reduce the sauce slightly and intensify the flavour. Turn off the heat and stir through the cream cheese and chopped parsley.  Taste for seasoning.

I wanted my filling quite thick and creamy, if you would like it more like a sauce, just add some milk at the end until you are happy with the consistency.

To serve: Heat the vol au vent for a few minutes in a warm oven, place on  your serving plate, fill with the mushrooms, top with the pastry circle and garnish with the slivered truffle and parsley leaves. I served this with a simple green salad dressed with olive oil & lemon juice. Roasted Brussel sprouts and celeriac are lovely too if they are in season where you are.

For more information about Hidden Valley wines and Overture Restaurant visit their website here.

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A Really Good Hummus Recipe

9 May

At last, I’ve found an authentic tasting hummus recipe that comes somewhere close to replicating the gorgeous hummus at my favourite Lebanese restaurants. Sure, I can make a half decent tasty hummus, have been making it for years, but I have never been to get anywhere near to the creamy smooth addictiveness of the professionals. Until now that is.

The purists out there are going to say that it’s not authentic because I didn’t use dried chickpeas that I soaked overnight. They would be right and next time I will. If I remember. That’s the problem you see, I am never that organised. I have the best of intentions but it never seems to happen.

That is what is so great about this recipe, it is fabulous even if you don’t do the soaking overnight thing. The secret to the smooth and creaminess is that you rub the skins off of the chickpeas. I’d never heard of that before. It makes such a difference to the texture and flavour of the finished product. It is lighter in colour, much creamier, smoother and less bitter. It is a little bit of a faff but so worth it for the end result, I promise.

Hummus Bi Tahine (Chickpeas with Tahini) Recipe

Serves 3-4 as a snack, vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Desert Candy

Prep time: 20-25 mins with cooked chickpeas. If using dried chickpeas see the original recipe here

  • 1 tin/jar (400 gr) cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 tbsp tahini
  • 4 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • olive oil, cumin, sesame seeds to serve

Place the drained and rinsed chickpeas in a saucepan and cover them with water by at least an inch. Gently rub the chickpeas against each other with your hands in the pan. Do this for a few minutes. Skim off any visible skins from the top.

Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until the chickpeas are very soft. Check by squishing one between your fingers, it should squish very easily. Remove from the heat and skim off any more visible skins but keep the cooking liquid as you will need it later.

 I actually removed the chickpeas from the cooking liquid with a slotted spoon and slipped any remaining skins off of the chickpeas. Fiddly but worth it.

Place the garlic and salt in a mortar and pestle and smush to a paste (you can also do this in a mini chopper). Add the tahini & lemon juice to a processor with the garlic & salt paste and blend until smooth and light coloured. Then add the skinned chickpeas and blend until very smooth. Thin the hummus to the desired consistency with the cooking liquid a tablespoon at a time. Taste and season with more salt as required.

To serve, swirl the hummus onto a deep plate or shallow bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil. Finish with a sprinkling of cumin/paprika and a few sesame seeds.

Use warmed flatbreads, raw carrots, salted crisps (so wrong but so right) or even clean fingers when you run out of everything else, to carry the hummus to your happy mouth and smile.

Unbelieveably Easy Fresh Fig and Almond Ice Cream

16 Aug

This ice cream is amazingly simple to make and it’s vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free and guilt-free. It also tastes lovely. Don’t believe me? Just try it and see. You’re going to love me for this, I promise.

As you probably know I have a huge bag of fresh figs in my freezer (thanks Leigh) and am desperately trying to use them up. The thing is they don’t seem to be going down.  I’ve made Fig Chutney, Fig Jam, Fig Muffins, Fig Granola Crumble, and just recently Fig & Feta Sambouseks.

While I was out walking this morning with the dog, taking pictures of  figs, I felt something crunching under my feet. I  looked down and saw that I was walking over almonds (not Driving Over Lemons).  In the tree above my head I saw that the almond kernels are now hatching out of their furry jackets and falling to the ground.

I picked up as many as I could carry and took them home. The thing is I don’t have any nutcrackers but they look great in the pictures. I must buy some nutcrackers though.

Anyway, back to the ice cream. I’ve seen a few recipes recently for an ice cream made just using frozen bananas. You just freeze them and then whiz them in a blender, that’s it. So I threw a couple of bananas that were going a bit brown into the freezer.

The next day when I went to retrieve them I realised that it was going to be impossible to peel the things because the skins were frozen solid. I’m such an idiot, you are supposed to peel and chop them up first!

Thankfully I found Sawsan’s recipe which explained this in detail so I tried again (with different bananas). I added some coconut milk to get it going, grated coconut and lime zest too. You can eat it like a slushy straight away or freeze it for a few hours to firm it up.

While I was looking in the freezer I saw the huge bag of figs and wondered if it would work with them just as well. So I tried them, and it did. I used low-fat coconut milk and ground almonds for creaminess and vanilla extract for a little sweetness.  I’m sure Greek yoghurt would be lovely in this too if you didn’t want to use coconut milk.

So there it is. A simple ice cream made without an ice cream maker or all that tedious stirring every hour. Just use frozen fruit and blend it with coconut milk or yoghurt and add any other flavourings you like.

Fresh Fig and Almond Ice Cream Recipe

Makes about 1/2 litre, easily doubled, vegan, gluten-free

  • 8 fresh figs (frozen for 24 hours before using)
  • about 200 ml (1/2 tin), low-fat coconut milk, shake the tin before opening
  • 55 gr (1/2 cup) ground almonds
  • a few drops of almond extract (optional)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • flaked almonds, toasted in a dry pan for garnish

Take the figs out of the freezer, quarter them and put them in a blender or food processor with the rest of the ingredients. Pulse to get it going then blend until well mixed and smooth. Taste, if you want it sweeter add some honey.

Eat straight away if you can’t wait or pour into an ice cream tub and freeze for a couple of hours or more until firm. That’s it. How easy is that?

Serve sprinkled with the toasted flaked almonds.

The possibilities are endless. I want to try mango and banana next time with coconut milk. If you want to add some texture with nuts or broken up cookies, (I’m thinking crushed Amaretti biscuits) stir them through after you’ve blended then freeze as usual.

Just remember to peel and chop the bananas, if using, before you freeze them…..

Things That made Me Smile Today……………..

We picked up our new cushions at the weekend for the banquette seat on our terrace.

I’m really pleased with them. The guy that made them has done a fantastic job.

I’m thinking “Ralph Lauren in Provence”….

I just wish it would cool down a bit so I could sit outside and enjoy them!

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