If you’ve been following the VIFC chronicles you may have noticed that so far we’ve only had time periods or ingredients as themes. Last month the first celebrity chef theme was selected, and we got Mr Rick Stein to draw our inspiration from.
Rick Stein. Yeah, he’s ok I suppose.
In a short biography I give you Rick Stein: restaurateur and TV type, OBE, tall, capricorn, Oxford University graduate, actually named Christopher. Mr Stein has done a bunch of TV shows about fish, Asian food, British food, Spanish food and other stuff. Most of us know of Rick Stein. He seems nice enough. Nice like slippers. I have to say I wasn’t desperately thrilled by this draw, despite having scored a dessert which usually makes me both happy (as I can make cake) and relaxed (as I’m quite good at making cake). But I don’t own a single Rick Stein book, and a quick squizz on the BBC food website wasn’t very inspiring and confirmed what I had suspected from my limited recollection of all the Rick Stein I’ve watched- he doesn’t really do desserts. He does curries and paellas and tossy fish and chips. Eventually I procured an actual book from my friend H and found a couple of options that looked practical and tasty, even a cake which I have to say looked divine but didn’t really agree with my somewhat meagre September meeting budget as it needed a lot of olive oil and white wine. I’ll come back to that another day though.
In the end I opted for a cranachan from Rick’s Coast to Coast book- whipped cream flavoured with honey and whisky then combined with toasted oats and fresh raspberries. A simple traditional Scots dish that I was able to bang together between day job and evening appointment. It was ok, though I must confess when I tasted the cream-honey-whisky stage it was divine and I could have yummed the whole bowl. Somehow it lost something, to my mind, once the oats went in, it just wasn’t as moreish. I might have used the first stage just to dollop onto a good apple pie or maybe a flapjack.
As you might expect over the evening we saw plenty of fish and a damned fine curry, a very nice soup and some great little steaky bites followed by three opulent, dairy heavy desserts washed down with a couple of accompanying pints of Thatchers. I can feel my stomach stretching at the memory. But apart from walking home with the sensation of having recently ingested a bowling ball the main impression I left this night with was that actually, it’s not as much fun when you’re just recreating the works of another, culinary master or not.
Because there were no stories of searching, no tales of the terrors of trying to match chocolate to a starter or find an authentic 1920s recipe for custard. We looked up a chef, found something, and did it. As usual, everything was good but it wasn’t quite the same as previous outings of our little club. Perhaps I’m just not that switched on by Mr Stein’s work, or perhaps I should have had another pint and cheered the hell up. Who knows.
A leek and potato soup, heavy on the cream and chunky in texture, really satisfying and served by Ian. I had three helpings, not just because I was starving!
Marinated steak strips, heavy on the spice and more garlic, pleasingly warm and served in a crunchy lettuce leaf wrap. Really tasty and a recommended starter. This one was from Matt.
David graced us with a pork curry with plenty of green chillis and 20+ garlic cloves which oddly didn’t come through that strongly in the finished product! A little too spicy for some but not for me, though the heat did linger on your lips well into the next course. Scrummy.
A fish stew from Tom which I think was a catalan recipe though I might have just made that up. Hake substituted with haddock but to recipe otherwise and it was very nice, though could have maybe used some potatoes to beef it up a bit. Tasty though.
Skate wings in a tomato sauce with golden raisins, saffron and plenty of capers. I’ve never had skate before and this was absolutely beautiful, if a bit of a pain to get off the bone. Firm, meaty flesh, ever so slightly earthy and complimented with sweet tones from the sauce. Nice offset from the capers too, shame I thought they were peas to begin with and ate a forkful of those alone! Stuart wins my dish of the night with this, as it’s not often I pop an ingredient cherry these days. And I love the dish!
A spanish creme brulee flavoured with citrus. Sadly for Matt (cooking under supervision of injured Amanda) there were setting issues here and it was onthe runny side but the flavour really packed a punch. Very nice, real shame about the consistency.
It’s my cranachan! Not for the vegans this one it’s mostly cream, with some honey and booze and crunchy bits, topped with raspberries. Mr Stein quoted golden raspberries and a single malt when he made this for Her Majesty Liz Two, but I think it was fine with normal old red ones and a supermarket special reserve polymalt. It was ok, would have probably frozen into a kick ass ice cream. I’m tempted to experiment with variants maybe blackberries or some cinnamon or cardamon.
A seriously dreamy baked cheesecake, digestive base with lemon in the filling. Creamy, hefty and satisfying and really well accompanied by a sharp berry mix with some limey action in the background. Tip top stuff, a fine example of all the reasons that I love baked cheesecake. Well done Sheena.
So that was that, props again to Stu for providing most of the photos. Next month we’re back to a much emptier canvass with the simple theme of ‘vegetables’ where I have a great open option of main course. I hope those who got a dessert manage to find some inspiration.
Until next time, I’m off for another pint.