• Dacquoise with dark fruits

    Dacquoise w dark fruits

    A Dacquoise is a famous French gateau from the town of Dax.

    It is composed of thin discs of nut meringue layered with flavoured butter cream (coffee is popular) or whipped cream and fresh fruits.
    My original idea was to simply sandwich the layers together with home-made blackcurrant jelly and whipped cream. On the morning of Dacquoise production, the fresh blackberries in the fridge pleaded to play a part. This turned out to be a good idea. The blackberries, dotted over each meringue layer, made a handy structure to ‘contain’ the cream and prop up the layer on top.
    You can use any fresh fruit, with or without a complementary jam or jelly. Pureed apricots are also excellent.

    The Recipe

    Dacquoise with dark fruits
    8 egg whites
    pinch salt
    200g caster sugar
    1 tsp vanilla extract or paste
    150g ground almonds
    75g finely chopped, roasted hazelnuts
    blackcurrant jelly preserve (as above)
    whipped cream
    half cup lightly roasted blanched almonds, chopped
    icing sugar
    Preheat oven to 180C. Line 3 trays with non-stick baking paper. Grease the paper and mark a 20cm circle on each.
    Beat the whites with the salt until very stiff. Beating all the while, gradually add the caster sugar and vanilla. Keep beating until the meringue is very thick and shiny. Gently fold in the nuts by hand. Spread the meringue over the marked circles. Bake the meringues for 20 minutes at 180C and then turn down to 150C and bake for a further 10 minutes. They should be nicely brown. Turn the trays as necessary. Let cool a little, invert onto wire racks and carefully peel away the paper. When cool store in an airtight tin with baking paper between the layers.
    To assemble the Dacquoise:
    Place a meringue on a serving plate. Lightly spread blackcurrant jelly over the meringue. No need to be neat. Dot the meringue with whole blackberries. Dollop the cream around the fruit. Spread blackcurrant jelly over a second meringue circle. Place this over the cream and berries. Press down gently. Top the second circle with berries and cream. Pop the third meringue on top. Gently press the chopped almonds into the top. Dust generously with icing sugar.
    You can keep the cake in the fridge. The meringue layers will be deliciously chewy.

    To make the blackcurrant jelly: Place the blackcurrants, stems and all, in a large pot. Cover with water, pop on a lid and cook over very low heat for an hour. Place a strainer over a large bowl. Line the strainer with 2 layers of muslin. Tip the cooked blackcurrants and juice into the muslin. Tie the muslin into a bag (without squeezing) and suspend this bag over the basin (hanging from the knobs of overhead cupboards works well) so that the juice can drip through. Leave for a few hours until the bag has stopped dripping. Measure 1 cup sugar for each cup juice. In a very large pan stir the juice and sugar together just until the sugar has dissolved. Over very high heat boil the mixture until jelly point has been reached. Measure this on a cooking thermometer or watch carefully – when the mixture wants to keep foaming up to the top of the pan, it is ready. (Forget testing it on a saucer – if it jellies immediately it has gone way too far.) Take off heat, remove scum and cool a little. Pour into sterilised jars and cover.

  • Truffled mushroom risotto

    Truffled mushroom risotto

    Called ‘black gold’ for a good reason, fresh Australian truffles can fetch anywhere from $1000 to $3000 per kilo depending on the intensity of the aroma.

    Aroma is the best indication of truffle quality, not appearance. Big, small, very knobbly or smoother, appearance plays second fiddle to the senses of smell and taste. Truffles have a heady aroma that one not so much smells as senses in the pit of the stomach. It is a very sexy aroma; I’ve seen whole rooms of diners drift into swooning reveries.

    New Zealand and Australian growers have had varying degrees of success with truffières established in the early 1990s. Duncan Garvey’s ‘Perigord Truffles of Tasmania’ harvested the first Australian truffle in June 1999 but truffle production in Tasmania is only now approaching consistent levels. The majority of Australian production is from WA, where it has been something a success story, followed by TAS, with a little more from VIC/NSW.

    If you are lucky enough to source a fresh truffle, local or otherwise, this is the ultimate truffle dish, apart, perhaps, from Buon Ricordo’s (Sydney) truffled egg pasta, which dish Chef Armanda Percuoco is unable to take off the menu for fear of rioting in the streets.
    Mushrooms, rice and cheese are great mates of truffles so I’ve made an ultra mushroomy risotto to complement the shavings of black gold. In the absence of real truffles, invest in a small bottle of good truffle oil and sprinkle that lightly over the risotto just before serving. You’ll get the idea…

    A luxurious dish deserves The Pinot Hedonist’s Trio

    The Recipe

    Truffled mushroom risotto
    15g dried porcini, soaked in 1 cup warm water, strained, liquid and mushrooms reserved
    For the stock:
    1.5 litres chicken stock
    liquid from soaking the porcini
    6 flat brown mushrooms, chopped roughly
    Simmer the chicken stock, liquid from soaking the porcini and the mushrooms together for about 20 minutes. Strain and discard mushrooms. Keep the stock hot.

    For the risotto:
    knob butter & 1 tbsp olive oil
    1 small onion, finely chopped
    3 large flat brown mushrooms, stems removed, caps finely chopped
    1 ½ cups risotto rice
    half glass white wine
    hot stock (as above)
    In a large saucepan heat the butter and a olive oil. Saute the onion until it is translucent but not browned. Add the finely chopped mushrooms and sauté a little longer. Stir in the rice and stir-fry for a minute or two. Add the wine and let bubble away, stirring occasionally. Now add ladles of stock, one at a time, allowing each to absorb before adding the next. The rice should bubble very gently. Stir it occasionally. Cook in this way until the rice is just tender.

    For the mushroom condiment:
    small knob butter
    8 button mushrooms, sliced
    reserved soaked porcini, finely chopped
    big dollop crème fraiche
    salt and pepper
    60g grated Grana or Parmesan
    Saute the button mushrooms and porcini in the butter for a minute or two. Add the crème fraiche and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for half a minute. When the rice is just cooked, stir in the mushroom condiment along with the grated cheese.

    To garnish and serve:
    extra shaved Grana or Parmesan
    shavings of truffle
    Place a large spoonful of risotto in a soup plate. Shake well to spread the risotto flat. Dot with the truffle shavings and garnish with shavings of Grana or Parmesan.