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Bitches in the British Kitchen

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There are many things I love about Washington. The restaurant and bar scene being first and foremost. The museums, galleries, and various cultural offerings come in second. The amalgamation of outdoor activities—trails, running clubs, vineyards, hikes—after that.

Another thing I love is the smart, unique, and international people you meet. I’ve recently taken a few British blokes under my wing—and boy am I a lucky girl. Because, what’s better than having some charming, well-mannered, accented British men around? Well, having some that can cook.

Last weekend, my friend Craig, who is the Head Chef at the British Embassy, gathered us all together to teach us how to cook. To be honest, I didn’t actually cook—I took pictures and drank wine (because that’s what I do). However, the rest of the gang learned some fancy tricks, including proper dicing techniques, proper blini flipping skills, and the most effective souffle skills all good bakers need.

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Most importantly, we all enjoyed a delicious, extravagant and rich meal accompanied by champagne and delicious wine among friends.

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We began with plenty of champagne and fresh baked bread while we set about cooking the appetizer.

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The appetizer was potato blinis topped with smoked salmon, creme fraiche and micro dill.

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The second course was made-from-scratch sage gnocchi with pancetta, three types of mushrooms (black trumpet, hedgehog and king oyster), black truffles (I die) and a cream sauce.

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The main course was halibut served with scallops, chromes, sugar snap peas and scallions in a light white wine sauce. Chromes, for the record, are these nubbin looking little vegetables that are related to the artichoke. They add a nice crunch to dishes and happened to be in season.

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For dessert, at my request, chocolate souffles.

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Chef Craig was kind enough to provide the recipes for the blinis (which you whip up and top with creme fraiche, salmon and caviar), the sage gnocchi (top with a sauce of your liking, I suggest a cream sauce), and chocolate souffle.

Blinis

Makes approximately 20-30 blinis.

Ingredients:
-2 large baking potatoes (350 grams, or about 12 oz/3 cups flesh)
– 1 whole egg
– 2 egg yolks
– 125 grams all-purpose flour (4.4 oz)
– 100 grams creme fraiche (3.5 oz)
– zest of 1 lemon
– salt and pepper

Instructions:

1. Place the baking potatoes in a pre-heated oven, and bake until soft.
2. Slice the potatoes in two and remove the flesh and place into a kitchen blender. Add the creme fraiche, egg and yolks, lemon zest and seasoning into blender.
3. Blend until smooth
4. Remove from blender and sieve the flour into your mix potato mix. Whisk by hand until smooth and batter is of a thick dropping consistency.

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5. Warm a non-stick pan, and lightly grease with a non-scented oil.
6. Using a spoon or piping bag spoon a small round bit of mix. Start with one or two, to check the mix. (If the mix is a little heavy add 1 tbsp. of creme fraiche to your mix. Or, if the mix is a little too light, add 1 tbsp. of flour. Also check for seasoning.
7. Cook the blinis for approximately two minutes on each side.
8. Serve immediately, topped with smoked salmon, creme fraiche, maybe even a little dill and caviar.

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A tip from the chef: The secret to good blinis is the pan—it needs to be non-stick and at a constant temperature to allow for even color and cooking of blinis.

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The mix can be made in advance, however the blinis must be served fresh and warm for the best results!

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Sage Gnocchi

Yields approximately 300 gnocchi

Ingredients
– 3 lbs potatos
– 3 egg yolks
– 4 eggs
– 3 oz all-purpose flour
– 4.5 oz sage
– 8 oz grated Parmesan (grated)

Instructions:

1. Bake Potato on salt at 350 for 45 minute, or until cooked through.
2. While the potato is cooking, pick and blanch the sage, and liquefy with the egg and egg yolk. Ensure the mix is smooth and completely emulsified.
3. Once the potato is cooked, push through a fine mesh or potato ricer.
4. While it’s still hot, fold in the egg mix, using a plastic cutter and cutting action, to avoid over-working the starch.
5. Once thoroughly combined, and the flour, parmesan, salt and pepper to taste. Gently mix until smooth dough is formed .Do not over-knead the dough.

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6. Cut into desired shape, and blanch in boiling salted water. When the gnocchi float, remove them into a bowl of ice water to refresh.

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Soufflé Technique

You should break this technique into four parts.

1. The moulds. Double line the souffle molds/canisters. Line with a fine layer of butter, refrigerate the moulds, then add another layer of butter. Then, roll caster sugar around the edges and bottom.

The reasons for this process is simple, to allow the soufflé to rise in an even manner and create a straight soufflé. If the buttering is uneven, then the soufflé mix will stick to one side and break once it has risen above the rim of the moulds.

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2. The base.The base should be thick enough that when it is refrigerated it sets in the fridge.

3. The egg whites. Old egg whites are better, separate them a day beforehand and let them sit in the fridge over night. The protein will start to break down and thus will accept the air more, creating lighter whites.

Clean the mixing bowl with vinegar to remove any traces of fat or oil. Start whisking slowly to get the eggs broken down, and slowly add caster sugar and lemon juice. The acid in the lemon juice helps to strengthen the whites, making it firm and dense. You should be looking at a shaving foam texture , if you are brave you can hold the mixing bowl upside down and the gg whites will not fall , if you have got this wrong however you WILL end up having egg whites either on your shoes or work table!!!

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4. The oven. A good oven should be set to 350 degrees. Use a little water on the base of the baking tray, this will cool the base down slightly to avoid it over cooking. You can open the door to check on the souffles, they will not immediately collapse.

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Chef’s tip: Once all these points are taken into consideration there really is no reason for your soufflé not to work. They are not as scary as everybody makes them out to be.They just need to be treated with a lot of love in the preparation process.

Chocolate Soufflé

Ingredients:

– 2 cups whole milk
– 2/3 cup cream
– 1 vanilla pod (substitute 2 tbsp. vanilla)
– 1/2 cup  sugar
– 3 oz dark chocolate
– 1 oz coco powder
–  1 oz corn flour
– 5 egg whites

Instructions:

1. In a pot, bring all liquid (milk and cream) to a boil with the vanilla pods. Whisk in dark chocolate.
2. In a separate bowl, combine the cocoa powder and corn flour and make into paste.
3. Once the chocolate has melted in the pan, whisk into the chocolate mixture.
4. Cook out the corn flour stirring continuously until thick, remove from heat and pour into a clean bowl, cover and refrigerate for later use.
5. Clean the mixing bowl with vinegar to remove any traces of fat or oil.
6. Start whisking slowly to get the egg whites broken down, and slowly add sugar and lemon juice. The acid in the lemon juice helps to strengthen the whites, making it firm and dense. You should be looking at a shaving foam texture.
7. Take four tablespoons into a clean bowl , and beat in one third of the whipped egg whites, until the base has softened, fold in the remaining egg whites .
8. Spoon the mix into the prepared soufflé mold ( four tablespoons panard will make 4-5 soufflés and place on a baking tray with a little water on the base,
9. Bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for approximate 8-10 minutes.

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  1. Ah ah, I was going to make some obnoxious french comment about English food, but between Champagne and Souffle it sounds like the menu wasn’t all that british 😉 sounds pretty fabulous actually.

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