Not too long ago, someone asked me 'so do you cook?'. At the time, I was standing over an oven full of macarons and a small bowl of chocolate ganache. I was a little confused by the question. For 'cook', I was meant to understand 'do more than slave over sweet things'. Honestly, man cannot nourish himself on chocolate and almond meal alone! Duh! I submit, herewith, some slight evidence of other cookery in my kitchen.
On the occasion of my mum's 60th birthday this week, a dinner was prepared in the House of Duncan. My sister did two salads, one teeming with big fat prawns, and shot glasses filled with oysters in a mango-basil purée.
Meanwhile, I roasted some hefty lambshanks (450gm each, A$2 each… I love the Queen Victoria Market!), individually wrapped in foil. They had been rubbed with a paste of garlic, rosemary and pancetta.
The shanks were served on a bed of soft coarse polenta made with my chicken stock. And alongside this was delicious roasted asparagus dressed with olive oil, a little lemon juice, salt flakes and pepper.
Dessert was individual tarts. The pastry was flavoured lightly with cardamom. Inside each tart was a layer of thin beurre bosc pear slices on a frangipane filling. The pear was sprinkled lightly with rosewater before baking.
The tart was covered with a layer of mascarpone cream with a hefty dose of some lovely vanilla that arrived in the mail last week.
The mascarpone cream consisted of 60% mascarpone and 40% thickened cream, with enough pure icing sugar to remove the flatness of the cream, whipped until it could hold its shape well but wasn't drily stiff. Oh, and then there was all those lovely little vanilla seeds! The cream was then applied to the cooled baked tarts with a palette knife. The top surface was smoothed and then I made a pattern in it with the tip of the knife to simulate the slices of pear beneath.
The tarts were served with a glass of the wonderful La Spinetta 'Bricco Quaglia' Moscato d'Asti (2006). (Ignore the Rosso Antico on the glass — it's just a cute glass from a bunch I found on the side of the road recently!)
Cardamom, almond, rose and vanilla are great matches. I had thought the pear would be too, but I wasn't so happy with the outcome. Although a delicate delight, I would have preferred an additional dimension, perhaps the slight acidity of apple instead. Nonetheless, everyone did like the tarts.
Oh look, I just devoted five paragraphs to the sweet stuff. But yes, savoury does get a look-in in my cooking life!