Iron Chef Whisky

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So it was a long weekend with nothing planned on the Saturday and it had been ages since we’d had Iron Chef and it had been reported that my godfather, John, had recently returned from Islay with some single malts to try so we thought, what the hey, and (relatively) impromptu Iron Chef Whisky it was.We started with oysters in whisky – I believe the Talisker and the Caol Ila were used for this purpose. A surprisingly delicious combination, even for me who is not normally wild about oysters.

Another surprisingly appetising morsel was deep fried whisky jelly. Andrew had decided that that this was the ultimate Scottish style experience and the experiment worked out very successfully.

Jasmin then provided us with some delicious scallops with a whisky and mushroom creamy sauce. Apparently whisky flavours and seafood work well together.

We also got to graze on the savoury cheesecake with apple and whisky which Kerry whipped up – fabulous with crackers.

Another whisky and seafood combination – prawns with whisky and honey sauce devised by Rachel. We were certainly big on the delicious pre dinner morsels.

Interspersed with the eating was the tasting of single malts. The first unusual one we tried was Kilchoman – an Islay single malt from a relatively newly established distillery. Established in 2005, it was the first new distillery on Islay in 124 years. It was very good – I failed to write detailed tasting notes, so you are not going to get more than one word descriptions!

And then on to the mains. Salmon cooked in whisky and citrus with chilli and red onion – Andrew’s regular salmon contribution. Lovely combination of flavours.

Also from Andrew, mashed potatoes and whisky jelly cubes. Worked well with a number of our other dishes.

In a totally delicious creation, we had pork stuffed with duck and mushrooms with a whisky sauce thanks to Rachel. Mmmmm.

Pork with black eyed beans and whisky cooked up with James. Tasted wonderful and even better the next day once the whisky had had a chance to infiltrate everything.

Rachel got the chance to trot out her favourite vegetable, brussel sprouts, in this salad. There was also pot roast lamb and whisky glazed roast vegetables which I failed to photograph.

But it didn’t stop there.

Jasmin made a trifle with whisky, raspberries and bananas.

There were also two chocolate cakes – my Maggie Beer whisky-soaked raisin cake and Caroline’s chocolate and prune one. Yum.

After all that food, there was only one thing to do. Drink more whisky.

We moved onto a Bowmore single malt, the Tempest, which is only available at the distillery. Again, very nice.

There was also some Ardbeg to be tried.

And some natural cask strength Caol Ila. With a little bit of water of course.

All was wonderful and the best thing was that I didn’t even have a hangover the next day. I think the key was lots of water and very little wine!

Iron Chef Chocolate

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This was a much discussed and anticipated Iron Chef – except by James who is no major fan of chocolate. Did it disappoint? Not at all.

We started with Nick and Catherine’s entrees – blue cheese and chocolate truffles (with a centre of quince paste) and devils on horseback with chocolate stuffed prunes. Both dishes did a fine job of mixing the chocolate flavours with more savoury ones. Dark chocolate and blue cheese makes a fine combination, and bacon and chocolate? Was there ever any doubt?

It was then time for the main course which had four main components. The first, prepared by Jasmin, was a Cuban dish – coffee encrusted pork with a white chocolate sauce served with fried plantains, mango chutney and rice. The balance of flavours was wonderful and the sauce much less sweet than one might have imagined.

We also had Andrew’s chicken mole, served with burrito wrappers. This was completely delicious – the chilli and the chocolate blended in a fabulous way to create something extremely tasty, which was enjoyed a lot by both Sebastian and James (the chocolate doubter).

Rachel splashed out on venison and provided us with a venison stew, where the chocolate added to the richness that naturally comes with a gamey meat like venison. Completely appropriate for a cold winter night.

Steve and Shell opted for roast pork injected with ground cocoa beans and rubbed with fennel. Pork and chocolate flavours definitely work together and this was meltingly delicious.

Of course, no chocolate themed meal would be complete without dessert, and this too was multi-pronged affair. Jasmin’s chocolate pavlova with raspberries is an old favourite.

I went for the bitter chocolate tart with meringue topping I have made before – sadly I think it didn’t turn out quite as well as the last time, but still delicious.

Finally Sebastian whipped up his white chocolate and raspberry pudding – one he has made before. Very delicious and a break from the dark chocolate.

Shell’s delicious chocolate and pistachio biscotti was served up with hot chocolates, coffee and chocolate port and chocolate liqueur. And more chocolate. All very delicious, but the kind of rich meal you wouldn’t want to be eating every night!

Iron Chef: Pomegranate

The next installment in the Iron Chef series – pomegranate. We were a little sceptical about this one, and then slightly worried about being able to find ingredients. But, as usual, the food ended up being completely delicious.

On arrival at Nick and Catherine’s, we started with vodka, appletiser and pomegranate shots.  Nick had utilised his fancy new cooking equipment to de-constitute and then reconstitute the pomegranate.

Clearly pomegranate is a winner when it comes to drinks. Jasmin also whipped us up pomegranate syrup and champagne cocktails.

But no, the whole day did not just entail drinking. There was actually food consumed as well. We started with two lamb based entrees – pomegranate lamb in puff pastry with hommous made by Catherine and Lebanese lamb and pomegranate pizzas which I produced. Tasty and delicious start.

The main course was extensive.It included pomegranate marinated roast pork belly,  similarly marinated salmon, pomgranate and walnut chicken on pilaf with pomegranate seeds and pumpkin, feta and pomegranate salad.

And as usual, despite the fact we were running out of room to fit it in, every good Iron Chef event finishes with dessert. Today there were rich pickings.

Yoghurt and pomegranate

Pomegranate flan…

Pomegranate icecream and…

pomegranate cake! We really didn’t eat much for dinner that night.

So another afternoon of culinary delights, which proved that pomegranate is a much more versatile ingredient than expected – and also delicious.

Iron Chef Duck

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When a duck attacks you, revenge may be a dish best served cold, but as we discovered at the (pre-organised) Iron Chef Duck, it is also equally good warm, hot and straight off the bbq.  Iron Chef Duck was, as one would imagine, a day of magnificent food.

We started with James’ duck entrees on crispy wontons with plum jam, Rachel’s delicious duck wontons and fabulous smoked duck spring rolls.

 

 

 

 

From there we moved to an enormous tableau of main courses:

Jasmin’s duck salad of walnuts and red onion and pomegranate.

Duck, pork and basil ravioli with porcini mushrooms, lovingly hand-rolled by Jasmin.

Catherine and Nick’s duck pate.

Steve’s fabulous bbq-ed duck with figs accompanied by a pilaf.

Rachel’s duck breast salad.

Andrew’s duck green curry.

Jasmin’s duck fat roasted potatoes.

After all that food there was a pause for eating, palate cleansing grand marnier flavoured jelly shots and a bit of back yard soccer (in which the adults didn’t seem to understand they didn’t need to totally dominate the 4 yr olds to maintain their masculinity).

 

 

 

 

It was then time to continue with the savoury dishes.

Sadly, my black satin duck didn’t have long enough in the fridge to jelly-ify properly, but still tasted pretty yum.

And these tasty little morsels Nick whipped up of duck and grapefruit or orange also tasted just grand.

This seems like a lot of food. It was. But we made a fairly good go at devouring most of it.

We then staggered on to dessert. Pound cake which I made with half a dozen duck eggs and duck egg Portuguese tarts created by Rachel. It must be noted that duck eggs create fabulously yellow desserts.

After all of that we could eat no more, but did manage to keep drinking for some time…All in all, duck was the winner – or rather, loser – of the afternoon.

Iron Chef Mint

And so came the turn of mint… With Jasmin somewhere in the US, our numbers were a little depleted, even more so when the Prossers failed to show.*

In looking for mint recipes, it was clear that mint is generally an add on rather than a central ingredient in a dish, though this doesn’t stop it being a feature ingredient. And the yummy array of dishes for the day proved as much.

The weather was warm and spring-like enough to make mint juleps as a thematically appropriate drink. We then started with the chicken and mint wontons which Rachel had whipped up. The boys in particular were quite keen on these.

In a turn of events that will surprise no one when mint is the theme ingredient, salads made a bit of an appearance. We had three quite different ones: my Vietnamese chicken and mint salad, Andrew’s mint and pea salad and Rachel’s beetroot, haloumi and mint one.

There were also a number of permutations of lamb – Steve’s marinated lamb and mint stir fry, Rachel’s lamb with mint and macadamia pesto and my lamb and mint cutlets on mashed minty peas.

All extremely delicious, and even better, we got to enjoy it all in the mild spring sunsine.

But no meal would be complete without dessert, and to the boy’s delight Rachel delivered with mint and choc-chip ice cream.

Yum!

*The Prossers got the time wrong and turned up at 4pm, just after the rest of us had left…

Iron Chef Carrot

So it was the turn of the humble carrot to be exposed to the Iron Chef treatment. There were many dishes lined up for the evening – we had three of our own in mind, and pretty much everyone made multiple dishes.

Catherine and Nick arrived early so small boys could play and produced the very fabulous carrot baklava, with honey and filo and fetta:

… and a confit of fennel and carrot. Both were completely delicious.

We moved onto soups with two completely different versions, a carrot and ginger soup from Jasmin, and carrot and tarragon from Andrew.

There were also some carrot pakoras from Steve and Shell as a very child-friendly opening snack.

Rachel whipped up some scallops on pureed carrots – possibly just a good excuse to have some big delicious scallops, but no one was complaining. And they did work well with the carrot.

For the main course, fearing a potential lack of protein, I had roasted up a couple of chicken, with the added bonus of roasted carrots cooking, basted in chicken fat, below.

The chickens were also the meat of choice as the Stephanie Alexander recipe for carrot pudding (which I used and modified) suggested it was a good accompaniment for chicken or turkey. Despite seeming like a slightly off concept, the carrot pudding was really very tasty itself.

Rachel had also created a carrot terrine, featuring chicken, and its general fabulousness indicated that indeed chicken and carrot seem to be the perfect match.

There was also carrot salad and plenty of food all round. Over catering is generally a key feature of Iron Chef events. Although it should be said that it wasn’t as over-catered as it could have been. Or perhaps we just all ate a lot…

No meal would be complete with dessert. Usually his fabulous Surreal Gourmet Bites , James whipped us up a warm liquid carrot cake…

…which was followed by Shell’s actual carrot cakes.

The only failure for the evening appeared to be Jasmin’s toffee carrots, which just didn’t quite come together as planned.

…but I struggle making toffee at the best of times!

All in all, an excellent outing for carrot. Next up, mint!

Iron Chef Goat

Meet Tasty the Kid, the centrepiece of Iron Chef Goat. Having this Iron Chef at Nick and Catherine's hosue allowed advantage to be taken of their enormous oven to roast an entire goat as a major feature.

Being a lunchtime Iron Chef also meant that the small boys got to take advantage of outdoors play before we started on the food.

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I just wish Sebastian was as enthusiastic about the sweeping when he is at home!

The grownups hung out in the kitchen, where Nick engaged in crowd-pleasing G&T making. Yum.

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And then it was onto the first food of the day.

First up was my goats cheese and caramelised onion tart.

It was followed by Jasmin's goats' cheese, tomato and mushroom tarts. Both once again proved that goats' cheese + pastry + virtually anything else = deliciousness.

Nick then got to work carving Tasty.

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As you can see, the roasted goat looked delicious and succulent and cooked up beautifully. Nick and Catherine had stuffed it with apples wrapped in bacon which were chopped up and reduced down in the goat jus to produce a lovely sauce. As a goat virgin (that does sound disturbing) I thought that it really did taste somewhere between lamb and beef, although personally I prefer the slightly richer flavour of rosat lamb. But I would certainly not turn up my nose at goat in the future.

While Tasty was the centrepiece of the meal, there were plenty of goaty accompaniments.

Jasmin made  baked potatoes with blue goats' cheese.

Andrew knocked up this visually exciting salad with goats' cheese accompaniment.

Rachel's main course contribution was a goat tagine.

And my contribution was an interpretation of osso buco for goat. I think that it didn't quite match veal as an ingredient,, but still yumminess ensued.

At least Orwell was impressed by it all.

And then it was on to dessert. We started with a lovely platter of cheese from Jasmin (not precisely dessert, but you know what I mean) featuring a goat brie and goat curd to have with pesto.

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Andrew prepared some fabulous chocolate and goats cheese truffles which were delicious.

And then for the grand finale – the magnificent fool made with goats' milk by Rachel which was nothing short of spectactular – and fabulously tasty.

It was served with vanilla ice cream, also made by Rachel with creamy goats' milk.

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So the goat experiment was declared a success. The only disappointment was that due to illness, Steve and Shell couldn't be with us, and neither was their goat rogan josh. But goat nontheless proved versatile and delicious!

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