Tuesday, 15 September 2009

TGRWT #18 Plum & Blue Cheese Round-Up

I've really enjoyed hosting TGRWT #18 on behalf of Martin Lersch at blog.khymos, inviting both amateur food bloggers and professional chefs to suggest dishes that combine stone fruits of genus prunus subgenus prunus with matured cultures of cow's, sheep's or goat's milk with added penicillium. Put more simply, that's dishes that combine plum with blue cheese.
I'm delighted with the response which, with 30 submissions from countries as far apart as the UK, New Zealand, Mexico and Germany, was well beyond what I'd envisaged. I wasn't just pleased with the volume of responses but also with the overall quality and the culinary intelligence applied by so many of the respondents. Click on the links to read individual contributions and on the photos to enlarge them.

They Go Really Well Together - Plum & Blue CheeseThe question I posed was: Do these two go really well together? But I was so pleased to see several amateur cooks change this question into the one that the professionals posed for themselves: What do I need to do to balance and enhance the flavours, aromas and textures of these ingredients? The predominant flavours of plum are sweet and sour and those of blue cheese are salty and astringent. So lay plum and blue cheese side to side and the result is unlikely to be appetising.
But that wasn't going to stop John Sconzo of Doc Sconz - The Blog from getting in straight away with his initial suggestion of a Toasted Open Sandwich of Sliced California Plum and Boucher Blue Cheese.
In fairness, I should point out that Doc hinted at some more sophisticated combinations and subsequently came up with one (see below). I might well have ignored this entry, were it not for the fact that John is responsible for me being employed at the amazing Restaurante Ferrero up here in the Valencian mountains. So I'll let him off completely and give his sandwich pride of place in the round-up. In any case, John may be a global gourmet, but he never claimed to be a creative cook.Toasted open sandwich of sliced California plum and Boucher Blue cheese
At this point I must confess that I was initially concerned that the highlight of TGRWT #18 might be Prune, Rocket & Crumbled Stilton Salad. I was wondering whether I would see some more creative entries, let alone any that met the criteria for my side competition in which I asked for desserts that weren't dominated by the sweet part of the flavour spectrum.
Gorgonzola ice cream on shortbread with a plum & port sauceClearly I needn't have worried as I discovered when, just a couple of days into the event, Neil Rankin of The War On Cookbooks offered a simple plate of cheese and biscuits that turned out to be Gorgonzola Ice Cream on Shortbread with a Plum & Port Sauce. Not only a great start to TGRWT #18, but a dish also clearly eligible for my creative dessert competition, even if not an entirely original concept. Friends credit Nuno Mendes with serving Gorgonzola ice cream in the past and Gordon Ramsay has reinvented it more recently.
Neil was followed by sous chef Craig Dryhurst of Strictly Fine Dining - someone well capable of generating fine dining restaurant level dishes without help from a 21-year-old pastry chef. He's created a Roulade of Mirabelle Plum & Barkham Blue Cheese with Plum Wine, Plum Chips & Acacia Honey:
"The plums are sliced thinly and the blue cheese blended with a little sour cream and rolled into a roulade. Underneath is a salad of plum and almond marinated in plum wine. There are slices of plum carpaccio and dried plum crisps. The dish is finished with a touch of long pepper and acacia honey. Craig explains that plum and blue cheese need help to gel together. "A floral note is welcome from the long pepper and the honey tones down the strength of the blue cheese and glazes the plums to highlight their sweetness. A little micro celery adds a slight bitter note also which complements the blue cheese."Roulade of Mirabelle plum and Barkham Blue cheese with plum wine, plum chips and Acacia honey
Craig gets a one-point deduction for using French plums, but a five-point bonus for pairing them with a prize-winning local Berkshire cheese. Next up was Christine of yumbug with Plum and Blue Cheese Tart.
Plum And Blue Cheese TartRegular readers will know that the "y" word is normally banned on this blog, but I'll happily make an exception for Christine, whose write-up is a refreshing example of how to blog with honesty. She is clearly someone who is enjoying learning about food and developing a palate, despite early prejudices. And someone not afraid to challenge recipes, input her own creative thoughts and learn from mistakes. I like the idea of thyme, adding an aromatic note with a bitter tone. Other herbs I thought might be worth trying for a balanced flavour triangle are dill on the bitter side and bergamot on the sour side.
John Sconzo promised Schwarzenegger-style that he'd be back, and a few days later he was true to his word with Grilled Veal Chop with Blue Cheese And Plum Sauce.
John marinated veal chops from a local up-state NY farm in a sauce made from an Oregon smoky blue cheese and a Japanese Redheart plum. He slow cooked the chops and sauce in a CVap before finishing off the chops on a charcoal grill. John served the dish with fresh green beans with a mint & walnut oil vinaigrette and fresh grilled corn on the cob, pairing the dish with a Syrah from the Languedoc."The dish of sliced grilled, marinated veal chops and blue cheese plum sauce was well received by our guests. I could see this working quite well with pork or duck too."Grilled Veal Chop with Blue Cheese And Plum Sauce
I could see this working quite well with me sipping a glass of Negly La Porte du Ciel while the veal chops are served al fresco against a panoramic backdrop of the Adirondack mountains of upstate New York. I shall be checking my mail regularly for an invitation.
Victoria plum, acacia honey and Nanny Williams blue goat’s cheese with cheese croquant, muscovado jelly and plum puréeThe next entry was from British-based American pastry chef Dale of component, with Victoria Plum, Acacia Honey & Nanny Williams Blue Goat's Cheese with Cheese Croquant, Muscovado Jelly & Plum Purée. The title is mine by the way of description, as Dale didn't name the dish. Given the deliciously laid-back style of his post, however, I suspect it would simply appear on his menu as Plum and cheese. I thoroughly recommend everyone to read Dale's post, as it gives such a clear insight into the process employed by a professional chef and how different that is from the approach of an amateur.
Analysing his principal flavours as sour and astringent, Dale chose to balance these with sweetness for which he identified muscovado sugar and acacia honey. He also thought about balancing the textures and concluded that some crunchiness could be provided both by cheese and muscovado. Only then did he think about the cooking processes and the presentation of the final dish. The exact opposite of what you see on TV cookery programmes, where contestants so often "experiment with the ingredients to see how it will all turn out". Full marks to Dale for using fresh local ingredients throughout his dish.
Anyone with the personal motto: "A day when nothing new is tasted is a day that hasn't been lived" and whose first thought is cooking with leftover ingredients is going to gain my instant affection. Dutch experimental home cook Dennis of Kookjegek.nl, faced with spare risotto rice, rose to the challenge and hunted for ideas in Wikipedia. Not always the best source of recipes, but on this occasion it inspired him to Bleu Rice Pudding with Plum & Apricot Coulis, which Dennis flavoured with Bleu D'Auvergne cheese, lemon zest and thyme.Bleu rice pudding with plum & apricot coulis
Without being able to taste the final product I can only assume that, although any astringency and saltiness of this quite delicate blue cheese may have been a bit overwhelmed along with the bitter tone of the thyme, the dish would more than punch its weight with umami and balance the sweetness nicely with the tartness of the coulis. So, clearly another entry eligible for my dessert competition.
Plum Pizza with Gorgonzola & Pine NutsWhen I first announced TGRWT #18, I scanned the blogosphere for interesting dishes that combined plum and blue cheese ingredients and invited the bloggers to develop their recipes and republish. Olga of Mango & Tomato was well satisfied with her earlier recipe for Plum Pizza with Gorgonzola & Pine Nuts and republished it. This dish offers a rainbow of flavours, needing only a little chilli to make up the full flavour spectrum. I haven't tried it myself, but Olga says it's not only easy but great, so I'll certainly take her word for it.
Norwegian food science lecturer and molecular gastronomist Erik Fooladi of Fooducation.org was initially sceptical about the combination, but was determined to test the pairing without too much distraction. So he opted for Blue Cheese & Plum Soft Ice Cream using his new Bamix immersion blender.
"This pairing", declared Erik, "was amazingly good: well balanced flavour-wise, and the cheese was noticeable but not overpowering. Resemblant of frozen yoghurt. Very smooth texture with small pieces of creamy, more dense cheese (a very slight bitter note). The flavours blended in an excellent way, while playing against each other in a way to complement rather than conflict. Also, something strange happened: from the bits of pure cheese (garnish) a sweetness emerged that wasn't noticeable in the cheese alone. Hence, the mixture brought out new flavours in the cheese, quite fascinating." Erik reports a sweet, sour and bitter balance of flavours, with some subtle notes coming through and a great balance of textures as well as flavours. This is a dish that I'll definitely try myself, perhaps taking up his suggestion of using lecithin emulsifier to inhibit curdling.Blue cheese & plum soft ice cream
Next up was blog-free Florida line chef Derek Gerry, who came up with the challenging Blue Cheese and Spiced Pickled Plum Tart. It was clear from the outset that Derek was going all guns blazing for my "non-sweet" dessert competition, with a dish that made me pucker as I observed wine vinegar, sumac, chilli and pickling jus amongst the ingredients. Not content with one variety of plum, Derek used yellow, red and black fruits - the softer, yellow one in his sauce and the latter two in his tart.
Blue Cheese and Spiced Pickled Plum Tart"My plums sat one week", Derek told me. "The flavor and aroma of the plums was amazing. Plum flavor still dominating but with support from the citrusy sumac, the astringency and punch of vinegar, and slight bite of heat at the end." Declaring that the dish would be equally good as a cheese course or dessert, Derek explained: "together with the cheese in the tart it worked surprisingly well, the sweetness of the of the cream mix and pungency of Gorgonzola blended nicely with the plums and the sauce really brought it all together. But the tart shell finished the dish, with its sweet, crumbly, buttery crunch."
A 2,000 km journey westwards brings us to Mexico, where chef and culinary instructor Roberto Navarro of Mex Mix responded to TGRWT#18 from his home city of Monterrey. Roberto took up my dessert challenge, treading a fine line between savoury and sweet with his dish of Pecan Bread French Toast, Danish Blue Ice Cream, Pluots Fresh & Gastrique and Bacon Fat Pecans.
Roberto's write-up once again shows the approach of a seasoned professional - analysing the flavours and textures of his ingredients and choosing appropriate cooking processes to achieve the desired balance. Roberto confesses to having been overly-conservative in his choice of mild Danish Blue cheese which, used only in the ice cream, didn't bring enough saltiness. But the pairing of cheese and plum worked really well, with a sweet-sour foreground set against an umami-rich background of pain perdu and bacon fat pecans.Pecan Bread French Toast, Danish Blue Ice Cream, Pluots Fresh & Gastrique and Bacon Fat Pecans
This looked like a very promising first attempt at an interesting and unusual dessert dish and just the sort of thing I would attempt myself. It's only a shame the delicate flavour balance was overpowered at the last minute as a result of the dish being paired with an overly-sweet Riesling Icewine.
Plums & Gorgonzola Chip Cookies in a Sandwich ShapeItalian scientist Alessandro of The Independent Chemist has discovered blog.khymos and been getting seriously into food pairing with his offering of Plums & Gorgonzola Chip Cookies in a Sandwich Shape. "I got excited about this idea, so today I bought gorgonzola cheese and other ingredients, I got the plums from the garden of one of my friends, organic yellow-green Sicilian plums and went back home to make a dessert for lunch. The result was amazing, a great combination, a great dessert." Once again I can't tell without tasting, but this looks like a good balance of umami, sweet, salt, sour and astringent that could be both unusual and delicious.
Next up was someone with whom I've shared my culinary voyage for this past three years - my favourite antipodean food blogger, the multi-talented Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once.
Not one to be put off by the inconvenience of plums being completely out of season down under, Haalo managed to come up with not one but two dishes - Plum and Blue Cheese Pannacotta with Plum Jelly (right) and Plum and Blue Cheese Crumble (below). Haalo is something of an authority on Australian cheeses and she chose the Garden State's Tarago River Shadows of Blue, which she described as "a fabulously creamy and rich cheese that is quite soft and with a really pleasant blue bite to the finish". Using plums that she had previously poached in sugar syrup, she created a plum and panna cotta base topped with a layer of reduced plum syrup set with leaf gelatine. A simple and elegant dish with sweet, sour, salty and astringent flavours that I would expect to be clearly defined in both space and time, which is exactly what Haalo found.Plum and Blue Cheese Pannacotta with Plum Jelly
Plum and Blue Cheese CrumbleHer second dish was a crumble, with a poached plum base and the blue cheese rubbed into the crumble mix along with the butter. Haalo described the subtlety of the dish: "If I could be guided by the way this dish was inhaled, this was a complete success. The blue isn't a dominating flavour or factor but it adds something special to the crumble - you know there is something different but familiar but until you are told exactly what it is, it stays out of reach. Once told, the lightbulb turns on and it all makes sense." Do visit Haalo's blog and pay special attention to her photographs, which show food not as porn but as the object of true love. I've long thought that Haalo should work at The Guggenheim Bilbao - consulting on local produce in the gastronomic restaurant and hanging her photos in the gallery.
Not to be outdone in the antipodean stakes, Brian Heslop of Foodology proved that anything Australians can do New Zealanders can do better, with his unnamed entry that I've identified as Blue Cheese Parfait with Plum & Tamarind Jelly, Crushed Macadamia & Pistachio and Honey with White Balsamic Crème.
Also forced to use preserved plums, gourmet Brian selected as his cheese Kapiti Kikorangi, a sweet triple cream kiwi cheese with a golden curd and rich buttery texture, marbled with dense blue veining that adds a strong pungent tone. Brian's (actually his partner Claire's) parfaits were a mix of blue cheese, milk, cream and gelatine, to which Brian added his tart jelly and nuts with a drizzle of honey and white balsamic crème. "Make the presentation a little cleaner", Brian concluded, "with a little more punch in the jelly and a little less kick in the parfait and you would have a very presentable dessert." A good attempt at balancing complex flavours in a highly presentable dish.Blue Cheese Parfait with Plum & Tamarind Jelly, Crushed Macadamia & Pistachio and Honey with White Balsamic Crème
Serial TGRWT respondent Yannik Schelske of the eponymous blog Yannik Thorsten Heiko Schelske and his friend Robert were next up from Germany, with their entries Plum Dumpling with Blue Cheese and Red Wine Sauce and Blue Cheese Steak with Spicy Plum Compote and Blue Cheese & Plum Quiche. Having responded to two previous rounds of TGRWT involving rose flavour, Yannik was over the moon to be faced with a different challenge this time.
Plum Dumpling with Blue Cheese and Red Wine SauceRejecting his initial ideas of Greengage & Salty Cheese Cocktail and Plum Soup with Blue Cheese Balls (sounds like a Jerry Lee Lewis track), Yannik eventually settled on "a traditional dish with a twist" in the form of Plum Dumplings with Blue Cheese Sauce. "The blue cheese sauce’s taste was rather unorthodox and rather sweet", he concluded, "because I added a lot of honey. I also used too much cheese and the sauce was therefore too dominant, but keeping this in mind, I think an acceptable solution can be found. (I also prepared a red wine sauce with a hint of cardamom, which fitted well.)" Ummm... I remain to be totally convinced.
Both the steak with plum compote and the quiche were "very satisfying in taste", Robert reported, although "the quiche... fell apart due to excessive moisture." His steak, interestingly, was roasted before being topped with blue cheese, which was then melted in the oven. And the accompanying compote was spiced up, in the style of mulled wine, with cinnamon and chilli. And, in yet a further twist to conventional cooking, the baked quiche base was topped with plums and sprinkled with onion and gammon, used in this case "as a spice". I can only say that herein may lie genius, or total disaster.Blue Cheese Steak with Spicy Plum Compote and Blue Cheese & Plum Quiche
Whereas the previous pair sounded distinctly French (as individuals, if not as cooks), the next entrant from Germany sounded positively Italian. Alessio Fangano of Recipe Taster offered Reconstructed Plum Tatin with Blue Cheese Butterscotch Sauce and Lavender, concluding: "this combination of ingredient is quite successful and the contrast of textures, moistness and aromas of the dish quite fulfilling".
Reconstructed Plum Tatin with Blue Cheese Butterscotch Sauce and Lavender"When approached to the nose, the first aroma to fill it was the round and spicy one coming from the gorgonzola. The delicate lavender aroma followed it. It was quite a nice contrast. Round, spicy and buttery against a light, fresh and springy one. To the bite, the galette is what plays the major role with its crispiness with its light sweet and spiced flavour. The sensation of the dry dough is soon compensated by the juiciness of the plums and followed by the rich cheesy aromas coming from both from the sauce and the pure cheese. Every now and then, you will bite on a lavender flower that will release its spiky, fresh and light aroma. The natural tartness of the plums helps cutting through the natural richness of the bite." Sounds good.
The last-minute entries were by now arriving thick and fast. It was inevitable that someone would try ingredient role reversal, as per rashers of egg with smiley bacon or deep fried cheese with cauliflower espuma, and I was delighted to see such an approach originate from my beloved Portugal. Ana Castanho of C.e.u.d.a.b.o.c.a. (a play on "céu da boca" or "oral heaven") proposed Roquefort Mousse with Chocolate-Plum Truffles - a dish in which plum becomes cheese and cheese becomes plum.
Full marks to Ana for starting with a simple segment of plum and slice of cheese and tasting them. That led to an unsuccessful attempt at a light plum mousse on uncooked cheese - a good flavour combination but so out of balance that it inspired the role reversal - lightening the cheese by making Roquefort mousse and strengthening the plum by creating chocolate plum truffles. "The chocolate imbues the plum with both a strong taste and texture", writes Ana, "creating a nice contrast with the lightness of the salted cheese mousse". A successful dish, concludes Ana, "somewhere between an appetizer and a dessert".Roquefort Mousse with Chocolate-Plum Truffles
Cabrales Cheesecake with Pickled Plum Sorbet, Sablee Nuggets, Cabrales Crumble, Plum Slices & Plum CoulisIt's not clear from Larry's blog whether or not he's a professional chef, but what's immediately obvious is that he knows a thing or two about culinary design and technique and his blogroll includes many of my own favourite sites. Larry doesn't comment on the taste of his dessert, but there are many hints throughout his recipe to suggest that he thought very carefully about balancing both flavours and textures. His sweet cheesecake has a sour tone, his pickled plum sorbet is both sweet and tart with pungent tones, the nuggets and crumble offer contrasting textures and the coulis helps to unify the disparate elements of the dish. I'd certainly like a sample sent to me airfreight, please.
Larry's "classically modern" dish was followed by Sino-Japanese-European fusion from Seattle's Dan Garlington of What's Cookin', Good Lookin' (Delicious Dining & Culinary Catastrophes) in a dish that pushes the boundaries of the dessert world to places rarely visited. Dan's Profiterole of Blue Cheese Ice Cream with Li Hing Mui Coating, Paired with a Blue Cheese Stuffed Umeboshi was only missing harmony grits, bush tomato sabayon and a shower of yak's cream to qualify for UN Global Dessert Of The Year.
Dan describes himself as "an unpretentious foodie with a love of trying new ingredients", such as live ants, braised goat (live?) and mac salad (which I presume contains pasta and not a PC or a waterproof coat). For this recipe he decided to use crack seed, which is not what you're thinking, but a form of dehydrated fruit. Dan's write-up is far too good for me to précis, so I urge you to read it for yourself. He reports that his flavour and texture combinations were inspired by experiences "on the rim" in Hawai'i and little balls that "explode in your mouth like a flavor firework". Spoilt only by him conservatively resorting to Michael Ruhlman's Ratio for the quantity of Wisconsin Blue.Profiterole of Blue Cheese Ice Cream with Li Hing Mui Coating, paired with a Blue Cheese Stuffed Umeboshi
The second blogless entrant was Brit Ian Conlon, who spotted TGRWT while on holiday. He experimented while in France, using local Reine Claude greengages and Stichelton cheese from his rucksack. Unfortunately, by the time Ian was ready for a more serious shot he was in Canada and all of his Nottingham Stilton had been devoured. So in his recipes he used Roquefort and Canadian Blue plums.
Short Savoury Pastry with Blue Cheese, Plum and Sweet & Sour Cinnamon Pickle GlazeThe wandering gourmet wasn't shy to crack directly at my side competition with his Cheese and Pickle Tart, deciding on "a (sort-of) dessert" with a sour taste introduced by vinegar, umami from cheese and sweetness from plum, sherry and sugar. I must confess that I remain sceptical about the umami element of this combination. Although Roquefort contains glutamates, I suspect its salinity and astringency far outweigh other flavour contributions and in any event the 'pickle' will introduce considerable saltiness as well as sourness.
In Cheese and Pickle Tart Version 2, Ian used thinner pastry and jellies made with sherry vinegar and Pedro Ximenez sherry. "I think the dish might work as a bridge between savoury and sweet courses or be served as a snack before the main courses", he concluded. "I would keep the contrast of sweet-sour and sweet-alcoholic in the jellies, and add cinnamon to the vinegar jelly as the cinnamon/sour combination is effective. I'd also probably use the Reine Claude/Stilton combination, perhaps tweaking up the amount of cheese in the pastry."Short Savoury Pastry with Blue Cheese, Plum and Sherry Vinegar and Pedro Ximenez Jellies
I can understand why you were impressed by your Chicago experience, Ian, when a chef plated up a dessert at your table. It's certainly something I'd try myself, as you suggest, although perhaps a teeny bit of the magic may have been in the fact that your chef was a chap by the name of Grant Achatz. Next, Rob Connoley of The Curious Blogquat unashamedly tried to creep round me with his most Spanish of dishes The Niña, Pinta & Santa María [aka Espuma de Turrón con Ciruela]". A good try, Rob, but you'll "play to the audience" even better if you spell my name correctly, lol!
The Niña, Pinta & Santa María [aka Espuma de Turrón con Ciruela]This was an entry to challenge the most extrovert of Paco Torreblanca's efforts - candied plum vessels with plum skin sails on an almond nougat foam. A dish clearly dedicated to the 1492 voyage of Christopher Columbus to The Bahamas and representing his fragile vessels on the choppy seas. Setting the expedition inside a sugar bottle added that final authentic touch of Alicante repostería. For the experienced Rob, this was all too easy. "In TGRWT we always like to share how it worked. In this instance, it was all a natural. Of course honey goes well with Gorgonzola. And of course plums go well with blue cheese, so it is all well tied together. I found this dessert to not be overwhelmingly sweet, in fact, I found a bit on the savory side." Still working me, right to the end!
Conspicuous by his absence up to this point had been the man who started all of this madness - Norwegian research scientist and amateur molecular gastronomist Martin Lersch of blog.khymos.
Never one to miss out on the fun, Martin came up with the deliciously camp Norzola Puffs with Plum Reduction which appeared to have suffered a severe sand storm but which he assures me more than satisfied his wife, who came back for second helpings. Martin decided to use puff pastry dough and laminate some Norzola Norwegian blue cheese (made to mimic Gorgonzola) between layers of pastry. To accompany this he made a plum reduction with star anise and ginger. "This one was y... ", said Martin [oh, I just cannot bring myself to type that word!]. "It's both sweet, sour, creamy, airy, crunchy – and it's even got tannins (plum skins + walnuts)", he extolled, stretching the binary adjective to its breaking point.Norzola Puffs with Plum Reduction
I'd been hoping to see the classic combination of fruit cheese and blue cheese, and I wasn't disappointed when Indonesian-born kiwi Arfi of HomeMadeS submitted her Damson Plum Cheese with Blue Brie.
Damson Plum Cheese with Blue BrieFor those unfamiliar with fruit cheeses, they are not dairy products but preserves made with stiff fruit purées. Once found in the pantry of all good home cooks, fruit cheeses have gone out of fashion in recent years. But with today's emphasis on local produce and avoiding food waste, I see these products as very much part of renaissance cooking. And what a great pairing with blue cheese: "There is a subtle chemistry between plum cheese and blue cheese", says Arfi, "and a close connection of tart-sweet-ness is handled perfectly once they hit my tongue. The earthy and nutty flavour of blue cheese, indeed, is a perfect soulmate of plum cheese. There is also tangy texture, hidden somewhere in your mouth, and then topped with mellow flavour of blue cheese. Have it with walnuts or almonds, that is sublime."
If you've never tried making plum cheese, try Arfi's recipe. I'll wait for an invitation to come and sit out in the beautiful countryside of South Auckland with a plate of plum cheese and blue cheese, a bowl of palate-cleansing grapes and a glass of floral New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. While visiting Arfi, I could pop down to South Island to visit NZ's largest grower of sun-ripened damson plums (I say "pop down", though Auckland to Culverden is almost as far as London to Bordeaux!).
Lowry Peaks Traditional Fruits is an award-winning family business "dedicated to making good food exquisite – from every day to entertaining". They specialise in gourmet sauces and pâtés and they are the largest grower of sun-ripened damson plums and quinces in New Zealand. So I was delighted to have Lowry Peaks co-owner Jossy Davison contribute to TGRWT #18 with not one but two recipes. Blue Cheese and Damson Plum Toasties are a simple but delicious snack made by lightly toasting soda bread and topping with blue cheese and plum pâté.Blue Cheese and Damson Plum Toasties
Nut Coated Blue Cheese with Damson Plum Sauce and a Small Rocket SaladJossy's second offering was Nut Coated Blue Cheese with Damson Plum Sauce and a Small Rocket Salad. Slices of blue cheese are chilled, dipped in egg, coated with a mixture of almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts and sesame seeds and fried in grapeseed oil. The nut cheese is served with damson plum sauce and a rocket salad. Once again, a simple and elegant combination of great products. Both recipes use multi award-winning Whitestone Windsor soft blue cheese and both boldly balance sweet, sour and astringent flavours, with the recipes introducing bitter, pungent and umami flavours to excite the palate.
With another dish of elegant simplicity, DC-based foodie Colleen Levine of FoodieTots offered a mouth-watering and beautifully photographed bowl of Chilled Plum Soup with Blue Cheese Panna Cotta.
Colleen still has dreams about a goat cheese panna cotta in rhubarb soup once made for her by Executive Chef Tony Chittum of Vermilion. So she decided to swap the goat's cheese for a creamy, sweet blue cheese - reducing the spicing so as to keep the flavours simple and well-defined. "I found that my soup was just slightly tart and a nice balance with the sweet panna cotta", Colleen reports. "The blue cheese flavor is subtle at first but on the whole I think it was a pretty good pairing. I'd love to try it again with Roquefort to compare." Next time I'm over to cook for President Obama I'll pop in for some of your soup, Colleen. Chilled Plum Soup with Blue Cheese Panna Cotta
Alex of Cooking Sideways entered his interesting Blue Cheese Pastry with a Plum Custard Shell also at the last minute - appropriately for a student. "I am a student of engineering, a bartender, a writer, a painter, musician and an avid and ever learning cook", he wrote, "...[who] can't make up my mind about anything." Describing his digs as "a studio flat with a kitchen obviously designed for people who never cook", and misspelling my name, Alex began with what could only be described as a multiple handicap.
Blue Cheese Pastry with a Plum Custard ShellBut I couldn't fail to warm to a chap prepared to attack my pastelero challenge by making multi-flavoured puff pastry and custard in a microwave oven - even if it was, in his own words, "a little overambitious". Yup. That's one way of putting it, Alex. And I'm fairly sure that when Heston Blumenthal puts his pastry in the fridge he doesn't forget it for an entire week while it "accumulates some of the smells from its neighbours on the shelf". But as with all great stories, everything turned out well in the end. Well, almost. Setting aside the overpowering taste of microwaved custard and the visual distraction caused by it having curdled, the complex bitterness of chocolate, tartness of plum and saltiness of Danish Blue cheese made a stupendous combination. You may not win the prize for cooking, Alex, but you made me laugh until it hurt. Your true vocation is obvious. After all, you live in Edinburgh.
And the winner is...
Launching TGRWT #18, I announced a competition for the entrant who most impressed me with a dessert dish incorporating at least two of the following flavours: salty, sour, bitter, umami, pungent, astringent. "Being a dessert", I wrote, "your dish will probably also have a sweet dimension, but if you can pull off a successful dessert without the sweetness dominating, I'll be even more impressed". In the event, over two-thirds of all respondents submitted recipes that, as far as I could tell without personally tasting the end results, satisfied my criteria.
Noteworthy runners up were Colleen Levine with her Chilled Plum Soup with Blue Cheese Panna Cotta, Ian Conlon with Cheese and Pickle Tart Version 2 and Rob Connoley's Espuma de Turrón con Ciruela. What I loved about Colleen's soup was its pure simplicity and elegance - it looks simply stunning. Next time, Colleen, try triangulating the flavours with a little pungent spice (cardamom, clove or peppercorn), but be very careful not to overdo it. Ian will probably be surprised to see his name here but, as a snack, his second attempt was an excellent combination of ingredients. The sherry vinegar will work really well and this is definitely great work in progress. Finally, Rob gets an honourable mention not for any of the crawling, but for good flavour balancing and for such a visually exciting and adventurous dish.Runners-up
The winnerBut my winner is Larry Pike, for Cabrales Cheesecake with Pickled Plum Sorbet, Sablee Nuggets, Cabrales Crumble, Plum Slices & Plum Coulis. It's not easy to be both creative and well-balanced - as we see from so many artistic but ultimately unsuccessful chefs - but I believe this offering achieves both. Knowing my predilection these days for simple, ingredient-led cooking, some people may be surprised at my choosing a dish with so many elements. My response to that is simple. There's nothing wrong with a choir - so long as the choristers all sing in harmony. As I said earlier, I can't promise to get a version of this accepted onto our restaurant menu, but I'll try my best. We'll name the dish alliteratively - Canadian Cabrales Cheesecake.
Well done to everyone who took part in TGRWT #18. Thanks for all your efforts and a big thanks to Martin Lersch, without whom none of this would happen. P.S. Don't miss the latest round of TGRWT, Tomato & Black Tea, hosted by Pablo at Medellitin.


Martin said...

Wow - congratulations everybody! And thanks for joining. We certainly set a new record here with 30 participants.

In case you didn't notice, the next round (TGRWT #19) has already been announced - foods to pair are tomato and black tea.

Brianemone said...

Some great looking plates of food there. Love the look of the roulade.

MarkF said...

Sad news for all Gastronauts I'll be raising a glass to Keith later...

docsconz said...

Well done, Trig and everyone! BTW, Trig, anytime you are in the area, you are welcome!

Tri2Cook said...

Thanks Trig, that's awesome! I had a lot of fun with it so I'm happy whether it makes it on the menu or not. There are a lot of incredible looking entries that show how much people love what they do, so I'd say we're all winners.

I'm not a professionally trained cook but I do cook for a living. I learned the ropes by begging my way into a restaurant job, working hard and paying attention. I also research everything I can and attempt everything I research until I get it to work for me. Desserts and pastry are what I enjoy doing most but I don't get to indulge that aspect much at work... so I do it when I'm not working.

Gfron1 said...

Congrats Larry! What a great round of entries. And what a great host (I can't stop can I?!)

The Boston Foodie said...

Congratulations to ALL of you! I am floored by the number of participants, the quality, the creativity and the fun of it all. Really interesting reading.

Roberto N. said...

Awesome round, thanks for adding the little extra challenge. A lot of great dishes on this one!

Mauricem said...

Man these pics made me hungry

Krimo said...

Great blog! Love your passion and determination. Keep it up, lad!

fooducation said...

Thanks, Trig, for a great round-up. Your comments are very to the point; fun and informative to have one's entry commented in such a way. I'm honoured. Have you considered taking up teaching? :)

Jeremy said...

Wow, had I known, I would of posted my Old school Alsatian quetsche tarte?

Oh well, nice looking and interesting items!

Good show Aidan!


Trig said...

Thanks to everyone for your comments and an even bigger thank you to everyone who took part in this event. I hadn't anticipated the amount of work involved, but I thoroughly enjoyed it anyway. And no, I have no plans to become a teacher. Things are going perfectly well at the moment in the kitchen, so it's a case of "those who can, do".

Arfi Binsted said...

oh, gee... I am late to respond, but I am sooooo overwhelmed with these beautiful and professional entries. I thought I was jut the humble home cook here while you guys are all proffesional chefs. LOL... an honour really to be amongst you. Thank you Trig. These entries have given me more stuffss to look on and try out. Congrats for the winners, you guys deserve it!

P.S.: do visit us at our humble farmyard, and sample our orchard produce and fruit cheese in late Summer :) it's an invitation.

Niamh said...

What a fantastic and inspiring roundup! Really superb. Great competition.

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