Every time I mutter about the need to stretch myself in the kitchen and become a little more creative, my friends chant ‘Ready, Steady, Cook’. Their idea is very much along the lines of the TV programme – they will choose some ingredients, turn up at my house and I shall cook them, without a recipe book and within a time limit. The idea appeals to me as a challenge, but it has taken us a bit of time to get our acts together, put a date in the diary and actually do it. So, last Friday was the first time.
Luckily for the first time round, we kept the group small which suited me – less pressure. The girls arrived with their shopping and much excitement. I think they had a whole menu set out in their heads already, from their shopping, so I started to feel nervous about expectations, whether I could deliver on them and what I had set myself up for. There was much fanfare around the ingredient unveiling – puff pastry, pancetta cubes, pomegranates, creme fraiche, spring onions, red romano peppers, swede, mango and goats cheese. The rules went that I could use any of the basics I already had in the kitchen – as long as I did not embark on a full shop just before the competition, so there was some leeway and as my mind got to work on what to create out of those lovely ingredients, I was relieved to have that leeway.
I had an idea for dessert immediately – I would use the puff pastry, creme fraiche and pomegranates to make a fruit millefeuille. This was pushing the boat out creatively for me – quite uncharacteristic in fact – because I have never made a fruit millefeuille, I don’t think I have even read a recipe that tells you how to make it, I certainly can’t pronounce it. My only inspiration was a picture I saw of one and a very vague recollection that it was made with puff pastry!
I started rolling out the puff pastry straight away while I stewed over my other ingredients and what I could use them for. My immediate thoughts on seeing the peppers, was to do a stuffed pepper starter type dish with the goats cheese, pancetta and spring onions but I didn’t think my guests would be filled up with just a starter and a dessert. I felt they needed something a bit more substantial to fill them up on a Friday evening. As I started cutting my pastry into rounds, ready for the oven it dawned on me. A frittata – peppers, pancetta, spring onions, goats cheese with the additional ingredients of red onion and new potatoes all held together in a lovely puffy frittata. I popped the pastry in the oven and set to work on a frittata straight away!
My end result, I like to imagine, would bring a little bit of mediterranean sunshine into any gloomy winters Friday night in London. A slice of red pepper and goats cheese frittata, served with a rocket salad and finished off with KL’s surprise – a very tall, not very millefeuille like, millefeuille, filled with vanilla creme fraiche and pomegranates. Although not perfect, something to be proud of as a first attempt to break my recipe following shackles and it felt good.
So, off the back of that, Ready, Steady, Cook round 2 is booked in – maybe we will include one or two more people next time – and in the meantime, I intend to learn how to make a proper millefeuille!