KITCHEN CLUELESS? Nick can save you...
|By Maria Thompson, Melton Times November 22, 2001||
If I were being completely honest about my cooking ability I would have to say my idea of preparing an evening meal tends to involve opening a carton, putting on the oven or boiling some water.
You would be surprised the variety of meals that can be prepared in this way.
However, teetering as we are on the edge of the festive season, the thought of friends and family pouring through the doors expecting to be presented with gastronomic delights fills me with fear.
In a moment of panic I decided to call on the help of our local Raymond Blanc-trained chef, Nick McGeown.
Nick has been running the Berkeley Arms in Wymondham with his wife Cathy for the past 18 months.
So far serving restaurant food in a village pub atmosphere has been highly successful for the McGeowns.
This year alone they were the only new entry from Leicestershire to make it into the Good Food Guide -- confirmation of their fantastic success.
Confident I was in good hands, I drove to my local pub.
Nick recommended we cook something from his Christmas party menu and assured me it wouldn't be too difficult.
He chose a starter of leaves of galia melon with a compot of winter fruits and orange syrup.
This is a good starter, said Nick, as most people like it and the winter fruits make it a colourful seasonal dish.
The compot of fruits contains blackberries, loganberries, raspberries and strawberries all stewed in a pan of sugar and water for about 10 minutes.
An orange syrup had already been prepared using water, sugar and oranges.
The fruit coulis and orange syrup were then drizzled over the mountain of fruit and fanned melon.
The coulis is quite easy to make, said Nick.
"It is made from over-ripe fruit boiled to a pulp in water then whizzed in a blender and passed through a sieve."
He explained the fruit coulis adds colour to the overall look of the dish.
"Presentation is very important as people tend to eat with their eyes; the same dish slopped on a plate doesn't look as appetising."
With the starter out of the way we moved on to the main course.
Pan fried salmon with a tartare mash, wilted spinach leaf, warm poached egg and lemon butter sauce -- yum.
"The salmon is a substantial dish for the winter which fits in well with the Christmas menu theme," said Nick.
The mashed potato is made in the usual way, but Nick recommends we use King Edwards or Maris Piper for their floury texture.
Once mashed, a mixture of finely chopped shallots, capers and baby gherkins are mixed in with the potato.
"This gives the mash a similar taste to tartare sauce."
With the mash placed to one side Nick prepares a lemon butter sauce by heating finely chopped shallots with white wine, cream, fish stock, lemon and butter.
"If you boil it you will split the butter out of the sauce. You can bring it back by using some cream, but only if it hasn't gone too far."
A salmon fillet was then seared in a pan and put in the oven for five or six minutes.
"Cook the salmon till it's tender to the touch and a little bit pink in the middle to prevent it drying out," advised Nick.
Then he poached an egg in white wine vinegar and water, and wilted fresh spinach leaves in a smoking pan of olive oil.
Hey presto, with the potato, salmon, spinach and egg neatly presented the lemon butter sauce was carefully drizzled over the top.
According to Nick it's all in the 'mis en place' -- that's the presentation to you and me.
But he added: "Once you start eating, the flavours have got to be there; if you know anything about food it has to taste right."
Photo of Maria Thompson with chef Nick McGeown (newspaper scan, 46.6kB)
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