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Scientastic
Mar 1, 2010

TRULY scientastic.


As usual, I have used this ICSA as an excuse to test out some new foods on my friends. I tried to think of a load of things I’ve never made before, invited a couple of people over, and inflicted my food on them. Because we all went to university together, it inevitably turned into a colossal piss-up, draining my flat of all drink and going on until 4am.

I have now recovered enough to write down what happened, the recipes and thoughts of my friends, who as usual, were extremely open in expressing their opinions!

I am going to write this in order of the courses served, not necessarily in the order of things prepared: some of the items made and used were several weeks in the making, but I think it’s best to write this as we ate each course.

So, to the menu! All recipes are for four people.

Apéritif: French 75

Salad: Roasted lemon Caesar

Soup: Avgolemono with mini lemon scones

Fish: Lemon sole meunière with lemon risotto

Entrée: Rack of lamb with root vegetable tagine and lemon cumin yoghurt

Palette cleanser: Sgroppino

Dessert: Lemon semolina cake with lemon caramel sauce and lemon cream

Digestif: Limoncello


My aim with this menu was to show the versatility of lemons: I don’t think there are many ways in which I’ve used lemon twice here, and at every stage the ways in which the lemon flavours came through were different.

As my friends showed up (late), I served them a cocktail. It seemed only polite.

Apéritif: French 75

Before anyone arrived, I started by candying some lemons.



Zest of 2 lemons
70g sugar
200ml cold water

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the lemon rind in long strands
Combine rind, sugar and water in a pan and heat on medium until the sugar dissolves
Bring to the boil, then simmer for ten minutes
Allow to cool on baking paper
Once cool enough to handle, wrap some of the peel around skewers to get a nice helix, and dice the remainder



Set aside until the cocktails are made



180ml gin
Juice of 2 lemons
2 tsp sugar
Fizzy wine (I used cava)
Candied peel twists

Shake the gin, lemon juice and sugar with ice
Strain into four flutes
Top up with cava
Garnish with a twist



We had these in the kitchen while I prepared the food, and chatted of this and that. The verdict: “Excellent” and “refreshing”. For my part, I thought this was a fantastic apéritif, it took the edge off the fact that we were starting late because one friend missed her train, got everyone in the mood for a nice dinner, and had just the right balance between sharp and dry. I am very glad I didn’t use decent champagne for it, as it would have been rather a waste.

While drinking a few of these, I prepared the next course…

Salad: Roasted lemon Caesar

I began several days earlier by making a lemon and olive ciabatta to turn into croutons. The first step in the process was to make the sponge:



100g white bread flour
60ml cool water
2g salt
A very small pinch of dry instant yeast

Mix the ingredients until they form a dough



Leave to ferment overnight at room temperature

The next day, I made the bread itself



150g white bread flour
2g dry instant yeast
3g salt
2.5g sugar
130ml warm water
160g sponge from above
75g Kalamata olives, roughly chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
Pinch of dry thyme
5g olive oil
Pinch of dry rosemary

Mix the flour, yeast, salt and sugar in a mixer with a dough hook
Add enough water to form a coherent mass
Gradually incorporate small pieces of the (very sticky) sponge
Once the dough stops sticking to the sides of the mixer bowl, add the remaining water and the oil in small increments
The dough will be very wet and hard to work with at this point
Add the olives, lemon zest and thyme and fold into the dough
Place in an oiled bowl and leave to prove in a warm place for 1h



Place the dough onto a floured surface and stretch it out to remove some air and stretch the gluten strands
Fold over a few times and put back into the bowl for another hour
Place the dough on a heavily floured lined baking tray, then heavily flour the top
Leave to rest for 5m, stretch into a slipper shape, cover and rest for 30m
Sprinkle with rosemary and a little olive oil



Now, at this point, I began to get slightly concerned. I’ve made bread several times in the past, and this didn’t seem to be acting in the same way as any bread I’ve ever made before. However, I had read that the dough was a tough one to deal with, and that it would feel and look completely terrible until it was finished, so I put my faith in the science of baking and continued following the instructions.

Bake at 230C for 20m

When it came out of the oven, it hadn’t risen whatsoever, and when cut open, it looked pretty loving terrible.



I resolved to continue, and see what would happen if I made my ciabatta flatbread into croutons anyway. I could always leave them out if necessary. So I cut the bread into rough cubes and set aside in the fridge for a few days to go stale.



Bread cubes
60ml olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Zest of 1 lemon
3 tbsp parmesan, finely grated
A few twists of black pepper

Mix the oil, garlic, zest, parmesan and pepper in a bowl and toss the bread in the mixture



Bake at 190 for 10m, turn and bake for another 10m until crispy



Set aside until ready to make your salad.

Next was the dressing:



1 egg yolk
Oil from a tin of anchovies
Juice of 1 lemon
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp olive oil
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp capers, chopped

Beat the egg yolk, garlic, lemon juice and mustard together
Gradually add the oils while whisking continuously until emulsified



Add the Worcestershire sauce and capers and set aside.

Finally I was in a position to make a start on the salad.



I took this photo earlier in the day, so the croutons were not yet done at this point, but you get the gist…

2 lemons, thinly sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
Pinch of sugar
500g tomatoes, quartered
1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced, retaining fronds
Handful freshly chopped parsley
1 heart of romaine lettuce, roughly torn
4 eggs
Croutons
1 tin of anchovies, roughly shopped
Parmesan, shaved with the back of a knife

Toss the lemon slices in the oil and sugar
Roast at 180 for 20m



While these are cooling, boil the eggs for 6.5m and plunge into iced water
Assemble the salad including the roasted lemons, toss in the dressing
Garnish with croutons, fennel fronds, eggs, and parmesan



This was actually excellent. While I would like to make a proper ciabatta (and would appreciate tips on what went wrong), the croutons worked nicely, and were still very crunchy. The main criticisms were that the balance was a bit off, and that everyone wanted more fennel and anchovies, but that overall it worked well together and the bitterness of the lemon was good with the pungent dressing and olive croutons.

After our salad, we had some soup!

Soup: Avgolemono with mini lemon scones

I first heard about this type of soup when I was in Greece for a work thing: apparently, because of a lack of facility to store milk and cream, the Greeks came up with a novel way of thickening soup, using lemons and eggs. I was intrigued when I heard about this, and now I had a perfect opportunity to try it out myself!

But first, miniature scones.



60g plain flour
Pinch of salt
12.5g grated parmesan
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp dry thyme
Black pepper
25g butter
1 clove garlic, minced
½ an egg yolk
1 tbsp plain yoghurt

Mix all the ingredients together in a mixer, completely ignoring your own instructions to do dry ingredients first, followed by butter to make a breadcrumb texture and then the eggs and yoghurt (it seemed to work)
Form into a sausage, wrap in cling film and chill for 2h



Using a sharp knife, cut into 5mm rounds
When this doesn’t work to your satisfaction, roll each round into a ball and press flat
Bake at 160 for 20m until golden



Set aside until ready to serve with the soup



3 chicken thighs
Enough gelatinous homemade stock cubes for about 1L of stock
Mirepoix
Black peppercorns
45g orzo
Parsley, finely chopped
2 eggs
Juice of 1 lemon

Poach the thighs in stock with a rough mirepoix and peppercorns
Set thighs aside and strain the broth through cheesecloth
Set aside 250ml of broth into a jug, put the remainder back in the pan
Cook the orzo in the stock for 8m
While this is cooking, shred the chicken and put it into bowls



Beat the eggs, gradually adding the lemon juice
Once incorporated, temper the eggs by gradually whisking in the warm reserved stock
Add the creamy egg/lemon/stock mix into the soup pan and simmer for 4m
Pour over the chicken and garnish with a slice of lemon and some chopped parsley



Eat the soup, eat the scones, fail to get a good crumb shot of the scone



This was rather wonderful. Before I made it, I had images of a thin soup with occasional lumps of unincorporated egg. As it turned out, this was probably the most praised dish of the night. “Faultless” with “really good texture, which is often lacking in soup” and “great biscuits”. For my part, I thought it was delicious, lemony and chickeny, and had a really great texture, both in terms of the soup itself and the addition of the orzo. I will absolutely be making this again.

Now, our appetites whetted by soup and salad, and our sociability well and truly lubricated, it was time to have a bit of fish.

Fish: Lemon sole meunière with lemon risotto

I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist the play on words.

Begin by making basil chips.



Small bunch of basil
1 tsp olive oil
Pinch of salt

Toss the basil leaves in the oil and salt
Bake at 165 for 10m



Set aside until ready to serve

Next, make some courgette ribbons. This was great, because I could finally use the weird little spiralizer device I got for listening to a strange man tell me lies about a bad knife I didn’t want to buy.



1 courgette
Juice of 1 lemon

Spiralize the courgette and toss in lemon juice



The weird little half a face you can see behind the spiral is my son, who thought the whole thing hilarious and refused to get out of the photo

Next, I made a lemon risotto:



1 onion
1 stick celery
1 carrot
60g butter
1 tbsp olive oil
300g carnaroli rice
Enough gelatinous homemade stock cubes for about 1L of stock
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp dry rosemary
1 large egg yolk
20g parmesan, finely grated
60ml double cream

Very finely mince the onion, celery and carrot to make a fine mirepoix
Heat the oil and half the butter in a large pan and soften the mirepoix for about 5m, stirring constantly
Mix in the rice, stirring to get it evenly coated
Add a little vermouth, then a ladleful of hot stock, and stir until absorbed
Add more stock, and keep stirring until absorbed



Repeat until all the stock is gone and the rice is al dente, about 15-20m

It was during this process that I completely lost the ability to take photos during the prep of the fish course, as it was all going off. I only managed to do the mise en place for the fish, and then everything was done before I knew it.

Add the lemon zest and rosemary
In a small bowl, beat together the egg yolk, parmesan, cream, lemon juice and pepper
When the rice is done, add the eggy mixture and the remaining butter and beat the hell out of it to quickly incorporate everything

While this was doing, I was also doing the fish.



Fillet of lemon sole
6 tbsp flour
Salt and pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
85g butter
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp capers, roughly chopped

Cut the sole into four portions and dredge in generously seasoned flour
Fry skin-side down in oil on medium heat for a couple of minutes until crispy
Flip and fry for another minute
Remove the fish to a warm plate, chuck in the butter, lemon juice and capers
Whisk until ready to serve

Plate the dish by putting a dollop of risotto, then the courgette, top with fish and a basil crisp and surround with the sauce meunière



I’m afraid I didn’t manage to get a nice close-up shot of the fish, but you get the idea, I’m sure. The fish was great, perfectly cooked with crispy skin, and the risotto was a really good accompaniment. In my mind, I had horrible thoughts of this being like a lemon rice pudding, but it was subtle and delicious. The courgette was an excellent counterpoint to the soft fish and creamy risotto, and just so simple. One friend by this point had reached the overly-effusive stage and claimed this dish to be “an utter triumph” and “exceptional” but I suspect this was the wine talking… It was really good, though, even if I do say so myself.

By now, we had had enough of these little dainty dishes, and wanted something hearty. It was time for a tagine!

Entrée: Rack of lamb with root vegetable tagine and lemon cumin yoghurt

I don’t own a proper tagine, but you can do a pretty good approximation with a regular pan. The main thing I needed was preserved lemons, which I had made three weeks before serving anything.

The simplest mise en place yet:



4 lemons
Salt

Trim the ends of all the lemons to remove the nubs



Cut lengthwise into quarters, stopping about 3/4 of the way down before the lemon falls apart
Put a tsp of salt into each cut and push the lemons down into a freshly sterilised jar, topping each with another spoonful of salt
Repeat until the jar is full of lemons, then squeeze the final lemon over the top and top up with boiling water



Seal and let sit at room temperature for 3d, shaking and rotating a few times daily
Refrigerate for at least three weeks before using

On the day of the dinner, I started by making a little lemon cumin yoghurt, which is another pretty simple mise en place!



300ml Greek yoghurt
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp cumin

Mix together and set aside

Then it was time to make the tagine!



1 potato, peeled and diced
1 sweet potato, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 turnip, diced
Enough gelatinous homemade stock cubes for about 250ml of stock
Pinch of saffron
1 onion, diced
1 tomato, deseeded and diced
A piece of ginger, minced
Smoked paprika
Cumin
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 a preserved lemon, including flesh, finely chopped
Handful of parsley, chopped
Handful of coriander, chopped
Green olives

Heat the stock, take off the stove and chuck in the saffron to bloom
Soften the onions in oil over medium heat, and add the spices, garlic, vegetables and preserved lemon, as well as some of the herbs
Toss to coat, and put in the saffron broth
Bring to the boil, then simmer with the lid on for 40m
Carefully remove the veg, and reduce the liquid until thick
Add back in the veg and throw in some olives
Set aside until ready to serve

Then it was time to set off the smoke alarms and scare the kids



Garlic salt
Smoked paprika
Coriander
Black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
Rack of lamb ribs

Begin by putting the lamb into a screaming hot pan and browning on all sides
Set aside to cool down while you turn off the smoke alarm and wipe up all the drops of all that now cover your kitchen
Once cool, brush generously with lemon juice and sprinkle with your spice mix
Roast at 180C for 20m, cover in foil and stand for 15m before slicing

To serve, put a smear of yoghurt on the plate and a dollop of tagine, then put the lamb on with a generous sprinkling of diced preserved lemon and chopped coriander leaves





You can’t really go wrong with pink lamb and root vegetables, and this was really good. Again, real depth of flavour in a variety of different ways from the lemon, with the yoghurt providing a welcome touch of acid to the sweetness of the lamb, and the preserved lemons in the tagine just being “loving amazing”. The whole thing was “earthy and tangy”. Like my guests, I think I could have done with more lemon-ness, but it was definitely there and added a lot of flavour to the dish.

After all this savoury food, it was definitely time to cleanse our palettes.

Palette cleanser: Sgroppino

Begin by making a simple lemon sorbet



300g sugar
Juice of 4 lemons
Zest of 1 lemon
450ml water

Combine the sugar, water and lemon zest in a saucepan, heat on low until dissolved
Allow to cool, stir in the lemon juice and chill overnight
Put in the ice cream machine for 40m, then freeze for 2h



Put a generous scoop of sorbet into each champagne flute, followed by a teaspoon of vodka, and top up with prosecco
Serve with a lemon wedge on the side



This was my wife’s favourite part of the dinner. It was really great, delicious and definitely refreshed us all after a long meal of rich food.

Now we were ready for some cake!

Dessert: Lemon semolina cake with lemon caramel sauce and lemon cream

Like some other things on the menu, this began a few weeks in advance, this time with lemon curd



Zest and juice of 4 lemons
200g caster sugar
100g butter
3 eggs
1 egg yolk

Put the zest, juice and butter into a heatproof bowl and suspend over a pan of boiling water, making sure the water doesn’t touch the bowl
Stir until the butter is melted
Whisk the eggs and yolk into the butter until thoroughly combined
Leave to cook for 10-15m, stirring occasionally until the mixture is thicker and coats the back of a spoon
Pour into a sterile jar
Set aside to cool, stirring occasionally as it cools, then put into the fridge for a couple of weeks

Next, I made a simple lemon caramel sauce



225g sugar
60ml water
Juice of 1 lemon
30g butter, diced

Heat the sugar and water until the sugar dissolves
Cook without stirring until the syrup browns
Whisk in the juice and butter and allow to cool
Transfer to an old (clean) sriracha bottle for squirting

Then I made a lemon cream



300ml double cream
3 tbsp icing sugar
Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Mix the ingredients together and whisk until firm
Chill until ready to use

Finally, we were ready to make a cake!



6 large eggs
300 sugar
250ml olive oil
250ml whole milk
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
315g plain flour
75g semolina
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Beat the eggs and sugar together, and slowly add the oil
Add milk, then reduce the speed to low and add the zest and juice
In a separate bowl, mix flour, semolina, baking powder and salt
Gradually mix this into the egg mix
Pour batter into a large greased cake pan and bake at 180 for 25-30m
Allow to cool until able to handle and pop out onto a wire rack



Then assembly your cake sandwich



Lemon cake
Lemon curd
Strawberries

Cut the cake into eight rounds, leaving some small squares for testing
Spread each circle with lemon curd, then cover one in very thinly sliced strawberries



At this point, if you are being “helped” by small children, assemble some mini versions of your cakes and feed them



While they’re distracted, you can quickly plate the cakes! Squirt a little of the caramel sauce onto the plate, put your cake on top with a quenelle of lemon cream, and scatter with the diced candied peel from right at the start





This was great. Everyone loves a cake, and lemon cake is just a really perfect way to end a big meal, it’s light, refreshing, tasty and not overpowering. The whole thing was a perfect showcase for the many ways in which lemons can be used in a pudding, and it was lovely. By this point, everyone was having a bit too much fun to remember to comment on the food and for me to write it down, but there were second helpings and requests for recipes and all the normal things that happen when drunk people enjoy food…

Speaking of drunk people, it was definitely now time for a digestif.

Digestif: Limoncello

The final course of the night, this was actually the first thing I made in the process, as soon as the challenge came out.



350ml vodka
5 lemons
260g caster sugar
250ml freshly boiled water

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from all the lemons
Using a sharp knife, remove as much of the white pith as possible, as it can impart a bitter taste to the final product



Put the peel into a large bottle along with the vodka, and leave to steep for a week, shaking daily
Dissolve the sugar in the water and add to the vodka/lemons
Leave for another week, shaking daily
Strain and chill
Before dinner, put some shorts glasses in the freezer along with the bottle of limoncello



Serve at a tooth-achingly cold temperature



This was another big hit. Everyone loved it, it was a perfect end to a pretty amazing meal. Lemony, sweet, without being overly so, alcoholic without being harsh, it was great. And by this point everyone was sloshed, so it was just what we all wanted!

So, to recap:

Apéritif: French 75



Salad: Roasted lemon Caesar



Soup: Avgolemono with mini lemon scones



Fish: Lemon sole meunière with lemon risotto



Entrée: Rack of lamb with root vegetable tagine and lemon cumin yoghurt



Palette cleanser: Sgroppino



Dessert: Lemon semolina cake with lemon caramel sauce and lemon cream



Digestif: Limoncello



All in all, the meal was a triumph. It was all pretty delicious, even the mistakes were good, and the good bits were great. Most of this meal I was attempting for the first time, and as usual, there’s a lot here that will be done again. But most importantly, it did what all good meals do best; it brought some friends together to have a good time in each other’s company, with good food, good drink and good conversation. And a loving ton of lemons.

Scientastic fucked around with this message at Sep 25, 2018 around 14:50

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BrianBoitano
Nov 15, 2006

This is fine.


gently caress

e: drat

BrianBoitano fucked around with this message at Sep 25, 2018 around 19:19

The Glumslinger
Sep 24, 2008

Coach Nagy, you want me to throw to WHAT side of the field?



Hair Elf

wow

Suspect Bucket
Jan 14, 2012

SHRIMPDOR WAS A MAN
I mean, HE WAS A SHRIMP MAN
er, maybe also A DRAGON
or possibly
A MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL TEAM
BUT HE WAS STILL
SHRIMPDOR


Please tell me more about the zucchini spiraling, are you free handing that? I use the pencil shaver thing myself. Everything looks nuts, I'm gonna need a minute to digest all this crazy good.

Stringent
Dec 22, 2004

The internet is the universal sewer.


This all looks very good.

Postmortem on the ciabatta, that dough looks to be nearly gluten free. For the bread to rise properly the dough needs enough elasticity/strength to hold enough steam to form a crumb as the bread bakes.
This is a good way to check for gluten formation:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adfzN_mfQ8o

With that recipe you're running at about 76% hydration, which is good for ciabatta, but the addition of oil is gonna impede the gluten formation process. So basically just leave it on the dough hook until you can stretch out a window pane, then fold in your goodies and leave it to ferment.

Scientastic
Mar 1, 2010

TRULY scientastic.


Suspect Bucket posted:

Please tell me more about the zucchini spiraling, are you free handing that? I use the pencil shaver thing myself. Everything looks nuts, I'm gonna need a minute to digest all this crazy good.

There was a chap at my local supermarket who did a knife demo: you know the sort of thing where they take a knife that’s been blunted against a rock, and it can’t cut through a tomato, but lo and behold the serrated WONDER KNIFE ™ cuts it just fine. To encourage people to listen, they give away these free gifts. That’s how I own a spiralizer. There’s a picture of it next to the courgette.

Scientastic posted:

Next, make some courgette ribbons. This was great, because I could finally use the weird little spiralizer device I got for listening to a strange man tell me lies about a bad knife I didn’t want to buy.


Scientastic fucked around with this message at Sep 26, 2018 around 06:23

Scientastic
Mar 1, 2010

TRULY scientastic.


Stringent posted:

Gluten advice

Perfect, thanks! I knew it would be something basic like this, and I am more than capable of leaving it in the mixer for longer!

Liquid Communism
Mar 9, 2004


War. War never changes.



Fun Shoe

Yeah, you kinda have to beat the snot out of ciabatta to get good gluten formation because it's such a wet dough and usually oiled. ~8 minutes on medium speed with a paddle at ~80% hydration, IIRC.

Scientastic
Mar 1, 2010

TRULY scientastic.


Fortunately for my guests, the abortive ciabatta flatbread still made pretty good croutons, but I really appreciate the advice: I shall definitely kneed the hell out of it next time I try to make a ciabatta

BrianBoitano
Nov 15, 2006

This is fine.


Your cautionary tale saved my laffa yesterday! My dough looked a lot like yours. I added just enough flour to make it workable and kneaded for an additional 5 minutes (slap and fold gets the job done quick!) and they turned out wonderfully.

Bollock Monkey
Jan 21, 2007
The Almighty

Excellent menu, I was looking forward to reading this and it delivered. I also hadn't realised I always assumed you were American.

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Scientastic
Mar 1, 2010

TRULY scientastic.


BrianBoitano posted:

Your cautionary tale saved my laffa yesterday!

Glad to hear it! That’s one of the reasons I like to document my mistakes in these things as well as the bits that didn’t go well: it’s good to learn from your mistakes, but it’s even better to learn from other peoples!

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