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July, 2012:

Hats off to Heston

Clearing some weeds from around the house and I discovered quite the haul of snails. Big ones.

BIG Meaty ones. What can it mean? It’s a sign!

snails

One made a break for it then stopped to munch some lichen…

snails

I’m going all Heston on these boys.  I am following Heston’s recipe for snail porridge one of the signature dishes from his Michelin three star restaurant in the UK.

snails

One of the greatest living Englishmen in his double-awesome ‘Fat Duck Cookbook‘ devotes 7 pages to this dish.

I’ve read it plenty of times and figure that whilst it’s challenging (on all levels) I’m going to man up and have a go at a spot of Michelin 3* cooking!

The process of prepping them takes a couple of weeks. They’ve been washed, purged and  fed up on a diet of  sweet lettuce, cabbage, carrot peelings and onion and fronds of dill.

slow food

They’re then weaned off any vegetable matter and have been on a sprinkling of fine ground polenta for about 12  days.

There’s no delicate way to put this but…

…they were all now doing ‘white’ poops! Ready to cook.

snails

They have had nothing to eat for the last three days. This morning, washed and rinsed for the final time and into a pan with a little salt and some fresh bay leaves.

snails

All done. I kept waiting for them to start wriggling again… a sad fact is that once you snuff out the life in them they’re never coming back… they’ve moved on to fulfill a higher destiny… my Sunday  supper!

snails

Yeah. Big job. I had 62 to remove from their shells.  I only needed a dozen this evening for this dish… the rest of the shells have been rinsed, boiled again in salted water, rinsed again and dried in a low oven.

I’ll make a classic Bourgogne Escargot dish with them.

snails

All naked and keeping their curls.

snails

Ok. The initial cooking process is just enough to liberate the snails from their shells.  This stage transforms the texture and flavour.

Three hours @120c for the braising. The stock is made from an onion, halved and studded with cloves, chopped carrot and celery, bunch of rosemary, bunch of thyme, stalks from a bunch of parsley.  Added 250ml of Muscadet and 100 ml of water. Covered with a little baking paper and braised in a low oven.

The residual stock? I’ll be making soup with that!

snails

Mushrooms, sliced almonds(!), parlsey, butter (more later), air dried cured beef (more later), 85g of garlic (a lot!) and two shallots.  This lot goes to layer the complexity in the garlic butter.

snails

So – some more on this ingredient. The Blumenthal recipe calls for a salt cured and air dried duck breast. It takes (minimum) 20 days to make that and adds a layer of savoury flavour to the butter.

I had some home air dried beef on hand ( I make Biltong every summer – a hangover from time in Africa) – when it’s shaved like that in the foreground it is pure essence of Umami on the tongue.

I would *never* have put it in a herb butter. Genius.

snails

Take-away-trick. Sauteé the garlic until lightly golden before blending.  This was 85 g of garlic in 50g of butter. Transforms the harsh garlic edge away before adding to the base butter mix.

snails

Blended 200g of butter with 200g of parsley. The shallots were cooked gently until translucent.  The mushrooms zapped until caremelised.

The Blumthenal recipe called for ceps – none in the supermarché so I used normal champignon de paris. Caramelising the mushroom like that gave them the same great flavour you get from the mushrooms in a classic English fryup. YES!

snails

Vinaigrette to dress the fennel topping. 140g rapeseed oil, 10g dijon, 50g of walnut infused white wine vinegar. I tasted that and thought it a bit one dimensional!

Heston might disapprove but I added two big pinches of sugar and a slug of fine ground white pepper. When he comes to my house and pays me £180 for his supper *then* he can complain!

snails

Tiny amount of stock (40ml) and 20g of sifted porridge oats – enough to just hydrate the cereal and then blob in the herb butter.

 

Now to plate up :-

Porridge is made.
sp-building-01
A layer of chiffonade ham.
sp=construct- porridge and ham
sp-building-03
The snails have been sauteéd in a little foaming butter and then given a final seasoning with fresh pepper. A handful on each portion does the trick.

 

Finally, dress with the fennel shavings in their walnut vinaigrette.

A very long walk but what a journey. It was good!

The layers and complexity were all there…

Oats tasted of oats.
The butter to envelop the oats was multidimensional – savoury, herbal, very little hint of garlic… astonishing.
The ham was… ham. Salty and textured as it’d been well cured.
The snails? Herbal, meaty.. some were quite soft.. like a just-cooked foie-gras… rich and fatty.
The fennel, fresh, anis flavour… the bite of the vinaigrette dressing and the aroma of the nuts coming through.

Hats off to Heston. He da man.

snail

12 days prep, one day pre-prep and about 7 man hours of my own time all in. The luxury of time is the key ingredient in all of this but the complexity and layering of flavours was something else.

My attempt was an approximation of the Blumenthal dish because whilst I had all the ingredients… he has the tools! I’m just never going to cough €4000 for a Pacojet.

Still, gave a good account of myself and will undoubtedly do it again. No question.

I’ve eaten food of this calibre a few times before and the combination of ingredients and techniques that are in play brings the dish to a whole ‘nother level.

snails

Nothing for me to add, Heston says it all.

Except of course if you’d like to take me to dinner I’d quite like the tasting menu, please.

3.5 hrs worth of eating? £180!

Festival Of Games – 2012

Every year we make sure that we spend a day at the Festival Ludique International de Parthenay, or Flip.   This year the weather has not been too kind but we managed to visit for an afternoon of sunshine with the odd shower.

Flip 2012

Each year, over the fortnight, it draws thousands of people – young and old – into the town of Parthenay, to enjoy and partake in game playing.  I have blogged this festival before in 2006 and not much has changed since then.

lost in thought

Father and daughter (?) playing a board game in the streets.  It is so lovely to see all generations of people just stopping their day to day rush and spending time playing and being with each other.

Games Festival 2012

Over the years we have had a go at some of the circus school games but this year we decided to just sit back, with a Belgian beer, and watch the children doing it with ease and laughter.

Games Festival 2012

When the rain did come, it didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits.  Numerous marquees around the town were filled with people hiding from the rain – but – still playing games!  The rain passed quickly and everyone poured back out into the streets again.

Games festival - 2012

Inside the Palais du Congress were all the video games and interactive games for young and old alike.  It was funny to watch young girls playing a dance game, holding handsets to record their moves and scoring points for every correct move they copied from the animated dancers.  They did it so seriously.

Games festival 2012

All the young boys were on the racing car and shoot-em up games.  If not shooting or racing, other males were on the 1st floor of the building partaking in the Rubiks cube tournament.  Some were so good they weren’t even looking at the cube while they completed it and others only used one hand.  I personally have never been able to do a rubiks cube without taking it apart!

Flip 2012

Face painting was very popular this year. It seemed to be, wherever you looked, children and adults alike were painted with patterns and bright vivid colours.

And the new hit game of the year – there didn’t seem to be one – unlike one previous year where everyone was playing Blokus.  We played it too and loved it so much we bought it.

Trends for 2012 – well – you can’t escape them – only a head shot will do …

Flip 2012

Zombies !!

The Future Is Here !

Having flown many times from the UK back home to Poitiers airport and seen this park from the air, I have always wondered what it was all about.  All those unusual shapes of the buildings, stark lines made from various reflective materials and water everywhere.

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