Tuesday, 23 November 2010

E is for...

... Elderflower fizz and edamame, followed by escargot empanadillas, then enoki soup. The main was elk with a St Emilion reduction, roasted eddo and a salad of endives. Pudding was Eton mess eclairs. Next came a cheeseboard of Epoisses, St Eadburgha and Emmental followed by "Espresso" and Earl Grey eggs.

E was a tricky one. You'd think there would be no shortage of foods beginning with E, but there really isn't a wealth of choice. And some of those that do start with an E can be very tricky, or nigh impossible, to track down. Elderberries being one such E and emu being another. These small hurdles weren't going to stop me though and I managed to track down the delightful people from The Bison Centre and Farm - who, as I'm sure you can guess from their name, specialise in bison and, less obviously, elk. They have a farm in Wiltshire that is home to herds of bison, elk and red deer. You can visit them, along with the owls, rare breed sheep and pigs, chipmunks, guanaco, prairie dogs, rheas and raccoons that they live alongside and, while you're there, you can make a trip to the Native American gallery that they have in the grounds too. The Bison Centre were exceptionally helpful and sent out a special next day delivery of elk fillet and elk steaks (I took everything they had left!) that arrived in a polystyrene container that looked like a human organ carrier - quite an exciting parcel to sign for at 8:30 on a Saturday morning. The eddo was bought specially by Richard from The Japan Centre, along with the edamame beans, before we realised that the international supermarket a stone's throw away from our flat stocks them in plentiful supply.

Richard made an E compilation album, featuring Echo and the Bunnymen, Elvis Presley, Erasure and Explosions in the Sky, to name just a few. We drank St Emilion, Emiliana Reserva Especial Pinot Noir, El Bombero, Errazuriz chardonnay and Efes lager.

One friend had struggled with the idea of coming for an E dinner, in case the whole meal consisted entirely of eggs. Needless to say, it didn't. In fact, eggs didn't really feature at all until the final and silliest of all the courses. But, before we get to that...

Pre-dinner drinks and nibbles

Elderflower Fizz

During the elderflower season I had been sure that I would get round to foraging for some nice blossom heads and making my own elderflower champagne a la Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall. But it wasn't to be, as every time I had a moment spare to forage, it was either too late in the day or too cold - apparently they must be picked early in the morning on a hot day, when the blossoms smell at their very best and make for the tastiest wine. Thinking I had plenty of time to get round to it, the season evaporated into thin air and a case of home-made HFW's bubbly just wasn't to be. Maybe next year. Instead, Richard and I made a cheat's version and simply poured a measure of elderflower cordial into glasses before topping them up with Cava. They were very gluggable, so it didn't feel like too much of  a loss not to have had the proper stuff in the end.


These couldn't be easier. Just chuck them in a saucepan of boiling water and cook for 3 - 4 minutes from frozen. Just like frozen peas. Drain them and toss them in sea salt and serve. I like to pop the pods in my mouth and drag the bean out with my teeth, so the salty shells season the beans as you eat them.

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