Friday, 7 January 2011

G is for...

... Gin Fizz cocktails served with Gruyère gougéres, followed by an amuse-bouche of a shot of gazpacho. The starter was guinea fowl terrine with a grapefruit salad dressed in grain mustard vinaigrette. Next up came gem squash gnocchi in a Gorgonzola sauce. The main was golden goose served with goose-fat potatoes, greens, garlic purée and giblet gravy. A palate cleanser of gunpowder granita followed, before a pudding of gold glittered green tea and chocolate ganache gâteau with ginger ice cream, ginger biscuits and Grappa. Last came a cheeseboard of Gruyère, Petit Gaugry, Gorgonzola, Double Gloucester and Golden Cenarth served with gherkins and grapes. 

After the drama of F night, I was determined to make G a less fraught affair. I made sure all flat cleaning and food shopping had been completed the day before, so I could concentrate entirely on the food on the day itself, which was prepared to a soundtrack of The Gossip to help speed things up. But ensuring the evening would run more smoothly than F didn't mean I wanted to challenge myself any less with my menu plans. 

G night was held on the 5th November - Guy Fawkes Night, so I wanted this to be reflected somewhere in the menu. Richard and I scoured South London for indoor fireworks and sparklers, but alas, we couldn't find any anywhere. Despite my disappointment at not being able to offer guests a firework display in the middle of dinner, the least I could do was ensure there'd be something involving gunpowder and something twinkly in the form of edible gold glitter. People are often scared by glitter on their food, even when assured it is entirely harmless and edible. If you find the idea of it off-putting, let me reassure you - you can't digest it, so it will go straight through you. You will not be sidled with a glittery stomach lining for evermore, nor will you have to warn the radiographer should you happen to require an X-ray shortly after consuming it. The worst (or best, depending on your take on things) that will happen is that you will have sparkly poo the next day. 

Richard didn't have time to make a compilation CD this time, so we listened to whatever we could find in the CD rack, which was surprisingly little. Our dining soundtrack included Godspeed You! Black Emperor (or it might possibly have been Godspeed You Black Emperor! - I can't remember which of their CDs were played), Gorillaz, Gene, Goldie (something I usually only listen to while on the cross trainer, so I couldn't help but adopt an unwelcome competitive rhythm to my chewing), Guru (a mid 90's party staple) and The Go! Team. Luckily we only had Godflesh on tape so we were spared having to listen to that.

Gin Fizz

This is the most famous cocktail in the Fizz family (which became popular in America in the early 1900s) and it's definitely my favourite. According to Wikipedia, the Gin Fizz was so popular in the bars of New Orleans that scrums of bartenders working in teams would be employed to take turns shaking the fizzes. Although this doesn't sound entirely plausible, I certainly like the idea that this might have been true. To make a Gin Fizz, it's simply 2oz of gin, the juice of half a lemon and a teaspoon of icing sugar per person shaken with ice and topped up with fizzy water: simple, zingy, refreshing. And lethal.

Gruyere gougeres

I discovered a recipe for gougeres in the wonderful Essence by David Everitt-Matthias, which he serves in his restaurant, Le Champignon Sauvage, as bar nibbles - so I thought they'd be a perfect accompaniment to my Gin Fizzes. You make gougeres in a very similar way to choux pastry, except with milk as well as water. They are like like savoury profiteroles: cheesy, moreish little puffs of air.

Preheat the oven to 180C (160C Fan)

100 ml milk
50 g unsalted butter
100 ml water
125 g plain flour
3 eggs, beaten
175 g finely grated Gruyere cheese 
Salt and pepper

Place the milk, butter and water in a heavy based saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. Take off the heat, tip in the flour and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon. Pop the mixture back on the heat and continue to beat until it is shiny and leaves the sides of the pan. Continue to beat over a low heat for a couple of minutes to dry out the mixture a little. Allow to cool slightly and then whisk in the eggs a bit at a time. The mixture should be smooth, shiny and fairly firm; you might not need all of the egg. Stir in the cheese and some salt and pepper. Transfer to a piping bag ( I chose not to use a nozzle, but David Everitt-Matthias recommends a 1.5 - which is absolutely tiny). Pipe in mounds of 3 x 3 cm on a baking tray lined with baking parchment, allowing a 4 cm gap between each one.  Pop the tray in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until well risen and a rich, golden brown. Allow to cool slightly, then serve warm alongside the cocktails.

Amy Sackville, award winning novellist of The Still Point, tucking in.

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