A feast in Moscow: Mark Hix used local ingredients to cook up a banquet on a recent trip to Russia
Saturday 27 November 2010
A couple of weeks ago, my head chef, Kevin Gratton, accompanied me on a trip to Moscow to cook for three nights at the Soho Rooms, a relatively new club with a restaurant where Laura Bridge, an old friend of mine, does all the cooking.
I always find it's a bit of a challenge doing a cooking gig in another country, as you're never quite sure what you're going to find once you get there. We spent about a month e-mailing each other ideas and recipes and eventually came up with a menu with three starters, three mains and three desserts. Ingredients are a bit tricky to find in Moscow and the majority of them are imported from France and the States – so even though menus were confirmed, we arrived with a fairly open mind about exactly what was going to be waiting for us.
Although we had to make a few last-minute alterations to the menu because we had to work with slightly different ingredients, the biggest thing that went wrong, after preparing three days' worth of food, was that the fridge suddenly broke down.
Unfortunately, we lost almost all the prep we had done and we had to go back to the drawing board and start all over again. Talk about a kitchen nightmare...
Fillet of trout with split peas and clams
In Moscow, we were given some very large farmed trout with which to make this dish, but you could also use a salmon, instead.
100g green split peas, soaked overnight in cold water
Half a small onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
250-300ml fish or chicken stock
A few mint leaves, chopped
4 trout fillets weighing about 160g each
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A little flour for dusting
A little vegetable oil for frying
250g small clams or cockles, washed
50ml white wine
1tbsp chopped parsley
Drain the split peas and rinse them in cold water. Gently cook the onion in the butter for 2-3 minutes until it softens, then add the split peas and fish stock, season and simmer for about 20-30 minutes or until the peas are just starting to fall apart and the liquid has almost evaporated. Stir in the mint leaves and a little more butter, re-season and keep warm.
Season the trout fillets, then heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a preferably non-stick frying pan, season the trout and very lightly flour the skin side. Cook on a medium heat (with the skin side down first) for 2-3 minutes on each side, adding a knob of butter to the pan towards the end of cooking.
While the fish is cooking, put the clams in a pan with the white wine, cover with a lid and cook on a high heat, shaking the pan every so often until they are all open. Add the rest of the butter and the parsley and mix well.
To serve, spoon the split peas on to warmed serving plates, place the fish on top with the skin side up, then spoon the clams and sauce on top.
Lemon curd cheesecake
We actually made a blackberry cheesecake while we were in Moscow, but as the blackberry season is obviously finished in the UK, I thought I would give you the recipe for this lemon version instead. If you wish, you can reserve a little of the curd and biscuit mix to scatter on the cheesecake when you serve it.
6tbsp lemon curd
250g digestive biscuits or HobNobs
80g butter, melted
For the cheesecake
500g cream cheese such as mascarpone
300ml double cream
100g caster sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1tsp vanilla essence
In a food processor, crush the biscuits to a coarse breadcrumb-like consistency. To do this by hand, put the biscuits in a plastic bag and smash with a rolling pin. Mix the biscuit crumbs with the melted butter.
Using a mixing machine or by hand, whip the double cream and sugar until fairly stiff. In a clean bowl, again by machine or hand, soften the cream cheese
then carefully fold in the whipped cream. If you're using softer mascarpone rather than Philadelphia, you may need about 50g less cream. Carefully fold in with the lemon zest and vanilla essence.
Have ready a 5-6cm deep dish, large enough to fit the mixture tightly. Spoon a third of the cheesecake mixture into the dish and stir in a third of the lemon curd to form a ripple effect and smoothe it over with the back of a spoon.
Scatter one-third of the biscuit mix on the cheesecake then repeat with the cheesecake mix and lemon curd until you have used up all of the mix.
Cover with clingfilm and leave to set in the fridge overnight.
To serve, dip a large serving spoon in hot water and scoop a spoonful out and place in the centre of serving dishes.
Crispy duck and scallop salad
We had to create this dish from scratch on the first night in Moscow after we had looked through the fridges and worked out what ingredients were at hand that would make a lovely starter for 300 customers.
What we ended up with was a version of a dish which I did at Le Caprice some 20 years ago with the addition of some scallops – easily executed and it seemed to go down well with the locals.
2 duck legs
6 large freshly shucked scallops
Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying
For the orange sauce
The juice of 1 large orange
2tbsp tomato ketchup
2tbsp HP Sauce
1tbsp clear honey
tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
For the dressing
1tbsp vegetable or corn oil
tbsp cider vinegar
For the salad
A couple of handfuls of pea shoots, washed
A couple of carrots, peeled, trimmed and cut into fine matchstick-like shreds
A small handful of chives, cut into 4-5cm lengths
Oil for deep frying
Cover the duck with water, add a teaspoon of salt and pepper, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 45 minutes.
Remove the duck from the stock and set it aside to cool. Skim the fat off the stock and use it as a base to make a soup or gravy.
Put the orange juice in a saucepan and simmer it until you have about 1 tablespoon left, then whisk together with all of the other ingredients for the duck sauce. Remove a tablespoon of the sauce to make the dressing and whisk in the vinegar and oil.
Remove the duck from the bone, then cut into cm-thick slices.
Preheat about 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a large, thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep-fat fryer.
Deep-fry the pieces of duck for a few minutes, turning them in the oil as they are cooking, then remove with a slotted spoon on to some kitchen paper to drain off the fat.
While the duck is cooking, heat a knob of butter in a frying pan, season the scallops and cook them on a high heat for a couple of minutes, turning them as they are cooking until golden.
Mix the pea shoots, carrots and chives together and arrange half in a pile in the centre of 4 serving plates.
Toss the duck in enough of the sauce to just coat it and spoon on to the salad, then pile the rest of the salad on top.
Cut the scallops in half and arrange three pieces of scallop around the salad on each plate, then spoon the dressing over the salad and around the plate. Serve immediately.
Whipped potato with rabbit and wild mushrooms
We originally planned this dish to be a Portobello mushroom with wild rabbit, but when we got to Moscow there was a distinct lack of mushrooms, so I added a buttery mashed potato base.
2 medium-sized potatoes for mashing (300-350g), peeled and quartered
About 200g butter
Milk to mix
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
The saddle fillets from 2 wild rabbits
A little vegetable oil for frying
200g wild mushrooms, cleaned and cut into even-sized pieces
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2tbsp chopped parsley
Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water, then drain and return to the pan over a low heat for a minute or so to evaporate any excess water. Mash the potatoes in a potato ricer or with a masher as smoothly as possible. Mix in lots of butter, about 150g, and enough milk to give the potato a smooth, almost sauce-like, consistency. Season to taste and keep warm.
Heat a couple of knobs of butter in a frying pan and fry the mushrooms and garlic for 2-3 minutes, seasoning them halfway through cooking and turning them with a spoon. Stir in the parsley and keep warm. While the mushrooms are cooking, season the rabbit fillets, heat a little vegetable oil in a frying pan and cook the fillets for 2-3 minutes, turning them as they are cooking and keeping them nice and pink. To serve, slice the fillets into 3-4 pieces, spoon the potato on to the centre of warmed serving plates and spread it out with the back of a spoon. Spoon the mushrooms over the potato and arrange the fillets on top.
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