Sunday, November 27, 2005

Some months ago, Tip magazine had a recipe competition looking for desserts made with gelatine. So I sent in my star recipe, being champagne jelly. What's nice about this, is the bubbles get trapped in the gelatine and burst on your tongue as you eat it.
I had to rejig the recipe for Dutch gelatine, which comes in little sheets. For one bottle of bubbly, you need six little sheets. Seven is too many, the jelly becomes tough. Just chill everything well beforehand, the glasses, the mixing bowl, the bubbly. About four hours before you want to eat it, soak the gelatine to soften it, dissolve it in about 65 ml of hot water, add a tablespoon or so of sugar, then pour the gelatine mixture into the chilled bowl, add the chilled bubbly, and ladle the mixture into the chilled glasses. Get everything back in the fridge as quickly as possible.

So last week I got a call. I've won a prize, not the main one regretfully, but a cooking workshop at the Tip Cooking School. It was on Tuesday night, the 22nd November.

It started with tea and coffee with speculaas. I was the only one who hadn't brought along a friend, and had I, you would have been the only male visitor and very welcomed. They were a little disappointed there were no men. Each of us had to describe our entry to the competition and the chef, Yolande, commented on each. She was clearly one of the judges. We were each given an envelope with 5 recipes in.

Then we divided into three groups, 6, 6 and 5. I ended up with the others of much my own age. One was a very vivacious "meegenomen", another was a woman much older than me who seems to regularly win prizes in cooking competitions.

Each group had to make three desserts: a mousse of grapes, a fresh berry jelly and a semolina pudding. The woman who regularly wins competitions made the semolina pudding on her own; I gather she didn't want any help cooking. So her friend teamed up with me and we made the mousse of grapes. This involved making a grape puree and pushing it through a sieve to get a clear juice. There was a magimix for the puree, and mine was the only one that came out green. The chef came over to ask what I did, because the others were both brown. It seems I'm the only person who knows how to use a magimix properly, because I pulse the grapes first. It seems that was the trick.

Ours turned out the best. :) Like way the best. Yolande actually went out of her way to tell me that.

While we were all cooking up this lot, they served wine to those who wanted it. They also had jugs of water with lemon for those who don't imbibe.

Then we tasted two pre-prepared desserts from the same list. One was a rice pudding and the other a marbled raspberry/melon cream dessert.

Then our groups made these two desserts. We split up and worked with different people. The woman who often wins prizes (you would think I would have asked their names...) hung around and looked on, that's why I think she prefers to cook unaided.

We added some extra ingredients to ours because we thought their recipe was a little bland. A touch of aniseed, extra lemon peel, extra pear liqueur. I beat the egg whites and cream.

Then we tasted our first bunch of desserts and the evening was officially over. We also tasted our second set of desserts, and got everyone else to taste it and agree our rice pudding was an improvement.

The desserts were all cream except for the fresh berry jellies and there was a sameness about them. They're none of them the kind of thing I would make again, unless it was part of a huge dessert buffet where you want some variety. I probably got several daily fruit portions in, though possibly not in the manner the health authorities intended.

Although everyone left at various times soon after, we all ended up on the same bus, albeit from different bus stops! The bus driver was most amused.

I had a long wait for a train at HS so I got home just after midnight. There were no trams in that time either, so waiting for the train was still the fastest. Then Paul and I had a couple of glasses of wine and I got to bed after 1. Needless to say I was very tired.

The winning recipe - main prize a workshop in Milan - was a ginger pudding with honey and lavender. I'm not sure when the recipes will all be published.