Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Purity Of Puree

Hooray for Puree

So to the finer points in refined cooking… queue swipes, stripes… spots and dots of pure banging flavours all made possible through the art of puree or puréed ingredients. From the Sunday roast to an elaborate dinner party this is the perfect technique to concentrate combined flavours in a sophisticated “how’s your father method” that will surely raise eyebrows and conjure questions…
*nature of questions: bewilderment, tainted with jealousy!

*nature of eyebrow rising: bewilderment, tainted with jealousy! (…God damn it... I wish I had of thought of that for my party)

Also a pre warning once you delve into the murky world of puree’s you will want more, it’s highly addictive and you will be thinking of where and when to get your next fix… be warned!

If you’re not already familiar with the term Puree let me give you a crash course (that perhaps fine dining establishments might not like us average Joes to think) …the crash and the course being that the process is extremely simple (for the most part) providing you have a good blender and a good imagination. Take your time and think about your dish as a whole…

One book I will recommend is the “Food Thesaurus”, and in particular for this post its content is a must have. It gives the a to z of ingredients, and what each ingredient should, or could, be paired with and do not think it covers the obvious (sugar and spice all things nice approach) …no this book goes way outside the box …my favourite example goats cheese and chocolate. Yeah. Indeed. Initially… that’s exactly what I thought too. Buy the book you shall see what i blabber incoherently about and you shall, i gaurantee... laaaave it Darling. Bang!  

The little brother with the big personality is a bit of a Gandalf when it comes to the old puree business and unfortunately I cannot give up his own creations on underpressure. I can describe some of them in one word however… the word being “Stunning”… Oh and boundary pushing, but that’s two words… I can however give you mine (and simplified versions of his just don’t tell him). The thing you will find though with a puree is what you pair your creation with… needless to say If I give you an apple puree, don’t present it on a plate with caramelised granny smith segment!
Okay captain obvious get on with it I hear you say… Right so… To the puree mobile Robin

Carrot Puree
This is original… a rather back patting epiphany I had whilst prepping soups a couple of weeks. The soup being my own carrot soup recipe (I normally would glance over carrot soup on a menu imaging bland and boring) …so decided to go for underlying earthy tones. The type of flavours that resonate on the roof of your mouth… giving what  i consider a dull soup… a new lease of life laced with butternut squash, peppers and onion and various herbs invited along to the party… it ticked all the boxes and I did indeed try to pat my own back and also made up a batch in the puree’d form for garnish… It goes a little something like this...


One cup finely diced carrot
¼ cup of butternut squash …finely diced

Tbspn of Onion… guess what? Yes finely diced
Pinch of thyme… finely diced

Pinch of rosemary… finely diced

Butter… couple of knobs

Season to taste

How to
Sautee off all ingredients until soft to the touch... I find a low heat over a prolonged period works better than a rapid high heat. Prolonged concentrates juices and flavours, as opposed to burnt flavour. So be gentle. Take your time… put on the kettle. When ingredients  gently squash between two fingers you are nearly there. Okay time for the puree mobile indeed Robin (the blender) All ingredients into the blender and whack on full tilt. Done…  If you want a silkier, smoother puree pass your mix through a chamois.

Beetroot Puree
Now I should mention before we proceed with Mr Beetroot here, that this is a way simplified version. Last time I made this puree I pickled the beet myself with lots of star anise, cloves, bay leaf and not to mention the agar agar to set it… then blend it to get the most fabulous fluid gel that absolutely bursts with bang factor. But for now, and at home, we shall roll with a not so long winded, elaborate and expensive process. Simple is as simple does…

500 g  beetroot 

4 tbsp  sherry vinegar 

½ star anisee

1 clove

100 g natural yogurt

salt, to taste 

How to

Leave the star anisee and clove marinating in the vinegar overnight to give that extra edge. Bang all ingredients, minus your cloves and anisee  in a blender and process until smooth and silky (add another teaspoon vinegar if need be or add more ogurt to get that flourescent glow from your puree)… Done….

Chilli puree

2 medium red chillies… de stemmed, de seeded

5 medium dried red chillies… de stemmed and de seeded 

1   jalapeno chilli… de seeded… finely chopped 

2 garlic cloves… minced 

2 tbsp  vegetable oil 

2 ½ tsp  cumin… ground 

Hot water 

How to

Okay to re hydrate the chilli, soak in hot water for 15 to 20 minutes, strain then bang into a blender and process with the rest of your ingredients adding water little by little.. we do not want to lose that thickness.  This is hot and it is adviseable to counteract with something contrasting whether that be a cold meat or crème fraiche… Variety is the spice of life… Bang!

Chestnut puree        
This, for me, is like the Mona Lisa of puree. No disrespect to Mona. I am not saying la joconde has a head like a chestnut. No indeed I am a big art lover and Da Vinci admirer. What I am saying is that for me, this is a puree that is elegant, sophisticated and spanks of class, sat beside wild game, a rich jus and seasonal veg… Yes indeed…


750 g  chestnuts, peeled 
200 ml  double cream 

5 tbsp  butter 

1 tsp  sugar 

Salt to taste 

How to

In a bowl, cover the chestnuts with boiling water. Allow to stand until the skin can be peeled off easily with a small knife or even your fingernails
Into the cream and cook on a low heat until chestnuts are soft to touch (squish between the finger test)... Remove from the heat and bang into a blender.

In a saucepan, melt the butter. Add the chestnut purée and sugar. Cook over medium heat for 5-10 minutes. If too dry, add more milk, the purée should be creamy. Season to taste with salt… Bang!

Dill and zucchini

1 medium  zucchini 
120 ml  buttermilk 

1 tbsp  fresh dill 

¼ tsp  nutmeg… ground 

1 ½ tbsp  chicken or vegetable broth 

Season to taste 

How to
Scrub zucchini, trim, and cut crosswise in half. Cut each half into 8 wedges. Heat a large sauce pan and bring to the boil. Add salt. Add zucchini and boil until tender. Drain well.

Bang boiled zucchini, buttermilk, dill and nutmeg in a blender and process until smooth. Thin the sauce with enough broth to make it workable... Nice swipe across  plate with steamed fish or vegetables… Done

Caramelized Onion
4 onion... roughly chopped
tub of butter
Smoked oil taste
season to taste

How To
This puree is so, so simple but worth it. Lots of butter into a pan... bang in the roughly chopped onion and let simmer on a low, low heat for a couple of hours. Strain butter. Blend carmelized onion with a drop of smoked oil. Wow... deep deep falvours wheter it be on a burger, sunday roast dinner or served with game... deep, deep flavours and if your mammy likes onions as much as my mammy likes onions... she will love you for this puree... Bang!

So Subject to the aforementioned
So I suppose you are beginning to see a pattern in the puree recipes. The pattern being the same, simple technique applied to puree any ingredient. Boil it. Blend it… and it gives your plate that extra edge…

Imagine the plate your canvass and you a culinary Picasso (maybe a bit carried away there) but that is sometimes how I feel plating food, making ingredients dance and jump and sit just perfect. Swipes, stripes are the foundation of this art.
Simple task… Arm yourself with a spoon (varying sizes) spatula and a piping tube… blank plate and off you go practise dragging the back of your spoon across the plate and through your ingredients… Put dots around the plate. Pipe one large dot and swipe away quickly. Arc your miniature spatula through a heap and you will see the effects I am talking about even if you practice with regular ketchup… and do not be disheartened if it does not work out at first it took me weeks of plating many dozen plates a night to gain confidence and fluidity in my hand… If you do try this you shall see just how addictive it is. Wiping. Retrying until you get it just perfect. You will see what I mean.
I hope to get feedback on some of your puree recipes and pretty much the primary message of this is to experiment and try out in your kitchen with the children, for a party or just for the fun of it and let me see your culinary creations... Bang!

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