Ollie Dabbous – Rabbit Pie, Banana & Custard Tart & Beeswax Canales

A few years ago Raymond Blanc’s protege Ollie Dabbous opened his eponymous restaurant Dabbous. Soon after opening Fay Mascher, food critic for the Evening Standard rocked up, and gave it an extremely rare 5 star review. Soon after the review came out it was impossible to bag a table for months in the future. Ollie Dabbous had made a glittering debut and gastronomes around the capital were going crazy for his exciting and inventive food. Three years later and I still haven’t got round to eating at Dabbous, but I have done the second and third best thing:

1. I’ve eaten at Ollie’s second outpost, the informal hipsterish joint Barnyard where I had some excellent chicken wings, a tasty piece of beef and an under seasoned bubble and squeak with black pudding.

2. Ollie is currently Harrods chef of the season which means he supplies Harrods with some of his restaurant inspired dishes for people to eat at home and it is these dishes that provide the context for this blog.

There are a number of dishes available at the Dabbous counter and they all look beautiful and worth a punt on, but not having the finances to try them all I narrowed it down to a rabbit pie, a banana and custard tart and a trio of beeswax canales.

Rabbit Pie

The rabbit pie is served up in a little plywood box, topped with golden flaky pastry with a mini carrot poking out of the top. I heated it up for 20 mins and and dug in. The pastry was buttery and delicious and fared incredibly well considering it had been cooked and reheated. The rabbit chunks remained tender which is a thing of wonder because whenever I’ve cooked rabbit myself it has come out as tough chewy lumps that provided little pleasure, even after vigorous mastication.  The meat was surrounded by a herby, mustardy sauce and fresh spring vegetables which was pleasant enough but under powered and lacked that special kick you get from mustard when your nose tingles and your eyes water. For my money I would have preferred a dijon rather to a mild wholegrain but that’s just me, perhaps the normal Harrod’s clientele don’t like that sort of thing. As ready meals go this was pretty sophisticated.

Dabbous Pie

Next up was the banana and custard and tart and in my homage to the signature dish of Massimo Bottura “Oops I dropped the lemon tart” I sent the tart crashing to the kitchen floor and it ended up a splattered mush of pastry, cream and banana. It was far from the presentation Ollie was going for but undeterred I ate it. The problem was I ate it a couple of hours after its collision with the floor which was enough time for the battered pastry to get soggy and become one with the cream. It still tasted good but good in the way banana, cream and pastry has the capacity too even if it hadn’t been crafted by one of our most revered chefs. I think the nuance and brilliance of this little parcel was lost on the floor and to time and for that I am sorry to have missed out on the experience and also sorry to the pastry chef whose work I so carelessly destroyed.

Banana & Custard Pie

Finally I had a trio of little canales cooked in beeswax. I got stuck into these as soon as I had bought them so I don’t have a photo to show you, but here is a link to one. The canales were delicious and tasted of honey and dreams come true, the only downside being the maraschino cherry which overwhelmed at first bite before giving way to the subtler flavour of the cake, but if overwhelming cherry is a concern for you, you can always remove it as Naomi (my girlfriend) did.

All in all the Dabbous range was a hit. If I find myself near Harrods again before the concession ends I’ll have to try the cured goose with fenugreek or failing that just try my luck at getting a table and eat his dishes as they were meant to be eaten in the splendour of his restaurant.

Rabbit Pie £8.95

7/10

Banana and Custard Tart £3.95

Hard to say because  destroyed it but I reckon 7 or 8/10 if it was at it’s best.

Beeswax Canales £3.25 for three

8/10

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Heston from Waitrose Ultimate Chocolate Bar

A couple of weeks ago in my return to blogging I referenced Heston’s Ultimate Chocolate Bar as a product that Heston brought out for Christmas 2014. Quite often his Christmas products come and go in the space of a few weeks but this one seems to have stuck around and just before Easter there it was sat in the freezer section. It costs an almighty £10 which is really pushing the limits of a supermarket freezer pudding but as my sister, brother in law and nephew were coming to stay it felt like a good a time as any to splash out.

The Ultimate Chocolate Bar has already been reviewed by Heston afficionado In Search of Heston here and if you want to know what I think you could click that link as it pretty much sums up my thoughts, but as you’re already reading this I’ll push on.

Ultimate chocolate bar box

This pudding comes in a big gold box in the shape of a bar of gold, it’s all very fancy and luxurious. Heston describes the bar thus “Milk chocolate, crunchy biscuit, caramel, nougat – all the flavours of my favourite chocolate bars, magically transformed into a dessert.” which suits me. I slid the bar out of its box and was greeted by a very sleek looking glossy chocolate brick, if it wasn’t for the fact that I had knocked lumps of the coating off in transit it would have looked like some top notch patisserie. I took a sharp knife and sliced through and rather than the immaculately placed equal layers the picture on the box promised I was greeted with some uneven brown mousse sat on some uneven whitish mousse, sat on some brown biscuity stuff sat on more uneven brown mousse which was sat on some more brown and all this moussey brown was coated in the aforementioned glossy brown stuff. It was brown and moussey.

Chocolate bar slice

I took a spoonful and tasted the outer chocolate casing, however tasted might not be the right word as it had no discernible flavour just the texture of wet rubber. As I got deeper into the bar the flavour levels increased and I got a mix of chocolatey mousse, crispy biscuit, some cakey type stuff and more mousse. It was essentially a chocolate mousse with some extra bits coated in wet rubber. Heston claimed it contained “all the flavours of my favourite chocolate bars” but what I think he meant was “I’ve tried to make this taste of a Mars” because it did. The mousse was malty with a caramely hit and tasted very much like a mars bar.

Overall it was a very pleasant pud, it tasted good and looked quite a treat but it wasn’t anything special at all and certainly wasn’t worth £10. As In Search of Heston said in his blog you could find a version of this dessert in any supermarket and at a fraction of the price, so save yourself the expense of Waitrose head to Asda and look for choco mousse delight or something similar and you’ll probably have just as good an experience.

Heston from Waitrose Ultimate Chocolate Bar £10

5/10

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Ferran Adria Olive Oil with Black Olives

A few months ago fellow blogger and Heston enthusiast In Search of Heston got in touch with me to say he had found some Ferran Adria oils on offer in Morrison’s. I wasn’t able to find them locally and he offered to send them to me and after lots of procrastination I failed to book a courier. Then a few weeks later I found a bottle of the oil in a B&M Bargain – the least likely outlet for the worlds greatest chef to be peddling his wares. I doubt that when El Bulli was at the height of it’s power that Ferran would ever have imagined that his oil would find its way to a B&M Bargain in a northern town retailing at 99p a bottle.

Now being the culinary maverick he is Ferran has decided to take the idea of an oil made from olives and infuse it with olives. Not being a culinary maverick myself I had always imagined the point of infusing a product with something was to add extra depth, flavour or complexity to it and not to make it taste like itself, but then I’m not forging the future of the culinary arts so I’d best keep quiet. I’d be interested to see if this idea takes off though and we may get potato infused mash or tea infused tea – the possibilities are endless. Perhaps it is the future of food or perhaps it is the reason why I found the oil for 99p in B&M Bargain, you decide.

Ferran Adria Oil

I don’t actually like olives that much, I can tolerate them when they’re in a dish and am happy for a hint of olive in my oil but if there’s a plate of them on a table I tend to leave well alone. It is probably for this reason that I bought the extra olivey olive oil back in April 2014 and am only getting around to writing about it one year later. The big issue with this is that that the oil went off last June – obviously that won’t stop me trying it as what is is a bit of gone off oil between friends. It does mean that there is no guarantee that what I taste and write about will be an accurate description of what Ferran intended. So here goes….

I gave the bottle a good shake as instructed to allow the little bits of olive that had sunk to the bottom to spread throughout the oil and poured a bit onto a plate. I had some stale bread which I thought would be the perfect accompaniment to out of date oil and dipped it in. The oil itself was thin, pale and quite watery, I don’t know if this is because it is not good oil or because it was nine months out of date but it certainly lacked richness and depth. It was perhaps the most olivey tasting thing I have ever eaten. The oil tasted more of olive than an olive. It was really intense and quite bitter and because of that I thought it was horrible.  Again I have no way of knowing if that is what it should taste like or if those extra nine months of steeping had intensified the flavour to crazy proportions.

Adria  oil poured

If I see any Ferran oils again I will try a different flavour and taste them whilst in date and maybe then I could be more positive, but for now, it’s a thumbs down Ferran.

Ferran Adria Olive Oil with Black Olives 99p for 200ml

3/10

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Catch Up….

I read once that if you read a blog and you find a few entries that start with “I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a while….” then you know it is the beginning of the end. I have fallen into that category of late and until now I haven’t posted for about four months, by anyones standards that is a poor show. I hope that this is the end of the drought and I will start to post regularly again as I don’t believe Michelin Microwave’s death is here just yet. The truth is over the past four months I have bought, decorated and moved into a new flat and had a weird time of internal restructuring at work that could have ended in redundancy but actually ended up OK. So all in all it’s been a tense few months and I haven’t found the time to pen my thoughts about banal food stuffs created by celebs. I have however kept on eating them and taking pics of them so that when the day came that I did manage to blog I’d be able to play catch up and so here we are.

I could attempt to write individual blogs about each product that I’ve eaten in that time but as I’ve referenced before here my memory is so bad that any details or nuance would be lost so here are the headlines on the things I’ve tried…

Heston Pork and Piccalilli Pie

Heston Pork Pie

This one was a winner, it had good crumbly pastry filled with a generous helping of pork and hidden inside that was a sharp delightfully luminous piccalilli. There was a small layer of jelly which was fine by me. I’m not one of those people who gets squeamish about pork pie jelly, but nor am I a huge fan that loves the stuff. The jelly in Heston’s had a salty kick  that complemented the meat but it didn’t overwhelm everything and it didn’t feel like I was swallowing some misplaced frogspawn.  The piccallili hiding in the centre was the perfect foil for the rich pastry, fatty meat and salty jelly and provided an acidic twang that cut through everything else.

Pork Pie open

I’ve just checked the Waitrose website and apparently this sells for £2.69 which seems to be pretty good value to me.

7/10

Heston Lasagne for one

Heston Lasagne

This was another success story for Heston and one of the best high street lasagnes I’ve tried. The last time I tried a ready meal lasagne it was a Carluccio’s one and you can read that here if you like. The Heston version was much better, the ragu had good complexity and depth of flavour the pasta had a decent bite to it. If I had one complaint it’s that it could have been a bit cheesier, but then you could say that about most meals as melted cheese improves everything it touches. As an aside and whilst I’m on the topic of melted cheese this place is opening soon which is great news.

Anyway Heston’s lasagne is better than the version you’d find in a Bella Pasta which isn’t saying much, but when Bella Pasta have the balls to charge £9.75 and Heston’s is about £4 you may as well stay in for the night and eat something that actually tastes good.

At this point I would normally post a pic of the cooked product so you could see the deliciousness for yourself, but after checking the photos I took I’d be doing Heston a disservice as it looks like someone vomited a McDonald’s milkshake on top of a kebab so I’m going to save you that pain.

8/10

Heston Sticky Toffee and Apple Sponge Pudding

Sticky Toffee and Apple Sponge Pudding

In the time I’ve had away from the blog I have been eating a lot of Heston things and also enjoying them – but don’t worry it all changes here. After Heston’s crazy success with the hidden orange Christmas Pudding a few years ago he now tries to come up with a new festive dessert treat each year. This time he came up with a couple; the delicious looking Chocolate Bar which I didn’t try, but In Search of Heston did so that’s covered here and the one I did try the Sticky Toffee and Apple Sponge Pudding. In theory it sounds delicious but in reality I wouldn’t wish it on the Grinch.

The sponge element of the pudding didn’t have a massive amount of flavour other than sugar, it did however have the texture of a moist loofer. Not content with the oversweet sponge Heston had the inspired idea to top it with candied apple to ensure we got that extra sugary hit. The apple was chopped into small pieces and looked like something that you would struggle to scrape off the floor when you plucked up the courage to do the bi-annual under fridge clean. Added to all those elements was a “butter caramel sauce” which I think was there to make sure we had enough sugar, it tasted like liquid candy floss.

Sugar rush

In hindsight the description on the box should have been a warning sign it reads “Nothing hidden about this warm, dark, rich sponge pudding with caramel fudge. Finish with brown butter caramel sauce with candied apple for the ultimate combination of Christmas flavours”. It doesn’t really sound like a low sugar dish. I do however think there is a case for it breaching the trade descriptions act with it’s bold claim on “Christmas flavours” when it doesn’t even mention cinnamon, dried fruits or orange but we’ll let that slide.

In short this was a Christmas disaster! I hope Heston does not bring this one back next year as it has no place in modern society unless you wanted to kill a diabetic.

About £10 I think, but ours was about £3 presumably because everyone else had the sense not to buy it.

2/10

Jamie Oliver Moroccan Salad Bulgar Wheat

Jamie Bulgar Wheat Pouch

And so finally I turn to my old friend Jamie Oliver who at the latter end of last year came out with a range of pouches filled with flavoured pulses. There are some quinoa ones and some bulgar wheat ones and I plumped for a Moroccan Salad Bulgar Wheat pouch because it was on special offer.

I had this pouch sitting in the cupboard for a while whilst trying to find the right moment to eat it. That moment came when we were mid house move, there was very little in the cupboard and very little money in the bank so I put the pouch in my bag and took it to work for my lunch. To be fair to Jamie I think these pouches are best served as an accompaniment to a main meal rather than a lunch in their own right, but needs must so I got stuck in.

Bulgar wheat bowl

The bulgar wheat was perfectly cooked with just the right amount of bite to it. I’m not sure exactly how they do that with factory made things but whenever I try to cook stuff like this it ends up all stuck together in a fibre laden clump or I catch it a bit before that stage and it has an unwelcome crunch so it was nice to eat it with the correct texture. That is where the positives end. The flavours tasted more like something you would find in a science lab than in the heart of the Atlas mountains, with an insipid, bitter, oily aftertaste.  Sorry Jamie but you’ve missed the mark on this one.

4/10

So there we have it I’m now just about upto date and will be back soon with more thrilling food adventures. As ever please do drop me a line if you see anything interesting and worth a review.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Heston from Waitrose Rhubarb, Bramley Apple & Strawberry Crumble with Coconut & Rosemary

I’ve been pretty busy recently producing a new musical, a film, an outdoor theatre piece and a narrative spoken word piece. I’m also trying to buy a flat. Then the other week I sliced the top of my finger off using a mandolin. In the midst of all this I have been eating, but I haven’t found the time to take photos of my food and then write about it. So over the past couple of months my blogs have been less regular than I would have liked, but I hope that in the next few months I will have a completed musical, film, theatre piece and spoken word piece, I will be the proud owner of a flat and will once again have ten fingers each with the full quota of flesh.

If there was one thing that was going to get me out of my blogging malaise it was stumbling across a rhubarb product, I love rhubarb and feel it should be taken to the heart of everyone’s culinary existence. This particular rhubarb dish has been developed by Heston who by all accounts is the best of the bunch when it comes to new dishes available in the supermarket.

Heston Crumble

The crumble has a long list of ingredients in its title and includes the headline rhubarb, but also bramley apple, strawberry, rosemary and coconut, this sounded like it was going to be good. With crumble however the filling is only the half of it, a good topping can make or break a crumble and this one is described as “…a complex crunchy topping containing oats, golden syrup with hints of rosemary and coconut, this is a far-from humble crumble.” and a second description “… a beautifully textured crumble composed of butter, sugar, oats, golden syrup coconut and rosemary” which all sounded good to me.

The crumble was warmed through in the oven for 20 mins and then I smothered it with Ambrosia custard (is there any other kind) and stuck my spoon in. It was horrible. The only flavour that came through all those ingredients was rosemary. It was essentially a rosemary crumble. Rosemary is  my favourite herb, but when it powers through and obliterates my favourite thing rhubarb then I lose respect for its woody ways. Often with Heston products I complain that he includes an ingredient in the list but then you can’t taste that ingredient in the product (I ususally apply this to Earl Grey which Heston claims is in about 25% of his stuff but which you can taste in 0% of it) but with this rosemary concoction he has gone so far the other way that pudding was ruined. I really struggled to pick out any rhubarb flavour, in spite of the ingredients list claining it made up 39% of the dish, at one point I did get a chunk of bland apple and when I did get a taste of fruit it was of some overly sweet strawberry gloop which is only 8% of the total. As for the coconut I wouldn’t have had a clue that was there until about 10 minutes after we had finished eating when Naomi picked a shaving out of her teeth. The topping itself was ok, it had good texture, was quite buttery and not too sweet but again it tasted largely of rosemary so it’s hard to say for sure.

Crumble and Custard

I’m hoping that with Christmas just around the corner Heston can pull some good stuff out of the bag but for now all I’m left with is the lingering taste of rosemary.

Heston from Waitrose Rhubarb, Bramley Apple & Strawberry Crumble with Coconut & Rosemary £3.99 for 500g

3/10

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Heston from Waitrose Brioche Burger Buns

Many years ago culinary wizard Heston Blumenthal taught us that the secret to a perfect burger was to ensure that all the strands of minced beef face the same direction. No more were we to take our mince and manipulate it into a patty by any means, the new world order involves lining up your mince strands, packing them into a meaty log before refrigerating and cutting off the perfect burger. Heston also conducts research into the perfect bun and quite rightly he settles on a brioche bun as the most appropriate home for the patty.

These days with Heston’s range in Waitrose he sells both burgers and brioche buns. His burgers are true to his research and use three different cuts of meat and the strand alignment technique. They cost £4.99 for two so I didn’t buy them instead heading to my great local butcher Flock and Herd where a burger costs £1.50 and taste great whatever way the beef strands sit. I did however invest in Heston’s brioche buns.

Heston Brioche Buns

Heston says “Complement your burger with a great bun. When toasted it is the ultimate combination of rich, soft and buttery, to accompany a juicy meaty burger.” so not wanting to shy away from an ultimate combination I cooked the burger and then added the brioche buns to the griddle in order to get satisfying grill lines across the surface of the bread.

When I took the buns out of the packet they were the softest pillows of bouncy bread you ever did feel. If it wouldn’t be too weird and a big waste of food they’d be the perfect replacement for a comfort blanket. I took my lightly griddled buns, plonked on the burger and took a bite.

Burger in bun

The buns were very sweet, light and buttery and despite their soft and delicate texture they held the burger without any trouble. The downfall of many a good burger is a bun that disintegrates under the might of its filling, leaving the eater covered in beef juice, mustard and tomato pulp. Not so with Heston’s buns –  partly because I didn’t have any tomato in the burger but largely because the structure of the bread was so good.

I can’t think of a better burger bun than Heston’s brioche version, they win through on all counts. Some people may find them overly sweet but I was quite happy.

Heston from Waitrose Brioche Burger Buns £1.39 for two buns

8/10

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Heston from Waitrose Salmon Pate

I’ve got to be honest I only bought this pate because it was reduced from £2.99 to £2.09. It’s not the greatest bargain that anyone ever got but in Waitrose terms a 90p reduction isn’t that bad as they’re pretty stingy on how much they will knock off. I reckon if I’d been in Tesco and they had some £2.99 pate that was going to be out of date in a matter of hours I’d get it at least half price, but Tesco is shit and Waitrose is great so I mustn’t grumble.

Salmon Pate tub

I’m not one of those people who can get excited about pate, it sits alongside terrines and rillettes in a category in my brain called “cheap lunch menu starters”. They’re the kind of  dishes that a restaurant can knock up in big portions relatively cheaply. They get stuck in the fridge ready to whack out as an option next to soup and a goats cheese salad on a three courses for £16.50 menu.  I admit that that doesn’t necessarily make them bad, but in my mind it does make them boring.

Pate on toast

And so it was with my 90p discount and my lack of enthusiasm for pate that I got to business and toasted a couple of slices of St John Bakery sourdough and slathered on the pate. The packaging informed me that “Smoking in Lapsang Souchong gives this pate a boost in flavour that really brings it alive. The perfect dip or spread for hors d’oeuvres.” and do you know that packaging was pretty accurate. I’m loathe to agree that anything is perfect so I won’t go as far as that, but it was delicious. It was creamy from the cream cheese, you got a hint of the smoky Lapsang Souchong but it wasn’t overwhelming, the herbs were fragrant, there was a touch of acidity from the lemon juice and even though salmon isn’t the most flavoursome fish going there was plenty of it and I could taste it alongside all the other elements. The pate hadn’t been blitzed to a paste so there was a great texture with small pieces of salmon left in tact – delicious!

It can be a bumpy journey with Heston products, they’re largely good sometimes excellent and occasionally disasterous but with his salmon pate I think he’s back on form and as boring dishes go, this is one of the best.

Heston from Waitrose Salmon Pate £2.99 per pot (unless you get a 90p discount)

8/10

nb Sorry about the lack of accent on the word “pate” but even at the tender age of 35 I’ve still not figured out how to do it!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment