You will have realised by now that I worship Gordon Ramsay. Not for who he is or how he is - actually, I am not sure I would get along with him that well, but I guess it's normal to feel apprehensive with regard to his personality. And I suspect that he's pushing it too far at the moment, doing too many TV series, recently launching chocolate bites now available at Waitrose (surely this can only be pocket-money for him?) and not concentrating on his core competency enough? We've seen it happen with Ducasse before and numerous others.
Anyway, what I am in love with and totally adore are his recipes. Last night I adapted another recipe from his book "Secrets". Best book ever. Sophisticated food which pushes me to make an effort, not something I would whip up every day or dream up myself when I lie awake at night, but totally doable. And no failures yet.
Based on his "smoked haddock and asparagus open ravioli" I cooked up a dish which was to die for - so good I completely overate myself. This is one of the creations which you cannot better ... I challenge you all to prove me wrong. It's perfect in every detail. Believe me. I decided not to worry about cutting rounds out of the fresh pastry and instead went for a lasagne-type dish, and I kept the asparagus tips and the fish cream separate. I disagree with Gordon when it comes to the asparagus-spinach velouté this lasagne is served on - he thinks it's optional, but I say it is a definite MUST, the flavour of the caramelised onions is such a great addition to the smokiness of the fish cream.
One advice I'll give you is to have everything ready to go when you assemble - pre-heat your plates and put everything together under a warming lamp, if you possess one... otherwise you risk the ingredients cooling down too quickly and you might end up with luke-warm food. Which will still be infinitely delicious. Then again, I guess you might do just fine time-wise as, unlike me, you probably won't spend 10 minutes photographing your creation after assembling it!
Smoked haddock and asparagus lasagne
(serves 2 generously)
8 - 10 fresh lasagne sheets
some butter or olive oil
For the filling:
400 g smoked, undied haddock fillet/s
500 ml milk
300 g thin green asparagus spears
200 g crème fraîche
150 g double cream
15 g chives (finely chopped)
16 quails eggs
For the asparagus-spinach velouté:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot (finely chopped)
cuttings from the asparagus stalks (ca. 50 g) (chopped)
2 large handfuls fresh baby spinach
300 g vegetable or fish stock
Skin the haddock fillets, carefully remove any bones at the same time, and poach the fish in the simmering milk for about 10 minutes. Discard the milk and flake the flesh. In the same pan, melt the crème fraîche, add the fish and double cream, season to taste and set aside.
Trim the asparagus tips and cut off about 1 cm from the tail end, more if you think they're slightly dry or wooden. Keep the cuttings for the velouté. Cook the asparagus tips for 3-5 minutes in boiling salt water, then drain and refresh immediately. Keep warm.
Prepare the asparagus-spinach velouté by frying the shallots and asparagus cuttings in the oil in a shallow pan. When it's nicely browned and caramelised, add the (washed & drained) spinach and leave to wilt. Pour in the stock and leave to simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and blend until smooth. Set aside.
Warm your serving plates in the oven.
Prepare two large pots with water and bring to the boil. Add some vinegar to the one pot, carefully crack the quails eggs open and poach them for 2-3 minutes. You might want to do this in batches. Immediately lift them with a slotted spoon and refresh in some ice-cold water to stop them from cooking through. They should be soft and runny in the centre. Keep warm.
Add some salt to the other pot and cook the pasta sheets for roughly 4 minutes, until al dente. When they are done, drain them and add some butter or olive oil to keep them from sticking to each other.
Take out the warm serving plates. Reheat the velouté and fish cream. Add 10 g of the chives to the fish cream. Spread half of the velouté on each of the plates, place a pasta sheet on it, top with some asparagus tips, some of the fish cream and 2 quails eggs. Top with another pasta sheet and repeat this process twice, finishing with a layer of fish cream. Decorate with any remaining asparagus and eggs, then sprinkle with the rest of the chives and serve immediately.
Riesling Grand Cru Eichberg 2002, Domaine Paul Zinck, Alsace/France