If you’re anything like me, I bet you are also losing count
of all the cookbooks you have – nobody but a keen cook will understand that you
can never have too many of them, nor too many food magazine subscriptions… but
every once in a while a little voice inside my head yaks on about what a waste
they all are if I don’t use them very often or, as in some cases, not at all.
There are those cookbooks that I do actually use almost weekly – more for reference than anything else – and there are others which I keep glancing into for inspiration, but never actually make any recipes from it. Formulas for Flavour is one such book, or at least it was until recently when I launched the “CookBookCookClub” where a bunch of lovely people (Bonnie, Christina, Jeanne and Jenni) come over to my place to cook from cookbook selected at the previous meeting. We cooked two recipes from the book and I have been so impressed with it that I have since done a few more out of it.
In the book, John Campbell helps the experienced home cook create dishes so complex and ornate as you usually only get them in a top restaurant. Each and every dish consists of multiple recipes, with each component outlined to be prepared up to days in advance, so that the actual cooking on the day and plating is a doddle. He suggests to go for one stunning course and select simpler dishes for the rest of your meal – probably wise seeing that some of the recipes will see you using up just about every plate or mixing bowl in your kitchen, unless you’re equipped to cook for an army battalion…
Just to give you an idea of what kind of recipes to expect: “Goat’s cheese ravioli with tomato fondu, pickled onions and basil foam”, “Roast scallop with artichoke barigoule, sauce d’epice and foie gras”, “Chicken & shitake terrine with parsnip puree, dried figs and truffle dressing”, “Raspberry milk shake, white chocolate & raspberry mousse and lemon & nut biscotti” and the list goes on. Everything is explained very simply, from the various steps involved, planning ahead, pictures of the more challenging techniques and tips for the plating. If you’re looking for something to easily impress your guests with, this is the book for you. (Of course this would involve you actually cooking the dishes as well, not just having the book on your coffee table!)
For our last meeting, we chose salmon tournedos sitting on a warm salad of spiced lentils (with a tasty, if extravagant dressing of red onion, cumin, balsamico, soy sauce, chilli sauce coriander and pickled ginger). This was supposed to be topped with a slice of pan-fried foie gras but we had to resort to foie gras quenelles instead, as we were all inexperienced at buying and preparing the fresh foie, and it was accompanied by a fig & apple chutney and herb crème fraiche. Now, I personally found that both the salmon & lentils and the foie gras & chutney could have been two dishes of their own, they didn’t need each other, but we thoroughly enjoyed the richness of it all and the array of flavours on the plate. And that was just our starter!
Best of all, with so much preparation done in advance (the fig chutney will keep in the fridge for weeks, the tournedos and lentils are best prepared the day before, the herb crème fraîche really isn’t much effort at all - if you’re happy to skip the step of making your own chlorophyll - so all it needs is a quick turn in the pan for the salmon and the foie gras and you’re ready to plate and look pretty darn good.
I do realise now that the reason for not using this book more often is that I would invariably look at some of the recipes on a Saturday morning and realise that for most of the dishes, I should really have prepped a few things in advance… but with a bit of forward planning, which I am now intent to adopt as my new, precious skill, most of the recipes in the book will be a walk in the park!
Other salmon recipes on thepassionatecook:
Salmon fillet on aubergines and slow-roast almon tomatoes (April 2004)
Salmon strudel (April 2006)
Sesame salmon in orange-miso sauce with pineapple pak choi (January 2005)
Salmon tournedos on spiced lentils with foie gras and fig chutney
(serves 6 as a main course)
Fig & apple
chutney (prepare up to a week ahead)
1 cooking apple (peeled & diced)
20 g onion (chopped)
50 g dried fig (chopped)
25 g white wine vinegar
1 level tsp mustard
1 pinch cayenne pepper
½ clove garlic
50 g sultanas
2 tsp sugar
Combine all ingredients except the sugar in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 2 hours until thick. Add water if mixture dries out. (We sped the process up by cooking vigorously for about 30 minutes, adding water as necessary, then roughly puréeing the mixture and cooking for another 15 minutes). Add the sugar and store chilled.
(prepare at least a day ahead)
100g Umbri (or Puy) lentils (soaked overnight)
1 pinch of ground cumin
40 g red onion (finely chopped)
25 ml balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic (crushed)
20 g pickled ginger (finely chopped)
25 ml soy sauce
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp chopped coriander
lemon juice (to taste)
Cook the lentils in salt water for 30 minutes or until soft
(use still mineral water if your tap water is very hard). Drain and cool.
Dry-roast the cumin in a large pan to release its aromas. When fragrant, add the onion, garlic and balsamic vinegar. Turn heat down and cook for about 10 minutes until most of the vinegar has evaporated. Add the remaining ingredients and pour over the lentils. Stir through and leave to infuse in an airtight container, for at least 6 hours, best overnight. Adjust seasoning with salt and lemon juice, if required.
100 ml crème fraîche
1 tbsp chopped chives or parsley (or 1 tbsp of chlorophyll)
lime juice (to taste)
salt & pepper
Combine the herbs (or chlorophyll) with the crème fraîche, then season to taste.
Salmon & foie gras
(prepare fish the day before)
50 g maize or groundnut oil
ca. 1.5 kg salmon fillet (skinned and bones removed)
200 g foie gras (cut into 6 slices)
To prepare the tournedos, cut the salmon in half lengthways
into two thin fillets. To do this, place the fish with the tickest part of the
fillet pointing away from you and the tail towards you. Cut a straight line in
the middle of the fish (where you would normally have the spine) from top to
tail with your knife at a 30 degree angle. This should give you two equal-sized
Place a large piece of cling film (restaurants would use one with a blue tint so it can be easily spotted when taking it off, you will just have to be extra vigilant not to leave a piece on when it comes to plating) on the worktop in front of you, place the strips of fillet together head to tail, then wrap tightly in the cling film, expelling any air pockets as you go. Wrap as tightly as possible and store in the fridge overnight.
When ready to serve, cut the roll into 6 equal portions. Roll the clingfilm up on both sides of each tournedos, to hold it securely in place but prevent the film to hit the hot pan (especially when turning it over… there are lots of flavour components to this dish, but melted cling film should not be one of them! You should be left with a “hoola-hoop”-style ring of cling film around the “waist” in the middle of the tournedos.
Heat the oil in a frying pan until very hot, season the tournedos with salt and pepper, then fry them until golden brown on both sides. Lower the heat and cook for another 3-4 minutes. You want the salmon to be opaque in the centre. Rest for 2 minutes before removing the cling film and arranging on the plate.
Just before serving, fry the foie gras pieces for 20 seconds on both sides.
To arrange the dish, bring the chutney to room temperature.
Gently re-heat the lentils.
Arrange lentils in a small heap just off the centre of the plate. Form quenelles of the chutney with two teaspoons and arrange three around the lentils on each plate.
Drizzle (or spoon dollops of) the herb crème fraîche around the plate (if your crème fraiche, like ours, turns out too thick, make quenelles or add a few dollops instead).
Place the salmon on the lentils and top with a slice of foie gras.