Menu 4: From Mexico to Marseille (photo: the grey streets of Edinburgh, courtesy of Kristin Jones)
Guacamole Tortilla Cups (Mexico City) - creamy guacamole in crunchy taco bowls (vegan) Pissaladiere (Marseille, France) – onion tart on puff pastry base, criss-crossed with anchovies (vegetarian option) Tipsy Parson (Edinburgh) – retro dessert of liqueur-infused fruit on a light sponge topped with custard and whipped cream Drink suggestion:Offer a chilled Rosé, such as Côte de Provence, effortlessly elegant.
Starters - Guacamole Tortilla Cups (vegan)
The contrasts of Mexico. Crowds, heat, peaceful green mountains, violence and gold. Cool avocado combines with chilli and coriander, accents of onion and sweet bursts of tomato.
Preparation: 20 minutes, of which the guacamole can be done 1-2 hours ahead, then 5 minutes to finalise before serving.
1 x packet Tortilla Bowls or a packet of good nacho corn chips, natural flavour
For the fresh guacamole:
2 medium ripe avocados (do get the best and ripest you can, and if you aren’t sure, buy a day or so ahead and ripen at home on a sunny windowsill. There’s nowhere to hide with an unripe avocado.)
½ medium red onion
2 ripe tomatoes
1 red chilli
Small bunch fresh coriander
Juice of ½ fresh lime
Halve the avocados top to bottom, take out the stone, and scoop out the flesh onto a plate. Mash with a fork and put into a bowl. Slice the red onion extremely finely into thin slivers and then across again into tiny dice, you will need a sharp knife. Add this to the avocado. Peel the tomatoes – dip into boiling water for a second and then under the cold tap. The skin should come off easily. Discard the seeds and core. Chop the flesh very finely into tiny dice and add to the avocado. Chop the chilli into tiny dice and add to the bowl. Chop the coriander quite finely and add to the bowl along with the lime juice. Taste and add salt as needed - you will need a good pinch or two.
Leave to rest for at least half an hour covered in the fridge to allow the flavours to mingle, but it will keep well for 1-2 hours. Scoop the guacamole into tortilla bowls or onto taco chips.
Serve: plate and serve straightaway with an extra sprinkle of chopped coriander.
Main Course - Pissaladiere. Not a tart, not a quiche, not a pizza, essentially French (optional vegetarian)
Stroll the harbour of Marseille. The sea dances in the breeze. The roadside vendors offer crisp slices of pastry spread with the tastes of Provence – slow cooked onions flavoured with thyme, salty anchovies and melting olives.
Preparation: 90 minutes, 30 minutes to cool
950g onions, peeled and sliced
Vegetable oil for frying – mix of sunflower and rape seed oil gives a deep colour
20g butter (optional but gives a rich flavour)
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 fresh tomato, skinned
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
1 tablespoon fruit vinegar/rich balsamic vinegar
60g pitted black olives
100g jar of anchovies in oil, drained and all cut in two lengthwise - leave out for the vegetarian version and substitute slices of red pepper arranged in the same criss cross pattern
1 x 320g pack of ready made rolled puff pastry
Fry the onions very gently in a heavy pan in the vegetable oil, stirring all the time, until they soften and caramelise. This takes longer than you think – about 30-40 minutes. Add a little more oil if needed and add the butter after about 10 minutes. Add the dried thyme and some salt and pepper. Skin the tomato (by dunking it in boiling water and then running under the cold tap), discard the seeds, and chop the flesh very finely. Add this to the pan of onions and continue to fry until the tomato pieces disintegrate. Add the chopped parsley and the tablespoon of vinegar. Stir in and let it cook and reduce further – this gives a lovely deep sweetness to the onion mix.
Pre heat your oven to 210°C.
Unroll the pastry on a metal baking tray, keeping it on its backing paper. Use a sharp knife and score round the edge of the pastry about 1cm inside the edge, but not going through the pastry sheet. Spread the pastry (not the edge) with a thin layer of mustard. Spread the onion mixture over the pastry (not the edge) evenly. Criss cross the anchovies over the onion mix and dot the olives in between to make an attractive pattern. Brush the edge of the pastry with some of the oil from the anchovies. Bake for 25 minutes until the tart looks cooked and the edges are nicely browned. Check that the base is good and crisp. Slide off onto a wire rack to cool. Sliceand eat lukewarm.
Serve: In slices, eaten from your hand. If you feel the need for green, some rocket leaves scattered on top would go well. You don't need a huge slice as both the puff pastry and the filling are quite rich.
Dessert - Tipsy Parson, a Scottish retro delight
The grey streets of Edinburgh, a mist in the air. No-one does a pudding like the Scots. A heady mix of soft vanilla sponge, creamy custard, berries luxuriating in liqueur – as stirring as a tune on the bagpipes.
Preparation: 1 hour the day before, 20 minutes just before you eat
For the Genoese Sponge: (you can use bought sponge, for instance a swiss roll, but I find the bought ones are too sweet and often a bit stodgy. Your own will be light as a feather.)
60g plain flour
60g caster sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar or ½ teaspoon vanilla essence
300g fresh soft fruit – I used 200g stoned cherries and 100g raspberries
4 tablespoons fruit liqueur – I used home-made damson vodka but any fruity alcohol is fine or just plain brandy or rum would also work.
1 tablespoon sugar
1 x 500g pot of chilled vanilla custard – I cheated rather than making my own, as the light creamy texture can be difficult to achieve. The chilled version is more creamy than the tinned type.
200ml whipping cream
The day before you eat, make the cake. Preheat your oven to 180°C and grease and line a small cake tin. Melt the butter but don’t let it bubble. Whisk the sugar and eggs together until light and fluffy. Sieve the flour and mix it in one spoonful at a time. Stir in the butter carefully and spoon the mixture into the cake tin. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack and keep in an airtight tin. You can also bake this well ahead and freeze.
While that’s baking, stone and clean the fruit you are using and mix it with the liqueur and sugar in a bowl. Stir, cover, and leave in the fridge overnight.
On the day of serving, whip the cream – this can be done ahead and kept covered in the fridge for 2 hours. When you are about to eat, place some slices of cake in the bases of individual bowls. Spoon the fruit over, being generous with the liqueur. Dollop a large spoon of custard over each bowl and then top with whipped cream.
Serve: Just as it is. And be ready to serve seconds.