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Mandarin Cooking Challenge: don’t try this at home

September 10, 2012

It can’t be because I’m missing the themed parties we used to attend. The ones where you had to come dressed as a fruit starting with ‘M’. Whatever the reason, I obviously needed a challenge.

I consider myself quite handy in the kitchen, but this attempt at a grand mandarin themed meal with an Italian twist delivered an ‘F’ for fail. I wouldn’t have minded so much had the fruit not been harvested in our garden with my own sweat and tears (see past blogpost). Here’s the results:

ENTREE: COUSCOUS, MANDARIN, FENNEL and TREVISO RADICCHIO SALAD

mandarin salad

Verdict: These ingredients do not want to be on the plate simultaneously. All wonderful by themselves, but ask them to mingle and it’s like the party where no-one has a good time.

MAIN: ANATRA AL MANDARINO  – my mandarin version of Duck a l’Orange (that some Italians claim was brought to France from Florence by Catherine de Medici in the 16th century).

Verdict: Fairly successful, if a little sweet for my taste. However, substituting the only liqueur I had in the cupboard – Drambuie – for Grand Marnier worked a treat, but I’m really here to rant aren’t I…

DESSERT: MANDARIN AND COCONUT JELLY

Blood orange and mandarin dessert

Verdict:  Gelatin recipes can be quite tricky, so follow them accurately. First attempt – a runny mess – couldn’t be rescued. Second attempt (while the Calypso dancers waited patiently) produced a stiffer wobble, but the mandarin marmalade topping (and blood orange sauce) I added quickly dissolved the two layers of jelly.

CAKE: MANDARIN and ALMOND TORTE with CHOCOLATE GANACHE (a variation of Claudia Roden’s flourless Orange and Almond Cake using mandarin marmalade)

Using mandarins in cakes

Verdict: BELIEVE what you read. If you don’t follow the recipe and substitute enough marmalade for two oranges you get dry cake. And don’t drop the cake icing-side down after adding the almonds. Any attempt at re-arranging will resemble Bugs Bunny’s two front teeth poking out under the ganache.

I see that Heston Blumenthal took the challenge to put the duck INSIDE l’orange. Quel smartypants.

♦ I welcome your thoughts or retorts on my posts. The Comments button is only a click away…

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7 comments

  1. Very brave of you Ambra to try the M theme – I have never cooked with them and would probably only try mandarin gelato (and home grown ones do sound lovely). Mi dispiace that it did not all turn out but it does make for an interesting blog post!


  2. I got a bit demented with the three-layered jelly. It was like a bad dream!


  3. Who are your calypso dancer friends? They’re quite fetching


    • I picked them up in Cuba in 2000 and they’ve been faithful dust collectors ever since.


      • Tis the place for it. I have cermic cigar smoking Cuban dancing ladies. You put a lit cigarette in a *ahem* hole in their behind. Then you remove the cigar in their mouth and smoke cokes out. Magic.


  4. will you give Heston!s Wilky Wonka – inspired Duck recipes a go?


    • I dunno, I like to keep my choccy desserts separate to my main course Ducks.



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