When something at the Theatre is described as riotously funny, it’s a bit like an estate agent describing a home as having “an extra room downstairs which could be used as a guest bedroom, or study”, in other words to be treated with extreme caution.
A few weeks ago I went to see the riotously funny Mr. Foote’s Other Leg, although it only fits this critique if you happen to be the sort of person to invite people round to your house and then make them take their shoes off before entry.
We at the Underground Cookery School like to create theatrics of our own, and this week’s recipe is taken from our new menu, and a real curtain raiser if you happen to be vegetarian.
First prepare the oil by placing in a warm pan and adding the diced shallots, which should gently sizzle, followed by the curry leaves, turmeric, garlic and lemon zest. Cook for approx. three minutes on a very light heat. After 3 minutes pass through a sieve to remove the other ingredients and set aside.
Prepare the Savoy cabbage leaves by removing the thick stem, laying them flat on a work surface and with a pin, rolling over the thick veins gently until they have been broken down. Blanch in boiling water for 20 seconds, and then transfer to ice cold water; set aside.
Peel the sweet potato, cover in rapeseed oil, season with salt and pepper, add a little chopped thyme and roast in a pre-heated oven for 30-40 minutes at 180oC. When cool, roughly pulse with a stick blender/food processor; set aside.
In separate operations wash the lentils and pearl barley in cold water. In separate pans fry off 1/2 a shallot, 1 diced clove of garlic, and 1 bay leaf, adding the pearl parley to one pan and the lentils to the other. Cover both with water and simmer both for approx. 20 minutes, or until cooked. In both cases pass the hot water through a sieve, then rinse the lentils/pearl parley under cold water, add a tablespoon of chopped parsley to each, a little extra virgin olive oil, season with salt and pepper to taste and set a side.
For the mille-feuille, lay one sheet of filo onto a work surface, paint with egg wash and repeat with another sheet. Take 1-heaped tsp. of sweet potato from the cooked portion above and arrange in a line down the middle of the filo double sheet. Lay another filo sheet on top of the filling; paint with egg wash, and another sheet on top of that; once again egg wash the top. Repeat the process with the second mille-feuille, Now bake both for 10 minutes at 180oC.
For the celeriac puree, add the shallot to a pan, followed by the thyme, then the celeriac and water. Cook down for about 5 minutes and then add the milk. Cook for a further five minutes or until the cooking juices completely reduce. Add salt , the sugar, and then roughly pulse with a stick blender/food processor.
Lay two large rectangular sheets of cling film 10cm x 20cm (approx.), and on top of these lay the savoy cabbage leaves to form two large rectangles. Add a layer of lentils, then pearl barley, and finally the sweet potato. Season and then taking the cling film closest to you, lift over the ingredients and begin to roll until you’ve formed a sausage. Tighten both ends, so the cling film package resembles a Christmas cracker; repeat the process with tin foil and steam. The best way of steaming if you don’t have a steamer is to lay a roasting rack into a roasting tin, add enough boiling water so the water level is no higher then the underside of the roasting rack. Cover with tin foil and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180oC for 8 minutes.
Allow to rest for 5 minutes, unwrap, and slice on the angle.
Lay the mille-feuille on a bed of celeriac puree, add slices of the ballotine which should be cut on the angle and garnish with the curry oil.
Why any adult would voluntarily sit in a room without being allowed to leave until told otherwise is beyond me. The theatre has become a cultural Gulag, Guantanamo Bay detention camp without the orange suits.
Now that I own a curved Samsung telly, have SKY on demand, and can talk to my apple TV, I’m amazed the Theatre as a form of entertainment hasn’t gone the same way as jousting, gladiatorial combat and cock fighting, although I suspect if it had it would only have been pushed underground, at which point my interest would be aroused.
Ballotine of Pearl Barley, Puy Lentils, Sweet Potato & Savoy Cabbage, served with Celeriac Puree, Spicy Curry Oil & Sweet Potato Mille-Feuille (serves 2)
4 large Savoy cabbage leaves
50ml extra virgin olive oil, 1 shallot, 4 curry leaves, 1 tsp. turmeric, 1 smashed clove of garlic skin left on, zest of half a lemon
100g sweet potato, 80g pearl barley, 80g green lentils,
1 medium shallot finely diced, 2 diced cloves of garlic, 2 bay leafs,
1 tsp. thyme, 2tspn parsley chopped, 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
8 sheets filo pastry 12cm x 10cm, 1 whole egg beaten to egg wash
120g celeriac peeled and cut into dice, 30ml water, 30ml full fat milk, 1 diced shallot, three sprigs thyme, 1 tsp. sugar, and a pinch of salt