It would seem that it is (once again) becoming less and less advisable to wrap our arms around each other. Sigh.
Take solace then, in knowing that food can eternally be a warm embrace when called upon.
I offer up one such culinary bear hug in the form of a girolle & shallot bisque with sirloin steak, pressed celeriac and a sorrel vinaigrette.
Shopping list (serves 4)
Dried girolles x 30g
Shallots (finely sliced) x 8
Garlic cloves (minced) x 2
Dijon mustard x 2 tbsp
Double cream x 100ml
Chicken stock x 500ml
Lemon thyme x 1 small handful
Brandy x 100ml
Unsalted butter x 50g
Celeriac (peeled and quartered) x 1
Unsalted butter x 50g
Oil x 50ml
Sorrel x 30g
Parsley x 30g
Extra virgin olive oil x 200ml
White wine vinegar x 2 tbsp
Pinch of salt
Sirloin steaks (roughly 400g) x 2
Start with the pressed celeriac by boiling the quarters in salted water for 15 minutes. Remove from the water, and allow to cool on some kitchen paper for 10 minutes or so. Once cool enough to handle, use a mandolin to finely slice them. Add these slithers of celeriac to a large mixing bowl, and melt the butter with the oil, and add a good pinch of salt. Set your oven to 180° (fan)/200°C.
Pour the butter and oil over the celeriac and mix well. Stack the celeriac pieces evenly in a (preferably) square-shaped baking dish lined with baking parchment. Cover with foil and place in your hot oven for 25 minutes. Remove and cover with another sheet of baking parchment, and place something heavy on top to press the celeriac down. Allow to cool, and place in the fridge for at least a couple of hours. If needs be, this will keep for three days refrigerated.
For the bisque, simply fry the shallots in a glug of oil and the butter over a medium heat for 10 minutes. Add the garlic, a pinch of salt and a generous grinding of black pepper, and cook for a further five minutes. Add the brandy and reduce completely, before adding the dijon mustard and stirring well. Add the chicken stock, lemon thyme and dried girolles and simmer for 30 minutes.
Add the cream, stir and then blitz with a hand blender until smooth. Pass this mixture through a fine sieve. You may have to use the back of a ladle to push through the bisque. Keep warm in another saucepan, or you can store in the fridge for three days for later use.
In the sieve, the blitzed mushroom pulp should be all that remains. You can keep this and add to an omelette for a ritzy breakfast, if you like.
For the vinaigrette, simply blitz all the ingredients for a couple of minutes. Season to taste with salt.
When the time arrives, make sure the steaks are at room temperature, and then liberally coat them with oil, salt and black pepper. Take the pressed celeriac, and cut equally into four portions. Place these portions into a dry frying pan and cook for seven minutes on each side, over a medium heat. Make sure your oven is at 200° (fan)/220°C.
At the same time, heat a griddle pan over a high heat. Once red-hot, cook the steaks for three minutes on both sides. Place the steaks in your hot oven for just three minutes (or longer if you prefer your steak a little more cooked), before removing and allowing them to rest for five minutes.
Serve the pressed celeriac portions in the hot bisque, topped with slices of steak, and garnished with the sorrel vinaigrette.