Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Skye langoustines with violet artichokes, wild mushrooms and smoked garlic

For many, buying a blowtorch to use in a domestic kitchen might seem like a gimmicky item to show off, or something destined to gather dust in the back of a shelf after many months of no use. I certainly don’t drag it out for most things that I cook, especially not quick, simple midweek meals. Yet I find it so genuinely useful in many circumstances, able to create a different element of flavour that is difficult to achieve with any other appliance. For a long time I have found myself semi-obsessed with charred or borderline burnt food; not great when totally dominating dishes, but a tiny bit of bitter smokiness can really make a decent dish special. From toasting delicate tips of an Italian meringue to blackening sweetcorn and charring winter leaves, there are endless uses. Some recipes call for a hot grill, but the control of vicious heat that you get from a blowtorch is far superior. 

It is undoubtedly still a faff though. Especially in this case, where my recipe calls for you to melt 300g of butter purely for the poaching of a few langoustine tails. Then to drag them out and blowtorch them seems like a lot of work. But I totally guarantee that it is worth it. Wild local langoustines are bloody expensive, and as such should be treated with delicate respect to maximise their beautiful sweet flavour. Although I have previously grilled and traditionally poached langoustines with enjoyable results, the gentle poaching in butter yields the ultimate soft texture. With the speedy exposure to a high flame afterwards, the tails take on a wonderful subtle caramelisation, without further internal cooking.
To accompany the langoustines I only required a few subtle sidekicks. As is often the way, ingredients that share the same seasons also sit happily on the same plate. Autumn is all about wild mushrooms for me, and I was lucky enough to find girolles, trompettes and fresh porcini mushrooms in my brilliant local fruit and veg shop in Stoke Newington. They also had a pile of beautiful Italian violet artichokes, and I couldn’t resist popping a couple into my basket.
Although a lot of butter is used to cook the langoustines, save the leftovers for frying potatoes, or to melt through pasta with plenty of sage and garlic…
Serves 2
For the langoustines:
6 large live langoustines, killed humanely and tails shelled. Heads and claws reserved. 
300g salted butter
For the artichokes:
6 small violet artichokes, peeled, trimmed and halved 
The heads and claws from the langoustines 
1 smoked garlic clove, crushed 
1 shallot, quartered 
1 bay leaf 
1 large glass of white wine 
1 knob of butter
For the wild mushrooms:
1 handful of small girolle mushrooms, trimmed and cleaned 
1 handful of trompette mushrooms, cleaned 
1 or 2 fresh porcini mushrooms, cleaned
For the smoked garlic mayonnaise:
1 clove of smoked garlic 
2 egg yolks 
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard 
1 lemon, juice and zest 
250ml light olive oil
To finish:
½ a lemon, juice only

Bring a large saucepan or high-sided frying pan to a medium heat. Pour in a generous glug of olive oil and add the claws and heads from the langoustines. Fry for 3-4 minutes, until lightly caramelised on all sides. Add the trimmed artichokes, shallot, garlic and bay leaf and continue to cook for a further couple of minutes. Pour in the wine and bring to the boil, then cover the pan and reduce the heat. Gently simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the artichokes are tender. Add the knob of butter and adjust the seasoning if needed. 

To make the mayonnaise, grate the smoked garlic into a small food processor and add the mustard, lemon zest and juice, egg yolks and a good pinch of seasoning. Blend well to combine. With the engine still running, slowly pour in the oil, until fully emulsified into a mayonnaise. Thin down with a little water if necessary, and taste and add more seasoning. Spoon into a plastic bottle.
Heat a pan to a high heat and add a good glug of oil. When hot, sauté the girolle and trompette mushrooms for a couple of minutes, until tender and caramelised. Keep warm.
Halve the fresh raw porcini mushrooms and slice thinly. 

Melt the butter for the langoustines in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and carefully drop in the langoustine tails. Poach gently for 3 minutes, then transfer onto a metal tray. Use a blowtorch to quickly caramelise the outsides.
To plate up, dot the mayonnaise onto each plate and arrange the langoustines and artichokes around. Top with the cooked wild mushrooms and raw porcini slices, and finish with a little of the buttery artichoke cooking liquid.

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