Many years ago – like 25 – my mother and I would watch Gary Rhodes and his British cooking show.
He was not only an incredibly talented chef, though came across as a lovely, calm and collected guy.
Sadly, he died prematurely in 2019 though I remember the tributes at the time from people such as Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver. One quote from the time from Michelin star chef Tom Kerridge described Rhodes as “one of the greatest British chefs who almost single handedly put British food on the world stage”.
All those years ago, my mother bought his two books and we cooked a number of his dishes. Just wonderful, wonderful French cooking.
Twently years later, I am telling Nat about Mr Rhodes and the wonderful books I used to cook from, long out of print of course.
Unbenowst to me, Nat tracks them down in a second hand book store (this is the sort of person Nat is!) and we are back in business.
Five weeks into lockdown in Sydney, Nat and I agreed we needed a break. Home schooling, work, renovating an apartment for sale, endless activities to entertain the kids, endless loops around the park to keep sane, we needed some time for ourselves.
So we took Wednesday off. I lit the outdoor firepit and put the Champagne on ice.
And served this decadent dish as the first course.
My lordy it is fine. Absolute dinner party material.
I said to Nat it reminded me of the food I ate in Chartres (France) many years back. Delicate, so tasty, so bloody good.
To say that we had the best afternoon since lockdown would be an understatement. And I can assure you that this starter (along with a cold Champagne) was a strong contributing reason for it!
225gm puff pastry
Flour for dusting
50gm butter plus two large knobs for cooking
1 large or 2 small leeks
3 or 4 thick slices of leg ham
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
6 tbsp vegetable stock
3 tbsp crème fraîche
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Champagne for serving!
- Preheat the oven to 180c.
- Cut 2 10cm x 10cm squares of puff pastry and then cut them diagonally in half to make four triangles. Beat one of the eggs and use to brush the pastries, and bake in the over for 20 – 25 minutes until risen and golden brown. Remove the tray from the oven and set the pastries to one side.
- Split the leeks in half lengthways, removing the outer layer. Finely slice the halves, washing off any grit in a colander. Leave the leek slices to drain.
- To make the ham crème fraîche, cut the ham into a 5mm dice and set aside. Heat the white wine vinegar in a saucepan. Once almost all evaporated, add the stock and simmer until reduced by a third. Whisk in the crème fraîch, followed by the measured butter. Season.
- Cut through the pastries, separated the risen lid from the base. Keep the pastry tops and bases warm.
- Melt a knob of butter in a large saucepan and once bubbling, add the leeks. Cook on a medium heat, stirring from time to time to ensure an even cooking, for 5 – 7 minutes, until very tender.
- Whilst the leeks are cooking, add the remaining eggs to the one used as an egg wash, beating with a fork to emulsify. In another saucepan, melt the remaining knob of butter and once bubbling, add the eggs. Season. As they cook, turn the eggs with a spoon reasonably vigorously, capturing every corner of the pan. When they have reached a very soft, scrambled consistency, remove the pan from the heat. This leaves you with just a minute to ‘build’ the rest of the dish while the scrambled egg thickens.
- Add the ham to the sauce, warming it through. Place the pastry bases on warm plates and spoon the cooked leeks loosely on top of each. Turn the scrambled eggs just once more, then spoon on top of the leeks and drizzle the ham crème fraîche around and over. Finish by placing the pastry lids on top.