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COLIN'S COOKERY COLUMN

Rushmore's

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For details on
my book
"Tales of a
Norfolk Chef"
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Recipe Number Twenty Three December 2004
Ladies Fingers

For details on
my book
"Tales of a
Norfolk Chef"
Click Here

Well, well, well, stand by your beds here we go again, it only seems like yesterday that we were taking the Christmas trimmings down putting them into black plastic bags and returning them back to gather cobwebs in the loft. Also I was just getting used to having a little snooze in the November afternoons, as this is normally a quiet time in the restaurant trade, known as the lull before the storm, but it still comes as a bit of a shock to the old body when December arrives. The commis chef is already complaining that his fingertips are turning green due to the amounts of brussel sprouts that require preparing. Each day in the merry month of December there will be parties at lunchtime followed by more parties in the evening. Endless bags of potatoes have to be peeled and shaped into roast potatoes, pots of carrots to be trimmed and cauliflower to be cooked then the sprouts to be prepared. Well that's taken care of by the capable hands of Dan, James Bonds answer to gold finger, or in his case green finger. He informs me that he has a love hate relationship with brussel sprouts and only one other thing that lives on our planet this being a 5k bag of barnacle encrusted mussels. They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and Dan, being the guy that he is, is always trying to re invent the wheel. I know if I left him to his own devises he would experiment and create a way of preparing sprouts, and removing barnacles from mussels with ease, but until that great day comes he relies on a Bronze Age tool called a knife.

The turkey takes a bashing with fresh supplies coming in each day as we head through December. Theres sage and onion stuffing to be made; gallons of turkey gravy simmering on the stove and a time scale to work to. Ok we seem to be running on time, the first guests have arrived and all is well. I tell you what, Dan, pop the old kettle on and lets have one of your famous pots of tea. Its then at that moment someone will say whats that burning? As soon as some one says the word burning then its funny but we can all smell it. Slowly the oven door is opened; its there for all to see. Ok dont panic, we still have a bit of time to go before the first lot of mince pies are required. We had better make another batch up, unless the customers prefer them slightly black and crispy. Mass panic and forty odd years of serving turkey seem to help me through the service times and with the aid of a few choice words that wont be found in any Christmas carol, as service comes to its peek in the kitchen we always seem to get by. Its certainly not the place to be for the meek and mild as orders are shouted away: table four wants more gravy; have you got any more roast potatoes he only had five on his plate; mince pies please for table nine; and the nice man on table two said would it be possible to have a tad more turkey?  So it goes on, until the last table is served.

The office Christmas party was the only time that management mixed with the so called workers, the combination of food, alcohol and music seemed to be the correct mixture that made top management, right down to Mary who was getting on in years, and was employed to bring the tea trolley round, frolic together in the delights of the annual Christmas bash. One of my memories is of three top brass managers who decided that it was a damn good idea to all stand on one of the restaurants tables and drop their trousers. One of them would have probably gone a tad further, but stopped when he spotted Mary the ageing tea lady giving him the eye.

Back at the restaurant after a very busy dinner service that I said to Dan what we wanted was someone that would give us a hand in the kitchen. It was then I remembered something that happened in November. Yes, I know the very man. I think his name is Michael and I have tasted his food before, he came in one night and left me a tart he had cooked to try. It was made from a weird concoction of ground elder, spiced up with a little onion, a twang of garlic and all cooked in a dainty pastry case. I remember I had taken it home with me and one night after arriving home I felt a bit peckish and decided to warm up the tart in the oven, maybe a nice bottle of red full bodied wine would go down well, I removed the warm tart from the oven and sat down to savour the ground elder tart. It was after the first taste that I found myself thinking for some reason of Baldric from Blackadder. I can only describe the taste as very like peppered chopped spinach, this with an overtone of gently cooked onions and a slight hint of garlic. One could say it was a real treat and of course the bottle of wine that I had consumed made it a meal to remember. It was as I went to get up that I realised the tart had side affects, in the form of me not being able to walk in a straight line. Another symptom was that my head was spinning, and it also affected my speech, so I thought it was best if I made my way to bed.

I could see that my tale of the ground elder tart failed to impress the commis chef but the thought of an extra pair of hands did. I suppose he could take care of the desserts, or maybe we could put him on carving the turkey?  Or what about letting him loose on the starters? Then green finger had a brainstorm. Its only an idea chef, but I think its a good one at that. There seemed to be a slight hesitation in his voice. I thought you might consider, as he showed me his fingers, and slight grin came to his face, how about letting Michael do the sprouts and mussels!!???

Forget gold fingers or even green fingers, why not have a go at this recipe.

Ladies Fingers
A SIMPLE SPONGE FINGER SERVE THEM WITH ICE CREAMS OR USE
THEM IN YOUR TRIFLE

You will need 3 large eggs separated,
70g caster sugar, 40g plain flour, 40g corn flour and icing sugar to dust

Preheat your oven to 200C (gas 6). Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Next whisk up the separated egg whites to firm, then whisk in the sugar a spoonful at a time. Take another bowl and beat the egg yolks and gently fold them into the egg whites. Finally sift the flour and corn flour together and carefully fold in to the egg, whipping the mixture lightly at the same time. Spoon the mix into a piping bag with a plain nozzle and pipe out your biscuits on to the greaseproof.  Leave space between, sift a little icing sugar over and leave to stand for ten minutes, then bake for 7 to 10 minutes. Once cooked leave on the tray to firm.

Colin Rushmore wishes you all a Merry Christmas

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