Last week we attended every cheese lover’s dream. A 7-course feast, with each and every dish featuring “The King of Cheeses” – Parmigiano Reggiano.
One of the world’s oldest and richest cheeses – it’s still produced today as it was nine centuries ago. It’s the only cheese that has such an extensive maturation which develops its delicious flavour and unique characteristics.
Hosted at Clapton’s Brooksby’s Walk, we started with killer cocktails made by their Head Bartender, James McMahon, who clearly knows his way around a cocktail shaker. His creation of Vestal Vodka, Hepple Gin, Kummel, Coriander Bitters & Cucumber went down as smooth as a summer’s day – but packed one hell of a lethal punch as evidenced by the following day’s hangover. Clearly I did not eat enough of the 18 month Parmigiano Reggiano crackers with oyster emulsion & pickled cucumber. Lesson learnt.
Served on the veranda for that all important Italian al-fresco atmosphere, the special menu was created by Ferdinand Montoya, the Head Chef of Brooksby’s Walk, who bases the restaurant’s flavours around seasonal European ingredients with a South East Asian influence.
We began with dense ‘Parker House’ bread rolls, made with a combination of rinds and served with Parmigiano Reggiano butter. Cheese butter – where have you been all my life? To start we ate Parmigiano Reggiano & Mussel Chawanmushi – a Japanese savoury egg custard dish, to you and me.
Our main course incorporated the 30 month Parmigiano Reggiano with saddle of rabbit, served with Asian dumplings and beautifully sweet carrots. We adored the biodynamic orange wine – Slatnik Radikon 2015 – it was paired with.
Even the palette cleanser contained cheese! Frozen Lime & Parmigiano Reggiano Mousse was a complete success. But in fact maybe our favourite dish of the night was the Parmigiano Reggiano & honey ice cream with ‘chocolate textures’.
Each course was expertly paired with (plenty!) of wine. We journeyed through whites, oranges and reds, homemade liqueurs and more cocktails. Quite frankly it’s a small miracle that we made it home…
Chef Ferdinand has kindly provided a ‘simplified’ version of the Rabbit main course so you can have a go at recreating at home.
2 Saddles of rabbit deboned (ask the butcher to give you the bones for the Jus)
2 Baby Carrots blanched till just cooked (keep the green leafy tops aside)
8-10 Slices of Pancetta
1kg Chicken wings
1L Chicken stock
250ml Red Wine
5 Cloves of Garlic Crushed
Sprig of Thyme
2 Large White Onions Chopped
3 Large Carrots Chopped
Confit Rabbit Leg
4 x Rabbit legs
1L duck fat melted
Sprig of thyme
1-2 Bay leaves
4 cloves of peeled garlic
Salt (about 20g per kilo of rabbit legs)
1 Tablespoon Whole Black Pepper
½ Bunch of parsley roughly chopped
50 ml of Sherry Vinegar
100g Finely grated parmigiano reggiano
Cracked black pepper
200g Confit Rabbit Leg mix
20ml Vegetable oil
16 Baby Turnips Halved and Blanched
4 Baby Carrots Blanched
Picked Baby Carrot Tops
Parmigiano Reggiano Shavings
Large Nob of Butter for cooking
Confit Rabbit Legs
1 Rub the salt into the rabbit legs and leave covered in the fridge for 6-8 hours
2 Wash the salt off the legs and dry thoroughly. Preheat the oven to 130c
3 Place the rabbit legs, thyme, garlic, bay leaves & peppercorns in a high-sided ovenproof saucepan/tray and cover completely with the duck fat
4 Cover the saucepan or tray with foil and place in the oven for 3-4 hours until the meat is tender and falling away from the bone
5 Remove from the oven and allow the legs to cool down in the duck fat
6 Once cooled enough for you to handle, remove the legs from the fat and pick the meat off the bones. (reserve and strain 250ml of the cooking fat)
7 In a mixing bowl combine leg meat, sherry vinegar, chopped parsley, parmigiano reggiano and half of the reserved cooking fat. You want really get in there with your hands, squeezing the mixture through your fingers. Taste the mixture for seasoning and add more of the fat if the mix is a little dry. You are looking for a consistency of a rough rillete/pate.
1 Pre heat the oven to 180c
2 Place rabbit bones & chicken wings on to a roasting tray ensuring it is one layer and the bones & wings are not overlapping each other as you want them to brown evenly in the oven. Roast till they are a nice golden brown in colour (about 20-25 minutes)
3 Meanwhile heat 50ml of vegetable oil in a large saucepan on high heat till very hot then add the chopped onions, carrots and garlic and fry till nicely caramelised (about 10-15mins).
4 Add 250ml of red wine to deglaze the saucepan and reduce till its thick and syrupy.
5 Add the roasted bones to the pan and the chicken stock ensuring there is enough liquid to just cover the contents of sauce pan (top up with water if need be)
6 Add the thyme and bring the liquid to a simmer (do not let it boil), skimming the fat & scum that rises to the top. Continue to simmer the stock for about 2hrs ensuring you keep skimming an fat and scum that rises.
7 After 2 hours, strain the stock through a fine sieve and place the stock into a saucepan and reduce the stock by ¾ till you have a nice rich sticky jus
Roasted & Stuffed Saddle of Rabbit
1 Lay the pancetta down on a clean flat surface/board ensuring they slightly overlap and it is the same width as the rabbit saddle. Place the saddle on top of the pancetta (“skin” side down)
2 There should be a cavity in the centre between the two loins facing up. Take enough of the confit rabbit leg mixture to fill the cavity till it is level with the height of the loin
3 Place 1 carrot on top of the stuffing and push down slightly. Then place more of the rabbit leg mix over the carrot till just covered.
4 Carefully roll the rabbit saddle ensuring not to squeeze to hard otherwise the stuffing will come out of either ends. Repeat the process for the other saddle & set them aside
5 Roll the rabbit tightly in cling film ensuring that both ends are twisted and tied.
6 In a pot of boiling water, poach the saddles for 15 minutes and then remove and cool immediately into ice water.
7 Preheat oven to 200c
8 Remove cling film from the rabbit and place on a baking tray and bake for 10-15 mins until the pancetta is crispy and golden brown. Remove from the oven and loosely cover with foil to keep it warm and ready for plating
1 With a gyoza skin in the palm of one hand, spoon a small amount of the mix into the centre of the skin. No need to overfill here, simply add an amount approximate to a teaspoon’s worth. Dip your finger in some water and moisten the edge of the skin to make it easy to seal.
2 Fold the filled gyoza skin in half and pinch at the top to seal it. Now start folding over the skin on the side facing you and pleating it together to achieve an effect like a folding fan when it is open. The goal is to achieve a sealed wrap which has the pleated texture on one side, but is flat on the reverse side.
3 Heat up the vegetable oil in a pan and gently place the gyoza in it with the flat side facing down. Cook on a high heat until the bottom of the gyoza become crispy and golden.
4 To finish cooking the gyoza, add the water to the pan so that the gyoza are half submerged. Place a lid on top of the pan and leave the heat on medium-high.
5 Allow the gyoza to steam until the water has evaporated, then leave them cooking on the bottom a little longer to make sure that they become crispy and ready to plate
1 In a hot pan, quickly sauté the baby turnips and carrots with some butter. Remove onto kitchen towel to drain excess butter and season with Maldon salt
2 Place jus back on the hob on low heat to reheat
3 Slice each saddle into 4 equal pieces
4 Place some baby turnips slightly of centre on the plate, followed by two slices of the rabbit in the centre and leaning on the turnips.
5 Place the dumpling next to the rabbit and finally lay a carrot on top of the sliced rabbit
6 Spoon on the rabbit jus then finish with a few picked carrot tops, shaved parmigiano reggiano and a small pinch of Maldon salt
For more information, please visit www.parmigianoreggiano.com