Behind The Blue Door

Statement Dining | November 27, 2015 |

Behind their door:

Chef Sophie Michell shows us how to create the ultimate decadent dinner

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“Cooking is clearly in the blood for captivating Sophie Michell”, enthused Tatler, “Oysters and caviar bookend the remarkable offerings…It’s quite a show and something you shouldn’t miss.”

And the smart people’s magazine isn’t the only one impressed by Ms Michell’s talents – she’s winning fans throughout the food world for her provenance-driven, vibrant cooking.

The chef and author, formerly at the helm of Belgraves Hotel’s Pont St. restaurant, was Britain’s youngest female executive chef.

She also has the more unusual attribute – for a chef –  of being utterly charming and able to relate to mere mortals who cook at home. We asked Sophie to share her favourite recipes for a dinner party menu – and what it takes to make an unforgettable evening.

Behind the Blue Door: Hi Sophie, can you tell us what inspires your menus?

Sophie Michell: “It’s all about tailor-making the environment; creating an atmosphere with food. I’ve cooked for all sorts of events – from polo in a field to fine dining for princes – wherever you are, you’re creating a story for someone.

“Each part of that story – the food, crockery, lighting and music – is very important.

“On a personal level, I’m massively influenced by travel. I think the Californian way of cooking is a big deal: LA food is so bright and vibrant as there’s a lot of farm-to-table produce-driven cuisine.”

What was the best dinner party you have attended and why?

“I went to a pretty epic dinner party the other night hosted by a very cool interior designer friend of mine – one of the best-known rock stars of our time was a guest.

“My head chef served up crudités, whole Dexter beef fillet with truffle mash and summer vegetables, with a beautiful chocolate cake for dessert. All complemented with vintage champagne – it was perfect.”

Tell us about the dishes you’ve chosen for us. Why do they work well for a dinner party?

The dishes all work together to build up a flavour: from the gentle cold salmon tartare to awaken your taste builds, building up to a rich venison dish with roasted figs and finished off with a truly decadent sea-salt caramel tart. I’ve also popped in a crab pasta dish, after spending so much time in Italy, which combines delicately with the courses.”

Discover Sophie’s sweet tooth with our peek at the incredible Marie Antoinette afternoon tea she created for Pont St.

THE MENU

Salmon tartare with capers and horseradish

This dish is light and pretty so makes a great start to any meal.

Ingredients

Serves 4

  • 800g very fresh salmon
  • 100g capers in vinegar, drained
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 tsp of horseradish
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • 25ml extra virgin olive oil

To decorate

  • 100ml of creme fraiche 
  • 50g salmon keta
  • peashoots
  • violas or other edible flowers
Method
  1. Chop the salmon into small dice and place in the fridge.
  2. Finely chop the shallot and the caper, then mix with the horseradish and salmon. Add the olive oil and lemon to taste and season.
  3. Pile on the plate in any shape you want and then decorate with dots of creme fraiche, pea shoots, keta and edible flowers.

Venison, caramelised fig and foie gras-stuffed French toast

This is a perfect dinner party main and great as a replacement for the traditional turkey on Christmas day. The venison is very low in fat, so the richness of the foie gras toast complements it brilliantly. If you are not keen on foie gras, pate or wild mushroom duxelle also works well.

Ingredients

Serves 4

  • 4 x 180g venison fillet
  • 4 figs
  • 200ml jus
  • 100g butter
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 4 large beetroot, cut into a fondant shape about 2 inches high and 1 inch wide
  • 500ml of veggie stock
  • Handful of affilia pea shoots

For the French toast

  • 4 very thin slices of brioche (we freeze then slice it)
  • 1 tsp red onion marmalade
  • 4 thin slices of foie gras
  • 100g of butter
Method
  1. First make the French toast, slice the foie and the brioche. Take the red onion marmalade and spread on one side of the bread, then lay the foie gras on top and then the other slice of bread. Set aside in the fridge until later.
  2. Cook the beetroot fondants, take the butter and melt it in a deep frying pan, then add the beetroot and cook for a few minutes on each side to get some colour. Add the stock, seasoning and thyme.
  3. Bring to the boil, then cover and either pop in the oven or continue to cook on the stove for about 30 minutes until cooked throughout. Keep warm.
  4. Seal the venison off in a pan until golden brown on all sides, then pop in the oven for a further 4 minutes. Heat up a small frying pan, add some more butter and pan fry the foie gras sandwiches for a few minutes on each side until golden brown and crisp.
  5. Cut the figs in half, dip in sugar and blow torch and glaze until golden brown – you can do this under the grill too.
  6. To plate up, cut the beetroot in half and place on the place, cut the venison into 3 and place in between. Add the fig, quarter the French toast and drizzle with the jus. Finish off with some affilia pea shoots.

Crab and pea ravioli chive butter

Raviolis are easy to make and very impressive; Wedgwood’s Arris plates show this one off beautifully.

Ingredients

Serves 4

Ravioli dough;

  • 600g OO plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp sea salt  
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 yolks
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

For the filling

  • 600g white crab meat
  • 200g brown crab meat
  • 100g butter
  • 100g peas
  • 1 tbsp chopped tarragon
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 banana shallots
  • sea salt and pepper
  • 150g unsalted butter

Chive butter;

  • 200g peas
  • 200g broad beans
  • 1 tsbp chopped chives
  • 100g butter
  • 1 lemon
  • 50ml white wine
  • 150g affila pea shoots
  • 1 packet violas
Method
  1. First make the filling. Fry the shallots off in the butter until translucent, then add the crab meat, peas, herbs and lemon zest. Mix well together, season and cool.
  2. Lay one pasta dough sheet on a large chopping board. Put individual heaped teaspoonfuls of the crab filling all over the sheet at 3cm/11⁄4in intervals. Brush around the filling with the beaten egg yolk, then put the second sheet of pasta over the top.
  3. Carefully press down around the filling mounds to seal the sheets together, then, using a sharp knife or a ravioli cutter, cut into disks. Put the ravioli on a tray dusted with semolina. Let them dry out for an hour or so in the fridge.
  4. Bring a large saucepan of lightly-salted water to the boil. When boiling rapidly, add the ravioli and cook for about 6 minutes until al dente.
  5. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large frying pan over a medium-low heat, add the white wine, squeeze of lemon and reduce for a few minutes, then add the peas, broad beans and season. Finally, add the ravioli, with a splash of pasta water and drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
  6. Plate and decorate with pea shoots.

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