It seems to me that every successful and thriving restaurant I have worked at so far caters for private canape functions. I've made pies, sushi, spring rolls, chocolate truffles, an assortment of tartlets, spoonfuls of pearl ceviche, teeny tiny wagyu crostinis with truffle aioli and microherbs - each placed exactly parallel to its neighbour, and now i can add mini crispy fish wontons to my repertoire.
2 coffees, 6 and a half hours, 10 trays and 500 mini fish wontons later I swore never again. It takes such an incredible amount of willpower to stay focused on each deliberate fold and turn that what normally seems easy and fun in small doses becomes an exasperating and mind-numbing job.
I began the day by sorting through 8 kilos of Flathead, pin-boning, dicing, drying, and all the while running in and out of the cool room to keep everything as cold as possible. Then I had to turn all the diced up fish into a giant wonton mix with finely chopped ginger, coriander roots and shallots. By the end of it I though I was going to snap. I was starving, my eyes were watering and my apron pockets were filled with crusty lumps of flour. All I wanted was some normal comfort food.
I had planned to make apple pie on my day off. Of course, that didn't quite happen and to shake things up a little with my favourite traditional home bake, I added a few small tweaks here and there. Apple seems to be a convenient vehicle to use when wanting to convey other flavours. Last week I dabbled with candied chillies and chilli caramel so I thought to follow suit with chilli sugar.
With savoury dishes, chilli is often found balanced with the presence of dairy, whether it be yoghurt, milk or cream. I began with the idea of a pie but it soon transformed into small bite-sized tarts as I quickly tired of the idea of struggling with a fancy pie lid on top of it all. Eventually, and after much internal conflict, I decided upon chilli apple tarts with basil mascarpone, drizzled with a little chilli caramel.
According to a bounty of hot versus cold infusion experiments by Alice Medrich "Each sample was good in the hot infusion, but spectacular in the cold. Cold cream coaxed forth the high notes and the floral flavors; hot cream produced more earthy vegetal notes.. once the infused materials (leaves, petals, etc.) were spent and discarded, the infused cream could then, if necessary, be heated (to make ganache, for example) without damaging its exquisite flavor." so of course for my first submission to Art You Eat I just had to attempt the cold-infusion method, combining milk and basil which I later used to make a pastry cream.
455 g flour
300 g unsalted butter
2 heaped Tbsp icing sugar
5 g salt
150 ml water, chilled
Sift together the flour, sugar, salt and spread onto the work bench in a rectangular fashion.
Chop or grate butter and spread over the top.
Cut with pastry knife until lumpy.
Make a well in the centre and add chilled water.
Mix gently with a fork from the centre outwards until it becomes a shaggy mass.
Roll and turn 3 or 4 times.
Wrap tightly and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Roll to fit tart shells and freeze until firm.
Apple Pie Mix
4 cooking applesPeel, core and roughly chop apples.
1 lemon, zest and juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp apple glaze
3 Tbsp castor sugar
50 g unsalted butter
Toss in lemon juice, drain and place in a pot.
Add remaining ingredients and cook, stirring until lightly caramelised.
Set aside to cool.
Stir through chilli sugar to taste.
1 Tbsp dried chilli flakesCombine in a mortar and pestle and grind until it becomes a powder.
3 Tbsp castor sugar
Sift and discard seeds.
200 g milkTear up basil leaves and submerse in milk.
1 C. packed basil leaves
1 Tbsp icing sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tsp cornflour
5 g salt
25 g unsalted butter
150 g mascarpone
1 egg white
Refrigerate for half an hour, stirring every now and again.
Cream yolks, sugar, salt and cornflour in a medium bowl.
Strain milk into yolk mix, discarding basil.
Whisk all to combine and pour into a small pot.
Bring to a simmer to thicken, stirring continuously with a spatula.
Remove from heat and stir in butter.
Refrigerate until cool then combine with mascarpone and egg white until smooth.
Half fill frozen pastry cases with apple mix and bake at 200ºC for 25-30 mins or until crisp.
Cover apples with paper if they begin to darken.
Fill to the top with basil mascarpone and bake for additional 3-5 minutes.