Everybody loves Raymond

Do you remember a few months ago the Metro newspaper launched a fun competition to coincide with the launch of the new Brasserie Blanc in Covent Garden? To enter, you had to tweet a photo of you doing the can can! Here was my entry, which to my embarrassment/delight was printed in the paper…

So ten lucky Twitter winners and their guests got the opportunity to watch Raymond Blanc do a cookery demonstration at Brasserie Blanc Southbank yesterday – I was chuffed to meet fellow comping tweeters @greatbigrobot and @chrismse1 there. After a quick tour of the Brasserie Blanc kitchen, we were taken out to sit on the terrace for a two hour cookery demonstration.

Raymond was absolutely charming – an earlier visit to the dentist meant he was a little slurred, and he was like a comedy act with his two chefs Adam and Kush.

Raymond is passionate about cooking and eating with family – there were a number of children at the event today and he explained how important it is to take kids to restaurants and to enjoy meals together at home. This is something I very much believe in, and we’ve been lucky enough to take our son on holiday to Italy and Spain where you can dine at night with a toddler without getting the dirty looks you would at so many places in the UK. The first time I went to a Michelin starred restaurant was in San Sebastian six years ago. I was flabbergasted that people were dining in Arzak and Mugaritz (two of the world’s top ten restaurants!) at 10pm with children who could only have been about 8 years old. But in Spain dining as a family is the norm… and the kids looked like they were enjoying the food too (although it must have cost a lot more than the Zizzi kids menu!).

But anyway, back to the cooking… Raymond prepared and cooked four dishes in a specially set-up kitchen, much to the delight of passers-by.

  • Mackerel with shaved fennel salad
  • Lamb’s liver with persillade
  • Summer berry pavlova
  • Chocolate mousse ‘Maman Blanc’

I have pages of detailed information about making the perfect pavlova and chocolate mousse which will definitely be going into my cookery binder. Raymond was entertaining and knowledgeable – a real character!

Here are a few of Raymond’s top tips:

  • never cook with extra virgin olive oil as the sediment will burn – use refined olive oil instead
  • soak fennel in iced water to crisp it up and give texture (drain well before using)
  • soak dried fennel seeds in water then toast in a dry pan; they will be crunchy and fragrant
  • it’s very important when cooking lamb’s liver that it’s no more than 10mm thick. If you buy a whole liver soak overnight in semi skimmed milk and salt to extract some of the blood and give it a more subtle taste
  • after cooking the liver in butter, add water to the pan. This dissolves the caramelised juices in the pan to create a delicious simple jus
  • blanching potatoes neutralises the starch, so when you sauté them they won’t brown too quickly
  • macerating berries in lemon and sugar gives them lots more flavour, releasing their juices and creating a simple coulis

After the cookery demonstration we enjoyed a complimentary set menu and wine in Brasserie Blanc which was lovely (although I had to make a swift exit before dessert to catch my train!).

It was a shame the PR company forgot to tell us about the meal, or I would have booked a later train to enjoy an extra glass of wine with my friend Jan.

Still, I managed to give Raymond a quick kiss on the way out of the restaurant – très bien!

…now, has anyone seen a competition to win a stay at Le Manoir?

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