JELLY is not necessarily an obvious choice for a savoury dish, but if you enjoy cooking and like giving new things a go, it’s a great technique to try.
It may seem like a bit of a party trick or something for more advanced cooks or chefs, but jellies can also be a lot of fun to make.
These recipes might take a little time to master but in essence they’re really not that complicated. Not only that, but the resulting dishes can be very impressive both in presentation and in taste. I always find them refreshing in the summer months.
Historically, jellies wasn’t always packaged convenience foods. In Victorian times, they were celebrated as impressive centrepieces, and savoury recipes were just as popular as sweet ones. The top cookery books of the time were full of artistic dishes based on savoury jellies.
Gelatine-based dishes were seen as attractive because they could be prepared the day before a dinner party or a big celebration, leaving more time to entertain guests or to cook other elements of the meal. It’s this sophisticated take that is so appealing and can add incredible depth to a meal.
Rather than trying to create anything too complicated or artistic, I would suggest you start with a simple jelly recipe that can form the base of a delicious, light, fresh summer dish.
The best thing about making and eating savoury jelly is, for me, the pure refreshment you get from tasting it – it melts in your mouth yet can hold so much flavour. The beauty is in biting into it and tasting some really powerful flavours – it provides a little surprise, with every mouthful finding what seasonal delights are hidden inside.
The real secret to making savoury jelly is in achieving the right consistency. Cool it too long and it will get too hard. My top tip is to be very careful at the preparation stage. All jelly recipes require gelatine and water, and the key is getting the correct balance.
Once you have added your gelatine to the stock, you can take a small sample of your mixture and set it aside as a tester. I suggest you take a bowl and add a layer of stock – your base and your gelatine mixture – on to the bottom using a pouring funnel or soup ladle. You can pop that bowl in the freezer so the jelly sets quickly and then you can check that you’re on the right track. The key is to cool the jelly until it is just set, but no more. That means it will have the ideal consistency.
The balance of water and gelatine will largely depend on the base of your jelly. For example, a tomato jelly recipe requires more gelatine than a chicken one because there is no gelatine in the tomatoes to begin with – that means it needs a little more help to achieve the right consistency. The tomato recipe is also quite a lengthy one, so if you don’t have time you can take a little shortcut by buying some fresh tomato consommé from a local deli.
The idea of these recipes is to make them your own, and if you use the jelly as a base you can add all manner of seasonal ingredients – just experiment and have fun with it. You can capture great flavour by adding different herbs too. The jellies can make a great base for meat or vegetables.
While savoury jellies may not be practical for everyday dinners or suppers, you can have a lot of fun with them and really let your imagination flow. They are a great, refreshing technique to impress friends or family if you’re planning a summer celebration.
Poached Chicken with Chicken Jelly, Quail’s Eggs and Bacon
2 leaves gelatine
550ml chicken stock or chicken consommé
4 quail’s eggs
4 slices crispy bacon
1 tbsp fresh herbs
1 tsp ginger, diced and blanched
50g podded peas
1 chicken breast
1 carrot, sliced and blanched
1 spring onion, sliced
2 radishes, sliced
1 tbsp croutons
cracked black pepper
Soak the gelatine in cold water until it goes soft. Warm the chicken stock and season well.
Remove the gelatine from the cold water and squeeze out any excess water. Place in a pan and add a ladleful of the hot chicken stock to dissolve the gelatine over a low heat, before adding the remaining chicken stock. Place into a jug or soup dispenser.
Meanwhile, prepare your quail’s egg (cook in a pan of boiling water for two minutes), and shell the peas.
Take the breast of chicken and cut it in half lengthways. Then roll it in clingfilm so it becomes a cylinder.
Tie the ends of the clingfilm and poach the chicken in simmering water for four or five minutes, until it is cooked. Once cooked, remove and place under cold water.
Next, remove the chicken from the clingfilm and cut it into slices so you achieve nice, neat round pieces.
Select a bowl or bowls and in the bottom add the peas, ginger, chicken, carrots, spring onion and radishes – don’t feel restricted to these ingredients, though, you can use whatever is in season. The beauty of these dishes is that there are so many choices.
Carefully pour the stock on top of the peas, ginger, chicken, carrots, radishes and spring onions. Then, very carefully, without wobbling the bowl or bowls too much, place in the fridge to chill for about 30 or 40 minutes.
Once the jelly is set, take it out of the fridge and allow to warm a little. Just remember not to let it get too warm, otherwise it will melt.
Once the jelly is ready, you can use the same ingredients that are inside to build a garnish on top of it. Add more peas, diced ginger, chicken, carrots, radishes and spring onion, then place the crispy bacon, croutons, carrots and quartered quail’s egg on top and add more fresh herbs and croutons. Finish with cracked black pepper to taste.
20 ripe tomatoes, cut into quarters
2 handfuls basil, one for the jelly and one to garnish
2 cloves garlic
cracked black pepper
4 leaves gelatine (for every 500ml of tomato liquid)
1 handful cherry tomatoes
1 spring onion, finely chopped
100g goat’s cheese
100g black olives, pitted
For this recipe, you first need to make a tomato consommé. In a large bowl, toss together the quartered tomatoes, basil and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and set aside for ten minutes to infuse.
After ten minutes, place the mixture in a blender and whizz until completely smooth.
Over a bowl, carefully pour the mixture into a muslin cloth. Tie the ends of the cloth together with string and hang it up, allowing the tomato juice to drip through into the bowl. Leave for two or three hours, then place in the fridge to chill.
For the jelly
Soak four leaves of gelatine in cold water until it goes soft.
Meanwhile, prepare the ingredients to add to your jelly – chop the cherry tomatoes in quarters, tear up some basil leaves, slice the spring onion, tear some goat’s cheese into bite-sized chunks and slice the black olives.
When the gelatine has become soft, remove it from the cold water and squeeze out any excess liquid.
Place the consommé liquid into a pan, add the gelatine and heat until the gelatine dissolves. Then pour into a jug.
Take your serving bowls and put some chopped tomatoes, shredded basil leaves and spring onion in the bottom. Next, pour about 1cm of the tomato liquid in, before placing in the fridge for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the jelly is set.
Take your bowls of jelly from the fridge and place the cherry tomatoes, olives, goat’s cheese and basil on top. Garnish with cracked black pepper and salt to taste.
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Monday 20 May 2013
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