Not Quite an Omelette Arnold Bennett

I was watching MasterChef: The Professionals the other night, when some of the competitors were tasked with making an omelette Arnold Bennett as a skills challenge. A flat omelette, topped with poached smoked haddock, parmesan and then slathered in hollandaise sauce, what’s not to like?

As a vegetarian, the omelette Arnold Bennet has a couple of obvious drawbacks, namely the smoked haddock and parmesan. Vegetarian hard cheese is easy, but what do you replace smoked haddock with? I didn’t think that smoked tofu would really fit the bill, especially not that Cauldron stuff you get in the supermarket. It just so happened that we had some spare Jerusalem artichokes in the fridge, so I decided to replace the smoked haddock with those and make one for my dinner one evening last week.

Poaching Jerusalem artichokes

There just happened to be some milk in the fridge too, so I slowly poached the Jerusalem artichokes in that until they were cooked. Rather than going all out with a six egg omelette and four egg yolk hollandaise, as Marcus Wareing appeared to on MasterChef when demonstrating the dish, I decided to go with half quantities. Which I’m rather glad I did, as this is one hell of a rich dish.

Making a hollandaise sauce

So once the artichokes were done, I whipped up a flat omelette, topped it with the artichokes, veggie hard cheese and then drowned the whole lot with a hollandaise sauce, before flashing it under the grill. It looked pretty good sitting in the frying pan, slightly less good when it had slopped out onto the plate though.

Making a flat omelette

It was as you’d expect, utterly delicious, but bordering on the unfinishable; I could feel my arteries furring up as I ate it. I did feel the need to sit down for a bit after polishing it all off, I’ve no idea how Arnold Bennett, or anyone else for that matter, managed to get anything done if they ate one that was twice the size, for breakfast.

Jerusalem artichokes and hard cheese on top...

The only disappointment was the Jerusalem artichokes, they were pretty anonymous. I can see why a smoked fish, like haddock, would be perfect in a dish like this, just providing a layer of lightly smoked flavour to counter all the richness. If I ever make one again, I’ll have to think of some way to treat the artichokes so they don’t get lost, or maybe some smoked tofu would do the job…

Ready to be flashed under the grill...

If you fancy making one yourself, then check out Felicity Cloake’s How to make the perfect omelette Arnold Bennett.

Ready to be devoured...

Pommes Dauphine

I make no apologies for the fact that I watch MasterChef, MasterChef: The Professionals and The Great British Bake Off amongst others. I know that some people slag them off and claim that they are dumbing down cooking and baking, but I disagree. I know it’s a contrived environment and it’s all edited, so you don’t really know what’s going on, but I love seeing what people create and how they create it under pressure. I’ve watched quite a few episodes and come away feeling like I could do what I’ve just seen, especially with the baking, but I’ve never got my finger out and actually done it, until now.

In the second episode of Series 5, which was on nearly a couple of weeks ago now, the skills test was to butterfly some sardines and make some Pomme Dauphine. I’d never heard of Pomme Dauphine before, but anything that involves deep frying potato gets my full attention. So last week, I decided to have a bash at making some, mainly as a test to see if they would be suitable for replacing roast potatoes in a Sunday roast.

I started off by simmering the potatoes until they were just cooked and then shoving them through a ricer. I had a distant memory that Heston puts his triple cooked chips in the freezer after the initial cooking to dry them out, so this is what I did too. While the potatoes were simmering away, I’d put a baking tray in the freezer so it was nice and cold. The riced potato then went into the freezer on the cold tray until I was ready for it.

Never having made choux before, I was a bit nervous, mainly due to plenty of failed profiterole horror stories I’ve been told over the years. I broke out my copy of the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book and followed the recipe for choux pastry, which was relatively easy, although I’m not sure I cooked it for long enough before adding the eggs. I’m also not sure if I added quite enough egg, although it was dropping off the wooden spoon nicely.

By this point the riced potato was really cold, although I’m not sure it was particularly dry. I mixed it into the choux and using a couple of soup spoons, started to drop quinnelled portions into some 180°C oil. As it was quite sticky making quinnelles was taking too long, so I just started to drop lumps of the stuff into the oil, after a few minutes they’d turned a nice brown colour, so I removed them and kept them hot in the oven while frying the rest of the mix.

They were nice and crisp on the outside, with little bits flaking off in the mouth. The insides felt like a slightly doughy mash potato, which I’m not sure is exactly what they’re supposed to be like, I think they’re supposed to be slightly lighter. Either way, they were quite tasty, so I tried them with a few condiments to see what they would go with. Plain tomato ketchup didn’t work very well, although Sainsbury’s Organic Mayonnaise was pretty good, as was just a plain dusting of sea salt. My homemade chilli pepper jelly was also quite nice, on its own and with the mayo.

I’ll definitely do them again, but I think I’ll bake the potato, then I can make some gnocchi at the same time, as it too requires quite a dry potato. Not sure if I’ll put it in the freezer again though, but if I do, I’ll leave it for longer to cool down before it goes in. I’ll also try cooking the choux for a bit longer and adding a bit more egg to make it slightly runnier, as it gets plenty thick enough when you add the riced potato. Finally, I think I made them far too big, so I’ll be swapping the soup spoons for dessert spoons and trying to quinnelle the whole batch.