Time for a guilty confession.... I love Masterchef. No surprises really - I got hooked on reality TV when the first Survivor hit our screens. And while my interest in the subsequent endless variations on the reality theme has been somewhat eroded, a good concept well executed can still hook me in. Which brings me back to the joy of Masterchef. The casting in this series is fantastic, with a wide range of ages and stages, and a mostly sympathetic group of people all cooking against each other to become Australia's first Masterchef. Some are looking for a career, some are looking for a new life, some are just looking for a bit of positive reinforcement, yet they all have enough talent to make them deserving of a spot on the box. The food is generally well cooked and well presented and interesting. The challenges and tasks are cleverly designed, and the celebrity chefs have all brought a bit of additional tension in. Tonight, Alex Herbert of Bird Cow Fish proved herself a very generous mentor and a complete delight when her recipe for Gnocchi with Prawns and Sage Butter was the episode's focus. The generous splash of verjuice in her sauce reminded me of this recipe that got put to one side during the renovation hiatus. And it definitely does not deserve to be ignored....
These verjuice jellies are a very elegant and easy starter for entertaining. The recipe comes from "Maggie's Kitchen" by Maggie Beer, and Maggie describes this as one of her core recipes because she varies it regularly to incorporate every imaginable seafood or vegetable ingredient. I was completely charmed by the jellies because they look so pretty, in a slightly old world way, and they get prepared well in advance. Next time, I will throw in some prawns as well - I think the pink and green would look even prettier.
from "Maggie's Kitchen" by Maggie Beer
1 1/2 cups verjuice
1 tbl caster sugar
1/2 bunch chervil
2 1/2 x 2g gelatine leaves (NB because of the differing strengths of gelatine, make sure you refer to your gelatine's packaging to find out how much you will need to set 1 1/2 cups of liquid)
1 1/2 avocados chopped to a 2cm dice (about 300g avocado)
verjuice or lemon juice for drizzling
extra virgin olive oil to serve
mache or rocket
Bring verjuice and sugar to a boil then immediately remove from heat. Transfer to a bowl, add chervil and set aside to infuse. Soak gelatine leaves in cold water for 5 mins or until softened, then squeze out moisture. Strain the warm verjuice, then add gelatine leaves and stir until it melts. Allow verjuice gelatine mixture to cool completely.
Chop avocado and drizzle with verjuice to stop it browning. Place a few chervil leaves in the bottom of 6 100ml ramekins. Top with chopped avocado then pour the verjuice over each. Cover with cling wrap, pressing it down onto the surface of each jelly, then refrigerate at least 2 hours.
To serve, stand ramekins in a bowl of boiling water for 25 seconds to loosen, then invert onto serving plates. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve with mache or rocket.