Arcimboldo’s Summer

Arcimboldo’s Summer
Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527-1593) was the master of these pre-surrealist paintings of figures formed of grouped objects (not always food).

Monday, 30 December 2013

A (Somewhat Too?) Spicy Heston Xmas

I'm rather fond of Heston Blumenthal, the Nutty Professor of modern British cuisine and I'm delighted that the good folks at Waitrose are collaborating with him to bring some of his madcap creations within reach of ordinary mortals like you and I. (They still ain't cheap, but keep your eyes peeled for those special offers, folks.)

This Christmas I had the pleasure of sampling four of Heston's Waitrose seasonal specials, designed for Yuletide parties and dinners, two savoury and two sweet: the mini chicken, leek and ham hock pies (I love the fact that it's the hock), the equally-mini chilli con carne muffins, the chocolate caramel and ginger swirl (that reminds me, I'm going to have a slice of this for breakfast. Yum) and the spiced shortcrust minced pies.

They were all good, and particularly tasty if you went to the trouble of following the serving suggestions — adding wholegrain mustard and mayonnaise to the pies and tarting up the muffins with grated lime zest, chopped coriander and sour cream (or "soured" cream as it's called in Britain, the element of intentionality being intended to reassure people there's nothing wrong with the stuff).

But three out of four of these dishes were over-spiced for my taste. In particular, the ginger in the chocolate caramel etc swirl is so intense that it dances on the edge of rankness. I love spicy food, but it seems to me that these three were all over done. So much so that I actually wondered if Heston is secretly a chain smoker. That would account for the heavy handedness of the flavourings.

I hasten to add that the desserts are not overly sweet, a much graver culinary sin and one I would find much more off-putting.

And the chicken, leek and ham hick pies were terrific, with a wholesome home-made taste.

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