Recipe inspiration, courtesy of Giffords Circus (yes, really!)
Roll up, roll up! ... Put some razzle-dazzle back into mealtime monotony with a double whammy of scrumptious, summery dishes from Giffords Circus' new cookbook.
Anyone else missing the jolly japes of Giffords Circus this month? I am. This time last year my husband was being extracted from the audience to be a human table at this amazing village-green Cotswolds circus (he’s still in therapy) – ahh good times!
Whilst we might be yearning for the smell of the sawdust and daredevil antics of the talented troupe, we have two top-of-the-bill circus dishes to whip up in your own kitchen.
Head Chef Ols Halas (along with the much missed Nell Gifford) is the author of the new Giffords Circus Cookbook ‘Recipes & Stories from a Magical Circus Restaurant‘. This creative genius is behind the delicious menu at Circus Sauce, the 60-seat diner that follows the circus to each venue, housed in two magnificent wagons.
Recreate some big top razzle-dazzle at your own kitchen table with these two of the book’s sexy summery dishes, perfect for a picnic or garden lunch.
Cauliflower, Romanesco, Raisin & Almond Salad
This is a lovely, fresh and summery recipe. The raisin dressing adds a wonderful sweetness and cuts through the bitterness of the chicory and the almonds ever so well.
1 head romanesco broccoli
olive oil, for drizzling
2 heads chicory, leaves separated
1 shallot, thinly sliced into rings
50g flaked almonds, toasted
sea salt and black pepper
For the purée
knob of butter
100ml double cream
For the dressing
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
50ml rapeseed oil
1 tbsp cider vinegar
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Begin by breaking the cauliflower and romanesco into florets: you want different-sized florets to keep the salad interesting. Save any stalks for the purée. Cook half of the florets in salted boiling water for 4–5 minutes, then drain well. Toss the rest of the florets on a baking tray with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and roast in the oven for about 10 minutes, until a dark golden colour.
Slice the cauliflower stalks thinly with a sharp knife and sweat down in a saucepan with a knob of butter, and some salt and pepper. Pour in the cream, bring to the boil and blitz in a food processor to a smooth purée. Leave to the side until needed.
For the dressing, soak the raisins in boiling water for about 5 minutes. Drain and put into a mixing bowl with the mustard, sugar, rapeseed oil and cider vinegar. Mix well.
Toss the chicory, shallot, cauliflower and romanesco together in a mixing bowl and season with a little salt and pepper. Smear the purée onto a serving plate and top with the salad. Drizzle over the dressing and finish with a scattering of toasted almonds.
There’s only one way to eat an Eton Mess in our book, and that’s basking in the sunshine with a pitcher of Pimm’s. Ols recommends getting the best strawberries you can for maximum flavour and whilst shop bought meringues can be used (*pops out right away*) the more culinary gifted of you can whip up some fresh ones here.
75g caster sugar
strips of lemon zest
1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped
400ml double cream
For the meringue
6 egg whites
230g caster sugar
230g icing sugar
For the meringue, preheat the oven to 120°C and line a large baking tray with baking parchment. In an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites until the whites begin to froth and are almost at the soft-peak stage, then begin slowly tapping in the caster sugar, while still whisking. Keep whisking until the meringue is super thick, then remove the bowl from the mixer. Gradually sift in the icing sugar, folding it in gently and ensuring there are no lumps of sugar left. Spoon or pipe the meringue onto the baking tray in one single shape and bake for 2 hours, or until slightly coloured and very crisp.
The rest is very simple. Put half the strawberries in a heatproof bowl with the sugar, lemon zest and scraped vanilla pod, cover tightly with clingfilm and poach over a pan of simmering water for about 30 minutes until the strawberries start to shrivel.
Doing it this way keeps all the flavour in and when you pop that clingfilm open, you get the most miraculous smell! Remove the vanilla pod and strips of zest and blend a few large spoonfuls of the strawberries in a blender to make a coulis, then put this and the rest of the strawberries in the fridge to chill until needed.
In a large bowl, whip the cream, mascarpone and vanilla seeds to stiff peaks. Add most of the fresh strawberries, hulled and halved, and crumble in nearly all the meringue. Pile onto a dish or cake stand and scatter over the poached strawberries, followed by more fresh strawberries, more meringue and finally the coulis.