Sunday, June 08, 2008

Culinary failures: smoked salmon and boursin terrine

I've said it before and I'll no doubt say it again. When it comes to choosing my favourite food blogs, I tend to lean towards those of the regular experimental home cook rather than the all-singing-all-dancing blogs of the would-be food stylists. Sure, on occasion I can be sucked in by the glossy and polished. Much as I try to wean myself off, there are a
few such shimmering blogs that I simply can't resist. And occasionally comment on. Even though I know that my penny's worth will be lost amongst the hundreds of others that similarly worship at their altar of polished foodieness or addictive writing in one such case. But really, my real food blog love is reserved for those ever-so-slightly less perfect. Those who share their failures as well as their successes. We can't be perfect in the kitchen EVERY day. For me, a good food blog is as much about the writing as it is the food. I want to hear the story behind the dish. Even if that story tells of a dish that didn't turn out as well as expected. I loved reading about Wendy (of A Wee Bit of Cooking fame) as she journeyed her way from wedding cake disaster to wedding cake perfection. I found myself chuckling away as I read of The Phantom Chef's revolting goats cheese jelly. This is not because I take pleasure in people's failure, you understand. I just feel that these are people I can identify with. Whilst the vast majority of things that come out of their kitchen are perfection personified, there are the odd difficulties too.

All this preamble is to warn you that I am about the present a less than perfect dish. In my defense, I would like to tell you how delicious it was. It just didn't look as good as I'd hoped. What I had been planning, was one of those oh-so-pretty-when-sliced terrines that you feel awfully smug about slicing up at the table. The recipe came from a Christmas magazine supplement one year - I cannot remember which magazine or which Christmas. The photo showed a stunning terrine cut into a neat, firm slice with layers of smoked salmon, pretty green cucumber and creamy loveliness. It didn't look at all like this...

I remember that my mother made the terrine that Christmas. I recall that it was a little tricky to slice. But I seem to remember that it still looked vaguely akin to the picture. Smug smiles all round. I also recalled (too late)that I made the very same terrine soon afterwards for a dinner party and that I was disappointed that I couldn't slice the thing and that it looked all messy. Not a smug smile to be seen.

But as I say, I remembered this last fact too late. I remembered it upon slicing my latest effort. It was all soft and impossible to slice. The creamy filling oozed everywhere and ended up looking like a bit smoked salmony, cucumbery mess.

All is not lost however. It still tasted delicious. Plus I have theories for why it didn't quite go to plan. Firstly, in a rare health-conscious moment, I decided to opt for a low fat Boursin rather than the full fat beast. I've had a problem with using low-fat cream cheese in other recipes in the past. Next time (yes, I did say next time) I'll use the real deal. I'll also chill it for longer and weight it down with something heavier than a couple of packs of butter. Maybe this will help. Maybe it won't. Maybe I'll have to re-christen it 'smoked salmon and Boursin surprise'.

Smoked salmon and Boursin Terrine
Serves 8


80g Bousin cheese with garlic and herbs (or other brand of garlic and herb soft cheese, I guess)
200ml creme fraiche
2 tbsp freshly chopped dill
1 tablespoon horseradish sauce
600g smoked salmon
1/2 a cucumber
salt and pepper

1. Mix Boursin, creme fraiche, dill and horseradish together in a bowl, season and then cover with cling film and chill.

2. Line a loaf or terrine tin with cling film leaving plenty hanging over the edge and then line the base and sides with smoked salmon...

3. Halve the cucumber lengthways and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon. Using a potato peeler, peel strips of cucumber and arrange half the strips on top of the salmon, lengthways.

4. Spoon half of the cream mixture on top of the cucumber and smooth over. Top with 2 layers of smoked salmon and then the remainder of the cucumber slices.

5. Spoon over remaining creamy mixture and top with 2 more layers of smoked salmon. Cover with overhanging cling film, weight down and chill for at least 4 hours, or ideally over night.

6. When ready to serve, unwrap and turn out onto a flat surface. Slice with a very sharp knife and if you are lucky you should get a perfect slice with layers of pink, green and white. If so, smug smiles all round. If not, you'll get something looking a little more like this...

If so, grin and bear it. It'll still taste pretty good!


Wendy said...

Looks great to me!
I've fallen into the low-fat cheese trap several times too and always regretted it. Laughing Cow Light is the only exception! :)
And thank you for the lovely words about my blog. They made me smile.

Nora B. said...

Hello Antonia,

It certainly doesn't have to look perfect to look delicious. :-) I've always wanted to try my hand at making terrine, but didn't think anyone else will help me eat it. But I should give it a go next time for a party.

Hope that you had a good weekend,

LisaRene said...

What a fun post to read :) It is so frustrating when a dish doesn't turn out as we expect. I'm glad you are going to give it another try and look forward to your future post of the perfect salmon terrine!

Hippolyra said...

I get irrationally upset when things go wrong which is so silly as I should just be able to laugh it off and learn from it.

I wonder if it would help if after slicing you briefly pressed the cucumber in a tea towel under a chopping board with a few tins of baans on it? it might make the whole terrine a little drier and more solid?

Rosie said...

Hi Antonia, well I have to say this looks really good to me and I bet the taste was amazing!!

Mary Berry has a lovely smoked salmon terrine recipe but not low fat cheese - found the link below for you :)

Rosie x

Antonia said...

Wendy - Haven't tried laughing cow light yet - I'll be looking out for it now!

Nora b - I always think a terrine is a lovely starter for a party as it can be made ahead!

Lisa - I'll certainly be trying this one again and hope to have a prettier result next time!

Hippolyra - great idea! I'll give that a try. Thank you for the tip.

Rosie - that recipe looks good. Haven't seen that website before so thank you for introducing me!

Margaret said...

Antonia - I have read on other foodblogs that when they use low fat cheese they bulk it up with a little flour - unfortunately, I can't remember where I read it. Perhaps if you do a google search it will throw something up about that.
I couldn't possibly blog about my failures - the OH would know then wouldn't he!!!