I felt incredibly flattered when I was asked to take part in the “Maille Culinary Challenge” a couple of weeks ago. I am a mustard lover and as their motto famously says, “Il n’y a que Maille qui m’aille!” (Only Maille will do!) so as you can imagine, taking part was not a tough decision to make. The winning prize is a jaw-dropping foodie marathon I would love to experience and would be honoured to blog about. What did I have to lose?
The whole concept of this little project was oozing class, from the initial brief I received by email with its stunning accompanying photos to the classy packaging of the items I was sent, to the Maille ‘Spring Summer Collection’ leaflet which came with the products I had chosen. The recipes included are refined, the food styling inspiring and the types of mustard used colourful and original.
The impressive ‘grand prize’ is quite simply out of this world. It is a food luxury gourmet experience for two called the “Food Lover London Tour” and it “includes accompanied visits to the premises of four iconic gourmet specialists, where experts in their field will lead a tutored tasting in their speciality:
- Mustard at Maille Boutique,
- Tea at Fortnum & Mason,
- Cheese at Paxton & Whitfield,
- Wine at Berry Bros.
- Gift bags with samples from each store”
How stunning does that sound?
Alright Mel, let us have a bit of a ‘reality check’ here. I do not think I am a particularly adventurous cook. I normally stick with what I know best and feel confident making, with the occasional new addition to my staple meals.
When I was deciding on the two products I was allowed to pick from the list sent by Maille, I felt tempted to go for good old classics I already had in my fridge: I would normally have chosen ‘Dijon originale’ mustard and ‘Extra Small Gherkins – Recette Gourmande’.
I know and love these products and use them all the time, but not in a particularly exciting kind of way. For once, I chose to step out of my comfort zone. Looking at the huge effort they had made on their winning prize (I mean, they actually call it ‘Grand winning prize’, how amazing is that?), I thought I had to try and be creative with my food for once. To be honest, I was not entirely sure what I was going to cook with what I had selected, but reading the descriptions they seemed great and I knew they would work together. Inspiration quickly followed.
Here are my two chosen ingredients:
The parcel I received was much bigger than I expected for a small bottle of vinegar and jar of mustard, but I was not disappointed when I opened it. It looked more like packaging for luxury clothing or handbags than mustard and I loved it!
I was determined to make my recipes live up to the quality of the goods I had received.
I saw this as an opportunity to work with new flavours, be creative when incorporating new Maille products in my cooking.
Hubby loves fishcakes and whenever I make them from scratch, we normally go for the Thai version as they remind us of our first big trip away together. I decided to adapt my Thai fishcake recipe and westernise it with an addition of mustard.
The weather has been lovely recently and I thought a colourful salad would go well with the crispy fishcakes. I recently had a nice sweet and sour salad in a restaurant and decided to go with some of its ingredients.
Rocket has a lot of flavour with its delicate, peppery leaves, and it works really well with pears that are not ripe enough to be enjoyed as dessert and sprinkled with sweet, juicy pomegranate.
Hubby and I loved our fishcakes and salad for lunch. Beanie and Crevette only had the fishcakes as their main course, but I reserved some of the pear cut in small pieces and pomegranate seeds for their dessert. They loved their improvised fruit salad, especially Jumpy who could have eaten the whole pomegranate all by herself!
To be perfectly honest, until I put these recipes together, I had not had pomegranate in years as I normally find it such a tedious job to deseed the delicious fruit, but I was determined to use it in my recipe and not turn my kitchen in a scene comparable to a horror film in the process. Let us just say that pomegranate can stain (clothes, walls etc.). I watched a couple of tutorials online and I have included a quick summary of how to proceed in the recipe below.
Crunchy Pear and Pomegranate Salad with Honey Vinaigrette
- 400 g skinless cod fillet
- 2 tablespoons Mustard with Honey and Balsamic Vinegar
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons cornflour
- 1/8 th teaspoon crushed Maldon sea salt flakes or fleur de sel de Guérande
- 1 heaped teaspoon dark brown muscovado unrefined cane sugar
- 80 g French beans
- 1 tablespoon fresh coriander chopped
- 1 red chilli pepper deseeded and chopped finely
- 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 lime quartered
Crunchy Pear and Pomegranate Salad with Honey Vinaigrette
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons cider Vinegar with Honey
- 1 teaspoon Mustard with Honey and Balsamic Vinegar
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- 1 pomegranate
- Four handfuls of rocket salad
- 2 crunchy pears
Make sure no bones are left in the cod and cut it into large cubes before placing it in a mixer to chop it roughly. Add the mustard, beaten egg, cornflour, salt and sugar and blend.
Chop the French beans finely and add them to the mixture, along with the coriander and the chilli. Stir well.
Cover the mixer bowl and refrigerate for an hour.
In the meantime, get your vinaigrette ready and reserve it. In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. It will need a quick stir just before serving.
De-seed your pomegranate:
- Cut the fruit in quarters and place them in a large bowl in your sink. Loosen the seeds of each quarter by twisting them, making sure the seeds are aimed towards the bowl (not you!).
- Using a large wooden spoon, hit the back of each quarter to release more seeds. Use your fingers to dislodge the rest of the seeds.
- Remove all pieces of membrane from the bowl.
- Add water to the bowl and stir to wash the seeds. Remaining pieces of membrane will come to the surface of the water and be easier to spot.
Wash and quarter the pears. Remove their core and slice them.
Carefully place a handful of washed rocket salad on each plate. Dispose pear slices on the salad, sprinkle pomegranate on top.
Roll the fishcake mixture into twelve small balls before flattening with the palm of your hand.
In a large frying pan, heat the oil over a high heat for about two minutes to ensure it is very hot. Cook your fishcakes in batches of six, ensuring they are not touching each other. They will need between three and four minutes on each side. They should have a golden colour and be cooked thoroughly. Keep your cooked fishcakes between several layers of kitchen towel on a plate.
Serve the fishcakes with lime wedges and the Crunchy Pear and Pomegranate Salad.
Recipe NotesServe the vinaigrette separately so your guests can decide how much or how little they want.
I have had a quick peek on Twitter (#Mailleflavours) at photos of other recipes entered in the contest and they looked a lot more complex and professionally styled than mine, but I really enjoyed taking part in this competition. In the unlikely event that I might win, who do you think I should take with me on the gourmet tour?