Phil Howard’s two books from his two michelin star restaurant The Square based in London are works of a lifetime spent trying and perfecting classic dishes with modern touches. Sadly Phil and The Square parted company last year but thankfully you can still sample Phil’s cooking at his new venture Elystan Street in Chelsea.
I have eaten at The Square whilst under the ownership of Phil Howard and it was a pleasure. Three of the best courses I have eaten anywhere, more substantial portions than most restaurants of a similar standing in the capital with flavours to rival all of them. When the book first came out I just had to have it, the layout is stunning with in depth analysis on each dish and its components giving the reader an actual chance of replicating it in it’s intended form. Each recipe also comes with a stunning photograph of the finished dish. The only slight negative I can find is that a lot of the ingredients are tricky to obtain or come at a high price. There’s a large emphasis on using truffles, foie gras, prime cuts of expensive meat and various alcohols used in the dishes but thankfully Phil provides details of where you might be able to source these from.
So today’s effort is all about a fish recipe that caught my eye. Halibut with a Beaufort Crust, Jerusalem Artichoke puree with Leeks and Chanterelles. I’d never come across beaufort cheese but, guess what? There’s a reason for that, it’s a bit of a pain to source. So rummaging around for a substitute I came up with gruyere through general opinions on internet forums where people really do love their cheese.
The next stumbling block was both the halibut and the Jerusalem artichokes (are you sure you want to make this dish, Chris?) I knew Marks and Spencer stocked the halibut fillets and had seen the artichokes in my local Tesco but wouldn’t you know it…on the one day I wanted them both were out of stock. Yet again I had to opt for substitutions and go for celeriac in place of artichokes and hake, a firm fish great for roasting and very underrated, for the halibut.
On the flipside I had actually saved myself a ton of money so it wasn’t all bad, anyway, on with the dish….It’s actually quite easy in conception compared to many dishes in the book. A cheese crust was the first task as it needed time to firm up in the fridge. I combined the gruyere, some parmesan and thyme leaves along with breadcrumbs from a French sourdough loaf with melted butter to create a paste. I then lined a terrine dish with cling film, pressed the mixture in an even layer to form a rectangle and wrapped it up to chill for a couple of hours
The next stage of the dish was pretty much 20 minutes of work. I peeled and diced celeriac for the puree which even with a sharp knife was a little tricky as the celeriac put up a good fight with its tough skin. I boiled the celeriac in a mix of whipping cream and milk until soft and blended to a puree. It’s honestly one of my favourite purees, almost like butter and goes with most things.
I sauteed the sliced leeks and chanterelles (or rather pied de mouton mushrooms, those pesky substitutions again) and added a little reduced veal stock for that roasted flavour. The leeks and mushrooms came together to form a delicious fondue. After that I pan fried the hake on one side until golden before the time came to add the crust. Hake is popping up more in our supermarkets now and I can honestly say it’s a fantastic fish, especially for roasting.
Grilling the crust gives you an amazing golden colour but also cooks the remaining hake on the top resulting in a beautiful texture, it’s a great way of cooking fish. Plating up with a cheffy swipe of the puree and a pool of the leeks and mushrooms looked elegant before crowning with the fish.
I may have slightly reinvented Phil Howard’s dish but my god! The flavours here are an absolute knockout, if you haven’t got the funds for prime halibut and beaufort cheese don’t worry in the slightest because even with the changes the dish worked together perfectly. I would never have put fish and cheese together but it almost adds an acidity, most likely from the parmesan, it’s certainly a rich plate of food but so good. I cannot recommend both the savoury and sweet editions of The Square Cookbook highly enough. The man himself even praised my effort on Twitter, it made my day.