Putting fun into eating out, Zack Deakins, chef patron of 1921 in Bury St Edmunds, says his restaurant’s renowned canapés are a playful way of kicking off a meal
When Paul first asked me what my vision for 1921 was, I said: “ I want to serve fine food but I want the place to feel relaxed and fun. Also, I was thinking that we should have a canapé menu.” I have to say this last part surprised me as much as anyone else.
Canapés were not something I had done a lot of in my career. The restaurants I worked at in London and Edinburgh you would start your meal with an amuse-bouche, and although we did a few events with canapés at the Bildeston Crown it wasn’t until my time at Le Talbooth that I did canapés regularly. I don’t mind admitting that the first ones I did were a little sketchy at best, but hopefully I have improved since then.
Le Talbooth and indeed Millom’s catering do huge numbers of canapés almost on a daily basis for weddings and various other events, and seeing this in action was very impressive. They have a large selection that you can choose say three or four from for your do, which I always thought was pretty cool. I wasn’t aware, however, that in the back of my mind somewhere it would become such a huge part of our restaurant. . . until someone asked me.
Six years later I still love doing them and they have become something we are known for. You can be so playful with canapés. They don’t need to fill you up, they just need to be tasty and fun. It doesn’t matter if you personally aren’t a fan of one because there are seven others to choose from. The ones that can be slightly divisive are kind of my favourites – I love that it instantly gets people talking about and engaging with our food. They can also serve as an ice breaker. Imagine you are on a first date, perhaps feeling slightly awkward, canapés go down and instantly there is something to talk about. All in all they are just a fun way to kick off a meal, and having fun is what we are all about.
I thought I would share the recipe for a couple of our absolute classics. . . two of the originals, if you will. They were both on the menu on opening night and have been almost constantly on it since. They are also the two which I think I most often get told is someone’s favourite. Coincidentally enough, I think they are also mine and Annie’s favourites. The cod being Annie’s and the mushroom croquette mine. I can’t remember where the idea for the cod came from, but the croquette comes from a trip to Girona that Annie I took a few years ago. There was a little bar on the main square that served something similar and we ate them every night. It was a special getaway for my 30th, and I really loved Girona. So one of the things I love about these tasty treats is they instantly take me back there. To this day I could still happily sit down and eat a bowl of them.
VODKA CURED COD
200g Maldon salt
Zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 1 lemon
50g good quality vodka
5g fennel seeds
5g coriander seeds
5g black peppercorns
500g thick fillet of good quality fresh cod
Combine all the ingredients well, except the fish. Spread approximately half of this mixture onto the bottom of a deep, lidded plastic container. Place the cod on top, and cover with the remaining mix. Put the lid on the container and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Wash off the marinade and pat dry before cutting the fish into desired small shapes. At 1921 we top it with an avocado and wasabi purée and soy jelly.
75g plain flour
300ml vegetable stock
1 tablespoon dried cep powder
15g grated parmesan
1 egg yolk
Truffle oil to taste
Heat the milk, vegetable stock and cep powder in a saucepan.
In a separate saucepan melt the butter and then add the flour. Combine with a wood spoon and cook on a medium heat stirring constantly. It should only take 2-3 minutes to cook the flour out. It will look almost dry around the edges and a biscuit smell when it is ready. This is called a roux.
Again, over a medium heat slowly add the stock and milk mix to your roux, one ladle full at a time. Make sure the liquid is fully incorporated and there are no lumps before adding the next ladle. Repeat until all the liquid is combined.
Remove from the heat and drop in the egg yolk and the parmesan. Mix them in, then season with salt and truffle oil.
Transfer the mix into a piping bag and allow to chill in the fridge.
When cold, pipe onto a tray lined with parchment paper. Place the tray in the freezer.
When the croquettes are frozen cut them into bite-sized pieces and then pane. This is done by coating them firstly in flour, then egg wash, and then the panko breadcrumbs.
They are now ready to deep fry and enjoy either as they are or topped with a quail egg, as we do at the restaurant.
Zack Deakins is chef patron of 1921 Angel Hill in Bury St Edmunds.
Call 01284 704870