Eat like Hanna Glawari! Tipping the picture hat to the Chez Maxime scene in The Merry Widow, two of our multi-talented staff members have created a 21st-century version of a Belle Èpoque menu from Maxim's, the celebrated Parisian restaurant upon which Chez Mazime is based. Sara and Emily Klug, the stellar cooks behind the blog Page to Plate, whipped up this luscious feast for vegetarian friends. It's playful and voluptuous: four courses, accompanied by a signature cocktail and featuring a dessert inspired by the billowing white cloak Hanna wears to Chez Maxime. Here are the Klug sisters to let you in on their secrets.
The Atty first appeared in the 1930s and is very similar to the Merry Widow cocktail – swapping out Bénédictine for the lighter flavour of violet syrup. In addition to the list below there are three extra ingredients essential for enjoying a Prohibition-era cocktail: good friends, ice-cold glasses, and – most importantly – the next morning off to recover. These are not for the faint of heart.
3 shots good-quality gin
½ shot absinthe
½ shot violet syrup
Half fill a mixing glass with ice and add your shots. Stir until ice cold. Pour gently into a well-chilled glass. Add a twist of lemon peel to serve. Drink immediately.
Caviar service is a staple of French fine dining and features prominently on the menu at Chez Maxime. Real caviar is notoriously pricey (and not vegetarian), so this delicately flavoured beetroot caviar gives your feast that fancy flair without the fish eggs. This recipe can seem a little daunting, but spherification is one of the basics of molecular gastronomy. You can find packs online which will include everything you need, or you can find the ingredients in most kitchen speciality stores – it's a good way to impress your friends with your kitchen wizardry and once you know the basic technique it's a fun way to add a pop of flavour and texture to any dish.
Sodium alginate syrup
1 ¼ cup water
4g sodium alginate
2/3 cup sodium alginate syrup
2/3 cup cold-pressed beetroot juice
An extra cup or two of beetroot juice to store
Calcium lactate bath
8 cups water (2 litres)
10g calcium lactate
You’ll also need ...
Pipette or squeezy bottle
A bowl of water (big enough to dip your sieve)
Blini (homemade or store-bought are fine)
Soft goat’s cheese
To make your sodium alginate syrup, sprinkle the sodium alginate powder into the water and use a stick blender to blitz until dissolved. Transfer to a small saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium-high heat. Set aside for 10 minutes to cool.
Mix your measured syrup and beetroot juice together until combined.
Fill a large, deep bowl with 8 cups of water, sprinkle over the calcium lactate and stir until fully dissolved.
Using a pipette or squeezy bottle drip small drops of the beetroot syrup into the calcium lactate bath. It can take a few tries to get the right flow; you need to drip quickly enough to get a lot of small droplets that will form your caviar balls as they fall through their calcium lactate bath, but not so quickly that they stick together and form long strands of jelly.
Once you have a good amount of caviar (or when your bowl starts getting too full) scoop out your caviar with a sieve, dunk them in a bowl of fresh water to rinse, then tip them into a bowl. Keep covered with beetroot juice to keep them from sticking together until you’re ready to serve. Don't store them in plain water; through the power of osmosis (thanks Year 8 biology) you’ll end up watering down your caviar and losing all your beetroot flavour.
When you’re ready to serve, spread a small amount of goat’s cheese onto your blini and top with a spoonful of beetroot caviar and a small sprig of dill.
Seasonal velouté is a permanent feature on the menu at Maxim’s, so we have created a warming, autumnal version with aromatic roasted chestnuts and luxurious truffle oil.
½ onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ celeriac, peeled and diced
100g chestnuts, roasted and peeled
700ml very good quality vegetable stock
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
½ cup full cream milk
Crusty bread and salted butter, to serve
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat. Once it starts to foam, reduce the heat and add the onion and garlic. Simmer gently for 5 minutes until soft and translucent. Add the celeriac and chestnuts. Cook gently for another 5 minutes until soft and aromatic – seriously, your house will smell amazing. Add the stock and thyme and bring mix to the boil. Reduce heat, and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
Strain the soup, reserving the liquid. In batches, blend the solids until creamy and smooth. Put the blended mix back into the saucepan on a low-medium heat and slowly add the liquids back in, stirring constantly until the soup is smooth and silky.
Just before serving, add the milk and stir it through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in small, warmed bowls with a drizzle of truffle oil and generously buttered slices of bread.
Savoury crêpes appear on the menu at Maxim’s – actually called Crêpes Merry Widow – but we have adapted the recipe, replacing ham with creamy mushrooms and fresh asparagus. These are delicious and incredibly simple to make (especially if, like us, you don’t make the crêpes yourself. We buy ours from the stand on Melbourne's Swanston Street …shhh!)
Plain crêpes - one per person
Asparagus - ends trimmed and lightly steamed
Brie – 3 generous slices per crêpe
Fresh thyme - to serve
1 kg mushrooms (a mix of wild mushrooms is best, but plain cup mushrooms will work just fine)
As mush fresh thyme as you can be bothered picking off the stems (at least one tablespoon)
Lightly brush your mushrooms clean and de-stem them. Keep the skins on as much as possible. Slice them up finely and sauté slowly in a large frying pan with the butter and thyme. Keep them on the heat until the mushrooms have sweated out and evaporated their water – around 20 minutes. Don’t be worried by the amount of mushroom you end up with – it’s better to have a smaller amount with an intense flavour then a heap of bleh mouthfuls. Take the mushrooms off the heat while you assemble your crêpes.
1-2 cups full cream milk
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard (the hotter the better)
Melt 1-2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over a low-medium heat. Stir in an equal amount of flour and stir on the heat for around a minute. Pour in milk a few sploshes at a time, stirring continuously so that no lumps form. If they do form don’t panic – just keep on stirring until you work them out. Keep adding the milk slowly like this until you have a smooth, shiny sauce. Finally, stir in the mustard.
Fold crêpes in half. Place 3-4 asparagus stems in the centre, so the ends are sticking out slightly over the edge. On top, place 2-3 generous tablespoons of delicious mushrooms, and then top with slices of brie. Fold one edge of the crêpe over the top, and then wrap the other back over the other way, tucking the ends underneath to make a little crêpe pillow.
Place the filled crêpes on a tray lined with baking paper and bake for 10-15 minutes until the mushrooms are warm and the brie is melting. The edges of the crêpe should be slightly crispy and curly, giving a nice crunch.
Serve hot, with a drizzle of mustard béchamel and a sprinkling of fresh thyme. Et voila!
Calvados Bombe Alaska
Inspired by Hana’s frothy tulle cloak, this classic dessert has been given an autumnal French twist by incorporating the flavour of French Calvados.
Calvados poached apples
Warm brandy (optional)
Edible gold leaf, to decorate
Calvados Poached Apples
2-3 large Granny Smith apples, finely diced
½ cup Calvados (Apple Brandy)
1 tbsp. brown sugar
Pop the apples, sugar and brandy in a saucepan over a medium heat. Stir to combine, and cook covered, stirring occasionally for 10-15 minutes until the apples are lovely and soft. Set aside to cool.
1 – 1 ½ cup brandy poached apple
¼ cup Calvados (apple brandy)
½ tsp sugar
4 egg yolks
1 cup cream
2 cup full cream milk
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
You’ll also need ...
Ice cream maker
In a clean saucepan, add your milk, cream and spices over a medium heat until it almost starts to boil. While your milk is heating whisk together your egg yolks and sugar until thick, pale and fluffy. When the milk is just about to boil take it off the heat and pour into your egg yolk mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking all the while.
Pour the custard mix back into your saucepan, and put it back on the heat until it has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. When it has thickened, strain through a fine sieve into a large bowl and stir in your apples and brandy. Pop it, covered, in the fridge overnight to cool completely.
Churn the ice cream according to the instructions that came with your ice cream machine – they’re all a little different. Store in an airtight container in the freezer.
75g ground almonds
75g caster sugar
20g plain flour
2 eggs + 1 egg white
½ tsp almond extract
Preheat oven to 180C
Mix together ground almonds, half the caster sugar and flour in a small bowl, sift twice through a fine sieve.
Whisk together your whole eggs, pour into the dry ingredients and whip until it’s thick and fluffy.
In a separate, very clean bowl whisk your egg white until it starts to stiffen. Gradually add in your remaining sugar, whisking all the while. Continue whisking until it forms soft peaks.
Gently fold the egg white into the almond mix until fully combined. Spread onto a lined baking tray. Use a spatula to make sure it’s nice and even.
Bake for 7-10 minutes until the sponge is just turning gold and is firm but still springy. Leave to cool completely.
Don't make ahead – this should be prepared as you are ready to serve.
Make sure your eggs are very fresh as you won’t be cooking the egg whites. If you’re not confident eating uncooked egg, you can substitute any stable meringue you like – use a meringue powder, or try a Swiss or Italian meringue in which the egg whites are heated.
8 egg whites
2 cups caster sugar
Using electric beaters (or a stand mixer with a whisk attachment) beat your egg whites in a large bowl until soft peaks form – make sure your bowl is made of metal or glass and is very clean or your meringue won’t whip up nicely.
Add your sugar slowly, a large spoonful at a time, beating after each addition. Continue beating until the meringue is thick and glossy and all the sugar has dissolved – dip your finger in the mix and rub a little of the mix between your thumb and finger, it should feel completely smooth with no grains of sugar.
Press your gelato into a hemisphere mold or ramekin. Scoop out a small hollow in the base using a teaspoon dipped in hot water. Fill the hollow with a small spoon of poached apple.
Cut a disk of your sponge the same size as the base of your mold/ramekin. Place the disk onto your prepared gelato.
Cover with plastic wrap and place back in the freezer while you prepare your meringue. They can stay in the freezer at this stage for an hour or so but don't do this too far ahead – you don't want your poached apple to freeze and become icy.
When you are ready to serve, make your meringue. Scoop into a large piping bag fitted with a star tip. Turn out your gelato onto your serving plate, then pipe on your meringue. You can be as fancy as you like with your piping pattern, but make sure it’s something you can easily replicate and do fairly quickly before your gelato melts! Make sure you cover all of the gelato, leaving no gaps, to protect it from the heat of the flame.
Torch your Bombe Alaska! You can either use a kitchen blowtorch like we did, or you can do it the slightly more exciting way and pour over flaming brandy at the table. Warm a small amount of brandy in a heat-proof jug (warming it will help it to light more easily but you don't want to cook off the alcohol yet). Using a long lighter, light the brandy and pour slowly on to your Bombe.
If you want to feel extra fancy, add a little gold leaf for decoration before serving.