My first day of school was in 1986, I was 5. This was also the year when I got my first set of stiches (on my head) after a bathing mishap. The doctor covered the stiches up with a pretty pink bow so no one would notice. His trick worked.
My first best friend was called Peachy. We used to play with the other kids in the neighbourhood and gang-up on the mean snooty little girl that lived across the street. She thought she was better than us but we taught her a lesson after a game of hide and seek.
My first time to ever set foot in another country was when we immigrated to Australia in April 1988. It smelled different when we got off the plane; but surprisingly not a kangaroo in sight.
My first job was working the registers at the local Hungry Jack’s in 1995. This lasted a total of eight weeks. It was the school holidays and serving greasy food was not on my list of things-to-do-during-the-summer.
My first time ever skipping school was in Year 9, 1996. Incidentally, my very first detention class was also this year. We were made to scrape bubble gum off the seats.
My first driving lesson was in 1998, at 17, and despite my parents’ uncertainty regarding my driving skills, I got my licence soon after that. Surely enough, I had my first accident the following year.
My first time catching a wave was at Whale Beach, in 1999. It felt like hours of paddling, but catching a barrel wave that lasted for what seemed like infinity made it worth the wait and the sore arms afterwards.
My first time in a New York City Yellow Taxi was in 2003, en route to Chelsea. The driver threatened to run down and kill a cyclist that had brushed against his vehicle. The chase lasted for about ten minutes until I alighted prematurely on Broadway. I told him to keep the change.
My first job after graduating was in 2004, and two years later I am still happily working there. The on-site chef's cuisine keeps me from straying.
My first post for Milk and Cookies was this year in May, forty-seven posts later and I am still baking.
And lastly, my first attempt at Mille-Feuille was yesterday. The outcome wasn’t a vast success but making it and getting to eat it after was enjoyment enough.
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I decided to make both a dessert and savoury mille-feuille, namely a Strawberry Mille-Feuille and a Vegetable and Chévre Mille-Feuille. The initial challenge was to not get the puff pastry to, well, puff up so much. This proved to be quite a feat as that the usual inclination and intended objective of puff pastry is essentially to puff up. So after much trial and error and many wasted sheets of pastry, I perfected my technique in rolling the pastry out as thin as possible then stabbing each piece with a fork several times and finally brushing some egg wash over the top.
I obtained a recipe for vanilla cream custard over the internet; however I forget where exactly I procured it. And to say the least, I would not recommend following this particular recipe as that it contained several inconsistencies, like asking for eggs to be beaten into the mixture, although there is no mention of eggs whatsoever in the ingredient list. This forced me to improvise and only follow the recipe when absolutely feasible.
The custard turned out quite gorgeously at the start- thick, glossy and aromatic; that is until I left the stove for a split second and caused the cornflour to clump up at the bottom of the saucepan. Although the mixture was still smooth and aromatic, the custard had become runny, which spreading it without spilling over utterly impossible. It became a sort of circus balancing act; the strawberries did their best to precariously support the layers of pastry on top.
Although my Strawberry Mille-Fueille was fraught with some difficulty, the Vegetable and Chévre version proved less problematic. I found that a vegetable mille-feuile lends open to interpretation, you could substitute the filling with a myriad of other things such as mushrooms, asparagus, sweet potato and artichoke, to name a few. I also find goat’s cheese to be a good complement to vegetables as that it has a soft and mild taste that tends not to overwhelm other flavours but augment them.
As this is a first, it is inevitably a cause for celebration. So I would like to celebrate with you, my first stab at making mille-feuille! Bon Apetite!
1-2 sheets puff pastry
1 punnet strawberries, washed and sliced in half.
200ml full cream milk, plus 1 tsp extra
4 tsp caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, split lengthways and beans scraped
3 tbsp cornflour
2 eggs (one for the filling, another for an egg wash)
100ml whipped cream
icing sugar for dusting
In a saucepan, over low to medium heat, bring the milk, 3 tbsp sugar and vanilla beans to a gentle simmer.
In another bowl, add the egg, remaining sugar and whisk until smooth. Then add the cornflour and 1 tsp of milk to thin, and whisk until the mixture becomes smooth and consistent. Add this mixture to the milk stirring constantly for about 3 minutes, or until the custard thickens.
Take saucepan off the heat and beat in the whipped cream, until fully incorporated in the custard.
Pour into another bowl and place in the refrigerator to chill.
Preheat oven to 190°C and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
Meanwhile, roll pastry sheets out onto a lightly floured surface until they are approximately 2mm in thickness. Cut out identical sized rectangles from the pastry and dust lightly with flour. Pierce each piece with a fork a few times, and brush with the egg wash.Lay each piece of pastry on a prepared baking sheet and dust with some icing sugar.
Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the pastry has browned.
Once cooked, remove from the oven and place straight onto a wire rack to cool so that pastry does not puff up.
Assemble the mille-feuille:
Take the filling out of the refrigerator.
Take a layer of puff pastry as your base, and then spread a layer of custard on top. Place on a serving plate.
After, line this layer with strawberries.
Alternating between layers of puff pastry, custard and strawberries, build until you have three layers of pastry,
Dust the tops of the mille-feuille with some icing sugar and decorate with some fresh strawberries on the side.
Vegetable and Chévre Mille-Feuille
1-2 sheets puff pastry
500g butternut pumpkin
200g green beans
200g mild chévre
1 sprig of fresh thyme, plus 1 tbsp, chopped finely
extra virgin olive oil
Prepare the puff pastry as in the above recipe, omitting the icing sugar and replacing with sea salt.
Place the butternut pumpkin and a sprig of fresh thyme in a baking tray and coat with olive oil and some sea salt and in the oven for approximately 30-40 minutes at 220°C.
Place the chévre in a mixing bowl and mix in the chopped thyme.
Add a little sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste. Set aside.
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a rolling boil.
Blanch the green beans for about 1 minute, or until their colour brightens.
Drain the beans when cooked.
Assemble the mille-feuille:
Take a layer of puff pastry as your base, and then spread a layer of chévre on top.
Scoop out some roasted pumpkin and place a thick layer on top of the chévre. Drizzle a small amount of extra virgin olive oil.
Place another layer of pastry on top and spread a layer of chévre on it.
Line with green beans lengthways and drizzle some olive oil over themPlace a teaspoon dollop of chévre on top of the green beans, in the middle of the layer to act as fastener, and then place the top layer of puff pastry over this. Top with some fresh herbs.