Amuse Bouche, on occasion known as amuse gueule, are delicious little delicacies served in many good quality restaurants to tantalise and whet our palates in anticipation of the meal to come. Indeed, the very phrase amuse bouche translates as mouth amusement, a little treat to excite the tastebuds; a taste experience crammed into just one mouthful. Once a relatively unknown feature of French culinary tradition, amuse bouche have now become increasingly common, the modern equivalent of the once-popular hors d'oeuvres.
Sometimes an espresso cup of soup, a single scoop of savoury sorbet, a mere spoonful of dressed salad (perhaps actually served on a spoon) or a single, bite-sized tart, the attraction of the amuse bouche has to be its sheer decadence. Rarely, at home, would one devote the time to produce food in such tiny servings, all for a half-minute of heaven before the main course. Eating out, however, and the situation sees a sharp change: if someone else is prepared to stand around and do it for you, and serve it cooked to perfection at just the right time, a bite of Blue Cheese Foam with Port Wine Reduction seems like just the thing to pass the time before the starters arrive.
However, one shouldn't give the impression that the amuse bouche has to be complicated. Rick Tramonto's book Amuse-Bouche: Little Bites That Delight Before The Meal Begins features page after page of these miniature treats, many of which incorporate no more than four or five ingredients. The simplicity of Creamy Corn Grits with Butternut Squash and Sweetcorn sits happily alongside Charred Lamb With Truffled Vinaigrette and Oven-dried Tomatoes, both just begging you to put in the time and effort.
For an even simpler start, straighten shrimp on bamboo skewers; two per person is adequate. Marinade in soy sauce and ginger for at least half an hour. Remove from the marinade, dip into sesame seeds and briefly grill just prior to serving. Provide a small bowl of chilli dipping sauce.
Your mouth, and any dinner guests, will thank you for it...