Sunday, 23 February 2014

A gift of trout

I popped up to my local social club on Thursday evening for a small libation. Whilst there, a friend came in from a long days fishing. The boot of his car had a number of large trout, the spoils of his days efforts. He offered me a good sized trout and I thought it only fare to reciprocate with some home made bacon which he gratefully accepted.

The following evening I filleted the trout and prepared a beetroot cure. I have used this before on salmon but I fancied that the sweetness and the colour would complement the trout. I placed the fillets skin side down in a large tray and covered them in the cure. after 10 hours in the fridge I turned the fish over and returned it to the fridge for another 20 hours or so. The fish was then removed and washed. The results, as you can see, were spectacular.

My next job was to slice the fillets thinly. Starting at the tail, I used a very sharp knife to slice at a steep angle towards the tail right through to but not through the skin.

 Each slice was then flipped over until the whole fillet was sliced.

It was now a simple matter of running the knife along the skin from the tail to the head to remove multiple, paper thin slices of cured trout. I then vacuum packed these ready for future use.

 It will keep for a few weeks in the fridge but the majority ended up in the freezer where it will keep for a month or two.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

A simple but tasty treat (and a great use for marmalade)

I was a little stuck for lunch today and wanted something a little more exciting that soup or a sandwich. My wife had mentioned having a rather nice dish in a tapas bar recently. We normally have a good selection of cheeses in so I pottered to the kitchen and found a nice soft goats cheese. With the oven on, I spent a short while finding the right sized oven proof dish to accommodate said cheese. I then placed the cheese in the dish and sealed the top with a good layer of marmalade (the very same I made a week or two ago). I then popped it into the hot oven (180 C) for about 15 minutes so that the cheese was well melted. The piquance of the marmalade is a perfect counterpoint to the musky goats cheese Served with some good French bread you have to admit it looks great.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Stuck for lunch?

It is a horrible day outside. I am sat at home nursing the end of a rotten cold and the last thing I want to do is brave the wind and the rain. As lunch time approached I realised that if I didn't get creative then lunch was going to be some toast. A quick look in the veg box revealed some useful ingredients

 The peeler is a rather special gadget I was given for Christmas a year or two ago. It is a pepper/tomato peeler. It avoids all the messy burning of the skins, cooling and peeling and although that can add a nice smokey taste I am not looking for that today. A minute or so later and my ingredients are stripped ready for a hot bath.

 I diced the onions and minced the garlic and popped them into a hot saucepan with a tablespoon of good olive oil. Once they were softened up in went the chopped tomatoes and pepper, some thyme, pepper, salt and 1/2 a pint of chicken stock (vegetable stock if you want to keep it vegetarian). The next part is optional and can be replaced with more fresh tomatoes but I like the taste a tin of peeled plum tomatoes adds to the soup. Once this had started to boil I lowered the heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes. I was left with this rather lumpy mix below.

A quick burst with my pet Bamix and I have a delicious soup full of vitamin C to help with the cold. Enough for 5 large lunchtime portions. 1 for the bowl and 4 for the freezer for the next rainy day.

A little more hassle than a tin of soup but oh so much nicer.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Old Fashioned Marmalade

With Sevil oranges kicking around the shops and last years supply almost at an end the time has come to make some fresh marmalade.It seems like everyone has their own recipe so here is mine.

1.5 kilos of Seville Oranges
2 lemons
1 kilo of preserving sugar
0,5 kilos of muscovado or dark brown sugar

First score the skins of each of the oranges to enable you to peel them in quarters. Juice the remaining flesh of the oranges but keep the pith and pips then add the juice and pips from the lemons. If the pith on the skins is thick and loose then use a teaspoon to scoop away as much of the pith as you can. Add this pith to the waste from juicing the flesh. Put this waste in muslin and tie it off into a secure bag. Add enough water to make the juice up to 3 litres and place the muslin bag in this watered juice. Next, carefully slice the peel into thin strips. I like mine about 2mm across the strip but the thickness is up to you. Add theses peel slices to the juice and water and set aside in a cool place for 24 hours.

The following day put the mixture into a preserving pan and bring to the boil. Simmer until the peel turns translucent then remove the muslin bag and set aside to cool. Once cool enough to squeeze, press as much juice as you can from the muslin bag into the preserving pan. Add the sugar and bring  to a rolling boil. Using a sugar thermometer bring the mixture to 220 C. Check the set using a cold saucer (I put one in the fridge before I start the boil). When you are happy with the set then bottle in sterile jars.

I love my home made marmalade. Not only does it taste great on toast but it adds a certain something to roast lamb, ham, pork and salmon.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Pollocks it's Monday

Plenty to post this week so sorry this is a day or two late. After all my shopping and cooking over the weekend I knew I had a fair selection of meals in the bank for the week. I wanted something quick and easy for a Monday night. On Sunday I took a couple of pieces of the basil and garlic butter left over from an earlier blog (I packed the extra up into portions and popped them into the freezer). These were popped into a vac pac pack bag and sealed up. Monday night came. I popped the sous vide on to heat up and popped up to my club for a swift pint. On my return, the sous vide had reached 56 C. In went the pollock for a 20 minute bath. Meanwhile I heated my wok and prepared pepper, pak choi, broccoli, ginger, galengal and spring onion. A thinly sliced garlic clove, soy sauce and a pinch of sugar joined the other ingredients for a 4 minute stir fry. I opened the bag and removed the pollock to sear in a hot pan. The butter and juices were added to the stir fry. Once plated up we had a very tasty and fulfilling Monday night meal with minimal work.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Time to learn something new.

Sunday afternoon with the prospect of rain and wind just calls for a good film, a pot of good tea and a slice or two of cake. With this in mind I decided I would try my hand at something new. A week late for the Chinese New Year but coconut rice cake was my task. I also decided that it was time the cherry and walnut cake fend in our house learned to fend for herself.

First the baking lesson.

175g of softened unsalted butter and 175g of caster sugar into the food processor. Personally I enjoy creaming the butter and sugar together by hand but this is supposed to be fun and not hard work for my wife.

As these are blended together on a slow speed add three large eggs, a tablespoon of milk and a few drops of vanilla extract. A pinch of salt gets this all ready for the flour.

Cherries and walnuts to taste ( my wife seems to prefer plenty of fruit and nuts) are measured out. You can chop them if you want but we prefer them whole. 100 grams of plain and 100 grams of self raising flour are measured out and mixed together. A couple of tablespoons over the cherries and walnuts and the rest into the blender.

Mix up the Cherries, walnuts and flour to coat them in flour and help to prevent them sinking. Next add the cake mixture and stir together before pouring into the cake tin. I use a loaf tin pre-oiled with some almond oil. I like to dust the top with caster sugar to give a crunchy top. This then goes into a pre-heated oven at 170C (fan) for an hour. After an hour check with a skewer and cook for a further 15 minutes if necessary.

Lesson over it was my turn to learn something. First I set up the sous vide to cook the batter. I had to raise the base so that I could fill the sous vide to about 1cm below the top of the cake tin but still above the fill level and heat it to 90.5 C.  I took 90ml of melted coconut cream (and used a couple of teaspoons to oil the tin), 400 ml of coconut milk, 80 ml of water, 2/3 tsp almond extract,125 grams of caster sugar and 1/3 tsp of vanilla extract and whisked all this together. I then added 300 grams of rice flour, 1/2 tsp of baking powder and 1/2 tsp of baking soda. This batter was then put into the tin and covered in foil that was then pierced with a few holes. This then sat in the sous vide with hot water to 1cm from the top for 1.5 hours.

When it came out it was a very uninteresting white 'sponge'. It tasted ok but nothing special. I cut it into cubes, egg coated the cubes, dipped them in desiccated coconut and fried it as per the recipe. Still boring. The addition of a little creme fraiche and a brandy soaked cherry and a little milk (from the cherry brandy further back in the blog) and we now have a nice petit fours. Not sure it is worth all the effort but a good experiment all the same.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Sous Vide Skate

After my Saturday trip to the market I wanted some fish so it was off to Morrisons as they have the best fish in our area in my opinion. It was not a great day for fish as I discovered. No octopus or monk fish let alone turbot so I had to select from what was available. I managed to get a couple of nice skate wings. Pink and shinny with no smell of ammonia. Back home, a trawl of the internet brought up this rather interesting recipe (

After watching the rugby, preparing the oranges to make marmalade tomorrow and putting the shopping away I got ready to cook. That was when I read the recipe through properly and discovered I should have made a court bouillon some hours ago. If we were to eat this tonight I had to change the recipe. While I love to make a stock from scratch sometimes it just has to be a Knorr Stock Pot. 250 ml of white wine, 250 ml water, fish stock pot, 2 star anise, a few all spice berries and a teaspoon of fennel seed later and I had something resembling a court bouillon. A quick cool in an ice bath and we were ready to roll. The stock, a little fresh ginger, some lemongrass and the skate joined each other in the sous vide for an hour at 60 C while the fennel chose a hotter bath in my second sous vide at 85 C.

An hour later I took the bags out of the water baths. Seared some of the fennel in a hot skillet. Prepared the fish sauce, pureed the remaining fennel with the coriander leaves, bread crumbed and fried the skate and we finally sat down to a nice supper. After a pizza for lunch we decided one skate wing between too was sufficient for the supper so I still have one wing left to have a little fun with later in the week along with a slab of pollock.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Two Way Chicken with Fennel

Time for a Sunday roast but I wanted to use the sous vide. After a little hunt around I found this rather interesting recipe that I could bend a little.

I took a small chicken and removed the legs and wings and took out the wishbone. I now pressed the crown flatter and placed it in a vac pac bag with a clementine .I still have a few, slightly dry examples kicking around after Christmas. No good for eating but perfect for adding a little flavour. I added some thyme, rosemary and a star anise prior to sealing the bag an popping it in to the sous vide at 70C for 2 hours.

The legs and wings went into an oiled tray with a little sea salt. Covered in foil it went into the fan oven at 120C for 2 hours. The recipe called for a second oven to cook off potatoes and garlic at 180C for 15 to 20 minutes at the end. Knowing the meat would need resting, I popped the potatoes, thyme and a bulb of garlic, broken into cloves (don't peel the cloves.) in about 10 minutes before the end of the chicken roasting, removed the foil from the chicken and knocked the temperature up to 180C. This crisped off the skin on the legs and the wings before I took them out to rest, back under foil for 20 minutes.

Just prior to this I thinly sliced the fennel (a mandolin is best for this) into a non-metallic bowl. A good pinch of sea salt, the zest and juice of a lemon were then added. This was left for around 20 minutes. Once the chicken was resting I placed a frying pan on the heat with some oil and butter. I removed the crown from the sous vide. Dried it and placed it in the now browning butter and oil mix. Once it was fried off on all sides and had taken on a good colour I placed it in foil to rest.

Next step was to wash the fennel in a bowl of cold water and then leave it to drain in a sieve. Once drained I placed it back in a bowl.  I removed the garlic cloves from the oven and popped the potatoes back in for a few more minutes while I finished off the dish. I squeezed the garlic out of the cloves into the fennel and mixed the two together.

Finally, to the plating up. I carved thick slices of the breast from the crown and served these with the leg and wing, some roasted potato and the fennel salad for a simple but very tasty alternative to the traditional roast.

The wine? A Cold Harbour Sauvignon Blanc 2012. A great light wine (10.5%) that means you can enjoy an extra glass or two on a Sunday without worrying about the effect on Monday morning. School night wine :)