Friday, November 27, 2009

I wanted...I bought...I made

I'm out for the day Saturday on a trip to Birmingham - a place I've never been - as a guest of Miele at the BBC Good Food Show. It will be a treat.

But not (entirely) for the man as he will have a list and the responsibility of shopping alone. Not sure what time I'll be back so something simple for supper Saturday night, quite tempted to continue the fish odyssey crumbed whiting fillets simply fried in butter with chips!! as I was very pleased with last week's fish pie. Sunday has to be roast, beef of olde Englande with butternut and potatoes and brussel sprouts perhaps as it's been a while. Monday I fancy a spanish soup of chick peas and spinach had a spanish soup but it was cauliflower and yoghurt and it was okay but not great, Tuesday dal and dill rice had the lamb chops from the freezer with potatoes from our garden (the entire crop...) and buttered spinach for the most utterly fabulous meal, Wednesday probably the rest of the soup from Monday which had improved a little with time!, Thursday I am hankering for the lamb chops that have been in the freezer for long enough had a seriously good dahl with smoked aubergine and some paratha from the freezer. Friday something simple, sausages perhaps or omelette and crusty bread need to go through chinatown after work so noodles it will be.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Chilli Salt Crusted Tofu with wilted greens and black bean sauce

Possibly the longest title of any recipe on my blog. So far.

It is a bit of a fiddle to make the first time but it is also sensational. The black bean sauce makes enough for two meals and keeps well in the fridge for a week or two so the second time you make it - and you will want it again and again - it takes twenty minutes from go to whoah.

Or idea to plate perhaps.

Adapted from Christine Manfield's seminal Spice book, it is an extraordinary coming together of textures and tastes running the gamut from salty to sweet, crispy hot to creamy smooth. Just gorgeous in every mouthful.

The first time I cooked it I had some cold rice in the fridge so made egg fried rice with spring onions to go with, second time it was simple steamed basmati. Both worked a treat.

Chilli salt beancurd with steamed greens and blackbean sauce

for the salt crust
12 large dried chillies
12 black peppercorns
2 tspns sea salt crystals
2 tbspns uncooked basmati rice

for the blackbean sauce
2 tspns dried blackbeans
30ml vegetable oil
1/2 tspn sesame oil
5 cloves garlic. minced
2 tspns minced ginger
4 red birds eye chillies, finely sliced
25ml chinese rice wine - or sherry if you have none, though it's easy to buy in chinese food shops
25ml ginger juice, made by putting 6 tbspns minced ginger into a blender with a splash of water, blend for a minute, then press the pulp through a very fine sieve to extract the juice
75ml sweet soy - kecap manis
150ml water
1 tspn sea salt
50g garlic chives
500g pak choy or other chinese greens
1 tbspn peanut oil
800g firm beancurd, cut into 8 cubes
Oil for deep frying

To make the chilli salt crust, dry roast the dried chillies, peppercorns, salt and rice over a gentle heat until slightly coloured and aromatic. Put to one side till cool, then grind to a powder.

To make the black bean sauce, soak the black beans for 30 minutes. Heat the vegetable and sesame oils in a pan over a moderate heat and fry the garlic, ginger and chilli for a minute till fragrant then add the drained blackbenas, rice wine, ginger juice,sweet soy and water and bring to a boil, then simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add the salt, then taste and adjust seasoning.

Heat the peanut oil in a pan and add the separated and washed chinese leaves. Cover with a lid and allow to wilt. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat enough vegetable oil in a pan to deep fry the tofu. Coat the beancurd cubes in the chilli salt, then fry a few at a time for 3 minutes or so until pale goled and crisp on the surface. They will float to the top when cooked. Remove carefully with a slotted spoon onto kitchen paper and cook the remainder.

Stir the garlic chives into the blackbean sauce.

Arrange steamed greens onto a plate, spoon over blackbean sauce then top with fried beancurd.

Add a dollop of chilli jam if you have some, for a lovely starter. Rice for a main course.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Billingsgate Fish Pie

A couple of weeks ago my birthday treat was a morning spent at Billingsgate Fish Market which I loved. It was organised in part to look at sustainable local fish, particularly for catering. A fascinating tour of the market was followed by a demonstration of knife skills by a block man, who skins, fillets and otherwise variously preps fish 12 hours a day with a thin flexible blade. Watching him was like theatre, the speed and accuracy with which he dealt with every kind of fish, including gutting and then butterflying a handful of tiny sliver sprats. I learned a vast amount, having always been aware of flat fish I was delighted to discover that the others are called round fish, obvious as that is once you know. Wild fish offer the best flavour and texture but farmed fish provide a huge market which would otherwise be depleting wild schools. Farmed fish have smaller heads, bigger shoulders and stockier bodies than their wild counterparts. They are also starved for 3 days before harvest to provide a cleaner fish.

Kevin Crowley, the block man, explained how simple it was to tell perfectly fresh fish. They are called stiff alive, which he demonstrated by holding a fish its head and the fish sagged not at all. The sagging fish are dead! Except for dover sole, which should not be stiff alive, as they are too tough to eat fresh out of the sea. It is best to eat them five days after catching, and you can tell they are ready if you hold them by the head the tail should curl back to touch your wrist. Who knew!

The last part of the morning was cooking demonstrations in the well laid out kitchen where the cookery school is based. Lovely cured mackerel on sushi rice - the demonstration showed how incredibly easy it is to simply peel the skin from the fillet once it has been cured which will save me time next time I make some. There was two kinds of fish with chips, whiting and coley, both in a featherlight crisp batter that was delightful. Tasting both I definitely preferred the whiting, it was delicate and lightly textured, a pleasure to eat.

They very generously handed out recipes for the dishes they made as well as one for fish pie. Though I have never been a fan of fish pie I figured that if ever there was a good recipe for it, then it would definitely be the one they hand out at Billingsgate. These people know and love fish. So Saturday night I decided I would make one, to test my theory, and to feed my friend David who came round to join us. Autumn is upon us and the need for comfort is assauged with lovely meals like this turned out to be.

Truth to tell I altered the recipe slightly - it includes mustard powder and I don't eat mustard - and I downsized it to be enough for 3, though it could have fed four without much trouble at all.

Billingsgate Fish Pie

1 whiting, about 500g, gutted but otherwise whole
900ml whole milk
1 bay leaf
90g butter
1 finely sliced leek
90g plain flour
¼ teaspoon ground chilli pepper
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and thickly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped dill
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Salt and pepper

For the mashed potato topping
500g Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
25g butter
120-150ml milk
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons grated Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 190C/375F/G5.

Curl the fish into a pan – if like me you don’t have a fish kettle – and cover with milk. Add the bay leaf then gently bring the milk to the boil. Turn down the heat to just simmer and poach the fish for 5 minutes or so until cooked. Strain the milk into a jug and set aside. Take the flesh off the bones, it comes away very easily, and flake it into a casserole dish. Add the chopped eggs and herbs and a good grinding of pepper.

Cook the leek in the melted butter until soft. Stir in the flour, chilli pepper and grated nutmeg and cook for another minute. Gradually blend in enough of the reserved milk to make a smooth paste – about 500ml. Bring to the boil stirring continuously simmer for 2-3 minutes.
Pour the sauce over the fish and mix gently.

For the topping, put the potatoes into a pan of salted water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes till tender. Drain and allow the steam to rise for a minute or two so that the potatoes are dry. Mash with butter and some milk to the consistency of your normal mash. Season. Spoon the mash smoothly over the fish. Sprinkle with grated cheese.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the topping is golden brown and the pie hot and bubbling.

Eat with peas! My initial plan had been to serve it with wilted spinach and steamed carrots but the man said Peas! so Peas! it was. He was right - an utterly perfect accompaniment.

Friday, November 20, 2009

I wanted ... I bought... I made

So loved New York it was a wrench to return. But return we did.

At least there was fish pie Saturday night that tasted as good as that picture looks.

Have a few things on this week but Saturday night will be fish pie. I was given a copy of the Billingsgate recipe when I toured the market a few weeks ago and, all things being equal it should be a fine dish. Served with carrots and peas of course actually just peas. Sunday night we are out to see Simon Amstell live on stage so I'm thinking might slow cook a couple of ham hocks in chinese stock I have in the freezer and have those for lunches in the week with some cannelini bean salad. Depends what else we do, might make a light lunch, might not made a soup with the stock and added noodles and greens and crispy slices of hock. Monday I think tofu Tuesday plan was cancelled so we had pie and mash and lashings of ketchup for a proper Aussie supper. Tuesday I am out so the man can have pie which he loves we had tofu, greens and rice, Wednesday I have french class so may cook the beans from the freezer with added fresh pasta the man was out so I had steak and salad home alone. The theme emerging, intentionally, is using some things from the freezer... Thursday I think will be lamb chops with spinach and new potatoes or dal perhaps had the pasta and beans with lamb Friday night as a treat chicken noodle soup as the man is a little poorly with stock and noodles from the freezer...

They have taken the roof off the old market as part of the work extending Network Rail. It's quite shocking to see, like desecration. I am surprised the building wasn't listed.

Inside it was fairly quiet. I bought a couple of ham hocks for Sunday lunch and in lunchboxes for the week with herbed bean salad and raw carrot and celery from Silfield, they have gone up from £2.95 to £3.50, which is a fairly serious hike but they are still good value.

As I was intent on fish pie for supper I needed nothing from Ginger Pig, so it was one of those rare Saturdays when I walked past my favourite stall

Around the corner to Booths where I was delighted to see they had yukon gold potatoes meaning I could have perfect mash atop my fish pie, also bought new potatoes still in the fridge, tangerines lunch boxes and a box of carnoroli rice in the cupboard- £5.25 the lot

Decided to get some chorizo for the freezer as I used the last of what we had a couple of weeks ago and I find they really come in handy for starting point inspiration sometimes. Also bought a pack of morcilla, with the same idea in mind so spent £11.20

Heading for Seldom Seen I was waylaid by the sight of a new fish stall selling fish from the coast of Devon, it all looked lovely and fresh so I bought a whole whiting for my pie for a mere £2.50 - definite sustainable bargain!

Then to Seldom Seen for a slice of their lovely three bird roast the worlds most decadent sandwich filling- £3.50 - only one more week till they disappear again for another year. They have beautiful geese, some as three bird roasts but they are huge things, to feed a dozen or more and I simply cannot think of an excuse to buy one - sadly.

At Wild Beef I bought eggs and also some more pork sausages for the freezer as the last lot were very tasty and simply plain, making a delightful supper with nothing more than salad and some crusty bread - £5.50

Then chocolates from L'Artisan du Chocolat - still a bargain £2

Olives from the Turkish stall, where the stallholders are delighted with their new position as it is more sheltered and warmer than their previous place which has now been taken by the parma ham and mozzarella stall, glad it works for some stalls at least - £3.90 for a pot of Kuru Sele

At a very quiet Ted's Veg the young woman serving said last week had been the worst day trading they'd had in five years and things are generally down to such an extent that they are seriously thinking of finding a new market, and leave Borough for good. I'd be sad to see them go , they always have a good spread of veg. I bought a couple of Bramley apples for streusel cake, some leeks and onions for £2.90

Gastronomica have finally moved into their new shop and though we needed nothing from them this week it was beautifully laid out and definitely tempting.

Bought some multi coloured carrots had a different colour every day raw in lunches, not convinced each has their own flavour but they were really tasty, so shall be my carrot source for now from the organics stall that set up after Total Organics stopped selling produce as I am hoping for more flavour than the ones I currently get from Booths as I do love them raw in lunch boxes - 90p

Pies Monday supper with mash and peas from a cheerful Ian at Mrs Elizabeth King's, one steak and one steak and kidney - £5

At Neals Yard I bought milk, bread and a hunk of Keen's cheddar - £10.70

And lastly a cottage tin loaf from Flour Power - £1.10

Spent a not unreasonable £61.75 and also bought spinach, parsley, dill, peas, a steak, rocket, tomatoes, tofu and noodles