Kippers ’R’ Us

DSC_0439Kippers ‘R’ Us today, with this lovely new Kippers Salad. A base from young potatoes, radishes and asparagus in a rouille dressing with boiled quail eggs and smoked oily fish. We used Kippers (Scottish smoked herring), but smoked Mackerel or similar smoked oily fish would also work.

The full recipe is here: Kippers Salad. Check it out.

A Right Merry Dance

DSC_0373Daniel Sibley of Blaby, Leicestershire, went for a spot of fishing at Bluebell Lakes in Northamptonshire a few days ago. Can you imagine his surprise when something actually bit?

Not a car tire, not a shopping trolley or a discarded bicycle, no, a real carp! The exceptionally large carp “took me for a right merry dance,” said Daniel afterwards, after being almost dragged under at times, and struggling to reel the 49kg fish in over two hours. [video]

Carp and catcher would quite possibly have been of similar age.

The carp’s been mighty fine until Daniel came along, didn’t bother anyone. Daniel returned the fish to the water after weighing and posing, but I wonder nevertheless where’s the f*ing sport in that?

Maybe the carp should have dragged Daniel under, close to the point of suffocation, then spat him out again with a laugh?


Some people…


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My Champion

DSC_1028In case you’re following my (almost) daily dinner announcements over on Google+, you may have noticed a new and pretty popular dish on our menu: a pan-fried filet of white fish with a ragout of potatoes, onions and mushrooms, and sauce vierge.

I think it pretty easy to make, and very rewarding. The reactions so far have always been very positive, so I feel confident to say that you will love this.

In chronological cooking order:

If you’re using dried mushrooms, get them soaking at least 6 hours before the event. Use a 1:1 mix of hot water and cold milk, add the dried mushrooms, and stir occasionally. For fresh mushrooms, use Girolle or Cep, or maybe dehydrated Portobellos. Or leave them out; I find the ‘shrooms add depth in flavour, but they aren’t essential to the dish.

Next, as far ahead of the event as you like, steam some waxy potatoes. I scrub them clean and cut out all the little oddities, but leave the remaining skin on for a rustic appearance and extra flavour. Steam them in a closed lid pot with 1/2pt water, a teaspoon of salt and a few cumin seeds and fennel seeds. This takes ~20 minutes. Drain and let cool down.

Now, prepare the Sauce Vierge, or my variation thereof – it doesn’t need to be done early, but it can be done early. Something else out of the way, ey? So, take fresh flat parsley, a few mint leaves, and a couple of spring onions or shallots. Wash if you must, but be sure to dry well, and chop finely. Add some chopped capers (I prefer the salted, crispy type, but make sure to remove the salt without rinsing). You could also add finely chopped  anchovies, or olives, or other herbs (sorrel comes to mind), depending where you want to take it. Add a sprinkle of sea salt, a tiny bit of nutmeg, a little black pepper. Mix well and set aside.

Filet the fish. I use Red Mullet, Sea Bream or Sea Bass. John Dory would also work well, I think. Scale, gut and rinse, then take out both filets. I find it is easiest to cut down the back, along the bones down to the spine on both sides before taking any of the filets off, but the choice of method is yours. Leave the skin on, and try to make stock from the rest of the fish rather than throwing it away. Set aside.

Now it’s time to Rock’n’Roll (12 minutes to serving time):

Heat a frying pan. Chop the potatoes into thick slices, and fry gently in a small amount of butter and olive oil. Add coarsely chopped spring onions (for a spring onion potato ragout) or finely diced red onions (for a red onion potato…), drain the mushrooms (keep the liquid!) and add the ‘shrooms. Fry and stir. Add a splash of dry white wine and a splash of the mushroom soaking liquid (multiples of this combination as necessary to keep it all nicely moist – moist, not wet!). Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Meanwhile, heat another pan (with a little 1:1 butter and olive oil, as before). Toss the fish filets in some salted and peppered corn semolina. This is corn flour, really. Real semolina is made from Durum wheat, but I mean finely ground maize. In Britain, Corn Flour also means corn starch, but I didn’t mean to suggest you should coat the fish in Mondaminno. Use some nice yellow fine corn flour or corn semolina.

Gently fry the fillets on both sides, crisping the skin. This takes a about 2 minutes each side, depending on type of fish, thickness and heat. Be gentle with the heat. (If you find that it takes longer, flip over frequently rather than letting it burn on one side for a long time.)

Meanwhile, heat a ladle of olive oil (maybe 100ml) until it is very hot but not yet burning. When you see or smell smoke from the skillet, it’s too late and the oil too hot. When it’s just right, hot but not yet smoking, pour over the herb mix prepared earlier, and toss it violently to wilt the herbs while cooling down the oil. The herbs release all their oils in the process. Add a splash of lime juice or too, to taste.

Plating up is all that is left:

I use cooking rings to plate the potato ragout, because they help keeping things together. A portion of the ragout, a fillet on top, and spoon the sauce over the fish and around.

Et voila! Pan-fried fillet of white fish, served with a potato ragout and sauce vierge.

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Something Fishy Tonight!

Hanwell Fish MongerThis blog gets hit by local searches, so allow me to recommend a new local business: the Hanwell Fishmonger, 111 Uxbridge Road, Hanwell.

They also have a website, Didn’t work for me when I tried, but maybe its a work in progress.

Just go in there. They offer the full spectrum of while and oil fish, cuttlefish and crustaceans. Their strength is in fresh whole fish, not so much in the omnipresent cod and haddock fillets. We had King Fish streaks and Sea Bream from them so far; very reasonably priced and delicious on both occasions. The boys behind the counter also know how to handle fish; I asked them gut and clean the Sea Breams for me, and they did a nice and neat job at it.

Supporting your local businesses rather than the big supermarket chains is vital for the upkeep (or restoration) of our town centres. A town and its community can’t thrive on used washing machine and used Rolls Royce traders alone, so I encourage everyone to support the local shops. Hanwell is not very glamorous, but offers a number of appealing local businesses: butchers, baker, grocers, florists, fish mongers, newsagents, hair dressers, a pharmacy, several cafes, an ice cream parlour, a great number of pubs and some restaurants, and many more.

One pound in every £7 spent in Britain is already spent at Tesco.

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King Fish a la Grecque

hanwellFishMongerHere’s a very nice and simple meal, ideal for summer, ideal to use vegetables from your own garden, and ideal to support your local fish monger (yes! Hanwell now has its own fish monger, hurray! You can’t miss it; it’s straight across the road from the Rolls Royce dealership, 111 Uxbridge Road).

So, they sell King fish, a large relative of the Mackerel. I bought two thick slices of 350g each, and prepared them like so:

Peel some nice firm potatoes. Here in the UK, we use Charlotte or Exquisa. Put in a pot, add a handful of flat leave parsley, a peeled shallot and a crushed glove of garlic. Half an inch of water and a teaspoon of salt. close the lid, bring to the boil and let steam until done; approximately 20 minutes. (Note I said “half an inch of water.” Do not drown your potatoes, as this just wash out the little flavour there is.)

Rummage through the garden. I found courgettes and cherry tomatoes. Cut the courgettes in chunks and fry them in a non-sticking pan – no fat, no salt – as hot as you dare to.

Meanwhile, clean the King fish steaks. Bring a generous amount of olive oil to moderate heat, season with a large amount of crushed black pepper (at least one tablespoon), two crushed gloves of garlic, one hot chilly, and lots of fresh thyme. Gently fry the fish steaks from both sides, about 4 minutes each side depending on the thickness. While frying, spoon some of the juices and fat over the top of the fish steak.

Toss your cherry tomatoes in with the courgettes, give them 5 minutes to heat but not to cook. Add a pinch of salt and and some fresh thyme, then remove from the heat.

Swiss chard would also have been nice, or fresh artichokes. Next time.

So, this is it. Remove the fish from the pan and plate out. Drizzle with lime juice and salt, add the steamed potatoes and some of the vegetables, and enjoy.

We never had King Fish before, but I certainly plan to have it again.


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Choucroute De Mer

choucrouteDeMer This is the perfect split between my German home cooking and my current home in England. I call it Fish and Chips, Brittany-style for the English, Sauerkraut Unn Fisch for the Germans, and Choucroute de Mer for the French-aware among us. I have heard of French people denying this meal’s authenticity, but trust me. You’ll find it in many places in Brittany.

It’s simple, it’s surprising, it’s different, it’s impressive, it’s delicious.

For 4 to 5 people, you’ll need a large jar (850g?) of Sauerkraut (=Choucroute). In England, you can now get it in most Supermarkets, and in all Polish Delicatessen. Per head, you need 120g of salmon (smoked salmon filet pieces preferred) each, 100g of white fish such as Cod or Haddock, and a couple of large prawns or langoustines.

First, cut half an onion into half rings, fry with a little white fat or lard and a good handful of dry cured lardons (or small pieces of good quality bacon). Add 850g Sauerkraut (drain it in a colander first), half a cup of dry white wine, 3 crushed juniper berries, 2 bay leaves, a pinch of salt. Cover, reduce the heat and allow to simmer on very low heat. Time is not critical provided the heat is very low.

Heat butter in a frying pan and gently fry pieces of salmon fillet. I prefer using lightly smoked salmon. When using fresh salmon, which has more moisture, I suggest dusting it with a mix from wheat flour and ground ginger.

Heat up milk in another frying pan – about 1 1/2 fingers deep. Don’t bring it to the boil, but close. Add 4 juniper berries and 2 bay leaves, then gently simmer the white fish pieces in it. This needs time (15 minutes?) because you’ll be cooking at only 80 Celcius, approximately. If the lardons (or the bacon) hadn’t done it already, now was the moment to realize this is not a kosher meal.

Meanwhile… heat up a good amount of olive oil in a small wok or pan. Add some real fire with some red chillies and a heap of fresh garlic, then fry the prawns.

Now finish the Sauerkraut with a generous amount of double cream. Stir this well under.

You’re done!

Put a nice heap of kraut on each plate, salmon and white fish on top, crowned by some hot prawns. Serves well with steamed potatoes or crispy potato wedges. Goes with white wine, and lots of Aaaaaahs.

Trust me. I know it sounds weird, but it really is lovely (and recently got approved by yet another crowd at my table).


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Pommes Dauphinoise with Halibut a la Grecque

PommesDauphinoise I mentioned Pommes Dauphinoise with Halibut and Tuna a la Grecque just yesterday. This is one of those lovely meals that don’t take much time and are ever so rewarding, so here goes:

Pommes Dauphinoise:

Preheat the oven to 180 Celsius.

Peel and wash waxy potatoes, and use a slicer to slice them into 3 mm slices. Lightly butter a oven proof dish, spread the slices into the dish.

Mix a good amount of black pepper, some salt and ground nutmeg with enough cream to just cover the potatoes with this mix – the lasagne dishes that you can see used in today’s photo take about 200ml of cream each.

Pop into the oven, set the kitchen timer to 60 minutes, and take a break. Come back 20 minutes before the potatoes are done.

Halibut and Tuna a la Grecque:

Works with any bone or white fish as long as it doesn’t flake too much. Halibut steaks are good, Swordfish steaks are even better (but currently out of season). Tuna works, and so do many others. Use pretty thick slices (at least 2..3 cm, or one inch).

Prepare the fish (rinse and clean, but leave the skin on).

Heat a generous amount of olive oil. Add an extraordinary amount of coarsely ground black pepper (at least one table spoon), a teaspoon of salt, at least 5 crushed cloves of garlic, and a finely diced red hot chilly pepper.

Quickly shallow-fry the fish for 2..4 minutes each side, depending on its thickness. Then drizzle juice from half a lime per portion over the fish (lime, not lemon), put the lid on and let it steam for the remaining 5..8 minutes until the fish is cooked through.

Greek Salad:

Chip half a cucumber and a handful of ripe tomatoes into pieces. Make a dressing from half a teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of mustard, 3 table spoons olive oil, two table spoons white wine vinegar, and a generous pinch of thyme – lemon thyme preferred, if available.

Since the salad accompanies a whole meal (rather than acting as a starter or a lunch by itself), forget the feta cheese that otherwise features in Greek Salad.

See what I mean? 30 minutes preparation time, one hour cooking time, and a very lovely meal. Enjoy!

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Choucroute de la Mer

ChoucrouteDeMerGermany is Sauerkraut country as everyone knows, so for a German, this might sound a bit like Mission Impossible: Fish and Langoustine, served on a bed of creamy Sauerkraut. Fish and kraut don't go together and neither do cream and kraut, but… You'd be surprised. We ate this in Brittany and I cooked it twice since, with pretty good ratings from the various diners. Here goes, for four portions:

Gently fry up some diced bacon and a diced half onion. When the bacon gets crisp and the onion glassy, add 1 bay leaf, 8 slightly crushed juniper berries and 750g Sauerkraut. If the bacon is too lean, add a walnut-sized amount of cooking fat. Keep the heat very low, and time won't be an issue. Turn occasionally.

Prepare a nice potato gratin to go along with it. For a lighter option, use fresh white bread, but the gratin really did the trick.

Finally, heat up one walnut sized piece of butter and an equal amount of olive oil, and gently fry some pieces of slightly smoked salmon fillets (125g per person). Smoked haddock, as shown here, also works well (adjust amounts as necessary). Season with black pepper. In a second pan, heat a generous amount of olive oil with crushed chillies, fresh hot red chilly peppers and 2..3 cloves of garlic, and quickly fry some Langoustines or King Prawns from both sides.

Season the kraut with a pinch of salt, half a teaspoon of nutmeg and 75ml thick cream.

Serve fish on kraut, gratin aside, and you won't hear a word until it's all eaten.

P.S. Some French lady claimed this wasn't French at all, but quand vous googlez pour Choucroute de la mer ou Choucroute aux Fruits de Mer, you'll find plenty of evidence that I wasn't lying to you.