Archive for January, 2012

Friday Fish Night

Posted: January 28, 2012 in Dinner
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Why is Friday night always considered Fish Night?  Surely anyone can eat a fish as and when they choose?  I understand that due to religious observances some people may adapt their dietry routines to accommodate this, e.g.  Catholics do not eat meat on Good Friday.  Some orthodox Catholics have made this a Friday tradition and do not eat red meat on any Friday.  Generally speaking though, these countries (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain) are the Mediterranean countries and they tend to be big on fish anyway.

However, the United Kingdom which is reknowned for being a great meat eating nation, also has this Friday fish tradition.  How did this come about?  History suggests that as a consequence of the rapid development of trawl fishing in the North Sea meant that Fish and Chips became a stock meal among the working classes.  And during the second half of the 19th Century, the development of the railway connecting ports to cities meant that fish was available to the masses.

Perhaps this amalgamation of both religion and engineering created this Friday night tradition?

I remember my paternal Gran would regularly send out for a Friday fish supper.  Later on, it was the meals-on-wheels people that would bring her this.  At present, my niece thoroughly looks forward to her Friday school dinners; almost as if her fish and chips are the herald of the weekend!

The act of eating out of a newspaper, using your fingertips to unzip the batter exposing the white flesh beneath, feeling the vinegary steam rise up from the package you cradle in one hand is all part of the ritual.  Its warmth in your hand both reassuring and comforting.

However, If dining at home I don’t want to create my own batter and get a deep frier going.  Primarily because I don’t own a deep fat frier(!)but more to the point is that I am never going to be able to recreate the experience and feeling of nostalgia evoked by newspaper wrapped, batter covered, deep fried fish and chips doused in salt and vinegar.

I can satisfy my Friday Fish cravings in alternative ways.

Grilled swordfish and Moules Marinier is a simple and impressive alternative to fish and chips.  I am not going to tell you how to grill swordfish as I have no wish to insult you but another equally simple (so simple in fact I can barely call it a recipe) dish and yet sublimely delicious are Moules Marinier:

1st: Fry garlic and chillies in olive oil

2nd: Add the packet of mussels

3rd: Add a splosh (technical term) of white wine or sherry

4th: Cover the saucepan with a lid and cook for a few mins (NB: supermarkets stock cooked mussels in vacuum packs so they only need warming through)

5th: Sprinkle over some freshly chopped parsley.

Make sure to have a crusty loaf of bread to soak up all the cooking juices!

Delicious!

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“Oh Solomillo”

Posted: January 24, 2012 in Dinner
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I was looking forward to dinner since its conception in the shower at 7am!

There was a 600g pork fillet (solomillo de cerdo) with my name emblazoned across its sinewy flesh waiting for me in the fridge.

There was only one thing that I wanted to do to this cut of meat.

I removed any excess fat from the fillet as even though I am not anti fat; I am anti-pallid and tasteless food.

“I am not anti-fat; I am anti-pallid and tasteless food”

1st: Chop fresh sprigs of rosemary to cover the board you are working on.  Sprinkle rock salt and crushed black peppercorns and mix on board.

2nd: Once meat is trimmed and primed, roll it around on the chopping board coating all sides in a salty, peppery herby crust.             No oil need be added.

3rd: Sear all sides in a very hot dry pan.  I suggest opening a window or hitting the extractor fans as with or without oil it tends to smoke like hell!!

4th: Finish cooking in a hot oven.

I had decided to serve the fillet with boiled veg but did not fancy having to make any gravy.

As with many things that happen in the kitchen, I threw a few things together, to create a delicious jus to pour over the meat before serving.

5th: Whilst I let the meat rest, I heated the cooking juices with some chicken stock, crushed garlic and dry sherry.  I added a couple of fresh sprigs of rosemary and reduced the liquid by half.

As an optional extra: toast almonds in a dry pan and sprinkle over before serving.

DELICIOUS!!

The Five Senses

Posted: January 22, 2012 in Introduction
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I previously mentioned that eating was a sensory experience, however, there are some restaurants which actively campaign against this. They try to make the philosophy of their establishment about taste and not about the social experience that is a meal.

Dans Le Noir? serves food in a pitch-black room. Another serves food dyed in blue! By concealing the presentation of food, dining becomes a process whereby only taste and smell matter.

The theory behind these gimmicks is that by denying yourself of the sense of sight you highten the sense of taste and smell. Whether this works or serves mainly to attract customers I am not sure.

What I am sure about is that unless I am going to be treated to an absolutely divine, heaven made meal by the most talented chef there is no point to all this fuss. Food must fill your eyes before your belly, therefore colour and presentation are necessary to attract you to a particular choice.

Watching a sizzling clay dish of prawns pil pil come rushing from a kitchen and being placed in the centre of your table alongside a basket of crunchy bread is visually dramatic. As is the sizzle itself.

But what is just as important is the subtle silence that ensues as our eyes digest what has arrived and our mouths start to salivate.

As both bread and fork stab the dish, conversation resumes. Invariably, this is violently breached as everyone burns themselves on the bubbling oil from the dish!

Seen, heard, smelled, touched and finally tasted (albeit minus a few taste buds). The five senses have worked as one; a tour de force to provide a comforting, friendly and indulgent moment certainly worth repeating.

Gastro

Posted: January 21, 2012 in Introduction
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The name of this blog suggests that perhaps this is going to be another one of those frivolous wittering blogs written by somebody who pretends to know about food.  I wish to immediately push that idea out of your head.  It is no such thing.  This blog is a culinary voyage (so to speak) my journey with food.

As people who meet me soon realise: if I am not eating, I am talking about food.  Not just talking about food and its preparation but savouring the moment; recalling the sensory ritual of eating.  Whether it be fine dining or street food, gourmet or grub.  Food is at the centre of our cultural lives.

Through this blog I will attempt to share with you my passion for food.

Bon appetit!