Posts Tagged ‘fish’

Relaxed home cooking

What would you define as: relaxed home cooking?  For each of us the term will mean something different.  For some of us, relaxed home cooking will literally just be simple home cooking, for others it may be the one pot meal, the tray-bake or bowl-food, however, for some it may be something that requires meticulous or repetitive action which in itself can create a sense of calm.  Ultimately we will all have different benchmarks of what we perceive as relaxed home cooking; let’s be honest, some people can find the idea of walking into a kitchen stressful!

First of all, people need to make the distinction between what is easy and what takes a long time.

For me it is all about the familiar.

No matter how simple or complicated a recipe is to follow or a dish to recreate – if it’s familiar to me, getting immersed in its necessary activity will make it relaxed home cooking.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently as I’ve spent a lot of time cooking away from my own kitchen, however, never daunted nor panicked that it hasn’t been my kitchen, with my cupboards organised the way I have them back at home.  And I can only attribute this to the fact that the food was familiar.

The time away has taught me a few things and I’ve picked up a few kitchen tricks along the way too.

One of my new favourite dishes has to be homemade gin and tonic battered fish – or as I like to call it: fish and tonic!

Fish and Tonic

This is very easy to put together in mere moments but does require a deep fat fryer for optimum results.  The first time I made this, I measured all the ingredients accurately, however the second time I was looking out more for the consistency of the batter:

Ingredients:

fish&tonic.jpg

Relaxed home cooking: Fish and Tonic

200g plain flour
1 tspn baking powder
1 small can of chilled tonic water
1 shot of gin/vodka/cider vinegar*

*I left this out of the mixture on both occasions to very good results.

Coat your pieces of fish in the batter and deep fry.  Hold the fillet in the bubbling oil for 30 seconds until the fish fillet floats near the top then let the rest of the fillet dive into the oil.  If you drop the fish into the fryer it can stick to the wire basket at the bottom – flavour will be untarnished but the battered carapace will be torn.

Every time I served fish and tonic for dinner we would wolf the pieces of fish down!

Recently, I boiled cauliflower florets and sliced them before dunking them into the same batter recipe but replacing plain flour for chickpea flour and then mixing this with a teaspoon of cumin and turmeric.  As the cauliflower slices as smaller than fish fillets, they were easily shallow fried.

I never wanted a deep fat fryer before but after this I can see myself having to push, a new food processor, down my list of kitchen-gadget-priorities!

Advertisements

“Good company, good food and good wine!”

That was the welcome and introduction that we received at El Capote’s 5th wine and food matching held Thursday 7th June.

The theme for this evening’s dining experience was Italian.  As pretty much everyone had already been to at least one of the previous four evenings, they knew the ritual that we were about to partake in.  And a most enjoyable ritual it was!  From the familiar board advertising the wines and food we were to enjoy to the charismatic interaction from Ian Gareze (and ourselves) about the sumptuous offerings we were about to be treated to.

To get our Mediterranean pallets going we were welcomed to an aperitif of sweet mosto (Manilva).  We all know this was not Italian but it most certainly got everyone in the mood for a great night of delicious food and wine, and we were proved right, once again.

1) Prosecco Teresa Rizzi with Gambones Frito and a Pesto Dip

The Prosecco, light, floral and fruity was very well suited to the gambones.  Admittedly I could drink sparkling wine as if it were water!  However, they were very well matched.  The Prosecco’s citrus notes cutting through the fried gambones almost cleansing the pallet with each sip (glug!).

The homemade pesto was delicate but heady with basil; bringing out the Prosecco’s floral notes.  I would have perhaps added more olive oil to slacken this and it would have gone a lot further, leaving it on the table to accompany several of the other dishes.

The gambones (King Prawns) were beautifully cooked.  Crispy on the outside but ever so delicate in the centre.  Every mouthful a feast!  The only downside of this was that there were only two gambones per person.  My voracious appetite desperately wanted more but the next course was nothing to be sneered at.

“Every mouthful a feast!”

2) Santi Pinot Grigio de Venezie with Calamares a la Plancha served with a tomato and olive salad

Simple; the natural culinary beauty and taste of this dish’s only ingredient was sublime.  Fresh, succulent and beautiful; to top it off caught be a local fisherman!

What an exultation of a dish – calamares a la plancha (grilled squid).  From cooking to tasting this dish was delicious.  The smell of grilled squid permeating every corner of El Capote; arousing the senses as we chatted and even attracting passers-by to venture inside to marvel at the delicious spectacle.

When it finally arrived to the table, with everyone in the room salivating like Pavlovian dogs, it was heralded by a metaphorical sounding of trumpets.

The calamares were so good the wine had no choice but to know that it was not the star of the show – hence keeping a very low profile throughout this pairing.  After discussing this dish with the other diners at my table – the tomato and olive salad, although fresh and light, also went severely unnoticed.  When considering the time spent on food preparation as part of the whole evening’s menu, the calamares a la plancha needed nothing else to make this a triumphant dish, therefore tumbling some lemon wedges around the dish would have been the way to say,

“Calamares a la plancha – enjoy!”

3) Melini Sangiovese, Toscana 2006 served with Sarde a Beccafacio & Caponata

A good unobtrusive red wine to be complimented with fish.  There is much wine snobbery that fish should only be matched with white wine.  Whilst the command is ridiculous, the sentiment is not.  Reds tend to be slightly more full bodied and overpowering than white hence its partnership with fish needs to be carefully monitored.

The food served to complement this red was rolled sardine fillets with a pine nut stuffing.  Never having heard of this before I discussed its origin with Ian (who having done his homework) explained that it was a Sicilian dish and were meant to represent birds.  Were they served with mouths pointing upwards and gaping at the diner?  No.  My research explained that warblers (beccafacio) were hunted in ancient time from Sicilian nobles and cooked with their own entrails. Common people began to copy this luxury dish adapting it with sardines and swapped the entrails with the filling that is currently used.

I thoroughly enjoyed this but would have preferred this served with the pesto as it would have matched the sardines’ pine nut filling, with its lemon backnotes cutting through the richness of the sardines.

Many of the other diners were raving about the Caponata.  I have to say, whenever I make Caponata, I take the easy way out and plonk all the veg into a saucepan and let it reduce gently until I’m happy that it’s the consistency that I like.  Ian, I could tell, followed the stages properly.  The aubergine was fried before being added to the onion and tomato mixture.  There were also acidic tones to this so I imagine that vinegar must have been used to help this dish develop the depth of flavour that is required of its simplicity.  However, what we were all in agreement with was that the Caponata was a dish in itself.  It just needed some bread sticks or Italian crostinis.

“This was a double-dish.”

4) Prunotto Dolcetto D’Alba, Piemonte (2005) served with Polpete al Forno

What wasn’t to like in this pairing?!  Meatballs in tomato sauce with penne pasta and finished in the oven with a soft, fruity red to go with.

Sadly we were all so full by this stage many of us could not eat another bite.  Everyone would have been happy to have finished on the previous course and go straight to the last pairing.  The noise levels in the room dropped a bit whilst everyone considered how full they were and realistically how much more they were going to be able to eat.

Nonetheless people did manage to eat and drink their way through this course.  Myself included!

I dare say that as a result of us taking a bit too long on the previous courses this overcooked in the oven.  I say this as I found the meatballs on the dry side of cooked.  Oh and some grated parmesan at the table would have earned some brownie points, but considering the veritable banquet we had just gorged ourselves with this was an error we were all more that willing to forgive.

5) Antinori Peppoli, Chianti Classico (2007) served with Roasted Rack of Cerdo Iberico and Patatas a lo Pobre

As I watched Ian bring this joint of meat out and carve it infront of us I was once again taken over by greed.  I immediately forgot how full-up I was.  I also pushed to the back of my mind how Spanish this part of the menu sounded!

The pork was succulent and flavoursome.  Rubbed and sealed with herbs and seasoned well.

I could imagine this dish served as a main course at a wedding.

The Chianti; rich, fruity with vanilla on the nose was a beautiful wine to drink in support of this dish.

6) Limoncello and Biscotti

My first comment to Ian as this came to the table was that these were not biscotti!  In fact they were clearly amaretti biscuits as the smell of amaretto filled the air and was present in every bite of these delicious biscuits.

Traditionally, biscotti are oblong shaped almond studded biscuits and dry from being baked twice in the oven.  Limoncello is served with the biscotti as they absorb the alcohol without it changing the flavour of the biscotti.

Indeed it was a shame that they were amaretti biscuits as I do have a fondness for biscotti, and ending the evening dunking my biscotti into a glass of chilled limoncello would truly have been Italian bliss.

Not that I didn’t drop several of these into my glass and sip the limoncello whilst having them bobbing around my upper lip!  Delicious!!

“Less really is more.”

As always, it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening at El Capote.  Ian once again outdid himself with the food he cooked for us and the whole evening was great fun but I have to be honest; there was too much food.  I can’t believe I’ve just said that.  The polpete al forno was one dish too many.  In reality the Sarde a Beccafacio should have been served independently from the Caponata as these were two dishes which were tasty, delicious and could have stood proudly by themselves.

Not very often but sometimes, less really is more.

Well done to Ian Gareze and everyone at the Capote who made the evening possible.  I honestly can’t wait for the next one.

Friday Fish Night

Posted: January 28, 2012 in Dinner
Tags: , , , , , , ,

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!