“They keep saying that sea levels are rising an’ all this. It’s nowt to do with the icebergs melting, it’s because there’s too many fish in it. Get rid of some of the fish and the water will drop. Simple. Basic science.”
-Karl Pilkington, An Idiot Abroad
Dearest ample darlings! What a pleasure it is to be back with a rip roaring foodie blog on time and filled to the brim with the best knowledge and tastiest grub, straight from the busy kitchen of professional chef, Margaret Bemand! Last week, I was most fortunate to be asked back to her humble home to assist her in a cooking class for a group of St Pauls scholars. Some of you might remember that I spent a morning with her a few months back and we cooked an abundance of Asian cuisine, the chicken satay was most notable I must say! However, this week the menu was a little more European. Prepare yourselves for a fishy fiesta and sugary celebration all in one fantastic post.
Technique of the Week
Peel and core an apple in under 2 minutes! Your ample servings’ kitchen aid is here to save the day.
Fruit and Vegetables:
- New potatoes
- Spring onions
Meat and Fish:
‘Can I make homemade bread without a bread tin?’
Yes, of course you can! If you have a look at my last blog there is no need to have a bread tin for focaccia or even a fruit wreath. Equally, if you have a spare flower pot hanging around, that will work just as well as any old tin. It has to be clay and you best give it a good wash, but it will do nicely! Have a look at this link for an example: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2366635/flowerpot-bread. Happy bread making!
This Week’s Recipes:
Anytime I find myself by the sea, be it abroad or on home shore I like to indulge myself in a little seafood. One of my favourite dishes is the French classic, ‘Moules Marinieres’ and lucky for me, this was the first recipe on the list last Thursday morning! Despite many years of sampling all types of fish, I actually have very little experience cooking our scaling finned friends! Chef Margaret was the ideal candidate to give me and now you, a how to on cooking mussels.
1 chopped shallot
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
50g unsalted butter (because you never know how naturally salty your fish might be!)
1 kg mussels
1 carrot cut into juliennes
1 leek cut into juliennes
100ml white wine or cider
100ml double cream
Tbsp chopped parsley
Melt the butter in a big, heavy bottomed pan with a lid and add the shallot and garlic. Turn down the heat and allow to cook slowly. Now, to your mussels! Before you cook a mussel, they should be closed and then only open when cooked. When you buy your mussels always opt for the farmed variety. Farmed mussels are kept in clean water and undergo regular health checks throughout their growth whereas wild mussels can easily be contaminated. In a bag of mussels it will sometimes be the case that some of them will be open, BUT they can still be alive, meaning good to eat. Margaret suggested that you drop the open mussels from a little height onto the kitchen counter. If the mussel slowly closes (the noise frightens it), you can cook it but if it stays open, it is already dead and should be discarded. Next, clean the mussels. Using a small yet sharp knife, trim off the mussels’ beards (hilarious I know!) and barnacles.
When the shallot and garlic are aromatic and translucent then add the wine, turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Add the mussels and put the lid on the pan. After three or four minutes, the mussels will be open. Give them a minute or two more to be cooked. Scoop the mussels back into the bowl and sieve the liquor on top of them. Throw away the grit in the pan and pour the liquor (through the sieve again) back in the pan. Add the carrots and leeks and boil like crazy for four minutes. Add the cream, stir through and taste-it will need pepper and possibly salt. Put the mussels back in to the pan and add the parsley. Lid on, give it a good shake and serve. I find that the shell of one mussel acts as a pincer to pull out the tasty centre!
Phew! That’s a lot of knowledge for one dish. Right, moving on to something with scales! This recipe is a homemade pesto crust cooked on a flat white fish. In the cooking lesson we used halibut which was incredibly meaty and delicious however, halibut is not a sustainable fish so I’m not going to recommend that you use it yourself. A fillet of salmon or sustainable cod works well as a supplement. Here is a link to check what fish is sustainable right now: http://www.fishonline.org/
Halibut with a Pesto Crust
1 fish steak per person
Small clove garlic
One bunch of basil, leaves only
40-50g parmesan freshly grated or chopped
Good glug of olive oil
A little green chili (optional)
Traditionally made in a pestle and mortar, I find putting all the pesto ingredients into a small blender with enough olive oil makes an excellent consistency and is much less hassle. Whizz all the ingredients into a paste and if you can, leave it for a little while to allow the flavours to develop.
Heat an oven 200ºC. Line a baking dish with greaseproof paper or a silicon sheet and place the fish on the sheet. Smother with the pesto and place in the oven. When the pesto begins to colour, the fish should be ready. If the fish flakes, it is ready! Serve hot from the oven with some sautéed potatoes and roasted vegetables. It’s utterly delicious.
Now, let’s move onto something a little sweeter and what’s sweeter than vanilla fudge!? Margaret demonstrated a wonderful method on how to make old fashioned, crumbly fudge and this was a true delight.
500g Granulated Sugar
175ml Evaporated Milk
Put all the ingredients into a very large and also very clean saucepan. It needs to have a heavy base so that the heat is spread around evenly and have very tall sides as the mixture will boil up very high! Heat the mixture gently until everything melts. Then, turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Take care here as the mixture will boil up high and heat to 116ºC. This make some time as there is a lot of liquid to boil off. Once the heat is turned up, you must stir the mixture continuously to stop it sticking. In the meantime, prepare a tin with greaseproof paper.
When the fudge hits the temperature, take off the heat, add the vanilla and beat it with a wooden spoon. The moment it begins to thicken, pour into the tin. Let it cool a bit but before it hardens, cut the fudge into squares with a knife. Unlike commercial fudge, this will be crystalline and slightly crunchy rather than slightly slimy.
Traditionally, tarte tatin is made with puff pastry however, chef Margaret recommends using sweet pastry. Homemade sweet pastry is quick and easy to make plus, it adds another texture to the soft apples and sticky caramel.
Tarte Tatin with Sweet Pastry
100g Cold butter, cut up into pieces
Splash of milk
Using your hands, work the butter into the flour until you have a texture of breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and then the egg. Work the mixture together with your hands until you can make a ball of dough. You may need to add a splash of milk to get the right consistency. Cover the dough with cling-film for 30 minutes and place in the fridge.
For Tarte Tatin
8 Apples* (or as many as fit in your pan)
1 Quantity of sweet pastry
Layer the butter with the sugar on the bottom of a heavy based pan. Peel, core and halve the apples, and place, round side down, on top of the butter/sugar layer. Roll out the pastry, and place on top of the apples. It should cover generously and you should be apple to tuck the edges into the pan. Place on a medium heat. The pastry will begin to puff up as the steam builds up inside. Keep smelling the steam and giving the pan a little shake until the steam smells of caramel. When it smells properly of caramel, put it in the oven at 180ºC to finish cooking the pastry. To serve, very carefully flip the pan onto a dish big enough to hold everything, including the juice. Tarte tatin goes down an absolute treat with cream, custard or even vanilla ice cream. Note that the apples can be substituted for pears in this recipe too.
[*use technique of the week in order to peel these apple at the speed of light]
Thank you for reading my blog this week! Prepare for a lot more recipes exiting recipes next month. Until then, happy cooking!
E. Wells Xx