In the run up to Christmas I borrowed & bought some cookery books from an ever extending wish-list. As the next market would not be taking place until March 2016, there was now time to try out new recipes &techniques & read. For Christmas eve I made Camilla Plum’s Salted & Poached Duck, from her book The Scandinavian Kitchen, which involved making a brine something which I had not done before. It was a bit time consuming but I really enjoy processes like this and the duck was both incredibly tender & tasty. Next time I’ll be quicker. Sally Clarke’s new book 30 Ingredients provided the pudding Campari, Clementine & Vanilla Sorbet with Clementine Zest Madeleines. Clarke’s love of seasonal ingredients together with Tessa Traeger’s photography, especially of the produce, really inspires you to make the recipes. And because the produce is in season & very fresh you can really smell the clementines’ unique scent and appreciate its taste & colour. Furthermore Clarke’s combination of clementine with vanilla sets the familiar & comforting baking associations of vanilla against the sharp but honeyed clementine.
Making butter on the other hand, is I’ve discovered, very quick & easy to make & its by- product, buttermilk can be used in numerous ways. This is where, for me, cooking is like hill walking . When walking in the Black Mountains in South Wales I used to look across from a ridge at the far reaching view and think, which hills are those & how do I get over there and where are the paths? Planning walks & pouring over maps is a joy in itself. And a walk begets another walk, just as cooking one recipe leads to another.
Reading Katie & Giancarlo Caldesi’s book the Gentle Art of Preserving and its chapter on smoking inspired me to buy a Cameron Stovetop Smoker & to begin hot smoking. Since childhood smoked fish has always been a great favourite but I was also intrigued by chefs who were smoking ricotta & yoghurt & salt & butter. The you-can-do- this-at-home approach jogs you into realising that you don’t have to buy everything. And it is empowering in that very often what you make is really delicious and in the case of yoghurt can last a lot longer than shop bought. You can of course take the further step of creating your own equipment and improvise with say dustbins & biscuit tins to smoke food. Stephen Lamb says in his excellent Curing & Smoking, a River Cottage Handbook, that he inherited his make-do-and-mend attitude from his parents. He deftly turns an old bread bin into a hot-smoker & builds a cold smoker from scratch but doesn’t preach DIY. And this is just as well because Diana Henry in Salt Sugar Smoke says it was the emphasis on constructing equipment which almost put her off smoking. Her solution was to take the affordable & easily available wok and use that to hot smoke. If you read Camilla Plum’s The Scandinavian Kitchen there’s a real sense of curing and especially smoking being ” an exceptionally well-loved part of our cultural heritage”. So much so, many Scandinavians smoke fish at home despite it being readily available and in Plum’s words “mostly do it in primitive fashion-using a battered old pot, a small smoking box and a bonfire. All it takes is heat, sawdust and a closed container” . It’s pretty simple & up to you, is what I gleaned & this fitted well with yet another preserve foray.
One of my favourite books is Sarah Freeman’s classic The Best of Modern British Cookery especially the chapter on fish. I have made the Salmon Fishcakes with Lime Zest or Lemon Grass which are delicious. They freeze well & thaw quite quickly so it’s a good idea to make a batch. This time I chose Cod Fish-Cakes & smoked some cod which is very straight forward and combined it with fresh cod and a Lime & Parsley sauce. Combining fresh and smoked cod gives the fish-cake a real subtlety and the soft whiteness of the fish and the crispy golden sourdough breadcrumbs is a visual treat.
As I had also recently made Potted Brown Shrimps for the first time, it was a short step to imagining that smoked mussels could also be potted & be equally tasty. I cooked the mussels first in white wine and then smoked them for around 4 minutes. They were soft & smoky and worked well potted but I would like to try them in Kedgeree. Steven Lamb Pine-smokes mussels using a french technique éclade de moules. Obviously there is tremendous scope for the materials you chose to smoke the produce with. At this point in time I have been smoking with oak and hickory -which came with the smoker. But it is something I hope to look into, as is the world of cures&rubs. And dreaming of a cold- smoker shed on the allotment.
Early evening is a great time to go to my local supermarket for food bargains especially fish. This time I bought & smoked trout fillets and adapted Sarah Freeman’s Smoked Cod Pâté. It’s both delicate & filling.
The most ambitious dish I have made is Sally Clarke’s Smoked Haddock with Leek Pasty. Hot smoking the haddock, like the cod, is very straight forward. The recipe involves separate stages and the filling is left in the fridge for 24 hours. But don’t let this put you off as the outcome is pure comfort & joy.
I enjoyed the process of infusing the milk with bay leaves & pepper & herbs, then after it had cooled adding the haddock which then infuses the milk further, with it’s smokiness. The milk once strained is then used to make a white sauce which the fish & leeks & celery are added to & which becomes the filling. I served the pasty with a crunchy green salad with a sharp olive oil/lemon juice dressing.
The pork worked very well smoked as did the potatoes. It was a real effort not to eat the pork there&then as it was so tender&tasty. But I decided to make a soup and use the stock from Camilla Plum’s Poached Duck. I added celery leeks dill broccoli and unsmoked potatoes. It began as a hearty soup but as the pork & potatoes infused it with their smokiness, over the next few days it became rich & interesting.
The next stage was to begin to combine the foods I was smoking with my own preserves. A Sloe marmalade I had made for the Frome Independent Christmas market could potentially be a delicious accompaniment to smoked duck. And it was & I’m going to carry on experimenting with smoking & preserves & try & write these forays up more quickly! And for the first time I’ve got a recipe- Grub Street Publishing has very kindly agreed to let me include the late Sarah Freeman’s recipe for the Cod fishcakes from her book The Best of Modern British Cookery. It is sadly out of print but not difficult to find.
Cod Fish-Cakes with Lime & Parsley Sauce
These are light, fresh tasting & suitably economic: 350 g/12 oz fish will serve 4. The sauce, which includes garlic, is very sharp, adding zest in much the same way as a hot chutney. The flavour of the cakes improves perceptibly if you mix them a day in advance. As with salmon fish-cakes I suggest baking both the fish and the potato: the fish should be cooked lightly & carefully drained of cooking- liquor before being mashed. Serve alone or with new potatoes & peas & broccoli.
Makes 8-9 cakes
- 275g/10 oz (I medium) floury potato
- 225g/8oz filleted smoked cod
- 125g/4oz fresh cod
- Bunch of parsley (enough for 2 tbsps when chopped)
- 75g/3oz onion
- ½ tsp black peppercorn
- ½ lime
- 2 oz stale brown or white bread weighed without crust
- 3 tbsps oil
- 20g/¾ oz plain white flour
- 1 size 2 egg
- Set the oven to 200 C, 400F, Gas Mark 6. Wash the potato & bake for 60-70 minutes, until soft: leave until cool enough to skin: peel & thoroughly mash.
- If necessary, skin the cod: starting at the thickest corner, pull the skin gently & ease it off with a sharp knife. Season the smoked cod fairly generously with pepper & the fresh cod lightly with salt & moderately with pepper. Wrap both together in a parcel of cooking foil & bake while the potato is in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork & is just, but only just, pale & opaque all through.
- If you are going to hot smoke the cod I’d suggest using oak & keep a careful eye on it as it’s important not to overcook it. Freeman’s description above is helpful. The skin will come off very easily as it’s cooling. Season as above.
- Turn the oven down to 150C/300F/gas 2
- Trim the ends of the parsley stems: wash & very thoroughly blot the parsley dry & chop finely. Peel & chop the onion as finely as possible: coarsely crush the peppercorns. Squeeze 2 tsps of lime juice.
- Mix the parsley, onion, crushed pepper, & ¾ tsp of salt with the potato Drain the fish, flake, & add to the potato with the lime juice: mash in gently. Form the mixture into flat cakes: if you are making them in advance, cover & store in the fridge.
- Finely grate the bread into breadcrumbs; discarding any outsize pieces. If using a food processor cut the bread into small cubes as this gives a more even result. To dry breadcrumbs, spread the fresh crumbs to a 0.5cm/¼in thickness onto a baking tray and place into a low oven for about 20-30 minutes, stirring the crumbs gently halfway through cooking, until lightly golden-brown. Allow to cool.
- Set the grill to medium, line a shallow baking tray with cooking foil, & spread with the oil. Sprinkle the flour over a plate: season moderately with salt & pepper. Break the egg into a bowl or saucer, beat until homogenous, & season similarly. Spread the breadcrumbs over another plate. Coat the cakes first with the flour, then with the egg, then crumbs, making sure that each is completely covered & shaking off any surplus. Place on the baking tray, turn so that each side is coated with oil & grill for 5-6 minutes, turn & grill for another 2 minutes. Serve at once.
Lime & Parsley Sauce
This only takes a few minutes to prepare, although the parsley needs fairly energetic crushing. It can be made some hours in advance but preferably not the previous day.
- Large bunch parsley ( enough for 4 tbsps when chopped)
- 1 medium clove ( not large) garlic
- ½ lime
- pinch sugar
- generous grinding of pepper
- 2 tbsps virgin olive oil
Trim the ends of the parsley stems: wash & blot the parsley dry ( it’s essential that it should be really dry). Chop finely. Peel, slice, & crush the garlic in a mortar. Add the parsley and pound to a fine, dark green paste. Squeeze 2 tsps of lime juice & add with the sugar, pepper, ¼ tsp salt & the oil: mix thoroughly.
I made lacto-fermented carrots to accompany the fishcakes & treat myself to the heritage varieties: I especially like the long & tapered Golden variety, mixed in with the orange Sweet Spear. Fermented vegetables are great mixed in with other raw vegetables in a slaw. The first link is to an early Sandor Katz video talking about the health benefits of lacto-fermented vegetables & demonstrates just how easy this process is. He has made more recent videos- but this is the one I saw when I first learned this process and he now has another book which is a really in depth look at fermentation. Very recently The Food Programme BBC Radio 4, revisited the subject of fermentation.
“In this programme Sheila Dillon meets ‘The fermenters’. Ukranian food writer and chef Olia Hercules, who grew up with fermented foods; Roopa Gulati, using fermentation to explore her Indian heritage; entrepreneur Deborah Carr, whose fermentation business is going from strength to strength; and seasonal chef Tom Hunt who is putting seasonal ferments back on his restaurant menu. In 2016, It’s time to rethink fermentation.”
PS It’s Monday 11th April & it’s pouring with rain so I thought I’d quickly add in this delicious apéritif- Brandade with Charred Tomato Jam which I made at the week-end. In fact I had this for supper: big slices of Hobbs House Sourdough, a crispy sharp salad of endive & watercress and a very cold glass of Orvieto. The recipe is from Duck & Waffle by Dan Doherty-please see The Jam Library.
PPS 26th April: 5 days away from the May market & things are a bit overwhelming: a combination of too many ideas and too much still to be do & not enough time, never enough time. In the face of this I am adding on again to this post instead of beginning a new one. I will start the new one here, casually. Practice it here. As with all things which are idea led, who knows in which order? Especially what came first? To establish this means looking in note books and digressing, like now. So instead I’ll say I smoked some seville peel, then some blood orange, then I made a smoky marmalade which customers, at last months market, liked and bought. There were typically, 2 versions. One was very smoky and the other sweet with perfume from star anise & caramel from Ximenez vinegar. There was also added smokiness & heat from Urfa pepper which up until now has never worked in any preserve I’ve made. I’d almost given up. Now I am remembering the order: originally I brined, marinated & smoked some chicken, which in turn inspired the marmalade.
As blood oranges are now not in the supermarket I decided to try both the smoky marmalade & the dish with White Grapefruit which are readily available. Since starting to think more and more about including recipes on the blog I am much more aware of using ingredients which are easily available. At the same time I love discovering new foods.
The grapefruit worked just as well as the blood orange and is intensely fruity with a fresh scent. It’s made me want to go and seek out the blossom and see what it smells like & looks like. The marmalade needs more work-more trials and some feedback from customers would be helpful. At the same time another plan was evolving: as the initial dish had several steps and is made over a 2 day period, is slow in a sense. I wondered if it was possible to recreate some of these flavours in a marmalade, which could then be used as a glaze. Would it be possible, in other words, to recreate the slow dish more quickly and easily. As I looked up recipes I saw that an overnight marinade with a marmalade could be quicker, and another recipe with rich citrus flavours could be quickest if I tried it without marinating. Not a race, another experiment. Anyway I’d better stop & come back to this & leave with some images of the chicken dishes made with the grapefruit marmalade. It’s snowing.
Quickest has been adapted from Bourbon & Marmalade-glazed drumsticks-Diana Henry A Bird in the Hand.
Quicker has been adapted from Molly O’ Neill’s Grilled Chicken with Grapefruit Mustard. Recipes soon.
27th April- Congratulations to Diana Henry who has won a James Beard award for her book A Bird in the Hand.
Ideas are quite fragile when they are first being tried out. They can be subject to self doubt & criticism and of course once begun, they then create more work which needs more energy and faith to carry out. When I read Kathleen Jamies’ Sightlines very recently I was really struck by her ability to make her long held interests and passions: which include her repeat visits to Hebridean Islands and the Hvalsalen, the Whale Hall in the Natural History Museum in Bergen or the memory of working on an archaeological dig as a teenager-into a book. Into a cohesive testimony, in a way, to what ideas can turn into if they are not neglected or abandoned and instead kept very much alive. This woman must be strong I’m thinking, robust and confident. Yet Jamies’ writing can feel very subtle in an ethereal way, there and temptingly not there, light & alive and not weighed down by the obvious. I like the way she safeguards her ideas, developing them and then, critically making them into something. Sightlines is an elliptical collection or record of forays out into the world seemingly separate but very much connected.