Posts Tagged ‘fish’

Making food prettier

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017 | Food

Since finally giving in and watching MasterChef, I’ve been busy trying to up my game. Poaching pears, for example. And trying to make everything I put on a plate look a little prettier.

Results have been mixed.

This is pigeon breast, served with a sweet potato mash, with croutons, milk gel and chanterelles served two ways: fried and powered. The same ones we picked up in mushroom town, for reference.

Here I have served duck with the skin cooked separately, on mash with an orange gel, fondant potatoes, cranberry foam and a dressing of parsley. There are definitely issues with this dish:

  • My fondant potatoes are rather jagged. Do people use a cookie cutter to get perfectly round potatoes?
  • The duck skin curled up while cooking. I scored it previous to this to try and prevent that, but without success.
  • The cranberry foam was still quite liquidy, which rolled around the plate.

Confit duck on a bed of apple purée served with Asian roast potatoes, coriander and chilli jam.

Lamb leg with parsley, fried potato slices and peas. I like this one because it is simple: plain ingredients, not overcrowded or covered in fancy nonsense, but it still tastes good.

There are some weird combinations going on here. It’s fish and chips, with an added scallop, and some strawberries mixed in with the parsley. I served the chips in a separate bowl to avoid having to cram everything on to the plate.

Conclusion

A lot of the stuff just needs practice: mastering the different techniques, for example, is something I need to work on. But the big takeaway for me is to put less stuff on the plate. It is impossible to be elegant when you are trying to ram too much food on there.

Deceptive smoked trout

Friday, July 21st, 2017 | Food

In 1715, RR. Spink & Sons was founded. They specialise in smoked salmon and trout. And, to their credit, their smoked trout is very good.

However, it is also a little misleading.

You will notice that their packaging has a window in it so that you can see the smoked salmon before you buy. Very nice it looks, too.

But you will also note that the trout has been carefully shaped to fill the window, while, in fact, about half the size of the packet contains no trout at all.

Of course, you can see the weight on the packet. So you are not being duped in that respect. But I was rather surprised when I pulled it out to find so little of the cardboard covered.

Soy honey fish recipe

Thursday, December 1st, 2016 | Food

soy-honey-fish

One of my favourite ways to cook substantial fish fillets is to dip them in egg, breaded in panko breadcrumbs and then pan fried. This was the plan for a Friday night a few weeks ago when horror of horrors, I realised we had run out of eggs!

Instead, I mixed some soy sauce and runny honey together and used that to bind the breadcrumbs to the fish.

Now, if you are thinking “hmm, wouldn’t that make the fillet taste like the sweetest fish ever?” then you would be right, it does. It was still tasty, but definitely needs something to take some of the sweetness away. I will continue to experiment next time I run out of eggs.

Fish Market Cookbook

Monday, September 26th, 2016 | Books, Food

fish-market-cookbook

In June we travelled to Iceland for our honeymoon, and were very impressed with a Reykjavik restaurant known as The Fish Market. So impressed in fact, that we shelled out for the cookbook while we were there.

The production values are high quality. Once you get past the menacing photo of head chef Hrefna Rósa Sætran wielding a knife on the cover, you find a hardback book, just under A4 size with a full colour photo of every dish. This is everything I want in a cookbook.

The recipes themselves are a bit more challenging however. I struggled to follow a lot of them. Perhaps they make more sense to a trained cook, but I could have done with many of the blanks filling in. The photography of the dishes is quite artistic and therefore, even though you have a photo, it is not always clear what you are aiming for.

salted-cod-hotpot
I don’t think it is what the salted cod hotpot should look like

I haven’t written about much from the book, but here is the breaded pork tenderloin I made.

The language can also be a bit confusing. It is written in American English, rather than proper English. I was struggling to find shrimp chips, until I realised they were prawn crackers. A few times I wondered whether the translation had become a bit muddled. Some of it appears to be in need of a proofread too. The hot chocolate cake recipe for example: it says “melt the chocolate and water in a double boiler.” There is no water in the recipe, but there is some butter that is never mentioned. The word was almost certainly supposed to be butter.

This resulted in a lot of the recipes being duds for me. I simply couldn’t re-create them, and even when I could, they did not even resemble the picture most of the time.

Then there was the search for ingredients. Leeds has twice the population of Iceland, and four times the population of Reykjavik. Why can’t I find these ingredients? We did venture in to the Thai supermarket and international supermarket, with some success, but there is still much on my list that I have not been able to locate. Not that that is the book’s fault of course.

cheesecake
The cheesecake made an appearance at my Gran’s birthday party (left), my Grandma’s wake (right), a dinner party and one just for Elina and I.

When the recipes did work though, they were delicious. The pomelo and papaya salad with sweet cashews has quickly become a go-to salad for parties, and the white chocolate cheesecake is so easy and so delicious that we have had a continually rolling batch of them on the go for about a month now.

It might not be the most practical cookbook ever. However, it has produced a few tasty recipes and is a lovely way to remember our trip.

Anglesey Sea Zoo

Sunday, August 14th, 2016 | Travel

IMG_1967

Anglesey Sea Zoo (not to be confused with Anglesey Sea Life Centre) is located on the south-west coast of the island. It has a lot of fun looking creatures, including some of the the cutest cuttle fish you are ever likely to see. It is not a huge place, but it is an interesting place. For around £7 each, that makes for good value.

IMG_1965 IMG_1968 IMG_1971 IMG_1972

Fish Market, Reykjavik

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016 | Food, Reviews, Travel

the-fish-market

Fiskmarkaðurinn, known as Fish Market in English, is a restaurant in downtown Reykjavik.

They were fully booked when we rocked up and asked for a table. However, they said we could eat in the bar area. This was actually a stroke of luck. The seating was comfortable, and even a pregnant woman can eat at the little table. It was screened off from the main restaurant, giving us some piece and quiet.

We created our own tapas by ordering four starters and sharing them all. Each dish was carefully prepared and presented with it’s own unique accompaniments. These do not always get the attention they deserve in Iceland, but this was not the case here.

fish-market-food

It was, in my opinion, the best food we had in Iceland.

They even have a cookbook, which I purchased a copy of. It is full of ingredients I think I will struggle to find in Leeds, so it’s even more impressive that they can source them in a country whose entire population is half that of Leeds.

Icelandic Fish & Chips, Reykjavik

Saturday, June 25th, 2016 | Food, Reviews, Travel

iclandic-fish-and-chips

Icelandic Fish & Chips is a restaurant located near the old harbour in Reykjavik. It is pretty crammed given the amount of tables they have in there. The services is friendly and attentive.

I don’t think much to their fish & chips. It has made a name for itself as doing something different. They make their own organic spelt batter. This is fine if you like that sort of thing, but being from Yorkshire, I would have prefered a proper chippy.

Elina had better luck with our seafood soup. Although, it wasn’t actually a soup. Indeed, it did not really fit the definition of soup on any level. It was more of a gratin. But what a tasty gratin it was.

The price was pretty reasonable.

Barbecue

Sunday, May 15th, 2016 | Food

barbecue

After Elina was given a book in barbecuing as a Secret Santa present (as you do) I was determined we were going to make some use out of it. So I put in my calendar that on the first of April, we would buy a barbecue. Basically none of that happened. We never cracked the book, my dad gave me a small barbecue, so I didn’t have to buy one, and then the weather went back to winter for a month.

Now it is May though, and the warmth has returned. So, armed with a sea bream and a red mullet I assembled the barbecue, filled it with briquettes and lighting gel, and set the thing in fire. It went out. I added more paper and tried it again. It went out again. Determined to prove my manliness I tried a third time with loads of paper. Still no luck. I stormed off angrily.

I took five minutes to calm down, and then back to sort it out and clear it away. It was packing out heat. Turns out that even though the flames had died down really quickly, the thing was in fact lit. Victory! My manliness in fact I put the fish into my fish-holder-thing and began to barbecue.

In the mean time I started cooking a soup, so I spent the next twenty minutes running between the balcony and the cooker trying to keep both of them going at once.

The red mullet was not a big winner on the dinner table. It’s firm flesh did not come off the bone easily. However, the sea bass cooked beautifully. The flesh tore away, the skin was crispy and the meat was tasty. Further research comparing it to sea bass and mackerel is needed.

Nordic food

Friday, April 8th, 2016 | Food

I like Nordic cooking. The reason is quite long.

If Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Scandimania and The Hairy Biker’s Northern Exposure are to be believed, there is something very exciting about Nordic cooking. But there really isn’t. That in itself is novel.

You see, I’m from Britain. A country not known for its spicy food. As the timeless Good Gracious Me sketch ably demonstrates.

But it goes further. When Fearnley made his show TV Dinners he searched the country for people who really went all out for their dinner parties. However, when he floated his boat up as far as Yorkshire, he went ot see a man who did an amazing Sunday roast. The conversation went sometime like this:

Hugh: “That is a beautiful piece of beef. What are you going to do with it?”

Yorkshireman: “Just roast it.”

Hugh: “Just roast it?”

Yorkshireman: “That’s right.”

Hugh: “Are you going to season it with anything?”

Yorkshireman: “No, I’m just going to roast it.”

In a country known for its bland food, I live in the county that thinks the rest of the country goes a bit too crazy with all that fancy seasoning nonsense.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because when I tell you that Nordic food is fucking bland, I want you to appreciate the true enormity of that statement. They are not messing about here. Traditional Nordic dishes have taken bland to a whole new level.

Check out this photo of me preparing a Nordic stew:

nordic-stew

Normally, a stew would consist of some meat, with some vegetables, and seasoned with some salt and pepper, and a bay leaf or two. Not this recipe. You put a much of red meat in a pot, and you boil it for five hours.

Most dishes are served with boiled potatoes, but I like to go wild, so I whipped up some traditional root vegetable mash to go with it. It is like regular mash, except it comes with bits of swede and carrot in it that in no way make it look exactly like sick.

root-veg-mash

Or, if that doesn’t float your boat, why not fry up some potato cakes?

potato-cakes

If you really want to go big, why not make a meatloaf? Simply get as much mince meat as you can, shape it into a bread loaf, wrap it in bacon, and cook it for a few hours.

meatloaf

Every mouthful wiped about a week off my life expectancy. It was totally worth it. If you want to add some variety of your diet, you could add some fish. However, even in that case, the Nordic recipe turns it brown.

breaded-fish

Unfortunately, even my sauté pan was not big enough to fit the breaded sea bass in.

Whether these Nordic classics will make it onto our regular rotation remains to be seen. I do like these recipes however. They are simple. Most of them involve piling ingredients into a pot and leaving it for ages. There are odd parallels between having to build a fire pit to stay alive in a frozen forest and the stress of modern day life: both greatly benefit from recipes that can be slow-cooked with almost no interaction.

Fishing

Sunday, March 20th, 2016 | Sport

fishing

Last weekend, I went fishing for the first time. I didn’t go well. I spent most of the time trying to tackle sorted out. Then, just as I had it sorted, the line got horribly tangled, and I had to do it all again. Eventually I got myself sorted. I didn’t catch any fish. Nor did anyone else while we were there though.

It’s not quite as idicic as I had hoped. Possibly because it genuinely isn’t, or possibly because we went to a muddy fishing lake in the middle of March. Hopefully, having at least a small clue as to what I am doing, will improve the experience in future.