I am sitting in the hairdressers as I write this, hair wrapped in tin foil like an oven ready porcupine. I have been left to 'cook' (ladies you know what I mean), for 35 minutes and have a very good fresh coffee and one of those French caramel lotus biscuits to enjoy. Such luxury and I still have the chair massage to come! It's the day before the 4 Villages Spring Fête and my life has been dominated by fête business. I also have the builders in, so ‘walk the plank’ every day rather than fall into one of their enormous trenches and the dust everywhere inside, is unbelievable. Housework is not on my to-do list. With work too, I feel rightly deserving of this ‘me’ time.
Part of my ‘fête’ duties included completing food safety risk assessments with those serving food at the fête whether as a volunteer or not. Interestingly, the focus is now on allergens as a big (or bigger) risk to public safety than the ‘chance’ of bacteria oozing from your cream cake. I wanted to be sure that we informed consumers of any potential risks, for them to make their own decisions about what they ate. There has been a marked rise in the numbers of young people, especially, who are severely intolerant or allergic to basic ingredients like soya, gluten, eggs, additives etc, not to mention nuts which are in most things nowadays in one form or another. This is serious stuff. Allergens can kill.
When I was in my twenties I spent the whole of one Christmas day morning in Salisbury A&E with a face like a puffer fish including taut water filled balloons for eyelids. I had been given a huge side of smoked salmon by a boyfriend. Unexpectedly (to me) we were not spending Christmas Eve together so this gift was a sort of apology. Well, very down in the dumps, I commiserated on my own by eating most of it in one go, washed down with a few glasses of vino no doubt. Well – the salmon was as cheap and dodgy as the boyfriend. By three in the morning I was unable to open my eyes and my face felt weird. Squinting in the mirror it dawned on me that not only was my Christmas well and truly ‘over’, but so was the relationship. I was on piriton for the rest of Christmas so could not drink, could not go out for fear of frightening the dogs, and there was only left-over psychedelic orange salmon in the fridge to eat. A Christmas never to be repeated. I was unable to eat smoked fish for many years after (for reasons of allergic reaction, not from memories of a broken heart!)
So, please don’t ignore the effect of allergens on some of us more ‘sensitive’ souls, and beware unexpected gifts of hallucinatory inducing coloured food. You’re about to be dumped! aif
Golden Pan-fried Plaice with smashed Baby Broad Beans and Pancetta
Approx. £6.00 when all ingredients bought at Ludwell Stores.
4 whole plaice fillets (Ludwell Stores sells some wonderful fresh fish)
75g polenta (enough for coating the fillets)
2 slices of pancetta or thin streaky bacon (not smoked)
2 tbs oil (olive or rapeseed)
For the smashed bean/pea mix
1 onion and clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 slice of pancetta or streaky bacon, diced
150g baby broad beans, edamame beans or peas, blanched
2 sprigs fresh mint, finely shredded
2 sprigs fresh thyme
150ml light chicken or vegetable stock
150g finely diced potato (1/2 large baking potato sort of size)
2 tbs single cream
To make the smashed bean/pea mix
1. Sauté the onion, garlic and diced pancetta in half the butter until golden.
2. Add the mint, thyme, stock and potato, bringing to the boil and simmer gently.
3. When the potato is almost tender add the blanched beans or peas and simmer for a further five minutes.
4. Remove the sprigs of thyme and put the whole lot in the blender (or a big bowl and smash with the end of a rolling pin) together with the cream. The mix wants to be quite loose (not sloppy) but also to be chunky.
5. Check seasoning at this point, adding salt and black pepper as required.
6. Grill or oven cook the remaining pancetta slices until crispy.
For the plaice
7. Trim and skin the plaice if required.
8. Add seasoning to the polenta and then coat the fillets really well in the dry mix, shaking off the excess.
9. Heat the butter with the oil in a large frying pan until foaming.
10. Fry the fish for about 2–3 minutes on each side, until just cooked through.
11. Reheat the bean mix if needed – it only needs to be warm.
12. Spoon a small mound of the bean mix on to both plates and arrange the plaice fillets and pancetta slice on top. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.
A delicious light lunch or supper with a taste of summer.
A truly, truly scrumptious dish
AIF (the pen of ‘Truly Scrumptious’) has asked us to write this edition’s offering, whilst she is gallivanting around in South East Asia. We consider this to be a great honour, but a very daunting task, given the amazing articles she consistently writes, and the delectable recipes she brings to the Donheads.
The location of her vacation and the produce from Semley Fête have inspired this edition’s recipe. What, you may ask, was the produce from Semley Fête? Well, it took the form of two coconuts won at the shy, by dead eye Dick, who thought he’d done particularly well until he learned that Simon Lewis had come away with three!
So, what to do with the coconuts? The first problem being how to get into them without resorting to throwing them against the wall? Hopefully we can demystify the process and enable everyone to make good use of this excellent culinary ingredient.
First, extract the coconut water from within by piercing two of the dark coloured ‘eyes’ at one end of the coconut with a sturdy skewer (you may need to encourage it to penetrate with a tap or two from a hammer). Drain the liquid into a jug and reserve. Next, using your hammer, tap the nut all around, not too robustly, but enough to start the shell cracking and separating from the inner flesh. The idea is to break the outer shell without damaging the flesh inside. Peel away the hard outer layer and you should now have a brown coloured inner nut. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the brown outer skin leaving the delicious white flesh. You may be tempted to taste it at this point!
We are now going to create coconut milk, which we can use in our recipes. Put the flesh in chunks into a blender with your coconut water, made up to 225ml with water, and grind well for a couple of minutes, until the water and coconut are well integrated. Pour the contents into a sieve placed over a bowl and with the back of a spoon push as much of the liquid as possible through.
What you now have is a thick milk, called the first extract. Return the shreds to the blender with another 225ml of water and blend again and sieve to get the second extract. Repeat this process to get the third extract. The residue shreds can be toasted in the oven and used as desiccated coconut and then can even be ground up for use as flour.
So, good luck at the coconut shies and use your winnings by trying out the recipe on the next page!
rle & kse
Bengali Fish in a Mild Coconut Gravy
Approx. £9.50 when all ingredients bought at Buttlings & Ludwell Stores.
This dish is inspired by Anjum Anand, whose book, Indian Food Made Easy, does exactly that! The cost will obviously depend on your accuracy at the coconut shy! We love the heat and pungency of the green chillies, but if your taste is for less hot fare, then use fewer chillies, or leave them out altogether. If you have failed to win any coconuts, you can substitute with shop-bought coconut milk and coconut cream.
First obtain your coconut milk as described earlier.
2 Medium onions, peeled and cut into chunks
8 g Fresh ginger, peeled and cut into chunks
6 Green cardamom pods
2 Large shards of cinnamon
3 tbsp Vegetable oil
2 Large cloves of garlic, peeled and made into a paste
3–6 Green chillies, slit lengthwise, but left whole
¾ tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Coriander powder
350–400 ml Coconut milk (2nd and 3rd extracts), or canned coconut milk
Salt, to taste
1 tsp Sugar, or to taste
600 g White fish fillets, such as haddock 50–100 ml
Coconut milk (1st extract), or shop-bought coconut cream
Preheat the oven to 190°C / gas mark 5. (AGA – absolutely no idea!)
1. Blend the onions with the ginger to a fine paste.
2. Grind together 2 cloves, 3 cardamom pods and 1 cinnamon shard in a pestle and mortar and set aside.
3. Heat oil in large non-stick pan. Add the remaining whole spices and fry for 20 seconds or until fragrant.
4. Add onion paste and fry over a medium heat, stirring frequently until golden brown (approx. 10 minutes). It is important that the onions are cooked through.
5. Add garlic, chillies, turmeric, coriander powder and a splash of water and cook for 1 minute.
6. Stir in 2nd and 3rd extract coconut milk (or canned), and salt and sugar, bring to a boil and then simmer over a low heat for 3–4 minutes.
7. Meanwhile oil an ovenproof dish and arrange fish fillets within.
8. Pour the gravy to cover the fish and bake in the oven for approx. 10 minutes until the fish is just done.
9. Remove from oven and stir in your 1st extract coconut milk (or shop-bought coconut cream) and reserved spices.
Serve with plain rice and nice green steamed vegetables or a salad. You can, of course, use this gravy as a basis for any fish, shellfish or prawn dish – delicious!
A truly, truly scrumptious and creative fish dish.
“Do you remember when…?” is one of those questions that can evoke nostalgic memories of events gone by. Although they need not be that distant a memory to make them worth delighting in again. One such event for me and hopefully my guests, was that of the Royal Wedding. Not having taken much notice of what seemed to be gripping the rest of the country in the preceding weeks, I awoke to its ‘momentousness’ and found myself inviting friends for brunch in front of the telly, giving myself very little domestic notice. Between the invite three days before the wedding I had to travel to North Wales, arriving back home very late and literally a matter of hours before my guests. The supermarket shelves were bare, however racking my brain for culinary ideas as I bombed down the M5, I remembered my freezer contained some smoked fish, the fridge, lots of eggs and the cupboard, as always stocked with essentials like rice and spices. I was going to take a risk and offer my guests a right royal, British brunch, if ever there was one. Kedgeree was to be the highlight of my celebratory menu.
Kedgeree is traditional and British, and at it’s height in the 19th Century when it was a staple of the Raj breakfast table. I have looked through my (over three hundred) cookery books and no one recipe is the same. Many use a rice and lentil mix, add peas or sultana’s; cinnamon sticks; nuts or turmeric, probably for its luminous colour rather than its flavour.
I chose kedgeree as a main course at Marco Pierre White’s restaurant, The Yew Tree last year, which was served quite wet. It resembled a creamy risotto, bit like porridge, with soft poached quails eggs cushioned in the rice. It was fabulous and I have tried hard to recreate it, without success. ‘Wet kedgeree’ is a dish of its own according to The Guardian’s ‘word of mouth’ blog and fairly close to what I propose here in it’s consistency, with the adding of a flavourful creamy curry sauce.
There’s no need to wait for another Royal occasion to make this, quoting Siri Owen from The Rice Book, ‘…it’s good for invalids or those with hangovers”. This recipe will certainly wake the palate and soothe the stomach. If serving for lunch or supper it’s great with a simple tomato salad. We can buy fish now from Buttlings, fresh in on Thursdays, or order fresh trout from Ludwell Stores. It is a great dish as a standby, just keep some smoked fish in the freezer for those surprise guests or empty fridge moments, as it’s quick to make and very satisfying. It freezes well too without the hard-boiled eggs as they turn to rubber.
After eggs Benedict and my specially named King’s Kedgeree, our Royal Wedding brunch finished with Scotch pancakes hot from the AGA plate with berries and maple syrup and we toasted the happy couple with Buck’s Fizz. A day and a brunch, fit for future Kings and Queens and now part of my ‘Do you remember when….’ moments, never to forget. aif
King’s Kedgeree - for breakfast, brunch, lunch or supper
£7.50 when all ingredients purchased in Ludwell.
Serves 4 - adjust quantities to taste with more or less fish and or spices.
500g Smoked haddock or cod (if using smoked trout, ease up on the spices)
25 fl oz (generous pint) milk and water mix with a single bay leaf 1 tbsp sunflower/rapeseed oil
2 small onions, skinned and finely sliced (not chopped)
1 tsp medium strength curry powder
250 g long grain or basmati rice
3 hardboiled eggs or 4 fresh eggs for poaching
large handful of chopped parsley
Creamy Curry Sauce (mild) with a nod to Gary Rhodes
1 large onion; finely chopped with 2 crushed garlic cloves
1 tbsp Madras curry powder
300 ml chicken or vegetable stock
300 ml double cream
150 ml coconut milk (optional)
Squeeze of lime juice and seasoning
1. Remove the skin from the fish and feel the fish carefully with your fingertips, removing all bones. Cut into large chunks.
2. Put the fish into a saucepan with the milk, water and bay leaf, and heat gently until it just starts to simmer. Take the pan off the heat, cover and leave to cool.
3. When cool, strain the liquid into a jug and transfer the fish to a bowl.
4. Heat the oil and butter together in a wide based saucepan and add the finely sliced onions, cooking for several minutes until they are soft and transparent looking,
5. Stir in the curry powder and cook for a further two minutes.
6. Stir in the rice and cook for a couple of minutes more, keeping the mix moving, until the rice is coated with the curried oil and butter mix.
7. Pour in the strained fish liquid. (You will need a full pint if using 250g of rice - it’s always double the volume of liquid to rice if measuring in a cup) and stir to mix.
8. Cook the rice slowly and covered, until the liquid has been absorbed. (DO NOT STIR or it will go sticky) If using Basmati rice, once it has simmered for four-five minutes, take it off the heat and stand, covered for twenty minutes, and fluff up. Meanwhile make the creamy curry sauce.
9. Cook the onion and garlic in the butter without colouring for 5-6 minutes.
10. Add the curry powder and cook for a further 6-8 minutes stirring occasionally.
11. Add the stock and simmer fast, reducing the volume by half.
12. Add the cream and return to simmer, cooking for 10-15 minutes longer.
13. Add the coconut milk if using, and bring back to a simmer.
14. Add the lime-juice and season to taste. Sieve for a smooth sauce.
15. Fold the fish and the warm sauce into the rice, (careful not to break the chunks of fish up too much). Add the parsley and hard-boiled eggs if using and adjust to taste.
16. Top with fresh, soft poached eggs, one per serving, if preferred to boiled.
Truly scrumptious at any time of day - please join me by starting a kedgeree resurgence in the Donheads
These musings and recipes are gleaned from The Donhead Digest with the permission of AIF, their author.