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
These musings and recipes are gleaned from The Donhead Digest with the permission of AIF, their author.