Saturday, June 18, 2011

If anyone wants to cook my father's day lunch...

It's tomorrow by the way kids, so the shopping window of opportunity is pretty much NOW, and I can't hint strongly enough but shall just continue here to jot a few words down.

Since scaring myself down to a maximum of two fish moments a week at the moment, and trying my level best to hold back on red meat while increasing the vegetable intake. The gaps left seem to be utterly filled with depleting my Chinese instant noodle stockpile, so life isn't all that grim. The reserved approach to meat does ensure that on special occasions (please do refer to tomorrow as SPECIAL) then a mahoosive fat and juicy steak is completely justifiable, and so the hints keep on coming.

The mass of expertise around steaks; rearing, choosing, storing, cooking and serving is insane, and everyone and their mother is an expert on this topic of course. But there are some cool people out there who know what they're talking about while not making a meal out of it. Foodurchin's great guide to getting the beast just right is hilarious. While the wonderful people of Edinburgh are experimenting with their 22 hour beef at home show us just what is possible.

It doesn't need to be all bells and whistles you know, I'm just asking for something that I can sleep off tomorrow afternoon in front of the telly. But if I had to choose for myself i think I'd go with the larger joint approach which has tended to satisfy my weekly beefy like urges of late. 

As far as what to go with it are concerned, I'm a classic steak cliche all bundled up in a chef's jacket here. Chips - large, but not fries. Watercress leaves, but not rocket, dressed lightly with a mustardy vinaigrette. Horseradish of course, but if possible freshly grated into a little creme fraiche with an extra squeeze of lemon. I'll be happy for sure.

A drink to go with that Sir did you say? Well it is a wee bit predictable but I think something rich, red and rounded might help the food slip effortlessly down, I have just the bottle of the most perfect Napa Cabernet Sauvignon brought back from the US recently that has tomorrow written all over it. The topic of American wines I have a strong opinion of which will come another day. But as I'm awaiting the arrival of the feast, I think I can indulge in a little imperfect perfection. It is my day after all.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The ethics in fish and chips

From warm water shrimp and anchovies to haddock and cod, there are now almost 70 types of seafood that should remain in the sea and off the menu if we're going to tackle our sustainable lifestyles in a proper manner.

These lists, compiled by all manner of expertise, are an ever moving target. But you can be sure of one thing in that a little research and some local provenience doesn't take 5 minutes before you buy.

Just recently, a few more poor fish I've noticed being added to the not-to-eat list
include common and Dover sole from the North Sea or Irish Sea, albacore tuna from the Mediterranean and South Atlantic and certain types of Atlantic cod.

Some other fish I'd be happier if you avoid include Bay of Biscay anchovy, any type of large shrimp that has not been caught organically, Chilean seabass, conger eel, Atlantic halibut, wild Atlantic salmon, many types of shark, and nearly every type of skate. Herring too, unless from Norwegian waters are having a hard time right now too. I've just spent a few magical days in Stockholm where herring is an integral part of their daily lives, and was safely assured that everything I ate came from sustainable sources.

With a heavy heart I have to say one of my absolute favourites is in the red with all types of tuna needing to be avoided – apart from albacore tuna from
the American Albacore Fishing Association in the South Pacific and skipjack caught by pole and line methods in the Maldives or the western and central Pacific.

There is some light my friends. Hardshell cams and Pacific cod along with salmon certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, preferably from the Pacific or Alaska have moved into the category of fish that is safe and ethical to eat, along with scallops from farmed stocks. Coley and common mussels are also right up there in the good books right now too, so it's not all that bad for lovers of fish. There are always fantastic initiatives banging away to help, you just need to get out there and look. The always brilliant Lizzie has reported back on Crayfish Bob in London , tasty, fun and the absolute right thing to do to protect our water stocks.

The buzz here is buy local and in season, get to know your fish expert at the market or shop, limit yourself to fish a couple of days a week at most, and start eating more vegetables.

Lecture over, and happy (ethical) cooking!!

Clam pasta and chips for 2

What better dish to serve on a balmy summer evening than steaming plates of clam pasta. Sweet clams are steamed in a light broth of fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic and white wine and served with spaghetti or linguine pasta, topped with garlic chips for a spot of unique crunch. The ingredients here are few and simple as the clams give it most of its delicious flavour.

25 small clams
3 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4-5 garlic cloves finely sliced to fry
1 small brown onion, diced
100ml dry white wine
2 tblsp of finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp dried chili flakes
2 tbslp of olive oil, and 200ml or so to fry the garlic
1 tblsp of butter
Spaghetti or linguine for 2

Boil some water in a large pot for the pasta. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions and have it ready around the same time as the clams or just a bit before.

Thinly slice the garlic, on a japanese mandolin if you have the nerve, and drop in the hot oil to crisp, drain onto absorbent paper and season with salt.

Soak the clams in a bowl of cold water for about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water.

Heat the oil and butter over a medium heat in a large, heavy-based pot. Add the onion and fry for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Add the garlic, chili flakes and salt and stir for about 20 seconds.

Add the chopped tomatoes and fry for about 7 minutes until their juice starts to evaporate.

Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the clams to the pot. Cover with a lid. After about 2-3 minutes add the wine to the pot. Cover again and shake the pot from side to side.

Cook the clams for a further 5 minutes or until they open. Add the parsley and stir with a wooden spoon. Cover and shake pot again.

Drain the pasta and then pour the clam mixture on top. Stir well, sprinkle over the garlic chips and serve immediately.