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Archive for the ‘credit crunch’ Category

Hibernation

Criminy it’s been a long while.  I can barely remember what it is to celebrate been so busy shivering.  And as for getting up in the morning – grrr fuggedaboudit if you can.  All that’s left for a sensitive soul trapped inside a chilly body is to cook, and cook good, food to warm the cockles without spending a fortune: between Christmas and the Credit Crunch it’s a blessed relief to put on a decent lunch.  To that end, I dug out my ancient french semi-glazed earthenware bean pot from the darkest recess of the attic.  I was always too timid to place it over direct heat, but since crossing that Rubicon I’ve been simply bowled over by the fabulous job it does on dried pulses: it just can’t be beat, nothing else has ever come close in achieving the perfectly cooked, mealy yet tender texture, even and especially with the hitherto-notoriously-impossible-to-get-right butter beans and chick peas.   Here’s a small selection of what’s been emerging from my kitchen, no tinned pulses here:

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I’m particularly proud of the fishcake/fishbomb, inspired by the tasty depth-charge served at Fishworks on Swallow Street and coated with panko breadcrumbs – waiting patiently in the pantry wings since last summer’s Wing Yip spree – but what should these friable morsels adorn next?  Hmm…just before Christmas Mr T’s starter chez Brasserie Blanc was the most delectable pair of Gruyere croquettes so I might have a go at replicating those … I foresee a bit of enjoyable research on my horizon!

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One of my all-time favourite dishes is brandade de morue – salt cod whipped up with olive oil and mashed potato plus a wee hint or more of garlic and a scatter of parsley.  Much as I adore the taste, though, I’m not about to pack in my suitcase a whiffy hunk of dried North Atlantic cod just so I can then rehydrate it under a running cold tap for a couple of days before cooking.

pureeAuthenticity be damned in this instance and come to think of it, I don’t remember when I last peeled a potato to make mash – certainly not since discovering this wonder-product from Lidl: 99p for a four-pouch box.  If you’ve ever read the ingredients list on a packet of Smash and its ilk, the relative purity of this product will come as some surprise, for it reads thus: Dehydrated potatoes (97%), salt, emulsifier (E471), nutmeg, spices, stabiliser (E450i), preservative: sodium metabisuphite (E223), antioxidant (E304), Acid (E330).  May contain traces of milk: that’s it. 

And before you start squealing in horror at the E numbers allow me to enlighten:

  • E330 = ascorbic acid = Vitamin C
  • E304 = ascorbic acid ester = Vitamin C+palmitic acid

The others are arguably possibly slightly dodgy, in that:

  • E223 can be an allergen, not recommended for consumption by children
  • E450i = disodium diphosphate, high intakes of which may upset the body’s calcium/phosphate equilibrium, so excessive use may lead to imbalance of mineral levels, which could potentially lead to damage to bone density and osteoporosis (drinking too much fizzy anything destroys your bones too)
  • E471 = mono and diglycerides of fatty acids; could be animal in origin or from genetically modified soya.

brandadefumee
I can live with that, especially when pretty much all you have to do is scald 250ml milk with 500ml water and sprinkle one sachet over the top for some pretty good pommes purées.  It’s definitely French-style though so don’t even think of using this stuff for fishcakes – for that you need the real McCoy! The consistency is purrrfect however, for a creamy brandade. I take a few fillets of smoked fish – here I was fortunate enough to have hot-smoked sea bass and cold-smoked haddock cruising around the freezer – and poach them in the milk & water with finely sliced garlic, a strip of lemon peel, bay leaf and a pinch of saffron.  I then remove the fillets, skin and flake them hot in the few minutes while the potato flakes do their magic in the hot liquid, then stir the fish back in with a fork to blend. Sometimes I shred them finely and actually whisk the mix to more closely approximate brandade but it’s not strictly necessary by any means.
smokyfishmash

Piled into a ceramic dish and finished off in a hot oven it’s a fantastically hearty meal for two on a cold night, accompanied by a woodcutter’s pile of steamed carrots and courgettes and a lightly oaked chardonnay.  Somehow winter doesn’t seem so bad after all…

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