Friday, 26 August 2011

Piccalilli, Yes it's that time of year!!

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So even though it's still technically summer I am already feeling the urge to get into the kitchen and start pickling. It's the same every year, some thing I guess I owe to my post war childhood when the end of summer signalled a round of preserving that filled the house with the smell of vinegar for months.
There really is no need for any of us to make our own pickles and chutneys these days and folk that sell on Farmer's Markets are only to happy to shift their preserves. But as with much home cooked food, not all, you didn't meet my mother-in-law, home made is best.
I find no difficulty in passing over jam making as I have almost no sweet tooth but pickles really appeal.
I was at the Red Market in Shoreditch , before it was closed down, and was trying out Piccalilli at Tom Dixon's Shorditch Smoke stand. One was made to my recipe and one he got from a friend who used some whole spices and fresh chilli so I though to adapt mine and update it.
The Farmer's market yielded fresh veg and so today I'm back in the pickling swing.


1 medium cauliflower cut into tine florets
2 medium courgettes chopped into 1cm cubes
3 medium onions, peeled and cut into 1 cm cubes
1 green pepper de-seeded and cubed
about 300gms runner beans cut into 1cm cubes
Prep all the veg and put them into a big china, glass or plastic bowl.

Now make the brine by dissolving 250gm salt in 1/2 litres of water and pour this over. It's best to weight the vegetables down with a plate so they stay under the brine.

Put the bowl into a cool dark room and leave for about 24 hours.

Next make the sauce for the piccalilli You need to do this in a large stainless steel or enamelled pan.

Mix :

30g (1oz) plain flour
60g (2oz) mustard powder
225g (8oz) white granulated sugar
1 tbsp turmeric
1tablespoon crushed fennel seeds
Together then make them into a paste using part of 750 ml distilled or white wine vinegar
I've found if you mix the dry ingredient well the tend not to "clump" when the vinegars added.
Put this over a medium heat and cook, stirring often. until the mixture thickens. Now turn the heat to low and simmer the sauce for 4-5 minutes . Again you must stir well as it can catch on the bottom but you need to cook the flour to avoid a raw taste.

Meanwhile drain the veg and rinse under running water. Shake as much water off as you can then tip these into the pan with the sauce.

Cook the vegetable in the sauce, simmering for 2-3 minutes then pot into jars and store in a cool dark place for at least a month.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Are you eating lesser known fish? I am.

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Dabs, fresh from the boat on Aldeburgh beach. Such an inexpensive luxury, the seven fish shown above cost me £3.00. Yes, amazing value. I know I had to buy them fresh from the boat but that was no hardship. It gave me a chance to catch up with Dean, one of our local inshore fisherman. He was feeling gutted that day as his gear had snagged on some rocks and he'd not only lost his nets but most of his catch. Dabs it was then but whilst I'd set out for sole I'm really pleased I tried these fish again, after a long absence, as they were delicious
New potatoes and a butter sauce seemed perfect so I picked up some samphire on Chapel Market to blanch and to the burre blanc.
My only problem was then should I cook the fish whole, pan fried or should I fillet them? The fillet option will leave less fish but make for easier eating. Dabs do have a lot of bones or rather the bone to flesh ratio is rather too high. The obvious thing to do when serving bony fish: kippers, trout etc is simple to put a bits plate on the table to take the detritus and keep the plate you're eating from relatively clean.
In the end I filleted them. Not difficult, but a bit time consuming. Dipped in seasoned flour then pan fried with the Samphire sauce they were sensational.
Seven were way to many to eat at one sitting so I froze 3 of them raw for another time. Supper for two people for two quid, not bad!!
Burre Blanc
1shallot , finely chopped
1 small glass white wine
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon double cream
170gm 6 oz butter, cut into small dice
sea salt and black pepper
lemon juice
In a heavy saucepan cook the shallot in the wine and vinegar until the liquid has reduce to about 2 tablespoons. Add the cream and as soon as it boils remove the pan from the heat. Using a balloon whisk beat in the butter cubes, whisking until you have a smooth amalgamated sauce. Season to taste with salt pepper and lemon juice .
Easy and delicious! Add the lightly steamed samphire and serve with your fish and a glass of chilled Suffolk cider.