Saturday, 7 May 2011

Forget the weather - light the fire

It was hardly perfect braai weather. After a heavy rain shower this morning, I'd nipped up to Broadway Market as the skies cleared and the sun shucked off its grey cover, but as the afternoon wore on, the clouds returned, even as the temperature stayed high.

For various reasons, the last couple of weeks don't really seem to have produced much in the way of major cooking experiences. That's actually slightly deceptive, since I managed, a couple of weeks ago, to cure some pork chops to reasonable effect - a first such effort.

Yet today has had the feeling of being the first 'proper' shopping and cooking Saturday for some time.

Not that that has meant that I've actually done any cooking.

For some time, The Other Half and I have been contemplating the first barbecue - or braai - of the season. To be more specific, we'd been contemplating something that The Other Half has never done before - a fish feast cooked over the glowing coals.

The inspiration was last summer's trip to Collioure - and the boat trip on the Med down to the border with Spain, during which the captain had cooked us sardines on a little fire on board.

Until then, The Other Half has never been inspired to cook fish, but with Cornish sardines now available, it was a perfect opportunity. To three each of them, I added a small piece of line-caught tuna.

By the time the barbecue was hauled from beneath its cover for the first time this year, the weather had already changed direction, setting course for the forecast rain.

Nothing was going to alter our plans, though, and the simple solution was to cook outside and then eat inside, with green olives, slices of baguette and a bowl of the best virgin oil I have with a pool of dipping Balsamico in its midst, plus glasses of rosé on the side.

Captain Eric had cooked his sardines with just a little dried thyme and olive oil. In the absence of any of the former in the cupboard, these were done with oil, fresh thyme, oregano, some flat leaf parsley and some garlic. The tuna was done in oil, pimenton and a little piri piri (I'd forgotten there was even any in!).

And my goodness, weren't they good! Perhaps the simplest meal we've eaten for some time - a real reminder of the taste of the Roussillon.

Before we'd eaten those sardines while afloat, I'd always had problems with bony fish - a very English issue, as it happens. But then again, that was also the first time that I'd picked up a fish in my fingers and eaten it like that, not struggling ridiculously with knife and fork. It adds to the sensuality of the eating as well.

Today's weather might not have been as conducive as we would have wished, but nothing could dent the pleasure and the deep satisfaction of that meal.