Thursday, 27 June 2013

Easy options on the food front

Bacon and new spuds and asparagus
One of the most surprising things about the last week has been that, after arriving home from Liverpool last Friday, I didn’t leap straight into a Pot Noodle phase.

Utterly knackered, it was tempting. But when I'd crawled up the platform at Euston, I opted instead for the easiest ‘quality’ option: M&S.

I had been contemplating lamb chops, but since the only available ones were from New Zealand, I opted for something a little more local – British bacon.

And to go with that, new potatoes and asparagus.

It was a simple matter to boil the spuds and the asparagus (20 and three minutes respectively) and then pop the bacon into a hot pan and let it sizzle gently for a while, curling and browning; moved around occasionally with tongs.

Frankly, I didn’t even feel like arranging it on a plate, but tossed it all together, added butter, seasoning and the bacon juices.

Even after a week that had seen a couple of decent restaurant meals, there was something heavenly about the result. And it had all been ridiculously easy top cook.

The cats were delighted to see me home, but an absence means that one is told in no uncertain terms, that they are owed.

In Otti’s case, she was determined that, despite never having eaten it before, she was going to try bacon. Allowed to have a little piece (after I’d finished – I do try to teach them some patience) she then decided that it was very nice indeed and why hadn’t I shared more with her?

Saturday allowed a return to Broadway Market and the great what-shall-we-eat-for-the-coming-week challenge.

In this case, I started from a fishy perspective – sea bass, filleted.

Potatoes were par boiled and then slightly crushed before being drizzled with olive oil, seasoned and then popped into the oven (160˚C fan) for 20 minutes.

The bass – slashed carefully on the skin, seasoned and lightly oiled – were placed on top and given a further 15 minutes.

Bass with potatoes and seasonal veg.
This was served with fine beans and asparagus, a drizzle or two of my balsamic glaze and a wedge of lemon. And jolly nice it was too.

An experiment with tuna didn’t quite go as planned, though.

Unusually, Vicki had a big slab, so I decided to buy a slice (it’s enough for the two of us).

It was intended for Monday – Vicki said it should be okay for that, but to watch out for the ‘rainbow’ effect in case it did start to go.

To be on the safe side, I decided to try something a bit different, and salt it. The Spanish – mojama – and although I couldn’t find a specific recipe, how hard could it be?

I used a mix of ordinary salt together with some fleur de sel that The Other Half had picked up for me on his recent trip to Perpignan: one that was infused with banyuls, the sweet wine from that area.

On Sunday evening, I rinsed it off and left it to soak ion fresh water. That was changed again on Monday morning and one last time when I got home that afternoon.

Pods growing fat
The plan was then to use Bruno Loubet’s guidelines and confit it – approximately 30 minutes in olive oil heated to approximately 50-55˚C.

All that went okay, but unfortunately it still came out as incredibly salty.

Still, failures are part of the process of learning.

In the meantime, the potager is going a bit bonkers after struggling to show real signs of life for so long.

I will shortly have peas – and the broad bean pods are just appearing. One of the runner beans is already taller than me – okay, I know this doesn’t mean much.

There will be a small crop of blackcurrants – but this is year one.

The salad leaves are doing well, as are the radishes, the spring onions and the gem lettuces, while the chard is coming on decently, as are the carrots and turnips.

The vine is growing well, the lemon has produced a plethora of buds, the nasturtiums are finally producing leaves in something approaching abundance and the four tomato plants that we were given by a friend look to have settled in comfortably.

Who knows – the weather might even allow for cropping a few leaves this weekend. But it’s enormously exciting to see crops developing in such a way.

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