Friday, March 10, 2017

Fish, two ways...

This is fish the first way, a salmon fillet with no bones in it, served with some new potatoes, cauliflower, home grown broccoli, and parsley sauce from a packet. It was very pleasant with a white wine to help it on its way. My wife liked it, and there were no bones in the fish to annoy her.


These little beauties are sprats, and they are so cheap that I allow myself a big handful as a treat, when my wife is away. Treat? These cost less than a pound. 

I was asked to make these postings more instructional. So, off with their heads, use the pointy end of the knife to gut them, and shake them in a bowl with a little seasoned flour, until they are covered thinly with it. Heat a pan with some olive oil in it, and put the fish in. The lass in the shop, that sold them to me said she had stirred hers, and they broke up. No surprise, poor little things. After a couple of minutes, turn them over and give the other side a couple of minutes.

This is the result. I got a bit excited, and ate one before I took this picture. The flesh comes off the bones very easily, but it's a good idea to have bread and butter handy, to eat with any bones you might happen to put in your mouth. They won't last five minutes in stomach acid, so it doesn't matter if you eat some.
Then again, if you don't, you will have something like this left. Obviously, they go in your compost bin, and will make things grow well in your garden....

Bon appetite, as we say here in Wales!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Smoke me a kipper, I'll be back for breakfast!

Step 1. You will need to catch your herrings; I caught mine in Tesco, of course. Well, the sea was a little stormy this week, and I don't have a boat.

Step 2. Off with their heads, which will get used to make fish stock when I next need some. In the meantime, they live in the big freezer, along with the mackerel heads from an earlier episode of this journal.
I've given up numbering the steps, as it was far too much faffing about. As I was gutting the herrings, I was pleased to find they were nicely full of roes, which I saved in the freezer, to be used in somthing tasty when I think what it will be. Perhaps I will smoke them lightly and put them in a taramasalata. That's the only word with six As in it that I know, by the way.
Cutting along one side of the spine, almost all the way to the top of the fish, enabled me to open them out into the normal kipper shape. I'm going to have to remove the bones from any I try to serve to Mrs Walrus, of course, but these are not shop-style filleted kippers. I was going to leave the tails on, but it made them harder to fit on the racks. In big smoke houses, they use the tails to hang the herrings up for kippering, I believe. Having had fish fall down onto the smoking wood in a previous adventure, I did these beauties on racks. The racks are suspended  on hooks made from 2mm galvanized wire, quickly bent with a pair of pliers. At some point, I will make something that doesn't have to hang over the edge of the smoking bin, as that lets quite a lot of smoke out.

I'm not sure if you can see it very well in this shot, but smoke is escaping. This time, the wood was a blend of cherry, beech, and alder. I thought maybe the oak I used last time might be a bit too strong. Twenty minutes seemed like a suitable length of time to smoke for, and indeed, the wood ran out of smoke at about that point anyway.
Here we have kippers! They don't look raw, and are waiting in the fridge for a suitable breakfast at which to serve them. I've been trying to remember how we used to heat them up for serving when I was young. I'm fairly sure a frying pan was involved, but then again, the microwave does a good job of warming smoked mackerel, so I might just use that.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The duck is not getting smoked...

When I was planning our Sunday dinner, I thought it might be interesting to smoke the duck breasts for added flavour. But, as I hadn't done that before, I did an experiment on Saturday, with a chicken breast, to see whether I liked it.

This miniature galvanised dustbin is what I use for hot smoking. I bought it on eBay for a very reasonable price. Putting the smoking wood in the bottom and heating it on the lowest gas setting of the smallest burner produces plenty of smoke.
Here's the set-up with a test chicken breast in it. The shelf is a cooling rack, again from eBay, and the hooks are made from 2mm galvanised garden wire. I put the bit of foil in to stop drips falling onto the wood, as burnt chicken juice is not a particularly pleasant flavour! The digital thermometer probe's end is in the thickest part of the chicken breast.
Lid on, and light up! I kept an eye on the temperature, and turned the extractor fan right up to avoid setting off the smoke alarm. After about ten minutes, the volume of smoke escaping from the top of the dusbin was very much reduced, and at twelve minutes, the inside of the chicken had reached 55°C, so I turned the gas off. That's supposed to be the right temperature for a nice pink duck breast, according to the internet. If you happen to be in America, it's also, the internet says, dangerously undercooked. Since well-done duck is pretty much not worth eating, I ignore such warnings.
As you can see, the chicken is cooked, but still very pleasantly moist. The smoky coating on it was very strong tasting, and I think either a different smoke wood, or a lot less of it would have been better.

I was very pleased with the result, though. We decided not to use the smoker for our Sunday dinner, after all.
Here it is, with boiled new potatoes, steamed courgette and pak choi. The sauce has white wine, orange juice, and orange zest in it. The duck was delicious, as usual, and I really don't think it needs any extra flavour.

[Gressingham Duck, feel free to advertise on this page!]

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Toulouse sausages...

These sausages are a step on the path to a mighty cassoulet that I intend to make soon. The inspiration for the cassoulet comes from Tim Hayward's book, "The DIY Cook". The book can actually be bought new for less than half the price Amazon are asking.

Along the way to the cassoulet, I have already made and stored confit duck legs, and petit salé, which is a sort of French cured pork, a bit like bacon.

The Toulouse sausage recipe I used, however, is not the one in this book, as I liked the look of the recipe I found online, on a blog called "Adventures with the Pig". I used rather more meat than he does, 2 kg in fact, and left out the breadcrumbs, which I feel have no place in a sausage. You don't have to take my word for that, and are at perfect liberty to add things to your sausages if you want to. Of course, they'll be inferior, but the freedom!

I used one kilo of pork shoulder (pork butt, if you are on the left of the Atlantic Ocean), and one kilo of pork belly. They were cubed and frozen, before being allowed to nearly defrost. Doing that stops the loss of delicious meat juice during the mincing. This one requires the coarse setting of your mincer, as it's supposed to be a nice rustic sausage.

Here are the casings, in this case, they are hog casings. They need to be soaked for a couple of hours before use. There's no getting away from it, these things are unpleasant to handle, but either you want real sausages, or you don't.
There are people who insist on using a hand powered mincer, and I imagine they have one arm very much bigger than the other. Here's what I use, on our trusty Kenwood Chef. I've had that plastic bowl since 1979, if you were wondering.
The other ingredients are thyme, black pepper, nutmeg, garlic, red wine (200 ml) and about four teaspoons of salt. Ordinary cooking salt is fine. You don't need Nigella's beloved Maldon salt, or kosher salt, whatever that is.
Here we go! Add the herbs, spices, salt, and red wine to the minced meat, put on your CSI glove, and get stuck in. I always hold my gloved hand under a tap, to attempt to remove the talc, or whatever it is, from the glove before I get started on this.
Mix for a good long time, until everything seems to be properly blended. This can easily take ten minutes, by which time you will have a worryingly cold hand.
Once you think you have mixed it enough, take a little sample, and fry it, so you can check you are happy with the flavourings. Adding more, if something seems to be lacking, is easy, but I have no idea what to do if I think I have put too much garlic. This has never happened, but I am a great fan of garlic...
Caption competition.

The casings need to be slid onto the sausage stuffing attachment. It's easier if you keep them as wet as you can. I'm going to refrain from all the remarks almost every other web site makes about this process at this point.

Load up the machine with mince, and away you go...

Left hand guides the sausage, and slows down the casing, so it fills properly, while your right hand pushes the meat down into the machine. If you are left handed, you will need to stand on your head, or turn the machine round.

You can twist them into links as you go, or when you have finished. I've done them both ways, and the results seem much the same.

In a surprisingly short time, you will have lovely sausages, in large numbers. I tend to divide them into groups big enough for a meal and cling film them before freezing them.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Smoked Mackerel, Food of the Gods.

I've been meaning to try smoking food for a long time, and finally got round to it. The inspiration for this little project came from Tim Hayward's book, "Food DIY", as so many of these fun things I do have.

I bought these four nice mackerel from Mr Tesco for the princely sum of £6.16 for 1.76Kg.

I didn't get the lass on the counter to gut them, or fillet them, because I feel good about being able to do grown-up stuff like that myself.

I removed the guts for disposal, and then cut off the heads, and filleted them. I would normally not waste the tasty heads and the bones, along with the flesh remaining on them, but instead of making fish stock, or even a Singapore fish head curry, I wanted to concentrate on learning the smoking procedures.

Here are the fillets. They are rather pretty this way up, and you don't get to see some of my rougher knife work this way. I salted them for about half an hour, but forgot to take any pictures of that.

I've been accumulating the things I would need for this job for quite a while now, including three bags of wood for smoking. I decided to go for a nice, robust oak smoking this time. The bags of wood came from somebody on eBay, I think.

These days, eBay is one of the first places I look when I want to buy something for these games.

It's where I got the rather fine bin in the next picture, which is made out of steel, treated by galvanising it. Because of that, it has no paint on it, an important point when choosing something to put on top of the gas hob. It would probably work fine on an electric hob, as long as it was in contact with the heat.

As for those ceramic induction hobs they fit in "designer" homes, I have no idea whether this would work, or the dustbin would levitate and explode. 

I like to cook with gas because I can control it quickly. This matters when you are in the habit of cooking experimentally. Or just mentally...

Flinging some wood in the bin, I set to work to hang the mackerel fillets up, in a similar way to the illustration in "Food DIY". Instead of the skewer he used, which would have needed holes in the bin, I made a cunningly shaped hanging wire from a metal clothes hanger. You know, the sort that used to be on inner city Ford Escorts as radio aerials, after yobs had snapped the proper ones off.

By this point, things were obviously going far too well.

The fillets, hanging on the wire, looked lovely, and were all ready for some hot, smoky action.

I considered turning the kitchen smoke alarm off, in case the dustbin lid let out too much smoke, but decided instead to turn the cooker hood up to level three, the one that makes a noise like a jumbo jet. I took the metal grills off the bottom of the extractor, in an attempt to get maximum airflow.

I shouldn't have done that, as I saw they needed cleaning, a job I did when I finished the real fun stuff.

It was time. I lit the gas, and watched anxiously. Quite soon, smoke began to trickle out from under the lid, and it smelled rather amazing. I was rather glad the smoke detector kept quiet, until I thought that I would want to test it later because of that.

I gave it about fifteen minutes of heat, and stopped. There was a fair bit of smoky condensation around the edge of the lid, and it turned out to be more than there would have been if the fish had behaved themselves, and stayed on the wire.

Three of them had broken, and fallen down into the bottom of the bin. I don't know if salting them for longer would have toughened them up enough to stay on the wire. I've decided to get some wire racks to go in the bin, so this will not happen again.

As you can see, most of the wood has given up its smoke, without bursting into flames, and the fish is cooked. It looked and smelled fine, and I retrieved the fallen bits as well.

The weight of the smoked fish produced, apart from the delicious bits that accidentally fell in my mouth, was 768g. Tesco sells smoked mackerel for £1 for a hundred grams, so not only have I produced something wonderful, but i have made a small saving in money terms!

Here are the bits I didn't taste. I've frozen half, and kept the rest in the fridge. Breakfast will be nice...