Posts

Holy Moly, Coley!

Fish has been a hot topic of debate for the past few weeks due to Channel 4’s collection of The Big Fish Fight programmes that looked at the issues around commercial fishing and fish farming today. I felt both guilty due to my love of anything fish or seafood related, and slightly smug since I have been avoiding cod for years, I didn’t watch any of it as I’m not a big celebrity chef fan.

Instead I took the opportunity to read up on the subject, finding both Mark Kurlansky’s Cod and Tom Fort’s The Book of Eels, to be an excellent source of information without personality fighting the facts. I also took advantage of the fact that since the issue of fish was being talked about to try and see what types of fish are sustainable and where I could source them without having to get up and hit Billingsgate at 4am.

Read more

Sprats, spuds and Swedish sauciness

Miss South and I have a long-running appreciation of the herring family: from whitebait, the essential anchovy (in all its multifarious forms) through to sprats, pilchards, sardines and herrings; little silvery fish get a full-on thumbs up.

Curiously I’d come late to the pleasures of sprats… but once I discovered how cheap (and I mean cheap) a handful of good fresh sprats could be, I was a convert. Normally I’d have them very simply; tossed in a dusting of flour and smoked paprika, grilled whole and finished with a little freshly-squeezed lemon juice, then eaten with some fresh crusty bread. The fact these small fish also answered to the delightfully silly scientific name of Sprattus Sprattus only enhanced their place high up the canon of favourite, fast, fishy fixes. But I alliterate too much…

So I was delighted when Miss South gifted me a tin of Swedish sprats as a Christmas stocking filler, which she’d picked up on her previously documented mission to the wonderful Scandanavian KitchenRead more

Jack Sprat…

May I introduce you to the perfect light spring lunch? Grilled sprats with a chunk of fresh ciabatta on a sunny April afternoon…

Sprattus Sprattus are small herring-like oily fish, a little bit bigger than whitebait. Small and perfectly formed, their stocks are abundant and are an excellent sustainable option on the fishmongers’ counter. They also happen to be cheaper than chips…a pound weight of these little beauties cost me 98p in Brixton Market. In fact the ciabatta roll I bought to accompany them was more expensive…

Sprats are also extremely easy to cook. A quick rinse and a few minutes snipping out the innards, then seasoned well and straight under a super hot grill for 2-3 minutes each side, giving you just enough time to cut some bread, chop some parsley and find a lemon. When the skin is blistered and crunchy, you are ready for a proper feast.

Piled high on a plate, doused in lemon juice and a good pinch of smoked sea salt, these are delicious eaten with your fingers or mashed onto bread. I tend to leave the heads and eat the tails, but you can eat them whole too. They are surprisingly unfishy with a rich flavour similar to mackerel and even grilling them whole left my kitchen smelling more of the seaside than anything else!

I ate half the amount I bought for lunch and was surprisingly full. They were fresh and tasty and a lovely change from my usual oily fish fix of a can of sardines on toast. They also felt like a real lunchtime treat, so if you aren’t squeamish about heads or tails, I recommend you get down to your local fishmonger as soon as possible!

I’m a sucker for spicy octopus tentacles…

Spicy Portuguese-style octopus stew

I bought a big bag of frozen octopus for a few quid on a whim before Christmas from an Asian supermarket: every now and then I’ve idly wondered how I’d be best tackling them in the kitchen. I’ve often thought some kind of Iberian treatment would be good – garlic, olive oil, onions and tomatoes would be natural bedfellows – and after my recent visit with Miss South to Estrela, where the polvo was divine, I was tempted by tentacles.

A cursory scout on the web for Portuguese octopus recipes didn’t provide anything definitive, but then I often spend a bit of time online just to get inspiration from flavours and pairings of ingredients. I had a range of directions to follow, a range of references, and a healthily stocked kitchen, so I decided to freestyle it a bit. The aim was to end up with a warming and spicy octopus stew. I think I nailed it…

Read more

Get Yer Leek On…

Golden brown and gorgeous!

Yesterday was St David’s Day and I just happened to have an abundance of leeks needing eaten, but wasn’t entirely sure what to do with them…I happened to have spend Sunday debating the perfect scone recipe with some friends and it didn’t take much to draw my eye to this recipe for Leek and Ham Cobbler. Read more