On a rainy day in February, when it seemed that half the country had turned into an inland sea, we unexpectedly found ourselves with over four kilos of incredibly fresh, top quality Skrei (line-caught Norwegian cod).

We’d been expecting a far smaller delivery but a miscommunication somewhere along the line resulted in “individual portions” being swapped out for “kilos”, and we were the happy if slightly bemused beneficiaries of the error. After an hour of carefully cutting three gargantuan sides of fish into portions, double wrapping them all in cling film, labelling them with their weight and squeezing all but a couple of them into an already groaningly-full freezer, I took to the web in search of cod recipes.

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My recipe

With the wind outside slamming never-ending needles of cold rain against the thankfully solid walls and windows, I yearned for something hearty, filling and cheering – the weather howled approval of my demand for punchy flavours, plenty of protein, comforting carbs and copious colour.

A recipe for baked cod with chorizo, potatoes and saffron fit the  bill.

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Original recipe

We liked this recipe a lot but agreed it needed quite a bit of tweaking. Against the strong flavours (and colour) of the chorizo, the saffron was lost; I decided it was superfluous. Our sauté pan is pretty large but the half kilo of sliced potatoes was difficult to move around the pan. The potatoes also made it difficult for the heat to reach and soften the leeks in the short time they had to cook before the liquid was added and came to a boil; I decided to cube the potatoes and add the leeks at a much earlier stage. Lastly, instead of plain oil, I used oil that I’d flavoured and coloured with the chorizo to drizzle over the fish before baking.

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My recipe

My new recipe was everything I hoped.

Cubing the potatoes made them cook more evenly, and also provided lots of edges and corners to crisp up a little in the oven. The softer leeks integrated much better into the chorizo and potato base. And the chorizo-infused oil gave the baked fish a little extra colour on the plate.

 

Baked Chorizo, Cod & Potatoes Recipe

Serves 2-3

Ingredients
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
120 grams soft Spanish chorizo*, cubed or thinly sliced
1 leek, white and pale green parts sliced into thin half-discs
500 grams potatoes, peeled and cubed
120 ml (half cup) water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
500 grams fresh skrei or cod fillet, cut into two or three portions as required
Handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, for garnish (optional)

Note: Spanish chorizo can be purchased either as a fresh, soft sausage that requires cooking, or a harder and drier cured version which can be eaten as is. Make sure you buy the soft cooking chorizo.

Method

  • Preheat oven to 180 °C (fan).

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  • Heat three tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large oven-proof pan, add the chorizo and cook over a medium heat until the chorizo starts to change colour, about 2-3 minutes. The oil will take on plenty of colour from the chorizo spices.
  • Carefully retrieve a tablespoon of the cooking oil from the pan and set to one side.

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  • Add the leek and continue to cook for a few minutes, until the leek softens.

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  • Add the potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, for 12-15 minutes, until the potatoes soften a little around the edges.

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  • Add the water, salt and pepper and bring to the boil. As the pan is already hot, this should only take a few moments.

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  • Place the pieces of fish over the contents of the pan and drizzle with the reserved chorizo-flavoured oil.
  • Transfer pan to the oven and bake for 15 minutes, until the cod is opaque. If your fillets are much thicker or thinner than those shown, you may need to adjust cooking time by a couple of minutes in either direction.

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  • Either serve the pan to the table, family style, or plate individual portions. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

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This is a really simple dish to make. Prep (of chorizo, leeks and potatoes) doesn’t take very long and the entire cooking time is not much more than half an hour, so it’s ideal any day of the week.

 

Kavey Eats received samples of fresh skrei (line caught Norwegian cod) from the Norway Seafood Council.

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As soon as we drove off the ferry and onto Islay, we headed straight to Lagavulin for the first of distillery open day of Feis Ile 2013. Yes, even before we headed to our self-catering house and unloaded the car!

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There I happily spotted the mobile Seafood Shack and quickly bought myself a portion of fresh crab claws, served with either marie rose sauce or garlic mayonnaise. At £4 for a generous serving, I was in heaven! Pete and our friends wandered around, tasting drams and watching a cooper explain how he makes barrels.

I sat at a table, chatted to the first of many fellow visitors, and attacked my claws with vigour, tapping a toe away to the live music that was often being played.

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I determined to enjoy Seafood Shack’s bounty every day of our holiday, though in the end I missed two days – on one they took a well-deserved day off and on the other I arrived at the distillery after they’d sold out and shut up shop! I did, of course, find seafood elsewhere on those two days, so all wasn’t completely lost!

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Some days I added a portion of scallops cooked in butter and whisky. Other days I added a pint of squat lobster, a crustacean I’ve not encountered before but quickly came to adore; easier to split open with a hard thumbnail or plastic knife and flesh that is sweet and utterly delicious…

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The annual whisky (and music) festival is held at the end of May and this was our third time attending. You can read more about the various open days on Pete’s blog. This summary post contains links to a full post on each one.

We plan to go back again in another couple of years, and I’ll be looking forward to finding the Seafood Shack there when we do!

 

I’d never heard of Skrei until I was contacted by the Norwegian Seafood Council about it. Apparently it’s “a very special type of cod, line caught, and a much loved Norwegian delicacy”. As far as I can tell, skrei is actually just the Norwegian word for cod, though I can’t work out whether it’s Atlantic Cod, Pacific Cod (unlikely), Greenland Cod or some other species entirely. It doesn’t help that Google Translate tells me that torsk is another Norwegian word for cod, but doesn’t differentiate between it and skrei.

Still, I’m hooked by the information that it’s line caught – which I know has a massively smaller environmental impact than trawling with massive nets, as there is less bycatch (of unwanted species and undersized fish). Of course, I’ve read that cod is one of the species that has been overfished and should therefore be avoided until stocks recover, but I’ve also read that sustainability depends on which region or fishery it comes from and some cod fisheries are alright. It’s confusing and makes it hard to know what the responsible choice is.

The press release also tells me that skrei annually migrate thousands of miles from the Barents Sea to the Lofoten Islands in northern Norway to reproduce, and this long journey through icy waters results in a “lean, bright white firm flesh [that] is rich in protein, vitamins and minerals”.

It goes on to boast that top chefs Mitch Tonks and Michel Roux Junior both love skrei, with the latter featuring it on his menu for the last two years. I complete the unstated suggestion – that if it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for me – and accept the kind offer to review a sample.

The cod fillets are firm, plump and a pleasingly subtle shade of ivory. As you’d expect from fresh fish, they have very little smell at all. They’ve not been pin boned very well so we make a slight mess of them trying to pull out a couple of large bones, before cooking.

We make three meals with the fish:

  • An adapted recipe from the Jekka’s Herbs Cookbook which calls for sea bass and garlic chives but tastes fabulous with cod and regular chives.
  • A fish pie recipe from the The Billingsgate Market Cookbook which bulks out a small piece of fish with hard boiled eggs and leeks, and is everything warm and comforting that a good fish pie should be.
  • And lastly, beer battered fish and chips, which we discover is an excellent way to appreciate the texture of the fish, as it stays moist and flaky inside its protective coating.

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Norwegian Cod & Chives Stir Fry

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Beer Battered Norwegian Cod and Chips

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Norwegian Cod Fish Pie

Whilst we really enjoyed all three meals, I’m not sure whether we would have noticed a huge difference had we used a different white fish such as hake, haddock or pollock.

Of course, as I said above, it’s not as simple as some species being ok and others not, but a case of taking fishing method and area into account too. The Marine Conservation Society’s website, Fish Online, is an excellent resource for anyone keen to eat great fish and protect our marine environment and wildlife.

if you are lucky enough to have access to a quality fishmonger, they should also be able to advise you on which fish you can use for a given recipe or cooking method, and all their produce should be sustainably sourced.

 

Kavey Eats received review samples of Norwegian skrei.

 

Addendum – following my original post, I was sent some additional information about Skrei, which I wanted to share with you. I’ve summarised it below:

Hundreds of millions of Norwegian cod make the migratory journey I described above but only a small percentage of all landed cad meet the standards to be branded as Skrei, which is a registered trademark.

To be classified as Skrei the fish needs to be caught fully grown (approximately five years old), have immaculate skin with no scratches, bruises or injuries, be packaged within 12 hours of being caught, be stored on ice between 0° and 4° Celsius and, if sold whole, have Skrei branding fastened to the dorsal fin.

It is fished in the Barents Sea, which can be classified as the North East Arctic, so not Pacific or Atlantic. All Norwegian cod is sustainable – indeed Norway has had cod quotas increased this year because stocks are so strong.

 

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I planned to make beetroot and lemon cured salmon for Christmas day.

I planned a great many things.

I planned to have a practice run a month or two in advance, trying out two different cures and choosing the one which worked best. No trial run happened. I planned to ask for more advice on recipe variations from expert friends. In the end I turned to recipes found on the internet and had a mild panic about which one to follow. I planned to order one enormous and gorgeous wild salmon fillet in advance. I failed to do so and went with what I could find in Waitrose at the last minute. But the wild Alaskan salmon they’d stocked a few weeks previously was nowhere to be seen, and the farmed salmon looked particularly insipid.

And that’s how I ended up buying two Loch Melfort trout fillets instead. The trout simply looked far more appealing and I decided, with no knowledge to back it up whatsoever, that it would work just as well as salmon for my purposes!

Having found a great many recipes for beetroot cured salmon online, I narrowed my choices down to Nigel, Jamie and Barney (from BBC Good Food).

All three offer fairly similar recipes and techniques featuring the salmon itself, salt, sugar and raw beetroot. Jamie and Nigel add citrus zest and vodka to theirs. Jamie and Barney include a little horseradish too. What varies most in their recipes are the proportions of beetroot, salt and sugar to salmon and how long to apply the cure. Jamie and Nigel both have almost the same salt to salmon ratio, but Nigel calls for more sugar and much more beetroot. Barney’s recipe calls for more sugar than salt and far less of everything against the salmon. Jamie recommends curing the fish for 48 hours, Nigel suggests 2 to 4 days and Barney stretches from 3 days up to a week.

I dithered between the three recipes for a frankly ridiculous number of hours before basing my ratios on the box size of salt I’d purchased, and what my trout and beetroot weighed!

I needn’t have worried so much. The finished trout was both beautiful and delicious. The purple-red and orange colours made it very festive for our Christmas day table but would also make this a lovely recipe to prepare for Valentine’s day.

 

Beetroot & Lemon Zest Home Cured Trout (or Salmon)

Ingredients
1.5 kg boned fillets of trout or salmon, skin on
350 grams coarse crystal sea salt
200 grams demerara sugar
900 grams raw beetroot
Zest of 2 lemons

Note: Scale the recipe up or down depending on the weight of your trout.

 

Method

  • Grate the raw beetroot; no need to remove the skin first. I used a food processor which seemed to release a lot of juice. If the beetroot is very wet, drain using a sieve, to remove excess liquid.

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  • Weigh the sugar and salt, and add the grated lemon zest. Combine with the grated beetroot and mix well.

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  • In a large dish, lay out a piece of cling film and spread a thin layer of the curing mix over it. Lay the fish, skin side down, on the cling film.

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  • Put a much thicker layer of the curing mix over the flesh side of the fillet, making sure all the flesh is covered. As I had two equally sized fillets, I laid the second one flesh side down over the first, and then added a last thin layer of curing mix over the skin of the second fillet. If you only have one fillet, divide your curing mix accordingly, using the majority on the flesh side of the fish.

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  • Wrap the cling film around the fish and add two or three further layers of cling film to ensure that the fish is securely wrapped.

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  • Weigh down the fish with a flat tray and something heavy on top and place in the fridge.

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  • Once a day, check the fish and pour away any liquid that has collected in the dish. You don’t need to unwrap the cling film – the liquid seems to find its way out. After draining, turn the fish over, replace the weights, and return to the fridge.
  • I allowed my fish to cure for 4 days. Based on Nigel, Jamie and Barney’s recipes for salmon, I’d imagine that a period of anywhere between 2 to 7 days would work.
  • Once the curing time is complete, unwrap the fish and scrape away the curing mix using your fingers and some (dry) kitchen towel.

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  • Once wiped clean, the final purple-red colouring of the cured trout will be revealed. Mine had a somewhat mottled effect where more or less colour from the beetroot had stained the flesh.

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  • Slice the fish just before serving. I did my best to cut reasonably thin and even slices, slicing the knife downwards at an angle and then along the skin.

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The beautiful purple-red staining had penetrated reasonably well into the flesh, and looked glorious against the bright orange.

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The trout was simply served with lemon wedges, sour cream and undressed rocket leaves.

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The second fillet, which was wiped clean at the same time of the first, then re-wrapped in cling film and left in the fridge for another day and a half, seemed to be even darker than the first, though they had both cured for the same length of time. Once back home, I removed the flesh from the skin in four pieces which were individually wrapped and frozen.

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I have wanted to cure my own fish for the longest time, but was always put off by worries of getting it wrong and ruining perfectly good fish. I’m glad that everyone I talked to about it encouraged me to have a go as it was very worthwhile and definitely rewarding. It was also far easier than I imagined!

Do have a go and let me know how you get on!

 

Since I started blogging a few years ago, I’ve not purchased many cookery books, as I’m fortunate to be sent new titles to review by several publishers. But I had a big sort out over the summer and gave several boxes of books, cookery ones included, to various charitable organisations.

After which I treated myself to a copy of Jekka’s Herb Cookbook (as well as Mma Ramotswe’s Cookbook: Nourishment for the Traditionally Built by Stuart Brown, still on the “To Read” pile).

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Jekka McVicar is the woman behind Jekka’s Herb Farm, a South Gloucestershire organic herbs nursery specialising in culinary, aromatic, decorative and medicinal herbs. The farm, which celebrated its silver jubilee this April, has over 650 varieties of rare, tropical and native species in its collection. Undoubtedly, Jekka McVicar is the queen of herbs and I’ve purchased some of her seeds for our garden over the years.

In this book she chooses fifty herbs that she loves to cook with and gives a description of each plant, advice for growing it, its history in cooking, any medicinal uses and of course, some recipes. The book doesn’t have any photographs; instead there are pretty illustrations are by her artistic daughter, Hannah McVicar.

Having flicked through when it arrived, it wasn’t until we visited my friend Monica for an August weekend of relaxing, cooking, eating and chatting that I had more time to devote to the book. I took a big bag of several books awaiting review, and popped this one in too as I was so keen to try some of the recipes.

In the end, we tried three recipes from the book over the weekend, and they were all fantastic.

I cooked Sea Bass with Chinese Garlic Chives. Except I couldn’t find any garlic chives so I bought regular chives, and not nearly the quantity specified in the recipe. Some of the pieces of fish broke up a little too much, with my clumsy pan skills, so it wasn’t a prettily presented dish. Nonetheless, the recipe was easy to make and we all really, really enjoyed it. The next time I see a large bunch of garlic chives on sale, I want to try this as Jekka envisaged it!

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Pete made Coriander, Mint and Pitta Salad, but instead of breaking our (freshly made) flatbreads up to add to the salad, he served then on the side. With soft tomatoes, crunchy cucumber, sweet sharp onion, the solidity of the chickpeas, my favourite green herb and a simple dressing, this was well balanced and tasty, and once again, very simple.

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And Monica made two loaves of Rosemary Bread. Fabulous, with a good crumb and lovely flavour from the rosemary, like the other two recipes, this is one that will be made again.

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Our experience with these three recipes gives me a strong faith in the rest of the book and there are many, many more dishes I want to try soon.

So much did we like these three recipes that we tweeted our delight (and photos of the dishes) to Jekka who responded with warm thanks for making her family recipes look so wonderful. (That was down to Monica’s camera skills, of course!)

And I was very happy to be able to give my thanks to Jekka in person when I visited her stall at the Abergavenny Food Festival.

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Photos by Kavey & Monica.

Jekka’s Herb Cookbook published by Ebury Press is currently available on Amazon UK for £17.50 (RRP £30).

 

In a recent post, I shared our cooking class with chef Lee Groves, during a seafood holiday to Cornwall.

Lee has kindly given this interview for Kavey Eats, and shares his recipe for Ray Wings in a Pepper Butter Sauce, below.

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Can you give us a little potted bio of chef Lee Groves? How did you get into cooking? What path has your career taken? How did you get to where you are now? And I remember you telling me that your 2010 Masterchef experience was hugely important to you because it came at a time when you were reevaluating where you were at and where you wanted to be. Can you tell us more about the experience itself and how it shaped what came next?

I always wanted to be a chef, i remember telling a friend at infants school!

I never sat on my Gran’s knee podding peas, or fly fished with my Grandfather, no one else in my family is in the trade, just something I always wanted to do. After 2 years at college, my first job cooking(age 17) was in the local pub, at which I had been working on the bar. But, I knew scampi, gammon and frozen lasagne wasn’t me! Then I was lucky enough to land a job at The Walnut Tree, Abergavenny, under the highly acclaimed Franco Taruschio, one of the hardest things I have ever done, but it was my building block. Three years later, after stints at Gidleigh Park and Gary Rhodes, I returned to Wales. It didn’t last long and at the age of 23 I landed my first Head Chef job in a busy seaside pub just outside Exeter, (I say landed, blagged morelike!).

After a couple of years, a new restaurant was looking for a Head Chef, in the same area…my first proper role in high end fine dining. Even though the accolades came in very soon, the restaurant wasn’t making enough money. That took me to Oxford, where I gained lots of recognition within prestigious guides, it was here I won my first Chef of the Year competition, and then I got the bug. After many competitions, and winning, I knew for definite the sky was the limit.

A few years later, and more accolades later, I found myself out of work, temping here and there was o.k., I wasn’t sure if I actually wanted to continue cheffing and nearly left the industry, but I wanted to get my teeth into something. Then I watched Masterchef 2009, The Professionals, and thought to myself I can do that! So applied online, not knowing what to expect……Then the call came, I had been chosen for the last 36 to be filmed, (out of 10,000), and thought oh! here we go!

4 months later, after alot of blood, sweat, tears and overnight travelling, the fire was back! And I wanted to be better than ever.

Having found Scott & Julia on an advertising website, they were looking for a head chef in St. Ives, the rest as they say is history. After only being open for 18 months now we have won many accoldes and taken St. Ives by storm.

What is your cooking ethos and style?

My cooking ethos is use fresh, don’t accept rubbish ingredients, and half the battle is won. Alot of chefs mask the main ingredients with many sauces and flavours, yes be creative but have confidence in what you are using.

What’s your favourite comfort food or meal?

My favourite comfort food/meal, can vary, from a Fray Bentos pie, to a lovely roast dinner with all the trimmings, fish and chips or a good hot homemade curry.

And what would you cook for a special occasional meal, at home not in the restaurant?

At home I tend to experiment, but for a special meal, it would have to be game, in season, (can’t wait for my first Grouse next week, and the first Partridge in a couple of months time), or a piece of fresh Seabass.

I loved everything you showed us during our cookery classes. But as you know, I was particularly blown away by the ray wings in a pepper and brown butter sauce. Could you give me your recipe and any tips and tricks to achieve the best results?

There isn’t an exact recipe, it’s all about feeling and understanding the ingredients, flame control is very important too, as you don’t want that lovely buttery sauce to split.

So pan fry the freshest ray wing in hot olive oil, season, it should be golden brown, so about 4 minutes either side, add a spoonful of capers or soft mixed peppercorns, reduce the heat, add a good slug of balsamic vinegar, add 3 or 4 nuts of cold unsalted butter, and gently stir in and around the fish to form a glossy piquant dressing, the fish should still be slightly pink on the bone so it peels off into the lovely, meaty strands.

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Our visit to Cornwall was part of a week-long South West Tour courtesy of The Food Travel Company (and Riverford Organic Farms). They are a new company offering specialist trips for food (and drink) lovers, with group departures and customised itineraries available.

 

Back in June, Pete and I were invited to spend a few days in South West Cornwall on a “Seafood Safari” holiday organised by The Food Travel Company. Based in the lovely Coswyn Barn conversion at Lanyon Cottages, our small group enjoyed an early morning trip to Newlyn Harbour, a pootle around Cornwall and two fantastic seafood cookery classes taught by Lee Groves.

The classes each lasted over four hours, probably nearer to five and were held in the wonderful big kitchen in Coswyn Barn.

On the first day, Lee took us through several fish dishes, including lots of tips on how to choose and prep fish and ideas for cooking them. It was also as hands on as we wanted, and we took turns gutting, filleting, boning fish, shucking oysters and smelling and tasting everything offered.

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On the second day, Lee focused on seafood. First we enjoyed his Thai-inspired mussels, a suggestion from two lovely little girls in our group, then a punchy and hearty fish stew. After that, Lee created some enormous seafood platters, two served cold and two served hot. These were a feast of Fresh crab, lobster, scallops razor clams, squid, oysters and langoustines.

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One of the lobsters, a feisty chap even after 24 hours in the fridge, was the biggest lobster I’ve ever seen, Lee said it was likely to be 30-40 years old. The idea of a critter that could be as old as me was impressive, though didn’t make me enjoy eating it any less when it was served on the platter!

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All the seafood was Cornwall sourced and incredibly fresh and of the very best quality, with the exception of the mussels which were from Devon as Lee finds them more consistent in quality. Lee showed us the various tags that certified origin (and could be used to track it, should we wish).

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We made so many fabulous dishes; it was really inspirational, not to mention delicious!

  • Trout served with a simple dressing of halved cherry tomatoes in a vanilla vinaigrette
  • Monkfish with samphire and cherry tomatoes
  • Turbot with asparagus in a wine cream sauce
  • Mackerel three ways – grilled, lightly pickled and smoked
  • Hake with butter, cucumber and chives
  • Trout gravadlax
  • Ray wings in a pepper and brown butter sauce
  • Sashimi tastings of all the fish, and the scallops
  • Oysters
  • Thai mussels
  • Fish stew
  • Hot seafood platter with a herbed breadcrumb topping
  • Cold seafood platter on ice

See my next post for an interview with Lee Groves and his recipe for the Ray Wings.

 

Our visit to Cornwall was part of a week-long South West Tour courtesy of The Food Travel Company. They are a new company offering specialist trips for food (and drink) lovers, with group departures and customised itineraries available.

 

Whilst Bea Vo is most strongly associated with the delicious sweet creations she sells in her Bea”s of Bloomsbury shops, she is also a talented professional chef. Born to a Vietnamese family in Washington D.C., married to an Austrian and living in London, she spent holidays visiting family in Louisiana.

There are so many diverse influences on her cooking. But her latest offeringa Summer Crawfish Boil – is 100% Louisiana!

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On Thursday evenings throughout summer a hundred or so eager customers take their places at long rows of bench tables in Bea’s Maltby Street Diner.

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The menu is short and sweet: garlic bread to start and then as much as you can eat of spiced crawfish, potatoes, sweet corn and Polish smoked sausage served with cocktail sauce, salsa and Bea’s special Cajun butter sauce. Dessert, if you have room, is a refreshing ice lolly – I went for raspberry margarita flavour.

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The bar menu includes local London beers, pitchers or glasses of margaritas or lemonade and a short list of wines.

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Some diners were done within an hour but our table ploughed through 8 enormous buckets full before we finally admitted defeat. You won’t be rushed out and Bea will keep serving until you’ve had your fill.

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Cherry and I having craw claw fights

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Cherry and Jason celebrating another tall pile of empty shells

At just £24 per person, this is a great value evening and the perfect outing for a bunch of greedy friends. Bibs and copious paper towel provided!

(More dates to be added soon).

 

With thanks to Fran, Jools and Jason for photos.

 

I’m a natural born collector. As a child I collected stamps, coins, mugs, rubbers and key rings, to name just a few. Our family holidays took us around the world, which allowed me to find great variety, both at home and abroad and I took my collections seriously, taking time and care to choose new additions.

Today, the stamp and coin collections have long since been passed on through the family. The rubbers were discarded. Only a few of the key rings were kept, though I still regret the loss of the rest.

A lot of the mugs are still in the kitchen cupboard. I can’t bear to get rid of the “I’m A Mug From Luton”, though the text is faded almost to nothing, after 25+ years through the dishwasher. Perhaps it’s because the slogan describes me as well as it does the mug?

As I left childhood behind, I stopped collecting. But I missed it. Sometimes, I indulged in retail therapy trips where the urge to buy would result in spending £40 or more on clothes and books and magazines I didn’t really want or need. An article eulogising egg cups caught my attention. The author found such joy in the immense variety of design and shape of objects made for a single, simple task and I was immediately nodding in agreement. There and then I decided to start a new collection, part of me consciously thinking that I could satisfy those occasional urges to buy something new by spending just a few pounds at most. In those early days, prices were often in pence, as initial egg cups were found in charity shops and car boot sales.

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Today, I own far too many egg cups and have over 100 sitting in a box to sell on Ebay (when I get a round tuit).

But the ones I display (on a chaotic and far-too-full living room shelving unit) give me great pleasure. The kind of pleasure only another collector can really understand.

So when I read Allegra McEvedy’s book, Bought, Borrowed & Stolen: Recipes & Knives From A Travelling Chef, I immediately felt a kinship – a warmth that comes from the shared personality disorder of the collecting mindset!

In her introduction, Allegra describes her knife buying as gathering, explaining that she hesitates to use the word ‘collect’ as that implies that her knives are not for use and she certainly uses hers! Don’t worry Allegra, I use my egg cups too, though given that I don’t eat boiled eggs and soldiers that often, it’s a slow cycle. And I confess, some just aren’t as practical at holding eggs as others…

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The magpie in me appreciates the rather striking turquoise cloth binding with shiny gold foil print. It’s an unusual design and I like it.

Inside, the book is divided into 19 chapters by country (though the USA is represented by two cities, New York and San Francisco). Each is introduced by a country fact file sharing basics such as geography, population, religion plus a short sharp summary of the cuisine, top five favourite ingredients and most famous dish. Next comes the travel memoir page, where Allegra talks about her experiences visiting the country. I enjoyed these personal memories, though a single page for each means they’re little more than a snapshot.

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Next, my favourite part of the book, the introduction to the knife that Allegra bought back from that country. Reading about how she found and came to own each knife, what memories it holds, how she uses it now… I can really feel her affection for each item in her collection.

There’s her Pine Forest Picnic Knife from Turkey, Win’s Special Burmese Machete from Burma, a Suction Free Chef’s Knife from San Francisco, the Pig Leg Boner from Brazil, the Lemon Wood Pastry Slicer from Morocco, Lorenzi’s Ceramica from Italy, Balisong from The Philippines, the Grenadine Scrimshaw, the Oaxacan Whacker from Mexico and several more.

I find the collection fascinating!

The collection of recipes is equally diverse, and I find some more appealing than others. There are many I find interesting to read about but which don’t tempt me at all to make them.

Also, I think it would be accurate to describe most of these recipes as influenced by her travels rather than authentic, something that’s been confirmed by friends from a couple of the countries represented.

Probably the biggest let down for me is the food photography. Whilst I appreciate the idea of simply presenting the food, rather than filling half the shot with styling props and unused ingredients, I find the photographs in this book lifeless and sometimes actually off-putting. Certainly, they don’t do the job of making me salivate and feel an urge to make the recipe.

That said, what I do like is the sheer spread of cuisines, ingredients and types of dishes covered. It’s a fun book for someone who wants to dip their toes into the pool of international cooking and wants a wide spread of recipes to choose from.

The recipe I chose to try is from Malawi, a simple ginger and garlic fried dish.

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Nsomba Zokazinga Ndi Ginja Komanso Anyezi

(Ginger & Garlic Fried Fish)

Serves 2

Ingredients
50 grams ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 bird’s eye chillies, roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
3 spring onions, roughly chopped
0.5 teaspoon paprika
5 tablespoons groundnut oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 portion-sized fish such as red bream, about 700 grams each once gutted and scaled
Approximately 750 ml light oil for frying
limes, to serve
salt and pepper

Note: I bought Corsican bream, which were expensive, about £13.50 for two.
Note: I omitted the chilles, for personal taste.
Note: I substituted cider vinegar for white wine vinegar, as that’s what I had in stock.
Note: I used considerably less oil for shallow frying.

Method

  • In a blender, blitz up the ginger, chillies, garlic, spring onions, paprika and a teaspoon of salt with the groundnut oil and vinegar.

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  • Make some deep diagonal cuts across both sides of each fish – about 5 cuts along each side.

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  • Put about half a teaspoon of ginger paste into each slit and smear the rest on the skin and in the cavity.

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  • Pour oil to the depth of about 1.5 centimetres into a frying pan large enough to hold both fish and shallow fry on medium high – the oil should be hot enough to make the fish fizzle when it goes in.

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  • Fry the fish fast for about 5-6 minutes on each side until golden.

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  • Serve straight away, with rice, salad and lime quarters.

We really enjoyed this simple dish, the flavours of the paste were balanced and full on yet didn’t overwhelm the beautiful fish. It was also very quick and simple to make.

With thanks to Octopus for the review copy.


Allegra McEvedy’s Bought, Borrowed & Stolen is currently available from Amazon for £11 (RRP £25).

 

In our previous Mamta’s Kitchen cookery classes we’ve made a selection of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes which proved very popular with our students so far.

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For our next class we are considering offering a pescetarian or fully vegetarian class instead.

This will depend on demand.

The date has tentatively been scheduled for the 5th November.

Please email me as soon as possible if you are interested in attending and have a preference on whether the class should be as previous, pescetarian or vegetarian.


From our first class, we made a donation of over £200 to the Khushboo Welfare Society. From our second class we donated approximately £250 to the MS Society. Once again, we will choose a charity and make a sizeable donation from the proceeds of this third class.


For information on future courses you can also subscribe to our email mailing list. (The list will only be used to send you information about Mamta’s Kitchen Cooking Classes and nothing else).

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