Category: Seafood


Sous Vide Octopus

February 18th, 2013 — 2:14pm

Never have I felt more of a middle class tosser than when I stumbled in drunk one evening and exclaimed, loudly and with much enthusiasm, ‘LET’S SOUS VIDE A QUINCE!‘ I then proceeded to heat up the sous vide, put the fruit inside and promptly forget about it. Excellent.

Things that work sous vide, I’ve come to realise, are cuts of meat like pork belly which need long cooking to break down the gnarly bits. That said, I cooked a piece of lamb belly which I thought would work brilliantly and it came out like a big chewy piece of fat, which essentially, it was; the worst thing about that was the fact I’d invited five other people around to eat it.

Eggs work well, though I’m not sure I’ll be busting out the machine every time I want to eat one (read: I won’t); the most amusing bit  is when you crack open the shell and a poached egg just plops out.

Anyway, I’d not tried fish or seafood yet, and after hearing mixed results I decided to steer clear of fillets and go for something that’s notoriously difficult to tenderise; the octopus. I bought a ready frozen octopus, which immediately takes care of one step of the process (freezing helps to tenderise).

So I picked up a 1.5kg beast  for the downright shocking sum of £18. When I was in the fishmonger I heard someone shouting EIGHTEEN POUNDS! and then realised that it was me. I tweeted about this afterwards and loads of people answered saying helpful things like ‘I bought a huge one in Lewisham market for £2.50 the other day!’ but although I have fairly shonky standards on many things, I’m not sure I’ll ever begrudge paying a lot of money to know that I’m getting decent seafood. Still, octopus is expensive, FYI.

So it was defrosted, unpacked, hacked and re-(vac)-packed with some garlic cloves, parsley stalks and olive oil. I had intentions of dressing it afterwards with chilli, garlic, parsley and lemon, mainly because that sounded summery and I’m sick of winter. I cooked it for 4 hours at 85 degrees as suggested by many online sources. When it emerged however, the bag contained an alarming amount of red liquid. It basically looked like an octopus in a bag of blood. I e-mailed an on-line fishmonger whom I trust and he said that although octopus can leach some red liquid occasionally when over cooked, he’d never seen anything to this extent. He even contacted the executive chef at Brindisa (“they cook a lot of octopus”), who apparently had no idea either. So, how did it taste?

The answer is: I don’t know. Neither I nor my partner of equally strong stomach could bring ourselves to eat it (hungover? What? Me?). This fact coupled with some er, logistical issues (basically the octopus being in a different house to the one we were in come dinner time) means that I effectively pissed £18 up the wall, not to mention wasted a good octopus and that just makes me feel SICK, quite frankly.

So me and the sous vide are having a bad run; first the lamb, then the drunken quince incident and now the case of the bloody octopus. Bad luck comes in threes?

If anyone has any ideas about what went wrong then please do pipe up…

52 comments » | Monumental Fail, Seafood

Surf & Turf Burger of Shame

September 15th, 2012 — 6:39pm

Shame is, genuinely, my favourite ingredient. I am the queen of the guilty pleasure, the mistress of filth, the dominatrix of ‘so wrong it’s right’. Of course I try to eat the best quality food I can, most of the time. The rest of the time I’m necking Diet Coke, processed cheese, SPAM, instant noodles, SPAM with instant noodles, SPAM on rice with a fried egg on top, fish balls, crab sticks and…McDonald’s.

I love McDonald’s, despite everything that is bad about it, and I don’t care who knows. I’m particularly a fan of what I like to call ‘The Inhalable’ – the 99p cheeseburger which can be eaten in a few bites. I find it hard to pass a Maccy D’s without nabbing one. The fillet o fish is seriously underrated; the sausage and egg McMuffin is a hangover bashing salt fest and the Big Mac is, well, a classic.

If you’re gasping with shock and horror at this point, you’re probably reading the wrong blog.

So the Big Mac ‘special sauce’ is something I’ve been trying to get right for quite a long time. Recipes do exist on the internet, which are supposedly based on the actual recipe released by McD’s but are in fact nothing like the real thing; they also call for ingredients we can’t find easily in the UK. Then, the other day, Mr. Essex Eating published a recipe for something called ‘fry sauce’. This looked very much like Big Mac sauce so I made it the same evening and blow me down if it wasn’t pretty much there and AND I could now put as much of it as I like in my burger.

IN YOUR FACE RONALD MCDONALD!

So a partner in crime was enlisted and some serious burgers got made. Way too much incredible minced chuck was purchased from O’Sheas in Knightsbridge (no point dicking about; I like to mix filth with quality to enhance the feeling of guilt), buns were acquired from the fabulous Kindred Bakery in Herne Hill (they stand up really well to a juicy boiger), prawns were nabbed from the fishmonger….yeah that’s right, surf and turf, baby. You see, the sauce is remarkably similar to that used in a fried shrimp po’ boy; it works with the beef, it works with the prawns, now why not bring them all to that party? I’d ummed and ahhed between prawns or beef, prawns or beef until I was told in no uncertain terms by PiC (partner in crime) that both were going in.

It was glorious. Crunchy spiced cornmeal coated deep fried prawns, medium rare patties of shit hot beef, slappy cheese, iceberg, loads of rip off Big Mac sauce and of course, the magic ingredient, a hefty dollop of shame.

Surf and Turf Burger of Shame

Minced beef for burgers (size depends on your bun; it’s not hard, just form it into a patty, not too thick)
Slappy processed cheese slices
Iceberg lettuce, shredded
Onion, sliced as thinly as possible
Buns, lightly toasted
About 4 raw king prawns per burger
Polenta, for coating the prawns
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning (or substitute some celery salt plus paprika)
Oil, for deep frying

Pretty simple, this. Get a plate and cover it with a generous amount of polenta plus the Old Bay Seasoning, a little salt and some pepper.

Heat your oil for deep frying and get your heavy pan on for cooking the burgers so its nice and hot. When the oil is ready, dip each prawn in egg, then in the polenta, then drop into the oil. Do them in small batches so the temperature of the oil doesn’t drop. Drain on kitchen paper and keep warm.

Cook the burgers to your liking – couple of minutes each side. I turn them a few times as I’ve seen burgery expert people doing. Apparently it’s advisable to turn them as frequently as possible – knock yourself out. Melt the cheese slice on top after the final turn. Then it’s an assembly job. I won’t patronise you. Put the burger together with PLENTY of fry sauce.

Dan’s fry sauce (Dan’s recipe from Essex Eating)

Makes enough for 4 burgers

1 Tbs French’s classic yellow mustard
1 1/2 Tbs Heinz ketchup
2 Heaped Tbs Helmans mayonnaise
1 Tsp Colman’s English mustard
2 Heaped Tbs finely chopped gherkins or cornichons,
2 Dashes Tabasco
Dash Worcester sauce
Grind of Pepper

Mix it all together.

48 comments » | Burgers, Guilty Pleasures, Meat, Sandwiches, Sauces, Sauces, Condiments and Spreads, Seafood, Shellfish

The Best Ever Method for De-Veining Prawns

September 3rd, 2012 — 1:35pm

This is one for the cooks amongst you. I may be the last person in the world to learn this technique for de-veining prawns but judging by the recipes out there, I don’t think that’s the case. You may think this not worth writing about but for a geek like me, it’s gold dust. De-veining prawns used to be one of my most hated kitchen tasks; so fiddly. The technique of slicing down the back and removing the tract which invariably broke into two or more pieces…

Well, forget all that, because I recently heard about THE TOOTHPICK METHOD. Here’s a video of how to do it which I found on Youtube. It’s not the greatest vid in the world but it does show the method quite cleary if you skip to about 38 seconds through. Basically you just insert a toothpick in the right place, press gently upward with your thumb then ease the tract out in its entirety. Not only is it very easy, it is mega, mega satisfying. One of the worst kitchen jobs turned into one of the best; it’s not often one can make such a statement.

15 comments » | Seafood, Shellfish, Techniques

Louisiana Crab Cakes with Celeriac Remoulade

February 15th, 2012 — 7:44pm

I’ve really fallen for the food of Louisiana since making a po’ boy last week. The spice mix sent to me by @Laissezchef is excellent and in order to find a way of getting more of it into my hungry, hungry face, I decided to make me some crab cakes, Southern style.

Although I enjoy the odd British, potato bolstered fish cake, I’ve never really been mad keen. Often they’re more potato than fish, making them bland and heavy. American fish (or in this case, crab) cakes, rarely use any such filler, and if they do, its usually breadcrumbs, which give a much lighter result. The differences don’t stop there however, and there’s one ingredient that’s always put me off: mayonnaise. Mayonnaise INSIDE the fish cake. There’s just something about the idea of it that’s always made me feel slightly nauseous but I decided to bite the bullet and, as the Americans would say, suck it up.

It turns out that the mayo is magic, binding with real silkiness – hardly surprising since it is essentially a load of oil. This probably should bother me, but since these are hardly healthy by the time they’ve been fried anyway I made the decision to get over it.

I used a mixture of white and brown meat (the latter adding so much flavour), so that the end result was incredibly, well, crabby. Rich and decadent, with the sweetness of the mellowed red pepper playing off the crab, and a punchy background of herbs and spring onion, which, to my huge relief, didn’t overwhelm. Fried in a mixture of polenta and a little more of that Louisiana spice, the coating turned out really crunchy – a lovely contrast to the soft innards.

To go with, a celeriac remoulade. I just love celeriac raw, never more so than bound with a good, home-made mayo. To tart it up, chopped pickled gherkins, herbs, a good whack of mustard and a generous souring with lemon juice plus my new favourite ingredient, juice from the pickle jar.

As always when faced with the leftovers, my thoughts turned to sandwiches. First came the obvious, crab cake, remoulade and hot sauce; second came a deluxe fish finger number (above). Hubba hubba.

Louisiana Crab Cakes with Celeriac Remoulade (makes 12, easily halved)

450g cooked white and brown crab meat (fresh crab is pricey, so if you want to make these more affordable, tinned crab white meat would be an option)
5 spring onions, very finely chopped (white and green parts)
1 red pepper, very finely chopped
2 sticks celery, very finely chopped
1-2 tablespoons chives, very finely chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, very finely chopped (optional)
100g fresh white breadcrumbs
2-3 tablespoons mayonnaise (I made my own, recipe here)
1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon New Orleans spice mix (e-mail to purchase)

Polenta plus a little more spice mix, for coating
Oil, for frying

Soften the red pepper and celery very gently for about 15 minutes until lovely and soft but not coloured. Set aside and allow to cool.

Pick through the crab meat to check for any pieces of shell, then place in a large bowl. Add all the other ingredients, including the softened veg (when cool), plus some salt and pepper. Mix well and taste for seasoning.

Form into cakes and set aside to chill in the fridge for an hour.

After this time, cover a plate with polenta, then add another half tablespoon of spice and mix it together. Coat each crab cake by turning it over in the mixture and dusting off any excess.

Heat about 2cm vegetable, groundnut or other frying oil in a heavy based frying pan and cook the cakes for a few minutes each side until golden and crisp. Cook them in batches of 3 or 4, so as not to crowd the pan and lower the temperature of the oil. Drain on kitchen paper then keep warm in a low oven while you cook the remaining cakes.

Celeriac Remoulade

1/2 small celeriac, peeled
1 quantity 2 egg yolk mayo (recipe here)
3 sweet pickled gherkins, very finely chopped
1 tablespoon chives, very finely chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, very finely chopped
1 tablespoon sweet American mustard
1 teaspoon hot sauce
Juice of 1 lemon
A little juice from the pickle jar
Salt

Squeeze the lemon juice into a large bowl. To deal with the celeriac, peel it, then cut it into fine matchsticks. I have a nifty peeler which makes lovely little strands out of vegetables. I realise most of you lot probably don’t own one of these, so I’m sorry but you’ll have to slog it out with the knife. Don’t be tempted to grate the celeriac unless you have a really good, coarse grater, because it will go all claggy and horrible when mixed with the mayo; it needs to retain bite. So, once you have your strands, toss immediately in the lemon juice to prevent discolouration.

Mix in all the other ingredients, adjusting the seasoning as you go; you may want more hot sauce, more mustard, more salt etc.

39 comments » | Fish and Seafood, Sandwiches, Sauces, Condiments and Spreads, Seafood, Shellfish, Side Dishes, Vegetables

Shrimp Po’ Boys

February 8th, 2012 — 7:56am

I have a major soft spot for classic American sandwiches (no surprises there) and recently I’ve been focused on tracking down one of the all time greats – the po’ boy – in London. It’s been a fruitless endeavour, a particular low point being my recent experience at The Diner, in Soho. I left feeling queasy, cheated and strongly convinced I should try making one at home. A po’ boy, in case you’re not familiar, is a sandwich originating from Louisiana, so called because it was once the staple food of labourers – the poor boys. There are many variations but the most common fillings seem to be roast beef, fried shrimp or fried oysters. A ‘dressed’ po’ boy (like this one) comes loaded with lettuce, tomato, a piquant mayo, pickles, onion and hot sauce. Gimme.

As always when one delves into these things, I found that the question of what makes an authentic po’ boy is a sensitive one. The bread should, apparently, be a New Orleans French style baguette but I had a lot of trouble finding a good looking recipe and there seems to be controversy around the idea of the perfect crust and interior texture. Some argue that it’s impossible for home cooks to ever replicate an authentic New Orleans bread outside the area, as it’s the high humidity and unique climate in general (partly below sea level) that make the bread just so, while others say it’s the unique properties of the water. It was at this point I gave up (I’m sure you understand) and decided that a nice soft sub roll wouldn’t be the end of the world and in fact would work nicely against the crunch of fried prawns. After a failed attempt with a duff recipe, I played around and came up with a roll I was happy with – soft and sweet with a decent sturdy crust.

I bought some fat, fresh prawns and seasoned them with a mixture of polenta/cornmeal (no sweet ‘n sour chicken ball-esque batter this time, The Diner) and a fantastic New Orleans spice blend I was sent by Richard Myers, a Louisiana native. It’s a mixture of Red Sea salt; garlic; onion; spices, including paprika; white, black and red peppers; citrus; thyme; oregano and rosemary. Phew. It’s incredibly intense and seriously tasty.

I loaded the subs with a bed of shredded lettuce followed by the crisp, spicy fried prawns and plenty of  home-made mayo mixed with chopped pickles, onion, mustard and parsley, thinned and soured with pickle juice and lemon. As per the videos of famous po’ boy vendors I watched on YouTube, I finished the sandwich with an extra splash of hot sauce. Wow. The Americans really have invented some incredible sandwiches. This was a world apart from that grim recreation I suffered weeks earlier; it winds me up, the way people take a beautiful idea and make it as cheaply and with as little love as possible. I’ve never been to Louisiana, and this recipe may not be entirely authentic, but I can promise you that it was made, and eaten, with a Whole Lotta Love.

Shrimp Po’ Boys

For the subs (makes 4)

1 packet fast action dried yeast
20g caster sugar
225ml warm water
25 butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon salt
375g plain flour
1 egg white
Sesame seeds

Dissolve the sugar in the water, add the yeast and leave to activate. Melt the butter and allow to cool almost completely. In the mixing bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook (or of course you could mix by hand), combine the flour, yeast mixture, butter and salt.

Knead really well, then cover with cling film and allow to rise until doubled in size. After this time, lightly dust 2 greased baking trays with polenta/cornmeal then split the dough into four and shape into long sub-shapes. Slash each several times with a knife, brush over egg white then sprinkle with sesame seeds. Let double in size again.

Bake at 200C for about 18-20 minutes or until golden brown all over.

For the prawns

6 raw king prawns per person, shelled and de-veined
Polenta/cornmeal
New Orleans seasoning, available from Richard Myers (e-mail to purchase)
Beaten egg

Spread a plate with a mixture of 3 tablespoons polenta to 2 scant tablespoons New Orleans seasoning. Dip each prawn in the egg, followed by the seasoning mix.

Deep fry the prawns for 2-4 minutes, depending on size. You can also shallow fry them, but make sure you have a couple of cm of oil in the pan and turn them over halfway through. Drain on kitchen paper.

For the mayo

2 egg yolks
Oil (vegetable or groundnut are both good but don’t use olive oil, certainly not extra virgin)
2 chopped sweet dill pickles
1 teaspoon American mustard
1/2 finely chopped red onion
Juice of 1/2- 1 whole lemon
1 teaspoon juice from the pickle jar
Chopped parsley
Salt and pepper

Put the egg yolks in a clean bowl and whisk them together. Whisk in the oil, adding a few drops at a time and making sure each bit of oil is fully incorporated before adding the next. As you whisk in more oil and the mayo starts to thicken, you can start adding it in very slightly larger quantities until you are steadily adding it in a thin stream. The key with mayo is to be cautious with the oil until you get a feel for making it. If you add too much at once, it will split. If this happens, don’t despair. Take a fresh egg yolk in a clean bowl and begin adding the split mixture into it, very slowly, just as if it were the oil. This should bring it back.

Add all the other ingredients, adjusting to taste (e.g. you may want a little more lemon juice, a little more salt)

To dress the po’ boy

Split and toast the sub, then load with shredded lettuce (I used little gem), the prawns, the mayo and a dribble of (mild) hot sauce. It’s traditional to use tomatoes I believe, but I just couldn’t face it when there was snow on the ground. DEVOUR!

26 comments » | Sandwiches, Seafood

Mussels with Bacon and Punk IPA

September 15th, 2011 — 8:37am

Clack, clackity clack; I love the sound of mussels being stirred in a pan. It’s one of the best kitchen sounds in my opinion, up there with The Sizzle and The Plop. In fact, I don’t know why I’m not eating more mussels when they’re cheap (£3.50 per kilo from Soper’s in Nunhead) and they cook really fast.

I’m also drawn to them because they just love to be cooked with a bit of booze. I like that in my ingredients. A splash of white wine of course is essential in moules marinières but I wanted something different and one of my favourite beers immediately sprang to mind: Punk IPA by Brewdog. It’s an astonishing beer, really. The first time you drink it your eyes go wide with shock at just how different it is from all the others; at once bitter and sweet, it has a floral flavour that really works well with the mussels.

A big bowl of mussels is of course extremely good fun to pick through, made all the better by the knowledge that you’ve got a loaf of good bread to sop up those juices.

The very best thing about this recipe though, is that Punk IPA cans come in packs of 4, so you can drink the other 3.

Mussels with Bacon and Punk IPA

1kg fresh mussels
1 stick celery, finely chopped
1 white onion, finely chopped
4 rashers thick cut smoked bacon, diced (get some nice bits of fat in there)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 can Brewdog Punk IPA (you can buy it from Sainsbury’s, Morrison’s and Utobeer in Borough Market for the Londoners. Also, online in bottles).
1/2 lemon
Small handful parsley leaves, roughly chopped

Crusty bread, to serve

Put your mussels in a colander and scrub them under cold running water to remove any dirt from the outside. Knock off any barnacles you can and remove any gritty beards by pulling them. Discard any mussels which do not close when you give them a sharp tap on a hard surface and also any that have broken shells.

Heat a little oil in a pan large enough to hold the mussels and add the bacon, onion, celery and garlic and cook, stirring until the bacon is beginning to crisp up. Add the beer and some black pepper and bring to the boil, then add the mussels. Put the lid on and cook on a high heat for about 5 minutes, giving the pan a shake now and then, until the mussels have steamed open. Discard any mussels that don’t open.

Sprinkle with the parsley, squeeze over the lemon, and serve with the bread.

16 comments » | Beer, Seafood, Shellfish, Uncategorized

Salmon Tartare

April 28th, 2011 — 2:38pm

 

I’ve been enjoying the luxury of a few days off, taking full advantage of the fact that I can wander up to the fishmonger whenever I damn well feel like it. Yesterday, I craved something light but still a bit special; salmon tartare seemed to fit the bill.

I’ve long been of the opinion that salmon is best eaten raw. It has such a firm, silky texture and a clean flavour. When heat is applied, there is a very fine line between perfectly semi-translucent flakes and minging mush. This recipe is of course a fishy variation on beef tartare. The flavours are pretty much the same; tangy ingredients like capers and gherkins, herbs, onion and Tabasco all go as well with salmon as they do with beef, although you’ll want to skip the standard raw egg yolk. With fish, I think it’s nicer to cut chunks rather than mincing it quite small as you would with meat.

This is a lovely way to eat salmon in the summer when you want something cool and refreshing or can’t bear the thought of heat from a grill. Just make sure to buy your fish from a good fishmonger and let them know you’ll be eating it raw; although the citrus juice will partly cook the fish, you want the freshest piece possible.

I sometimes do an Asian twist on this, swapping lemon for lime juice and using shallot, chilli, coriander, soy and sesame oil. If you try this variation, mackerel works really well in place of salmon.

Salmon Tartare (feeds 1 greedy person)

200g salmon fillet, skinned (make sure to check with the fishmonger that it can be eaten raw)
1/2-1 teaspoon red onion or shallot, very finely chopped
1/2 – 1 teaspoon capers, very finely chopped
1/2 – 1 teaspoon parsley, very finely chopped
1 small gherkin, very finely chopped
A squeeze of lemon juice
A few shakes of Worcestershire sauce
A few shakes of Tabasco
Salt and pepper

Chop the salmon into small chunks. Mix in all the other ingredients then cover and let sit for about 10 minutes. Stir again and serve with toasted rye or other bread. You may want to add more condiments after tasting.

12 comments » | Fish, Fish and Seafood, Main Dishes, Seafood, Starters

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