The Banner Image to This Blog Pt2 – A Load of Dead Fish

As I said in the comment to pt1, the answer is “c. A load of dead fish”, imaged though a fishmongers window in Bergen, Norway. Actually, it’s dried cod. Apparently, they are dried on racks. I travelled on Hurtigruten (the coastal ferry service) up and down the coast but don’t recall seeing such a sight. But they must be popular as the fishmongers shop window, which I imaged here, is full of them!  As to how to use such a delicacy, I have no idea.

Any one who saw a recent episode of the Hairy Bikers Bakecation will have seen what a spectacular place Norway is. I can vouch for it too.

Two years ago I joined the Hurtigruten Ferry Nordlys on a personal expedition to see the Northern lights. The coastline is amazing. The food was fun too, and not just the pastries.

If, like me, you are a fan of the discovery programme “Deadliest Catch” then you will know all about the King Crab and the lengths fishermen go to catch them. What you may not know is that Russia introduced them to their own waters to produce a food source. The crabs were so successful in breeding that they have migrated to Norway and also provide a living for some Norwegian fishermen too. Ugly buggers aren’t they?

Another great discovery was this berry wine, cloudberry I think? maybe crowberry? maybe something else, Jolly nice stuff though, and to me much better than the local Aquavit spirit which didn’t really hit my spot.

The crew kindly dished out this wine as a sweetener to the awful Cod Liver oil we were forced to endure to win a little spoon to mark our crossing of the Arctic line.

Cod liver oil is kind of hard to describe. Best I can do is to say it is a bit like having one’s mouth stuffed with dead fish. Awful. The things one has to endure in the adventure of travel. The wine was not enough to erase the taste I can tell you. I had to retreat to my cabin for a large neat scotch to rid the flavour. One lady enthusiastically told me that, amongst other things, it also acts as a kind of Norwegian version of viagra. I’ll take her word for it.

Not surprisingly, reindeer meat seemed to be very popular. Much lighter than venison I’d say. Somewhere between lamb and venison. Here’s a typical plateful,


The bottom line is that I took this cruise to see the northern lights, not to indulge in gastronomy. However, I saw enough to know that the Norwegians are clever and inventive when it comes to taking best advantage of what they have available. I suspect that we could learn a lot from them. In fact it is a reminder to me to try to be as inventive myself right here in Somerset. Just one word of warning though, watch out for the beer prices, ouch!

Wild Salmon Fillets in a Whisky and Cream Sauce

I’m reminded that it will soon be time to renew my fishing license.

A fishing story: Wild Salmon fillets in a whisky and cream sauce

It’s late in the afternoon and the light is starting to fade. The cloud is now hanging low and grey. Rain is in the air. The river continues to flow its powerful, steady course mid-way between the mountains and the Loch. The double-handed fishing rod is now starting to feel heavy in my hands as I roll out yet another fruitless cast across the water. Donald, the gillie, takes a small swig from his flask.

“Di nay . People wait years for a fish. Ah went three year wi’oot a bite
some years back.”

This is not helping my morale.

“They dinna eat on tha spawn ye knows. It’s a mystery why they take the fly”

I already know this. But the reality is that I still don’t have a fish. The Scottish air is getting colder and sharper. The toes in my waders are feeling numb and the light is fading faster. Time for one last cast. Donald takes off his cap and detaches his Hairy Mary. The one his father used and, who knows, maybe his grand father too. He quickly and expertly attaches the fly to the leader. This time I retreat to nearer the bank and cast upstream allowing the fly to flow down with the river. As the fly approaches the pool I start giving short measured tugs to the fly. In an instant, I see a silver flash and hear a splash. The fish has taken the fly. Twenty minutes later the fish is in the net and we stagger on to the bank in triumphant elation and a celebratory swig.

The light is disappearing fast. It’s raining. We phone ahead to the castle and give the staff the night off and head for the nearby fishing lodge. At the lodge we light the fire in the grate, put the fine beast on the kitchen table and take stock of our situation.

The options are limited as the kitchen (in reality, just a small cooking area) is small and basic. My preferred option of poaching is not a possibility. However, we still have some basic vegetables left over from lunch, bread, butter, some double cream and of course, being Scotland, plenty of whisky. Donald collects some fresh wild thyme from near the door and fires up the range. Meanwhile, I prepare a couple of fillets from the fish. This is what we did:

1. Pan fry the fillets (skin on) in a little butter.
2. Flambe in a little scotch whisky. We used Talisker. The smokey, peaty taste of the Isla malts is perfect for this.


3. Remove the fillets to a warm plate.
4. Finish the sauce with more butter, cream, lemon juice and the thyme.


5. Serve.

The flavors of the sauce are quite strong, so this works best with wild salmon.

The sharp-eyed will notice the pics have parsley, not thyme. The pics came later. Personally, I think it works better with parsley.

DearMartiniKitchen

A while ago a good friend and a good friend of my good friend had this idea for a phone app. The idea was to produce an encycolpedia of short instructional video’s on cooking techniques. I should point out at this point that they are both very experienced teaching chefs so they know what they are about!

Anyway, to cut a long blog post short, they are now in to the full swing of it.  I’m pleased to be able to say that I really like these short video’s. They have developed a great style. Some may say I’m biased, but when it comes to food matters I do try to leave biase out of it! They are well worth checking out.

http://www.youtube.com/user/DearMartiniKitchen/videos

 

 

Vinaigrette – A Personal Note

Everyone knows the basic vinaigrette right? One part vinegar or lemon juice to three parts oil. Classic, simple, great. But here’s the thing. In this country (UK) that generally turns into a heavy, throat raking combination of balsamic vinegar and virgin olive oil. No, no, no. You might get away with that with a really strong piece of red meat or heavily smoked fish, but for everything else it is horrible. I don’t care what some pompous, over trained, self centered tv chef might do to look good on tv, it’s horrible. For a start most balsamic sold in supermarkets is rubbish. Unless it’s the very top quality stuff that has been properly matured and cared for it’s not even good enough for chips. You may just as well use the value brand malt vinegar and save some money. Similar story for virgin olive oil.

So, what should you do? You do this:

Spend time and effort finding a good vinegar. What your looking for is something that will impart a light fruity aroma and taste. What your trying to achieve is a nice yummy fruity taste and not that awful grating on the tongue and the back of the throat. It mustn’t overwhelm the item you put it on. Personally, I use rice wine vinegar or cider vinegar. The light, low acidity of cider vinegar from Burrow Hill is wonderful. Next, find an oil that acts as a complimentary vehicle to transport the flavour of your chosen vinegar. Personally, I use groundnut oil or the lightest olive oil I can find. Add in a little sugar and salt to taste. Experiment with the ratio. For, me 1:4 is normally just fine. Finally, don’t swamp your food in it (less is more).

Red Kidney Bean Salad

A great salad to have with a piece of cold chicken: one small can red kidney beans well rinsed and drained, a well diced mushroom, a well diced tomato, 1/3 well diced bell pepper, some well diced onion, a couple of table spoons of a very light vinaigrette. Put all the ingredients in to a tupperware box and shake well. Serve. The ingredients must be very fresh and the vinaigrette must be very light. Be careful not to overdue the vinaigrette. Diabetics will note how low all the ingredients are on the GI index.