Thursday, 28 January 2010

How I Destroyed My Pan Collection (Part 1)

Once upon a time I had a fragrant home and a drawer full of lovely shiny pans. Alas no longer: the house reeks and the bin is full of cookware - and it's all down to my pursuit of the perfect oriental salmon.

I write this in loving memory of my griddle.

Let us begin this sorry saga with the tale of Salmon Marinated in Den Miso (How To Eat).

I should have known better: miso and I have history. For many years I had heard folk eulogise about the mythical black cod in miso. I was not tempted for cod is not a fish I hold any fondness for. It works in fish fingers but otherwise it is bottom of my list of piscine delights.

But then, at a family function, everything changed. Black cod in miso set before me and I too discover that this is surely the most delectable dish on the planet.

Suddenly my dreams were filled with oriental delights and with a trip to taste the fabled Nobu dish out of my impecunious reach, I looked up their recipe on the internet and figured I'd do it myself. First the purchase of all the necessary ingredients: white miso paste, mirin, sake. Then the fish - and with Tesco not exactly having the great range of Japanese exotics I plumped for the poor relation, the bog standard cod. A major error on my part.

I boiled my paste. I anointed the fish. I covered and marinated for several days. I prepared the accompaniment of sushi rice and green vegetables and then I cooked.

Two mouthfuls later the whole lot was in the bin and we were making toast. Bleurgh.

Many months later, when I could once again contemplate miso without feeling faintly nauseous, I came across Nigella's aforementioned recipe and loving salmon as I do, figured this could be the answer.

Trouble is, the oriental supermarket round the corner had now closed down and miso paste was no longer so easy to find in this neck of the woods. The salmon sat slowly decomposing in the fridge throughout my search and then triumph! In the nick of time, on the very day of the "use before" I proudly bore home my trophy and poured, mixed and bubbled to make my sweet smelling marinade, following the instructions to the letter. Until... "marinate the fish for 48 hours"???????

Perhaps I should have read the recipe in full before starting my labours for now I faced a conundrum - leave the fish another two days but risk killing ourselves? Or speed up the process to five hours, 35 minutes? I chose the latter.

That evening I griddled as instructed and a heady aroma filled the house. And stayed. For three days.

The fish itself? Sublime, divine, and any other complimentary adjective you care to throw at it. But the pan was history, congealed with sweet stickiness for just too long (the salmon took a good 10 mins to cook through). No amount of soaking or scrubbing could save it and so I bid it farewell, with grateful thanks for many years of service and the realisation that by the time you factor in a replacement, it would have been cheaper to go to Nobu after all.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Bad bad bad (and good good good)

Am very bad person. Blog has taken a back seat to more glamorous projects (new book!) though the cooking has continued. So time to play catch up with the results.

First up - oooh, let's go for Smoked Trout Pate (Nigella Express)

I was asked to provide a starter for 17 for a festive meal. The instructions were "not soup, you're coming late so not something that needs a lot of heating". Helpful eh?

I was thinking canapes - trays of glam bites that would wow everyone in sight. But on a practical level (not least in terms of reheating/assembly/transportation/gradual soggification) that plan ended up in the bin.

So taking a gamble that no one had anything against fish I went for two simple options. One: tiny squares of pumpernickel topped with cream cheese and smoked salmon (a winner). And two: the aforementioned pate.

Simple is an understatement: shove cheese, olive oil, fish, lemon juice and cayenne pepper into a processor. Whizz it around for a bit and hey presto. Delicious in the extreme and plaudits all round.

As appears to be my wont, I omitted one ingredient. Didn't put in any horseradish because I figured the rest of the jar would rot at the back of the fridge and in my new, improved, waste-not regime that's a no no. But it was mighty fine even without and indeed the baby and I made it again yesterday, she sampling each ingredient first (bar the cayenne pepper - she may be too young to call Child Line but I figured it might be classed as cruelty nonetheless).

"Oooh salmon" she said enthusiastically. "yum yum bubblegum"

I did start to explain the difference between salmon and trout but a) figured at 20 months it's not up there on her need-to-know list and b) ran out of things to say after "one's a bit bigger than the other".