Basa Not

Basa fish

This fish is marketed similarly to cod and haddock, but I’m not sure it shares their reputations.

I bought two shrinkwrapped basa fillets from the Co-op (not the best start for a meal), and proceeded to egg and breadcrumb them – even using the classic Paxo, orange breadcrumbs, so they looked pretty perfect. Breadcrumbs were seasoned with a touch of salt (definitely needed more) and a heavy shower of mixed herbs.

It was a good idea, executed reasonably well. Tasted … Well … Not that good at all. The unfortunate basa fillets tasted vaguely of fish for a millisecond, then dissolved into a flavourless mush in the mouth. Unlike the meaty cod, the basa’s flesh breaks up into tiny strands, similar to skate. It’s an unexpected mouthfeel after the crispy outer shell.
Meal was shared with some homemade potato salad.

I threw the second breadcrumbed fillet in the freezer, but tonight I took it out. It definitely needed something. Preferably salty.

Using a tiny mound of breadcrumbs (left over), I mixed a larger handful of grated cheese, a serious pinch of salt and some mixed herbs. This dry mixture easily covered the surface of the fish and baked well as the oven defrosted the fillet and crisped it up.
Meal was eaten with a heap of homemade coleslaw and some capers.

Still no flavour *sigh*. The crust was nice.



Fact of the Day: Lox

Today’s lesser known fact comes courtesy of Nikki Segnit and her “The Flavour Thesaurus”.

Although many might think that lox is just another name for smoked salmon, in fact lox is cured in brine, and is not smoked.

Lox was taken to North America with Russian and Eastern European immigrants (late 19th century) and at about the same time, cream cheese began its popularity, hence the archetypal Jewish-American classic bagel, cream cheese and lox. YUM.

Note in the picture, the additional glories of capers (a must-try with any oily fish) and the chopped egg in the background (reminiscent of scrambled egg with smoked salmon, or scone topped with smoked salmon and the perfect little poached egg).

Picture c/o Flickr User laurapagett

Curry Night

The difference between cooking from a recipe book and working from your head is like being a busker who makes beautiful sounds in the street without sheet music and then puts on his tuxedo and plays precise, fast Mozart in a philharmonic orchestra. The skills are the same but the attitude’s different and you’re playing someone else’s beat.

There aren’t many days when I use a recipe to the letter, but when learning a style of cookery, it is essential to stick to the book. Curry isn’t curry unless you follow the rules. If you deviate before you are ready, all you have is a spicy stew.

Now most people will know that ‘curry’ was a watery stew invented for the sake of the delicate British palate, but the modern use of the word covers a vast array of dishes, from white chicken korma to Goa fish curry; egg curries, dried fruit curries and more besides. Far more than what you can find in a high street British Indian restaurant and way beyond the watery stew.

The book in question tonight is Carmellia Panjabi’s 50 Great Curries of India. It’s an unprepossessing book, but its pages dispense the magic of precise curry making with lovely pictures and if you are careful not to miss out any of the ingredients, it is possible to perfectly replicate the delicious concoctions inside.

A fast rundown of the recipe of the night: Panjabi’s Malabar Prawn Curry won’t do it justice, but it should give you the flavour of what you can expect if you part with £6 to obtain it for yourself from Amazon.

Mackerel Days

Fish is fabulous food, easy to digest, full of flavour and simple to incorporate into everyday cooking. Because we’ve somehow become a nation of fish haters, suspicious fears of bones and skin creeping into our everyday psyche, we’ve forgotten how good it can taste when it isn’t battered within an inch of its life.

The good news is that tinned fish is about as nutritious as fresh. Mackerel is wonderful out of a tin. Mix the spicy tomato sauce type with mushrooms, onion, garlic and chilli and eat with pasta for a cheap and sapiditous meal. (About 88p a tin in some supermarkets).

Plain mackerel is also good.

Break up one portion of tinned mackerel fillets (in sunflower oil is better, but brine is fine) in a bowl. Dice a small piece of onion, as much as to taste and add to the bowl with a few pieces of finely chopped chilli, a squeeze of lime, a scraping of lime zest and a pinch of salt. Mix together, not too thoroughly; it isn’t mackerel mush on the menu.

Toast half a tablespoon of fennel seeds in a small dry frying pan until they begin to pop (keep shaking the pan until they do, burning is NOT your friend). Pound the toasted seeds in your mortar, smelling the warm, heady licquorice from the forming powder. A teaspoon of this is all you need in your mackerel salad to give it a different flavour. It enhances the smoky quality of tinned mackerel and evokes warm open campfires and incense.  (Alternatively, add a teaspoon of ready powdered fennel, but it doesn’t do the same job.)

It’s best scooped into the cavities of Cos lettuce leaves (and in the case below, accompanied by a bit of caulislaw).