The philosophers amongst us may start to waffle on about the unattainability of perfection. They may rub their chins (in a sage-like fashion) and let us know that it is what is removed and what is tolerated that brings us close to attaining this Nirvana. Yet, when I decided to wrap a simple fish cake in smoked salmon, I came as they say, pretty damn close.
There are things that I love about food descriptions and things that I hate. In Oriental cookery, many of the descriptions are truly evocative and allude to history and culture in equal measure. Great examples include “General Tso’s Chicken”. This evokes thoughts of the great Zuo Zongtang, a Qing dynasty statesman and military leader. That’s as far as it goes as there is no known connection to him or the dish in his home province of Hunan. This dish is punching above it’s cultural weight as it really is just a sweet, sticky American chicken with rice. Then we have “Man and Wife Beef”, “Squirrel Fish” and the classic “100 Year Old Egg”. Great names all. But, sometimes possibly going wide of the trade descriptions act.
In my earlier days, I worked in the advertising business. Back then, it wasn’t frequent but not unusual to be involved in TV shoots that would last for days on end. The anticipation of working “on a shoot” added to the street cred that it gave one in the pub. Even I succumbed on occasion to saying things like “It may look like a lot of fun, but, it’s hard work.” “The ‘talent’ can be difficult to manage.” or “He’s one of the most gifted producers in world film today. We’re really lucky to have secured him for this paint commercial.” In fact, working on a big budget TV commercial back in the days of 35mm film was a royal pain in the arse. Unplugging a light could stop a commercial for hours as union labour rights were reestablished. Not having a ‘chippie’ (carpenter) on set could send the project south altogether. Everything seemed to take an age. For the hapless client service executive (me) it meant hours of sitting around doing nothing but being on high alert in case the client wanted anything. God forbid that the customer requested a change at the last minute. That would surely send the day’s shoot into overtime and lead to a vast bill with everybody involved (except me and the client) getting paid a big bonus. The best thing about those days was hearing the director call “It’s a wrap.”
Life can be difficult. Though, it has a habit of heaping more of the stinky stuff on some less fortunate than others. As I write this, I feel compelled to give examples. Think of poor Donald Trump, unqualified, unhinged (if his Twitter feed is anything to go by) and unable to run the country. Think also of poor Viv Nicholson, the “Spend, Spend, Spend” lady who’s dreams came true when she and her husband won a €3,000,000+ (at today’s rates) prize on the British Football Pools. Dream turned to nightmare when the consequences of instant wealth and a propensity for splashing the cash conspired against her. She died in 2015, having had a brief spell in the tabloid spotlight, followed by an extremely difficult time in obscurity and poverty. Think too of people like me, who recognise that it doesn’t have to be that hard. It usually is not the stuff that comes our way but the way in which we handle it that defines us. So, when a large bag of frozen Argentinian prawns came my way, I had an opportunity to win big and do some good.
We were on a trip to the North of Spain recently, flying into the beautiful city of Santander and travelling to the regional capital Oviedo. If your view of Spain is formed by drinking copious pints of Watneys Red Barrel and eating the all-day English breakfast down on the Costa Del Sol, then you need to broaden your horizons and travel north to Asturias.
This little delight might just as well be titled “Mantis Prawn V Monkfish – The battle of the uglies.” In truth, I had intended doing Mantis Prawns and Black Beans”. Never having cooked the crusty, ugly little crustaceans before, I didn’t reckon on them being so difficult to cook. The cooking bit is pretty easy (boil the blighters). But, getting the meat out of the shells proved to be impossible.
A good few months ago, I cooked a meaty chunk of halibut sous vide. I did it at 55°C for 30 minutes. It was super wonderful. When in the fishmonger’s recently, I saw a perfectly excellent piece of large halibut steak, carved from a giant
The traditionalists amongst you might be a bit horrified at the prospect of drinking red wine with fish. Particularly with a fish as ‘white’ as hake. The key is the other ingredients in this sort of stew / soup / bowl of deliciousness. When you have got over your shock at my suggestion of red wine with fish, I encourage you to try Poached Hake in Tomato and Red Wine Sauce. Anybody who enjoys a good read will love preparing this.
Should this really be all about the fish? The salmon is nothing spectacular though it was pretty tasty. All that was involved in the prep was to sprinkle it with some piment d’Espelette and whack it under a medium grill. Should it be about the wine? All that was involved there was putting a bottle of Gewurztraminer in the fridge and pulling the cork later. Should it be about the dhal? Perhaps it should. But, the thing of which I am most proud is the ingredients photo. She’s a beauty!
A short while ago, my friend Katia, who, amongst other things, administers the Irish Food Bloggers group on Facebook, wrote a very engaging piece about posting while on the bus. She was a bit freaked out by a guy who appeared to be staring her out. She focussed on the posting and all worked out well in the end. “What has this got to do with Cod with Turmeric?” you say. Very little except for the fact that I’m typing this while sitting in a hotel lobby, early for a meeting, and I am totally convinced that the guy opposite me is giving me the glad eye!