Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Oriental-ish Fish

There are some days when, upon returning from another day of existential pondering over what precisely you are doing trapped in front of a computer crunching meaningless data, you just crave some order and satisfying neatness in the kitchen.

On days such as these, you might feel like chopping things into sharp little sticks, and heaping them in smart little piles, before distributing them in terrifically neat parcels... The order of the veggies on the chopping board will ease the ache of day-to-day tedium in your temples and restore a certain calm to your being.

If such is the case, you might want to consider making a dish such as this. It's nothing fancy; a little bit Supermarket magazine actually - a 'Speedy Supper' kind of thing. But it was exciting for me, as I'd never cooked salmon in a foil parcel before (really? yes, really!). And besides, I was feeling a need for some soothing chopping and ordering of the aforementioned variety. As added benefits, it turned out to be not only pretty easy but also perfectly satisfying and tasty.

I'm calling it Oriental-ish because I make no claim to authenticity - the ginger, chilli, garlic, lemongrass, coconut and coriander are I imagine a westernised impression, a bastardisation if you will, of real Thai food.

But, it was damn good, so I'm happy enough with "ish" fish!

Oriental-ish Fish

for 2 parcels

2 salmon fillets
2 sticks of lemongrass
clove of garlic
knob of ginger
1 or 2 red chillies
1 red or yellow pepper
1 spring onion
1 carrot
(substitute other veg that can be cut into batons if you prefer)
handful of coriander leaves
1/4 block of creamed coconut
1 lime

to serve: thai fragrant rice and pak choi (or green veg of your choice)

* Preheat oven to gas 4-5
* Cut all the veg, the garlic, ginger and chilli into thin strips
* Divide 1/2 of the strips between two large sheets of foil. Bash the lemongrass sticks a little and add one to each sheet
* Skin your fillets, salt and pepper the fish
* Place fillets on top of veg on foil and top with remaining strips
* Pour 500ml boiling water on the creamed coconut block in a little bowl and stir until dissolved.
* Now, fold up the sides of the foil square a little bit so the coconut mix won't escape
* Pour enough coconut in to nearly cover the fillet, then crimp the sides of the parcel together so it is all closed up
* Place on a baking tray and pop in the oven for 20 minutes
* Meanwhile cook your rice and veg - I cook all rice the same and it seems to work - measure the rice out in a cup (approx 50g per person). Add exactly twice the amount of water (in volume - use the cup again). Put a lid on. Bring to the boil. Turn down as low as possible. Now leave for 20 minutes - DO NOT TAKE THE LID OFF until done. It should be sticky and fluffy and perfectly done (however this is a basmati method, so I'm always surprised when it works on other varieties. Don't blame me if it burns - maybe I have always fluked cooking rice!)

* To serve - open the foil parcels and put in all on a plate. Top with a handful of coriander leaves and a good squeeze of lime.

It's alive!

OK, I know I've posted a lot of fruit recently, but I promise this will be the last of that little un-anticipated series. I just can't help but share with you the bounty I found in the garden when I last went back to my parents' house.

Hidden pumpkin babies peeking out from the compost heap!

Showers of alien-looking blackberries next to the back fence!

A chandelier of crunchy apples!

Victoria plums diving off the trees every time the wind blows...

To me, being amongst green and growing things is a pure and unadulterated pleasure in itself. But when those growing things bear food, alive in the earth which nurtured it, it's doubly good.

Of Biscuits and Blogging

So I made some Anzac biscuits from a recipe I copied out of a BBC collection of recipes one rainy afternoon in a bookshop somewhere.

They were a little burnt round the edges but thick and oaty and golden-syrupy; satisfyingly different to any shop-bought biscuits.

They went down well with a cup of tea, and they went down well with B.

But I looked at my amateur photos and I considered the unadulterated recipe with its six simple ingredients, and I felt slightly disappointed in these honest, humble, plain chunks of biscuitness.

They weren't, you see, blog-standard food. At least not in my eyes. And with work and studying and so on it's not so often nowadays that I get to really make any food. And without home internet currently, it's even less often that I get to post.

So I've been fretting. It is my wont, as concerns projects and so on. I always want them to be something that it inevitably will not straightaway be. I have a lamentable lack of patience with these things...

But, what negates all that silly fretting is that I am really enjoying having a blog. And what I am enjoying about this project is that I am now actually doing it, rather than just planning it, and although at the moment the reality does not live up to the plans, it is by going through these starting stages that I will achieve what I initially envisaged. By cooking more I will cook better and by writing more I will write better.

So, I'm going to blog the slightly burned and not terribly inspired biscuits. They aren't anything super special, but they are good, and they are another brick in whatever I am building here.

Anzac biscuits
(Makes 20)

Preheat oven to 180C (160 for fan oven), gas 4

Put in a bowl:
- 3 oz oats
- 3 oz desiccated coconut
- 4 oz flour
- 4 oz caster sugar
and mix

Melt together:
-4 oz butter
-1.5 tbsp golden syrup

Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients gently

Put dessertspoons of the resulting mix on buttered tins about 1" apart

Bake for 8-10 minutes and cool on a rack