I’ve been having fun. I’m developing a new show which is sort-of going to be a sequel to the current show but which won’t be a ‘part two’ that one won’t be able to enjoy without having seen the first. It’s called Anarchist Cook again, but with the addition of ‘Second Helpings’. At least that’s the working title at the moment. I’ve other titles in my arsenal (‘Extra Portions’, ‘Nicely Seasoned’, ‘Well seasoned’, ‘Urban Forager’…).
Needless to say the show is going to be another cooking show and cooking once again using unconventional methods and non-culinary appliances and equipment. So I’ve been playing around with tools, office equipment, and ingredients.
This is a single scallop, which I cooked in its shell. I placed a tiny knob of butter on it and blasted it for about a minute each side with a DeWalt DW340 paint stripping gun. Once beautifully caramelised I sprinkled it with a little smoked sea salt, a pinch of dill, some pepper and a squeeze of lemon. It was honestly one of the nicest things I’ve ever eaten in my life.
I played with the DeWalt heat gun again with this piece of sirloin. Rubbed with a little olive oil and then blasted, the meat sitting in on the blade of a shovel. I made a chimichurri of sorts with olive oil, lemon, garlic, chilli and dried oregano and shaved in some raw fennel using a Stanley wood-workers plane. And then sliced tomato (sliced with a junior hacksaw).
A plumbers blow torch cooked this fillet of rainbow trout, crisping up the skin. It was simply dressed with a smear of wasabi and a splash of soy sauce.
This linguine was made using an Elpine desktop paper shredder. Perfect 3mm ribbons. Boiled in a kettle, dressed with uht cream pots, parmesan, garlic, salt and pepper. And a pinch of chopped parsley.
The other fillet of trout (1st fillet blasted with heat – see above) was poached simply in a Morphy Richards Voyager 800 travel kettle. Poached trout skin isn’t as appetising as poached bass or bream skin so that was removed before the fish was dressed with a smear of english mustard (from a sachet), soy sauce, mint, chilli and cracked black pepper.
And finally, another steak again cooked in the shovel blade with the DeWalt gun. This was a Bavette steak. Once cooked it was topped with a few slices of gorgonzola and some toasted walnuts (toasted alongside the steak) before being sprinkled with some fresh red chilli and parsley.
I promise you all, ‘Anarchist Cook Two’ is going to taste really really good!
Oh, and a final note. Of course ‘Anarchist Cook’ (show one) is very good too, in fact it’s brilliant and has won awards and garnered rave reviews and stars-galore and toured the world and all that, and is still touring, so do have a look at the website HERE to see where it’s playing. There’s lots of dates still pending all over the country, as well as a rather nice mini-tour of the Scottish Highlands. The last and ONLY remaining chance to see it in London will be on March 15 and 16 at the Soho Theatre, in the main theatre space, at 8:30pm. It’s a big theatre and it’d be a pity not to fill it, so please do come if you can, and bring some/all of your friends/associates/family/work-mates… Here’s a link to tickets for those dates.
I frequently reprimand myself for not taking advantage of my geographical good fortune and harvesting more from the sea. In the last few years I’ve started foraging from the land, making all sorts with elderflowers, sloes, crab apples and wild garlic to name a few, but apart from a couple of mackerel caught a good few years ago I’ve really not got anything from the water. And there’s so much for the taking. We know a couple who used to have a boat, just a little rowing dinghy, which they’d take out fishing. But even better than that they’d invested in a few lobster pots and they told us of one summer when they actually caught so many they were giving them away as they didn’t know what to do with them. Free food. I love it.
Last night we had the next best thing. My son’s girlfriend works for Waitrose. (Well, if we’re going to be accurate about it, John Lewis being a partnership, she works at Waitrose, or with Waitrose as opposed to for them). I’ve mentioned the reductions in Waitrose before (HERE). They’re a shop that seems to deliver when it comes to knocking stuff down and if you can get in at the right time of day you can often walk away with something outrageous. Christmas Eve is even more incredible than usual, but be careful as a couple of years ago I had a bargain joint of beef taken out of my trolley by another shopper. I was incensed! Certain as I was that I knew who’d done it I didn’t have the balls to confront them but instead walked around the shop seething, my Christmas spirit evaporating as I imagined what I could have done if I had the guts. But those close-to-sell-by-date treats which aren’t snapped up by the eager bargain-hunters get reduced even further once the shop closes and the staff can help themselves, getting in addition their staff (partner) discount. I understand there’s a temptation to hide stuff that you’ve really got your eye on and to then get it out when it’s too late to sell it to customers, but I think the penalties if you’re caught are pretty severe so you have to be careful. You don’t want to be dragged through the courts by your tabard.
The upshot of all this is that Jade (the aforementioned girlfriend of my eldest) frequently comes home from work with meat and/or fish at a snip of the price, and yesterday was a prime example. She came over yesterday bearing a joint of Aberdeen Angus top rump and, get ready, four (count them) Maine lobster tails. Nice.
I confess that I woefully over-cooked the beef. I rarely do joints of meat rare favouring the long slow-cooked approach with cheaper cuts (see HERE for Pork Belly, HERE for Brisket, and HERE for Pulled Pork – though the Pulled Pork is just a photograph) and thinking it’d been in the oven for a short spell it still came out rather grey all the way through. Tasted good though and the sauce I made was nice. And I know how to rescue what’s left. (Beef Stroganoff, but that’ll have to wait until another blog).
The star was the lobster, which, as is the way when it comes to good ingredients, we barely did anything with. Lobster with Spaghetti and an ingredients list you can count on one hand, as long as you’re happy to include olive oil and lemon juice in with the seasonings.
Lobster Spaghetti (enough for 4)
4 Maine lobster tails
1/2 fresh red chilli (finely sliced)
2 fat garlic cloves (finely sliced)
1 big bunch parsley (roughly chopped)
We got the pasta water on first, generously salted.
The lobster tails were fresh and uncooked, so we got the griddle really really hot. While that was heating up the tails were cut in half along the length and brushed with the smallest amount of olive oil. Then onto the grill flesh side down for most of the time and then turned over to make sure they were done all the way through. The smell coming off them was unbelievably good – sweet, beach-like, caramel almost. And there’s little more magical than watching the armour-like shells change colour from brown to brightest orange. When they were just done we took them off and let them cool a bit before removing the meat from the shells and roughly chopping it.
While the spaghetti cooked we fried the garlic and chilli in a generous amount of olive oil over a very low heat until it just started to go golden and then in went the lobster meat, tossed around for a few seconds before adding the, now cooked (very al dente) spaghetti and all that parsley. Finally a squeeze of lemon juice and some black pepper and that was it.
Having bought myself and been given numerous books on foraging over the last few years I’ve been determined for some time to take greater advantage of what the countryside has to offer. And not just the countryside but the seashore too. I live in Brighton for Christ’s sake and I often berate myself for not eating free fish and free seaweed that’s right there waiting to be harvested. To give myself some credit I have done a few things over the last couple of years as previous blogs will attest to. Crab Apple Cheese for example (which you can read about here), as well as things I’ve not blogged like Elderflower Cordial (some in the freezer), Elderflower Wine in 2013 (I’ve still got one bottle. It wasn’t amazing, but it got you where you needed to be), Haw Ketchup (not especially delicious but a good opportunity to make a cool label for it with a 50s pinup looking, erm, saucy), and best of all Elderflower Turkish Delight (from a recipe in the brilliant book ‘Hedgerow’ by John Wright, delicate, subtly perfumed, soft, sweet but not overly-so. The finished product, not John Wright). But every year for almost a decade I’ve somehow missed the opportunity to do something with wild garlic and have only remembered about it too late in the summer.
I’ve Matt to thank for it (the desire to do something with it, not the inability to remember). Long before foraging was such a ‘thing’ as it presently seems to be, when his family lived in a huge old house in Limply Stoke with a massive garden full of trees, when walking up the path back to the car Matt stopped and picked a leaf.
“Smell that”, he said “crush it and smell it”
I was amazed and impressed by the powerful, almost pungent pong, and equally determined to do stuff with it when the time was right. But for whatever reason I missed the chance year on year. So, this January, resolving as one does in the first few days of the year, I sat with my book and my calendar and in pencil jotted down the foraging I wanted to do on the months when I should be doing it.
Wild garlic is best picked when the leaves are young before it starts to flower as the flavour is more delicate. As it matures and grows bigger it becomes too pungent, so pick the leaves early in the season when they’re smaller and delicate with the feel of silk handkerchiefs. A bit of googling directed us to a patch just south of Hassocks where were found a beautiful wooded area perfumed with the scent of potential culinary adventure and the grin-inducing sight of a veritable sea of the stuff. We picked a carrier bag full and it was more than twice what we needed to make no less than five generous bowls of different pestos.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, and I’ll keep saying it, but there’s little gives me more pleasure than the acquisition and subsequent creation of free food, and these pestos were no exception. Ben, Matt’s son, was visiting, so not only did he join in with the foraging but he was my sous chef for the pesto making. The vibrant green and the equally vibrant fresh taste was just sublime, and the method so easy. We used a food processor but one could just as easily do it all in a pestle and mortar, a method which psychologically would I think have the rustic edge. The basic recipe was the same for all five (except the vegan version) and the quantities far from crucial. We tried a variety of nut and oil combinations, the verdict on which will follow the recipe:
Wild Garlic Pesto
75g wild garlic leaves, washed and roughly chopped
50g nuts, or seeds (toasted in the oven for between six and ten minutes depending on the nut)
40-50g parmesan (or another hard cheese)
salt, a generous pinch
pepper, an equally generous grind
the zest of half a lemon
acid in the form of either a squeeze of lemon juice or a splash of red wine vinegar
Toast the nuts but be super careful, hazelnuts tend to toast really quickly I find and only need about six minutes, cashews longer, but all nuts can go from perfectly toasted to ruined in 60 seconds, so use a timer. If you’re using seeds you could do those on a pan on the hob instead. Then simply put everything apart from the oil into a food processor, set it running and trickle in the oil. Taste it and correct the seasoning by adding more salt, pepper, acid or cheese until you’ve got the balance right. Perfect on pasta, of course. Equally great smeared on toasted sourdough (see the last blog for that one), or stirred into a soup, or dressing a salad, or trickled on some grilled polenta, or folded into a risotto.
We tried the following combinations with the following verdicts. And I’m not going to say ‘really good’ for any of them because they were all really really good:
1. Brazil nut and E.V. olive oil with red wine vinegar – creamy, slightly earthy
2. Cashew and E.V. olive oil with lemon juice – more creamy and more lemony (but I think we were more generous with the lemon zest too)
3. Hazelnut and E.V. rapeseed oil with red wine vinegar – really nutty, and more emulsified. My favourite.
4. Almond and E.V. rapeseed oil with lemon juice, red wine vinegar and chilli – half a red chilli was whizzed in giving this a hot hit and an almost peanut butter flavour from the almonds. Almost like satay. The kids’ favourite.
5. Vegan version with cashew and E.V. olive oil – no cheese so about 60% more cashew nuts and increased salt. Creamy and slightly coarser.
They’ll keep in the fridge for at least a week, and they freeze well too, so you could make a huge batch to last you through the summer and beyond.
Nettles is next on the list.