Pollock at Isaac At


Go fishing for mackerel too near the rocks off Owen Island then if the hooks on your line don’t get caught and lost in the seaweed it is not unusual to come up with a pollock.

They are generally a disappointing fish. When they are first on the line they feel heavy and briefly there might be an expectation of the fight that comes with half a dozen mackerel on the line all pulling in their own direction to get away. But a pollock will just hang there a dead weight to be pulled in.

Just the one mackerel will continue to thump its tail hard against the wooden bottom of the boat even after it has taken a tap at the back of its head as if it could wish itself back in the water by keeping on with that one grip on life. The pollock will just lie there grimly satisfied with the further disappointment that will come when we try to eat it.

Although the ones we pick off from near Owen Island have some size on them they are small compared to the fish we sometimes see coming in from the deeper parts of the Bay. The have a sludge brown colour about them with a flash of gold over the belly.

Whatever their size they have not been good to eat. They normally give a good couple of fillets but there has always been something watery about them and over the last few years whatever ones we have caught have mostly gone into a pot for stock.

It turns out we have been getting it wrong because pollock were on the menu at Isaac At on Saturday night and were one of the best things we ate. The fillets had been covered in salt and wrapped up in clingfilm for a few hours. The salt had drawn off some of the moisture and firmed up the flesh so once it was cooked it just held together.

The pollock came almost halfway through a meal that started with a a crisp fried salad leave laid with small pearls of taramasalata and pickled kohlrabi, then carrots done three ways followed by lamb, chicken and then a quince and apple sorbet and culminating with poached pears.

None of those descriptions do the food justice. Hopefully some of the pictures do.

Following the meal me and the son went to a local pub to drink beer and watch as people shuffled to Chic and other disco music.

He then went off to have a good time and I went to bed knowing that fate had conspired so that I was going to have to share a bed with him. He duly woke me up with a smile at 4.30 in the morning complaining that his sister had made him leave wherever he had been early just as he was starting to have a good time.

I went back to sleep and dreamed of graffiti and bright orange bomb going off of the carrots.

Old Boyfriends

The iPhone has been stuck on shuffle for a large part of the day as I spent time trying to sort through various accumulated piles of paper.

As part of this process I came across at least a dozen versions of How to kill a mackerel all waiting for me to finish it off before I move on to something else. Most of them had on the front cover a picture of a grey bucket with two bloodied and just caught mackerel. They have all gone into a box until there is time for me to throw it all up in the air again.

Part way through the day the shuffle stopped at Crystal Gayle singing Old Boyfriends from the soundtrack of One from the heart. The song stopped me in my tracks.

A few minutes later I came across the programme for when I saw Tom Waits play the Dominion Theatre and afterwards we walked a mile or so for a pint in a pub called The Rising Sun on Lamb’s Conduit Street. He played Burma Shave that night. If ever a song should reduce a grown man to tears it was that one.

Friday evening I was asked if I would be cooking anything over the weekend and there was nothing that came to mind. Then I remembered the other half of the brace of grouse I bought a month ago from The Farmer’s Market that had been tucked down in the back of the freezer. I took it out to defrost and ate it this evening..

A grouse only needs 25 minutes or so to cook in a hot oven. I did nothing to it apart from slipping a couple of sage leaves underneath, salt and pepper and a covering of a pice of good ham.

As it cooked I boiled up some lentils that were finished off with herbs, olive oil and lemon juice.


So it appears the highlight of this particular Saturday came at about 3.00 in the afternoon as I found myself sorting through the sock drawer of the 19 year old son.

Since he went to University there has been a pile of his odd socks next to the ironing board.

This afternoon the garden didn’t look too inviting with all the wind, rain and hail so I thought as second best I would give his socks a go.

In the back of my mind there was an expectation that there might be a stash of illicit material at the back of the drawer. Sadly there wasn’t and all I had to contend with was a further pile of odd socks none of which seemed to match the pile that had been languishing by the ironing board.

I made the best of a bad job and just squeezed all the socks into the drawer figuring out that he probably had most of the matching pairs with him in London.

Lunch was a small lump of fillet steak being sold cheap for being past it’s use by date.

I fried the steak off in a pan with a drop of oil. As it cooked I toasted a couple of pieces of good bread. Once the steak was done I splashed it with some hot chilli sauce and a dash of sherry vinegar.

The toast was put on a white plate. Watercress salad was piled on top with sliced onions. The steak was cut into thin strips and placed on top of the watercress with all its juices.


Friday evening and I am eating leftovers and listening to a combination of Dusty Springfield and Betty Harris. Songs of heartache for a damp cold wintery night.

The leftovers are a combination of rice and bits of chicken which are about to be subjected to some extreme heat in an ancient wok along with a bit of pork, onions, garlic, ginger and a large amount of chilli.