Red mullet

There was an abundance of red mullet in Ward’s this morning but only two of us to eat it. So I got the biggest one they had along with a packet of wild garlic.

Back home in the evening I parboiled 4 potatoes, cut them into rounds and set them to fry in olive oil.

The oven went on high and I laid each fillet of fish on thin layer of sliced red onion and tomatoes. Some pine nuts were scattered along with a few leaves of wild garlic.

The rest of the wild garlic was wilted in a pan with a good hunk of butter.

Once all on the plate it was very good. We listened to the ragged blues of Bessie Smith.

Sea Urchins

I went down to Ward’s Fish early yesterday morning expecting to come back with five small red mullet but instead found myself with a bag full of spiny sea urchins.

The plan had been that the red mullet be filleted and then roasted in the oven with some pine nuts and a smattering of olive oil. As they cooked I would have cooked some linguine which was then to be mixed with skinned tomatoes and basil leaves. The red mullet would then have been placed on top of each plate of linguini.

As it happened Ward’s didn’t have and red mullet so I bought a monkfish tail instead. I was then asked if I wanted some sea urchins. There were two of them sat on the ice. I hesitated but was a reassured that they were giving them away.

There then followed a story about how they had come by them collected at the same time as divers collected their fat scallops. They had been expecting a half dozen of the sea urchins but had been given a box of them.

As I hesitated further a Chinese lady stood next to me said that she would have four of them and she told me you could either have them raw or with fried rice. She was picking up a bag of salmon heads and I should have asked her what she was planning on doing with them.

So I said I would take five of the sea urchins – one each for those that were eating.

Back home I went through some books to try and find some clue as to what to do with them. The best I could come up with was Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s book of fish which gave them a brief mention without giving them a specific profile. He suggested that the best way to get into them was by using a special tool called a coupe oursin. 

Although I had a good look through the kitchen cupboards perhaps unsurprisingly I was able to locate a coupe oursin.  As a alternative Hugh suggested a tough pair of kitchen scissors inserted into the mouthparts and then used to cut away a hole big enough to get in.

This worked surprisingly well. Inside each shell there was a pool of dark brackish water, some folds of black gunk and five pale creamy tongues of ‘roe’. We later learnt that although these globes are described as roe they are in fact the gonads, or more particularly, the reproductive organ of the sea urchin.

I teased them out with a teaspoon and they were surprisingly good with a rich creamy flavour of the sea.

Five or six years ago when I went out to watch Tommy Arundel haul in his lobster pots most of them came out of the water with a couple of sea urchins attached. These were thrown back into the sea.

This summer I will see if he can pass a few over so we can try them fresh out of Dunmannus Bay.

After the sea urchins we had a dozen qual eggs and then the monkfish – cooked with honey and sherry vinegar together with buttery saffron flecked crusty rice.

Almost making a night of it in Paris

Forty six hours in Paris now seems like an awful long time ago but looking back we seemed to have slipped in quite a lot for the brief time we were there. A couple of us almost went out for a night on the town before good sense prevailed and we realised that if we left it too late there would be no-one to let us back in to our apartment.

Breakfast both mornings was croissants, black coffee and fresh orange juice in good cafes. Some of the lustre was taken off the second cafe when we realised that the croissants were being brought over from a place across the road – maybe we should have gone there instead.

For our one full night there, Tuesday, there had been some posturing over who was going to have pick at where we went to eat for the evening. We both had our choices but I lost out on account of being too slow to get a table booked.

Although it wasn’t my pick the meal was very good – haddock ceviche, then breast of of duck and a plate of Brilliant-Savarin cheese flavoured with black truffle. The place was quiet and our waiter clearly enjoyed having us there – so much so he treated us all to a small glass of sweet apple liquor.

Afterwards we walked up the steps to the Sacre Coeur where a lone busker played Ed Sheerin songs surrounded by a coterie of foreign language students who slightly bizarrely thought this was all part of soaking up the atmosphere. Outside the church tall men offered us drugs for sale. Some of us got on so well with them they got a hug to say good night.

As we walked back to the apartment we passed a good looking bar on a corner. The doors and windows were open and it was filled with red light and the sound of good music.

The only son and I decided it was to early to be going to bed so we found a table in the bar by one of its open windows and started to work our way through the various beers they had on tap. Behind the bat they didn’t seem too bothered about us paying for our drinks and the music carried on being good and as we finished our third glass of beer we thought about another but as I have said already good sense prevailed.

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday seemed like a good excuse to make some incursions into the stock of freekah I bought last week in Oxford. Although we were there for less than a day I found time to scoot out to the Cowley Road and a small Moroccan shop that has an ability to stock the ingredients that I read about but can’t buy elsewhere.

I was tempted to cook a very large lump of lamb but knew that if I did that I would also have to make a suitably grand dish for the vegetarians so I decided to cook salmon instead.

I was able to pick up two good fillets from Wards on Saturday morning cut from the same fish.

Sunday morning there was a brief pomegranate crisis when it became apparent that those I had bought on Saturday morning were passed their use by date. All was solved with a quick dash down to The International Store.

The freekah was boiled for fifteen minutes and then mixed with a combination of chopped blanched almonds, barberries and pomegranate seeds.

New potatoes were boiled.

The sides of salmon were slathered in a mixture of good olive oil, lemon zest, turmeric and pepper. It only took twenty minutes to cook in a hot oven.