Archive for the ‘Aperitif / Tapas’ Category

Cheat’s potted crab

7 April 2014

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I’ve been dreaming of potted crab since last October, when we left London for a few days during the fall vacation and drove South, on a pilgrimage of sorts, to places I’d often been as a child. We drove toward the sea through the meandering countryside, over detours of Ashdown Forest to my old school, our old house. In Brighton I couldn’t recall the fish and chips shop we always stopped at, though I remember the soggy chips, the flaky fish, the newspaper package sticky with vinegar and sea air, the grinding stones underfoot. The shop probably doesn’t exist anymore anyway.

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Later we walked across the Seven Sisters, but in between we stayed in what must indeed be one of the prettiest villages in Sussex. In that village there was a pub. And in that pub there was potted crab. I ordered it only once, but each subsequent night I bit my lips at not having asked for it again. It was the best thing they served, or rather, it was just plain great, without qualifiers.

Potted crab is characteristic of the kind of British food that I love. It is simple, traditional, and, at its best, stellar. It’s ideal pub fare, picnic food, and perfect for an apéro.

‘Potting’ is a preservation technique, that derives from medieval pies. Meats and fish were initially baked in crusts as a means of conservation (apparently a fairly coarse crust, not intended as part of the delicacy). Once cooked, the pocket of air left between the filling and crust was filled with a sealing layer of fat poured through a hole in the crust. Later, crusts were dispensed of completely by using reusable pots.

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Since that crab in the pub in the village in Sussex I’ve wanted to make it. It has taken me all these months and a split-second, spur-of-the-moment decision to make it. I cheated because I bought the crab meat. I have a very good fishmonger close by and as I mentioned, it was a last minute decision. Still, it was very good.

Cheat’s potted crab

250g butter

1 bay leaf

300g cooked crab meat (about 2/3 white meat, 1/3 dark meat)

Zest and juice from 1 lemon

Pinch sea salt

Pinch cayenne pepper

Chives

Melt the the butter slowly in a small saucepan with the bay leaf.

Place the crab meat in a medium sized bowl, add the lemon zest and juice, salt, and cayenne pepper. Pour most of the melted butter into the crab meat, reserving about one quarter. Mix well.

Transfer the crab mixture to a bowl or glass terrine without packing it too much, smooth over the top. Coarsely cut a small handfull of chives over the crab and pour the remaining melted butter to seal (without the bay leaf). Keep in the refrigerator for at least one hour and up to 2 days.

Remove from the refrigerator about half an hour before using and serve with delicious bread.

It’s that easy!

Mackerel rillettes

15 May 2013

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Sometimes food happens without much forethought or planning. I could have pondered it for weeks, in fact I’ve been wanting to make these for years, but when I bought mackerel fillets at the market last week I had no plan; a quick weeknight dinner at best. Rillettes were far from my thoughts, lurking behind the distant corner of a hazy summer memory. But as I contemplated dinner for friends and something that could easily be made ahead, I found myself searching for mackerel rillettes recipes.

So this is adapted from one by Annie Bell, modified to suit what I had on hand. It was delicious.

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Recipe adapted from Mackerel Rillettes by Annie Bell

8 small mackerel fillets

2 bay leaves

2 stems fresh garlic (or 3 garlic cloves)

Few sprigs fresh thyme

100 ml dry white wine

100 ml water

1 lemon

3 Tbsps very good olive oil

Fleur de sel or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the mackerel fillets flat at the bottom of a pan, add the bay leaves, garlic, thyme, wine, and water. Bring to a gentle boil, simmer for 1 minute and remove from heat. As soon as the liquid is cool enough, take out the fillets and flake the fish, taking care to remove any remaining bones.

Place the cooking liquid back onto the stove, cook for a few minutes until ireduced to a couple of tablespoons.

In a medium bowl, combine the mackerel gently with the reduced liquid, the juice from 1/2 lemon (the other half for serving), and 3 Tbsps very good olive oil. Season with fleur de sel or sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

Transfer to a serving bowl or jar and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour and up to 2 days.

Serve with bread and butter, and a generous squeeze of lemon.

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Cheat’s potted crab

Baked mackerel with mustard and thyme

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Watermelon, mint, and feta salad

11 September 2012

When my friend Tamara introduced me to this salad some years ago I was surprised at first, intrigued, and immediately smitten. I’ve made it often since and it usually elicits a similar reaction — surprise at the sight of feta, curious interest in the addition of olive oil, and prompt addiction to each salty sweet cool crunchy bite. It’s as simple as its four ingredients and magically transcends the sum of its parts, as they say.

I see it more often now, but in case you hadn’t yet crossed paths with this awesome combination, you must give it a try. It’s best eaten without utensils, just by picking up each watermelon wedge capped with feta and mint. Beware the juice.

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Chilled watermelon

Good feta

Fresh mint

Best extra virgin olive oil

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Cut the watermelon into approximately 2 inch (5 cm) wedges, and each long wedge into approximately 3/4 inch (1 cm) pieces. Place the watermelon pieces on a plate or shallow dish.

Crumble lots of feta on top of the watermelon.

Wash, pick through, and thinly cut the mint leaves. Sprinkle over the feta.

Finally, drizzle a thin ribbon of olive oil and serve.

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Avocado, cherry tomato, cucumber salad with red pepper and parsley

Rhubarb rosemary syrup and a gin drink

21 June 2012

The rhubarb rosemary syrup is barely an adaptation of 101 Cookbooks‘ rhubarb rosewater syrup. It is the same recipe, but instead of adding rosewater once the syrup had cooled, I added a sprig of rosemary while it was still warm. I am entirely pleased with the result. I had seen the pairing of rhubarb and rosemary mentioned in a few places, and I love how it brings out rhubarb’s herbaceous edge.

Typically I’ve simply been using a tablespoon of this syrup with sparkling water, a good squeeze of lime, and a few ice cubes. But somewhat uncharacteristically the other day I made a drink. It was a warm evening and I wanted something light and refreshing. Here’s how I made it, on a whim.

2 tsps rhubarb rosemary syrup (recipe from 101 Cookbooks, I just substituted rosewater with a sprig of rosemary)

2 ounces gin

1 ounce rosé

A dash of sparkling water

A squeeze of lime (to taste) and one slice

A sprig of rosemary

The slice of lime and sprig of rosemary ‘garnish’ are important to add a little more edge against the sweetness of the syrup and wine. I added a few ice cubes but took them out fairly quickly as they were melting too fast and I didn’t want them to water down the drink too much (using one larger ice cube would do the trick).

Cheers!

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At the market | Rhubarb

Rhubarb ice cream

Mimosa (deviled) eggs

29 March 2012

The trees are blooming in New York; it’s showstopping. Forsythias, exuberant magnolias, Callery pears like downy street clouds, vaporous cherry blossoms. And yet.

It isn’t time! I am still anticipating winter; the snow, the stews, the spiked hot chocolates by the fire. I have a notebook full for recipes longing for freezing temperatures: braised short ribs, slow-cooked duck, a quick spicy lentil soup if you’ve come home late from the cold. I see they will have to wait.

The year is creeping ahead, chives and tarragon have pierced my balcony beds, and so, submitting to nature’s infectious enthusiasm, I have embraced spring — but not, I admit, without a pinch of regret for a winter that wasn’t really.

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6 eggs

About 10 stalks chives

About 3 stalks tarragon

5 or 6 leaves parsley

3 tsps mayonnaise

2 tsps red wine vinegar

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Smoked Spanish paprika

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Fill a small saucepan (just about large enough to fit the eggs) with water. Bring to a boil. Add the eggs to the water one at a time, carefully, with a large spoon so they don’t hit the bottom and crack. Boil gently for 12 minutes. (I decided not to adopt the method Michel Roux uses in his book Eggs, which starts the eggs in cold water. However I have taken note of his advice to make sure the water boils gently, in order to avoid rubbery whites.)

Meanwhile, chop the herbs very very finely.

Once the eggs are cooked, strain the boiling water and add lots of cold water so they cool quickly.

Peel the eggs. Slice each in half lengthwise, carefully scoop out the yolks, and place them in a plate or shallow bowl.

Mash the egg yolks thoroughly with the mayonnaise, vinegar, finely chopped herbs, a pinch of salt, and a grind of black pepper.

With a small spoon, scoop the yolks back into the egg whites as neatly as possible.

At the very last minute, sprinkle a pinch of paprika on each egg.

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Related posts

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Chicken liver terrine

Marinated olives

Roasted almonds with Spanish paprika


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