Sunday, March 17, 2013

Clams Breton style, recipe

Palourdes à la bretonne, or clams Breton style. Palourdes is the closest French word I could find to call these clams (they would be called coques, if they were ribbed). In fact, they are Vietnamese natives, known locally as Nghêu Bến Tre, quite a mouthful, so let's stick with palourdes.

This is also one of my improved recipes: normally, Breton style would mean aux lardons et oignons, with bacon and onions. However, a  long afternoon in St. Mâlo, Brittany, spent looking for mussels cooked that style, proved that locals have never heard of anything of the kind. I did not give up and went on to elaborate on what Breton style cooking should be like, which is how all "traditional authentic national cusines" were invented in the first place anyway.

So here's my take on nationalist mythopoetics:
  1. Sautee a head of crushed garlic and three chopped shallots in butter.
  2. Add 2 sliced leeks, a generous handful of Chantenay carrots, diced smoked bacon and stir-fry until haf ready.
  3. Add 1 kg (2.2 lbs) of clams and continue to cook until the clams start opening.
  4. Add a jar of double cream and a glass of dry Breton cider.  Picardian blonde beer or dry white wine can do too, although it will deliver a chink in the armour of this dish's authenticity.
  5. Stir well, gently bring to a boil and simmer with the lid closed until the smell of alcohol goes. Did I say it: remember to stir every now  and then.
  6. Douse liberally with freshly ground black pepper. No salt necessary as the clam juice and bacon are salty enough.
  7. To be followed by a nice Breton dance:

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Black capelin roe, aka masago (まさご)

Black capelin roe masago
ot just the only credible clean-up of the financial crisis aftermath comes from Iceland, but also Lidl's own take on faux caviar at a humble £1.49 a jar. Despite this review by The Daily Mail's own McDonald's sampling guru India Sturgis, capelin roe, known in Japan as masago, could be a good introduction to the world of fishy delicacies for the uninitiated. 

It could be, because, probably in a bid to "posh it up", Norprawn, the manufacturer, decided to "upgrade" the natural yellowish-pink colour to blueish black with the help of no less than four chemical additives: E141 (chlorophyllin), E150d (sulfite ammonia caramel), E151 (Billiant Black BN, banned in many countires) and E163 (anthocyanin). With the accompanying stabilisers E422 (glycerol, previously use as automotive antifreeze) and E412 (guar gum) and preservatives E202 (potassium sorbate) and E211 (sodium benzoate), this product contains a whole constellation of industrial  ingredients to make this "luxury-on-the-budget" offering a veritable chav fodder.

Lidl is truly a mixed bag of tricks. On the one hand, they offer solid cooking basics of very consistent quality for half the ongoing price. On the other hand, half of what they carry is plain vile and fit to make sure consumers won't live until retirement. Caveat emptor.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Clams stir-fried with garlic, coriander and white wine

Stir-fried clams

y cooking is very often an elaborate protracted affair. It can easily can take up a whole evening, punctuated with thoughtful wine sipping, while a piece of particularly nifty software reads me anthropological articles in a studiedly enthusiastic male voice reminiscent of the Pacific War newsreels. To make all that even more interesting, as I cook, I fix myself sort of amuses-bouche to stave off hunger. Normally, they are spin-offs of the main dish, like I can use some of the caramelised onions from the stew as the base for a canapé or some of the Italian marinade for the fish as a salad dressing

Last three days I got into a little habit of stir-frying clams with garlic, coriander, fish sauce and white wine. It's a super simple recipe that involves next to none effort yet yields superbly delectable results.

Here how it goes:
  1. Crushed and sautée garlic in oil or butter.
  2. Add clams and sprinkle with fish sauce. Stir-fry on medium fire until all the clams open, remove into a bowl.
  3. Add chopped coriander, ground black pepper and a glug of white wine, deglaze.
  4. Add the sauce to the clams. Serve with baguette and white wine. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Shark steaks recipe

shark steaks
he best thing about shark steaks is that they are, save the spine, completely boneless. Apparently, sharks as a species evolved way before fish came up with having bones, or bladders, for that matter. For the latter reason, sharks need to be constantly in motion lest they drown, which makes them lean and muscly. And that is how they make it all the way to the top of the food chain, on a pre-heated plate, where we, humans, appreciate exactly that. Occasionally, a shark would get back at us for that, but you couldn't quite hold it against it, could you?

Like most white fish, shark benefits from marinating Japanese style, in equal measures of sake, mirin and shoyu mixed together. In case of dire need, those can be substituted with some dry white wine, brown sugar, and well, shoyu, there is not substitute for that. 

Now for the recipe:
  1. Heat some butter in a thick-bottom skillet. Fry a handful of unpeeled garlic cloves for a few minutes and then push them to the sides.
  2. Remove the steaks from the marinade and pat them dry with paper kitchen towels. Put them in the skillet and fry a few minutes on each side.
  3. Now prepare the best dip for fish ever: mix lime juice, grated ginger, palm sugar, fish sauce, chopped chillis and crushed garlic.
  4. Serve with steamed vegetables and steamed rice.