Alls Well That Ends Well ( Octopus and La Bourride)

I thought I was being very clever on Sunday. Grabbed something out of the Fish freezer, went off to golf, thinking that dinner was more or less sorted upon our return! What I had thought was that Baby Octopus would only need a quick burst on a BBQ and it would be perfect. Quickly made some wonderful Aioli and dinner was ready ! How wrong could I be! Actually I have never cooked octopus before in any shape or form but thought baby octopus, easy ! No! It was an absolute disaster. Hence our Sunday night dinner, was……… a BLT!

Never one to throw away food, nor giving up, when something goes wrong. Therefore, what did I have? A pile of baby octopus and a quantity of really good Aioli. This I just covered and left at room temperature ( it would separate if I had refrigerated it) and the octopus was bagged and refrigerated. But what to do with both of the ingredients? La Bourride sprang to mind

La Bourride, along with Aioli are two of the wonderful dishes of Provence. Normally it would be made with a firm white fish, but I used a variety of fish, basically an assortment of what was in the freezer. I used, Salmon, Tilapia, Cod, Mussels, Squid, Large Shrimp and the Octopus. The octopus I put in some boiling water and cooked on high in the Microwave for 8 minutes or so, having a quick taste during the cooking process to see if was tender. The cooking liquid then became my fish stock.

For the Aioli for +/- 6 people

  • Allow at least 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • Yolks of 3 eggs or 2 yolks and one whole egg
  • 1 pint/ approx 1/2 litre good olive oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • Juice 1/2 lemon ( zest, optional)
  • Then normally this is it, but Rose Harissa is a good addition or a squirt of tomato paste.
  • Very easy to make, but don’t be impatient. Using eggs and oil at room temperature.
  • Mix the crushed garlic with the salt and the eggs
  • Slowly VERY Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking all the while. I use a Bamix stick blender to do this.
  • Keep pouring in the oil
  • The sauce gets thicker and thicker and a good Aioli should be almost solid. Add the extras if using them along with the lemon juice.
  • If by any chance the aioli curdles, then beat another egg yolk and slowly pour in the curdled egg mixture beating all the while.

For my Bourride

  • I used a variety of fish as already mentioned along with
  • 1 leek finely chopped
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • +/-20 centilitre olive oil
  • 1 pint stock ( fish or vegetable , shop bought is ok
  • Small carton of thick cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste, chopped parsley as garnish
  • French bread or potatoes to serve
  • Sauté the leeks, onion and garlic until soft but not brown. Remove from pan and put to one side.
  • With a little more oil, sauté the fish that has been cut into bite size bits. When all cooked add the leeks, onion and garlic. Put into a serving dish
  • Bring the stock to the boil,add the cream and pour it over the aioli
  • Pour all over the fish and serve with the potatoes or French bread.
  • Traditionally, the French bread would have been cut into slices and fried as in fried bread, but Himself doesn’t like fried bread so he had potatoes !

Seems a bit of Paff, no not really and the plus point is that excess will freeze easily. I added the Rose Harissa to give a little more oomph and a little more colour! Personal preference!

Mackerel, yet again!

Another week and another mackerel dish. As I have said many times previously, he loves mackerel, or so I am led to believe , but not for me. I actually eat more fish than meat, but I don’t like mackerel nor smoked haddock, both of which Himself likes. I also wouldn’t choose shark but having said that, if it is put in front of me, I might be out of my comfort zone, but would eat it anyway. I’m always on the look for something different and found something the other day which I would recommend. For me this was an easy dinner as everything was either in the freezer ( the fish) , the refrigerator or the store cupboard.

Nduja Mackerel with Chick Peas and Tomatoes. If you don’t already know, Nduja is a spicy paste made with pork sausage from the Calabria region of Italy. Originally, made from leftovers it was eaten by the poorer on bread, but of course in time it has found its way into popular culture and can now be found in finer supermarkets and also on Amazon. It is not cheap, but a little goes a long way, adding colour and spice to many dishes.

For 1-2 people

  • Slug of olive oil
  • An onion finely chopped
  • 100 grms Nduja
  • 5 cloves garlic also finely chopped
  • 400 can chopped tomatoes
  • 400 can of chick peas
  • Small bunch of parsley ( I prefer curly parsley) also finely chopped
  • 2 fillets of mackerel
  • A sprinkling of paprika salt and pepper to taste
  • One lemon zested and juiced
  • Method
  • Heat some oil in a pan and gently fry the onion and garlic. Do not let the garlic burn.
  • Add the Nduja and cook gently, smushing it into the onions until it is well blended and the oil turns a deep red.
  • Add the onions and the tomatoes and cook gently for about 15 minutes.
  • Put the lemon juice, parsley and zest into a bowl and mix in some oil. Taste and season. Put to one side.
  • Meanwhile, rub some of the paprika into the mackerel and heat a pan on the stove top ( I use a cast iron grill pan) .
  • Place the mackerel, skin side down. Cook on a medium heat for about 4 minutes, to char the skin, flip over and cook for another minute.
  • Spoon the tomato mixture into a shallow bowl, tops with the mackerel and finish off with the parsley, lemon dressing.

So as you can see, it takes no time at all and of course can be used with other fish.

Eat your Oats

I have been aware of the health benefits of Oats for years. Scientists have only since said that they are among some of the best foods we can eat. They are heart friendly, gut friendly, good for the waist line, lowers cholesterol, controls blood sugar, have some antioxidants that are unique to Oats and also anti inflammatory. They help weight loss, they have a good satiety value ( keeps you feeling satisfied for longer), they have also a low glycemic index, which means that they cause a lower rise in blood sugar. Which are the best Oats to buy! Jumbo, steel cut but avoid instant oats, like Readibrek which are probably fine kids and the elderly or sick as they are as the packet says, instant but are also fine and creamy, but for the rest of us, the chunkier the better!

I have made Bircher Muesli for years, but have just started making pastry using a mixture of oats and flour, a bit of a revelation really, crisper, less time to Bake Blind ( no soggy bottoms here)!

Himself LOVES RHUBARB and being the good wife that I am, I buy it when in season, and of course here in the UK it is available much of the year. Rhubarb is a native of Siberia and as such loves the climate of Yorkshire. In the early 1900’s West Yorkshire produced more than 90% of the worlds forced Rhubarb, and in 2010 it received the honour of PDO ( Protected Designation of Origin) from the European Commission. Forced rhubarb is grown in sheds, the stalks are crimson and the leaves yellowish. The pickers pull the stalks by candlelight, to protect the growth of the plant and by March the season is over.

My GoTo use for Rhubarb is Crumble. I make the crumble mix in advance, using a mixture of flour, oats, butter, sugar and chopped nuts. This I freeze, so that it is there, ready to use, when needed. Rhubarb makes a great sauce to serve with fish, chicken or duck, but also for tarts. Therefore using my recently discovered oat laden pastry, I made a Rhubarb tart.

  • 140 grams coarse toasted oats
  • 140 grams plain flour
  • 60 grams fine caster sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 150 grams cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 beaten egg

Heat oven to 170 C.

Using a food processor, place the oats, flour, salt, sugar and butter into the bowl, switch on and give it a quick wiz and then with the motor running pour in the egg and mixture will go Bonk Bonk and form into a rough ball. Turn onto a floured surface and knead for a couple of minutes to form a smooth ball. Roll out carefully into a round about 2” larger than your dish. ( I used a 23 cm non stick tart tin with a loose base). Carefully hang the pastry over the rolling pin and drap it over the tin and mould into the sides using your knuckles. Line the tin with greaseproof paper and fill the time with beans or rice to bake blind for only about 10 minutes. Remove the beans and paper and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and trim the pastry that might be overhanging the tin.

  • For the filling
  • 125 grms soft unsalted butter
  • 125 grams fine caster sugar
  • 125 grms ground almonds
  • +/-200 grams fine young rhubarb cut into approximately 2” lengths
  • Whipped cream to serve
  • Method
  • Again in a food processor beat together the butter and the sugar until creamy, add the egg and the ground almonds, mix quickly together.
  • Put into the pastry and arrange the rhubarb on top. Return to the oven for about 35 minutes until the tart is golden .
  • Leave to cool before removing from the tin, beware it is just a little fragile!
  • Serve cold or lukewarm with a good dollop of whipped cream.

This week, we have been on a little jolly, eine Fahrt ins Blaue, a magical mystery tour, or very simply a little road trip. Having lived 30 years outside of the UK, our knowledge of it is sadly lacking. Although Himself comes from the North of England close to Liverpool and we both went to college in Manchester, neither of us know it. And so it was that we visited his lovely baby brother and even lovelier wife in Harrogate. We had actually lived in Harrogate for 6 months, albeit a lifetime ago. We couldn’t even remember where had lived, let alone any landmarks. The only thing that I did remember was the market, which sadly is no more.

The last time we were in Harrogate was pre-Covid, we had lunch in the deliberate Old fashioned Betty’s and breakfast in a Farmers Market called Fodder! What a great name! Himself and brother just had to have the Great Yorkshire Breakfast and it didn’t disappoint and myself the crushed avocado on sourdough with watercress, wilted spinach, poached egg ( perfectly cooked) and bacon! Something that the Baby Ivy Cafes in London need to learn !

After Harrogate we meandered through the Yorkshire dales, into Lancashire and to Clitheroe and to COWMANS sausage shop! And quel choix. We bought basic chipolatas, to make Pigs in Blankets for grandkids , then Himself chose Cajun, Moroccan Lamb, herb Italian and Venison. These will be precooked and the more exotic ones frozen for Himself to have whenever.

Moving on from Clitheroe we landed at Northcote, a Michelin star restaurant and hotel. For whatever reason our assigned dinner time was 6.30. As with many good restaurants, seatings are staggered, to enable to kitchen staff and wait staff to function well. The set menu was interesting and although we chose not to take the wine flight we were very happy with our choice. This was partly dictated by nostalgia as on the wine list was a white from the PFALZ, a region in German, where we lived for 3 years. Himself then decided that a red from Georgia , the birthplace of wine, might be interesting, and it was.

Dinner was nice, very nice but the best part was the Veal Sweetbread, which I could have easily eaten much more of it and Himself would really have liked seconds of dessert. The Asparagus was nice , the duck was nice but the turbot underwhelming. Nice being the operative word here.

Service at Breakfast perhaps was not up to Par, ( am I being critical here?) no condiments on the table but dirty dishes left on empty tables. Though my breakfast was nice ( again Avocado etc, but I have to say, it was better in Fodder, as it was served hot and condiments arrived instantly). So will we hurry back, probably not but it was a nice little trip, nonetheless.

Moving on, I wanted to explore Englands largest covered market. To my mind it will be an old fashioned market, selling everything from thimbles to hard hats, to tripe stalls to fish stalls. Disappointment ensued! The Jubilee Weekend, a four day public holiday and the market was closed. To say I was gutted is putting it mildly. Especially as Bury is a stones throw from Morecombe Bay, which is renowned for its seafood, shrimp and clams to the most wonderful fresh fish. I was/ am on the hunt for a fish, which goes by various names, Huss, Rock Salmon or Dog Fish, a wonderful pink white fish, but it is just not pretty., and it be.ones to the Shark family! Growing up on the Kent coast, we caught this fish, when it was about 2 feet long, easy to skin with a single bone down the middle. Great taste and easy to cook and absolutely great as Fish and Chips !

Sadly not to be this time around. Another trip to Billingsate Market, the UK main fish market.