This Moment: Two Brace of Mermaids

{this moment}: A Friday photo tradition with Soulemama. One moment from this week, one that you want to hang onto and not forget. No words. And if you’re a blogger playing along, please leave your link!

Gingerbread mermaids..and a few starfish

 Have a great weekend one and all :)

Laid Up For Winter

“Dangerous surf conditions, hazardous for coastal activities such as swimming, surfing and rock fishing”. Hmmmm. This seems to be a regular warning from the bureau lately, and crikey blimey is it cold?  I know I’m always commenting on the weather, but really, its the main influencer of how my week turns out at the moment. As winter solstice has arrived boaters everywhere are either hauling their vessels out for off season maintenance or sniffing out tropical anchorages up North. What to do then when the tinnie is laid up? Make fish pie.

Last Thursday I was heading off to the “Scott’s Last Expedition” exhibition opening night at the National Maritime Museum to be an offical “tweep”. A quadruple quantity recipe was in order which could be baked ahead and shovelled into hungry mouths whilst I dashed out the door. This quantity also fits perfectly in my favourite blue pie dish…

Rhubarb waiting in the slips…always happy to help…

When I was a child it was a favourite job when making these kind of pies to plough the fields…

…and scatter…

Which makes for a nice crusty lid on your pie

When I’m eating this pie I imagine I am sitting in a bench seat in the window of The Ship Inn in Porthleven, with a pint of Doombar and a storm raging at the window. Where would you eat yours?

I slightly adapted Jamie’s “Fantastic Fish Pie” recipe from his ‘Return of the Naked Chef” book. Here it is:

Ingredients

5 large potatoes, peeled  and diced

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 free range eggs

2 handfuls of resh spinach (I used green beans instead)

1 onion finely chopped

1 carrot finely chopped

extra virgin olive oil

approx 285mls of double cream ( I used about 300ml and it wouldn’t hurt to have a little more I think)

2 good handfuls of mature cheddar or parmesan

Juice of 1 lemon

1 heaped teaspoon English mustard

Large handful flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

About 500g white fish of your choice such as flathead or something else sustainable (Jamie says 455  but I think thats a bit specific – who orders 455g of fish when its sold by the kilo?!) slice into chunks

nutmeg (optional)

Method

Preheat the oven to 230 degrees. Boil potatoes in salted water until just soft enough for mashing. Boil the eggs until hard boiled and when cool peel and cut into quarters. Cook your green vegies (such as spinach or green beans) until just wilted or a little crisp, and set aside.

In a separate pan fry the carrots and onions in a little olive oil  for about 5 minutes until soft, then add the cream and bring just to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the cheese, lemon juice, mustard and parsley. Put the fish, green veg and eggs into a pie dish and pour over the creamy sauce. Mash the spuds, add a little olive oil and nutmeg (and a little milk if it seems dry) and some salt and pepper and spread over the top of the fish mixture. Make a nice pattern with a fork. I like to sprinkle a bit of cheese on but you don’t have to. Place in oven and cook for about half an hour or until the potato is golden. You can serve with whatever you like. Jamie suggests baked beans, a favourite of mine, and don’t be scared to add some HP sauce or tartare.

 

 

Mussells and Mangoes

Gran Fran and her clan

Its taken me a long time to get used to Christmas in the antipodes and in many ways it will never feel quite right without the freezing weather and food and drink to warm the cockles.  But as the years have passed I have begun to acclimatise to the topsy turvy seasons, not least because of the fresh seasonal food that peaks around Christmas time in this part of the world. Christmas now means two things; mangoes and seafood. To those reading in the Northern hemisphere you’re probably wondering why I’m writing a Christmas blog at the end of January, those down South will know its because Christmas is just the beginning of the summer holidays, the days are still long, the nights balmy and we can find any excuse to stick a prawn on the barbie.

The following photos depict a fantastic boat trip we did on holidays in the Bay of Islands in New Zealand. It was Hattie’s first time in a boat and as we left the marina speed limit zone and hit 20 knots I wondered if I would regret the decision to bring her along. On the contrary she loved every minute and laughed and chuckled her chubby little chops off as soon as the throttle went horizontal.

Dressed for boating

We headed to the deep clean water at the mouth of the bay for mussels and oysters and then headed inshore for pipis. Seafood doesn’t come much fresher than that.

“Proper Job” Damper: Cornish Style

Cream Always Goes on Top

Last weekend’s camping trip gave me the opportunity to test out a recipe for an Australian classic that has been on my to do list for a long time; damper in the camp oven. What better way to enjoy it than Cornish style with some home made strawberry jam and double cream? Well actually if I could have got hold of some real clotted cream that would have been even better, but for some reason its rather hard to come by in Australia. The next best things is King Island Dairy’s thickest double cream, or as in this case just some of the usual thick double cream you can get from the supermarket. If anyone knows of a “proper” clotted cream producer in NSW or Australia, do let me know.

For the benefit of non-Aussie readers, here follows a brief background on the origins of damper.  The basic ingredients for damper being plain flour and water meant that it was the perfect camp food for Australia’s first European settlers and explorers, who often had to survive on little more than this, some salted meat and bush tea from the billy (not being experienced in the art of gathering bush tucker).  In the absence of a camp oven the dough was simply prepared, shaped into a small flat circle and placed in a hollow in the camp fire embers, with some more ash piled on top to stop it burning. The damper was cooked if a tap on the base made a hollow sound. Lots of other ingredients have been added over the years, depending on what was available or to spice it up a bit. In our case we added a little sugar to provide the sweet effect for the Cornish Cream Tea.

Ready to go into the fire

A Little Crispy on the Outside

The Perfect Filler Until Supper

I referred to my newly purchased book “Australian Bush Cooking” published by Boiling Billy  for the basic quantities and instructions:

  • 3 Cups of self raising flour
  • 1 cup of milk or water (I used milk)
  • pinch of salt

I also added about 3 tablespoons of sugar.

Mix ingredients together until all the flour has been incorporated. Shape dough and lightly dust with flour. Place in a greased camp oven and cover. Cook in medium coals and check after 30 minutes. Damper is cooked when it has a golden crust and a skewer inserted comes out clean. We probably should have waited a little longer for a deeper bed of embers as flames licking the sides did result in a little charring, but it can’t have been too bad as people came back for seconds. Do also remember to turn the camp oven half way through if the oven is not placed centrally in the heat.

For the Cornish cream tea effect serve with jam and then cream on top, accompanied with a steaming hot cup of tea.

Full credit must go to Carmen for her food styling advice and assistance.

Teapot from QueenB candles

Enamel mugs; authors own

Tablecloth; authors own

Pan Bagnat…The Perfect Picnic Food?

Tomato Pan Bagnat

” Hey Boo Boo? You wanna go steal some picnic baskets?”  I think I was probably Yogi Bear in a past life. I love picnics. Eating alfresco is one of the most enjoyable aspects of spending time in the great outdoors. This is probably in part due to the fact that some of the guilt of tucking into a slice of cake and a cup of tea from the thermos is eased by the walk/run/hike/paddle to said picnic spot.

If you google “picnic recipes” you will come across a myriad of sites with photos of delicious looking food that would look equally at home served up on the dinner table. I’m not averse to the idea of making the effort to prepare more elaborate meals when camping (I’ll expand on this more in a future topic on the concept of “million star” camping) but I do find that many of these sites don’t seem to apply any set of criteria to their recipes that distinguish them as picnic food. What qualifies a recipe as picnic food? Here are a few of my criteria as a start point (although I am still trying to work it out myself through trial and error!):

  • Must arrive at picnic location tasting edible and looking appetising
  • Can be prepared well in advance without spoiling
  • Must not fall apart in the hand whilst being eaten
  • Must be easily packed in as small a space as possible (whilst still satisfying the appetite). For example the best kind of cakes are the ones that can be sliced in squares but that dont squash easily
  • Tea must arrive in the cup hot enough to almost burn your tongue!

Last weekend I discovered the french classic Pan Bagnat, courtesy of a version published in the Australian by David Herbert which puts an Italian slant on the traditional recipe. It fulfils a lot of my criteria for the perfect picnic. The Pan Bagnat is a specialty sandwich from the Nice region of France,  the name of which is derived from the local Provençal dialect of Niçard, in which Pan-banhat means “wet bread”. In the original recipe the sandwich filling is based around the classic Nicoise salad (lettuce, eggs, anchovies and/or tuna, and olive oil). But the concept can be adapted to create a variety of options to your own tastes, all suited towards transport and eating outdoors. David Herbert’s recipe uses a hollowed out french stick which is then wrapped around the filling, preventing the contents from falling out both in transit and in the hand! I used a traditional baguette that was softened to just the right degree (without becoming soggy) by spending the night in the fridge encasing the wet ingredients. Here’s David’s recipe:

Tomato Pan Bagnat

2 medium baguettes

Olive Oil

1 clove garlic peeled

4 ripe roma tomoatoes diced

about 10 cherry tomatoes halved

6 semi dried or oven dried tomatoes, halved

100g feta cheese crumbled

1/2 cup of basil leaves

handful of rocket leaves

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Slice each baguette horizontally, leaving it hinged on one side. Pull out the soft bread in small chunks and set aside. Heat 1-2 tablespoons oil in a large frying pan and add garlic clove. When hot, add bread chunks and fry for 4-5 minutes, tossing until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper discarding the garlic. Combine all other ingredients with 1 tablespoon of oil in a bowl. Season well. Stir through fried bread. Brush a little oil inside each baguette and fill with the mixture. Close the baguette and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Chill in fridge for at least 1 hour or up to 12 hours. To serve unwrap and slice into 10cm pieces. David also suggests matching with a crisp refreshing rose as they do in Nice.

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