Tag Archives: Fish

Generosity and the Art of Gourmet Camping

Campervan in Mackay Creek DOC Campsite, Fiordland, NZ

Camping Kitchen

As you saw from my last post, the Big Guy and I are in New Zealand. I have to tell you, it is spectacular here, although I was very surprised to find that some of the foraging is pretty similar. It’s autumn, and the trees are groaning with rowan, elder, apples, and the fattest haw berries I’ve ever seen. I wasn’t expecting these plants to be so similar, given how far away it is. I also bought a Forager’s Treasury by Johanna Knox  and on looking through, most of the wild edibles are very familiar from a Northern European perspective. Luckily, it seems that most of the poisonous plants are also the same, which is handy.

We have also been bowled over by the people here. Everyone has been friendly, welcoming and have gone a little out of their way to be helpful. The lady in the supermarket told us how to get the best bargains, and went the extra mile to find out where we might buy harissa. The petrol station attendant caught us up on the international news and gave us a free cookie each.

New Zealand Trout

There Is Such A Thing As A Free Lunch (And Dinner, And Breakfast)!

But by far the nicest thing that anyone has done to date is the fisherman we got talking to. We have a campervan, but in our first days here, we got caught out by jetlag, and simply could not drive onto our intended destination, so we had to book into a motel en route. As is common here, the gentleman in question was friendly and chatty, and we got talking with him over breakfast. It turned out that his parents were both Dutch, so we chatted about the differences in life here and at home. As we were leaving, he tapped on our window and offered us one of his catch. We were stunned, but he very kindly kicked off the gourmet element of our trip with a fresh trout. He had three fresh, and two that were being smoked in a local smokehouse, and he was heading out that day to get some more. This was no small fry, either. He gave us the smallest of his catch, but it still weighed in at just under 3 kg. It really was beautiful.

I spent the entire day thinking about how I was going to cook that trout. My foraging book was helpful, because it mentioned that wood sorrel can also be found here. So, I planned to look for some, and make a cream and sorrel sauce to go with the trout. Unfortunately, where we had chosen to stop for the night, on our way to Milford Sound, offered up no wood sorrel. We had chosen it specifically because we could barbecue there.

Trout and Spring Onion Omelette, with Campers Mayonnaisse

Breakfast, Not at Tiffany’s

Luckily, I had a back up, because I had the foresight to buy some dill when I stopped at a shop for potatoes. So, a plan was born, for a gourmet meal, made with basic equipment, to be served under the Southern stars. We have eaten many gourmet campsite meals since; including succulent lemon and pepper lamb, venison and mushrooms, and even shakshuka for breakfast. But that trout, which served us three hearty meals, plus a little more to pick at was the nicest.

Outdoor Natural Winecooler

Camping Cooler

The first night, we barbecued the trout and served it with a green salad with mayonnaise. Served with a nice local Riesling, that we had cooled down naturally. The the leftovers kept nicely in a couple of ziplock bags in the cool box (which also had a big bag of ice), and made excellent omelette, and went nicely with pasta in a creamy sauce, with more dill.

You can’t get more gourmet, or more generous than that. Thank you very much, kind stranger!

Campsite Trout, Mayonnaise, potatoes  and green salad

Campsite Trout

Recipe: Campsite Trout

Ingredients

1 large trout or salmon

Dill fronds

Lemon slices

2 egg yolks

Juice of half a lemon, plus more to taste

About a quarter of a small bottle of plain oil

Salt and pepper to taste

15 g fennel, finely chopped (I had to do mine with scissors, due to the very blunt knives I was dealing with)

Method

Barbecued Trout

Gourmet Stay

Wash the trout and pat it dry with kitchen towel. Season the cavity of the fish with salt and pepper, and put the dill and lemon slices inside. Barbecue for about 40 minutes on a camp barbecue that is too high off the coals. If you are doing it on the barbecue at home, then you can put the fish closer to the heat source, and so it will take less time. Turn once during cooking, so it cooks well throughout.

Campsite Sauce Equipment

Basic Sauce Equipment

I have previously only made mayonnaise with a balloon whisk, so I was worried the fork would take ages. Now I’m sure this won’t work if you are trying to whisk egg whites for meringue, but the simple fork makes surprisingly speedy mayonnaise.

Whisk together the lemon juice, egg yolks and a little salt. Gradually add the oil. My tip is to add a little, then make sure it is thoroughly whisked into the egg before adding more. This way, the mayonnaise is less likely to split.

Thick and Glossy Mayonnaise

Thick and Glossy Mayonnaise

Once the mayonnaise is thick and glossy, taste it. You may need to adjust for seasoning, and possibly add more lemon juice to get the right balance of flavours.

Finally, chop up the dill. As I said, I resorted to some scissors, because the knives I had were less than sharp, but you chop yours however you like. Add it to the mayonnaise and mix well.

Serve the fish with a nice green salad, some simply boiled potatoes and a lot of the mayonnaise. Best served under the stars, but this is still good, even if you are forced inside by the weather.

 

 

16 Comments

Filed under Feast

Gravad Lax: Buried Treasure

Gravad Lax with creamy dill sauce

A Christmas Cracker

I love trying food from different cultures, especially as a different take on Christmas food, such as our Aussie Christmas dinner. I guess that by now, Swedish food isn’t so different for me, but I thought I’d share a favourite recipe of mine.

A traditional Swedish julbord, or “Christmas table” is a pretty meat-heavy affair, eaten at 4pm on Christmas eve, after the nation has sprung to life again following their Disney favourite; “Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul” or “Donald Duck And His Friends Wish You Happy Christmas”. It is always the same clips, and this is one Christmas tradition I’m not overkeen on, but when in Stockholm…

Anyway, back to the julbord; it groans under a ham, which for me this year was a wild boar one, because the out-laws know I don’t like to eat factory farmed meat; various kinds of inglagd sill ; cold cuts; sausages; lutfisk; spare ribs; and Janssons Frestelse.

In my family, we also often have gravad lax. Also known as gravlax, gravlaks, graavilohi, or graflax depending on where you are in Scandinavia. In any country, it means buried salmon. In times before refrigeration, especially in northern European countries where snow covered the ground for a good part of the year, curing and burying meat was a great way to preserve it. Originally, people would use spruce or pine needles in the cure, but the balance needs to be perfect if your fish is not to end up tasting of a certain kind of disinfectant.

These days, everyone can make this easy recipe; you don’t even need a spade! In fact, you still have time to make it in time for a new year’s gathering, if you are having one. It looks impressive, for relatively little effort, and it is a big hit.

Organic Farmed Salmon

Organic Farmed Salmon

One thing I must urge you is to source your fish well. The increase in popularity of salmon in the last decade or so is concurrent with fish farming, most of which causes horrible environmental damage, due to over feeding and routine, excessive use of antibiotics. At the same time wild stocks are seriously dwindling, due to overfishing, ocean acidification and habitat destruction. In my opinion, salmon should be a treat, eaten very occasionally, so that we can afford to eat the best organically farmed salmon we can, meaning there is no unnecessary antibiotic use, and better care is taken to ensure that the fish are not over fed. This cure also works well for other types of fish, so you could still enjoy the recipe with cheap and plentiful fish, such as mackerel, or herring, so do feel free to experiment.

I made this amount of salmon for a large party, so you can also reduce the amounts of fish you use, but you must have enough cure to really cover the fish, so make a little more of that than you think you might need for the amount of fish that you have.

Recipe: Gravad Lax With A Creamy Mustard Sauce

Ingredients

For the Salmon:
100 g demerera sugar

75 g sea salt

100 g dill

1 tbsp juniper berries crushed

1.5 kg salmon fillet, halved

3 tbsp brandy

3-4 bay leaves

For the Sauce:
250 ml crème fraîche

2-3 tbsp finely chopped dill, depending on how much you like it

2 tbsp wholegrain mustard

1 tbsp runny honey

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Gravad Lax mix

A Fitting Salmon Send Off

Mix together the salt and sugar until really well combined. Remove the stalks from the dill and chop the rest finely. Mix into the cure with the juniper berries. The cure needs to look pretty green and herby, because you want to get a lot of flavour in there.

In a shallow dish, get some cling film or a cheesecloth, and coat with about a quarter of the cure. Press one half of the fish down well into the cure, skin side down. Rub the cure into the skin, and leave skin side down on the wrapping.

Then you need to load the flesh with the cure. Do this by brushing the flesh with half the brandy and laying about another quarter of the cure over the flesh. Lay a few bay leaves over the fish.

Repeat the brandy and cure on the flesh of the second fillet. Once it is well covered, then lay it on the first fillet, so they are flesh to flesh. If the cure falls out, tuck it back between the fillets.

Rub the last of the cure into the skin of the second fillet. Wrap the fillets tightly together. If you are using cheesecloth, bind it with a series of butcher’s knots, as tight as you can get. The fish will lose liquid as it cures, so it is best to keep it in the shallow dish, unless you really like cleaning the contents of your fridge.

Weigh down the fish, by piling a load of tins on top of a baking sheet on top of the fillets, and placing the whole lot into the fridge. Leave it to cure for 3 days, turning once each day. Rinse off and pat dry with kitchen towel before serving.

What Gravad Lax Should Look Like

The Finished Product

To make the sauce, simply mix together the crème fraîche, dill, mustard and the honey. Season to taste.

Serve with the thinly sliced gravad lax on bread, melba toast or knäckebröd, as a delicious starter or hors d’oeuvre.

11 Comments

Filed under Feast

A Very British Affair

Salmon Fishcakes with tabbouleh, sauce grib-ish and a green salad

A Succulent Summer Plate

This past week, I have been in the UK again, mostly for my Mum’s birthday. We had a lovely weekend, starting with a bracing walk around the old English towns of Burnham on Sea and Weston Super Mare. Unfortunately, we also went on days when almost the entirety of both towns were closed, probably due to the weather. We still managed to have some lovely fish and chips, and an ice cream. And a poke around the end-of-pier arcades, but that really was mostly to get out of the wind for a bit.

Last week, I also noticed that Liz Knight of Forage was going to be doing a family forage at the Tudor Farmhouse Market  in Clearwell in the Forest of Dean. As that is pretty close to where my parents are, and it is a beautiful place to go, I cheekily asked if they would take a family with grown up kids. When they kindly agreed, I had a plan for Sunday too.  We enjoyed a short walk around the grounds of the hotel, and picked up loads of delicious treats, and all of us learned about things that we didn’t know were edible. There were also local food producers and a folk duo playing live.

As you know from yesterday’s post, Liz has been very helpful over Twitter, so it was lovely to meet her in person. She is so enthusiastic and knowledgeable, as well as being great with all the kids that came. She kept everyone engaged on the walk. There were bread and syrup making demonstrations afterwards, using our bounty. Liz runs a number of foraging walks and classes, so you could look out for them, I guarantee that you will learn a lot.

We also had a barbecue for Mum’s friends and family. I was happy to lend a hand with home-made burgers, salads, and dips. Many of them will appear here soon, but I have so many things to post that they may be over the course of a few weeks.

The important thing is that she enjoyed herself, and there were actually few leftovers. This is a good thing, but you do know how I love using up leftovers. My dad had baked a salmon, and there were a few new potatoes that we had cooked up in their skins, in water with a few mint leaves in it. We served these simply in butter. What better way to use these ingredients up than to have fishcakes?

No Waste Food Challenge by Turquoise Lemons

This is also my entry to this Month’s No Waste Food Challenge, hosted by Turquoise Lemons. For June, Kate is challenging us to produce a recipe using leftovers of any kind. This entire meal was to use up the leftovers from the barbecue, with only the addition of freshly cut herbs for the fishcakes, so it definitely qualifies.

I served the fishcakes with tabbouleh, sauce grib-ish, and a fresh salad. A perfect way to round up a birthday weekend. And at last the sun had arrived, so we ate this meal in the garden.

Prepared Salmon Fish Cakes

Pat-a-Fishcake

Recipe: Baked Salmon

Ingredients

1 whole salmon*, gutted and cleaned.

4-5 sprigs tarragon

Small bunch flat leaf parsley

Cucumber, sliced

Butter, softened enough to be able to brush on the delicate fish

Method

Check that the salmon will fit into your oven, on a baking sheet. If you are having problems, then you can remove the head or the tail, or both. I like to leave the head on if I can, the cheek meat is the cook’s treat.

Pre-heat the oven. Dad just says a low oven. I would suggest that this is no higher than 160°C.

Place the herbs and the cucumber in the cavity of the fish, and season to taste.

Brush the fish with butter, then wrap it in foil, as you would for cooking en papillotte (the parcel making starts at 2.16). Place the parcel on the baking sheet, and cook in the oven until the fish is just done. Exact times will depend on the size of your fish. As a guide, our fish was 1.3 kg and took about 40 mins in a low gas oven.

This gives a lovely, moist fish, that is delicious hot or cold, served on the bone.

Recipe: Salmon Fishcakes

As this is intended to use leftovers, this is more a guideline than a recipe, so I have listed the ingredients, but not the amounts, use up what you have.

New potatoes, boiled, or leftover mashed potatoes

Cooked salmon

Cream Cheese

Parsley, finely chopped

Method

The next day, I had about 7-8 new potatoes (not the really tiny ones). I peeled them, then heated them up in the remainder of the butter. New potatoes are not the best kind to use for mash, but when they were warm, they mashed really well. I added a scant tablespoonful of cream cheese to help bind it. Horseradish cream would also have been great, but my Dad won’t eat that.

Remove skin and any bones from the salmon, and flake it into large chunks.

Mix the mashed potato, fish and herbs, until they are well combined. Form into patties by rolling balls in your hands, then flattening and shaping on a chopping board.

I had worried that the new potatoes wouldn’t mash too well, so I was going to coat them in breadcrumbs to help. As this wasn’t needed, I decided just to fry them in a little oil until they were browned on both sides.

These fishcakes will keep in the fridge for a few days, and they also freeze well.

*When sourcing a salmon, due to recent overfishing, it is better to get a farmed  one. Fish farming can have serious environmental issues, particularly where the fish are fed other fish by-products and are routinely fed antibiotics (mostly required in overcrowded nets). In order to avoid this, please look for organic farms, that feed a plant-based diet. This is what the Marine Conservation Society have to say on the issue.

NB: This is not a sponsored post, I mention Forage and the Tudor Farmhouse because I really enjoyed the experience.

2 Comments

Filed under Feast