Friday 31 December 2010

Oh, What a Knife

I am now the proud owner of a Wüsthof Flexibel Fischfiliermesser 6" 4516/16cm made in Solingen, Germany. Otherwise known as my new fish filleting knife.

I have already put it to good use slicing up an enormous side of smoked salmon, from Moidart Smokehouse, kindly gifted to me (oh, and my wife) by one of my brothers. Who would have thought that slicing up smoked salmon could be such an enjoyable and calming experience? I must be accessing my inner surgeon. And where would the surgeon be with a blunted scalpel or enormous cleaver in place of a precision instrument? Private practice probably, charging a Harley Street fortune for ironic dark-ages-style operations.

Sorry, I digress. We have been eating the salmon every day since Christmas day - usually just with some lemon juice and black pepper. But I have also tried it to great effect on oatcakes with some cheap (Lidl) caviar. I'm intending to have some tomorrow, mixed in with soft and creamy scrambled eggs but I'd better wait and see what state of health the morrow brings before committing to such an endeavour.

I'm not one for making any New Year's resolutions but I can say, with some certainty, that I will be collecting, buying and generally acquiring many more gastronomic delights to dissect and deliver to you in a (very fine to the point of translucence) slice-of-life manner.

Happy New Year.

Wednesday 29 December 2010

Still Haven't Found What I'm Dooking For

If you're not familiar with the Scots word "dooking", it's the rough equivalent of the word "bobbing" as used in bobbing for apples.

I'm using it here in reference to a cormorant we watched today dooking for its lunch and coming up with a sizeable flatfish. Like the heron I referred to in a previous post this cormorant was unable to get the fish down its gullet. After a prolonged performance in front of our binoculars it gave up and tossed the fish aside with a contemptuous flick of its head, before preening and swimming off nonchalantly to sun itself on a nearby rock.

The shape of flatfish could be seen as an evolutionary advantage if it were the case that seabirds such as herons and cormorants wouldn't bother with them because of their "unswallowable" form factor. But it's hard to see getting killed but not being eaten because your predator can't be bothered to find a way to eat you that doesn't disturb its immaculate poise, as much of an advantage.

Another theory (and another flatfish) for the bin.

Sunday 26 December 2010

Drinks and Nibbles

I must be my mother's son. When things get bad my instinct is to feed people. Perhaps it's just the distraction that cooking provides under difficult circumstances. When there is little that can be said or done to help, providing food to tired and emotional people is at least somewhat useful.

Despite everything, Christmas has been enjoyable. I have been spoiled with foodie treats and I'm sure that over the next few days/weeks I will go into those in more detail. For the moment I just wanted to mention some rather unusual drinks and nibbles which we "enjoyed" here before heading to my parents' house for the Christmas feast.

I've been reading about the potential benefits of humans turning more toward eating insects. They are, apparently, a rich and very efficient source of protein. So, I decided to put my money where my mouth is and purchased a small selection of entomological delicacies via a website. My family and I were tucking into the more usual pre-dinner staples of cashew nuts and crisps, when I remembered my purchases. We snacked on BBQ Worm Crisps and Thai Green Curry Crickets, followed by Chocolate-covered Giant Ants, all washed down with a delectable rosé port.

Some of our guests turned up their noses at these delights but those who did try them responded with a resounding "OK, really" or "not that bad". After overcoming his initial squeamishness my six-year-old nephew decided that he liked them all but that the Chocolate-covered Ants were his favourite.

I'm intending to track down some locust meats in the New Year. I've heard that they're quite like prawns. Thai green locust curry here we come.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Brandy and Port

It's so quiet. Soft snow on top of a frozen underlayer blankets the ground, deadening sound. I can hear my ears ringing. The mountains on the mainland are partially obscured by snowclouds and falling snow. The low sun is a pale orange glow spreading out to touch the mountaintops.

The mallards are quite at home in this weather. They scoot, silently today, on the calm water near the shore, heads tucked tightly into bodies.

This weather makes my thoughts turn to brandy and port. It's 9.45am so I'm not intending to indulge right now. Maybe later. Brandy and port is a good ostentatious, christmassy, wintry drink. I defy you not to have your cockles warmed by it. It is redolent of an imagined past of Dickensian fireside good-cheer.

I make brandy and port using Spanish brandy (or more correctly Brandy de Jerez) rather than the traditional cognac. It has a cleaner, less cloying flavour.

If you have a proper fish-bowl-sized brandy glass in which to swirl it contemplatively, before putting it down gently in order to steeple your fingers, narrow your eyes and commence telling a bone-chilling, snow-encrusted ghost story then so much the better.