Monday 18 July 2011

The Man Who Played with Samphire

It's been a great few days for our own produce (all my wife's work really) coming, literally, to fruition. The salad leaves are so much more interesting than the often-moribund bags of uniform green stuff you buy in the supermarket. Even the flowers on the bolting rocket are tasty - kind of hot and nutty - a bit like the way I get after too long in the sun. The strawberries are great too, and we had bumper helpings of them last night along with dollops of double cream.

Yesterday was wet and windy but we resolved to defy its grey menace and headed for the shore. We were just out for a stroll, trying to avoid the stir-crazy sensations that often take hold on the numerous rainy summer days here. As we headed towards the salt-flats we remembered that it was a good area for finding Samphire (really Common Glasswort Salicornia Europaea) at around this time of year. I've written about Samphire before (blog entry 'Walking on Samphire') but last time I picked it a little later in the year and it had started to get a bit 'woody'. The time window for picking it at its best must be rather short because it was quite small when we picked it yesterday. Looks like the first week of August might be ideal. We tried to nip of just the top part of the larger growths, leaving the lower part and roots in place to, hopefully, sprout again.

We collected up the salad leaves and strawberries from the garden on our way home from the shore, and also dug up some small garlic bulbs. I made some mojo with the garlic and a slightly-squishy avocado. I spread some of the mojo on a couple of salmon fillets then baked them in foil parcels in the oven for 20 minutes. We ate the salmon along with the blanched, buttered and peppered samphire and the dressed salad leaves to which I had added a few chunks of feta cheese.

I've just opened the window. The sun is now blazing down and has dried up the saturated deck in short order. It's going to be a beautiful day so I intend to get my work done then go out and enjoy it. Better than getting hot and nutty in here.

Thursday 14 July 2011

Belly Flops

A bright but breezy day. I can hear the cries of oystercatchers from the deck. The tide is half way out and the salt/seaweed smell of Gastrobeach is strong on the breeze.

Yesterday was warm and sunny - so much so that I decided to go for a swim at the end of the working day. I flip-flopped (in the shoe sense) past my wife, who was busy in the burgeoning garden, and headed for the shore. The high tide made the immersion process easier because I was virtually up to waist-depth after simply stepping off the salt-flats and into the water. It was cold but at least shocking-and-breathtaking cold rather than screaming-out-loud cold. I got fairly comfortable swimming in the shallows but then became over-enthusiastic and struggled through a deep stretch. I was left feeling exhausted and a little queasy. I think I need to build up more slowly.

We've been away for the past couple of weeks; first in Fort William then over east in Auchmithie again. We went to Brown's Restaurant in Fort William for an anniversary celebration meal. The food was impressive, if a little on the pricey side. 'Pan seared king scallops set on crisp pork belly served with a caramelized apple and maple syrup puree' was my weapon of choice. The pork belly was deliciously crisp and the scallops were cooked to perfection. They had left the orange roe (sometimes called the 'coral') on the scallops, which always gets the vote from me. I have no idea why some restaurants remove this - perhaps sloppy preparation technique or maybe just plain ignorance. The apple worked well in the puree but the maple syrup was, for my taste, too sweet. I don't want my 'surf and turf' to taste like dessert.

We were too busy with noisy party celebrations in Auchmithie to get round to the seafood. All too often we seem to drive through Arbroath and forget to pick up any Smokies. Fortunately, though, it's quite easy to get them by mail-order these days. Someone did bring some delicious poached salmon along to the party. But cakes and desserts were the order of the evening. I don't know if there is some east-coast ordnance about it being dishonourable to arrive at a party without a tray groaning with cream-laden cakes and pastries, but it certainly felt that way.

Back here the salad leaves are growing well and I'm looking forward to simple summer dishes involving big chunks of protein accompanied by hot and tangy, dressing-slathered foliage.