Monday 21 November 2011

Ling when you're Winning

common ling drawing
Common Ling, from Wikipedia
I bought a piece of ling from the fish man last week. This was a nicely de-boned fillet but, if you ever see a whole one, you might be mistaken for thinking it was an anorexic cod or a conger eel. It is, in fact, a member of the cod family but its eel-like appearance can be a bit off-putting for the novice fish cook.

I think the species we get here is the Common ling Molva molva. It is apparently a voracious predator that likes to hang around wrecks and rough ground. Sound like anyone you know? I hope not. There is also a Blue ling Molva dypterygia which looks even more like an anorexic cod but I'm pretty sure it's predominantly the Molva molva that is found in Scottish waters.

A method for cooking ling didn't immediately spring to mind for me. It has quite tightly-grained and firm flesh compared to cod but, from what I could remember of the last time I cooked it, it doesn't have a very strong flavour. I had a quick look through a few recipes and adapted one to match the ingredients I had available. It ended up as a quite respectably chefy-looking pan fried ling fillet on a bed of flageolet beans, peas and bacon.

The cooking method was fairly simple. First, fry up some garlic and finely diced onion and allow to soften. Next, turn up the heat and add in some chopped bacon or pre-prepared bacon lardons and fry until the bacon starts to brown. You can add in some finely chopped chorizo if you like - this will add some extra bite and saltiness to the dish. Drain most of the liquid off a tin of flageolet beans but keep the liquid to hand. Add the beans to the fried bacon and onions and also chuck in a handful of frozen peas. Let that lot fry for a couple of minutes then add in some of the bean juice and turn down the heat to a slow simmer.

While the bean mixture is simmering, cut the ling into portions and season with plenty of salt and pepper. Get your frying pan really hot (rapeseed oil is great to use for high-temperature frying - I often use Ola or Borderfields Scottish rapeseed oil) then put in the fish, flesh side down. Allow it to brown nicely before turning it over to the skin side. Once the skin side has crisped up you can turn down the heat until the fillet is cooked through but still moist.

Finally, add some cream to your bean mixture and allow it to heat through but not boil. Serve in a large shallow bowl with the ling perched on top of the bean mixture for genuine chefiness-look.

You could easily make this recipe without the flageolet bean and just use the frozen peas but I think if you were doing it that way you'd need to crush the peas in order to let the flavour out. I love flageolet beans and they always go really well with bacon, or any other cured meat for that matter.

You can probably tell I'm getting into cosy winter hibernation mode with this kind of food. It's hearty and filling, comes in a big bowl and doesn't really require the use of a knife to eat it. But the peas-only version of this recipe would make a perfectly acceptable summer dish along with a glass of chilled white.

The weather has turned to smirry, gloomy November grimness but I'm going to turn all the lights on and ignore it. No point in sitting here in the dark. Need to catch some rays, artificial or otherwise. But that's a different fish story altogether.

Monday 7 November 2011

Full of Beans

What a beautiful November morning. The sun is blazing through the window and I am squinting to read what I'm typing. Yes, I have blinds, but they are staying resolutely up today so that I can absorb as much of this precious daylight as possible.

I've just recovered from a nasty stomach bug so am feeling full of the joys of health and vitality today. And coffee. My first cup of coffee in a week! Bliss.

I got up early(ish) yesterday to watch the sunrise. It's a fairly slow process at the moment because of the sun's very low arc in the sky. It seems to meander along behind the mainland mountains for quite a while before finally putting in a full appearance. But that lazy rising gives plenty of time for optical fireworks as the light morphs and beams its way to full blazing glory.

Later in the day we drove to Balmacara and took a walk in the forest before scrambling down to the shore. My wife made arrangements of brilliant red and yellow leaves then photographed them against ivy, moss and rock backgrounds. We rounded off the walk with an al fresco cup of stupidly-sweet Aero hot chocolate, from the wee shop.

Cassoulet for dinner tonight, I think. We've loved it ever since our first giant French tin of it. We make our own now: soaking the beans (mostly haricot or cannellini) overnight; rapid boiling them; then bubbling them up with frankfurters, pre-roasted pork belly slices, thyme and tomato puree. The meaty surprises are great but, for me, cassoulet is really all about the soft and savoury beans. Get those right and your cassoulet will work perfectly, whichever recipe you use.

November can be a grim month, so I intend to savour the good days like the softest of savoury cassoulet beans. There may be repercussions.