Thursday 16 February 2012

Seashell Sanctuary

It's been an uplifting, gastronomic and romantic few days on and around Gastrobeach. It is amazing how a long weekend at home can turn into a wonderful and fulfilling mini holiday. And having that extra time coinciding with decent tides at useful times of day is neatly serendipitous. Lots to talk about, so I may spread it over a few blog posts.

I decided to cook a special meal on the Friday evening, to kick off the long weekend in style. The food available in the supermarkets here is often boringly generic so I took to the wee shops to gather my main ingredients: a couple of juicy venison steaks from the butcher and around half a kilo of fresh prawn tails from the seafood deli.

I fried up garlic and parsley with a lot of butter and some rapeseed oil, then added some lemon juice to make a hot, lemony garlic-butter dip. I simply plunged the prawn tails into boiling water for a couple of minutes. If you've never experienced the messy delights of shelling hot prawns at the table, and eating them dipped in tangy garlic butter, then you may be the sort of person that got scolded by their mother for being a messy eater and has now developed an unhealthy complex or two. You'll certainly be the sort of person that is missing out.

I had seasoned the venison steaks and marinated in Port for an hour or so. Using the garlic-butter pan (complete with tasty caramelised garlic bits) I began making a reduction for the steaks. A good glug of cassis, some more Port and a couple of teaspoons of blackcurrant jam, added to the leftover venison marinade, made for a rich sauce reduction. I boiled some chopped celeriac and potato then whizzed (with some lemon juice and butter added) to make a smooth puree. Venison steaks are excellent flash-fried but they are quite dense, so you'll need to fry them for a bit longer than beef steaks to get to the equivalent level of cookedness. I left ours quite rare but then rested them for a while out of the pan while I fried some baton-cut courgettes in the meat juices. I then returned the steaks to the pan for a final heat. Somewhat better than the pizza and a movie I had originally planned.

There was dessert too: chocolate and vanilla cheesecake by those people. We now have loads of those wee glass dishes they come in, but they make passable ramekins if you are a ramekin sort of person. Is that a person that likes little rams? The liquid accompaniment to the whole meal was a refreshing cava de Codorniu.

Saturday was dry if a little overcast. Humans ventured onto the shore around 2pm to follow the still-receding tide line. My brother and mother joined us for a "fun but serious" forage. We were mostly seeking surf clams to form the basis of a bumper seafood chowder but were often distracted by the other fascinating sea-life revealed by the low tide. The image I've used is a wee taster of this: a hermit crab in a beautiful conical shell.

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