flounder spinach rollups

flounderspinach

I bought a couple of packets of flounder filets at the supermarket. Mum and I aren’t very good at fish with bones so I prefer to stick with salmon or white fish filets. This is the first time I tried cooking flounder. The first batch, I pan-fried them but it wasn’t successful. The filets were too fragile and difficult to keep whole. Plus I couldn’t find much flavour to them.

For the second batch I decided to roll them up and bake them. It was dead easy. Cooked some spinach, rolled in filets, secure with toothpick. Baked in 180ºC oven for 15mins. I served them with hollandaise sauce which shamefully I have to admit came from a packet. I can make my own, but we had the packet so it’s best to use it up before it expires.

Since I was turning the oven on, I made sweet potatoes too. I’m so much happier with the rollups than the pan-fried version. I’m sure I can cook the rollups in a pan, either pan-fry them or poach them. Oven seems the best though, to keep them whole.

gourmet eating out day

aberdeensocialseabass2015

Sis and I went out for lunch and dinner last week, the day when I was looking after my niece for part of the day. Lunch was at Jason Atherton’s Aberdeen Street Social. Downstairs is the more casual bistro. I had what was on the menu as sea bass “BLT” which was seabass, pork belly, sautéed cabbage, mushroom and a tomato sauce. The seabass was really nice, fresh and flakey. They should have served it with the crispy skin though. For a small additional charge, it came with a glass of wine and dessert, which was chocolate cake.

mrmrsfox04steak

Dinner was at Mr & Mrs Fox, a sprawling modern industrial-looking bar and restaurant. Noisy happy hour folks downstairs at the bar; we ate upstairs at the restaurant. Started with oysters, which were fresh but disappointing because they seemed to have washed them before serving. To me, that’s sacrilegious as all the taste of the sea is gone. My steak was a 16oz bone-in strip; rare and perfectly cooked. Soft and flavourful too. Their house wine came in draught form, so we could order any amount we wanted. We’d had wine already earlier so it was just one glass.

 

pan-fried salmon with caramelised fennel

salmonfennel201505

Continuing the theme of eating more fish, I made salmon and fennel for lunch.

Standard salmon fillet from Ikea—the best value and best tasting salmon available to me. I had a head of fennel but I didn’t want to turn the oven on for just one head, so I looked for pan-frying recipes. The one from Delia at bbc goodfood looks great, but like most Delia recipes, seemed a bit fiddly. My simplified method was to slice the fennel and blanch in boiling water for 3 minutes, then brown in a pan with apple balsamic, worcestershire sauce and honey. Took around 10-15mins. Pushed the fennel to the side of the pan then cooked the salmon, which is why it looks so burnt on top, it absorbed the fennel debris.

Sigh, I’ve come to realise that the vegetables I love to cook with like fennel, kale, savoy cabbage, I have limited access to. They are also extremely expensive. The salmon (frozen) was also twice the price of fresh salmon in the UK.

crispy skin sea bream with cauliflower cream

seabream201505

Had lunch with my college friend CH, we’d only recently started getting back in touch after not seeing each other for more than 10 years.

We went to a spanish restaurant and amongst the choices of wagyu beef, iberico pork, lobster, seafood fettucine we both chose…fish. Most of our conversation evolved around her son, schools, travelling and keeping healthy. It’s strange, we all seem to feel our age lately. I would never have even considered ordering fish at a restaurant until recently.

That said, the fish was very good. Crispy skin, fish flaky and cooked perfectly. I just feel like I’m turning into the middle-aged boring person who orders fish and skips dessert. Oh yes, I don’t drink as much either, whereas I would have been able to finish off most of a bottle of wine, it took me the better part of a week to drink a bottle of wine lately.

It’s not a bad thing, staying on top of our health. Still a way to go: even less coke, more running, get a body check.

korea trip day 03

kor0013fishmkt

A tale of two markets today. Lunch was at Noryangjin fish market. A huge place, with hundreds of stalls on the ground floor selling fresh fish, crab, prawn and all manners of shellfish. On the first floor were small restaurants that would cook the fish customers bought at the stalls.

kor0014fish kor0015fish

After watching the action and a short debate, we decided on a plate of assorted sashimi, spoon worm that looked and tasted like pig’s intestines, fresh steamed fish and one of the food items on all adventurous food challenge lists: sannajki or live still moving octopus.

Yes, the tentacles were still moving and the suckers made it difficult to remove from the plate. People who tried it always said the tentacles stuck to the inside of their mouths but I didn’t get that. It was pretty much like a gimmicky octopus sashimi. The head was awful though, I chewed and chewed and chewed and didn’t get anywhere, had to spit it out. Not the taste but the fact that it was unchewable. Everything else was great, especially the steamed fish.

kor0017namdaemun

Market #2 was the famous namdaemun market. Namdaemun means south gate and the gate formed one corner of the ancient seoul fortress. The gate burned down in 2008 after an arson attack, it was meticulously restored and I couldn’t tell the difference between the old and new one.

kor0018namdaemun

The market itself was your standard street market with stalls selling clothes, snacks, household items, accessories and souvenirs. There was a street with food and another area with a few snack carts. We bought some dried cuttlefish, sweet potato and chocolate from a nice lady who let us try everything and gave us some sweets as freebies. We were quite tired by then so we found a coffee place to rest for a while before heading back to our hotel.

kor0019bbq

Dinner was at a barbeque place a few doors down from the hotel. Belly pork and beef ribs, the meal total came to KRW25,000 (USD25). We walked around the Ewha University shopping streets after dinner and bought a few small accessories. It started raining so we made our way back to the hotel.

tokyo day 04: shrine, shopping, puffer fish

tok0024sushi tok0025soup

Rain most of the day, pretty miserable. We started the day late as usual, headed to Kitte mall next to Tokyo station for brunch at Nemuro Hanamaro conveyor belt sushi, this is our favourite place in Sapporo and I was happy to see that they have a branch at Tokyo. We had ikura, scallops (3 plates), tuna, salmon, hamachi, some other white fish and a bowl of yummy crab soup. 15 plates including the soup for ¥5,000.

tok0026shrine tok0027shrine

Took the subway to Asakusa, one of the older areas of Tokyo. The major landmark is Sensō-ji, the oldest shrine in Tokyo, founded in 628. The pedestrian street leading up to the shrine is lined on both sides with stalls selling souvenirs, kimono, fans, snacks and sweets. The area surrounding the shrine is also made up of small streets lined with shops and restaurants.

It had been raining throughout the day and it got steadily heavier. We sought cover at a coffee shop where we enjoyed a coffee (for mm), tea (for me) and cakes. The place only had one table occupied when we went in, but it filled up quickly with people with the same idea.

We walked around a little more in the area, both at the small streets and at a couple of department stores. Found a supermarket and bought some snacks and cakes. There was a food store at the basement of Seibu that turned out to be a Walmart branded supermarket, wandered around there too.

tok0028puffer tok0029puffer

The reason we stayed in the area and waited around for dinner was because we came across a restaurant that served fugu, or puffer fish. This is the highly poisonous fish that requires very careful handling, that chefs must be specially trained and certified before they are allowed to prepare it. The waitress told us that a set is enough for two, so that’s what we ordered. Small dish of starter, fugu sashimi, fugu hot pot and congee made from the soup. One set, with two drinks came to just over ¥5,000. No one said fugu is cheap.

Stopped by the whisky place near the station to sample some more whisky. In addition to the Amrut fusion I bought earlier, I bought a Yoichi 15, a 500ml Miyagikyo NAS and the green Ichiro’s malt.

Our last night at the hotel, same routine of going downstairs to the onsen then peaches for dessert.

salmon fish cakes

salmonfishcake01

Didn’t make any plans with mm. How I spent the day? Errands. Got train ticket for trip next week, picked up stuff I ordered with expiring airmiles. Went to market. Made salmon fish cakes from some cheap salmon filets I had in the freezer. Grilled the fish then spent forever getting the bones out, including small fiddly pin bones. Will never buy fish so poorly prepped again.

Mixed the salmon flakes with mashed potatoes, dipped in flour, egg and panko then pan-fried for about 5mins each side. Didn’t have time to rest them in the fridge prior to frying so they had to be carefully handled otherwise they would fall apart. Drizzled over some sriracha and a dollop of mayo. Not bad, primary taste was potatoes. At least it was a way to use up salmon I would have probably given up and thrown away.

pan-fried catfish

catfishbreaded

I have very little comprehension of American southern food. It seems that everything is fried and there’s a lot of carbs, although I understand how frying makes everything taste good. To be honest and like many non-Americans, I’m horrified by Paula Deen but on the other hand I secretly want to try her restaurant just once. Preferably during the latter stages of marathon training when my metabolism is turbo-charged and I can eat whatever I like.

So, I have a couple of catfish filets in my freezer. Normally I’d just grill them or lightly pan-fry but I was surfing around and it turns out that fried catfish is a typical southern dish. It’s coated with cornmeal and fried. May be worth trying.

I have no cornmeal, it’s an ingredient I’m unfamiliar with. I doubt I can find it — or it’d be extremely expensive. I do have polenta except the box isn’t opened and I don’t want to use it yet. So I breaded the fish with a packet of instant grits. It’s either that or normal flour, or oatmeal. Grits is basically a coarser version of cornmeal, right?

Standard breading procedure — flour, eggwash, grits. The grits were flavoured with s&p, a little paprika and some oregano. (I felt like oregano, it’s not obviously a southern herb.) Then fried. I was using the grill pan for courgettes so I just used the same pan for the fish, ideally I should have used a normal frying pan.

Tasted great, even though it didn’t look that good. Fish was succulent and the breading was crispy. I know, I need to work on my presentation.

fresh seabass

seabasscooked

seabassfresh seabassfilet

I bought a couple of fresh seabass when I was at Brixton market yesterday. The fishmonger cleaned them, but left them whole. I debated whether to cook them whole or to filet them and decided that I really don’t like eating any fish that still has bones. I have a fish knife, and I know how to take the skin off, but I’d never really tried fileting before. It wasn’t too difficult, although there was more wastage than I would have liked. I even managed to get rid of the pin bones, luckily it’s a fish that doesn’t have bones that are too small or fiddly.

Pan frying took about 1 minute each side. I served it with the vegetarian caviar I got a while ago, sauteéd prawns, scampi, roasted baby potatoes and asparagus. It was a running day, so I had a cider with it too.

good friday organic salmon

salmonorganic

I don’t do the give something up for lent thing. No particular reason. I do, however, abstain from meat on good friday. No particular reason either. This was a beautiful Scottish organic salmon fillet that I got from Waitrose this morning. I was stuck by how pale it was, there was almost no pink and when cooked the colour was more chicken breast than salmon. As for taste, it was good.

crab stuffed flounder

floundercrab02

I’m trying for one vegetarian day a week. As it happens, today was fish day. I had grilled salmon salad for lunch, from the 2 fillets I grilled yesterday. And when I was at the store after work, I was looking around for ideas. I saw a couple of fresh crab-stuffed flounder pieces that was apparently “homemade” according to the label. And only needed 20mins in the oven.

Now I very very rarely buy ready-to-eat meals, definitely not frozen meals but sometimes from the fresh section. But i was lazy and wanted something new.

It’s not too bad. There’s a cheesy white sauce that is a bit heavy, and certainly added to the calorie count. I ended up only having one piece which I served on a bed of salad.

fish market, refle, shabu shabu

Another early finish, lucky me. I hurried to the fish market to buy salmon roe for mm. Most of the market had closed, but a few shops were still open. While I was at it, I got some of the roasted eggroll too.

Very tired after all the work, so I went downstairs for a massage. More precisely, a hand, foot and head massage. It was very relaxing, not too strenuous like my usual foot massage. They call it refle, which I’m sure is Engrish for reflexology.

Had a hard time finding dinner. I should have gone back to the fish market for sushi, but didn’t want to walk 20-25mins to spoil the foot massage. The 2 sushi restaurants near the hotel were both full, so I had shabu shabu instead. ¥2900 for pork, vegetables and soba. I must admit it was very very tasty and I wanted to order more … but it was too expensive. The wait staff were friendly, giving me all sorts of tips on how to eat the shabu shabu. I didn’t have the heart, nor did they know enough English, for me to tell them that I know what to do.

tky061shabu

Early start tomorrow. But finally, here’s a night shot from the middle of a rickety metal pedestrian bridge behind the hotel.

tky035night

day 19: grilled tuna head

tunahead

This is actually leftover from a Japanese restaurant meal but the subject is too interesting to pass up.

Grilled tuna head. Grilled fish heads are a big part of Japanese cuisine, because they use so much fish for sashimi there’s always the head remaining. Salmon head is very filling, hamachi head is very good. This is the first time I tried tuna head. There’s a surprising amount of very tender flesh, anyone who’s tried fish cheeks will know the degree of tenderness. Usually I’m scared of eating fish cos of the small spine bones but with head, the bone is so large it’s impossible to choke on it.

The way the gill bone is served here makes the whole dish look rather like salmon steak actually.

grilled salmon with roasted butternut squash

I had a hankering for grilled salmon last week, so I finally got round to making it. I marinated it for about 2 hours with 3 cloves of crushed garlic, half a lime, seasoning and olive oil. The trick to grilling fish (and any grilled food but especially fish) is NOT to move it until it’s cooked on one side. Otherwise it’ll totally stick to the grill. I tried looking online to see what the consensus is to grilling fish — skin side or flesh side first? Most agree that with salmon it’s flesh side first though I’ve read articles that say skin side first for fish fillets to prevent curling. In any case I don’t think it matters all that much.

To go with the salmon I made roasted butternut squash. It’s adapted from a Jamie recipe except it’s from the first Naked Chef book. I didn’t use so many spices simply cos I don’t have them. I used oregano instead.

Halve a butternut squash lengthwise
Halve and halve again, meaning one squash is divided to 8 long wedges
In a bowl or preferably pestle & mortar mix together — olive oil, salt, pepper, chopped garlic, oregano
Rub surface of squash with seasoning
Roast at 180°C for 30 mins until caramelised

I served the salmon and squash with some chopped spinach and a lime wedge. It was very nice. Oh, and I got new square white plates.

salmonsquash

Now that I think of it, I should be crossposting this to the recipes section.

salmon stack

I made that salmon and avocado with crispy potato tuiles that I was talking about. Except I didn’t have a bunch of ingredients. Didn’t have sashimi grade fish, didn’t have mirin. So as usual I made some adjustments.

First I made a mango & avocado salsa by finely dicing a small mango, half an avocado, half a red pepper, 1 tomato and a small chunk of cucumber. Squeezed the juice of a lime, seasoned and added a splash of EVOO.

Made the potato tuiles by mashing 1 potato, added 1 egg white whisked to soft peaks, about 40g plain flour and a large knob of melted butter. Spoon half a spoonful of the dough thinly over a baking tray, spread using a knife and baked at 200°C for about 15 minutes. I think my oven is too hot, may be I should reduce the temperature next time. These tuiles taste fantastic out of the oven, I couldn’t stop eating them. Once cooled they start getting soft though.

I started layering. Okay yes I have those food ring thingies. Bottom layer is the salsa, then some smoked salmon that had been marinading in lime juice for about 5 minutes. One tuile, then more salsa, another layer of salmon and topped with a couple of tuiles. Spoon more of the salsa around, sprinkle pepper.

I should really have made a proper dressing, but I didn’t bother. Also, next time I may try pickling the cucumber or adding some herbs to the salsa. Traditional mango salsa will have coriander and/or chili but I don’t like either. May be some basil or mint.

salmonstack

bye bye fishies

I threw out the fish tank today. It’s the end of our fish-keeping days. It all started when mm and I went to a funfair in Hampstead and won a goldfish. I remember buying a small glass bowl, but then realising we need more — food, filters, aeration and such like.

So we bought an aquarium system and learnt how to keep tropical fish. The goldfish we gave to a friend of ours. We kept to easy fish like guppies, angel fish and catfish. We always preferred live plants. Water must stand in buckets for a while before adding. Change water regularly. Add fish slowly, let them have a taste of the aquarium water first. All these became second nature.

Then I started having to travel a lot, so the fish became neglected and eventually they all died. The tank’s been empty for a couple of years, and starting to look grotty.

I suppose one day we might go back to keeping fish. I like it, watching them, it’s peaceful.