Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Food tagging

Well mopsa said "if you feel like picking up this tag, please do" or something like that, and I thought I'd talk about 5 memorable dishes I've had. Why not, I love food and yakking!

1. Last summer (was it really only last summer?), Jenny and I went to the west coast of Ireland where we stayed in a holiday cottage within sight of the sea. The other half of the cottage housed the owners, who were really nice people.

As we emerged from sleep the first morning, our host banged on the front door. He'd been fishing, and would we like some mackerel? Yes please! He wouldn't let me accept fewer than 4. They were beautiful, having been swimming around only an hour or two earlier. Jenny cooked them very simply, just with lemon juice, I think. I don't think I've ever tasted better fish. Later in the week he returned with 4 more, after which we'd reached mackerel-saturation point! An exquisite memory.

2. In the mid-1990s Jenny, my mother and I went to South Africa for a month. It was Jen's first visit and the first time mum and I had been back since we left SA in 1960. After a couple of weeks in Cape Town, we drove up the Garden Route to Knysna, stopping off at a B&B on a farm the first night.

We'd expected there to be a restaurant somewhere near, where we could eat, but this was seriously out in the sticks. While we pondered our predicament, the farmer's wife appeared. They were having friends over for a barbecue (she said "brai" of course) and had slaughtered a lamb. Would we like her to send the maid over with some food when it was ready?

The food duly appeared, and it was simply gorgeous. The farm was in the Little Karoo, which is semi-desert, with more or less no grass, just aromatic shrubs (fynbos) for the sheep to eat. I'm sorry, but it was better than Welsh lamb, better than saltmarsh lamb, better than Scottish lamb, just the best.

3. Our favourite pasta dish is adapted from the first River Café cook book by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers. Their Penne with Aubergine is a brilliant mixture of tomatoes, aubergine, mozarella and parmesan slathered over the penne. Seasoned with garlic, chili and flat-leaved parsley, it's a great meal when you don't want to spend too long cooking. We add crisply-fried smoked pancetta and onions to the original recipe.

4. We found a recipe in the second River Café cookbook for slow roasted shoulder of pork, which we've done several times now. Slash the skin and rub in garlic, salt and fennel seeds, baste with lemon juice and stick it in the oven around 11am at 115 degrees C. Baste every few hours and take it out at 7 or 8 pm. The meat just falls off the bone and it really is seriously bad for you.

5. A couple of years ago I picked up a roadkilled muntjac (see also here and here) and brought it home. It was rather badly mangled and I only recovered one haunch from the carcase. Jenny was rather dubious, but from the first mouthful she was a complete convert, and we now order our muntjac from the local farm shop. We buy a whole carcase which I butcher and we freeze separate joints. If you buy "venison" from a game butcher, you could get fallow, roe or muntjac, but you should specify muntjac. It really is the best of all venison.

These beasties are about the size of a border collie, and seem not to live long enough for their flesh to become at all tough, so they don't need to be hung at all to tenderise them. That means you can eat them fresh, so they're not strongly flavoured, or you can hang them for a bit to develop the flavour if that's your preference.

Treat it like coq au vin for a delicious casserole, but be aware that it's easy to overcook, which is a real shame. Err on the underdone side, at least to start with.

Edit: Critical info left out - local farm shop charges £4 a kilo for the whole carcase, so £25 or so, compared with £22 a kilo for a haunch on the bone. Unfortunately they cut off the neck, which I'd have liked to casserole, but you can't have everything.


Mopsa said...

yum - that SA lamb sounds delish. Did something similar with a red deer that caught itself on the barbed wire and came a cropper. The message on the phone was "bad news - a deer has got itself hung on our wire. Good news, the freezer is now full of venison".

Rob Clack said...

You do seem to be a glass half full person!

Hope the Deep Growls keep the burgulars at bay and that the cops catch them soon. About a millenium ago we rented a farm cottage in the northeast and had a motorbike stolen from the back yard. They didn't even get into the house, but the trespass into our private space was still most unsettling.

dulwichmum said...

Thanks for that Rob, I am off to order The River Cafe cookbook on Amazon, which one should I go for to ensure I find the pasta and roast recipie?

Rob Clack said...

Sadly, the one is in one and the other in the other. I found more (inc p with a) to inspire me in book 1 (blue), but will email you both recipes tomorrow anyway.

Lizzie said...

The pork recipe is good. I've done a similar one but for 24 hours, with chillie & 5 spice powder etc. Do you cook yourself Rob?

Rob Clack said...

Pork slow-roasted with chili and 5 spice sounds nice, Lizzie. Is it as simple as that or should I ask for the recipe?

Yes, I do cook, though in typical male fashion I let Jenny do the mundane daily stuff. I am getting better though!

And when Jen's away, I try to cook properly, so it takes time and is worth cracking a bottle of something nice to accompany it. Thinking of which, I should be planning my menus for when she goes to Sweden in about a week's time.

Rob Clack said...

DM we've got most out of cookbook 1, the dark blue one, but also some very good recipes from book 2, the yellow one. I think the pork cooked in milk came from book 2.