Up on the Suffolk coast for brisk walks and tasty food this weekend. Love it up here and there is plenty to keep a food addict happy – from great farm shops to favourite restaurants, good beer and excellent fish and chips. Too much to fit into one weekend so we are pretty regular visitors.
This weekend we have picked up a lot of goodies at the Friday Street Farm Shop – some to eat now, some to take back home.
We always get something by Purely Pesto (who don’t just make pesto) – this time it was some soups for lunches – beetroot and also curried parsnip. They taste great – freshly made, no additives, smooth and creamy but not overbearingly so – plus the beetroot is just a beautiful colour! The portions are a little small for 2 for lunch, more a starter size portion – but still recommended.
We also picked up organic eggs from Maple Farm which are currently priced at £1.50 per half dozen – great value and makes you wince at supermarket prices….as well as some shin of beef from Cratfield. We have had various of their cuts before and its always very tender and well flavoured, really demonstrates the difference you get from well reared and properly hung meat. That’s just a few of the highlights from this weekends haul.
After a bracing walk along the seafront to Thorpeness and back to the Martello Tower we decided to brave the cold again and have a couple of Adnams beers (and a quick blast of 12 bar blues from the Smokin‘ Hogs) at The White Hart before going to eat at Regatta – one our ‘regular’ choices when we visit Aldeburgh. They seem to have the ability to fit you in for dinner no matter how busy they are – you might have to be prepared to eat quite late (9pm) but they will almost certainly find you a slot. The place is always lively, the service very friendly and the food consistently good. There is always a strong specials board which, as you might expect on the coast, has a particular focus on local fish and seafood.
I went for the French style country pate with prune and onion chutney followed by the quartet of smoked and cured seafood – both from the regular menu. Both portions were generous and with bread, salad and new potatoes alongside I failed at the final hurdle on the fishy platter and had to leave a few smoked prawns – perhaps next time I’ll opt for the smaller portion size. The pate had just the right coarse chunky texture you want from a country type pate with the prune and onion chutney complementing it well, rich yet tangy and good enough to make we want to look out a recipe for something similar.
I should confess here that oniony chutneys and marmalades are a particular weakness of mine and I regularly spend days bubbling up batches of onion delights with which to win friends and influence people so it was pretty inevitable that I was going to like this dish.
The smokey and cured platter consisted of gravadlax, smoked salmon, brandon rost (hot smoked salmon) and smoked prawns – each with their own appropriate garnish/sauce. All were of a very high standard and all are cured or smoked at the restaurant – you will also find you can source similar local delights at various farm shops and delis in this part of Suffolk (the village of Orford being particularly well known for smoked products). Last night the gravadlax was on especially top form, nice thick slices, lightly cured but with a refreshing amount of dill and a spot on mustard sauce to accompany it (sharp but not overpowering). I was rather sad not to be able to finish the prawns as their rich smokiness was going very well with the Californian red wine we were trying for the first time (J Lohr Wildflower Valdiguie 2007) – a pairing to remember for another visit.
My other half had the gravadlax to start (and was similarly impressed) with braised lamb shank on a bed of swede puree to follow (from the specials board). Again portions were generous and although a man of few words when eating he was suitably impressed leaving not a scrap on his plate. Overall another very enjoyable meal at Regatta.
Right time to go and search for onion and prune chutney recipes.
Its been pretty cold the last day or so with a snow fall of about 6 inches today – something we haven’t seen for a long time (18 years according to the records). So its mostly all about curling up near the heater/fire/radiator with a warm drink and a small snack whilst contemplating which warming dish to have for lunch or dinner.
Soups and stews are the order of the day and better still if there are a few things to hand to cook one up relatively quickly. Who wants to have to scrape the snow off the car to go and get dinner in weather like this when the time could be better spent making snowmen and going for a brisk walk? So its been a search in the fridge and cupboards for things that can quickly be rustled up into hearty dishes.
Porridge for breakfast – always good on a cold day; then a soup for lunch made from onion, canned beans, sliced leftover sausage (salami, ham or bacon would also do the trick) and the last bits of a cabbage – a kind of muddled up caldo verdo/minestrone.
The search for dinner possibilities revealed beef stew leftovers (always happens when there are two of you to feed – stew and casserole recipes don’t seem to be devised for less than 4 – but hey why worry when they are almost always tastier on the second go). We added some big field mushrooms and then some pasta which we cooked and stirred in at the last minute.
All good warming dishes, no trip to the shops needed and plenty of chance to make snowmen because there won’t be another chance to do that for nearly 20 years!
I’ve been reading quite a few cookbooks recently that have a seasonal theme to get some new ideas for different winter dishes.
I’ve been particularly enjoying Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s (HFW) ‘The River Cottage Year‘ (this link is to Amazon.co.uk). I’d already tried a couple of the soup recipes and then I spotted the recipe for ‘Smoky cheaty brandade’ (page 49) and I just happened to have some smoked haddock that I’d been planning to use for kedgeree but thought I’d try the brandade instead.
It was fairly simple to make (about 1 hour total from start to sitting down to eat – and of that time about 20 mins was prep the rest was the dish cooking). I made half the quantity in Hugh’s recipe and 2 of us ate half of it so I now have plenty left which I’m planning to fry up as fish cakes later the week. I guess if you had a really big appetite it wouldn’t go this far but with some braised courgette and greens it made a good size main course which we followed with some cheese.
The recipe goes like this – adapted from Hugh (with my comments in brackets):
(per HFW this serves 4 as a main, 8 as a starter or 12 as a canape – but see my comment above):
500g smoked haddock or cod fillet
whole milk (actually I used semi skimmed and it was fine) – about 400ml
500g mashing potatoes – peeled (floury ones that mash well are king edwards and maris piper)
4 tbsp good olive oil, plus extra
2-3 large garlic cloves
optional – 1-2 tbsp double cream (I didn’t use this)
- Poach the fish in the milk for about 5 minutes (the milk should just cover the fish and if the fillet is particularly thick it may take a few minutes extra – its ready when the flakes will separate easily – use a sharp knife to test it). Leave the fish in the milk to cool.
- Boil the potatoes in lightly salted water until tender, drain then mash with a generous knob of butter and some of the poaching milk to get a soft but not sloppy mash.
- Remove the fish from the milk and flake it off the skin and make sure you pick out any stray bones, discard the skin and bones.
- Pour the olive oil into a small pan and add the finely chopped garlic, sweat on a very low heat for 2-3 minutes and don’t let the garlic colour. (I used the full 4 tbsps of olive oil even though I used only half the quantity of fish and potato).
- Put the fish into a food processor and pulse to a paste whist adding the olive oil/garlic until the fish is the consistency of mash potato – add more oil or the cream or some of the poaching milk to achieve this.
- Mix the fish and mashed potato together – BUT NOT in the food processor or it will go all gluey – and season with black pepper.
- Spread in an oven proof dish and bake at gas 5 (190C) for 15-20 mins. (It didn’t go very brown on the top so you might want to crank the oven up for the last few mins or pop it under the grill if this is the effect you are looking for. I imagine it would be pretty tasty with some grated cheese on top).
- Serve with toast and/or greens, leek, chicory or other green veg. (We had greens and courgette – tho I admit the latter is not very seasonal).