#252 Bloater and Potato Salad

This dish gets right away from the high-tea image and shows how delicious bloaters can be at the beginning of a dinner party’ says Griggers. I wasn’t aware they had that image. These days, I suppose, they have no image at all seeing as they are rarely eaten. Indeed, these had to be ordered, like many of the fish in this book, online at The Fish Society. This is a simple dish and actually probably more suitable as a buffet item… With this recipe, I managed to use up all the fish in my freezer before the move to Houston. Indeed, any recipe after this one will have been done in America. I wonder how successful I will be!?

First prepare three bloaters by removing the skin and removing the fillets. Bloaters are already cooked, but if removing them from the bone is a problem, immerse them in boiling water and leave for a few minutes. Flake the fish or cut it up and put in the centre of a serving dish. Cut up a pound of boiled, waxy potatoes and mix in a vinaigrette. Griggers suggests this one: 5 tablespoons olive oil to one of lemon juice, plus salt, pepper, sugar and a heaped tablespoon of chopped chives. Reserve a tablespoon of it to pour over the fish. Now arrange the potatoes around the fish in an artistic manner and serve.


#252 Bloater and Potato Salad. Not the most exciting meal. The bloaters were very nice, as were the lemony potatoes, but it didn’t feel like a complete course. It would have been much nicer with additional dishes too I think. Could do better, Lady Jane: 5/10

#251 Fried Eel with Fried Parsley

I was very impressed when I discovered that The Fish Society sold freshwater eels that they had caught and killed themselves, before freezing them for my convenience. Regular readers will know the stress trauma faced the last time I cooked eels (in both delivery and preparation). The eel population in the UK and Ireland has dropped in recent years, but nowhere near as much as the elver population. I have blogged about this before, but it is becoming increasing clear, especially for Britain that it’s not a good idea to eat adult freshwater eel either now. However, it is not illegal to fish for them, so if taken in small numbers (and who eats eels these days!?) they should be okay. I don’t know what the situation is in the USA though. Are both eels and elvers available here..?

Anyway, enough of my rantings here is the recipe:

This recipe serves four people.

First, you need to prepare your eel; a two-pounder is required here. It needs to be skinned and then cut into three inch pieces. If it has been portioned already, but not skinned, you can either leave it on or fry the pieces skin-side-down in very hot oil for a few seconds. This makes the skin easy to peel off without cooking the eel itself. Next, coat the eel in seasoned flour and fry gently in 4 ounces of clarified butter until browned and the meat comes away from the bones easily. This took me about 7 minutes, but this will depend upon thickness. Next, prepare a lemon-butter sauce by melting 6 ounces of slightly salted butter in a saucepan and adding lemon juice to taste (I used a whole one). Put the eel onto a serving dish and keep warm. Now fry the parsley stalks. Start by heating up oil in a saucepan and fry around 12 parsley sprigs for a few seconds until crisp. Be careful here: the oil will splatter so just fry 3 or 4 at a time. Serve with some lemon-butter sauce poured over the eel, with extra in a jug, and the parsley sprinkled over it.


#251 Fried Eel with Fried Parsley. I have to admit, eel is a tasty fish and cooked this way really shows off it mild, yet delicious flavour. The fried parsley too was very good; like a grassy version of crispy seaweed you get from the Chinese take away! The only problem was the lemon butter – it just made the eel taste greasy. I think tastes have changed somewhat these days, and I think that a lemon mayonnaise would suit it better. However, still a pretty good recipe. 7.5/10.

#250 Oeufs Mollets Christophe

Well I was hoping to do a really special 250th recipe, but due to my busy schedule I didn’t get round to it. Instead what I had to do was try and empty my freezer of as many things as possible before I left for Texas, which meant a lot of fish after my big order from The Fish Society (an excellent website, by the way). So it is quite bizarre that this little landmark recipe has to have the least English name! The ingredients are very English and despite the French name, the dish was created by an Englishman called Christopher Snow. The exciting thing about this recipe, is the inclusion of the smoked cod’s roe – quite a cheap ingredient, but tricky to find, and one I’ve never eaten before. It looked quite scary and alien-esque in its packet and I wasn’t sure about it, but it is part of the fun of this experiment. Plus none of the meat or fish has been bad thus far….

This is a very easy dish to prepare as there is hardly any cooking required at all. The recipe serves four, but it can be easily increased or decreased in ratios for any number:

Start off by boiling four large eggs; Griggers is very precise about this, so listen good. Place the eggs into already boiling water and leave for precisely six minutes (seven if they are extra large eggs). Remove and run under the cold water to cool them down. Meanwhile, cut four slices of wholemeal bread and cut them into circles, removing a smaller circle from the centre and butter them and then place them in the centre of a plate. Now prepare the roe: peel away the skin of a four ounce roe and beat the pink centre with four tablespoons of double cream until thick, this should only take thirty seconds and then season with black pepper. Peel the cool eggs and wrap a piece of smoked salmon around each one and place it in the little brown bread stand you have made. Lastly, spoon the roe sauce over the egg (this is quite tricky as it is quite thick, so I did a quenelle instead, pretty posh, eh?).


#250 Oeufs Mollets Christophe. “Occasionally when one goes out for a meal, some dish appears which is so delicious and simple that one is angry not have thought of it oneself” says the Grigson. Well I wouldn’t go that far, but it was pretty good. The eggs were cooked to perfection using her method – the yolks were still runny and creamy and complemented the smoked salmon very well (a classic combination, of course). The smoked cod’s roe was really delicious too, rich and heady with natural hot smoke, the only problem was that it was so very rich and it needed some lemon juice to cut through it, I think. That or just less of it. I think with a little alteration, this could be really excellent. 7/10.

#246 Pike

The Freshwater Fish chapter of English Food has been the most difficult part of the book to source ingredients for. You can’t just walk into a fishmonger and ask for a fillet of pike or whatever. Fish are sold by the crate and no-one eats enough these days for it to be worth the fishmonger buying it, salmon and trout excepted. It’s probably not a bad idea – the fish in our rivers and lakes seem so finite compared to sea fish, so if folks got a taste for them they would be fished into extinction. That said, there are shit-loads of pike in our rivers, so why not pop down to one and fish one of the buggers out.


Who would have thought pike vs. cormorant would have turned out like this?

Jane Grigson was a fan of pike, as were the French who used to farm the scary fanged fish. Actually they’re quite beautiful with their green tiger stripes. I got two fine fillets from The Fish Society, and I suggest you have a look there if you fancy having a go at trying pike, or any other difficult-to-get-hold-of fish. This is what Griggers reckons you should do with it:

Fillet the fish and remove the pin bones (of which there are many) before marinating in some sherry and Madeira wine. After an hour or so, drain the fillets and coat them in seasoned flour and fry in oil and butter until golden and crisp. Serve with a lightly-curried velouté flavoured with the marinade juices. I used, half an ounces each of flour and butter for the roux and then half a pint of fish stock plus half a teaspoon of mild curry powder. Add some cream too if you like.


#246 Pike. This was really delicious – a firm, meaty and mildly sweet fish. Also, it wasn’t in the least ‘muddy’ tasting as we keep getting told freshwater fish tastes like. I would definitely recommend this if you can get hold of it. The sauce was pretty good too. If you see it in a restaurant, order it. 7.5/10

#240 Smoked Sprats (and #232 Pickled Eggs revisited)

‘An inexpensive luxury’, says Jane Grigson of smoked sprats. That sentence should be now changed to: ‘An expensive luxury’. How times have changed. I’m not sure why smoked sprats aren’t more widely available because fresh sprats certainly are, so it’s not like they are hard to come by. The only place I’ve seen them is The Fish Society’s website. You eat smoked sprats whole, rather like whitebait, the difference of course, is that they are quite a lot bigger than tiny whitebait.

Anyways, my friends Simon and Rachel came over to visit after their super-amazing trip around South America. They blogged it, natch, have a look-see at it here. I thought smoked sprats would make a great starter. Because my friend Stuart – a staunch vegetarian – came along too so I served some pickled eggs, remember them? Have a look here to see they were made.

To cook the sprats, simply grill them and serve them with lemon wedges and brown bread and butter. To eat them, pull off their heads and tails and eat. If that seems a little too much, you can remove the fillets from each side with your thumb.


#240 Smoked Sprats. I really liked these alot. The problem of bones/guts was, in the end, a non-issue. The bones were just the right side of not being too crunchy or sharp. They were quite strongly smoked, but also sweet in flavour and not over-powering like some cured fishes can be. If you see some, be sure to give them a go. 8.5/10

#232 Pickled Eggs. These were also very good – they required a little wait for the viengar to work its pickling magic, but were worth it. If you’ve had vile pub pickled eggs, don’t be put off by these. the white wine vinegar made them very subltly sharp and the chillies in the pickling liquor lent a decent spicy-punch to them. 7/10.

#238 Grilled Bloaters

For all you heathens out there today is Good Friday. Which, of course, means that Jesus got killed or some such other scrape. I am obviously in the heathen camp. Anyway, the point of all this is one should eat fish on Good Friday. I assume this is because we are at the end of the 40-day fast we have all been on and fish was always allowed on fast days. These rules were bent rather a lot in days of yore: ducks, geese and beaver were all added to the list. So as it is Good Friday, here’s a fish recipe with some of the fish I had delivered from The Fish Society.

Bloaters are cured herrings, like kippers, only the cure is much more subtle. They are also gamier because they are cured whole and ungutted, causing them to bloat as they hot cure in the smokehouse. I’ve never had bloaters before, and was looking forward to trying them. This recipe seemed to most appropriate to begin with as I would get to taste pure unadulterated bloater.

The bloater before prep

Start by getting your grill very hot. Whilst you are waiting for it to hot up, gut the bloater by cutting down its belly, this is not a horrible experience as they are quite dry. If there are any roes Griggers says to keep them for another dish. Now cut the head off and make slashes down both flanks of the fish and spread over with softened butter. Now simply grill for three minutes per side so that the skins go all bubbly and crispy. Serve immediately with brown bread and butter and a lemon wedge.


#238 Grilled Bloaters. These were very nice indeed. The cure as expected was much more subtle and less salty than kippers, which meant you could eat more; always a good thing in my book. They are also much less fishy and pungent, so I am surprised that they have gone out of favour somewhat as they are much less of an acquired taste than kippers. Anywho, if you have never tried them (and few have) this is definitely the best place to start. 7/10

April Food

Hello there! It is April and that means real spring is here. Anybody in Scotland or Northern Ireland, of course, will be most bemused by that last sentence. Real spring means that there is plenty of wild food beginning to pop out, though cultivated fruit and vegetables are still a bit thin on the ground. It’s also the end of the game season – there’s really just rabbit and wood pigeon around, though some places have extended the game season for venison.

This month I’m going to try and concentrate on the Fish chapter – I have recently discovered an excellent company called The Fish Society. They sell all the fishy things you’d expect, plus some things that are hard to get hold of. I have made full use of this and received a big order of bloaters, smoked sprats, pike and smoked cod’s roe amongst other things. This is not to say that I have stopped going to Out of the Blue, my favourite fishmonger’s shop, it’s just that some things are not in demand.

Anyways, here’s the list of seasonal foods for April:

Vegetables: broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower, spring and winter greens, lettuce, radishes, sea kale, sorrel, watercress.

Fruit: rhubarb.

Wild greens and herbs: alexanders, chickweed, chives, cow parsley (wild chervil), dandelions, fat hen, hogwood shoots, hop shoots, meadowsweet leaves, nettles, sea kale, sea spinach, sorrel, watercress, wild garlic, wild rocket.

Wild flowers and fruits: primroses

Fungi, nuts and saps: morels, St. George’s mushroom

Fish and shellfish: cockles, crab, oysters, pollack, salmon, sea trout

Game: woodpigeon, rabbit, venison.