Thursday, February 26, 2015

Rhubarb & Ginger Cake


The vegetable that everyone loves to use as a fruit, rhubarb is simply wonderful. Special whenever it's about it's a real treasure now during this bleak end of February. Deep into the 'hungry gap' - named for the lack of fresh new produce yet to mature whilst the last of the winter crops and storage of root veg and brassica's is running out - the prospect of another week of turnip mash or leek soup, boiled carrots and roasted beetroots to finish the month is less than delightful. I love these veg - along with parsnips and swede, celeriac and cabbage, mushrooms and kale - but it's been the backbone of the veg bag for months. Into the midst of the gloom early forced rhubarb appears at the market, the slender pink stalks a harbinger of spring and the very definition of joy.

Rhubarb grew first in Asia, the cold climes of Mongolia and Siberia were ideal. It was traded along the Silk Road into China and was taken into Italy sometime around the 16th century, from where it arrived in England in the early 1600's. Initially it was mostly medicinal - some strains are useful in the treatment of lung and liver ailments but it seems the wrong strain was introduced to England so cultivation as a source of drugs failed to thrive. Then in 1817 there happened one of those freak accidents that changed the fortunes of rhubarb completely. A gardener at Chelsea Physic Garden unwittingly covered the rhubarb in soil during the winter and later, when the dirt was cleared, rather than finding all the plants to be dead there were tender shoots that were far superior in flavour to the outdoor variety. So the idea of 'forcing' was born. Commercial growers in London began deliberately covering the plants with soil or manure in order to produce the blanched stems, some going further by lifting the roots and moving them inside heated sheds to simulate the arrival of spring.

In the 1870's forced rhubarb began to be grown in Yorkshire - the area now so famous for it that in 2010 it was awarded the Protected Designation of Origin by the European Commission. In perhaps the second lucky accident for forcing, the frost pocket holding Leeds, Wakefield and Morley combined with local conditions proved to be ideal. Sheds were specially constructed for the first time, the local heavy clay soil was particularly well suited, cheap coal from the local mines made heating the forcing sheds viable, there was plenty of horse manure and 'shoddy' - a by product of the local wool industry - was a perfect mulch for the young crowns. Warmth and moisture tricked the young plants into thinking it's spring, and so it grew its lovely bright pink stems; apparently you can hear the rhubarb crackle as it grows, something I would love to witness. Picking was done by hand in candlelight, pretty much the method still used today.

So much rhubarb was produced each day and sent to market that the Great Northern Railway Company ran a special train - the Rhubarb Special! It ran nightly from just before Christmas till Easter to transport the crop to London Spitalfields and Covent Garden Markets, at its peak taking 200 tonnes of rhubarb a day. Imagine that.

It's a much smaller industry now but the forced rhubarb grown in Yorkshire is still very special indeed, its elegant sourness a lovely match for the delicate pink of the stalks. The care that goes into its production is well rewarded by showcasing the stalks. Rather than simply stewing them down to make crumble - my favourite way of using the later outdoor varieties - I really wanted to make cake. This recipe comes slightly adapted from Band of Bakers. The rhubarb is a perfect match with stem ginger, for both its sweetness and the tiny prickle of heat.




Rhubarb and Ginger Cake

You really need to use forced rhubarb for this cake, as the outdoor grown stuff would be too bitter

140g unsalted butter
200g soft light brown sugar
200g wholegrain spelt flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs, whisked in a small bowl
5 pieces stem ginger in syrup, chopped fine, plus 2 tablespoons of syrup from the jar
Rhubarb stems, bright as you like, cut into 19cm lengths to fit the cake tin
Caster sugar for dredging

Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F/gas 4. Grease and line a 20cm square cake tin, I used a loose bottomed one for ease of turning out.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat, then stir in the brown sugar till fully combined, this takes a few minutes until the sugar melts properly into the hot butter. Leave to cool for a few minutes.

Sift the flour and baking powder together and stir into the butter and sugar mixture, along with the eggs and chopped ginger, until well combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake tin and level it off with the edge of spatula.

Lay the rhubarb stems onto the top of the cake - try to squeeze in as many as possible as they shrink a bit during baking. Bake in the centre of the oven for around 45 minutes until the cake has risen and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

As soon as the cake comes out of the oven brush the top with generous amounts of ginger syrup from the stem ginger jar and dredge with caster sugar. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for about 20 minutes then turn it out onto a wire rack, rhubarb side up.

Serve warm with thick cream or ice cream as a dessert or else cold, sliced generously for afternoon tea.

Guaranteed to brighten your week.



Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ha Noi Food Tales



It's the mopeds that are the surprise. Before we got to Hanoi in December I'd read a couple of bits on they net about how to cross the road and smirked. I can already do that! Then you're confronted with a seeming unstoppable river of thousands of mopeds and what you want is on the other side of the road. No lights or if there is no one pays them much heed. One way streets have bikes coming at you both ways as do the pavements. The essence of the instruction is walk out confidently and consistently into the road and you will get to the other side. I was jet lagged, hadn't slept for 30 hours or more so I wasn't entirely convinced.. But made it over had some bun with grilled pork made it back and had a little sleep. Out later that night we walked and crossed vastly busier roads and it struck me that we were all sharing the road - if you move at a considered pace and do nothing unexpected the moped riders factor that in and swerve around you as well as each other and everyone keeps moving.


After the flight there is the humidity and the scratchy eye tiredness. I booked a table at Cau Go so we could eat well without too much challenge. The room is lovely, five flights up above the lake and the manic river of traffic, gently lit and delightfully cool. Busy but not full with a fairly even split of locals and tourists. The proffered menu is long and broken into sections and it's so hard to make choices. In the end we start with deep fried tofu with ginger and lemongrass and fresh beef rolls topped with shrimp and a slightly too sweet dipping sauce.



We moved on to a slightly sour salad of morning glory and marinated beef, prawns sautéed with garlic and chilli, BBQ pork on sticks - meat on sticks is always a winner for me and a bowl of steamed rice with a separate bowl of ground toasted sesame seeds and peanut which is sensational, and will be emulated chez nous upon our return. Looking around it was clear that what the tables of tourists were ordering was different to the tables of locals who all had hotspots and soups, noodles and salads. But I have to say our inaugural dinner was very enjoyable, service was warm and helpful and the food was very good. Slept the sleep of the undead till dawn and woke to a cooler day.

Was excited for day 2 - we had a street food tour booked for a couple of hours in the middle of the day and I was hoping for great things - not just to eat well but also to understand how to eat here. Our fabulous guide Tu picked us up at the hotel around midday and we set off along a street of love hotels - inter generational families coexisting makes for little privacy, specially for couples wanting to be loved up. Rent by the hour, happiness all round. We jumped into a taxi and headed to 105 Quan Than for bun ca - fish noodle soup. I admit to being less than overjoyed at the idea, not a big fan of strong fish but I was nonetheless very curious to try. First we were taught how to sit on the tiny little red stools that are used everywhere at street places in Vietnam. You must crouch low then sit directly onto the stool to stop it collapsing. Don't wriggle about or the legs will break - this is not the furniture of my fat white western arse! The caff was busyish, just a concrete shell with the tiny table and chairs combo that I last sat on in infant school scattered about topped with plates of lime quarters, little bowls of fiery chilli paste and mugs of wooden chopsticks.



Tu grabbed a lime and rubbed the ends of the chopsticks hard, this is the way to be sure they're clean. He was trying to reassure us I think but Hanoi seems fairly clean generally and these little food stalls everywhere equally so. Mix everything everything everything says Tu, handing out bowls full of flat rice noodles, steamed fish and deep fried fish, lots of green herbs and sprouts, chilli and garlic and an astonishingly intense flavoured broth, then grabbing them back to demonstrate with chopsticks, mix mix mix like this. Knees up under our chin we slurped away till, two thirds of the way through Tu called enough! Onto the next or you'll never make it to the end.

We crossed a few roads, walking with conviction and no sudden movements, and up a few backstreets to a local market, quiet for lunch so most of the traders were stretched out behind their stalls having a little siesta while the fish swam in buckets and the great mountains of fresh greens sent out their gentle smell. Here you use herbs in great generous handfuls like the equivalent of spinach or cabbage not in the mimsy little snippets for garnish that we are much more used to in the west.



Tu explained what some of the unfamiliar ones were, breaking off sprigs and rubbing hard with his finger and thumb to release their different smells, all variations called mint, though some are redolent of fish or aniseed and not something I'd ever know as mint. We emerged out the other side of the market, past the fresh meat which you buy in just the quantity you need for the meal you are making, the stall holders prepping everything before you pay so you have only to cook when you are home.


Next stop was Pho Cuon Vinh Phong at 40 Ngu Xa Street for not cold beer to go with Pho Cuon - fresh rice wraps which I liked and Pho Chien Phong Xao Bo - puffed rice cakes with greens and marinated beef which was glorious - a brilliant mix of flavours and just fabulous textures of chewy crisp edged rice puffs, silky greens, juicy meat - highlight of the day for me.

We snaked along a few small streets, mopeds coming from all directions, beeping horns till we made it to Yen Phu Cafe,43a Pho Yen Phu, a coffee (Ca Phe) and yoghurt place. Fresh cows milk is not much in evidence in Vietnam but the family that own this place use it make some seriously great yoghurt - we tried both the passion fruit, best I've ever had, and one topped with fermented rice which I thought may well be disgusting but was in fact a great match of flavour with the sourness of the yoghurt and the moment before becoming alcohol intensity of the rice. We climbed a narrow staircase at the back then walked hunched over to the window under strings of party lights to sit again on tiny stools and had local coffee - thick and rich, topped with sweetened condensed milk over ice for a great pick me up. Recommend it for a coffee fix.

Next stop was a little place selling a local speciality - sounded unlikely when Tu suggested it, and one I won't be repeating at home. Called egg coffee and egg beer it's basically egg white whipped with sugar, and the used to top hot coffee - not a good idea - or poured into the bottom of a glass and topped with beer - a truly awful idea. Anyone makes you the offer - just say no.



We wandered through the enormous wholesale market - lots of pound shop style tat in bright colours in tiny shops tucked up under the railway line. Everything is packed away in the eaves every night using ladders then brought down and displayed again next morning. The alley ways are narrow and mostly the mopeds are slower, and every few metres someone is burning one of the solid blocks of fuel and cooking noodles or meat on sticks or simmering soup. Our final stop was for Pho Tiu - another bowl of noodles, thicker this time and topped with pork and chilli and more garlic. Tu explained that garlic too is used as a vegetable, and I know that for the first few days at least I woke every day feeling like my entire head was made from garlic so much did I eat.

Was a great tour, saw many streets I'd never have been down otherwise and got a list of recommendations for other places to try as an added bonus. We tried the first one that night, not really hungry it has to be said - we took a taxi to the Sofitel Plaza up to the summit bar for cocktails and the most stunning view. 


Even that high the traffic looks busy and the horns keep beeping but the mood is relaxed and the service charming. It's not far from Quan Kien Restaurant, 143 Nhgi Tam Street, which Tu said is his current favourite place in Hanoi. Take your shoes off and go up a couple of stairs to an expanse of polished wood dotted with low tables and a scatter of cushions. There's not much English spoken but there is a good translation of the menu so we sat on the ground, giggled a little at the Insect Menu but didn't order from it, choosing instead rice sticks deep fried with chicken skin, grilled pork on skewers and the lovely young waiter who was pushed forward by the others whenever we needed help - I'm guessing he was the only one with any English, checked we liked spicy before he added tofu to our order and then pointed at some greens when I asked which were best so we added them too.



Soon we got lots of great food, and a couple of beers, the greens were like a cross between bok choy and broccoli and came lightly steamed with shreds of ginger - perfect. The chewy bits of pork were smoky and moreish, the rice, surprisingly, came as big fat logs, hotter than hell to start with but crackly textured and a little bit dry to eat. Liked the tofu, it all seems to be made in house wherever you end up in Hanoi, but was less keen on the sauce, but together it made for a great meal and a really enjoyable evening. Just a wonderful day all together.

Next day the last of the jet lag caught up with a sleepless night and acclimatising to the  local conditions meant I felt a bit queasy but well enough later to see the water puppets.

What a delight! Puppeteers stand behind screens in water three feet deep and, with puppets manipulated on the end of long poles, tell all manner of magical tales across the water while a small group at the side of the stage above accompany the with music, singing and a brilliant collection of sound effects. 

A good nights' sleep heals many things so I started the day with pho bo, which I slurped down with gusto, much to the  consternation of the man. Seems he really does believe soup should never be eaten earlier than lunchtime - but he's wrong. Had an interesting morning at the Fine Arts Museum, fascinating collection and the building was entirely empty except for us and another man with his young son, bliss indeed. After a tour of one of the many temples we had a fairly abysmal lunch at Au Lac, set up by Imagine Asia, our equally abysmal tour organiser. Waste of a good food opportunity. Spent a total tourist afternoon, wandering by the lake and into occasional shops before cocktails at Madame Hien in their lovely garden. The menu looked interesting so we returned there later for dinner. We ordered far too much, the food came in very generous plates, but it was interesting collection of food from the different areas of the country. North, central and south Vietnam are quite distinct culturally and food wise - the north being most savoury and quite straightforward, the centre is more complex and spicy and the south has the strongest tendency to sweetness in all things.



We started with rolls but unlike the ones we'd had so far these were very thin, cooked rice crepes stuffed with greens and prawns, so an interesting mix of cooked and raw, with the crepe particularly making it a more substantial dish than the fresh rolls we had the first night. I thought it was an Indian influence but in fact turmeric is used in Central Viet cooking and it was this that made the juice that went with tofu wrapped in banana leaf and deep fried. We were presented with a small package to unwrap to release the great smell of turmeric and all of it atop a raft of steamed greens, a lovely and very substantial dish. We had another version of grilled pork - yes I am addicted and this is proving a delightful country to get my fix which too was a generous serving so the final dish of morning glory with garlic was simply too much, a shame as it tasted great.

And that's it, Hanoi done apart from eggs sunny side up for breakfast before the four hour drive to Ha Long Bay.


Thursday, September 04, 2014

Blackened Corn Salad



Picture this - a day in September, sunshine, blue skies, balmy breeze - where are you? I have all that and I'm still in London - and definitely surprised. Have decided to send it off with a bang, this glorious summer, in the hope it will come again to spread delight. The forecast is for summer at least till the end of the week so I am having barbecue daily - and that's not something you hear said much in Blighty. Tonight there will be an experiment - a vegetarian version of the usual meat fest. I'm planning skewers of halloumi, cherry tomatoes, half moons of courgette and a chunk of red onion. To go with there will be home grown cucumber with yoghurt and my new favourite blackened corn salad.


Have eaten the corn salad a few times over the summer. For the longest time I only ever ate corn on the cob boiled till tender then slathered in butter. Loved it. But all other corn requirements were met by tins or bags from the freezer. I had always assumed that to get the niblets off the core required some sort of special skill and that doing it myself would definitely result in disaster, or mush. No idea where that came from. Then recently I had some corn in my weekly veg bag and, as bbq was on the agenda, had a sudden urge to see what would happen if I cooked them first then cut the corn off. OMG it was so easy and so fabulous and I have been kicking myself - hard - for not trying it years ago. Better late than never, I guess.


Blackened Corn Salad

Serves 4 as a side dish

2 or 3 cobs of corn, fresh as you like
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of a lime
1 finely chopped chilli, deseeded first if you don't want it too spicy
2 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

While your bbq heats shuck the corn, discarding the leaves and all the silky threads then brush the bare cobs with a little bit of olive oil. Put the corn over the flames and let them blacken a bit then turn to blacken the next bit till it's cooked all around. This only takes a few minutes.



Take the corn back inside and stand the pointy bit into a salad bowl while holding the stalk end - you'll probably need an oven glove - and use a sharp knife to cut all the niblets off. While the corn is still warm add the rest of the olive oil, the lime juice, chilli and coriander and mix well. Taste and add seasoning if it needs it.



Gorgeous with zesty chicken and barbecued pork chops too.



Tomorrow it's Friday so there will be steak, medium rare, with sides of roasted onion & green bean salad and beetroot with walnuts and radish tops. Saturday always seems a better day to do a little faffing, so I'm planning to simmer some belly pork strips with ginger and garlic then skewer cubes of the meat to cook again over fire to serve Viet style with bun noodles, salad, crushed peanuts and that favourite sauce of a sauce loving people, nuoc cham.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Tomato Jam



Yes really, jam! They are a fruit, really, though most often used in a savoury fashion that it's easy to forget they may have other possibilities. I love them raw and cooked at this time of year, and the lovely summer we're (still?) having has produced a juicy well flavoured crop, piled in abundance in all the shops and street markets round me. I had a few too many last week so made a big pot of this lovely jam, originally from a recipe by Jose Pizarro. I made and bottled a couple of kilos but you can make a small quantity for a single jar - which I did last year - and it still tastes just great. It's a bit like a marmalade rather than a very sweet jam.

Tomato Jam

Makes approximately 300ml

1kg ripe, well flavoured tomatoes
125g caster sugar
125g demerara sugar
1 small cinnamon stick
peel of 1/2 lemon
peel of 1/2 orange - tie the two lots of peel together with string to make it easy to remove



Use a sharp knife to make a cross in the skin on the base of each tomato.


Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, add the tomatoes and simmer for 3 minutes.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the tomatoes from the pan and plunge them into iced water. Remove the stems and the skins - they will slip off really easily. Chop the tomatoes into 4 or 5 rough slices, making sure to catch the juice as you do.

Place the tomatoes and juice in a  saucepan and leave to reduce over a low heat for 20 - 30 minutes till most of the water has evaporated. Now add the sugars, cinnamon and peels and give everything a good stir. Don't break up the cinnamon.

Slowly cook the tomatoes for at about an hour - longer if you're making a bigger batch - stirring regularly. The end result should be a sticky, firm jam that is a shiny brown red colour.

When cooked remove the cinnamon stick and the citrus peel and pour into a warm sterilised jar.


Keeps well in the fridge.

This is gorgeous slathered on hot toast for breakfast, as a side with cheeses or cold roast pork or ham. And on twitter Joanne from joanne-eatswellwithothers.com suggested having with grilled cheese on toast - definitely on my list of weekend treats to try.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

My weekly veg bag



Have been getting a veg bag each week for a couple of months now and have settled well into using it as the starting point  for the week. This week I got a lovely shiny black aubergine, some courgettes, broad  beans - the man loves broad beans, a mix of little tomatoes, a big bag of chard and a bag of really tasty mixed salad leaves. The weather continues to be balmy - I am loving that - and we have cleaned up our baby Weber to make bbq treats.

Tonight, Thursday, we are out. Going to the Cinema Museum to see Charlie Ward then on for dinner at Pizarro.


I have some really special smoked salmon in the fridge so Friday night treat will be that with a big green salad, some sourdough bread on the side and grapes and cheese after. Simple but brilliant and next to no cleaning up. Actually it was forecast to rain Saturday so we decided to bbq Friday night instead - made up the lamb skewers and some gorgeous salads, plenty of mess and plenty of pleasure.

Saturday I think lamb skewers on the barbie to go with aubergine and walnuts, courgette and broad beans with basil oil and a roasted sweet potato salad with pumpkin seeds - all easy to prep in advance and plenty to have leftovers Sunday night. So then of course it didn't rain Saturday - and we had plenty of salads leftover and sausages in the freezer - had to be bbq again!

We had a delightful walk up the river Sunday morning after underestimating just how busy the boats to Greenwich would be with tourists and finished up near Blackfriars and this incredibly brilliant recreation of a dazzle ship.



The smoked salmon on toast with salad and a fried egg was a thoroughly brilliant Sunday supper after a fine lunch with lots of garlic and chillies and dumplings and noodles at the Baozoi Inn.

Monday I'd like chilli salt crusted tofu with wilted greens We're starting on the 5:2 diet this week as we're both getting fat and need to do something about it. Breakfast will be vegetable juice and black coffee and lunch will be a mug of miso soup. The second day will be Thursday. Made kuku instead to use up the dill and the spinach with the last of the sweet potatoes and some cucumber.




I made a passionfruit buttermilk cake that I have been hankering after for a while but had been unable to get passionfruit. Was as gorgeous as I'd hoped.





Tuesday I'm thinking roasted red onion and green beans - have onions in the fruit bowl and beans growing in the garden - to go with barbecued sausages and potato salad - proper old school summer dinner! Was the broccoli soup with some homemade soda bread after crackers with rillette.


Wednesday I am out to lunch with friends so the simplest kind of dinner is to defrost a tub a broccoli, ginger and white bean soup from the freezer and serve with some nice bread with cheese and olives before, perhaps. The man had a whinge on, wanting steak on the barbecue so rump it is with the red onion salad and a green salad from the garden with cucumber and radish leaves - for some reason I fail miserably growing radish but the tops thrive...
The man was, of course, right!


Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Kuku -ye Sabzi



Kuku -ye Sabzi is a Persian dish I've been making on and off for a while. You start with leafy greens, fresh herbs and eggs. The first time I made it I was expecting a variation on a frittata or herby omelette. I was astounded to discover just how wrong I was!

The dish does require the use of 4 or 5 eggs but are there simply as a binding agent - they do a lovely job of holding everything together. The predominate flavour and texture comes from the use of  large quantities of fresh herbs finely chopped with spinach or chard, and generous amounts of spring onion. It has an incredibly bold flavour, the antithesis of the gentle egginess of an omelette.

It has much in its favour - quick, easy, cheap, healthy, good hot or cold, great next day for lunch or as a central dish for a picnic. The only downside is that it's not hugely attractive to look at... but you will seduced at the first mouthful!

Kuku -ye Sabzi

This is how I made it from memory of a piece I read in the Guardian years ago - and can no longer find - but vary it to suit - you can add turmeric or walnuts or even a little flour if you want it to set more

1 bunch spinach or other leafy green
1 large bunch dill
1 bunch coriander or parsley
1 bunch spring onions
4 -5 eggs
Salt and pepper
Olive oil to cook

Wash the spinach, discard any thick stalks then shred the leaves and put them into a large bowl.. Finely chop the dill and coriander, discarding the stalks and add it to the spinach. Slice the spring onions into thin rings, green and white parts, and add to the bowl. In a small bowl beat the eggs till lightly frothy and pour them over the chopped greens, season well and mix everything together well.

Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a small frying pan over a lowish heat then carefully tip the mixture into the pan. Even it out with a spatula then cover with a lid. Leave to cook for 6 or 7 minutes, then gently lift the edges to check that the base is set.

To cook the top I like to tip the kuku out onto a plate by holding a plate over the pan and quickly flipping it upside down then slide the kuku back into the pan, uncooked side down, and cook for a further 3 or 4 minutes. It works well so long as the base is set. But if that seems an adventure too far simply finish it off under the grill.

Onc cooked, slide it onto a plate and leave to cool a bit or entirely.



This was the first day for the 2 element of 5:2 so I served it with some roasted sweet potato salad and sliced cucumber for a richly flavoured - but lightweight - supper. A dollop of yoghurt would not go astray if you like a creamy element.



Monday, July 07, 2014

Fish Fingers


Press play for a quick demo

I have loved fish fingers ever since I was a kid, my mum always had a packet or five in the freezer for a quick and easy tea - fish fingers, mountain of mash and lots of peas (also from the freezer). Squish the lot onto a fork for a seriously great mouthful. Sometimes mum would add lemon juice to the mash - a great trick for accompaniments to fishy dishes - but that was pretty much the only fussing about that happened. Then about the time I was around ten or eleven there was a few weeks until we moved from the way out west town of Bourke back to the balmy seaside of Wollongong and so there was a mission to empty the freezer and pantry and eat the lot before leaving. I have no recollection of anything else we ate in those few weeks but I swear we ate fish fingers daily for a month. Sometimes for lunch, more often for dinner it was fish fingers, mash and peas. Fish fingers, lemon mash and peas once or twice then back to the original. The freezer had turned into the black hole of the kitchen and it was somehow filled with one hundred times its actual volume with fish fingers and peas - and we were not leaving till every single finger and every single pea had been consumed. Somehow we made it through, boarded our flights out and left that house behind along with Cliffy our lovely galah, over which many tears were shed. My dad followed us a week later, driving the car back across the 500 miles and, softy that he can be, brought Cliffy along for company. Jubilation!

It was a very long time till I ate another fish finger, about the time I left home and had to fend for myself while a student. I soon revisited the comforting charms of fish fingers, mash and peas - great food ready in no time. It soon became apparent that fish fingers alone was even quicker, or else stuffed into a sandwich the melted butter adding extra delight, and far less washing up overall.

The last packet I bought, a few years ago, weren't great. More crumb than fish, and fish that had an awful lot of reforming inflicted upon it. I gave them up for a while then recently wanted them again. Went to Borough Friday and told Paul, who runs Sussex Fish, that I was planning to make fish fingers for dinner. Good on you madam, he said, had some a couple of weeks ago myself and it was brilliant. He picked up a lovely piece of cod fillet I'll give you that thick section there, be easy to cut that into nice fat fingers. And so it was.

Fish Fingers

400g piece of cod fillet, check there's no bones at all
2 tablespoons plain flour, seasoned with a bit of salt
1 egg, beaten
About 50g breadcrumbs, Panko work well
Oil for shallow frying

Cut the fish into 4 even pieces -these are your fingers. Dip each one first into the flour, coat it well and shake off any excess. Next dip the finger into the beaten egg and coat well. Finally dredge the fish through the breadcrumbs so that it's covered on all sides. Put each completed fish finger onto a clean plate, and when they're all done cover with cling film and refrigerate for 20 minutes or so.

Heat the oil in a heavy based pan over a medium flame, when it's hot add the fish fingers and fry for a few minutes till the underside is golden. Flip them over carefully and fry the other side till they are crisp all over.

You can serve with mash and peas but, making the most of it being summer I tossed a green salad  and added a spritz of fresh lemon. Big hunk of bread in case sandwiches were needed...



Even better than I remember!