I haven’t cooked on a decent stove for years but like I said to my girls when I wrote them their cook books…. You’re going to meet a lot of cookers over the years and each one will be different. Work with them, not against them and adapt accordingly. My husband would say that is one fair lie! I’ve shouted at mine sometimes when it wouldn’t go fast enough.
I keep a wish list of cooking equipment at the back of my diary. At the top is one of those outside caterers’ wok burners and a double ring burner. I can use both where ever I go. Have propane, will travel. Then I could hawk the hot mackerel sandwiches to the other fishermen on the beach. (See: The fishing, oh the fishing. Always the fishing!)
I’d like to say that I use individual retailers and the markets like I used to when I lived in France. I still shop daily, though, that’s a habit I kept. My nearest town now is 4 miles away and that is one tiny town. We have two cripplingly expensive butchers and although we are but 10 miles from a fishing port, no fishmonger. Nor do we have a green grocer. We do have an organic deli/grocer/fish place but that too is beyond my reach…. who in their right mind would pay £6.50 for a kilo of local, height of the season, tomatoes? Come on! So I pick ingredients wherever I happen to be working, usually from a cut price supermarket or the little Sainsbury’s in town (but they’re dear in there too). Lately, I read that Jamie Oliver tells us we should use independents rather than supermarkets (he of the Sainsbury’s fame) so that we can grab ten mange touts instead of a 200 gram pack, which is less wasteful and cheaper. What has the boy been smoking? Ten mange touts wouldn’t fill my husband’s back tooth, let alone the rest of the family. Perhaps the newspapers misquoted him eh, because I‘ve never seen loose mange touts in rural England. Loose cows or sheep, yes.
This is a recipe that I do when my local Sainsbury have the frozen raw tiger prawns on the half-price deal.
For two greedy boys and me with a smaller appetite. I use two bags of 250 grams of prawns and 4 or 5 small squid. This should be enough for four though and we often have fed an extra with this amount. On special days I add some fresh cooked mussels. Best to use raw and then slightly under cook them yourself first, so that you can add them to the sauce at the final stage of cooking. I can’t stand those ready cooked freezing cold flabby ones, but I wouldn’t undercook the mussels unless I was going to use them at once.
Defrost the prawns and squid and make sure they are well drained, pat them dry in kitchen towel or a clean muslin.
Cut the squid into strips.
Cook the mussels until the shells just open, cool slightly and remove the flesh and keep to one side.
Very finely chop or grate a couple of cloves of garlic and a little fresh ginger.
Finely dice a red chilli or have handy a half teaspoon of chilli flakes.
Finely chop one red pepper and one half white onion.
Finely chop one or two fish stock cubes (for years I made all my own stocks then I found Maggi, then Knorr)
Have half a lemon, a small glass of white wine and a couple of teaspoons of sugar standing by.
A can or two of chopped tomatoes. (Again I used to peel, seed and chop – but now, I can afford cans.)
Some fresh herbs. Chose from oregano, basil, coriander or delicious dill for preference.
In a good heavy based pan, sweat the vegetable ingredients in some olive or sunflower oil . Use a medium heat.
Add the chopped fish cubes and stir round.
Add the wine and bubble until the stock is dissolved.
Add the tomatoes and bubble.
Add the lemon and sugar.
Cook this until the tomatoes have lost their raw, just out of the can appearance and the flavours and amalgamated – probably about 20-30 minutes.
Add the herbs.
Now you can poach the raw seafood. Start with the squid, bubble, then the prawns until they just lose their translucent appearance and are pink and finally the mussels. Bring back to a bubble and stir gently until the fish is just cooked – really only a scant couple of minutes
I serve this with pasta or rice.
I think that’s it. Not a very precise recipe, but I follow my nose when I’m cooking and no two meals are ever exactly the same. That’s the fun, of course.
There’s a creamy version too.