Experts reckon the 19th of January was ‘Blue Monday’. On this day we all felt at our lowest ebb in the post Christmas hangover, our bank balances were begging for mercy and we were struggling with the shortened, dark days (in Northern Europe at least).
Except, I like January. I find it a soothing antidote to the manic pace of December. I prefer the weather too with crisp cold mornings and the occasional snowy day. A far cry from the usual drab grey weather of the month before. Dicken’s best efforts to convince us of a winter wonderland generally proving a little optimistic. Baa humbug.
If there’s one thing I can’t stand about January though is that the food media is filled with recipes described as ‘comforting’. Comforting. I just find it a toe-curling adjective to describe food. For me it’s light, heavy, filling, spicy or rich – that kind of thing. To the point.
I don’t find food ‘comforting’, any more than I find it patronising, sarcastic or arousing. Mind you there was a rib of beef I made once that came close….
I digress. I came up with this recipe a few weeks ago and it IS somehow light, rich, heavy and spicy. I took number 1 daughter down to the local fishmonger with me and we spent an age perusing the offerings I just knew she wouldn’t eat.
I’ve banged on about Latimers plenty of times before; they have superbly fresh fish. I contemplated the enourmous live lobster on display until another punter asked how much. £82 according to the scales. So anyway, I got some Red Gurnard and squid, caught within 20 nautical miles of the store apparently. There was also some massive prawns, which I presume came from some rather warmer shores.
It seems the Gurnard’s stock is rising at the moment (much to the despair of the Gurnard presumably) being relatively plentiful and therefore sustainable at the moment. Some suggest, rather rudely, that its unpopularity has been down to the ugliness of the poor blighter. I can’t personally see any fish winning a beauty contest, but I see their point.
You could use all manner of fish for this, although I might substitute the squid next time, but something with a little firmness such as Monkfish would be a good alternative (now, that very much is the Shrek of the seas).
The veloute was very rich and made with a stock derived from the Gurnard’s ugly mug and the prawn shells. It was finished with a kind of basic tempering oil made simply with fennel seed. It worked nicely with the spices.
For the spiced seafood.
- 1-2 whole Red Gurnard, filleted.
- 2 large prawns or lobster tails, if you’re feeling flush.
- 2 whole squid
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp garam massala
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 heaped tbsp flour
- 1 tsp salt
For the veloute
- 1/2 a cauliflower head, cut into eight.
- 1 onion
- 50g butter
- 200ml single cream
- 500ml fish stock
For the ‘tempering oil’
- A good lug of oil
- 2 tsp fennel seed
Prep the seafood carefully, preferably accompanied by uplifting montage music…
Fillet the Gurnard and remove the head and backbone. Keep them but discard the innards. Locate the pin bones in the fillets and carefully cut or tweeze them out.
Remove the squid’s innards by pulling the head away. Cut away the tentacles and squeeze out the beak. Locate and pull out the transparent quill – very satisfying. Remove as much membrane from the squid as possible, slice to open and clean well under a tap. Score with a very sharp knife.
Remove the prawn tails under the shell around the head, and peel. I use scissors to cut the shell from under the tail. It comes away quite easily.
Place the fish and prawn trimmings in a small pan, cover with 750ml water and bring to simmer for 30 minutes or so and season to taste. You could use aromatics (celery, bay or carrot) but I didn’t find it necessary.
Sieve through muslin cloth or a very fine strainer.
Fry some roughly chopped onion gently in the butter until soft. Add the cauliflower pieces and, cream and the stock. Simmer/reduce for 20 minutes. The cauliflower will be quite soft. Blend well and return to the pan. Season to taste.
In a small milk pan, very gently fry the fennel seed for a couple of minutes without burning them. Remove from the heat
Mix the spices and flour and dust the seafood well.
Fry the prawn tails first, one at a time so as not to crowd the pan. Keep warm. Next fry the Gurnard fillets for no more than 1 minute, on the skin side. Flip only to colour the flesh side and keep warm. Lastly, cook the squid, it will be ready in seconds so don’t over cook it.