Archive for July, 2011

Salmon on an Ash Plank

Salmon on an Ash Plank

I was afraid that this was a bit of gimmick but I am here to tell you that cooking salmon (or any fish) on a plank is delicious.  This has become a bit of a craze in the States over the past few years and I was inspired to give it a try as a center piece for a Beltane BBQ.  As I live in a weather challenged climate,  I felt obligated to exploring plank cooking for both the oven and the BBQ.  Additionally, as a former apartment dweller for roughly the past 25 years, I realise it is not only the weather that can disqualify you from owning a BBQ.

This technique is usually credited to the indigenous  tribes of the American Northwest but I have found references to both Australian and Scandinavian versions as well.  The basic gist is that you can cook tender and succulent food (fish, meats, veg) over an open flame in a way that is not only practical but adds sensational flavour as well.

Filet on left for BBQ (soaked) filet on right for oven (oiled).

Although I used the same recipe of a Honey Nut Coated Salmon (recipe below), I prepared the boards differently.  For the BBQ soak your plank  – covered in water – for at least two hours.  For the oven I coated both sides of the plank with vegetable oil and let stand.   Make sure that your wood is untreated and has no preservatives.  I sourced my from the Scottish Woodland Trust, but you can purchase cedar cooking planks from most  Whole Food stores or Amazon.  I was using Ash as it is  indigenous to Scotland and for heightened Celtic Symbolism in honor of Beltane.  You do not need to go to such lengths but Ash is tasty I can assure you!  After preparing the planks – preheat your cooking source:  200 C/400F for the oven and Medium High for the BBQ.

Apply Honey Mustard sauce to both filets

Place filets on boards (each plank could have easily held 4 filets) and season with salt & pepper.   Spoon some of the honey mustard sauce over the fish,

Apply Breadcrumb Mix to both filets

 and cover with breadcrumb mixture – that’s it!

Place directly into preheated oven

For oven roasting,  place directly onto the wire rack.  Cook for approximately 20 minutes or until fish is firm but flakes easily.

If using BBQ place on upper rack if possible

If using a BBQ place on an upper rack if possible.  The board will bend as it has been soaked and you will want to keep a close eye on this process for sure.

Oven Planked Salmon - Moist & Flavourful

The fish cooked in the oven was a delight.  It was juicy and flavourful and looked great on the board – much more interesting that a plain old cooking sheet.

Salmon from BBQ - Absolutely divine and worth all the hype!

But the salmon cooked in the BBQ was AMAZING!  The smell, the smoke, the flavour – it makes me swoon just to tell you!   At first I was just so overwhelmed from the smoke off the plank charring away that it transported me back in time like the food critic in Ratatouille.  All at once I was at summer camp (go Jolis Couers), I was in Wyoming on a NOLS course, and it was 2 am at a Pig Roast.

Let me explain – it is a very rare to smell actual wood smoke in Scotland.  If you are far enough out of a city or town to be able to have anything other than a gas fire in your fireplace, you are more likely to burn peat or coal.   These materials do not create very much smoke when they burn, rather remain petite glowing red coals that give out quite a bit of heat and only tinge the air with a slightly sharp smell.

Both Planks the morning after - oven ready to re-use, BBQ maybe not so much!

Suffice to say, big billowing clouds of wood smoke escaping from the grill was a deeply evocative experience for me.  As an added bonus, when you remove the salmon (still on the board) for the table, is gives a fabulous steaming, hissing presentation not dissimilar to fajitas in a Mexican Restaurant.

 All in all an exciting, flavourful adventure that I would highly recommend!

 

Salmon on an Ash Plank

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 2 hours

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes

Yield: 4 filets

Serving Size: 1 filet

Salmon on an Ash Plank

Ingredients

  • - 4 salmon filets
  • - 1 planks - untreated cedar, ash, oak
  • For the Honey Mustard Sauce
  • - 2 Tablespoons Honey
  • - 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • - 2 teaspoons Butter
  • For the Crumb Topping
  • - 1/4 cup toasted or dried breadcrumbs
  • - 1/4 cup chopped nuts (almonds, pecans or walnuts)
  • - 2 Tablespoon fresh chopped Parsley

Instructions

    Prepare planks according to cooking method - oil for oven, soak for BBQ
  1. - Preheat cooking source - 200 c/400 f for oven, Medium High for BBQ
  2. - Place salmon filets on plank lightly season with salt & pepper
  3. - Spoon the Honey Mustard Sauce over fish
  4. - Top with Breadcrumb Mixture
  5. - Cook for approximately 20 minutes until fish is firm and flakes easily.
  6. - Enjoy!
http://albaliving.com/2011/07/salmon-on-an-ash-plank/

The Steamie Bakehouse

The Steamie Bakehouse

 What to do when you are a post doc in Cognitive Science and your fixed term contract is coming to end? Why, switch gears and open an artisan bakery of course!  Happily for us that is just what Matthew Roberts and his wife Zillah Scott did when they started The Steamie Bakehouse.
 
The Steamie Bakehouse Selection
Focusing on quality, sustainability and of course flavour, the Bakehouse operates out of a 3 meter x 3 meter summer-house with a custom built thin-walled concrete, super-efficient wood burning oven.  All of this was self designed and built with the help of local blacksmith David Henderson.

Matthew Roberts - Artisan Bread Baker

 

 Using off-cuts from The Scottish Woodland Trust  Matthew can heat and run two ovens to bake 200 loaves of bread from approximate 4 kilos/ 10 pounds of wood.  I told you it was efficient! ( I think I use more than that just to get a fire going…)
Super-efficient wood burning oven
Continuing on the sustainability theme, they try to source their flours from local, organic and whenever possible heritage grains. Matthew is also in charge of the ordering production and IT side of the business.  He uses his former professional knowledge to design ordering forms that can accurately configure the proportions of over 100 loaves of bread to within about 200 grams/ about 1 cup of flour! 

Homemade Sourdough Starter

 All their bread are made using a Rye sourdough starter (also homemade).  Currently, they offer an Oat Loaf, a Wholemeal Spelt & Honey, a Sourdough,  a Five Grain,  a Wholemeal & Rye, and a Fruit Loaf .  
 

So how do you get this these babies into your life?  Well, if you are local to Fife you can pop into Reuban’s Deli in Dunfermline, Blether by the Bridge in North Queensferry and Food For Thought in Burntisland.  The Steamie also operates Bread Clubs whereby you and a few friends get together for a weekly order (a bit like a veg box scheme) and the delivery will be made to the organisor of your Club in lovely bags with your order clipped on to the outside.  Everyone is invoiced separately on a monthly basis so there is no hassle with money for the host of the Club. 

So if you are looking for delicious, sustainable, artisans breads, be sure to check out the offerings of our Dunfermline based Steamie Bakehouse!

Beer Can Chicken

Beer Can Chicken

In honour of T in the Park (which is taking place just up the road from me) I decided to finally tackle the legendary Beer Can Chicken.

Beer Can Chicken
Although it may appear a bit comical or obscene depending on your view, shoving a beer can in a chicken for cooking actually renders a very flavourful and juicy bird.
Basic Ingredients for Beer Can Chicken
 As this was my first attempt, I decided to keep things really simple. ( I did have to change the Tennents can/tin for a Heineken as my chicken to tin ration was all out of whack.  Fret not, it didn’t go to waste!)
Open both ends of beer can and drain/drink about half can
 This step is important – you must open the can/tin at both sides of the top to allow the steam to escape.  Of course I couldn’t find a church key to make a nice triangle, so I opted for a can opener for half the top and just pressed down with my thumb – be careful not to slice yourself…
Chicken #1 cooked in the oven
 In the name of research I wanted to try cooking  one chicken on the oven and one on the BBQ.  The one for the oven  was very straight forward – just pre-heat to 180 c/350 f and roast away for about an hour and 15-30 minutes.
Chicken #2 on the BBQ

The BBQ was another matter entirely.  It didn’t need to be but fate was not smiling on this endeavour.  First off, my chicken was plain old not cooperating by sitting neatly on its new perch.  As you are to cook this covered, with indirect heat for the hour plus, I had just wrestled my chicken into position when I realised that my wee  BBQ lid could not come close to shutting over my bird!

Alteration #1

 After a quick search for some tin foil to make a tent ( I was out) I grabbed my largest stock pot as a quick stand in.  Things were looking up for about 3 minutes when the Scottish Summer struck.  Anyone in the area  or who was hoping to see the start of the Scottish Open can appreciate just how fierce the newly arrived rain was on this evening.  It was lashing!!!
Needs Must – Alteration #2
 But I persevered…
Instant Read Thermometer – Get One!
 Now I know folks like to feel cheffy by learning where to poke on your fist or your chin to tell if meat is done, but I have a better suggestion.  Get an instant read thermometer!  They are available everywhere that sells kitchen stuff and come in Centigrade and Farenheit depending on your preference –  and guess what – it is what chefs are required to use by law on both sides of the Atlantic to record the temperature of a meal before it can be served to the public.  Particularly when it comes to chicken you don’t want to mess about so cook until the thermometer read 82.5 c/ 180 f in the thickest part of the thigh.

Left Rudder!

 Here are the results!  For ease, definitely go for the oven option.  It was golden brown, juicy and held on to the spice rub.  For sheer adventure, give the BBQ a try.  Maybe check the weather beforehand and if your lid won’t close over the chicken, take a bit of time before it is actually cooking to construct some sort of foil tent.  It did have a lovely grilled taste and (even after I finished it off in the oven after this picture as I couldn’t brave the elements again) the meat was juicy and tender.
A successful indoor picnic!
 We spread the old tartan blanket out in the living room, tuned in for the coverage of the concert and fully enjoyed our indoor picnic – all dry and cosy at last!
Beer Can Chicken

Beer Can Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 chicken
  • 1 can of beer, half drained
  • Olive oil or butter
  • Spice mix

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 200 c/400 f or BBQ to High
  2. Create an opening on both side of the beer can and drain/drink half the liquid
  3. Mix spices with oil or butter and rub over chicken
  4. Place beer can on a baking sheet and carefully place chicken over beer can.
  5. Cook for approximately 1 hour and 15 - 30 minutes depending on size of chicken (covered if on BBQ)
  6. Chicken is done when an instant read thermometer read 83 c/ 180 f in the thickest part of the thigh.
http://albaliving.com/2011/07/beer-can-chicken/
Farm Shop Survey - Muddy Boots

Farm Shop Survey – Muddy Boots

For anyone out there still clinging to the false notion that you need to be in an urban hub to enjoy great food, culture or year round activity, I am so pleased to introduce you to the ever-expanding Muddy Boots Farm Shop.

Sign that you will see from the road - turn right immediately!

Although the Samson family has been farming right here in the wee village of Balmalcolm outside Cupar for at least five generations (that they can remember), Muddy Boots is a very recent development.  It began in the summer of 2003 with a bumper crop of raspberries that unfortunately coincided with their long-standing order from a major British supermarket being slashed by more than half – eeks.  The family quickly rallied and sold the excess bounty from a road side tent.

Bright, Fresh, Well-stocked & Welcoming Farm Shop

 The next year the tent was replaced by a poly tunnel and the year after that a small structure.  Each year brought more success and a bigger audience until in 2007  when the first part of the current structure began, to take shape to accommodate the needs of a top end Farm Shop.  Selling their own produce, berries and eggs, they also stock other local artisan and farm shop products.  The term “Farm Shop” is in the works to receive its own legal and commercial definition but for now it had gone from only selling your own goods from your own farm to a larger “direct from farm” network.

Free Range chickens with practical guidance on viewing

Generally,  when you see the term “free range eggs” on a carton there is a little bit of an internal assumption of “well, I’ll take your word for it”, but at Muddy Boots you get to experience just how free that range can be (with fences being a bit hypothetical at times).  Not only can you come and visit the various hens as they hang out with each other, some ducks and a goat or two, but you can see their workout zone.

"Goat Mountain" Chicken Run for Maximum Poultry Pleasure

  Granted there was a whole lot more snoozing and taking of dirt baths when I visited but it is nice to know it is there if they want a climb.

Air Pillow Madness

But fresh produce and eggs aside – here is why you really come to Muddy Boots – for the fun!  Rarely do you come across any business where you get the feeling that the proprietors have walked around in their customer’s shoes and thought,”what could we provide that would offer the most variety and fun for any category of customer that we might serve?”.  At Muddy Boots there is a decidedly un-corporate or formulaic feel that literally offers something for everyone (and seems to be growing all the time).

Bargain Prices for A Great Adventure

 They offer a variety of very affordable activities from a little kids play area, to the larger big kid zone.
Big Kid Play Area
 To a converted barn with a soft play area.
Indoor(ish) Soft Play
To a very creative and hugely enjoyable for the kids Duck Race course.
The Duck Races
 And when your dear ones are properly worn out (mission accomplished) then it is time for lunch, if you can make it past the ice cream window selling Cream  O’ Galloway goodness.  As we had dairy-intolerant toddler with us we sadly had to pass on this but for anyone else be sure to hit it on your way out!

Ready for Lunch

 Now your only problem is trying to decide where you feel like dining.

Outdoor Seating at Muddy Boots

 Depending on how hearty you feel there is a beautiful outdoor patio, or maybe

"For Seasons" Cafe at Muddy Boots

 you would rather to take in the atmosphere and the view of the interior of the Seasons Cafe.

Open Wood-Burning Central Fireplace surrounded by leather sofas and newspapers - Divine

But this is what really rings my bell, the wood burning fireplace to enhance the already fantastic ambiance and take the chill of a summer storm or provide a cosy hang our for a winter’s day.  I have had the privilege of attending an evening meeting here and was able to see  – all in one night thanks to our mercurial weather – a glorious sunset over the hills, a thunderstorm, and a fresh sparkling summer’s eve all fresh from the storm.  I assure you the fireplace was a welcome addition to the whole event.

"Paint your Own Pottery" area

Now, if your head is not yet spinning from the produce, outdoor activities or dining, you could while away the rest of your visit painting your own pottery to be fired on site.  This is available on a drop in basis or you can schedule a party – kids, grownups or fund-raisers with a per head fee.

Free Range Community Hub

These are only the things that are here on any old day you happen to pay a visit.  Muddy Boots has a burgeoning schedule of plays, seasonal activities, parties, events and performances on a pre-booking basis.  As I left it occurred to me that Muddy Boots is a leading example of how these venues are  becoming the hubs and hearts of these rural communities.  Where once maybe gatherings would be held in a church or a school, these larger  “countryprenuer”  outlets can provide  jobs, entertainment and space to gather for locals and day visitors alike.
One last thing, it is located on the 914 en route to St. Andrews and only 3 miles from Falkirk Palace.  If you are travelling to or from these places this is a fab rest stop to stretch your legs and stock up for dinner!
PS Not an advert just a shout out from me-  thanks, J.
Langoustine Roll

Langoustine Roll

 One of the most delicious surprises in the national resources of Scotland is the lovely langoustine.  The nephrops norvegicus is member of the lobster family but are only 8-10 centimeters (or 3 to 6 inches) in length and are also known as Norway lobster, scampi and sometimes even Dublin Bay prawns, which is very confusing as prawns usually mean teeny briny shrimp.  Anyhoo, they are delicious have a taste and texture just like lobster but a touch more salty (and richer if you can believe it) than larger New England version.

The Lovely Langoustine

When I was in the states a few months ago I had the sublime pleasure of having a Classic Maine Lobster Roll from Jasper White’s Summer Shack.  For those not familiar with the Big Daddy of all things lobster in Boston (and that’s saying something) he is a highly acclaimed chef who rose to prominence running the top hotel restaurants in Boston and later his own super-lush seafood mecca Jasper’s.  I first came across his fabulousness when he made a dramatic career turn and closed his super fancy kitchens  to open the Summer Shack restaurant in the old Aku-Aku restaurant in Cambridge, in whose parking lot I once bought a van off a supposed relative of Click & Clack of Car Talk fame for $300 cash.  Jasper’s  new vision was to recreate the casual beach shack experience of his youth using the highest quality ingredients – and boy did he succeed.  Even though his lobster rolls cost $18 they are worth every penny.  After an eight year hiatus I really, really enjoyed my lobster roll.  I also knew that I had to have this more often than once every eight years, and so began my new-found obsession with my local langoustines.

Perfect picnic fare - Langoustine Rolls

I have hunted down and made langoustines from my fish man who brings his van to my door every thursday, the fantabulous fishmongers H.S. Murray in Inverkeithing and I have to report (more than a little sadly) that so far the best bang for my buck has come from  the Tesco frozen version.  The good news is that are consistently available,  a decent price and can even be ordered by online shopping so you can keep them on hand for when the need for a little luxury strikes.  I think that Trader Joe’s carry them in the States.

Tesco Finest £4

These really need to be cooked from frozen, so way before you turn the oven on, I would strongly encourage you to make this divine mayo that Jasper himself uses on his lobster rolls.  Of course you could just use a little bit of plain mayonnaise but this is one of those strange things that is so much more than the sum of its parts – go ahead and give it a try.  It is also totally fab on chicken, potatoes and particularly deadly on a ham sandwich.

Jasper’s Mayo

(Almost) Jasper’s Lobster Mayonnaise

1 cup Hellman’s light mayo

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 big dash of Tabasco Sauce

1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon

– Mix ingredients together, cover and refrigerated at least 1 hour before serving.  Will keep for 3 days in the fridge.

Ready for the grill (broiler)

 The lovelies are super easy to cook, just preheat the grill/broiler to high and whack them in the oven for about 5 minutes.  (Note:  I have quite a few Pampered Chef folk in my life so don’t be surprised to see an awful lot of their loot in these posts – I am a very easy target.)

250g (1/4 lb) frozen yields about 150g (1 cup) meat - enough for two small rolls

Not only is cooking these in the oven quick and easy I think roasting them in their shells versus boiling them adds additional flavour, and  I have even taken to cooking tiger prawns/shrimp the same way.  After they cool, remove the meat from the shells and roughly chop.  I tend to save the shells in the freezer for making  yummy stock but if you are going to discard then – please put then in a small airtight plastic bag and maybe even put them straight into the outside bin/trash.  They can really stink if left in a regular bin overnight – bletch.

Mix a small amount of Jasper’s mayo into the cooled meat.  I also like to jazz things up by adding diced celery for crunch and even peeled diced cucumber.  You can also just be a purist and leave the mix unmolested.  Toast a small finger roll, brioche or a hot dog bun, butter generously and pop the langoustines into their cozy new home with just a simple lettuce blanket and a maybe a few minced chives for garnish.  Devour with great enjoyment.

seasonal Scottish strawberries are a revelation
As I was making this on the single most gorgeous day we have had in six weeks I couldn’t resist serving this with the astoundingly flavourful Scottish strawberries.  They are totally different to anything else that I understood to be a strawberry in my previous life.  They are also what is served at Wimbledon for the famous strawberries & cream, so there you go.
Super spicy yum

And just to go totally crazy, I opted for my new favourite vice – Haggis crisps (potato chips)!  They are really good and scratch the itch I get when I crave Old Bay Seasoning chips.  A differently flavour but the spiciness compliments the sweet strawberries and the elegantly rich langoustines.  Who knew?

 HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!

Langoustine Roll

Langoustine Roll

Ingredients

    Jasper's Lobster Mayonnaise
  • 1 cup Hellman's light mayo
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 big dash of Tabasco Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon
  • Mix ingredients together, cover and refrigerated at least 1 hour before serving. Will keep for 3 days in the fridge. This makes more than you need for 2 filled rolls.
  • Langoustine Rolls - 2 rolls
  • About 1 cup/ 150 grams cooked Langoustine or Lobster meat
  • 1 Stalk of celery, washed and diced
  • 2 Hot Dogs Buns - split top if possible
  • Bibb lettuce
  • Chives, minced for garnish

Instructions

  1. Make up Jasper's Mayo
  2. Cook Langoustines or Lobster according to instructions
  3. Remove cooled meat from shells and roughly chop
  4. In a small bowl add langoustine/ lobster meat, diced celery & Jasper's or plain mayo
  5. Toast hot dog buns and butter if desired
  6. Place lettuce and half of mixture in each toasted bun
  7. Enjoy!
http://albaliving.com/2011/07/langoustine-roll/


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