Friday, 28 February 2014

On finding a fishmonger

One of the best things (or, I guess, the worst, depending on how you view these things) about moving to a new area is that you have to get used to where everything is. This applies on the domestic front (“Have you seen the [insert whatever thing it is you need and haven’t seen since it went into a box a week ago]?” “Hmm, wasn’t it in the box with the rest of the stuff from [insert relevant room/cupboard where the thing was, notionally at least, kept, in the old house] “No I don’t think so because I had to [insert improbable chain of events that led to the thing you need being packed away with an entirely different set of objects…]” – you get the drift) although mercifully, there hasn’t been too much of that since we moved. 

On the wider front, it’s far more exciting. Where to go for food, for the doctors, the vet, a good dog walk – your new area of residence is an open book ready to be explored.

The other day, I headed to Newcastle Emlyn, which, hitherto, I have only passed through, on the way to where we are living. Cardigan, or, perhaps I should say Aberteifi, a little further away, is a bigger town and with its cafes, little independent shops and bakeries, has drawn us, wide-eyed, like moths to a lamp, eager for sophistication, and, let’s be honest here, wireless internet access (do NOT mention British Telecom to me…). But I wanted to check out Newcastle Emlyn – the view from the car window was promising – and given the dog’s record, I thought it was prudent to find a vet as close as possible, so off I headed.
I duly located the vet, and registered Fred, there was a little produce market which is clearly the place for sacks of potatoes, eggs etc, a butcher, an intriguing looking shop called The Carrot Cruncher which I didn’t enter, but will be going back to explore, and various ‘hardware’ type stores selling all manner of items from wellies to salt cellars. I had a lovely cup of coffee at Ty Croeso Deli & CafĂ© and made the acquaintance of the lovely Brenda, the proprietor, who has solved my internet issues (to some extent at east) until BT can be bothered to get an engineer to connect us up. I mean 5 weeks it’s going to have taken, assuming we actually get connected as promised. 5 WEEKS. Did I tell you not to mention BT to me? Oh yes…

You’ll be hearing more about Brenda later, but in other almost equally exciting news, I have a fishmonger. A proper bona fide fishmonger in a little shop selling beautiful fresh fish, dressed crab, and other lovely sea food stuff, including laverbread which is actually seaweed (I say this because it’s only in the last couple of years that I have realised that laverbread is not bread at all…).

I didn’t buy any laverbread, but I did buy some beautiful fresh haddock to make fish and chips for Friday night.

This is one of those things that really is ridiculously easy but if you’ve got decent fish, it makes it into something really special. It’s also worth making your own ‘chips’ if you’ve got time, but I make no apologies for the frozen peas…

Fish & Chips for 4
4 baking potatoes
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
Sea salt
3-400g firm white fish, cut into 4 chunks
Plain flour
1 large egg
Frozen peas

Start with the chips. Pre-heat the oven to 230C. While the oven is heating, wash the potatoes (no need to peel) and slice up into chip sized pieces.

Put the chips into a large pan, cover with water, bring to the boil, cook for 5 minutes then drain and leave to steam.

Pour the rapeseed oil onto a large baking sheet (or use 2 baking sheets and a little more oil if your potatoes were very big and made lots of chips) and put into the oven for 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes, very carefully take the baking sheet out of the oven and spread the chips out over the hot oil. Sprinkle some sea salt over them then return to the oven. They will need 30-40 minutes in the oven, and make sure you turn them every so often.

For the fish, get 3 plates out and put the flour on one, beat the egg onto a second plate, and crush up the cornflakes on the third plate. Dip each piece of fish first into the flour, then the egg, the finally the crushed cornflakes.


When the chips have got about 10 minutes to go, boil the kettle ready to cook your peas, and heat a little more oil in a non-stick frying pan. 

Put the peas on to cook (I didn’t specify an amount, because it will depend on who you are feeding and whether they like peas or not – you’ll know how it works for you). 

Fry the fish gently on both sides – about 4 minutes each side - till cooked through but not overcooked.

Serve with the peas and chips, and your condiments of choice - or just a slice of lemon...

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Fairtrade Fortnight 2014

Just before we moved, a load of Fairtrade goodies turned up, and I was dying to get baking. 

There were some very delicious lime & chilli salted nuts – they didn’t last long: we invited our friends round the night before we moved, and spent a lovely few hours, adults crammed into the kitchen while the children rampaged through the rest of the house. The nuts stayed in the kitchen. Along with the alcohol…

I thought I’d lost the bar of milk chocolate with almonds and raisins in the move, having accused everyone of snaffling it, much to their indignation. It turned up on Sunday morning, a week after the move, with all the cake decorating stuff, instead of with the ‘treats’, and in the interests of promoting domestic harmony, I ate it (so I would no longer accuse people of taking it).

I was hoping the ill-fated chocolate cake might have done justice to my Fairtrade haul, but despite using the Fairtrade hot chocolate powder, it wasn’t a great success.

There were also some rather intriguing Black Cardamom pods. As I am still without a reliable internet connection, I have not had the opportunity to establish how these might differ from the green cardamom pods I already have in my possession, but I’m open to any suggestions. I suspect it may be to do with their origins – like black and yellow mustard seeds. I remember trying to buy one kind in Brixton market (Afro-Carribean) and being told that I’d only be able to get the other type there – I needed to go to Tooting (Indian) for the type I was looking for…

What this all demonstrates is the diversity of Fairtrade products. It’s not just chocolate and coffee – there are loads of Fairtrade products about, and it’s worth looking out for them. When you buy Fairtrade, you are guaranteeing that the producer receives a fair price for his or her product. This enables communities to become more sustainable, to establish infrastructure and education for their children. To create security and allow development. And that has to be a good thing.

This year, the focus is on bananas. The Brits love bananas, but the problem is that the supermarkets engage in banana price wars to entice us in, and then if the bananas aren't fairtrade, the only people who really lose out are the producers, and that can't be fair. So buy Fairtrade bananas - they may not taste any different, but they will leave a better taste in your mouth and on your conscience than the cheaper ones.

Monday, 24 February 2014

MAD Blog Awards!

Blog awards. I’ve never won anything for my blog, and I don’t write with a view to ‘winning things’, more to get stuff out of my head, but it’s nice when other people like what you write too. And I am overwhelmed to have been nominated for 3 MAD blog awards this year – Food Blogger, which, OK, I’m pleased about, but I’ve also had a nomination for Best Blog Writer, and also a nomination for MAD Blog of the Year which really astounds me as I thought food bloggers kind of got pushed into their own little corner of the blogosphere, and weren’t really let out of the kitchen that much: so to get nominations in these 2 categories makes me feel very chuffed indeed. There's a badge over there on the right hand side to prove it too...

So thank you for nominating me. And if you'd like me to actually win one of these awards, and haven't already nominated me, you can do so now - until 14th March, so there's plenty of time. Basically, the blogs with the most nominations in each category go forward for voting. 

You can find out how it all works, and the nomination form on the MAD Blog Awards 2014 website.

If I got to the voting stage, I'd be made up - but just to have been nominated is cool as far as I'm concerned.

Right, that's enough of that congratulatory stuff - back to the kitchen I go :-)