Seasonal eating in May
Finally, after a bit of trickery in March and April, the air is getting warmer and our kitchen activity reflects it - salad leaves make a regular appearance, a loaf of sourdough on the breadboard to have with lunch or dinner replaces potatoes and barbecuing is the cooking technique du jour.
My griddle pan has seen plenty of use of late; the charred, smokey flavours from it are easier and quicker to produce than using the barbecue, particularly on a weeknight when time is of the essence - red peppers, spears of broccoli, even a pointed cabbage, cut into quarters, all get the treatment.
Probably the most fashionable fish of the past few years, these tiger-striped beauties haven't seen much of a price increase unllike the so-called 'cheaper cuts' of meat. Get your fishmonger to gut them and when you get home split them all the way along the belly. Put them belly down on a chopping board and push down on the backbone to splay them open - perfect for sticking on the barbecue.
Alternatively, instead of opening them up, simply stuff the belly cavity with herbs, fennel, lemon and season well before grilling. They work well cold too: cook them off, let them cool and flake the cooked flesh off the bone and put it into a bowl. Add julienned cucumber, carrot, spring onion, coriander and bean sprouts. Toss with some smashed-up peanuts then dress with fish sauce, lime juice, chilli flakes and sugar for a beautiful Asian-style summer salad.
Perhaps the most refreshing of vegetables, cucumber also forms part of one of my food secrets - I love eating crispbreads, layered up with butter, then salad cream and then slices of cucumber. Now that that is in the open, we can move on to tastier treats. Quick pickled cucumbers are delicious and work perfectly with smoked fish - just mix sugar, vinegar and a bit of water with plenty of pepper and a pinch of salt. Pour over slices of cucumber and leave for a little while, or overnight, then strain and serve. Try an Ottolenghi favourite, mixing sliced cucumber with sliced red chilli, rice wine vinegar, oil and sugar before tossing with poppy seeds - a brilliant, fresh barbecue side. If you want to try something a bit more out there, Bing 'smacked cucumber'...
This crustacean has a reputation for being a pricey one and a bit of a fiddle but it doesn't have to be either. Buy it ready prepared (known as 'dressed') and use the meat to make the famous southern US favourite, Maryland crab cakes - the meat will go much further and you'll get a delicious treat. Or go classic - crab mayonnaise is an ideal summer sandwich-filler for afternoon tea. Or just for you, for lunch.
Crab linguine is another crustacean classic - soften some shallot with chilli and garlic in a pan, toss in your crab, then pour in some white wine; cook off the alcohol, toss with the pasta and some fresh finely chopped herbs. If you fancy something a bit different, go Asian - Singapore Chilli Crab is a world famous must-try dish.
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Often cast aside in place of fancier leaves or bags of salad, watercress is a more welcome addition to my salad bowl than any fashionable leaf. It's a bit pokey, peppery and distinct and lends itself to all manner of different techniques and application. Serve it alongside a hunk of steak or cold roast beef for a bit of fresh zip. I love it used in tarts, with crumbly, buttery pastry and tangy goat's cheese or in one of its simplest forms - as a vivid green watercress soup.
These little leaves have become a firm favourite in British households but still remain relegated to 'garnish' status, it seems, or are used to create an entire salad rather than as a subtle element within one, where they can add bursts of peppery flavour. But, like watercress, they should not remain stuck in the salad bowl. Wilt them down with a little butter in a pan for an alternative to spinach (you can actually mix them together to do this) or use them blitzed into a 'green goddess dressing'. Stir them through a tomato and chorizo pasta sauce at the last minute or through a risotto before topping with crispy breadcrumbs and seeds, where their peppery notes will add a welcome burst of flavour.
Mackerel are great fish but not as you find in most shops ! if you leave the guts in any fish it will go bad in two days.
So why cant they take the guts out on the boat ? like I do when sea fishing, and you then have firm flesh, and if you fillet them and then cut that in half. missing the bones in the middle of the fish half , you will end up with , Four thin stripes of the best fish without bones, you can ever eat ! just put them into a mix of wholemeal flour with salt and pepper, and frie the in a hot pan with a little oil. The best food you can get !!!