Thursday, December 15, 2011

Duck food

I was reading about brewing the other day and was interested to discover the concept of the amylase rest (see this page on Wikipedia). Before the yeast is added to the mash, there's a stage where the mixture of water and malt is held at around 70C to allow the amylase enzymes to have a party. It's their favourite temperature, and so they quickly break down the starch molecules into smaller, sugar molecules, which the yeast can then turn into alcohol and CO2.

This seems like a good idea. I've already used autolysation, where you let the mixed dough rest before you knead it, but that was at about 40C at best. You can't go much higher because you'd kill the yeast. So what happens if you mix flour and water, bring it up to 70C and hold it there for a while?

(I mixed 200g of strong white flour with 200g of water at 70C, and then put this in a bowl over an saucepan of hot water on a low gas. The temperature of the mix initially fell, of course, but rose to nearly 70 before I turned off the gas and let it stand for 20 minutes. I'd expected it to be longer, but it was obvious that big effects had already happened. )

The short answer is that you get porridge. The texture of the dough is distinctly different from usual, and it's noticeably sweeter, which is what we want. So I added about 170g more flour, 100g water and half a teaspoon of dried yeast, and 3g salt. Kneaded this all together then let it rise. It didn't rise well, but looked ready for baking so I formed it into a pain d'epi shape and baked at 240 for 45 minutes.

Readers, it was a disaster. Doughy on the inside, but crisp of crust (all that sugar!) it was inedible for humans. Now I know why I've never seen this technique mentioned. Something crucial to the structure of bread is lost. The shivering ducks in Ladywell Fields loved it though.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Three-bearded rockling

Do you like rockling? Don't tell me you don't know, you've never rockled. I saw some rather attractive fish at Blackheath market this morning, so asked the stallholder what they were. "Three-bearded rockling" he said. "We don't normally sell them, but use them as bait. I've never eaten one but I know people who have, who say they're just perfectly fine white fish." This wasn't convincing me, but then he said "They're a pound a fish", so I bought one.

Got home and looked in Hugh Fearnley-Whittenstall's fish book. Not a mention. On the web, hardly anything. Safest, I thought, to take off the fillets and shallow fry them, with a bit of seasoned rice flour coating.

And they are perfectly nice white fish. A fairly soft and open flesh, and a surprisingly good taste. And the head and bones will make a super stock, I'm sure.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

With knobs on

I'm always excited when I see skate knobs on sale, so bought a bag of them in Beckenham yesterday. Then had to think about what to do with them. How about a fish stew, maybe with some mash? I had various veg I needed to use up, and a couple of salmon fillets that have been in the freezer too long.

2 fairly small leeks, trimmed and sliced into rounds
1 large (as shallots go) shallot, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic
3 skinny carrots, chopped
2 sticks of celery, chopped; save the green leaves
1 parsnip, cut into blades
1 small head of fennel, chopped
1 red chili (fresh from my backyard - yes, I'm still harvesting chilis in December) chopped
400 ml fish stock
about 500g skate knobs
2 salmon fillets, diced
salt as necessary


In a large pan heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Fry the onion, garlic, carrots and celery until soft. Add the chili and fish stock and let everything simmer for 15 minutes. Add the parsnip and fennel and simmer for another fiive minutes. Verify seasoning. Add the skate and salmon and simmer for another five minutes until cooked. Chop the celery leaves and sprinkle on top, letting them wilt a bit.

Serve with mash made with a spoonful of mustard. If you're feeling poncy you could call it a deconstructed fish pie.

This would probably serve four people. But the other three would have to armed to get close to it.