As a memorable autumnal end to my home-grown tomato season, I incorporated the last of my super-sweet Sungold tomatoes into sauce vierge. A perfect match for white fish, I brought the sauce together with halibut fillets wrapped in prosciutto. The delicate white fish and salty, sweet ham delivered harmonious and balanced flavours with this tangy and refreshing sauce. This sauce also made the most of my remaining fresh basil and chervil of the season and the dish included another of my incredibly successful Allium crops of this year – leeks, roasted until soft and succulent.
I am the Red Queen (again)
“Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.”
The Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass
I revisit this quote of my first blog post which I tentatively posted a year ago this week. A first anniversary seems like a good time to reflect on this first year of blogging. Given the flavour of the frenetic activity of the first post, one thing certainly hasn’t changed, I still feel like The Red Queen and this is reflected in my inability to post regularly over the last couple of months. Time to get back on track, or at least try…
When my nascent blog emerged, I was sure it would function well as my much needed recipe and garden diary and it does. I have used it regularly to remind myself of recipes I would otherwise never have noted down and repeated. It is a huge time saver on that front.
Beyond some friends and family, I thought very few others were likely to read it, or even find it online. I am usually pretty reluctant to push its presence, preferring to let readers discover it organically / by accident and lift and lay it as they please. So, somewhat surprisingly, I have acquired about 600 subscribers through various means: WordPress, Twitter and Facebook. Thank you all! Hardly viral, but respect to those tolerant readers willing to stick with my often lengthy and occasionally random digressions around food, foraging, recipes and beyond.
Without starting a blog, I would not have joined Facebook or Twitter and did so initially reluctantly in order to give those who want to subscribe through these social portals the option. My views on both continue to evolve. I could live without Facebook, which I rarely use, beyond circulating my latest post. Someone once said to me if you were not on Facebook you were a nobody. Well, like many of my friends who are not subscribers, I was actually perfectly content to be so before I joined and do not feel ‘whole’ having done so!
I like Twitter because it is easily tailored to focus on information exchange and I am grateful for the many foraging and food-related connections made and what I have learned as a result. I enjoy the constraint, brevity and breakneck pace of Twitter.
Blogging has given me a deeper insight into the world of professional cooking, foraging and food writing and has confirmed my initial thoughts that I want blogging to remain firmly a hobby – a way to relax and be slightly self-indulgent. In part, this is because I cannot expand beyond my current commitment to my writing and cooking. Having to sit down and write, or cook without the complete freedom I currently have to do or not do so as I please would take the soul and joy out of it for me. I have a career I am very happy with that challenges me in different ways and this blog is a foil to that. I am also better qualified to do my job than to enter the professional foodie world.
Then there is the question of integrity regarding products and advertising. There is a fair bit of opportunity to test and review products distributed for free. I have developed strong views on this over the last year and I will not promote or test products, gadgets, books or endorse businesses in any way except independently. I focus on products and services I buy and use. My opinions are my own and cannot be bought. If I review a product, book, business, etc, favorably, I do so not to assist in its promotion but because I genuinely endorse the product or service.
I want to again thank all the kind bloggers who over the past year have nominated me for numerous blogging awards. I am very grateful for the appreciation shown in this way and do feel somewhat guilty that although I always take time to give thanks for each award, I do not pass on the awards in the chain style they demand, something I do not want to impose on other bloggers. For this reason, I would prefer not to accept any blog awards in future, save to pass my thanks and a mention for any nomination, as before.
The best thing of all for me about this first year of blogging has been the wonderful community of other bloggers I have been able to connect with. What a fine and diverse array of talented writers, cooks and photographers you are! I have learned so many new recipes and tips from reading other blogs and exchanging comments with many enthusiastic, encouraging and supportive bloggers. I have connected with writers that cover wider subjects than just food and have found refreshing and varied lifestyles and opinions that keep me greatly entertained and informed, so thank you all!
OK, back to business. Halibut et al…
Halibut wrapped in prosciutto with sauce vierge and roasted leeks
I should really be sitting on the naughty step for buying halibut. Unfortunately, it not being a fish I eat at all often, I only realised after my purchase that it was not the sustainable white fish choice I would usually make. Surely I can be forgiven for this rare slip up?
I have had a bumper leek crop this year, not least because, like the garlic, the leeks have been happily dangling their roots in the beds with newly added well-rotted manure. The variety is, I think, Bandit, a beautiful and robust blue-green variety that seems happy to withstand our winter gales without turning black and ragged.
The leeks were trimmed, cleaned and blanched in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, refreshed in cold water and dried before being seasoned and placed in an oven (uncovered) at 200C for 30 minutes. This gave them a soft texture and a delicate, roasted flavour.
With the leeks prepared and ready to go into the oven, time to deal with the halibut steaks. These were seasoned and wrapped in prosciutto. Simple.
The wrapped fillets were pan-fried with butter, a couple of minutes a side, taking care the pan is not too hot or the ham (and butter) will burn. These were then rested in a low oven (80C) for 5 minutes or so, giving time to prepare a quick sauce vierge, courtesy of my favoured traditional Michel Roux recipe.
This is such a simple yet wonderful sauce, one of my summer favourites with fish. Skinning the tomatoes, especially small varieties such as Sungold is a faff, but worth it for the correct texture. Score and drop in boiling water for 30 seconds before removing to make them easier to peel.
80g tomatoes, skinned and de-seeded
200 ml olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp. snipped basil leaves
2 tbsp. snipped chervil leaves
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
6 coriander seeds, crushed
salt and pepper to taste
- Dice the skinned and de-seeded tomatoes and place in a bowl with the oil, lemon juice, herbs, garlic and coriander seeds, season to taste.
- Heat very slightly until it is just warm and serve over and around the fish.
While the recipe worked quite well with halibut, it is quite a delicate, subtle fish and the flavour did get a bit lost, especially with the prosciutto. The dish could be improved by using a firmer, meatier and bolder-flavoured fish. Monkfish would probably be the ideal choice.