My uni friends Chris and Cathy came by for dinner.
I was moored in Limehouse marina on the Isle of Dogs at the time - near Canary Wharf.
A surprisingly salubrious area considering its proximity to Tower Hamlets,
and walking distance from the new Billingsgate Fish Market
which moved there from the City of London in 1982 - handy for me!
Not so handy is the fact that you have to shop there between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. and though they do sell to the public,
they're not interested in cutting anything up.
So you can buy a whole lobster, a whole crab, a whole salmon, a half-dozen scallops in their shell or anything by the ton,
but if you want a few monkfish steaks you have to shop elsewhere; say the Canary Wharf branch of Waitrose, just around the corner.
My ex-skipper John kindly donated me a boat barbecue before I left Edinburgh - one of those which clamps onto your boat's stern rails.
I wasn't completely convinced that it wouldn't just swivel round and dump the entire contents of the barbecue into the sea.
Or worse, onto the hull and set fire to it.
But it tested out pretty well with a whole (un-burning) bag of charcoal sitting on the grill so considering the extremely favourable weather,
and having the approval of the marina, I decided that this was the time to crank it up. And it worked like a charm!
I'd originally been considering
- I was thinking of something like salt cod or monkfish with chorizo on a bed of carrots, flavoured with anise for Chris - the carnivore.
Plus a bag with salmon, asparagus, and vodka flavoured with liquorice or perhaps vanilla,
lines, for Cathy - the pesky tarian.
I thought I could do these on the barbecue easily enough,
but when I discovered that Billingsgate didn't sell fish by the piece I decided to mainly go with a whole-fish theme.
I also abandoned my plans
for panna cotta dessert - partly because it started to feel like overkill
and partly 'cos I couldn't be bothered figuring out how to substitute agar agar for the gelatine to suit someone strangely averse to boiled cows' hooves.
Given how hot it's been recently, and how hot it was forecast to be on Saturday, I thought it might be pleasant to have a couple of cold dishes too
- which gave me the perfect opportunity to try out a dish I've been wanting to take a bash at ever since eating it at Edinburgh's
Castle Terrace restaurant
a salmon tartar with puffed rice and wasabi ice cream
Popping the rice turned out not to be such a problem, having read up on how to do it.
Basically you cook some rice as normal (doesn't seem important what kind - I used Thai jasmine),
then dry it (I baked it in the oven), then you deep-fry it to make it pop.
That worked pretty well, though because the oil temperature has to be very high,
and the rice scooped out almost instantly, you can only really fry very small batches.
Fortunately this dish doesn't require very much puffed rice so that's not such an issue, and you can just pick out the grains which burn or don't pop.
The real problem for me was how to make ice cream on a boat with only a fridge!??
Well, since the temperature control knob in my fridge has seized up at arctic
the element freezes solid,
which means I can lay a small freezer bag of ice cream mixture on top of it, squidging the bag around occasionally to break up the ice crystals as it sets.
Fortunately this dish doesn't need much ice cream either.
I also threw in a new (to me) Nigel Slater recipe for chilled crab soup
Worried that my guests might not have enough to eat ,
or at least that they might like something to soak up all the garlic juices,
I had a Pyrex bowl of seasoned couscous standing by to which I'd added grated lemon peel and chopped parsley.
In the end no one seemed desperate for more food and I didn't get around to making it.
It's a handy thing to have ready though - all you need to do is add water!
Beforehand I put two whole heads of garlic in the oven to bake for about 40 minutes in a moderate oven (160°C/Gas Mark 3) until they softened,
then squidged out the cloves into a bowl.
I mixed half the roast garlic with butter, chopped parsley and salt & pepper then warmed it in a small saucepan for brushing over the fish on the barbecue
The other garlic head I kept for filling aubergines.
I didn't want to bake the (smallish) aubergines from scratch on the barbecue as I figured it would take too long
and my barbecue is too small to dedicate so much space for so long.
So I pre-cooked them in the microwave for 2-3 minutes until they softened.
I also threw them in the oven with the steak to warm back up again
before cutting a slice out of the top of each, stuffing with garlic and crumbled feta cheese, and finishing them off on the barbecue.
The steak I also partly pre-cooked in the oven since it was so large I was afraid to burn the outside before warming it through on the barbecue,
and didn't want to cut it down first.
I made up three barbecue flavourings, the first I kept warm in a small saucepan and the latter two I poured into plastic squeezy bottles for ease of delivery:
And here's the result...