30th June 2012
Windmills Of Fire
Windmills Of Fire

Doctor Jenny is moving.

So in celebration Mum and I went to visit her charming-but-too-expensive cottage in the foothills of Angus to cook her a goodbye meal on her AARGA.
We took her some of my experimental bread made with Mum's Herman, some liquorice liquor and a bunch of fish.

I've been reading through Heston Blumenthal's recipe (if recipe is quite the right term for his wide-ranging meal concepts) for salmon poached in a hard liquorice shell. I was inspired to try out some of the flavour combinations in a puffy fish packet. (That's puffy fish not puffer fish. Which would be a whole different kettle of, er, fish.)
And thus was my Liquorice Salmon En Papillote born.

I've had some previous disappointing experience with using liquorice essence from a herbalist (Napiers on Hamilton Place - since closed down), which provides surprisingly little liquorice flavour (though it does capture the aroma quite nicely). So I decided to try extracting my own liquorice liquor by boiling up the roots, which worked pretty well actually. I boiled mine for an hour, but I suspect you could stop earlier without any loss of flavour. You get a brown liquid which smells only of wood, but has a clean strong taste.

I wanted to get hold of some Chardonnay vinegar for my vanilla mayonnaise, but this appears to be impossible to find in Scotland's capital as I discovered from my tour of the delis of Edinburgh. Or the remaining delis of Edinburgh. It turns out that most of the reliable Peckam's shops have closed down, and I was disturbed to discover that Stockbridge - that bastion of artisan middle-class sentimentality has now been thoroughly colonised by two different Fucking Supermarket™ Local stores. I assume these are called Local stores as a hat-tip to their express purpose of destroying all remaining quality and diversity left to local shoppers.
As you stand on St Stephen Place and gaze at the magnificent Doric pillars flanking the archway that until 1906 led to Stockbridge Market, when it was replaced with sheltered housing - presumably for people who did not require fresh produce, you can't help the sinking feeling of watching history repeat itself.
Our march of mediocrity continues apace; terrific.

The puffy fish was absolutely gorgeous, particularly interesting was the way that the asparagus took up the liquorice flavour - more eagerly than the fish in fact. Asparagus and liquorice really do match very well - and would make a lovely side dish on their own.
I served it with Sue Lawrence's potato and celeriac gratin, made with cream infused with juniper berries and mace (it's not Sue Lawrence's - it's mine!), which particularly complemented the vanilla mayonnaise.

We ate dinner taking our last opportunity to admire the view from Jenny's patio of the hills and mountains across the Tay valley climbing off towards Fort William. And as the sun slipped to the horizon and a fiery glow descended on the hilltops, whirling windmills in the distance sparkled and burned like vast roman candles. Suddenly they almost seemed to justify their vast and pointless expense.

Goodbye country cottage with your AARGA.

Thanks to Heston Blumenthal for the flavour ideas.
Liquorice Salmon En Papillote
main fish
This looks complicated, but it's actually pretty quick to prepare, once you've tracked down your liquorice roots and your Chardonnay vinegar. The cooking only takes 15 minutes!

Serves 4

Make the Liquorice Liquor:
Break up a half-dozen sticks of liquorice root, place them in a small pot and cover with water. Leave to soak for a while until they soften and then simmer gently, tightly sealed, for about an hour until the water has extracted plenty of flavour. Strain carefully and set the liquor aside.
Don't think about blending up the sticks and water - especially after you've left them to soften first. They'll just wrap themselves around the blades and make horrible squealing noises.
Most of these sticks snap quite easily before soaking anyway.

Make the Vinegar Reduction:
Scrape the vanilla seeds out of a small pod and set them aside. Put the scraped vanilla shell with the other spices in a small pot, add the vinegar and simmer, uncovered, until the vinegar is reduced by half.
Strain and set aside.

Make the Vanilla Mayonnaise:
Put the egg, scraped vanilla seeds, mustard and salt in a blender with a splash of water.
Run the blender whilst pouring in a thin stream of peanut oil until the mayonnaise reaches a thick consistency. Add the vinegar reduction and seasoning to taste I added a bit less than 2 tablespoons.
Set aside.

Prepare the plates:
Peel the grapefruit using a knife so as to remove all the membrane on the segments too. Now organise some nice pieces of grapefruit to decorate the plate - Heston Blumenthal's inspiration for this dish separates out individual grapefruit cells, but I fancied something more substantial, so I cut away the membrane from the segments and then sliced them very thinly and laid these segment-shaped slivers around the edge of the plates.
Make an artistic smear or drizzle of the mayonnaise on the plate.

Make the Salmon Parcels:
Preheat the oven to 240-250°C/475°F/Gas 9.

Make sure the salmon fillets are free of bones and scales (you can leave the skin on - I rather like it). Cut a square (or rectangle) of foil large enough to hold each salmon fillet, and greaseproof paper of the same size. Cut the asparagus tips to be the width of the fillets. Place the greaseproof paper on a flat surface, then the foil, lay a bed of asparagus slightly off centre and place the fillet on top. Drizzle over 1-2 tablespoons of the liquorice liquor.
We didn't season the fish and it didn't seem to be necessary, but feel free if you're worried.
We laid the salmon skin-side down on the asparagus layer, but I'm sure it would work just as well skin-side up.
We cut 8 asparagus tips in half for each packet, so laid a layer of about 16 stumps and tips the length of each of our fillets.
Incidentally, the shiny/dull sides to kitchen foil is an artifact of their production, and their reflectivity is more-or-less the same, so don't worry about which way out they go.

Bring the other side of the foil and paper square over the fish so that all the edges meet. Starting at one of the opening, fold over about 1 cm (½ inch) of the edge, doing about 4 cm (1½ inches) at a time. Crimp your way all around the edge to make a semi-circular parcel. Then go around again to make an even tighter seam.

Give the folded edge a good bash with a rolling pin.

Cook until the packets puff up tightly (about 15 minutes), then either hand them out for guests to open, or slit them open and decant the contents onto the plates.

Absolutely delightful.
The asparagus really suck up the liquorice flavour (and I think would be perfectly good as a side dish poached in liquorice liquor) and the flavours go together very well. The salmon doesn't absorb the flavour as enthusiastically, but it still tastes rather good.
You only need small amounts of grapefruit which can be overwhelming, but the mayonnaise also works very well.

Comments (2)

Newest first Oldest first

  1. Hello Anybody?

    #2 – 16 July, 2012 at 1:39 pm

  2. Hello Everybody!

    #1 – 15 July, 2012 at 7:20 pm

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