25th August 2012
Tickling Seafood Allergies in Eyemouth

An overnight trip down the river in slim company to Eyemouth.
Possibly due to the complete failure of the yacht club, during the upheaval of the building of a new Forth crossing, to advertise the race, or maybe just part of the steady decline of sailing around these parts, for whatever reason this year's Convoy Cup race featured only two lonely entrants - ourselves and a Fisher Row Moody 27 Bilge Keeler called Sulumar.
As you can imagine - we fancied our chances for a prize, but sadly despite beating the competition by 1½ hours over the five hour race, we still lost by an hour on corrected time. Damn these handicappings are harsh!
Still we got to eat well on the way there!
Eyemouth has suffered for as long as I've been going there with having nowhere worthwhile to eat. Though the fish shop is perfectly adequate, the only other restaurant fish available seems to be frozen or breaded pap courtesy of Captain Birdseye, and I consider my meal at the local gastric pub "The Discontented Sole" to be amongst my most horrible dining experiences.

Fortunately these times are gone with the re-opening of the Churches Hotel and Seafood Restaurant under Lesley Orson and Lawson Wood, whose fishy skills we thoroughly tested whilst recovering from the race.
Or possibly from the GinAndTonics?

As dedicated followers of fashion will know I'm allergic to shellfish - have been ever since I stuck a prawn in my eye on the seafront at Leigh-On-Sea to impress my first proper girlfriend Louise and it blew up like a comedy eye balloon. So naturally I try to eat shellfish whenever I can, for one thing it's delicious, and for another I like to keep an eye on my reaction, so I'll know if it ever looks like ramping up and killing me. Provided it's only doing it pretty slowly, of course.
It's an odd thing actually - it doesn't happen with all shellfish and it doesn't seem to depend on how they're prepared. But the fresher they are the less they seem to affect me. Crustacae are the worst, mussels, scallops and squid give me just a little tickle, and oysters don't seem to affect me at all (touch mother-of-pearl).
So anyway, I couldn't resist the menu's Luxury crayfish and prawn cocktail. And luxury it was too. Hardly any life-threatening allergic reaction, a lovely rich creamy Marie Rose sauce (secret ingredient - mayonnaise!) and a delightful little salad dressed, as I was told, with a fragrant homemade herb oil. It took me ages to figure out where the occasional delicate bursts of basil were coming from!

If I have a complaint about the restaurant it's that they didn't have any tomato juice for my Bloody Mary. Bloody Hell!
Still I was suddenly struck with the idea of serving the Bloody Mary they didn't have in a giant beef tomato. With a straw sticking out. So struck in fact, that I had to make an immediate note in my brand new smartphone. Having recently lost my classic dumbphone I decided to finally bite the bullet and upgrade to the latest and greatest all-singing all-dancing smartassphone.
This modern technology is a white-knuckle ride people, and I'm still hanging on grimly. Ask me how it's going in a couple of years....

So, seeing as how my first course hadn't killed me, I had the scallops for my main. And such scallops I have never had. They tasted even fresher than ones I've cut open straight off a fishing boat, and these had been given just the merest hint of a scorching hot pan to give them a little caramelised glaze.
Beautiful. Though a bit skimpy if I'm honest - I was slightly jealous of the other dinners, but then I got to try them all anyway so that's alright then.

For dessert I chose the unlikely pairing of an undrinkably sweet, dark sherry called Pedro Ximénez (from the grape of the same name) and vanilla ice cream.
On it's own the wine tastes like alcoholic prune juice, though not alcoholic enough to be worth drinking, but paired with the ice cream there's an almost alchemical reaction which creates an inspired dish. Just pour the shot glass of sherry over the ice cream until balance is reached, then dig in.
And throw the rest of the sherry away!

Anyway, I liked the hotel so much that I bought the company. Well, OK, I just hired them out for my birthday party.
But to my bank account that's feeling like the same thing.

In an unrelated tickling I recently fed Flora some of Anthony Bourdain's Norman mussels (or molds as Google Translate unreliably informs me) which she ate with the gusto of two, huge blokes. That Bourdain - he may be a mercenary bastard and his food might be a bit rough around the edges, but he sure knows how to cook.

Anthony Bourdain's Moules Normandes
starter main fish
Mussels with Calvados
Must be served with a crusty white bread to soak up all the delicious juices. Of which there are plenty!

Serves 4. Or 2 Floras

In a small pot, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until the meat is brown and the fat has been rendered, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking.
Scoop out the meat with a slotted spoon and reserve.

In a large pot, heat the butter with the bacon fat until it foams. Add the shallot and cook until soft, about 3 minutes.
Add the mushrooms and the apple and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the bacon and then stir in the Calvados, scraping the bottom of the pot with the wooden spoon to dislodge any good brown stuff that might be clinging there.
Add a splash of white wine, or cider if you like, and reduce a little.
Stir in the cream and season with salt and pepper.

Once the mixture has come to a boil, add the mussels and cover. Cook for 10 minutes, or until all of the mussels have opened. Shake. Cook for another minute. Shake again.
Serve immediately.
Veeeeery tasty!
Though there are quite a lot of bits in the sauce, which might be a presentational consideration.
If you want to go to a lot of effort you can quickly arrange the mussels spread open and standing upright in concentric circles in an enormous, shallow, heated serving dish starting from the outside and working them inwards and upwards. Finished by straining the (re-heated) sauce over them.

I didn't!

Nautical Pork 'n' Beans
main meat nautical stew
A fairly rough and ready late-night feed for a hungry crew.
Of non-vegetarians.

Serves 6

Get out your pressure cooker.
Slice the onions finely and gently caramelise with a couple of teaspoons of sugar in a generous amount of butter or oil until nicely golden.
Cut the pork into 1" or 2" chunks. Add to the onion and stir until well coated.
Scrub or peel the potatoes, cut into 1" or 2" pieces. Add to the pot and stir through.
Add a generous slug of whisky don't tell the skipper! and allow it to cook off a little, then add a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar, a tablespoon of brown sauce, some garlic granules, mixed herbs, 2 Oxo cubes dissolved in a little boiling water and 2 tins of beans.
Stir thoroughly, secure the pressure lid and warm until the pressure indicator pops out. Cook over a low heat for about half an hour giving it a good shake occasionally to stop things sticking.
Pretty fine impromptu Pork 'n' Beans

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