707 Nationals, June 2014
Synchro Nicety

I've had a busy week on the water with the 707 yacht UK Nationals happening at Granton this year; their first time in Scotland.
I volunteered my services in the pit of Synchro; one of the boats sailing down to the regatta from Port Edgar, and thanks to Rachel's indefatigable campaigning we also acquired the helming skills of the incumbent, and five-times champion Jon Powell and his other half, sailing journalist and former editor of Practical Boat Owner, Sarah Norbury.
It was fascinating watching him handle the boat, especially at the start where he managed to authoritatively stake out his space whilst keeping the boat moving slowly but under control for an astonishingly long time barely feet from the line.
I hope I picked up some good tips for getting a boat to the front of the pack.

Though Jon was surprisingly uninterested in the general sail and rig settings, other than the jib car position and getting the mainsail as high as possible, he was very keen on making sure the forestay was extended as far as it would go, and he did tweak the shroud tensions whenever he felt the boat wasn't moving as it ought. He was also quite critical of the parlous state of Synchro's bottom when we craned it out to give it a clean. Which I thought was in pretty smooth shape; shows you what I know.

Despite holding Jon down to only a fifth place, I hope I made a better fist of volunteering as crew than I did volunteering for the Competitor Management Team :( Apologies to Dara O'Malley who did a superb job of managing without me.

I particularly enjoyed sailing Synchro single-handed down to Granton; I rigged myself an auto-helm by tying shock cord to the tiller handle, so I could go forward and fly the spinnaker and everything! Very smooth, apart from its occasional inclination to furiously round up once I had my weight on the bow. I quickly learned how sensitive a 707 is to being steered by moving weight around to change the trim. At least, it is when the tiller doesn't move. Much.

I'd considered introducing our Southern guests to some traditional home-made Scottish tablet, but I just didn't have time to get round to it. Even my packed sandwiches were pathetic affairs of supermarket white bread and sliced packet ham, but spurred by Rachel's scathing criticism I stayed up extra late to make some taramasalata from the smoked cod roe I just happened to have lying around, as you do, and a Very Tomato Bread that I thought might make some tasty sandwiches with a bit of lettuce and that coddy roe flavour. My taramasalata sandwiches usually have sliced tomatoes in them anyway.
Hopefully I redeemed myself?

Isn't it amazing how shopping for a single ingredient can so rapidly snowball into a fridge-full of tenuously unrelated ingredients?
Or is that just me?

Take the cod roe.
After my recent, and very impressive, visit to Martin Wishart's restaurant (watch this space) I decided to have a go at reproducing Wishart's astonishingly airy beetroot macaroons with their horseradish cream topping.
First I needed horseradish, which is of course unobtainable from any brand of Fucking Supermarket™ so I resorted to scouring Edinburgh's various hippy-food stores. I started with the dependably earthy Real Foods store which did have in stock some vastly knobbly roots labelled wild horseradish. I gave them a good scrape with my nail, but they didn't yield any of the excoriating pungency I normally associate with horseradish, plus I didn't fancy trying to peel their twisted convoluted shapes, so I passed.
I did however spot a leafy bunch of beetroots and a bag of lovage. A massive bag of lovage.
Now I know from my visits to the Star Inn how nicely a hint of lovage can go with spinach and samphire, so now I had to buy some spinach. And some samphire. And still, of course, the horseradish. Fortunately the ever-reliable Tattie Shaws came up with the horsey goods, as well as the spinach.

The samphire was proving more tricky since my local fishmonger had run out, and after visiting all the others within cycling distance I decided to leave it for later in the week. On to the next macaroon ingredient - powdered egg whites.
An online search, a pilgrimage to Waitrose and a typically inept offline search through their shelves finally turned up Dr. Oetker's surprisingly small packet. Not a completely wasted search though - I was excited to discover a pack of smoked cod roe which I've been vaguely looking for so I could try making up some taramasalata. NOW you see the connection! It also gave me the idea of trying to blend it into the horseradish cream to top those macaroons, instead of the smoked haddock alternative I'd had playing at the back of my mind. The cod roe was sitting next to a small jar of salmon eggs, so I bought that too. I've had a salad in mind for them, but that's a whole other shopping expedition and the jar seemed like the kind of thing that would keep quite a while in the fridge.

Over the next few days I also tracked down samphire at my favourite fishmonger near my work (though they don't do cod roe!) and picked up a fillet of Sea Bass to go with, stocked up on lemons and crème fraîche and set to on my dinner.
Since I now had such a plentiful supply of novelty ingredients I thought I might try a few fun variations on the samphire/spinach/lovage combo:
And I still haven't made the macaroons!

smoked cod roe mayonnaise
starter fish
Hmmmm, fish eggs.
Imagine my delight at finding smoked cod's roes in my local Fucking Supermarket™, especially since my fishmonger doesn't stock them. Finally the chance to make my very own taramasalata. Given that the roe seems to have been naturally smoked it doesn't come bright pink like the artificially coloured mass-produced blight you normally buy to dip your pitta bread. All the better for it too, although to be honest it did have something of an acrid hint going on. Hence the red onion I added, which nicely rounds off those bitter edges. And also adds a tiny bit of that unnatural pinkness.

Apparently you can also use mashed potatoes instead of the bread.

Makes about 300ml

Soak the bread in water for 10 minutes or so, then squeeze it out and put it in a food processor with the cod roe, some of the lemon juice and some of the red onion. Blend, season and adjust the quantities of lemon and onion. The red onion nicely offsets any edge of bitterness in the roe (and possibly the lemon). Add a little garlic too if you like and maybe a pinch of paprika or cayenne pepper. With the blender running, slowly pour in the oil until you get the consistency of mayonnaise. Loosen by adding water, or thicken with more bread.

Slice the spring onions in quarters lengthways then chop crossways into smallish pieces. Stir through the taramasalata. Feel free to add chopped parsley or dill

Cover and refrigerate for several hours to allow the flavours to meld before serving, when you can either turn it into sandwiches using a delicious tomato bread or serve it as a dip with toasted pitta bread a pile of olives and a glass of Ouzo.
You can tart up your taramasalata using a sprinkle of paprika or cayenne pepper, a garnish of chopped herbs, or a drizzle of olive oil. A TartyTaramasalata if you like :)

Samphire with Buttered Cod Roe
side fish
Handy for using up the leftover cod roe from your taramasalata.

The first time I tried this I just mashed the cod roe into butter and stirred it through the samphire, which tastes great, but looks very messy. Like the samphire has a pink pox.
Better to either pile the samphire on a ball of the buttered roe to hide it, or chill the roe butter into a log and place slices on top of the samphire? Then the diner can mess up the appearance on their own time.

Serve with fried lozenges of sea bass with a nice crispy skin.

Carefully pick over the samphire, pulling away any fibrous stems and discarding brown stalks. Wash thoroughly.
Really carefully - stringy samphire is horrible!
Mash about equal quantities of the cod roe and butter, then if you like, use cling film to roll it into a log and chill.

Put the samphire in a sieve and lower it into a pot of simmering water over high heat until the water returns to the boil. Immediately plunge into cold water.
When ready to serve blanch again, drain, then serve either piled over the roe butter, or topped with slices of the chilled butter roll.
Veeeery tasty combination. It seems samphire and smoked cod's roe were made for each other.
I imagine you could add any herbs, seasonings, or maybe a little cayenne, chilli or lemon peel to the butter too. But I didn't.

Incidentally - it's a myth that a large pot of water used for blanching will return to the boil quicker. The time it takes to re-boil depends only on the heat source replenishing the energy lost to the added cool vegetable. A large or small amount of water will take the same time, though a larger pot might capture more heat. Generally I'd use less water so as to leach away less flavour, but here the reason for blanching twice is to rinse out some of the intense saltiness, so knock your socks off.

Comments (2)

Newest first Oldest first

  1. I'm very glad you enjoyed it. Good luck with your curry - though I recommend staying away from 2lb green chilli chicken unless you have sturdy bowels :)

    It was great sailing with you - I'm looking forward to the next Nationals...


    #2 – 11 August, 2014 at 5:29 pm

  2. sarah norbury's avatar sarah norbury

    Karl, your taramasalata was just delicious, miles better than anything you can buy in Waitrose etc, even better than I've had in Greece.

    Going to try one of your curries soon.

    Greetings from Down South and hope to sail with you again in the not too distant future.


    #1 – 11 August, 2014 at 10:52 am

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