Saturday 1st July 2017
London's Barbecuing
Tower Bridge

Billingsgate Market Chris eating lobster Chris and Cathy onboard Harmony Grilling Lobster on a boat barbecue Warming up the barbecue. Puffed Rice.
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 en-papillotte dishes - 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, along these 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. Apparently you can puff wholegrain rice without pre-boiling since it explodes out of the husk, but I didn't try that.
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 Ha Ha!, 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 you could add lemon zest and chilli flakes too if you liked. 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 boo! hiss! for 2-3 minutes until they softened. I also threw them in the oven with the steak to warm back up again probably not necessary 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...

On The Barbecue
A simply enormous Lobster
Rock Lobster!
With my favourite butter flavour of roast garlic and parsley.
Monkfish with blue cheese
Monkfish with St Agur
Monkfish steaks brushed with our ubiquitous roast garlic butter, grilled, then slathered with blue cheese.
And by God are they delicious!
Brushed with roast garlic butter, grilled, then squirted with lime juice or some of the lemon and Ricard dressing.
Freshly shelled, perfectly cooked, and not in the least bit leathery.
An 18oz Picanha Steak
Such an enormous thick hunk of Argentinian Picanha-cut cow rump that it needed pre-warming in a low oven before barbecuing to finish it off. Cut into manageable chunks and doused with the soy sauce dressing.
Tuna Steaks
Seasoned with salt and pepper and brushed with oil. Grilled, then dressed with the lemon and Ricard dressing.
Is how I'd have done them, if I'd bought any.
Salmon Steaks
I had intended to buy some tuna steaks to serve as above, but since Billingsgate Market only sells fish by the fish (or the case of fish) I'd ended up with a lot of salmon. So I served some grilled salmon steaks instead. Lightly seasoned and oiled before grilling - they'd've been OK with the lemon and Ricard dressing but they were delicious with wasabi ice cream (with extra wasabi!).

Salmon Tartar with Puffed Rice and Wasabi Ice Cream
My pièce de resistance.
Chilled Crab and Cucumber Soup
A refreshing break from hot food in the hot sun.
Seedy Bread
Made with seed & grain white flour according to Dan Lepard's technique for wholemeal bread.
Which works just as well with strong white flour.
Watermelon, Feta and Block Olive Salad
Served on rocket dressed with lemon and Ricard dressing, or at least it would have been if I'd remembered.
A handful of asparagus stalks thrown onto the barbecue every so often to char - they go well with everything.
Baked Aubergines
Stuffed with roast garlic and topped with feta cheese, in this case, since I already had some for the salad and couldn't be bothered also buying goat's cheese.
Though I admit that would have tasted significantly better.
Couscous with Parsley and Lemon Zest
Just in case :)

Barbecued Pineapple Slices
Fat slices of pineapple left on the dying barbecue until they began to blacken a little.
The perfect barbecue end. Well, possibly excepting another round of Sailor Jerry's rum and ginger beer (thanks Chris!).

Salmon Tartar with Puffed Rice and Wasabi Ice Cream
main fish
I've been wanting to have a go at making this every since enjoying it at Edinburgh's Castle Terrace restaurant. I was particularly fascinated by the puffed rice - would it be even possible to make it at home, or would some kind of Alexander P Anderson industrial cannon be required?
Well it turns out that you can quite easily make a reasonable facsimile of Rice Krispies® in your kitchen. If less puffy than theirs.

According to their waiter, the Castle Terrace's wasabi ice cream was also flavoured (coloured?) with chlorophyll (made from parsley?), but I wasn't unhappy with my green tea base. They also served their tartar with a thick matchstick of pickled ginger - a kind of facsimile of sushi ginger (gari). But hey, there's only so much room on a boat!

To shape the jellies and the cucumber onboard I cut the needle end off a syringe and used it to bore out the cucumber and scoop out plugs from the sheet of jelly. You use what you have!

Speaking of boats - how, you ask, did I manage to make ice cream on a boat??
Well, it so happens that my fridge has an overactive cooling element (the temperature adjustment dial has seized into position, since you ask) and it permanently freezes solid. So what I did is make a small batch of ice cream then pour it into a small waterproof freezer bag and sit that on top of the element. Every so often, as it froze, I would take it out and squidge the bag around to break up any ice crystals.
Eh voilà: boat ice cream!

Make the Wasabi Ice Cream
Follow my wasabi ice cream recipe, but add a lot more wasabi until the ice cream has a nice bite to it.
I made a smaller amount using only two egg yolks which made plenty for this. I may have also underplayed the quantity of sugar. It's hard to say since I used condensed milk (I had an opened can to use up).

Pickle the Cucumber
Here's what I did, though I think it could be improved:
I cut out fat cylinders of cucumber then put them in a bowl, covered with rice vinegar, for a few hours. I dried them off with kitchen paper to serve. The problem with these fat hunks of cucumber is that they're awkward and not soft enough, so you can no longer eat the whole dish with just a teaspoon and need to start using a knife. It would have been much better to cut the cucumber into smaller dice and pickle more briefly, or dice up larger pieces of pre-pickled cucumber.

Make the Soy Jelly
Mix a little Hon Dashi (Japanese bonito (tuna) stock powder) with warm water and flavour generously with soy sauce. Sprinkle over enough agar to set (one teaspoon of agar flakes will set about 2/3 cup), bring to a simmer then whisk constantly until the agar dissolves.
You can use gelatine if you're not feeding pesky tarians.
Pour into a container so you get about an inch of depth or less, as you like, and put in the fridge to set.
You could use a small ice cube mould if you liked.

Puff the Rice
First cook the rice as normal. You won't need very much - a few tablespoons will do. I used Jasmine rice (though I have no reason to think any other variety would work differently) so I soaked it for an hour, boiled it in a large quantity of fresh water for 10 minutes, then drained it. Next dry the rice in the oven - spread it thinly in a single layer on an oven tray, breaking up any clumps, and bake at in a low oven (135°C/Gas Mark 1) for 2-3 hours until it is dry, hard, and yellowing. Heat an inch or two of peanut oil in a small pot until just smoking hot and drop small batches of the rice into the oil until they puff (practically instantly) then remove immediately with a slotted spoon and lay on kitchen paper to drain. The puffed rice should be bone white - avoid including any browned or burnt kernels. Once the kitchen paper has soaked up excess oil, the puffed rice should stay crisp for days sealed in a freezer bag (I put a sachet of silica in mine for good measure to keep it dry).
The rice grains won't puff up to the size of Rice Krispies® by any means, but they should be crunchy, not hard or chewy, and they'll taste pretty good too.

Toast the Sesame Seeds
Dry-fry a teaspoon of sesame seeds in a dry frying pan until they become aromatic and taste light and crispier than usual. Don't burn them. You can keep them covered with clingfilm for a day before using.

Salmon Assemble!
Chop the salmon into small dice, but not mince - you want it to still have some texture: cut a salmon steak into slices (about 3mm) across the grain, then the slices into sticks, then crossways into dice. Use a very sharp knife.
Cut out your soy jelly shapes (mine were cylinders from a cut-down syringe).
Use a mould to shape the salmon in the centre of a plate - a pastry cutter will do (if you live on a boat).
Gently press a layer of salmon into the mould, top with a covering of the puffed rice, then scatter over black sesame seeds and carefully lift off the mould. Strategically place your cucumber and soy jelly shapes around the plate (two fat ones will be fine).
Shape a quenelle of wasabi ice cream using two teaspoons and place on top of the salmon centre-piece.

Chilled Crab and Cucumber Soup
soup fish
So. There's something wrong with Nigel's recipe - it's much too thick and yoghurty. More of a goop than a soup. The only way to rescue it, that I can see, is to add some liquid to thin it out - so I used vodka and cucumber juice. I made a half-quantity of his recipe and thinned it with a whole other (somewhat skinny) juiced cucumber, so perhaps adding one juiced large cucumber would work for his full recipe. Adjust as required.

You can cook and pick your own crab if you like, or you can buy a dressed crab from your fishmonger. Check that he's put pure crabmeat in there and hasn't mixed it with salad dressings or breadcrumbs. Oh and you'd best work through the meat carefully yourself to make sure the fishmonger didn't throw in some small shards of shell for a laugh - they usually do!

Serves 4

Peel the cucumbers, quarter them, slice out the seeds from their centres then chop one into very small dice. Tip this diced cucumber into a colander, sprinkle liberally with a teaspoonful of salt, toss gently then leave in the sink for a good half hour. Roughly chop and purée the second cucumber and press through a sieve or juice, set aside the juice.
To be honest I'm not sure if you couldn't just blend the seeds too to extract your juice, but I wondered if they might be bitter. Feel free to include them and find out.
I also rinsed some of the salt off my cucumber dice before using it - very little liquid drained off and they seemed to have retained too much salt for my taste. In fact I question the whole process, it seems most cucumbers today are quite solid and meaty enough without trying to intensify their flavour by salting, and there's no bitterness to remove. Probably a technique left over from our grandmothers who had to deal with monster gnarled cucumber varieties as bitter as karela with seeds the size of hazelnuts.

Peel and very finely crush the garlic and add to the yogurt. Seed and very finely chop the chilli then mix into the yogurt with the vinegar. Remove the leaves from the mint and chop them finely – you will need about 4 lightly heaped tablespoons – then stir the chopped mint into the soup. Stir in the diced cucumber – but not the liquid that has drained from it – and then the cream. Add the vodka and enough cucumber juice until it is thin enough to drink. Season with black pepper and chill in the fridge. It must be really cold if it is to be good. Chop the parsley leaves and mix them with the crab, adding a little black pepper as you go.

Divide the soup between four bowls. Place 2 heaped tbsp of crabmeat in each bowl and serve immediately (you might need to use a mould of some kind to keep it neat).
Refreshing, once you've thinned it down to make an actual soup!
Don't overdo the vodka - a hint of the taste is just enough.

Lemon and Ricard dressing for Barbecued Tuna (or Salmon)
salad dressing raw veg vegan
Juice the lemons or limes, add crushed capers and chopped parsley if you want to squirt this out of a plastic squeezy bottle you'll probably need to blend the lot together or the lumps will block the spout. Season with salt & pepper and add about the same volume of olive oil. Use as a dressing for barbecued fish or seafood.
Or salad leaves.

Soy Sauce Dressing for Barbecued Steak
salad dressing raw veg vegan
Starting with the mirin, add soy sauce generously to taste, a few dashes of sesame oil, season with salt & pepper, then add roughly the same volume of rapeseed oil.
A nice dressing for barbecued steaks, and possibly pork chops.

Comments (1)

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  1. Chris's avatar Chris

    Nice write up of a fantastic evening. Still in awe of your ability to knock up a full tasting menu on the back (stern?) of such a confined space. Thank you again!

    #1 – 25 September, 2017 at 10:24 pm

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