Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hearty winter delights 2: monastery fish

This is my version of a Russian classic which as its name indicates was first created by monks, for consumption during Lent--which in Russian Orthodoxy is rather longer, and stricter, than in Catholicism. But Lenten fare clearly doesn't mean too much mortification: like their fellow Catholic establishments in France, monasteries in Russia had a reputation for delicious home-grown and cooked food. For those of us outside monasteries, this dish can be eaten any time, and I especially like making it in winter, when the woodstove's going, for it needs double cooking.
To make monastery fish, you need fillets of some tasty white fish(I used mirror dory),one fillet per person, potatoes, one per person, herbs(I used dill and parsley but other good herbs would be tarragon or chervil), some butter, salt, pepper, a little white wine(optional), and some good chicken or vegetable stock.
First pan-fry the fillets in butter, salt and pepper, add a small splash of wine. (They only need a few minutes.) Set aside. peel the spuds, cut in half, and parboil in a little stock for a few minutes only. Cut each potato into large horizontal slices. Grease a glass or china ovenproof dish(not metal), and put in a layer of potatoes, half of what you have, to cover the bottom of the dish. Salt, pepper, sprinkle herbs, a knife-lick of butter. layer the fish on top of the potatoes, sprinkle with herbs, put the final layer of spuds on top. Salt, pepper, sprinkle of herbs, then gently douse with some more stock, so that you can see it pooling a little(only a little) at the bottom of the dish. This will steam the food gently during baking and make it meltingly tender. Cover the dish with aluminium foil, put in a moderate oven for about half an hour(Test the spuds with a sharp knife). Serve with sweet and sour caraway-seed-flavoured red cabbage, and enjoy!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Hearty winter delights 1: boudin(black pudding)

It's really winter now, with frosty mornings, sharply bright or grimly grey raw days, and thermometer-plunging nights. A time of crackling fires, duck down duvets, and hearty rib-sticker dishes coming out the wood stove. This is the occasion for an occasional series on just such dishes, starting today with one of my favourite things: boudin, or black pudding.
Boudin is a French classic, found in just about every part of that 'cochonaille', pork-loving country. In Normandy, you might have it grilled, with apples; in Alsace, with sauerkraut; in Paris, with mustard and chips; in the South, with lentils. Every butcher in France has his own recipe for making this tasty sausage of pig's blood and herbs; everyone has their favourite way of serving it. Of course it's not just in France where boudin is found; under the name of black pudding, it's a favourite in the British Isles and Ireland, in Germany it's a big hit too, under the name of blutwurst, or blood sausage, in eastern Europe, it is found on many tables. British-type black pudding is often firmer than the Continental European ones, as they add cereals to the mix, but the recipes are by and large fairly similar, with the addition of specific herbs, spices, etc. Pretty much everywhere that has the culture of the pig, going down from Celtic times, you'll find boudin.
Despite the British tradition of Australia, black pudding isn't commonly found here. In the cities, you can find it more easily, but in our region, it can be hard to track down, as the butchers don't seem to make it any more and you have to hunt for even mass-produced varieties. The ones I've found here and liked are the Castlemaine brand black pudding, from Victoria(British variety), which you can occasionally get in Coles, and isn't bad, and a German-inspired blutwurst from Gotzinger smallgoods which I found in Woolies recently, and which is quite delicious.
Boudin is good fried, roasted or grilled, depending on what you feel like at the time. Last night, we had it pan-fried, but with only a smidgin of oil in a non-stick pan), and teamed it with home-grown sweet and sour red cabbage(cooked in a little wine, vinegar and brown sugar), home-grown spuds, just boiled with a little butter(mash is great with boudin too), a green salad on the side, and a glass of home-made perry(pear cider.) Totally rib-sticky, totally satisfying!