Monday, 16 October 2017

REDFISH (Norway Haddock)


I just spotted this redfish at my local fishmonger down by the harbour and as it was a good price decided to buy it.  I had assumed by its appearance that it was Norway haddock a deep water fish found in the Atlantic and around Scandinavia and Iceland. It is also marketed as Ocean perch, red perch, Atlantic redfish and sometimes erroneously red bream

The name can be confusing, however, as the name redfish is also used to describe the red drum (or croaker) found in the South Atlantic and southern oceans - a fish related to the European corvina, popular in Spain and Portugal (see my blog).  I knew it wasn't red drum as my fishmonger only sells locally landed fresh fish and fishing boats from the Gulf of Mexico don't land their catch in Sussex!  To add to the confusion, the term redfish is also applied (especially in the US) to the red sea bream as well as to red snappers.

When filleted, redfish can be treated as any firm fleshed white fish such as haddock or cod and is often skinned before cooking if being pan fried.

I decided to pan fry it very simply with the skin on.

Ingredients (for two)

1 redfish fillet app. 250-350g
olive oil
herbs or spices of choice
1 lemon


Cut the fillet in two and rub both sides with a little olive oil. Season both sides with salt and pepper.  I then seasoned the flesh side with a little dried oregano and a pinch of sumac. Almost any flavours will suit - a sprinkling of pimenton/parika, hot or sweet according to your taste or rubbed with a little crushed ginger.... it's up to you.

Having seasoned the fish, I left it for 15 minutes to absorb the flavours.

Rub a heavy frying pan with garlic then bring to high heat, place the fish fillets skin-side down and press down to ensure all the the skin is in contact with the pan. Lower the heat to medium and cook for 2-3 minutes.  You will see the flesh gradually turning opaque as it cooks. At this stage you can add about a tablespoon of olive oil whilst is is cooking.

After 3 minutes turn the fish over and cook for a further 2 minutes.  When it is cooked, drizzle over the juice of a small lemon and serve skin-side up.  The skin should be very crispy and is popular with some people; if you don't like the skin it can easily be peeled off in one piece.

I served the fillets on a bed of spinach with steamed new potatoes - just because we have loads of both on the allotment.  It goes equally well with lemon or garlic mash potatoes or served with a green salad and of course a glass or two of chilled white wine!

John Austin

Hove, September 2017

Thursday, 28 September 2017

OUR ALLOTMENT - Life on the Weald - July 2017

The Weald July 2017

Time to harvest and savour the fruits of our labour!

we have now lifted most of the early potatoes - Nicola and Charlotte - wonderful waxy, new potatoes, tasting just like I remember new poatoes from my childhood.  If you want to grow something that tastes really different from anything you buy in the shops, grow potatoes.

The ground we cleared by lifting potatoes is home for my autumn leeks which I have now transplanted.  Using a dibber to make holes about 8 inches deep, I just dropped in the young leeks and then watered, leaving room for the leeks to expand and for the holoes to fill naturally.  They look good now but they will need regular hoeing and hand weeding if the summer weeds are not to take over.

The remainder of the shallots and garlic have been lifted and left to harden/ripen in the sun

And the cucumbers are just getting the hang of climbing up the netting!  They are slow learners and seem to prefer to trail on the ground!

On the squash front, the tromboncinos are coming along nicely

....and the competition with Maurice is on!

But forgetting the competition, the best thing is to pick them young and treat them like a courgettte

Meanwhile, across the road at Neville, Luke's Patty Pan are doing well

Another great success on the Weald has been the chard.  I had sown some rainbow chard from seed and also some Spanish Swiss chard (or silver chard) from a pack of seeds I had brought back from Spain, but there also seems to be a lot of self-seeded red chard on the plot which is quite prolific.

There is so much that we have given loads away, frozen some, eaten it daily, put it in soups and curries and are busy exploring recipes for different things to do with it.

The plum tree which we inherited looks as though it will give us an abundant crop this year but is showing some signs of leaf disease so we must think about spraying it this autumn.

But whilst we are gloating about the success of our crops and relaxing in the sunshine, there is some hard work to be done if we are to get the shed up before winter!

John Austin

Hove July 2017

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Sea Bream

Whole roast gilt head bream

The gilt head sea bream gets its name from, and is easily identified by, the gold colouring on the side of the head and the distinctive gold band between the eyes.

It is generally regarded as the best of the breams for eating, although I recall Rick Stein waxing lyrical about the dentex on one of his Mediterranean adventures, describing it as better than sea bass and saying that gilt head sea bream came close in flavour.  We have eaten dentex in Spain (dentón) and I don't wish to enter into the dentón versus dorada debate except to say they are both excellent! 

Gilt head sea bream is found in British waters and is readily available in the UK.  It is common throughout the Mediterranean - (dorada in Spanish, daurade in French and orata in Italian) and is farmed extensively in Greece.

All the breams can be successfully roasted, baked, grilled, poached whole or pan-fried when filleted.

On this occasion, I chose to roast in a parcel - you may see such recipes described as en papillote in French restaurants, al cartoccio in Italian.

I had some fresh tarragon in the garden, some recently harvested garlic from the allotment and a jar of home preserved lemons in salt. A perfect combination.


1 whole sea bream
bunch of fresh tarragon (preferably French tarragon)
3-4 cloves of garlic
half a preserved lemon
half a glass of dry white wine (or dry vermouth or dry sherry)


Gut, scale, trim the fish and remove gills - or ask the fishmonger to do this for you.

Cut a rectangle of grease-proof/baking paper slightly larger than the fish and place on a sheet of foil large enough to wrap round the fish.

Brush the baking paper lightly with olive oil, and place the fish on top

Make deep diagonal slashes on either side of the fish, down to the bone.

Peel and cut the garlic into thin slivers.  Remove flesh from the preserved lemons and discard. Rinse the peel well in running water and cut into thin slivers.  Stuff the slivers of garlic and lemon and tarragon leaves in the slits on both sides of the fish.

Place any remaining tarragon, garlic and lemon peel inside the body cavity and on top of the fish.

Fold up the sides of the foil and pour over half a glass of dry white wine

Fold the foil over the fish to make a neat sealed parcel, but do this loosely so the fish can steam as it is cooking and will remain moist.

Heat the oven to 180C. Place fish on a baking tray and cook for 15 minutes. You may wish to open the parcel for a few minutes towards the end of cooking - a) to check that the fish is cooked and b) to crisp up the skin.

The top fillets can easily be removed and placed on a serving dish, then the central bone can be easily removed to access the two remaining fillets.  

Pour over any juices from the parcel and serve.

John Austin

Hove August 2017 

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Game Terrine

Mixed Game Terrine

I consulted several recipes on the internet for game terrine and although they had differences in content and method, they all followed a general pattern. Some chefs added sausage meat or force meat, others did not; some layered the force meat and the game in several layers and some just laid it at the bottom of the terrine (which becomes the top when served) and on top. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall lightly fries the strips of pieces of game before adding to the terrine; John Torode does not. John Torode adds white wine; Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Woman's Weekly favour red.

Chefs also disagreed in their choice of herbs - it's thyme for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Nigel Slater and Woman's Weekly (the latter adding rosemary as well); rosemary and tarragon for Gordon Ramsey; sage for the Hairy Bikers; and sage and tarragon for Jamie Oliver. Gordon Ramsey and James Martin also add cream.

There seems to be a consensus that meat, garlic and brandy are the essential ingredients!

For my traditional Christmas pork paté de campagne I usually use a spice mixture including coriander, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and cinnamon but I decided to keep it simpler for this game terrine.

My advice would be to follow the basic pattern and method and use whatever ingredients you want or whatever is available.

Basically for a 1.5 - 2 litre terrine or loaf tin you will need around 1 - 1.5kg meat plus 300-400g sausage meat and 300-400g chicken or game livers. I could not find any game birds locally so I used a mixture of chicken and duck with some venison.

Using roughly the above quantities, I managed to fill two 1 litre containers - a loaf tin and a new porcelain terrine that I had received as a present.

My porcelain terrine includes a weight for pressing down the meat when cooked.

 and a lid for storing the finished article.

If you are using a normal loaf tin, you can cut a piece of cardboard or plastic slightly smaller than the tin, cover with foil and place on the finished cooked terrine and weigh down with jars or cans until cool. or if you have two loaf tins of similar size which fit into one another

you can place one on top of the terrine when cooked and weigh down with kitchen weights or jars or cans* (see below)

So here is my recipe..................

4x duck breasts - total 500g
300g Venison steaks
500g pork belly
250g chicken breast
12 rashers of smoked streak bacon
375g sausage meat
380g chicken livers
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 tsp whole allspice
1 tsp juniper berries
1 tsp whole black pepper 
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
Leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 tbsp brandy
100ml dry vermouth
50mls chicken stock
1 egg
1 -2 slices of bread


Start preparations two days before you want to eat the terrine.

Remove the skin from the duck and reserve. Remove the skin from the pork belly and discard.

Roughly chop the duck skins and add with the chicken livers and half of the sausage meat to a food processor and process until smooth. Grind the allspice berries and peppercorns, chop the tarragon and thyme, chop or mince the garlic and add to the processed chicken livers with half the pork belly, one of the skinned duck breasts, and a quarter of the chicken breasts and pulse chop till you have a lumpy mixture.  Add one egg, lightly beaten, two tablespoons of brandy, 100mls dry vermouth (or white wine or dry sherry) and a handful of breadcrumbs and stir.  If the mixture seems too wet and sloppy add some more breadcrumbs.  This will be your forcemeat. 

Put in a bowl covered with cling film and leave for 2 - 3 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

After the forcemeat has marinated, take the venison steaks, chicken breasts, remaining duck breasts and pork belly and cut into long strips about 1 cm wide.

Lightly grease your terrine dish with butter or oil. Take the smoked bacon and beat lightly with a rolling pin to lengthen. Lay the bacon across the terrine, widthways overlapping the sides.  (With one of the tins, I laid the bacon lengthwise along the bottom and sides and similarly on top when I had finished)

Add a layer of force meat to the terrine and lay strips of the meat lengthwise. Add another layer of forcemeat and then a layer of meat.

You can make as many or as few layers as you wish but always start and finish with forcemeat. Always push down as you add the forcemeat as you don't want to leave air pockets.

When the terrine is full, fold over the bacon so the contents are fully covered.
If there is a gap, lay more bacon to fill.

Heat the oven to 160°C (150°C fan oven).  The terrine needs to be cooked in a bain marie. You will need one (or two) deep baking tins, large enough for the terrine to fit in comfortably. Cover the terrine with foil and place in the baking tin. Add boiling water to the baking tin to come halfway to two thirds up the terrine, and then place in the pre-heated oven for two hours.

For  best results you need to press the terrine as it cools. Remove the foil and press down with cardboard or plastic covered in foil or the weight (see above*). Pour off any excess fat.
Leave the terrine to cool in the bain marie, then remove and keep weighted down in a cool place for several hours.  

When cool, remove the weights, slide a knife around the edge of the finished terrine, invert on a plate and lift the tin. If the finished terrine doesn't slip out easily, place the terrine dish in hot water for a few minutes and try again.  It should slip out easily.

Place the finished terrine in the fridge until needed but remove from the fridge one hour before you want to eat it.  You should be able to slice it with a sharp knife.

Serve with crusty bread, a green salad and pickles or chutney.  Pickled gherkins and redcurrant jelly are good accompaniments

The terrine will keep for a week in the fridge. It can also be frozen and will keep, frozen for a couple of months.  If it has been frozen, defrost overnight in the refrigerator and take out one hour before serving.

John Austin

August 2017, Hove

Friday, 18 August 2017

OUR ALLOTMENT - Life on the Weald - June 2017

The Weald June 2017

On our return from holiday we were pleased that our potatoes at Mile Oak had made good progress and should be ready for lifting next month.

But sadly all of our purple kale and cavolo nero had been totally destroyed by snails or slugs.  And later in the month the same fate came to most of our squashes.

Undaunted we cleared an area to plant out the French beans which we had grown in seed trays and pots at home.

Meanwhile back at The Weald, things were looking good.  The broad beans had delivered a heavy crop and were eaten on an almost daily basis and the freezer was filled to capacity.
As a result, we hadn't picked them all at their best and we were about to go on holiday.

 Coals to Newcastle!

We picked all the remaining broad beans,shelled them and took them with us to Spain! We were not sure how edible they would be as the outer skins were quite tough as you can see

- but we removed the outer skins, to reveal fresh bright green beans within

- and now we have a plentiful supply in the freezer in Spain

Towards the end of the month the garlic was ready for harvesting.

The beetroots are coming along nicely

 The seed strips seem to have paid off as both the carrots and parsnips look healthy...

.....and the potatoes are doing well.  We have had our first lifting of the Charlotte earlies and they were delicious. 

Earlier in the year we had sown some peas which Toby and Jane had saved from their crop in Northumberland last year - unfortunately we don't know what variety they are but they are obviously suited to Hove as they cropped well and were delicious too.

We will certainly look out for a late cropping variety and sow during the summer for an autumn crop.

In view of our friend Maurice's success in growing tromboncino in West London last year we have set up in competition and sown some from seed.  I have erected a frame to grow them over.

And if you haven't seen a tromboncino before, here is Maurice's effort last year....

I have also constructed a frame for our Spanish pepinos, ridge cucumbers, which we are growing from seed brought home from Spain. 

We are also trying to grow pimientos de padron from seed and they will be ready for planting out soon.  

Our cavolo nero, chard and perpetual spinach are looking good and ready for picking - they are great cut and come again vegetables and might last through the autumn. Some years they have gone through the winter.  The purple sprouting broccoli is looking strong and healthy and hopefully will provide a plentiful supply next March if we can protect it from the pigeons.

And we have also managed to save some redcurrants and raspberries from the bindweed at Mile Oak 

I have some autumn leeks in one of the raised beds, some grown from seed and some from plugs and they will soon be ready for planting out.  My next task is to lift a row of potatoes to make room for them.

It looks as though July will be a busy month..

John Austin

Hove June 2017

OUR ALLOTMENT - Life on the Weald (and Mile Oak and Neville!) May 2017

May 2017

The year has not progressed as well as we had hoped. Two minor operations put me out of action for a bit in the early part of the year and this delayed some of the heavier physical work needed, including getting the shed up. Before we got the half-plot at The Weald we had been co-working Luke and Nicole's half plot at Mile Oak where there is a shed. As they now have a half plot at Neville, the idea was to give up Mile Oak but as we haven't yet managed to erect our shed at The Weald, we aren't able to clear the one at Mile Oak, so I started cultivating there again with crops which, fingers crossed, will be ready before autumn. Meanwhile, Luke has broken his ankle and is out of action so we are minding his plot at Neville too! Hopefully we will be sorted by the summer.

We have managed to plant garlic and shallots and sow some broad beans, beetroot and spinach at Neville and put in a couple of rows of potatoes. But the dry April weather has been a problem as we haven't managed to get up to water as often as needed. We did plant out some squashes there just before we disappeared for another break at the end of May....

Squash plants on Neville
and we have cleared a patch and planted some purple kale, cavolo Nero and potatoes at Mile Oak.

Mile Oak, 2 rows of potatoes planted

We have sown quite a few seeds indoors which are now hardening off in the garden at home and we had arranged for them to be watered whilst we were away, but May has been so wet it hasn't been necessary!

We have some French beans in trays which we can hopefully plant out in June and some courgettes and outdoor cucumbers in pots which hopefully we can plant out early June.

Before going away in May we did manage to plant out some cavolo nero and early purple sprouting broccoli at The Weald and to sow some carrots and parsnips. I have never been lucky with these in the past, so this year I decided to buy packs of seed strips, which are slightly more expensive but hopefully worth it. It looks as if the investment has paid off.

Our potatoes are coming along nicely. They had a bit of a setback because of the April drought but have now been well watered by our neighbours while we were away and are back to life.

We have also harvested our first broad beans at The Weald

and it looks as though we will have a bumper crop this year - so we need to make some room in the freezer.

Luke is very fond of his squashes but because of his ankle had not sown any. Fortunately, I saw an end of line offer at Sutton Seeds for "plugs" at 99p for three and went a bit over the top and bought a whole load for Luke and me to share. Under Luke's supervision we have planted several varieties on his plot and I have potted up the remainder ready for planting at The Weald when I get back.

I bought three different varieties of patty pan squash, dark green, light green and yellow. And we have three other different squashes - we will see later in the year if they look anything like the catalogue pictures (below) or live up to their reputation

Uchiki Kuri -

A teardrop-shaped Japanese squash. They say it's easy to grow and has a sweet and nutty flavour. Uchiki Kuri is supposed to set around four 1.5kg fruits per plant. We'll see if they live up to their reputation! They are said to be hardy and drought-tolerant;

Honey boat -

- which is advertised as "easier to grow, more productive and sweeter than a butternut squash" and said to produce "super sweet fruit with firm, deep orange flesh". It's claimed that they also keep well throughout winter; and

Crown Prince -

which is claimed to be an allotment grower's favourite. The blurb says "it has a nutty, honey-like depth and smooth, pudding-like flesh making it a superb choice for roasting". It is also one of the most long-storing of all squashes.

I have planted some patty pan squashes and a Crown Prince at Mile Oak as well as pumpkin.

Off to Samarkand. Fingers crossed that everything survives until we get home

John Austin

Hove, May 2017