A “Fishtastic” couple of nights… our report

Well we have now completed what have been our October dinners and our “Fishtastic Suppers”

It was a full house again for both nights and with some old and new faces eager to partake in our fishy inspired menu.

One guest quizzed me hard as to what motivates me to open my home to complete strangers and spend not only two nights serving dinner to them but all the work that goes into shopping, preparing and deciding what to feed them! More on that front in a future post I think!

Well it is now nearly two years since we started this little venture (February 2010 were our first dinners!) and we seem to have now got quite a following of people eager to sample what we do each month and our challenge each month is to come up with a menu and theme that will continue to excite our punters!!!

I am often asked what do I like to cook best and I have to say fish is pretty high up there as there are so many varieties and ways in which this product can be handled. We decided this month to try and showcase assorted processes and styles. Preserved fish, shellfish and a fish most had never heard of!

So with no further ado the menu was decided and we kicked the evenings off with a welcome drink and some toasts topped with smoked salmon rillettes a coarse pate that had the addition of some Wasabi heat to it and some simple Japanese Rice Crackers with dried seaweed as fish inspiration!

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Our first course “A taste of Catalonia” inspired by our holiday home in the Roussillon region of France was a combination of roasted red peppers and some marinated anchovy fillets! It was a picture on the plate as I laid out the strips of red pepper alternately with an anchovy fillet and then sprinkled some extra olive oil over them and then a drizzle of a balsamic vinegar reduction and a toasted slice of homemade ciabatta style bread! It certainly was demolished with gusto and was a good light start to the meal ahead!

Next came the prawn and garlic risotto. I am a great fan of the marriage of prawns with garlic and thought this would be a great way of putting the two together. Risotto for me should always be cooked to order… it takes a bit of experience to ensure the rice is slowly cooked to ensure the stock is absorbed and the grains grow in size. I used a total of just over two kilos of prawns so not a cheap dish but these were added just as the risotto was finished cooking so the cooked lightly in the hot rice and then the addition of some mascarpone cream provided a lovely unctuous texture and finally a spoonful or two of wild garlic pesto added as well!

Guests comments were complimentary with one guest stating I had converted him to risotto having previously hated it and one guest with an Italian heritage cleared his bowl so a good sign!

The main course was then something of an experiment for me in so much I was using a fish that is not widely known about or that easy to obtain. I have seen it for sale in one major supermarket but my local ones were not stocking it so it meant a trip to the Chinese supermarket Wing Yip near Croydon as I had previously purchased it from here for our Chinese dinners with Chef But!

I am talking about the Panga fillets, a white fish that come frozen as large individual fillets that when I defrosted I cut into smaller sized pieces and then beat out thinner to be able to encase a piece of banana within. Rolled into a ball these were then floured, egg washed and rolled in breadcrumbs and flaked almonds. Now looking a bit like a scotch egg these were then deep fried in hot oil. The way we then served them was atop a hollandaise sauce – an emulsion of egg yolks and butter with the addition of reduced orange juice. This is what is classically known as a Sauce Maltaise. Some green beans and boiled new potatoes were the garnish.

Now the name for this dish has something of a story!  The dish for me originated in the period of when I lived and worked in Switzerland some thirty plus years ago. I worked in a very smart restaurant that was operated by a gentleman by the name of Arthur Moergeli  (he was a former senior director of Movenpick) Well he produced this dish using dover sole fillets and it was a big seller on the menu and was a reworking of a classic combination of sole and grilled banana and flaked almonds known as a sole caprice. I can only think the dish was named MacArthur as a nod towards the “Scotch Egg” look alike tendency and his name Arthur… at least that is my reasoning as I have not been able to find any other reason in my research! The panga substitution worked well as the fish is both delicate and versatile and went well with all the flavours going on… the plates again came back clean and some appreciative comments made!

Finally as it was “National Chocolate Week” I had luckily planned to finish the meal with another classic combination. A dark rich cholesterol busting Chocolate Marquise with a bitter coffee sauce! My practice run of the chocolate terrine produced a very dense dark chocolate slab that I softened slightly the next time with the addition of some whipped double cream. The combination of dark chocolate and coffee worked well and was a great way to finish this meal and it seemed to go down well with the ubiquitous glass of Muscat de Rivesaltes we served with it.

So that was it the “fishtastic” suppers were complete and we had fed our guests… Now we move onto our next dinners in November where we will be showcasing beer brewed by Penshurst based brewer Yudhistra Moodley of Moodley’s Beers. We will also be posting soon our plans for Christmas and then dates for 2012 so keep watching this space!