Monday, 14 January 2008

Monday Market Meal #2: Fried Bream, Cassava Mash And Sweet & Sour Syrup (With Multi-Tasking)

I've fallen a good few weeks behind with my traditional Monday market meal - a supposedly regular event involving me visiting a local Barcelona food market each Monday morning to shop for fresh seasonal produce without preconceived ideas and then making something special for dinner with my spoils that evening. My excuse is that Christmas and my new work contract got in the way, but I was back on plan the other week with a Monday meal of fried sea bream, cassava mash and kumquat jam. Well... that was my plan when I got home from La Boqueria clutching my bream, a large cassava root and a bag of kumquats. I made a good start, mind you. And then the phone rang.

This meal did not turn out to be my greatest domestic culinary experience. Unfortunately, as I was doing three other things while cooking I managed to burn the kumquats beyond the point of no return. It was my Goon moment - when my professional chef training went out of the window and like most men under pressure I reverted to the multi-tasking level of a hominid. However, this meant I had to think on my feet and I actually ended up creating a very interesting spur of the moment sauce to go with the dish.
Fresh seasonal kumquats for the jam

Cooking down in sugar syrup
I had started by preparing the kumquats into quarters and measuring a hefty amount of sugar to cook them with, as per your normal jam recipe. Here they are, pictured in all their glory, floating around in a slosh of warm sugar syrup before their eventual doom was to arrive. Being engaged on the phone as well as doing several other things at the same time meant I ended up completely forgetting about the kumquats... until the smoke alarm reminded me. And if you were wondering about the lack of photos, well you only have to read my feeble excuses thus far.

Unlike my burnt kumquat jam, my cassava mash was amazing. It had an unusual flavour that I'm not at all used to and it was also wonderfully creamy and had a great firm texture. Yes it was a bit lumpy as you can see, but my excuse here (and it's a genuine one this time) is that I had no access to a masher nor any form of puréeing equipment. I had to use a fork. Nevertheless I thought the lumps added a certain "je ne sais quoi" to the dish. Yeah right, Trig, it was lumpy mash!
Perfectly cooked sea bream on lumpy cassava mash
But after all my previous failings there had to be a saving grace and this came in the form of my perfectly crisp skinned, slightly-translucent-in-the-centre sea bream (which of course I filleted myself). However, at this point I still had no sauce, but what I did have were two sweet granadillas and some cider vinegar. So, thinking on my toes, I scooped out the insides from the fruits, heated them in a pan to break the membranes that keep the pulp attached to the seeds, passed the resulting liquid through a sieve, added some cider vinegar and rapidly reduced the mixture to a three-minute sweet and sour syrup.

I think there's an important lesson to be learned here - the moral of the story is that every cloud has a silver lining, and no matter how badly you think you've ruined your dinner you can always save the day by using a little essential kitchen know-how. Better still, with a bit of luck you may have a complete set of fingers left with which to eat your dinner and you may not need to share it with the local Fire Brigade.


Nilmandra said...

Love the crispy skin of the sea bream. I used to have to mash potato (thankfully only very small amounts) with a fork too. Ack.

Btw, you have been tagged :) More information over here:

nicisme said...

Oh, how I envy you being able to just pop out to that fabulous market! I was lucky enough to go there last October and I was in my element!
Your story of the kumquats made me laugh, particularly the bit where you say you were doing 3 other things while cooking! A chap multi-tasking? - I am impressed!

Trig said...

Nilmandra - crisping the skin of a fried fish is so much easier than people think. Just press the fish onto a little flour (gluten-free flour is fine) and make sure the oil is very hot. The flour, egg and breadcrumb treatment that I was taught is totally unnecessary.
Nicisme - can't see why you were impressed as I failed to multi-task!

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