Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Gastromonic delights of Rhoscolyn

I have just returned from Bryn Siriol, our house on Holy Island, a small island off Anglesey (itself an island off the coast of North Wales), where 11 friends and I enjoyed the May bank holiday. Among the guests were 'Brownie' and 'Cowie' the co-authors of around Britain with a paunch, they suggested I write a little blog about the food we prepared over the weekend. Please enjoy...

The fine weather provided the perfect opportunity to use the hot smoker I was given as a birthday present not so long ago (thanks Nick!). After rigging the boat (a ageing Wayfarer) and getting the sea kayaks out, we dropped a lobster pot and fished from with every method available to us- lines out the back of the boat and with rods from the kayaks.

walking the boat down to the beach

rigging the boat on the beach

Despite it still being a little early in the season, we caught 3 mackerel and 2 coalfish. To everyone's disappointment the lobsters managed to outwit us this time and just eat the bait and disappear. After gutting the fish and returning to the house, we lit the smoker, poured in some oak shavings and some rosemary and let it work it's magic for 30-40 minutes before unveiling what smelt quite incredible- fresh smoked mackerel.

the oak chippings and rosemary used to smoke the fish

the two mackerel

Reminicent of early childhood bonfires and trips to the beach, it managed to evoke wonderful sounds from those close-by. The order of the day was smoked mackerel pâté which is an incredibly simple recipe (again provided by Nick P-B):

3 mackerel (smoked and filleted)
1/2 tub of cream cheese (philadelphia or something similar)
juice of half a lemon
generous seasoning with salt and pepper
parsley for decoration

Essentially all one has to do is whack it all in a blender for a few blasts (not too much- otherwise the texture of the fish will be lost). The pâté works well with crisps but even better with some freshly baked bread, which we had fortunetly prepared earlier in the day. We used a recipe straight from Delia for 'quick and easy wholemeal bread' to make 2 loaves but added a few twists.

Her recipe is in the link above but we used 450g of wholemeal flour, 2 teaspoons of salt, 1 teaspoon of sugar, 7g of dried yeast and warm water to get the right consistency for the bread base, then in one loaf we (primarily Linley) added some dried chilli flakes, grated parmesan cheese, sunflower seeds, chopped sun-dried tomatoes and chopped chorizo and rosemary to the mixture. In the other we added some thyme, basil and sunflower seeds. We allowed the bread to rise then baked it for 30 minutes.

I am certainly not experienced at baking bread however this was not only lots of fun but also incredibly tasty- especially with the mackerel pâté!

This was the starter to our supper, which was followed by another Delia classic- 'chicken with whole spices' - a dish that claimed to taste "authentically Indian, but with an added 'home-made' freshness that is so often lacking in Indian restaurants". Although designed for the oven we decided to BBQ it and the result proved to be popular. This was accompanied by some local welsh sausages and roasted peppers stuffed with tomatoes, onions, garlic and anchovies.

starting the BBQ

the chicken with whole spices on the BBQ

Linley tending to the welsh sausages

The weekend in general was so much fun- thank you to all that came (Linley, Kiri, Brownie, Cowie, Matt, Tom, Charlie W, Charlie L, Jen, Zoe and Kate) and to Nick for his wonderful smoker.