Rhubarb cock-ups and the godfather cocktail [steamed sea bass]

I had a complete, abject kitchen disaster last night. And not just cooking for myself (which ought to be the time for experimentation and culinary abandon). Lachlan, a family friend of my flatmate Sam, was in Bristol for a conference and needed feeding. It seemed like a good moment to make use of some of the meat and veg that I had brought back from home after Easter – in particular the groaning bag of rhubarb that was firing wonderful, earthy, acidic notes out of the fridge every time I opened it. I settled upon the idea of rhubarb and custard. But my mind was elsewhere, completely distracted from the important issue of belly fodder and rather more focused on my dissertation. I poached the rhubarb in far too much water, which robbed it of its delightful astrigency while diluting the caster sugar I had added, leaving me with a colourless and fairly tasteless rhubarb soup. I should have chucked it and started again. I didn’t. Develop the soup idea, that seemed like the thing to do. A hot and cold rhubarb and custard soup – that is what this ruddy dissertation has reduced me to. I made custard, curdling it then only semi-rectifying it in the same way one might try and salvage a split mayonnaise – whisk another egg yolk and pour your curdled mixture, ever so slowly, into it, whisking all the while. By this point it had been about half an hour since we had finished our pearl barley risotto and I feared Lachlan might start banging his spoon on the table. I ended up serving a custard that was neither hot nor thick nor sweet enough, and a tasteless rhubarb slop. I reckon there is a recipe there though, if executed well – the reverse effect of cold cream on hot crumble, in hot custard on cold rhubarb? I just don’t know anymore.

The pudding aside, it was an evening that has proved disastrous for the aforementioned dissertation. It is 11.40 and I am writing this in bed with a stinking hangover, mainly thanks to Lachlan’s reckless off license purchase of whiskey and amaretto to make the Godfather – 1 part of each with ice. Tasted amazing. I feel terrible.

And yes, the writing as gone astray, and I fear I will be able to offer little before June, what with my finals coming up and that. I’ll try posting something every now and then, but don’t get your hopes up.

Meantime, here is something I knocked up at home, using the wild garlic that carpets the woods at this time of year.


Steamed sea bass with couscous and harissa mayonnaise

Serves 4

4 whole sea bass
Wild garlic leaves if you have ’em
Couscous
2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
200ml groundnut oil
1 tablespoon of harissa

Fill a roasting tray 3 inches deep with water, stick it on the heat and bring to the boil. Stuff the sea bass with the wild garlic, season and place on a rack above the water. Cover tightly with foil and steam for 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of your fish.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks, mustard and vinegar with a pinch of salt and very, very slowly, pour in the oil. It should start to thicken pretty quickly, at which point you can marginally speed up the pouring operation. If it starts to split you can add a little milk, or follow instructions above. When you have your finished mayonnaise, stir in the harissa. Some chopped garlic leaves too, if you fancy.

Cook the couscous according to the pack instructions and serve with the steamed fish, harissa mayonnaise, and a green salad.

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Filed under Ramblings, Recipes

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