Swoon Like a Sultan. Smoked Oysters Can Make you Do That …

It is legend that the sultan swooned when he tasted the dish imam bayeldi, created in his honour. (Imam bayeldi means ‘the sultan swooned’.) Never mind swoon, I am positively multi-orgasmic when confronted with smoked oysters. Not fresh oysters – altogether too reminiscent of snot, regardless of lashings of Tabasco sauce … the devil take those descriptions of fat, creamy, salty-sweet.
“Oyster, n. A slimy, gobby shellfish which civilization gives men the hardihood to eat without removing its entrails!” – Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914) ‘The Devil’s Dictionary’ (1911)
Says it all. But smoked oysters? Luv ‘em.
“I never was much of an oyster eater, nor can I relish them ‘in naturalibus’ as some do, but require a quantity of sauces, lemons, cayenne peppers, bread and butter, and so forth, to render them palatable.” – William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863)
He had it right.
Delighted to enjoy them in pâtés, dips, soups, stuffings, with pasta … and to prove it, I offer a selection of ideas I have picked up along the way.
Smoked Oyster Pâté (1)
85g can smoked oysters, drained. (Avoid those in cottonseed oil – affects the flavour in a big way.)
125g cream cheese (a good, full-flavoured one!)
100g unsalted butter
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Chopped chives (or tarragon, or coriander or parsley)
Melted butter
Optional extras: Worcester sauce (homemade would be good), cayenne, chopped cornichons.

Chuck it all in a processor or blender and blitz. Divide between ramekins or fill one dish. Garnish with fresh herbs and melted, clarified butter. Will keep for several days in a fridge. Freezes too – but better to enjoy it NOW!

Smoked Oyster Pâté (2)
4 cans oysters, drained (ditto above re cottonseed oil)
2 spring onions (scallions)
2 cloves garlic
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice – or to taste
Melted butter
Chopped parsley, grated lemon rind – the zester utensil gives strands of lemon rind which look attractive.

This is obviously for a larger number of people – or be greedy and eat it all yourself – but the recipe divides quite easily. Just use a small spring onion, a small clove of garlic and half a tablespoon of lemon juice to one can of oysters.
Blitz in a processor and scoop into one or more dishes. Garnish with fresh herbs and the lemon rind strings.
Serve with toasted sourdough bread (preferably stoneground), crudités or interesting savoury biscuits/crackers.

Smoked Oyster Pâté (3)
2 tins smoked oysters, drained. (Ditto re cottonseed oil.)
A fat clove of garlic – black garlic if you have some.
2 hardboiled eggs
2 small eschallotes (mild shallots – not spring onions)
Fresh herbs – parsley, coriander, thyme, tarragon – mixed or any one
125 – 175 ml of your favourite liqueur – I like Frangelico (adore toasted hazelnuts), but Curacao, Amaretto, port, brandy, scotch, will be good.
Melted butter, clarified
Blitz in a processor or blender. Taste – you may want to add freshly ground black pepper, more garlic, or liqueur.
Transfer to large/small ramekin(s) and top with the clarified butter.
Keeps well in the fridge – if you can resist it. Serve with crudités, breads, biscuits.

Pasta with Smoked Oysters
Serves 4
Tagliatelle, spaghetti, angel’s hair pasta – or fat macaroni, so the sauce can sneak inside
2 cans smoked oysters, drained. (Ditto re cottonseed oil but keep the oil if it is olive oil)
Oil from the oysters, or olive oil
2-4 garlic cloves, depending on how much you like it. (we eat LOTS – keeps Dracula away. He has never been to our house.)
500g baby spinach leaves
Small head of fennel – very thinly sliced
Small glass of Marsala or vermouth (well, big, if you must …)
Fresh parsley, chopped
Lemon zest (I like it in ‘strings’ from a zester, so they can be seen in the sauce)
Juice of half a lemon
Sea salt to add when served
Fresh black pepper

Cook pasta – reserve 1-2 tablespoons of the cooking water – will give the sauce a gloss and help it to stick to the pasta.
While the pasta cooks, sauté the thinly sliced fennel (can add fennel seeds if wished).
Add the garlic when the fennel is j-u-s-t tender (good to leave a bit of ‘bite’– but do not burn. Burnt garlic is horrid. Throw it away if you do burn it.
Stir in the oysters and marsala or vermouth
Add the baby spinach and cook till wilted.
Add lemon zest
Taste for pepper and lemon juice – I prefer to let others add their own salt. Not keen on salty food but like the zing of sea salt added when I am about to eat.
Mix with the pasta and serve – remembering to add the 1-2 tablespoons cooking water.
Serve with extra herbs and a crisp, varied green salad.
Optional: Parmesan cheese – there are those who say that it should never be served with fish or shellfish. Your choice.

Beef Stuffed with Smoked Oysters
A rib of beef – for 4-6 people.
OR one steak per person – but thick cut, rather than large
2 cans smoked oysters, drained – keep the oil if it is olive oil. Discard cottonseed oil – flavour affects the oysters and the dish in general.
Large handful of chopped fresh parsley – or a mix off fresh herbs
Stick of celery, finely sliced
Small onion, finely chopped
Garlic – lots or to taste …
Freshly ground black pepper

Sauté the celery and onions in olive oil.
Add garlic but do not burn.
Quarter the oysters and add
Add the herbs.
Take a sharp knife and slice between the ribs and the nut of meat, without detaching the meat, to create a pocket.
Stuff the mixed celery, onion, onions, oysters, herbs and garlic into the pocket. Use a skewer or string to close the top.
Roast in a very hot oven for ten minutes, then turn down the temp. and cook till rare, medium rare or medium. Well done would be sacrilege!
If using steaks, make an incision through the middle of each steak, without separating the halves.
Stuff as above.
Use small skewers or string to hold the two halves together.
Sear both sides in a hot pan, lower the temperature and cook till rare, medium rare or medium.
No well-done steaks allowed.
Buttered noodles, broccoli, spinach, mixed green leaf salad go well with this.

P.S. I told a teensy-weensy fib about fresh oysters … I love Oysters Rockefeller. Fresh oysters topped with wilted, chopped spinach, then hollandaise sauce and parmesan cheese and grilled till bubbling. Yum.

#oysters #smokedoysters #pâtés #pasta #beefandsmokedoysters

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2019 Yvonne  Oots

Break the fast – fast and leisurely

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?” “What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?” “I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet. Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said. -A. A. Milne

The BBC History Magazine advises that the Tudors (1600s)invented breakfast (April 2013 issue) – wouldn’t you know that the Brits were responsible? – and The Breakfast Cereal Information Service – History of Breakfast – states that Neolithic Man in the Middle East (late Stone Age 9,000 B.C. to about 3,000 B.C.) used large stones to grind grains to make a sort of porridge.
Roman Soldiers ate porridge – pulmentus – as a staple. In the middle ages, porridge or oatcakes peasants ate porridge or oatcakes in the morning, along with beer, made from barley and hops, though this is challenged by The Morning Advertiser: ‘During the Middle Ages, breakfast was practically non-existent for the masses …’ Unsurprisingly, religion meddled with the pleasure of such feasts – Catholic church leaders believed eating breakfast too soon was a sin associated with gluttony. Spoilsports.
The full cooked breakfast started in the 1920s. The English Breakfast Society says the dish should consist of back bacon, eggs, British sausage, baked beans, fried tomato, fried mushrooms, black pudding ( a must) and toast. This will knock you back some 750 calories, so breakfasting like a king, lunching like a prince and dining like a pauper will be important!
Bacon was included at a doctor’s decree (love that doctor!). Cereals came later, in the 19th century, and like bacon, it was on doctors’ orders. Apart from promoting general health and well-being, there was also a specific medical agenda. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg created granola and cornflakes as part of a puritan diet to suppress sexual desire and lead America away from sin: breakfast cereal was intended to save us from masturbation. But the real advantage of breakfast cereal is its convenience. Cost also plays a part – bacon and other meat products can be expensive. The ‘full Monty’ is terrific at weekends and when one doesn’t have to go to work – oh, the irony, as cooked breakfasts in general were brought about the advent of the 9-5 working routine!
Favourite things for breakfast? Fruit, Greek yoghourt, croissants, scrambled eggs, crisp bacon, roasted tomatoes, mushrooms, black pudding(!) and everything else you can think of! Taken later in the morning, with fun company. Try some cream cheese delights or yeast-free rolls to accompany the fruit and yoghourt and eggs, or smoked salmon.
Cream Cheese Delights
3 eggs, separated
100g/3½ ozs cream cheese
Pinch fine sea salt
1 tsp. baking powder/cream of tartar. (Optional)
Oven 150C 300F

Whip the egg whites and salt till stiff.
Mix the egg yolks and cream cheese till smooth. Add baking powder or cream of tartar (or not).
Fold in the egg whites.
Drop medium-sized spoonsful onto greaseproof paper on a baking tray.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 20-25 minutes.
If wished, sprinkle sesame seed (packed with selenium) or poppyseeds, sunflower seeds, chopped nuts, on top before baking. Haven’t tried chopped bacon on top, but it’s a thought …

Yeast-free Rolls

I cup/250ml/8fl.oz flour
1 tsp baking powder (or use Self-raising flour)
½ cup/125ml/4fl.oz milk
2 tbls/30ml/1fl.oz mayonnaise – good quality or homemade mayo
Oven 160C/350F

Stir the milk into the mayonnaise till smooth.
Mix the flour and baking powder (if used) and stir in the milk/mayo mix – gently.
Spoon into a greased muffin pan. I line with individual paper cups to save the bother of greasing the tin!
Bake for approximately 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Baked egg and bacon is quick, easy and tasty, too.

1 egg per person
1-2 slices lean streaky bacon
Sliced tomatoes
Fresh parsley
Oven 160C/350F

Line each muffin compartment with the streaky bacon, covering the base too.
Put a slice of tomato – or sundried tomato is tasty too – in each base
Break an egg into each compartment
Top with another tomato slice
Bake for 15-20 minutes till the egg is cooked to your liking. Serve with fresh chopped fresh parsley.
Variations: add grated/sliced/chopped cheese – a good Cheddar, blue cheese, Manchego, Brie, Camembert, goat’s cheese – before putting in the first slice of tomato; add fresh herbs of your choice; add Worcester sauce or Tabasco to taste before adding the egg; add chopped (cooked) mushrooms.
Don’t spoil it with tomato ketchup or brown sauce unless you have made it yourself!

For a grander affair, have plates of smoked salmon, cheeses, cold meats. A savoury bread and butter pudding made with stale croissants is a winner too.

4-6 stale croissants, depending on size, sliced lengthways into 3 or 4 pieces
4 large eggs, beaten
¾ pint/12fl.oz/375ml/1½ cups milk
Greek yoghourt
Black olives, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, crisp bacon pieces, cheese(s), chopped spring onion/scallion, sliced (cooked) mushrooms – and anything else you fancy

Mix the eggs, milk, yoghourt together. Season with black pepper. Add salt when eating – the olives, bacon and cheeses might prove sufficiently salty
Arrange the slices of croissant to slant, almost upright, with whatever you have chosen (preferably all the tasties!) for the savoury elements scattered between each slice.
Pour over the egg mix, leave to stand for five minutes.
Bake for 25 minutes or so till risen and golden.
Serve hot with plenty of fresh, chopped herbs.

Fresh orange juice – worth squeezing it yourself (delegate!) – fresh coffee, herb tisanes, a bottle of bubbles, a table in the garden … enjoy. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day The doctor says so.

References:
April 2013 issue of BBC History Magazine
The Morning Advertiser
Breakfast Cereal Information Service – History of Breakfast
MASHED – The secret history of breakfast

 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2019 Yvonne  Oots

Love Apples Conquer All. But What About Mothers-in-Law?

“Take the intestine, stomach, and bladder of the yellow fish, shark and mullet, and wash them well. Mix them with a moderate amount of salt and place them in a jar. Seal tightly and incubate in the sun.” 544 AD
Don’t see myself persuading the family of its delectability … despite the fact that it is the original ketchup – tomato or otherwise.
It is, I am assured, the world’s favourite additive, whether on chips (fries), sausages, burgers, eggs, dastardly dogs (as Crocodile Dundee’s girlfriend said, ‘They taste like sh*t but you can live on them,’) chops (chips, chops, peas and tomatoes, or more usually tomato sauce – boring, but sure to tease the eye and titillate the palate with colour, texture and taste.) It’s a useful standby for adding to other sauces – barbeque, for instance. Can work a treat to transform an unappetising gravy. I have seen it added – sacred blue! – to luscious-looking pizzas. Shocking. Anything goes.
But the transition from the mind-boggling, unfriendly concoction described above, to the sweet, cloying, glow-in-the dark, often slimy-textured condiment that decorates cupboards, tables and food worldwide, was put on a roll by James Mease, scientist and horticulturalist, in 1812. T’was he who divined the addition of love apples – tomatoes to the likes of you and me. Although he based it on tomatoes, brandy and spices, the preservative facet of vinegar only came later. As did the bulking agent, sugar, which adds the addictive element. That’s why some children will only suffer a certain well-known brand, though the proportion of sugar has been reduced in acknowledgement (and from pressure) of health, teeth and weight risks.
Move forward a few centuries, and the fish paste element has gone and that well-known company continues to hog the limelight.
Shouldn’t we introduce our kith and kin to some fine-flavoured, all fresh ingredients, ketchup – or catsup. (This incites visions of cats stuffed in cooking pots … maybe it’s their eyes that cause the luminous sticky quality of some brands available?)
Larousse Gastronomique (the version in my possession) states tomato ketchup is a highly spiced, English condiment, available from grocery shops. Highly spiced doesn’t capture sweet, does it? And it is universally considered an American invention. But it seems ketchup’s origins are anything but American. Kê-tsiap is a Hokkien Chinese word, derived from a fermented fish sauce. It is possible traders brought the sauce from Vietnam to southeastern China. Regardless, Larousse’s recipe is worth visiting.
Cup up eight pounds of tomatoes (unpeeled), six medium onions, two sweet red peppers and two cloves of garlic. (Only two?! Ye gods.) Cover with water and simmer till soft. Strain through a sieve – fine enough to reserve the tomato seeds and skin.
Take one hot red pepper, two bay leaves, one tablespoon each of celery seed and mustard seed, one teaspoon black peppercorns, one cinnamon stick, and one level spoon sea salt, size is up to you, depending on your salt tolerance. (Don’t use table salt – it contains aluminium salts to make it free-flowing.) Tie in muslin or a clean linen handkerchief. Add to the strained tomato juice and reduce quantity by half over a steady heat, stirring often.
Add half a cup of brown sugar, half a cup of white sugar, two cups of good wine vinegar, red or white, and simmer for fifteen to twenty minutes, to desired consistency. Seal in sterilised bottles or jars. Makes approximately five quarts, or eleven-plus pints.
Personally, I’d sling the spices in at the beginning and cook till reduced, then strain. But that’s me.
Sometimes I make tomato sauce in the same vein as Bloody Marys, with all the bells and whistles and vodka. Bloody Shames, actually, when I don’t add the vodka. Tends to be rather popular.
Another favourite is making the sauce with tomatoes and cooking apples – sharp and juicy – works a treat. As does mixing the tomatoes – beef tomatoes, plum tomatoes, green tomatoes, to add an acid balance which dances on the tongue.
If I think aforementioned offspring will turn up their noses, I play sneaky and bottle it in those well-known manufacturers bottles … the labels can be hell to take off and often survive the oven sterilisation. They love to shake out more than they should when I’m not watching.
I am reminded of the wife who struggled for years to master the tomato soup her husband loved. No matter the recipe, no matter the effort, hours, expensive ingredients, he always reiterated that ‘it doesn’t taste like my mother’s’.
After a day from hell, she abandons the home-cooked route, opens two cans of Heinz tomato soup, serves it as though she has laboured long for his delectation.
His response?
‘Now you’ve got it right! Just like my mother used to make.’
His mother obviously forgot that her daughter-in-law is likely to choose the retirement home.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2018 Yvonne  Oots