Rum punch and Kalik at the Fish Fry

Don’t know the name of the hut….but it had a sign saying “Cold Ass Beers”.  How could we not sit down and have a beer. Brendan and I took a moment to marvel at the making of conch salad (raw conch, lots of onions, tomato, lime juice, orange juice and scotch bonnets) and then sat at a table in the shade to enjoy our cold ass beers in the sweaty heat.  A few sips in Biccie came over to see how we were doing and let us know that we were in the best place for conch fritters, “real gritty food…none of this fluffy stuff” she also recommended Oh Andros for grouper…..but told us we would have to come back for her special rum punch and conch salad.  Couldn’t resist the fritters…

Conch fritters and a cold ass beer
Conch fritters and a cold ass beer

Taking Biccie’s advice we headed to Oh Andros….but accidentally ended up at Andros Hideout.  A tasty mistake…..grouper burgers!   Perfectly cooked grouper, crispy light batter and a dash of chili sauce. Yum!

Grouper burger at Andros' Hideout...and another cold ass beer
Grouper burger at Andros' Hideout...and another cold ass beer

Having stuffed ourselves with grouper burger…we couldn’t face eating conch salad, but returned for the rum punch, which didn’t disappoint.  No idea what was in it…at least three different rums.  Needless to say, I slept well.

The three part fish sale in the Bahamas

First off…I am glad I wore trainers as I didn’t realise fish shopping would mean scrambling over fishing boats.

I was on a mission for a grouper.  Surprisingly, the only fish to be found in the supermarkets near where I am staying in Cable Beach is frozen and not likely to be caught anywhere near here.  I heard about Potter’s Cay, where there is a daily market of local food…so of course I went.  Well, the fish portion of the market turned out to be cooked fish. I was there fairly early in the morning so they weren’t even cooking.  After wandering aimlessly through the few fruit stalls and a couple stalls that had cages of live crab I was about to give up and find the bus back into town when someone shouted, “Hey baby girl…..what you lookin’ for?”.  The next thing I know I am following a man named Sturgess (who lived in West Surrey for seven years before returning to Nassau two years ago) away from the market and over to the docks.  The first five or six boats had sold all of their grouper, we were directed down the dock to a man getting into a black Oldsmobile.  “What do you want to spend?”……I had no idea, how much is a whole, albeit small, grouper??, so I just just shrugged and asked what is the going rate….he offered up $30-$40 and I figured that was worth a taste of fresh fish.  The man pointed to a boat, shouted out to his son to get out some small grouper…and drove away.

To get to the “Grouper Boat” I need to scramble over two boats…a man on the first boat offers a hand to me, laughs and asks if I’ll be OK.  I smile and hop up onto the boat thinking, “trainers…good idea…denim short skirt….not such a good idea”. I manage to arrive at the “Grouper Boat” without flashing anyone and without falling into the water (success!), and three fish are pulled out and slapped down in front of me.  Sturgess points to one and says, “Not that one”… then changes his mind.  The son of “the man in the Oldsmobile” smiles at me, shakes his head and asks Sturgess what he is up to today because he heard that Sturgess accidentally blew up a freezer…then he points to the smallest fish and says “That will feed two very hungry people” and he’ll sell it to me for $25. Sold!  Almost.

Do I want the fish cleaned…..well, considering the sad set of knives available in my vacation flat, yes. Please.  Sturgess leans forward to grab a knife off a pile of nets and then a shout comes from behind me, “Hey…the police are right there…..you ain’t got a license, you’ll get us all in trouble!”.  A bit of heated discussion and then I am following another man off the boats, with my fish, to the “stand-with-the-red-umbrella” where he will prepare my fish for $5.  He slaps the fish down on a naked plank of wood, pulls out a large rusty knife and cuts the fins off, “You want the head?”.  No. He chops off the head.  A bit more heated discussion with Sturgess at which point he man explains to me that you can’t clean fish on the boats for ‘regular’ sale , and then pulls out an ID card, which is his fish-cleaning license.  It turns out the metal building behind me on the dock is the police station, and they keep a sharp eye on the boats.  Sturgess sulks and shakes his head and mumbles something about looking after me .

“How are you cooking this?” Pan-frying. The “licensed-fish-cleaner” pulls out a long thin knife and fillets the fish and a matter of seconds.  He makes a few shallow slices across the fillets “so the fish cooks better”, rinses the fillets and ties them up in a bag.  He smiles at me, hands across the fish, and says to just add bit of lime and some spice.

Sturgess then insists on walking me to the bus stop, I hand him $10 and thank him for his help and he tells me to come back in a few days… Lobster season is starting.

Duck with blueberry-orange sauce and sweet potato dumplings

So I had a lovely duck breast…some blueberries and a sweet potato and here is what came together:

Duck

Make a few slashes in the duck skin without piercing the meat. Mix a couple tablespoons extra virgin rapeseed oil (or olive oil) with 5 spice and rub all over the the duck breast.

Cook skin side down over a low heat for about 8-10 minutes, until skin is nicely browned.  Finish off in 180C oven, skin side up for 6-8 minutes.  Let sit a few minutes before slicing.

Blueberry-Orange sauce

One onion, sliced

One clove garlic, chopped

One orange, juiced and about 1 tablespoon zest

One cup chicken stock

Bay leaf

Star anise

Pinch herbs de provence

Balsamic vinegar

Couple pinches sugar

Handful blueberries

Tablespoon of butter

Saute the onions in a couple tablespoons of extra virgin rapeseed oil (or olive oil) over a low heat until the onions just barely start to brown, add the chopped garlic and cook for  1-2 minutes.  Add balsamic vinegar, cook another minute, add star anise, bay leaf, herbs de provence orange zest and juice, and chicken stock.  Cook on  a low heat for 10 minutes.  Add blueberries and a pinch of sugar, cook for another 5-10 minutes, or until blueberries start to break up.  Check seasoning…turn off heat, stir in butter and serve with duck and dumplings.

Sweet potato dumplings

1 medium sweet potato, baked, flesh removed and mashed

1/2 cup flour (I use 000 pasta flour), sifted

1 large egg, beaten

Pinch chili flakes

With your hands gently mix together the mashed sweet potato flesh, flour, pinch chili flakes and egg.  Let sit 5-10 minutes, then drop by small spoonfuls onto a dish dusted with flour.  Roll the dumplings so they are lightly dusted with flour then boil for 3-4 minutes.  Toss dumplings in rapeseed (or olive) oil and top with another pinch of chili flakes and some sea salt (I like flaked salt…like Maldon).

That is about it…next time I make this I may try red wine in place of chicken stock.

Truffles and tomatoes

Last summer I fell in love.  I spent a few days in Cortona and fell in love with truffles.  Truffle oil…truffles on pizza, truffles on pasta…truffle-infused honey with pecorino…I left with a jar of truffles and a shiny new truffle slicer.  For a month of Sundays I had truffle omelets.  The jar of truffles is now long gone…but I do have truffle salt and white truffle oil to keep me satisfied in between frivolous moments of spending my hard earned cash on a small ugly fungus.  Sometimes I just need to have a quick smell.  Yes, somehow the scent of truffles has a touch of old gym bag and rotting earth, but somehow this mixes together to form my idea of the scent of paradise.

While in Cortona I also renewed my love of tomatoes.  I was reminded that a good in-season tomato smells fabulous before you even slice it, a far cry from the supermarket variety with gritty texture and watery flavour.  The first place I hit on a Saturday morning these days is my farmer’s market at the bottom of Parliament Hill and this time of year the first purchase is at the tomato stall. I have made an unsuccessful attempt to grow my own, while the plants grow, the reality is my terrace is just too shaded….so nice tall plants…but no fruit.  Oh well, they still ‘smell’ of tomato.

Hello world!

Hello world indeed…..so, err, well I am not even sure who I am writing for, well that isn’t entirely true, I am obviously writing for myself and we’ll see where it goes.  I thought this might be a good way to capture my very random thoughts about cooking, eating , drinking, traveling and sharing all these things.  So to kick off I thought it might be good to frame my idea of a perfect evening; a few friends, abundant food, some drink, warm temperatures and a starry sky.  So….let’s get started!