I decided that today’s post will be an ode to the sea and it’s wonderful bounty. As such, here are three super basic ways to create mains or starters that will wow your guests, with some relatively basic seafoods. All of these can be cooked on the hob at home.
Is there anything better than the humble sardines grilled on the BBQ? Nope. However BBQing isn’t always possible, so here is a quick pan based recipe that works every time. Gut sardines if required (my mini french ones can be eaten whole), roll in a mixture of flour, salt and pepper. Shallow fry in pan for a couple of minutes until golden crispy. Add lemon, parsley and sea salt to flavour.
Heat on the hob and deep baking dish containing olive oil and sliced garlic. Add the gambas (shells and all) before the garlic browns and drizzle liberally in lemon juice. Cook until the gambas are nicely pink with a slight grilled effect to the shells. Add lemon, parsley and sea salt to flavour. It is imperative that you use crusty bread to mop up the divine juices that are created at the bottom of the pan.
Same concept as the sardines. Gut the squid (your fish monger can also do this if you are unsure), open wide the upper body and score with a sharp knife, making neat criss crosses. Then slice into 2cm wide strips. Place your squid in a bowl and cover with milk and leave in the fridge for anything between 30 minutes and 8 hours. This will tenderise it.
Once out, drain and roll in a mixture of flour, salt and plenty of pepper. Find a relatively deep pot, fill half way with vegetable oil and slowly heat (be careful with those chip pans people…). Drop a small crumb of bread into the oil to check it’s temperature, ideally it will sink and then come back up fizzing. Next proceed to add the squid in batches with tongs so that it doesn’t overcrowd the pan and end up boiling itself. Continues until each batch has a crispy and golden exterior. Add lemon, parsley and sea salt to flavour.
You can also quickly knock up a garlic mayo, using, well, garlic / mayo / olive oil.
“Louchebem” – Turn of the century, Parisian abattoirs, slang for “butcher”.
Few things in the culinary world are as good as food markets with in-situ restaurants. When you know for sure that the amazing produce downstairs will be available to order from the menu. Enter Le Louchebem. Perched above the historic marché Victor Hugo, and ensconced amongst a row of market restaurants, Le Louchebem is a family run business since 1947. Naturally the owners pride themselves of buying all their meats, fishes and vegetables from downstairs; and why wouldn’t you with a gem of a market situated right underneath you? The decor of the restaurant is minimal, because quite frankly it doesn’t have to be anything more than it is; if you are lucky enough to grab a table you will sit cheek and jowl with your fellow diners to enjoy some of the finest most succulent cuts of meat La haute Garonne has to offer.
I always enjoy getting a little bit brave when ordering local delicacies (jellyfish in Tokyo anyone?), so the breadcrumbed pig trotters with a harrissa dip for starters it was. For some reason I thought said hooves would contain at least a little of bit of meat, but on that day for the first time since I care to remember, I struggled to eat my dish. Perhaps I wasn’t anticipating the amount of pure gelatine and bones. But hey, I’m mega glad that I went for it, one off the list at least. To make up for this was my pave the size of a large fist with peppercorn sauce and the ubiquitous frites. A simple yet quasi religious combo. My visiting mother also hit a high note with the duck cassoulet, filling and delicious in equal measures.
If you find yourselves in Toulouse go check out the market (open every day excepts Mondays, 06:00 – 14:00) for a sensorial experience and to get your taste buds going, them make sure you get to the restaurants above early (half 12 is good) in order to jostle for a seat. Their set menus are great value for money and the whole affair is relatively inexpensive considering the produce you are being served. Plan nothing after that.
Back in my temporary home, a beautiful city that has been very kind to me.
HUIS, or HOME in Flemish, has been a long time coming. This gestating project was born from one man’s desire for a career change and a love of Belgium beers. For a number of years Simon had expressed an almost whimsical desire to open up a Belgium themed bar, and each time I heard him discuss it two thoughts sprang to mind: yes please and good luck getting the council to approve an alcohol license for beers that ran into the 11%. Portsmouth and Southsea has always held a tough stance on alcohol, in fact this is the only city I know where you can still be IDed well into your thirties. If pink burgers are deemed an issue then surely selling bottles of Delirium Nocturnum on Elm Grove has to be a no no? Thankfully this was not the case and HUIS, Southsea’s first Belgium bar, got the green light. And what a fantastic place it is too.
From top to bottom, the décor and branding oozes Retro Flemish Cool™: from the minimal clean lines and muted colours to the vintage adornments peppered around the bar. Everything has clearly been carefully considered and thought out. But let’s get down to the real business; what about the beers? Is HUIS going to settle with passing off entry level Affligem as a top dollar import? You bet not. Simon has drawn from his extensive knowledge of Belgium beers by creating a thorough drinks list that is sure to meet even the most fastidious of palates (Delirium, Rochefort, St Barnadus, Duchesse de Bourgogne and many more). And guess what? No matter the percentage nothing breaks the £5.20 mark; a conscious decision that is sure to keep me, and many others, returning. Not one for strong beers? The in-house HUIS draft beers (wheat and blonde) also provide a great alternative if you are after something a little lighter. Food wise you will be treated to hearty traditional fare such as moules frites, flammenkuche and jarred de porc. Ideal accompaniments for thick treacly beers. Dessert wise look no further than the next level banana, ice cream and chocolate waffle.
HUIS is a welcomed addition to Elm Grove, a tough and long old road which has perhaps always struggled with it’s identity slightly. However compare Osborne Road now to what it was like five years ago and the difference is like chalk and cheese. Or beer and cheese as is the case now. If anything HUIS is another great example of what creatively fertile ground we live on. For a long time it has felt like Southsea nurtures the ideal ecosystem to get your niche business ideas off the ground. After all it really wasn’t that long ago that two unkempt beatniks decided to peddle records and pies on Castle Road, and they seem to be doing alright.
Simon, any chance of some Gouden Carolus in those beer fridges?
You can give HUIS a like here and a follow here.