Monday, May 5, 2008

Culinary Delights

Over a week now since I left Jaime, Kezia and Nanda and made my way back here. Fewer culinary delights this time – the day we were going to Bury market for a Black Pudding sandwich was being blown by a bitterly cold wind and we turned around and came home.

Margaret took us out to Hebden Bridge where we had a marvellous sit-down fish 'n chip lunch (actually, Margaret and I had mussels and chips). Being up-market Hebden Bridge it was a fish n' chip restaurant as opposed to a fish n' chip shop. But the chips were chunky and irregular and cooked in lard or dripping so quite delicious.

We went to Manchester twice.

The central market has been in the Arndale Centre (a ubiquitous UK indoor shopping precinct to our non-UK readers) for many years. Previously the fishmarket consisted of ten or so stalls. A revamp and extension of the Arndale Centre and now there are just two fish stalls, one greengrocers and one butchers. Most of the space previously taken by food stalls has been taken over by up-market multicultural (Italian, Chinese, Greek, Brazilian, Real Ale etc) take-aways and delicatessens, often combined. I will say we enjoyed the expensive Italian deli/cafe where Jaime and Kezia ate prosciutto and fancy Itakian cheese sandwiches whilst I quaffed a glass of cheap Itakian wine and I was tempted to buy stuffed pig trotters! In fact, the whole of the centre of Manchester has been dumbed-down. The underground flea-market with its antique and stamp and coin stalls has now closed, the old Corn Market has lost all its alternative stalls to be replaced by posh shops and seemingly there are now only national shop chains. Result of a NuLabour council?

After Nanda bought plantains at the one greengrocer, we then descended on the two fishmongers. On the first visit Nanda came away with whiting, salmon and “salt fish” (in fact, it was bacalhau/bacalao/merou – salt cod – so on our second visit I suggested to the fishmonger he label it as such as bog-standard Caribbean salt/stock-fish is certainly not cod!). I came away with sprats and Queen scallops. Whilst Nanda prepared plantain and salt cod (memories of home) for herself, Jaime and Kezia, I fried my sprats in a seasoned flour coating to be accompanied by brown bread and butter.

On our second visit Nanda was not impressed by the available fish but bought some Redfish. I was most impressed by the presence of live (rare) and very expensive razor clams and what-was-labelled as “surf clams”. So I bought just three of them and and a bunch of “surf-clams”, the latter I cannot find in Alan Davidson's North Atlantic Seafood. Without Alan Davidson's North Atlantic Seafood on-hand I really didn't know what to do with these razor shells. But another less eloquent cookery book had a recipe for a clam chowder (at which I think my north American readers might pooh-pooh).

The first time I have cooked a chowder.
Clams, razor-shells, potatoes, onions, milk and single-cream proved a marvellous combination!

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