It's been all change recently, a few weeks running around here, there and everywhere. At the end of February, my wife and I spent a lovely couple of weeks visiting my sister and her partner in Sydney, Australia. As you might expect, it was largely filled with food and drink. The food system in Australia is fantastic, with lots of emphasis on local, seasonal produce. Even basic supermarkets put ours to shame; piled high with superb quality vegetables, mostly untrimmed and unpackaged. One morning we visited the vast fish market (or course), and had some memorable sushi for breakfast. It was really interesting noting the huge difference in fish varieties available in the Southern Hemisphere. I thought that I was an expert, but this was all new to me. The highlight of the trip for me was a few days spent in the Hunter Valley, a couple of hours north of the capital. I'm rather naive when it comes to wine, so it was brilliant to visit the numerous wineries and learn more about the Shiraz and Semillon that the area specialises in. All in 37 degree heat, as kangaroos weaved between the wines just feet away. Magical.
In other news, I have just started a new job as Recipe Developer at Abel and Cole. I'm only a couple of weeks in and still a little green behind the gills, but I'm really enjoying everything so far and I look forward to the challenges ahead. I'm sad to be leaving all things fishy though, and I've had a wonderful three years working with astounding produce and wonderful people.
Now things are a little settled, it's high time that I kick started things on this blog. Surrounded by food every day, I've hardly been short of inspiration! Somehow spring has crept in and wild garlic season is now in full swing, and I also spied a lonely bunch of monk's beard in the corner of my local greengrocer. I quickly rustled up this dish on sunny afternoon, some simply dressed barley topped with the seasonal greens and a fried piece of local fish. Sometimes it's nice to spend the day cooking and constructing an intricate, complicated meal. But often a few ingredients treated in an unfussy manner is just the thing.
For the monkfish:
4 monkfish steaks, about 100-120g each. Membrane removed.
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp capers
A pinch of chilli flakes
For the barley:
1 mug of pearl barley
1 garlic clove, crushed
A few sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
1 lemon, zest and juice
2 large handfuls of monks beard, roots trimmed and washed
A handful of wild garlic leaves
Fill up the kettle and switch on. Pour the barley into a saucepan and add the crushed garlic clove, thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Cover with the boiling water by about 2cm. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook for 20-25 minutes. When the grains have absorbed the water and are al dente, dress with a good glug of olive oil, the lemon zest and juice and a pinch of seasoning.
While the barley is cooking, fill a separate saucepan with well salted boiling water. Fill a large bowl with cold water. Blanch the monk's beard for a minute, then quickly transfer to the cold water to stop the cooking. Once cool, drain well and set aside until later.
Pour 2 tbsp of olive oil into a small bowl and add the drained capers, dried chilli flakes and a little seasoning.
Heat a non-stick frying pan until it is smoking hot. Pour in a good glug of olive oil. Season the monkfish steaks all over and lay them into the hot pan. Fry for 2 minutes, then turn the steaks over and add the butter. Cook for a further 2 minutes, basting the monkfish continuously with the hot butter. Transfer the monkfish to a plate to rest briefly, and reduce the heat of the pan to medium.
Toss the blanched monk's beard and wild garlic leaves into the pan and fry for 30 seconds, until warmed through.
To plate up, spoon a generous amount of the lemony barley onto each plate. Top with the monkfish steaks and the greens. Finish with a good spoonful of the caper and chilli dressing.