There are two kinds of cooks I think. One thinks of a dish and then sets out with her list to get all the ingredients for that dish. The other just walks around aimlessly getting her ingredients (often too much) and then thinks of a dish after. I'm the second one, unfortunately. I wish I were more organised. I probably would save a lot more money and time. I see what I like, I bring it home, and then somehow, one way or another, it all works out on the dinner plate.
You see, I think the cooking bit just happens naturally with great produce. I stroke and gush about the fuzzy skin on peaches, I stick my nose into bushes of herbs and I nibble at unidentified flowers. I wake up at 5am on a Saturday morning to work (i.e. stroke and sniff and nibble) at the farmer's market. I know it all sounds more than slightly mad now so I will stop.
Anyway, I am not the only mental one. It's always nice to find people who are a little mad, mad in the same way and about the same things. That's the people at Natoora. Franco has gone to great lengths to hunt down the best of every single thing they sell, be it the sweetest nectarine ever or the most carefully grown potato. I see you rolling your eyes now and saying 'Oh, sell-out!" but I would just like to say that I would never ever write about anything I don't truly like or believe in. I don't put up ads on my blog because I hate how ugly they look; I don't blog about the latest restaurant and hope to get invited to their next opening. I'm a rubbish blogger I know – I probably am just as poor as I am when I first started blogging. But I'm writing about these people now, because I know and love that these people truly take pride in what they do.
This is a dish made using sea purslane from Natoora. Sea purslane is a plant that grows along the Essex coast in summer and its tiny leaves reatain all that lovely natural saltiness from the sea. Because it's so naturally salty, everyone I asked couldn't suggest more than using it sparingly in raw salads; the most exciting suggestion I had was to pickle it. I've gone to make this (read title). I don't even want to say it again because it sounds so horribly pretentious. But everything about this is simple. It took me a total of 10 minutes to make this, and a total of four things went into it (a far cry from my previous post on sayur lodeh). This is using a very classic Chinese technique of steaming fish in a little rice wine and then pouring hot oil over. I've just added the sea purslane garlic and chopped chillies to this hot oil so you also get a wonderful heat and fragrance and a bonus of salty sea purslane crisps.
STEAMED SEABASS AND CRISPY SEA PURSLANE
1 seabass fillet
1 handful of sea purslane leaves
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red chilli, chopped
1 tbsp shaoxing rice wine
pinch of unrefined sea salt
1 tbsp of groundnut oil
1. Wash and pat fish dry, then place on a plate and rub evenly with the shaoxing wine and salt.
2. Set up a steamer by putting a rack over a wok/ pot of boiling water; no need for fancy bamboo steamers. Place the plate of fish on the rack and steam until just cooked; it took me less than 2 minutes.
3. Remove the fish and set aside. Empty the wok of water and fill with oil. When sizzling hot, add the garlic, chilli and sea purslane leaves and fry till fragrant and crispy.
4. Immediately pour the hot oil over the fish and spoon the crispy sea purslane, garlic, and chilli over.
* You can also fry more and use that completely addictive topping over noodles or shove straight into your mouth.
So that's it really, 10 minutes and 4 ingredients, but using the best of what some mad people and the British waters have to offer.
On another note,
I will be cooking at Street Feast London tomorrow from noon to midnight. On the menu will be pork belly/ Cornish summer lamb satays, complete with steamed rice cakes and homemade peanut sauce and all that shizzle. Oh and achar, a nonya pickle made using this season's vegetables. Again, just good food made with the best of British produce. There's gonna be some massive vibes going on down there – see you there yo!
Sizzling Steamed Whole Flounder
Herrings, roasted with hot stuff (Kaffir lime leaf crisps are amazing)