Monday, 26 March 2012

Mini salmon scotch eggs

So the first person I saw making scotch eggs with salmon instead of meat was the latest Masterchef- The Professionals winner, Ash Mair. I really like the idea of scotch eggs- crunchy fried stuff and boiled eggs- what's not to like? And as I don't eat meat, a pescatarian alternative seemed ideal.

I actually first tried making these scotch eggs over the Christmas holidays, using smoked salmon. They were alright but somehow a bit bland and unremarkable, and the cooking process left the salmon with a bit of an odd (and not entirely pleasant) texture. I guess the application of heat to smoked salmon is not a particularly good idea in general.
Anyway last weekend, I thought I'd give things another go but this time with some cooked regular salmon. I sort of made up my own recipe, based on the flavours I thought would go together, and second time round there was definitely an improvement. I still wouldn't say these were fantastic though. I think they need a stronger herb flavour, and probably a thicker salmon coating to stop the fish overcooking. Anyway, here's the recipe I came up with, which is currently based on a bit of trial and error.

Recipe (for 12 mini scotch eggs)

12 quails eggs
3 cooked skinless and boneless salmon fillets (around 250g)
Generous knob of butter
4 spring onions, finely sliced
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
1 tblsp mayonnaise
Around 1 tblsp plain flour
Around 3-4 heaped tablespoons of breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Sunflower oil for frying

Put the eggs into boiling water for around two minutes, and then put them straight into some cold water. Carefully peel the eggs and set to one side. Melt the butter in a frying pan and gently sweat the spring onions until they've soften, add the thyme and cook for a couple more minutes. Leave the onions to cool a bit and then flake the fish, add the mayo, and mix everything together to form a thick-ish paste. Have a little taste at this stage, and add salt and pepper to taste.
The next step is to assemble the scotch eggs. First roll the peeled eggs in the flour so that they have a light coating. This helps the fish mixture to stick to the eggs. Put about 2 tsps of the salmon in the palm of you hand and push it out so it's flattened. Place an egg in the centre and gently shape the salmon mixture around it. Do this until you've covered all the eggs, and then roll in breadcrumbs. I found that there was enough oil and moisture in the fish coating to allow the breadcrumbs to stick, but you could beat a whole egg and dip the scotch eggs in before rolling in the crumbs if you wanted a thicker coating.
I then shallow fried the scotch eggs in a couple of centimetres of fairly hot oil until they were browned. You could also deep fry these, but as they are quite small this seemed unnecessary.

So the end product was nice and crispy, with a soft-ish egg in the centre. However, I think these eggs could be better. As I've mentioned before, I probably didn't use enough salmon for these, as the eggs would have benefited from a thicker layer of fish around them. I definitely need to cut the spring onion finer, or only use the white part (the dark green bits in the pictures above are the green parts poking through the breadcrumb). Maybe next time I'll try using raw instead of cooked salmon too. And perhaps a stronger herb like dill. If you've tried any of these ideas for successfully making salmon scotch eggs, I'd be delighted to hear from you.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Arts Picturehouse Bar, Cambridge, UK

This is a quick post on one of the places in Cambridge that I probably take for granted. I do like a trip to the cinema, and really appreciate having somewhere like the Arts Picturehouse that shows independent and foreign language films. And somewhere to have a nice coffee and maybe a snack too, is a bonus. Unfortunately a lot of people share this view of the Arts Picturehouse Bar, as bagging a table or a sofa in the evenings, or other peak film viewing times, can be challenging.

But if you time it right you can lounge around in some classic art deco surroundings and peer down from above on hoards of unknowing Cambridge shoppers. There are usually a couple of different types of cake available on the bar, and on my last visit I had a very nice slice of a chocolate and pistachio one. They also serve plenty of savoury stuff, although the crepes that used to be a mainstay of their menu sadly seem to have vanished.

My milky latte arrived with a bit of art on top, but if you are in need of something stronger then the bar is fully licensed (and you can take your drinks into the cinema too). And so in conclusion, the Arts Picturehouse Bar has squishy sofas, hot drinks, cake, and free WiFi - I heartily recommend it.

Arts Picturehouse Bar
38-39 St Andrew's Street
Cambridge CB2 3AR

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Alimentum, Cambridge, UK

I remember hearing about Alimentum when it first opened several years ago, but only managed to visit for the first time last year due to some good planning from a London-based blogging friend. I really don't know why it took me so long- lack of organisation and a slight fear of disappointment I guess. Anyway, self-flagellation aside, this initial enjoyable visit provided enough of a prompt to think of Alimentum when considering venues for a bit of a social celebration with friends.

But as we trudged along some of Cambridge's busiest roads in the grey drizzle of a Monday evening, I recalled that Alimentum's location might have had something to do with the lack of earlier visits. It's almost opposite the city's 'Leisure Park' and on one of the main roads leading to Addenbrooke's Hospital, so has a great view of the top of a multiplex and numerous ambulances zooming by. However once we'd made our way in, the restaurant and its staff did a very good job of insulating us from the traffic and neon lights outside. We were soon supplied with some appetisers while we waited for our table, and though views were mixed I was an immediate fan of the cheese and onion macarons. The pale pink macaron shells were flavoured with caramelised onion, so had a sweet edge, and were filled with a sort of whipped goats cheese. I am currently wondering if it would be foolish to try and recreate these at home....

Anyway, onto the food proper. Alimentum has a very reasonably priced set menu on Monday evenings, so that's what we plumped for. As we settled into our booth, carafes of water and some delicious bread appeared rapidly. The warm sage bread was particularly nice, and came in the form of min-loaves (in the top picture). I had an amazingly light and frothy cauliflower soup to start with, which had little nuggets of subtly pickled cauliflower and sweet spring onion (I think). The whole thing had the quality of a vegetable marshmallow, which I really liked.

My sea bass main course came with a sort of chickpea stew with tomato and olives, and some sort of anchovy cream. This was a perfectly functional dish, if not terribly exciting. Personally I think a few more olives and maybe anchovy was needed to perk things up. And though the fish was beautifully cooked, I would have preferred a nice crispy skin rather than the sesame seed coating.

Pudding was a deconstructed apple and blackcurrant crumble, which caused a little consternation amongst the crumble traditionalists when it arrived at the table. However I quite liked my block of fruit mousse, and despite their similar textures it went well with the ice cream. The 'crumbs' were more like a shortbread biscuit rather than crumble topping, but still very acceptable. I also sneaked a taste of the male companion person's chocolate and passion fruit terrine type thing, and was very impressed with the rich chocolate ganache leading to a fleeting moment of regret about my fruit-based dessert.
The fixed price menu is £22.50 for three courses, which I think is very reasonable for the quality of food and service, though drinks can ratchet this up quite a bit.

Alimentum is probably not somewhere I'd pop in for a casual dinner, but is perfect for a bit of a treat. It has most of the elements of a fine dining restaurant in terms of presentation and quality of food, but doesn't make a fuss if you order a diet Coke and tap water for the table. It also does pretty well with trying to inject some soul into its new build location. On this occasion the food was good rather than stunning, but I enjoyed everything and actually those macarons and the soup were pretty outstanding. After my huge delay in going to Alimentum, I suspect I'll be making some more regular return visits.

152-154 Hills Road
Cambridge CB2 8PB