Friday, 17 September 2010

You don't have to be mad........

It's 14:52 on a Sunny, if chilly Friday in September. Lunch service has been good so far, at least 50 peeps braved the cold to eat Al Fresco amongst the beautiful setting of Ham Hill. The service has been adequately paced, no customers demanding timescales etc, so on the whole, all seems calm.......Except for my second in command. Not sure if it is down to the change of weather, too much heat from the griddle and grill, or he has had something and not passed around (skittles i would speculate), but he is bouncing about shouting out bizarre phrases and sentences like his soul depends on it! Maybe he needs a lie down.......

.............Now it's 15:13, the Sous Chef has now maintained decorum for the past 4 minutes and there is a calmer atmosphere descending within the kitchen. I have had the luck and good fortune to have the last two days with my family, so have been away from 'Satans fridge' for at least 48 hours. Things have been relatively calm at home, except for the usual that any family endures/experiences (depending on your view). Obviously, there is the school run first thing in the morning. The mad dash to get the children up, breakfasted, dressed, teeth cleaned, shoes put on, hair brushed/tied/plaited/braided, hair un-plaited/tied/braided, re-tied/plaited/braided, books found and placed in book bags, lunch boxes packed in bags, out the door and to the car.....Back out the car and back through the door to get something that was inevitably forgotten. Back out the door, in the car and to the school. All the while still trying to wake myself up as I am the worst morning person in the world.Then walking the dogs (which is a more enjoyable experience).

The next part of the day is a rare moment when my wife and myself get to sit together for ten minutes and catch up on each others lives over a cup of coffee and tea. We then plan the day ahead, find out who is doing what, what plans each other already have pencilled in for the day and  find out when we will get to sit together next. Our lives are more hectic than usual as we have recently become pregnant with our fourth child and we are quite possibly moving house in the next month. Family life can be very difficult when you are not a major part of it through work commitments. My working week normally consists of 5 days a week starting at 9 in the morning and ending at between 10 and 11 at night. This is quite the norm in the trade, as there is always lots to do, organise, create and complete from one week to the next. How the Chefs in this world do it constantly is a testament to their passion and resolve. How their spouses cope is testament to their love and strength. No doubt there are other professionals that do the same and more...I can immediately think of the armed services, emergency services, and oil riggers, fishermen and international rock stars to name but a few, but I can only comment on life through this trade.

I do find things hard at times trying to prioritise what is more important at a time when both the job and your family need you. It is an impossible tug of war at times, and can leave you feeling useless, neglectful and in the wrong. There is the side when you want to be the family man /woman you always envisioned being, but fail to be able to because of your professional work ethics demand you see your shift through. Then there are times you feel you are not showing enough commitment to your career that you chose to do because you need to be there for your family. So recently, I decided to find a way that I can have my cake and eat it too. That is by ensuring the kitchen I run at the moment can run well without me through the dedication, passion and ability of my staff, enabling me to change my role slightly and reducing my hours considerably, to give my family and me time together that we deserve. It is all about compromise and finding a way to realise the true importance in your life. Work to live, do not live to work.

Okay, onto the first recipe to be featured on this site.

I created this dish for a bespoke occasion at the pub and was so well received it ended up being featured on one of our evening menus. The aroma alone caused the mouth to water with the expectation of what was to come. The ingredients are easy enough to get hold of. I will always recommend using local sellers, especially farm shops, butchers and even local door to door vegetable sellers if they still exist in your area. However, I am not a chef that insists you get everything from far off places. As long as you can talk to the seller and they can give you strong knowledge on their produce, you shouldn't go far wrong. Even supermarket counters are better these days, thanks to the trend of local produce and real professionals working them.

This recipe will serve four good size cakes, more than ample for one per person, main meal wise.

Smoked Haddock & Cray tail Cakes

500g Peeled and diced Potatoes
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
250g Natural Smoked Haddock fillet, skinned and diced 1inch
150g Cooked Cray tails (if unable to locate, then Tiger or King Prawns are a fair substitute)
2 Dessertspoons of Baby (Surphine) Capers
2 Dessertspoons chopped fresh Dill
Flaked Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper
Sieved Plain Flour to bind and coat.

The Method

  1. Boil the potatoes in lightly salted water until soft enough to mash.
  2. Strain and place into a bowl with the Lemon Juice, and mash till smooth.
  3. Add the Haddock (Raw), Cray tails or Prawns (Cooked) and mix in.
  4. Add the Capers and Dill and fold in until evenly distributed throughout the mix
  5. Add the Seasoning a little at a time, tasting as you go (bear in mind the Lemon and Dill is already adding flavour and depth to the mix, therefore there is no need to add lots of Salt).
  6. Add flour a little at a time until you get a smooth, yet firm consistency. Allow to cool in fridge, covered for 1 hour.
  7. Once ready, split between 4 (approx 225g each) and roll into balls, then flatten to create a cake about 1 1/2 to 2 inch tall. Coat with Flour. Heat a pan on the stove, and add oil (either sunflower or rapeseed is best). Once hot, add the cakes, cooking for around 2 minutes, turning and cooking for another two minutes. Remove from pan and onto a metal tray. Place in the top shelf of a pre-heated oven (gas mark 4, 200 degrees C and cook for approximately 16-20 minutes.
  8. Serve with a mixed leaf and spring onion salad, or with a poached egg on top and simple white sauce with mustard (bechamel).
If you give this a go, let me know how you get on by posting a comment, or indeed if you have any questions or comments regarding this blog, leave a message.

Speak again soon,


P.S. Congratulations to a colleague who has at last finished writing his book on herbs.....It's about Thyme.!

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