Friday, February 25, 2011

Fishy Friday

Yes, before you ask, I was still hungry after I ate this, I'm pretty sure I ate a load of bread or chocolate or something as soon as I had wolfed it down, but it really was delicious. And, to be fair to it, even if I had doubled up on quantities, chances are I would still be hungry afterwards and find excuses to insert more food into my gob. So, don't let that put you off - it's a thoroughly filling dish for a normal human being. It's also speedy and comforting, deliciously creamy and full of flavour. I know that it looks like a very simple plate of scrambled eggs but it is, in fact, oeufs brouillés au haddock *haughty sniff*. So, scrambled eggs with fish, then. See, I was having a think about nutrition and how I need to eat feed my body responsibly in order to ensure that it doesn't protest at my relatively high exercise levels by packing in altogether. When I was upping the ante with my running initially, the immense sugar cravings took me by surprise, and I did what any normal human being would do under the circumstances - I took to the biscuits with religious fervour (chocolate caramel digestives, mainly), followed by a Haribo chaser if I was feeling indulgent. After a while the novelty of behaving like a small child who finds itself without authority and decides to eat chocolate buttons at every meal wore off, and I started to feel the need for some grown-up behaviour (kind of like Kevin in Home Alone, if you will). I increased the amount of carbohydrates in my diet and laid off the biccies. A little. Now recently I have been training even more, particularly since I'm preparing for my first marathon, and figured that I should perhaps be eating more red meat than I have been. Who better to instruct in the eating of meat than the French? Off I trotted to the library to source a suitable cookbook that might instruct me in my mission.

The Ripailles cookbook jumped out at me right away, a veritable bible of French cooking, from boiled eggs to steak tartare. Can you imagine the looks I got hauling this doorstopper of a thing home on the red Luas line? Would it help if I told you that I was also en route home from a cycle up to Howth Summit, and therefore dressed head to toe in ridiculous-looking stretchy sporty clothes, all sweaty, clutching a cycle helmet and just generally sticking out like an enormous sore thumb? Get the picture now? Anyhow, I didn't really give a fiddlers, as I was very excited about all the wonderful things between the covers of this exciting tome, not to mention basking in a very smug post-cycling feelgood glow. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure that I have the attitude that it takes to pull off French cooking, over and above any other criteria it may require. That nonchalance, the insouciance, balancing a Gauloise out of the corner of my mouth without letting the ash fall into the food; I'll give it a go, but I'm making no promises. 

After oohing and ahing and looking at elaborate things that will make me appear an amazingly accomplished cook...I honed in on an eggy-fishy dish. One that takes about ten minutes. Mesdames et messieurs, je vous presente: oeufs brouillés au haddock. Clearly it was the picture that did it. I bet most people cook things in cookbooks that there are pictures of. 

Deeeeeeeeh-NEH...Deeeeeeeeeeeeh-NEH...deh-NEH, deh-NEH, deh-NEH,'s the music from Jaws! See what I...oh forget about it. This is the smoked haddock looming out of the milk in what I was trying to convey there is a rather menacing fashion. The fish is poached in the milk for ten minutes - just cooked away at a very gentle simmer. With the extractor on full-blast and all the windows open so that you don't stink out the entire house.

Les oeufs! I am not really one for quantities, so I won't instruct on this occasion, but I generally go on the basis of the time of day it is, how hungry I am and what's on offer in my fridge. There are three eggs here, whipped up with a good glug of cream. 

Of course I had to lump generous dollops of butter on to the pan, this is a French recipe, after all, and butter is an intrinsic part of their beautiful people diet, along with wine, crossants and the joy-giving croque monsieur.

Aaaaaaaaand, they're off: the dance between the heat of the pan and the scrambling of the eggs commences. It's a gentle, constant procedure; you have to get the heat just low enough yet still sufficiently high to actually cook the eggs, and nudge them around the pan just enough to ensure that they cook evenly but not so much that the taste gets battered out of them.

The poached fish is not a particularly attractive sight, I must say, so it must be quickly turfed into the that creamy mess in the pan. 

Creamy eggs, smokey fish, snipped up chives. Mais, pourquoi pas? It may not be lapin flambé au cognac or canard a l'orange, but it tasted like a pretty fine start for my foray into French cooking.

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