Seafood Platter

For New Year’s Eve we decided to have a fish and seafood platter. It was an opportunity to cook and eat some great food. However one problem, as you may recall New Year’s Eve is not only part of Christmas, it’s also a Monday. As a result it was virtually impossible to find any fresh fish or seafood. Generally the fishing fleets don’t go out at weekends and I suspect that they certainly wouldn’t go out over a weekend during the festive season. As a result we went with frozen seafood, not my first choice, but with what we wanted it was better than nothing.

We got some frozen king prawns, scallops and squid from Sainsbury’s as part of their Taste the Difference range. One of the key things to do when using frozen seafood is to defrost and defrost safely. If you cook frozen seafood from frozen, generally what happens is that you overcook it and it becomes very rubbery. You need to take care when defrosting to avoid food poisoning. The best way to defost is in the fridge, but this takes time. If you do defrost at room temperature, make sure you move the seafood to the fridge once it has defrosted.

The prawns I cooked on my griddle, whilst the scallops were cooked very quickly on a hot flat frying pan, as were the squid rings.

scallops, prawns and squid rings

The scallops were perfect and I was really pleased with how I cooked them. They were browned on each side, but were only just done on the inside. As a result they were melt in the mouth tender, and full of flavour. The prawns were very good, and served with some lemon were delicious. I was less impressed with the squid rings. In the past when I have cooked squid, I have bought frozen whole squid from Tesco and cut it into pieces of squid. I much prefer using this way of preparing squid, usually scoring one side to ensure even cooking and browing of the edges. The squid from Sainsbury’s comes ready sliced into rings. It cooked fine, but it lacked the depth of flavour I have had in the past with squid from Tesco. Why didn’t I get my squid from Tesco, well they’ve seemed to have stopped selling it.

Alongside this plate of seafood I also grilled some giant tiger prawns in their shells. These were placed under a really hot grill, after they were fully defrosted and brushed with some olive oil. The main reason for these prawns is twofold, one is the visual impact, secondly was flavour. They were delicious, though of course were quite messy to peel.

Taste the Difference Whole Giant King Tiger Prawns

We also had some dressed crab, these were small crab shells filled with a crab pate and white crab meat. They looked really nice, but lacked the depth of flavour I would liked to have. This was served with some fresh crusty bread.

Dressed Crab

Another successful dish was some clams. I got a pack of frozen Big and Juicy clams from the Big Prawn Company which I mananged to buy at Waitrose.

Big and Juicy clams from the Big Prawn Company

Again the key was to ensue they were properly defrosted before cooking, well they’re cooked already, all they really needed was heating up. I did this in a pan with some freshly chopped garlic and parsley. I thought they were delicious and very good value at £3.29. I think they would also work with linguine if wanted pasta and seafood.

We also cooked some salmon, this was roasted in the oven with a little olive oil.

Overall this was a delicious meal, we served it with some fresh salad and I also made a paella.

British Beef Steak with a Peppercorn Sauce

The other day I posted a blog post about a steak with a peppercorn sauce. One of the reasons I cooked that dish was because a few days earlier we had eaten the Waitrose Easy To Cook version.

The Waitrose version says

British beef steaks with a creamy smooth peppercorn sauce made with roast shallots, brandy and pink peppercorns.

That did sound quite nice when I read the packet and at £4.49 wasn’t a bad price either.

Having cooked the steak according to the instructions I served it with some sautéed mushrooms, steamed vegetables and oven roasted tomatoes on the vine.

The instructions were quite simple, cook the steak, remove from the pan, add the sauce and pour the sauce over the steak.

So what were they like?

Well it certainly wasn’t horrible, it did taste okay.

However at £4.49 you can’t expect the steak to be top quality sirloin, fillet or ribeye, and it wasn’t. It was quite a tough piece of rump I think, maybe even a cheaper cut of steak! The sauce should have had a real kick with the shallots, brandy and peppercorns… but alas it was bland and lacked any depth of flavour.

I always like the ideas behind much of the food and dishes I buy at Waitrose, but looking back over the blog I realise I don’t really enjoy them. Time to rethink my shopping habits.

Oh the tomatoes were fantastic by the way, very simple, take some fresh tomatoes, dribble some olive oil on them, roast them in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Delicious.

Ich bin ein Berliner

Ich bin ein Berliner

The infamous quote from John F Kennedy was as any German will tell you translates as “I am a doughnut”.

So it was with this reminiscence in mind that I bought a Berliner doughnut from Waitrose that had been reduced.

It was the first Berliner I had ever had. Never had the chance to get to Germany for many years, and though through JFK I was aware of the Berliner it’s not something I had seen.

So what did I think?

Es ist ein schaler Berliner.

Yes it was stale.

So it was reduced and it was reduced because it had been out all day (maybe a couple of days) and as a result it was stale. Well I hope it was stale in some ways, as if that was how it was suppose to taste then I am disappointed.

So I didn’t finish it.

I will need to get to Germany sometime for a doughnut…

Pink Peppercorn Crusted Beef Steaks

Sometimes time is against you with cooking, especially after a long day in the office, so ranges like Waitrose’s Easy To Cook can be a quick and useful way of making something nice to eat.

I picked Waitrose’s Pink Peppercorn Crusted Beef Steaks from their branch at Gordano Services and they did look quite nice, not just in the packet, but also on the side of the packet.

However cooking them, according to the instructions did not go to plan…

The steak itself cooked fine, but the crust stuck to the pan and separated from the steak. Think it was a combination of the preparation of the steak and my pan.

Anyhow scraping the crust from the pan onto the steaks worked okay, but they didn’t look anything like what it looked like on the packet.

I served it with potato rosti, steamed vegetables and a homemade sauce using the pan I cooked the steak in, some white wine, creme frache and a little parmesan.

Pork leg steaks with a spiced apple stuffing

Most of the supermarkets now have a “cook at home” food, Waitrose is no exception and they have their “Easy to Cook” range.

We recently tried the pork leg steaks with a spiced apple stuffing.

Described as “succulent English pork leg steaks with a spiced apple stuffing, topped with apple butter and wrapped in English bacon” they looked really nice and sounded delicious.

It did sound tempting.

After cooking the pork according to the instructions, I sliced the steaks and they appeared to be quite tender.

The problem was the flavour or to be more specific the lack of flavour. Now most pork you buy doesn’t have much flavour, outdoor reared or free range generally does. These steaks lacked any depth of flavour. Not a problem, the spiced apple should enhance the pork as should the apple butter. Hmmm, well they didn’t the apple flavour was also missing and the spice though there, was so subtle you quite easily missed it.

It was a pity as this did some a really nice dish, but the lack of flavour and general blandness of the finished dish was very disappointing. Next time I think I will make it myself.