Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The One Where I Cured Some Fish

Did I mention that I'm on dukan?  That pretty much all I can eat is lean meat, fish, eggs and low/zero fat dairy?  That I can eat these foods in unlimited quantities?
Did I mention how butt-clenchingly expensive it is????
The thing with dukan is that you naturally gravitate towards meat and poultry because it feels like they will be the most substantial and filling things and you also feel like you get a bit more value for money.  The problem with eating meat all the time is that it makes you feel a bit sluggish and heavy because everything you're putting into your body is heavy and substantial.  Psychologically you crave lighter things like vegetables, eggs and fish.
I like to have smoked salmon or smoked mackerel at lunchtimes because it just feels a bit more...correct.  To me, eating a huge lump of meat at lunchtime is like eating a curry at lunchtime - a bit weird and wrong.  The problem is that fish is expensive.  There isn't really such a thing as cheap fish in the sense of battery vs free range in the land of the chicken; it's just all expensive (unless it's crabsticks) and when I found myself woofing down a £4 pack of smoked salmon in just shy of 90 seconds (I have three siblings, if you didn't eat fast, you didn't eat... [name the American sitcom I nicked that from]) I realised that something had to give.
Quite by chance, @NatanyaAbrahams was talking on twitter about curing salmon and it occurred to me that maybe this was something I could do.  I scooted on over to Ocado and found that their wild Alaskan salmon was half price!  "It's fate!" I thought and popped a couple of large pieces in my basket along with an array of curing ingredients.
Now, what would ordinarily happen at this point is that my order would be delivered on the Friday evening with everything but the salmon.  I'm just not one of life's lucky people...but luck struck and my salmon arrived all orange and pretty on Friday night and I set about curing it.
I was already a little practised at this because, as well as not being one if life's lucky people, I'm also not one of life's serene and patient people. I want INSTANT gratification, therefore I'd bought a couple of regular tiny Tesco salmon fillets on the Thursday which I had started curing that night.

For the dry spice rub (for 2 small fillets):
A good handful or so of Maldon sea salt
1 tsp toasted coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 a star anise
1/2 tsp white peppercorns
Crush all the spices up into a powder and mix with the salt.
For the beetroot marinade (for around 800g of salmon fillets):
200g sea salt
2 raw beetroot, grated
A pack of dill, chopped
A slosh of gin
Mix all the ingredients together.
Lay the salmon fillets skin side down on a large piece of cling film and coat each fillet with just under half if the mixture, pressing down hard.
Turn one upside down onto the other so that the flesh sides are together with the marinade/rub in the middle. Try to match the thick end of one piece with the thin end of the other piece.
Pat any remaining mixture around the sides of the fillets.
Wrap the fillets up tightly in lots of cling film and place the parcel in a tray with another tray on top of the salmon weighted down with tins.
Pop it in the fridge and forget about it for a bit.  Do the washing up and revel in the murderiness of the water...mwahahahahahahaha
A day later, take the trays out of the fridge, turn the parcel over (pouring away any liquid that may have leaked out), reapply the weighted tin and pop it back in the fridge for another day when you'll give it another turn.
In total, you should let the salmon cure for at least 3 days - my beetroot had 3, the spice rubbed one had 4.
After the 3 days, take the salmon out of the wrap and brush off all if the marinade/rub, washing it if necessary.
The salmon should be ready to eat. Cut very thin slices on the diagonal and eat with a squeeze of lemon over it to cut through a bit of the saltiness. It's interesting how different in texture the two types of salmon were. The cheaper small salmon in the dry rub is far denser than the beetroot, which is softer and wetter and a bit scarier (raw fish still creeps me out a bit.  Yeah, I know.  Leave me alone.)  I prefer the cheap stuff, but then that's me all over.
Now. Confession time. I actually don't like the beetroot cured one all that much - it tastes muddy and unpleasant to me but I'm not the greatest fan of beetroot at the best of times whereas most people seem to love it.  This may seem spectacularly blonde (because it is) but I kind of just thought that the salmon would go purple and pretty without actually tasting of beetroot (and dill - I HATE dill; how did I forget that?!) which is why I made it.  The moral of this story: the salmon will actually taste of the things that you put on it.  Duh.
Despite not adoring the salmon that I made, I loved doing it and I think it's simply a matter of getting my marinade right and adding flavours that I like.  Next time I'm going to try salt, fresh coriander, garlic, ginger and chilli which is more up my street.  If you have any suggestions for marinades, bring them on. 
I've decided that curing salmon is going to be My Thing.  Spectacularly easy but really quite impressive.  Again, that's me all over.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Who can? DUKAN!!

I've neglected this for a while, mainly because I've been busy eating as much as physically possible in preparation for my latest foray into the world of FatFranGetsFin.   On my list of things to be certain to eat Pre-Diet were:
- toad-in-the-hole;
- pasta with crumbled sausages and cream;
- dim sum (fail - had to get a new telly delivered so made the garlickiest, butteriest poussins instead);
- sausage sandwiches;
- instant noodle sandwiches;
- tasting menu at Alyn Williams at the Westbury;
- buttered toast;
- chocolate pudding with cream;
- roast potatoes;
- mashed potatoes;
- buttery rice;
- more buttered toast;
- salt and pepper squid.

It was pretty amazing but it had the effect of increasing my (already sizeable) heft by around 10lbs in just shy of 4 weeks.   Which is quite a lot.   It also meant that I started the New Diet being approximately a stone heavier than ever previously recorded.  Go me! 

And the new diet?   Dukan.   That's right everyone - despite all my waxing lyrical about how I disapprove of any diets that cut out entire food groups and that it's far better to be able to eat everything in moderation (yada yada yada) I'm embracing the French fad and am cutting out carbs, fat, alcohol and, let's face it, fun.

Dukan is divided into 4 stages, the first of which (Attack) is a short, sharp kick up the arse in an effort to shock the system and get a big weight loss fast.  It is pure protein.  It's also bloody difficult and lasts between 2 and 6 days...I had to do it for the full 6. "What's so hard about eating lots of meat?" you might ask...well yes, but what on earth are you going to eat for breakfast?  And what for lunch when you have no cooking or heating facilities at work?   What will you have with your evening steak?  Remember, this is pure protein.  No vegetables allowed.  Fat free dairy is permitted and where I once hated yogurt, it has become my lifesaver.  It is, after all, not meat.

It's been very hard. Breakfast has largely consisted of fat free fruit yogurts with oatbran muffins (you have to eat a little oatbran every day to keep you pooing).  Look at my cinnamon muffins! They're actually really pretty good, satisfy a sweet craving and it takes minutes to knock up a batch.

Lunch is a killer for me. Cold meat, cold fish, cold eggs.  I may have mentioned this before, but I do not like cold food.  It's wet, boring and, well, COLD.  I tried making a chicken and quark quiche (no pastry, obviously) but rendered it in edible with excessive use of tarragon.  That lunch ended up in the bin, as have several others.  I'm convinced that this diet partly works because it makes you hate food a bit.  As an aside, don't ever put chicken into a quiche - it doesn't taste of anything.  Bland, bland, bland.  My first Dukan lunch was prawns in Dukan mayonnaise - possibly the most heinous thing I have ever eaten in my life: 

Appetising?  No.  For the love of God, never make Dukan mayonnaise, it's filth. 
Leftovers for lunch have worked a little bit better, as has dinner. I made a delicious spicy meatloaf (below) which I had with a plain yogurt dip, steak and eggs and I've had a pretty tasty chicken soup with shirataki noodles. These noodles are weird and bouncy but they're a lifesaver for bulking things out a bit and making you feel that you're having a carb. Downside is that, like meat and fish, they're very expensive but, I think, worth it.  Here's the meatloaf:

I know it looks disgusting, but it was awesome - meaty, spicy, oniony and when served with yogurt it rocked my world a bit.  It's actually impossible to make meatloaf look pretty so I didn't even try.
A strange side-effect of meat, meat meat is that I've found myself desperately craving sweet things. There are lots of recipes for sweet things in the Dukan recipe book but most require gelatine and I have no idea how to use it plus, for me, a sweet craving requires instant satisfaction - there's little point having a pre-prepared pudding in the fridge because there is a high chance that I just won't want it and it will go off.  The very wonderful @RishaEats has been a mine of Dukan-based information and inspiration and suggested freezing yogurts which is INSPIRED.  New favourite thing.  I've also turned into a toddler and have embraced sweetened milk to satisfy the craving.
So.  I made it through the 6 days.  It was very difficult, it was pretty miserable at (lunch)times, but I did it.  And I am 10 1/2 pounds lighter at the end of it which is, frankly, brilliant.  There is absolutely no doubt that this diet works.  It requires iron will but I've got that for the first time in years.  Rather than go straight onto Dukan, I settled back, read about it, took in as much information as I could, PLANNED and ate myself silly to the point where I was ready to change.  And it's worked.  And I'm happy.
And my reward?  I can now eat vegetables again every other day.

HELLO CABBAGE!!!!  Hello Stage 2!  Let's Cruise...