Spectators at the feast
I got home this afternoon after a week in Athens and eight hours of taxi, plane, tube and train and I’m fucking knackered. Not only that, I’ve brought back with me a vicious head and chest cold and I feel like death. I had a nice week notwithstanding, so no complaints. I stayed and worked with a friend, Danae, who runs training courses for teachers, and with her sharp aperçus on language and teaching and her expertise in linguistics, my brain, which went onto automatic and atrophied when I left teacher training for straight classroom teaching in 2002, has expanded to something like its proper size, I think. As well as producing gems of wisdom on applied linguistics, Danae produces generous amounts of delicious home-cooked food. I haven’t verified this yet – actually can’t bear to – but my waistline has expanded in the course of the week along with my brain. I can feel the excess flesh bobbling when I turn over on the bed, I know it’s fucking there, I just don’t want to see.
I’m too brain-dead to write much at the moment, so I’m just going to give you a recipe I picked up this week. It’s Turkish, for anything I know to the contrary, as Danae was brought up in Istanbul. It usually forms part of a mezé, which is an array of little hot and cold dishes all presented at once, but there’s no reason not to serve it on its own, as I purpose to do shortly.
Right, now pay attention. Take as much flaky white fish as you feel like eating, and cook it. If you have more confidence than me, do it in the oven. I’m always scared of ballsing up the timing, so tonight I just brought some vegetable stock to the boil, chucked in my haddock, covered the pan, removed it from the heat and let the fish cook in its own steam, à la chinoise. Now while this is going on, you take some or all of the following herbs and greenery: parsley, dill, coriander, chives, spring onions and celery, and chop them finely. We are not doing a poncy little scattering just for pretty, we’re making these herbs a feature, so be very generous. Drain the fish, reserving the stock. Put the fish in a deep dish. Then, as Jamie Oliver always says, ‘literally’ chuck the herbs over it, and then slather the whole shoot extravagantly with the best extra virgin olive oil you can lay your hands on. Throw in plenty of lemon juice and some salt if you are not worried about your blood pressure the way I am. You are going to serve this cold, so set it aside. It will keep quite well in the fridge for a day or two, and may well improve with the keeping. It obviously won’t improve the waistline, given that amount of olive oil, but it will be good for your arteries, so you’ll just have to calculate the risk.
This evening I chucked some chilli flakes into the fishy stock, and used it to make couscous to accompany the fish. I roasted a red pepper to go with it as well, and hope there is enough flavour in the fish, herbs, olive oil, chilli and smoky pepper to penetrate the fug of this damned cold.