Unless I happen to be reading a particularly gripping book (you know the kind: one that you dream about after reading until midnight even though it’s a work day) I tend to read two, sometimes three at a time. It’s just to keep the interest there. Sometimes I won’t feel like tucking into the Jane Austen classic I’ve got a quarter of the way through, and instead I’ll reach for the light-heartedness of something like Bridget Jones’ Diary. For the 27th time.
This is a two-books-at-a-time time, if you know what I mean. And I had to laugh to myself the other evening at the chalk-and-cheese difference of this pair. Of course, as this is me we’re talking about, both books have regular food references. From the flavoursome, exotic and colourful images conjured by Elisabeth Luard in ‘Family Life‘, in particular her memories of living in Andalusia – Street food, freshly caught spider crabs and gazpacho. To Stuart Maconie’s fantastically northern take on his wanderings and observations of our delicious Middle England – Hotdogs and gobstoppers in Buxton, steak and mussels in Tunbridge Wells and pork pies in Melton Mowbray – in ‘Adventures on the High Teas‘.
Both equally mouth-watering reads, keeping me entertained no matter what mood I’m in. But neither of them make reference to my latest obsession – the potato rösti. Or not that I’ve stumbled across yet, anyway. This latest fad of mine infiltrated my wee brain after an indulgent day at Powderham Food Festival, where I devoured a freshly cooked potato and leek rösti topped with mackerel and crème fraîche – read all about it in my previous blog, King of the Castle.
After stuffing my face with this fresh and tasty lunch, I vowed to buy the ingredients that I guessed were in the recipe and give it a go myself. Sadly, time to cook properly is a luxury nowadays what with work and study, combined with trying to have a life and fighting for kitchen space with my housemates.
A few days after the festival, I enjoyed a precious day off with my sister, spending a drizzly day walking in the Devon countryside, not caring about the dismal weather because it was Monday and we weren’t at work. Yes, we were smug. We walked and talked – in fact I think me and my sister could talk for hours and hours without running out of things to say. We had a good nosey at the houses we passed on our travels and witnessed a few random things (always the best types of ‘things’, the random ones). Though they can’t have been that exceptional as I can’t seem to remember many of them now…except a beautiful little house backing onto the canal which had what appeared to be a great whopping electric cable feeding out of the letter box. To charge the electric car perhaps? I prefer the theory of a prank-style attempt to give the postman a friendly ‘shock’, myself.
Anyway…I was ranting at my poor sister about my latest food obsession and grumbling in low tones that even if I did find time to make the infamous rösti, it would probably be time I should be spending doing something boring, like writing my latest assignment. In response to my mutterings, she laid out quite a convincing argument against the study and in favour of said rösti. She pointed out that although the assignment is important, my passion for food is equally so. And that as I wanted to make the rösti to then write about, this blog is something of an ‘investment’, even if it’s just for my own sanity to get the stories which swirl around my head out of the grey matter and onto the t’internet. She said I should make the meal.
And that’s what I did. I drove home, sweeping by the shop to purchase the necessary items, then I got stuck straight into my Swiss creation. My big Sis always gives the best advice.
Grating the potato was like playing a game of ‘chicken’ – how much closer could my knuckles get to the grater without being skinned alive? But this fun was nothing compared to wringing the life (or rather the water) out of the grated potato wrapped up in a tea towel. That’s a good stress reliever I can tell you.
To the potato I added finely chopped onion and leek, then a few tablespoons of flour to bind the mixture together a little. I have to say that it looked more like something you’d plaster a wall with in Medieval times than something edible, but I still had faith in my rösti and gave it a good dose of seasoning before it’s date with the frying pan.
After melting a generous dollop of butter in the pan, it was time to get my hands dirty and I began shaping two generous and juicy rösti, packing them together like little vegetarian burgers. Next, it was time to turn my attention to the topping.
I love mackerel, so any new recipes I find which make it quick and easy to enjoy as a main meal are real gems. Flaking the fish into a bowl with my fingers, I was chanting ‘omega 3’ in my head and feeling pleased at the goodness in this dish. Until, that is, I placed the rösti to sizzle away in a foaming inch of artery-clogging butter that James Martin would be proud of…
A bit more fine chopping, of spring onions this time, which I added to the mackerel along with a squeeze of lemon juice and a generous helping of crème fraîche. A quick stir and my mackerel mixture was ready to smother the rösti.
After around 5 minutes I carefully flipped each rösti to give the other side a nice crisping. The smell as they cooked was reassuringly reminiscent of the aroma at Powderham food fest and just added to my eagerness to tuck in.
I didn’t have to wait too long thankfully – I’d worked up an appetite walking in the Devon countryside, not to mention having pondered on making this recipe since trying it over a week ago. So practically salivating, I assembled the dish, piling the mackerel mixture high on the two rösti.
My taste buds were not disappointed. The mackerel and crème fraîche combination is so tasty, the zingy hint of lemon complimenting the fish and cutting through the creaminess. I was pleased to taste that I’d guessed the ingredients not too far wrong. The leek had caramelised in the hot butter, giving an almost sweet flavour and the slightly crispy texture of the rösti contrasted deliciously with the cool topping.
So sod the assignment, I say. It may not make a pretty picture, but this meal definitely brings flavour to the palate and a smile to my stuffed face.