Long Melford Crayfish Paté  

The red-clawed American Signal crayfish, an invasive species that has spread so rampantly throughout English rivers, a result of abortive attempts to farm them, is a real pest.  The species carries a parasite that kills our own much smaller native white crayfish and it is so aggressive to other wildlife that it is now considered by the general environmental community to be vermin.  They are also very easy to catch yourself – and fun – and they make an extremely tasty paté as well! 

You would actually be doing Britain a patriotic and environmental favour to make and serve this paté at your table.  Just behind the lovely Suffolk village of Long Melford is where I catch my plentiful supply; hence Long Melford Crayfish Paté.

signal-crayfish-in-defensive-posture

There are many recipes around for crayfish paté, but none that I’ve seen have included the essential operation of catching the little blighters, so this is a bit of a first.  Hang on in there……

Catching these tasty morsels:

  • Take a rasher of bacon from the fridge for each participant of the crayfish safari and put it into an old sock. Clean, but one of the odd socks that always seems to appear in everyone’s sock drawer.  You won’t want to wear the sock afterwards because the Signal crayfish claws will make it more holy than Christmas morning.  Put a pebble in there as well, for weight.
  • Tightly tie a long piece of string (?How long is a piece of string?) to the sock and there is your hunting gear complete and loaded. You are ready.
  • You will already have enquired where these creatures are to be found locally, of course. Ask local fishermen (all available genders are included in this non-PC generic labelling) where they can be located. They’ll know only too well.  Local free-range-kids will probably know as well, because this is fun!  The normal places to find them are weirs and weirpools; they like to be just downstream from rushing water.  That’s crayfish, not the free-range-kids.  Mind you, kids also like to be downstream….. sorry, I digress.
  • Hold on tight to your end of the string, or tie a loop and put it around your wrist so that you don’t let go. Chuck the weighted, baited sock into the water near to the edge and wait a minute or two for it to fall to the river bed and be spotted by your intended quarry.  You’ll soon feel a tug.  That’s the crayfish trying to get to the bacon.  (You can use a mackerel head should you wish, but that’s not quite so pleasant for us humans.)
  • Retrieve the string steadily and the crayfish will appear, holding onto its bait with the largest claw, wondering what the hell’s going on.
  • Now to get the crayfish onto the bank. You might like to hold a child’s fishing net under it so that when Carl the Crayfish discovers that it has been duped, and releases his grip on the sock, it falls into the net.  Gotcha!  Or just use a deft and swift flick to get it onto land.  Where I catch them, there are people who catch at a rate of 30 or 40 per hour!
  • (Actually, I miss out all this entertaining but time-consuming stuff….. I use a crayfish trap (Ebay, about eight quid) left in the river for 24 hours baited with mackerel bones & heads .  I roll up to the river, retrieve the trap(s), empty them into a dry bucket, despatching them as I go and five minutes later I’m back in the car with my haul of between ten and fifty crayfish in my bucket.  Efficiency!)
  • Pop ‘em into an empty bucket. The best way to despatch them is to push a sharp, pointed blade straight down through the head.  No, they don’t scream.  Just one insertion through the head and they are doomed. 
  • Remember that these really tasty creatures are now so commonly found that they are actually considered to be an environmental disaster, so whatever happens, they MUST be despatched.
  • It is actually prohibited to let them go alive.
  • Ok, conscience salved, a bucketload (or however many) of invasive, aggressive red-clawed river-dwellers in hand, get them back to the kitchen.
  • Rinse them off, still in the bucket, with lots of cold water. Chuck ‘em into an empty sink and keep your hands away from them.  There may still be some life left in one or two of ‘em and you do not want an angry crayfish of whatever size to try to grab your finger.  Their claws are very sharp indeed, and they are very strong for their size.
  • Boil a big kettle. Get your largest saucepan and scoop them all in.  The last ones can be picked out of the sink using forceps or a thick oven glove.  Pour the boiling water over the crayfish and pop the saucepan onto the largest ring.  Bring to the boil.  Ignore the scum on the surface.
  • Give ‘em a rolling boil for five minutes and then drain. Rinse with cold water again.
  • When cooled enough to handle, break the tail away from the head. Retain the tail.  Break the claws away from their limbs and retain the claws.  I know that they are small, but that’s fine.  You’ll soon learn what’s worth using and what’s not. 
  • The rest of the pest is waste. Bin it.  And whatever you do, please don’t keep that bin-bag of waste in the house overnight.  Smelly!

Ok, so you’ve fabricated your own hunting gear, gone to the river, caught your prey and cooked it.  You really are a HUNTER GATHERER!

Processing the crayfish

The meat’s still held within a shell.  This is the easiest way, I’ve found, of getting it out.

  • Tails: Take the crayfish tails and break off the ‘tail end of the tail’, so to speak.  Then, using a good pair of kitchen scissors, cut the side of the tail shell away so that the shell can be peeled away in sections.  When you get used to this, the shell and legs will come away easily and the tail meat will emerge super-speedily and in one piece.
  • Go to the thicker end of the tail meat, find a darker area and pull the vein away from the back of the tail meat. That’s its waste tract.  You definitely don’t want to retain that as it’s full of crayfish poo.  There’ll be a small flap of tail meat covering it.  It’s up to you whether you retrieve that from the intestinal tract.  I don’t, because of the time it takes, but it’s your choice.
  • There is your lovely bit of tail meat. Go on, it’s like the first podded pea or the first peeled prawn or the first mussel…..scoff it….it’s a cook’s privilege!
  • Continue with the others. But don’t eat ‘em all cos there’ll be none for the Paté.
  • Claws: Break the tiny pincer away from the claw by bending it backwards; it’s much too small to do anything with, so bin it.  Take the scissors and insert the point into the pincer hole and cut both sides of the sharp shell.  Cut through so that the shell is easy to pull the two sides apart.  Retrieve the chunk of claw meat and put with the shelled tails.
  • Remember to put the bin bag of waste into the outside bin.

Recipe:

I know that it’s all seemed a bit long-winded so far, but hey, how much has it cost you so far?  A bit of bacon and a sock.  And you can re-use the sock.  You can use the kids/grandthings as child entertainment/manpower/slave labour to help catch your quarry ….and eat it with you afterwards!

For each 250g of available crayfish meat, you will need:

  • 1 small (or ½ a large) onion of whatever colour you prefer
  • ¼ of a red bell (capsicum) pepper or long read pepper
  • 1 peeled and crushed/chopped clove of garlic
  • Fresh parsley (or dried)
  • Fresh dill tops (or dried)
  • 150g cream cheese (Philly or similar)
  • 2 yolks from hard-boiled eggs (or see text)
  • 100g butter
  • Chilli flakes
  • Lemon or lime juice
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Brandy (optional)
  • Food processor
  • Various bowls

Method:

  • Put the crayfish meat (NO SHELL) into the processor and LIGHTLY chop. You want lumps/chunks, not a smooth paste.  Spoon it into a dish and retain.
  • Peel and rustically chop the onion. Roughly chop the red pepper. Peel and crush/chop the garlic. Place it all in the processor with the herbs, a small sprinkle of chilli flakes and then blitz it until finely chopped.
  • Add the boiled egg yolks (or just one boiled egg, broken up), soft butter, Philly, cuddly toy, and blitz again. You are really just mixing, rather than finely chopping.
  • Leave the liquids and seasoning until later.
  • Spoon it all into a bowl and stir in all of the crayfish. Mix thoroughly.
  • Taste before adding the seasoning, lime/lemon juice and brandy. See what you think.  Make a judgement.  There’s nothing that I can put into print that can come anywhere near what your own tastebuds can tell you.
  • Add and stir in lime/lemon juice, seasoning and brandy to taste.
  • Put into the fridge to set a little. (I suppose you could use a little softened gelatine in the first mix, should you want a firmer mixture, but I generally can’t be bothered.)
  • Spread onto fingers of hot buttered toast.
  • Make sure that everyone knows that you did it all…..including the HUNTING!

 

 

 

Chorizo-speared Chicken

Yes, SPEARED!  Or INJECTED!  No photo – sorry.  It just wasn’t possible to take a photo as it was consumed so quickly.

Ok, SO I FORGOT!  Anyway, it’s easy.

For 4 people, find:

  • 4 large chicken breasts, each cut into 4 pieces, lengthways.
  • A chorizo sausage, or, failing that, sliced chorizo in a pack.
  • Chicken stock – or 2 chicken stock cubes and a mug of boiling water
  • Oil/Frylight
  • Seasonings as nec
  • Oven foil
  • Oven tray/dish
  • Frying pan
  • A long-bladed sharp knife

Method A:  (Chorizo in a sausage)

  • Cut the chorizo sausage into 32 batons about 3mm thick and 5 cms long (about 1/8″ thick and 2″ long in old money).
  • Take each of the 16 chicken pieces (hopefully all the same-ish sizes) and spear them to make a 2″ deep hole from each end, then wiggle it about to ensure that the hole will take the baton of chorizo, making it vanish from view.

Method B:  (Chorizo in a pack of slices)

  • Cut each slice of chorizo into two.
  • Take each of the 16 chicken pieces (hopefully all the same-ish sizes) and spear them to make small incisions to take each curled-up piece of chorizo, however many that might be.  Leave them sticking out of each incision like mouse ears.  It’ll look fun!

Method both: (in other words, continue from either A or B…..)

  • Lay all double-chorizo-speared chicken pieces into an oven tray/dish and chuck the stock over the top.
  • Season as you wish.  Remember that chorizo tends to already have an amount of salt, so……
  • Cover with foil and pop into a medium oven set at about Gas5/375F/190C for a while.  How long?  How long to drink a glass of wine?  How do I know how big your wine glasses are?  Waddaya mean “Red or white”?  I don’t care!  Oh, I suppose 20 minutes or so then.  Or more.  Or less.  This is not described as “Approximation Cookery for nuthin’ y’know!
  • Whenever it sees daylight again, remove the foil, take out the chicken and chuck (get it?) into a frying pan with a little oil or fry light and get ’em sizzlin’.  You want colour on the chicken.  Not for long.  No, YOU decide…..you can see the friggin’ colour…..
  • Use the stock to make a gravy if you wish (or sauce, if you’re posh).
  • Serve with whatever you feel like.  .  We had my lovely wild, red and basmati rice mixture (look it up in the recipe bank!) and sugar snap & baby corn.
  • I actually put the stock into a previously made jarred-red-pepper sauce (the one that I said should be illegal cos it’s so friggin’ easy!).  It was luvverley!

 

 

 

Salmon with a Lime & Chilli butter

One of our simple meals.  A salmon steak, served with hot new spuds and a salad.  Our U3A TLC for August was very simple, but delicious.  TLC?  The Luncheon Club, where we supply a two or three course lunch for U3A members.  Good fun.  We did two this month, one for twelve and one for eight.

Salmon?  Skin it and gently pan fry it.  Simples!

Spuds?  Boil & butter.

Salad?  Yeah, right.

Sauce:

For six people, find:

  • 2 limes
  • A little sweet chilli sauce, or a couple of chillis, or some dried chilli seeds.  I used seeds.
  • One red onion
  • Two or three cloves of garlic
  • Cheese grater
  • Juicer
  • Frying pan
  • A little oil
  • A quarter of a pack of butter (2oz)
  • Seasonings

Method:

  • Peel and chop the red ion as finely as possible – see Tricks’n’Tips for the best way….
  • Peel and chop the garlic as finely as possible – see Tricks’n’Tips for the best way….
  • Gently fry the onions and garlic on a very low heat in the lightly oiled frying pan for 5-10 mins, keeping it all moving so that it doesn’t colour up.
  • Grate the zest (outer green skin) from both limes
  • Cut the limes in half and extract the juice.  Put with the zest.
  • Chop the chilli seeds and add them as necessary.  I can’t tell you how many cos you gotta taste it to know.  Or chopped chillis.  Your choice.
  • Add the lime zest and juice and cook for a further 2-3 mins.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  • Add the butter, stirring all the time.
  • Turn out the heat until it is needed, when you can just raise the temperature again to serve, plopping a reasonable dollop (dollop size is not quantifiable….sorry….) onto the salmon.  Serve with the salad and spuddies.
  • You could, if you’re a flash git, serve a thinly sliced piece of lime as a garnish.  (I did, cos I am!)

 

 

Toulouse Sausages on a bed of sliced veg, with a shallot sauce – YUM!

I did this a few days ago when we had people staying with us here in France.  We have more staying with us now and I’m doing it again today as it was soooooo well received by the last lot.

Well, I didn’t want to just plonk two Toulouse sausages onto each plate and put stuff around it.  Borin’.  Even if they are wonderful genuine Toulouse sausages from about an hour and a half away, in Toulouse!

Find, for four people:

  • 8 Toulouse sausages
  • 3 red onions (other colours are….)
  • Courgette – I used a half of one large one
  • 1 large red pepper (other colours are….)
  • 3 carrots of varying lengths
  • French beans – I’m sorry: I am so sloppy that I didn’t count ’em….
  • New spuds – these were local French Grenaille, but in Britland you’d use Charlotte, Exquisa or similar – and I didn’t count them either!  I suppose about 12-16 ish?
  • Two packets of eschalotte sauce (Shallot sauce) bought for centimes
  • Garlic cloves – optional as to whether you use them or not, and if you do, as to quantity…..
  • Flan tin (Well, that’s what I used anyway)
  • Saucepan
  • I also used a Mandolin to cut the veg….and I still have all my fingertips (of course, you can use a sharp knife, but I wanted to play…..)
  • Oil/FryLight
  • Remember that all quantities/amounts are variable – it doesn’t really matter.  Don’t be a slave to a recipe.

Method:

  • Boil the new spuds for five minutes in slightly salted water.  Lift out of the water (you’ll use it later) and put them  aside.
  • Oil or FryLight the flan tin (whatever you use)  according to regime requirements
  • Cut the courgette into thin (no, thinner than that) discs and lay them flat onto the bottom of the flan tin, overlapping hem as nec.
  • Peel the onions.  Cut some into quarters, some into very thin rings (that’s right….thinner than….)  Break them all apart and sprinkle them daintily over the courgettes – or just chuck ’em on, like I did.Toulouse 1
  • Peel and chop the garlic if you’re using it.  Of course you’re using it!
  • Sprinkle it over so that it falls between the onion bits.
  • De-seed and cut up the pepper(s) and chuck ’em on as well. (You’d be well advised to leave the skin side uppermost to cook the skin well…. as you can see that I painstakingly did, below….. not).Toulouse 2
  • Cut each of the Toulouse sausages into four, five or more chunks.
  • Scatter the sausages and the new spuds evenly as possible around the flan tin.Toulouse 3
  • Oil the contents of the flan tin (or do the FryLight biz again) and either
    • a.  put the flan tin into the oven at 200C or
    • b.   under a hot grill – but inform the local fire brigade so that they don’t get called out on a shout unnecessarily…..
  • ….to cook.  Time may be variable.  Probably 25-30 minutes, but if under the grill, keep taking the tin out and turning the sausages.  If in the oven, just leave it.
  • Peel the carrots and trim the ends of the French beans.  Cut the carrots as you like ’em, and cut the beans into short lengths.  Boil them in the spud water for 10-15 minutes.  You can use the water as a base for soup, use it as hot water for washing up or just chuck it, but remember that you’ve paid to heat it up.
  • Either pour the sauces into a saucepan if they are liquid, or make them up if they’re powdered.  Not exactly rocket science here…..
  • Check on the way that the flan tin contents are cooking.  They may need more time, according to how effective your grill/oven may be.
  • Take out the flan tin.
  • Chuck on the carrots & French beans and pour the sauce over the centre (the sauce will effectively re-heat the extra veg.)
  • It’s a dun tin!  Use a large scoop or serving spoon to shovel it onto yer plates.

(I took a photo of the cooked and completed dish this time but instead of using packet sauce, I made my own and it was a colour that reminded me of something I’d rather not think about, and as it also contained sweetcorn, it looked like my dog had….. well, anyway, it was not at all photogenic.  🙂 So, sorry, but believe me, it tasted really great, and I have been asked for the recipe. )

Soupe de tomates et des carrottes

Right then, chappies…… here’s one for you.

Unadulterated.

Simply translated:

Find:

  • 4 tomatoes
  • 4 carrots
  • 4 potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • Fresh basil
  • Salt
  •  Pepper

Method:

  • Peel the veg (personally,  I wouldn’t bother as you’re gonna liquidise the whole thing anyway…… and carrot skin hold LOADS o’flavour….) and pop it in a saucepan.
  • Put in enough water (personally,  I’d use a veg stock, a chicken stock  or at last resort….. a couple of chicken OXOs!) to barely cover.
  • Cook the veg for 20 minutes.
  • Blitz the lot (it might be wit a stick blender, i might be in a standard worktop blender…… but just liquidise it all!
  • Taste and add salt & pepper to taste.
  • Tear up the fresh basil leaves and enjoy!

This is a recipe that has just today been published in  a French newspaper.  But without my muddifications……..

So simply ENJOY!

 

Mash with lush!

GETTING AROUND THE ‘SYNS’

Yesterday, whilst visiting good friends just a bit north and slightly inland of us, they reminded me of a nice way to enrich/enrichen/make more gorgeousified our old friend the ubiquitous mashed spud.  We were just knocking around some ideas about just about anything and everything and one of the couple…. we’ll call him Jason; cos that’s his name….. mentioned the old trick of putting an egg in mash.  I confess, I had forgotten this, and him mentioning it brought it back from deep in the depths of my brain – and it’s deep, believe me!, so I thought that I’d mention it here.  The thing that is really significant is that under Slimming World (to my mind the better system of planned weight loss), eggs are ‘free’.  Now, that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to pay for ’em, it means that they can be freely used – you can have as many as you like.  Of course, if you take it as completely correct, a diet of twelve dozen eggs in a week might cause you a bit of bother, and you’d probably have to do what the accountant does…..

…..work it out with a pencil…..

…… but eggs don’t have amy ‘syn value’, so popping an egg yolk into mash is a great idea.  Milk, cream, butter, yak fat, etc all have syns, but eggs don’t.

Now, I have a S/W expert to whom I’m going to mention this, but on the face of it, it looks like the old memory bank has been re-enlivened (or simply woked-up). – enjoy your more engorgeousened mash! (I love inventing words 🙂 )

Happiness….it seems that it’s right.  Ok, that’s for me next…….

 

Simple Roasted Red Pepper Sauce (so easy, it must be illegal!)

Honest, it’s so easy that there has to be a law against it.

  • Go into Lidl or Aldi (other budget supermarkets are available…..) and grab a jar of roasted red peppers off the shelf.
  • Pay the pittance that they cost
  • Open the jar and take out three peppers.  You’ll find that they’re all floppy, but then, if YOU’D been in that jar all that time, you wouldn’t be all that……  OK, I digress.
  • Drain them off, but don’t dry them.  Pop ’em into a food processor/liquidiser and blitz ’em.
  • Hey Presto/Abracadabra (other magic type exclamations are available….) and you have a wonderful sauce.
  • Add either balsamic vinegar or Worcestershire sauce to give it piquancy if you wish, but it’s hardly necessary.
  • Use it with white fish, chicken, seafood……

Bacon Jam?

I have just heard a spot on Radio Suffolk about Syms Pantry and their Bacon Jam.

syms

No, it’s not a sweet preserve flavoured with bacon, it’s a savoury jam or relish and all the piggy bits are from Suffolk.  It sounds deeelish!  There are lots of variations of the basic ‘jam’, so it looks quite a venture.

I must get me gills around some when back in Britland.  Meanwhile, you could beat me to it by visiting Hadleigh Show this weekend (20th May) or Suffolk Show in a couple of weeks time (end May, start June).  Alternatively, look up Syms Pantry, or go to http://www.symspantry.com for a look.

Worth a go, I reckon!