Saturday, 1 October 2011

Lunch with Friends

Every so often some friends and myself meet up on a Friday afternoon, each taking it turns on picking a restaurant. Yesterday (Friday 30 September) we were struggling to find a restaurant (how hard can it be in living in London? ). Also one of my friends said he didn't fancy sitting in a restaurant on such a beautiful day and decided that he would cook so we could sit in the garden and enjoy the weather. With two bottles of chilled rose in hand, a salt cod with chickpea and spinach dish, I schlepped my carcass down to Sydenham.

When I arrived, my friend took me through what he was preparing, oysters to start, followed by garlic and chilli grilled king prawns, and finally stuffed gilt-head bream. I'd had sea bream before but not gilt-head, which was served with a variety of salads. The menu was perfect for an unseasonably hot and sunny day.

The oysters were large and a struggle to swallow whole, but a small issue when you bite into the silky flesh and you get that great flavour of the sea. I also got a big hit of heat from the large amount of Tabasco I'd put in. With my palate still recovering from the wonderful oysters, my friend cooked the king prawns perfectly, they where firm but moist, and the chilli and the garlic was an added bonus without being overpowering. He put the excess oil, from the pan, into some mayonnaise for a dipping sauce, which is not something I'd think of doing as I'm not a fan of mayonnaise, but it was tasty.

The fishmonger had stuffed the bream with lemon, garlic and parsley mixed in with some semolina and had tied them up so the stuffing would not fall out. As the fish had been tied we decided that we should BBQ them, who would have thought that we could have a BBQ on the last day of September. In the garden there is a very large rosemary bush, so before we put the fish on the BBQ we threw some on the hot coals. The aroma of the rosemary permeated the garden and into the sizzling fish. After about 15 minutes of cooking we put the fish onto the plates. The fish skin had crisped really well, and like the prawns, were firm and moist. Problem was with the stuffing, the garlic hadn't cooked completely and so was very strong, it was actually too overpowering, which was a shame. He served the fish with an oven baked beetroot, with feta and toasted hazelnuts in extra vigin olive oil. Another salad of home grown roasted cherry tomatoes and green salad, went perfectly with the fish.

It was one of the best meals I had had in a long time. Who needs to go to restaurants, when simple food can be so cooked so easily and so well? Although the head chef was a little lax, he had to be brought into hand ;-)

My friend also has a fox that lives at the bottom of his garden, so the left over food and fish bones didn't get wasted, as we watched the fox eagerly eating it all.

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