Soused, Pickled, cured & fermented
Martin Simcock is the owner and head chef at Bread and Flowers, a catering company founded on a warm, creative, social style of cooking that complements relaxed and joyful celebrations.
MARCH is a milestone month, breaking the shackles of winter and unleashing British summer time upon us once again. It’s alive with competition at the Boat Race and Crufts and full of celebration, with International Women’s Day, the Spring Equinox and the start of the Easter Holidays. So what a great opportunity to get completely soused and pickled, in a culinary sort of way that is.
With a fierce frost this morning, we’re clearly not going to be harvesting anything shortly, so it’s a perfect time to experiment with some curing, fermenting, pickling and sousing, and it’s a great way to jazz up some winter staples. It’s all a bit Scandinavian which has been super trendy for some time now, but it has many roots in the classic British kitchen of yesteryear.
For beetroot fans, of which I am group leader, try beetroot cured salmon, or brown trout, with beetroot pickled eggs and pickled beetroot cubes. Look to Diana Henry, Nathan Outlaw or the Ethicurean for inspiration, and then add your own mix to the recipes. Curing fish couldn’t be easier or more rewarding. Salt, caster sugar, beetroot, fennel seed, tarragon, coriander seeds, star anise, black pepper, blitz it all up and cover the fish, keep it in the fridge for two to four days, wipe down, slice and serve with horseradish cream (homemade, it’s dead easy) on some of Henderson’s delicious toasted sourdough bread. It’s fantastic for breakfast with scrambled eggs cooked with butter, nutmeg and tarragon.
Also try Kimchi, another top trend dish from last year. It’s a kind of Korean coleslaw which ferments in the fridge for a couple of weeks, whilst continually getting funkier the longer you leave it. It’s another great dish to stamp your individuality on, like what the home brewer does to his (or her) precious beer. Cabbage could be savoy, but Chinese works really well, finely julienned carrots, brown shrimp, salt, sugar, garlic, fresh ginger, fish sauce, soy sauce and spring onion. Massage it all together and just wait for great results; a little goes a long way and accompanies all sorts of cold cuts. You can find it in the Momofuku cook book, or online.
Savour this month as an amuse bouche served just before the carnival of Spring.Sousing has many definitions, but last weekend we did a really simple sweet Sea Bass fillet, pan fried for a couple of minutes and served with fennel, fat slices of red peppers, carrots and spring onions, all oven roasted, then tossed in a sousing liquor of white wine, wine vinegar, sugar, salt (you can see the theme here) with fresh dill and tarragon to sweeten it even more, then roasted again and served together as a seasonal sing song of flavours.