Tuesday, 8 May 2007
Sea bass with samphire and pink fir potatos
It has been a beautiful spring in oxford so far, unseasonably warm even. But these last days have given way to clouds and jumpers.
Spring in Oxford means May Morning, which I, liking my duvet too much, didn't make it to this year. Its traditional to stay up all night to watch the choir sing at dawn from the top of Magdalen tower, and in previous years I've attempted this, only to fall asleep an hour before dawn, and have to drag myself out of bed on half an hour's sleep to watch the choir from a cold, half lit lawn. Its a beautiful, though very weird experince. I've always watched it from inside Magdalen, where there is an eerie, pre-dawn feeling, and various students walking around in various states of semi-sleep. A hush descends as the choir begin to sing, and then we all troupe back to breakfast, or bed. In the last few decades a pretty crazy 'tradition' has grown up where people outside the college jump from the tall bridge into the few inches of water in the river. This is supposedly traditional, but seems a pretty recent phenomenon, and has resulted in a lot of broken bones, the drop being substancial, and the water not deep enough to break the fall, and crowded with old shopping trolleys. I can only assume its some kind of link in to the idea of kissing the dew. In Edinburgh, where I used to live, people do this, with a distinct division between the morning hymns that take place on Arthurs Seat, and the all night revelry of Carleton Hill.
Anyway, all these seem traditions seem to add up to a time of rebirth, a cleansing, a lusty celebration of the new year.
Which brings me to dinner.
I found some lovely samphire in the market, perfect just steamed with lashings of butter. Samphire grows on shorelines and salt mudflats and has a distinctive fresh crisp flavour. It starts to be available in good fish mongers at about this time of year, or you may see it growing near the sea.
Unsurprisingly its lovely with fish, so I got some seabass fillets that looked good to go with it
Plus there were simply the sweetest little potatos in the Covered Market, they were all eyes and ears, and thin-skinned elongated beauty. Anyway, I boiled them whole, and then slugged them with plenty of butter, black pepper and the fleur de sel I love so much.
The samphire, like asparagus, just requires gentle steaming or a few minutes in a pan of boiling water. Make sure to wash any grit off it well first though, and also don't add salt to the pan, as it tends to be salty enough already. In fact I wish I'd soaked my longer, as it was a little too salty for my taste. The sea bass I just pan fried with butter and served the lot with wedges of lemon.
This is my entry for A Taste of Spring, held by What's For Lunch, Honey?