Memories of childhood are wrapped up with traditional dishes as Neil Forbes of Cafe St Honoré creates the perfect recipes for summer
Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, we all love it. The sunshine, the scent of barbecues wafting over your neighbours’ fences, and happy days eating al fresco with loved ones. At this time of year it is all about eating simple, light dishes.
And because we tend to eat less, what we do eat must be of impeccable quality. From the sausage on the barbeque to the strawberries in the Eton Mess, it just has to be British and it has to be seasonal. The dishes I have chosen this week truly reflect what I am eating just now.
This week’s herring recipe brought back memories of childhood holidays in a cottage on the East Coast where we would buy fish straight from the boat. Old fishermen mending their nets regaled us with stories, including the one where their great grandfathers said you could walk out to sea on the backs of the silver darlings as there were so many of them.
It was the last throes of a now vanished world, but the honesty and simplicity of the food should not disappear with it. Enjoy the recipes and keep the stock from the ham hock for soups and the leftover piccalilli in a jar to enjoy with cold meats.
4 herrings – filleted or butterflied
a handful of fine, jumbo and medium oatmeal
a large handful of Pink Fir Apple potatoes or Jersey Royals
large bunch of curly parsley, chopped
2-3 spring onions, chopped
sea salt and black pepper
teaspoon of capers
a drizzle of rapeseed oil
1 ham hock (soaked overnight)
1 carrot – peeled and halved
1 onion – peeled and halved
1 bay leaf
a few parsley stalks
½ a cauliflower
1 red pepper
4 small pickling onions
100ml cider vinegar
100g unrefined caster sugar
teaspoon English mustard powder
a handful of salad leaves
200g unrefined caster sugar
10 egg yolks
1 pint of double cream
2 leaves of gelatine
a handful of toasted, jumbo oats
200g heather honey
2 sticks of rhubarb – washed and chopped
a handful of raspberries
a few sweet cicely leaves (optional)
Ham Hock Salad with Piccalilli
I make my ham hock salad from Tamworth pigs from Peelham Farm in the Scottish Borders, smoked at a smokehouse in nearby Eyemouth. Cooked long and slow and served with a classic piccalilli and salad leaves, it’s the perfect summer starter. The Tamworth pig, or the ginger pig, is a particular favourite of mine; I use it a lot and absolutely love the fat-to-meat ratio and it’s organic too, giving it perfect credentials.
1 Soak the ham hock overnight, then rinse and put in a pot with the carrot, halved onion, bay leaf, peppercorns and parsley stalks. Bring to the boil and simmer for four hours.
2 To make the piccalilli, dice the cauliflower florets, courgette and red pepper and peel the pickling onions. Blanch in boiling water for 1 minute and then refresh in cold water.
3 In a small pot bring to the boil the vinegar, sugar, mustard powder and turmeric. When it boils add the cornflower mixed with a little water until it thickens. Add this mix to the drained blanched vegetables and season with salt. Allow to cool.
4 Remove the hock from the pot and flake the meat on to a plate. Garnish with salad leaves and parsley.
Herring in Oatmeal
Herring in oatmeal is a truly Scottish, traditional and sustainable classic. By dipping it in melted butter and oatmeal, you can eat all those delicious bones. We know that eating oily fish is nothing but good for you, and it’s said to stave off osteoporosis.
1 Scrub the potatoes and put in a pot of cold water, bring to the boil and simmer until just cooked. Drain and set to one side.
2 Meanwhile, melt the butter. Dip the herring in the melted butter, then cover with the mixed oats.
3 Season with salt.
4 Heat a non-stick frying pan with a little oil and fry the fillets until golden on each side, about 2 minutes each. Remove from the pan and put on to a plate.
5 Slice the potatoes and add to the pan with the remaining butter, capers, parsley and chopped spring onions.
6 Season with salt and pepper, toss, and then arrange with the herring. Top with sliced radish.
Honey and Oatmeal Parfait
Keeping with the oat theme, pudding is a honey and oat parfait. It sounds a bit posh but it’s really easy to do and great with rhubarb. I love seeing the glint in people’s eyes when they reminisce about dunking rhubarb into sugar at their gran’s house. It’s always fascinating sharing memories of a smell or a taste from childhood.
1 Line a terrine mould or an old ice-cream tub with cling film.
2 Bring the sugar and water to the boil and take to 121°c (use a probe thermometer) or soft ball (this is when you remove a teaspoon of the mixture, put it on a plate, allow it to cool then roll in between your fingers – you want a consistency like Blu-Tack).
3 Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks until light and frothy and mix into the sugar syrup, whisking all the time until cold.
4 In a clean bowl whisk the cream to the ribbon stage and fold into the egg yolk mix.
5 To make the accompanying coulis, boil the rhubarb and raspberries together with a good pinch of sugar until jammy. Pass through a sieve and chill.
6 Toast a handful of jumbo oats and add to the parfait mix with 2-3 large tablespoons of Scottish heather honey. Combine and pour into the prepared mould. Freeze for 12 hours or overnight and serve with the rhubarb and raspberry coulis and sweet cicely. Perfect on a summer evening.