Thursday, 9 June 2011

Mexican Wave...

I spent last weekend down on the coast of North Devon with three friends attempting to hone my woeful surfing skills.  Having only just begun we must burn up to (at least) four thousand times more energy than competent surfers, and so need something substantial to bolster us after a day spent flailing through the waves.  With this in mind, I decided to try out Bill Granger’s Fish Burrito recipe.  Fish Burritos, like surfing was something I've always loved the concept of but had never got around to trying (for shame!), I'm now just as hooked on both.

After a very long and reasonably tedious journey down the ghastly M4/M5 combo on Friday evening, (accompanied by an aggressive game of car trivial pursuit which I didn’t win) Saturday morning dawned blissfully warm and sunny.  We popped into Barnstaple town centre to get supplies for the gargantuan evening feast that was planned and discovered a fantastic little terrace of tiny
grocery shops (Butcher’s Row next to the town’s Saturday pannier market).  All in a tidy queue; butchers, bakers (all that was missing was the candlestick makers), green grocers, cheesemongers and my favourite – a great fishmongers -  stood side by side. 

 The recipe called for Snapper which wasn’t available but any firm fish would work in its stead.  Lengthy deliberation led to us deciding to puchase monkfish which was pricey but absolutely delicious, and turned out to be a great substitute well worth the extra pennies.

 After visiting the fish mongers, the cheesemongers,  the green grocers and a local convenience store to buy the tortillas, we were finally ready to start working up an appetite for dinner. 

Several debates about which beach to head to, and one emergency stop when (due to insufficient knowledge of fastening tie-on roof-racks) we almost lost the surfboard from the roof of the car later; we settled on Croyde.  It was low tide and a long walk from car park to water - the talk turned from grumbling how puny the waves looked to mounting dismay as it dawned on us just how huge they were up close... Despite small, learner-friendly two foot waves having been promised, these waves were four foot, powerful and way out of our comfort zone.  After hours of being continuously chewed up and spat out, we’d had a great time but the waves were getting bigger and we were utterly exhausted. 

Bruised, battered, and with at least half of the gulf-stream firmly wedged in my right ear, we called it a day and headed back to base for feeding time at the zoo.  Burritos have in hindsight been added to the list (along with good old spaghetti bolognaise), of meals not to eat on a first date.  No matter how strategic the stacking of the contents, there seems to be no getting away from overfilling.  In greed/hunger, I always end up covered from head to toe, somewhat like an over-excited two year old.  Obviously larger wraps are needed...

First cut the fish into strips and leave to marinade for 15 minutes with the coriander, paprika, cumin, chilli, salt, pepper, lime zest and olive oil.  The recipe suggests using a blender or food processor to process until the marinade ingredients form a paste, but not having a food processor, I just hand chopped them which worked fine.

Next wrap the tortillas in foil and pop them in the oven to warm (at 180˚C they will take approximately 10-15 minutes to warm – make sure the foil is tightly sealed or the tortillas will dry out and become brittle).  Shred a baby gem lettuce, then add the lime zest and juice to the sour cream (Bill’s recipe was for lime mayonnaise which I’d be interested to try next time), stir and keep chilled until needed.

Meanwhile make the cucumber salad (which was delightfully refreshing and a great addition for those who weren’t so keen on the spicy warmth of the chillies).  Chop the cucumber into small dice and toss with the cherry tomatoes, spring onions, coriander, lime juice, chilli, salt and sugar. 

Then make the salsa by mixing the cherry tomatoes, coriander, red onion, lime juice, salt and pepper, ground coriander, ground cumin and a dash of white wine vinegar.

Just before you’re ready to cook the fish (last minute!) make the guacamole, to prevent it turning brown from being left out for too long.  Mash the avocado and stir together with coriander, red onion, salt, tomatoes, lime juice and zest.

Finally cook the fish, by laying it in a single layer in a frying pan and cooking on a high heat a couple of minutes each side.

And then the best bit... the eating!  Predictably, in typical style a competition about who could make the prettiest burrito was suggested.  Unfortunately it transpired that none of us were particularly proficient at aesthetic tortilla stuffing but thankfully they tasted amazing none-the-less.  Post-dinner, the evening quickly progressed (or perhaps degenerated would be a more appropriate expression) to margarita hour... we used a ratio of two parts tequila to one part lime juice and one part cointreau, covering the rim of the glasses with fine milled salt.  Yikes!  Messy proportions methinks.  Add to that the fact that we made the error of trying this without crushed ice and it’s easy to see how the evening got away from us before we’d even left the house.  Next time, I would like to try a salt/sugar mix round the rim (as the pure salt was pretty overpowering), and mixing the ingredients in equal parts.  After just one (large) margarita we were on our way out with many a tequila shot to follow...

Luckily the best cure for tequila induced headaches is wedging yourself into a cold, sodden, wetsuit, and concentrating hard on not falling over, so our Sunday morning surf (in thankfully very forgiving waves this time) was much appreciated.  This unfortunately had to be followed by the LONG drive home in the rain, with Sunday traffic hindering us at every opportunity.

I’ve still got water in my ear now almost a week later and something definitely went wrong with the camera - having looked back on the photos, the waves look disappointingly tame and somehow we don’t look anywhere near as cool as we thought -but still there’s no denying it, I’m utterly addicted! 

Quantities to feed 4...

Lime Sour Cream:
1x 284ml tub of sour cream
1  lime, zest and juice
Salt and Pepper

The Fish:
50g finely chopped coriander
2 tsp paprika
1tsp cumin
1 red chilli finely chopped
1tsp salt
1 lime, zest
80ml olive oil
750g firm white fish

Cucumber Salad:
1 cucumber, peeled and deseeded
250g cherry tomatoes, halved
4 spring onions, sliced
A handful of coriander, roughly chopped
1 lime, juice
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
1tsp salt
1tsp caster sugar

2 ripe avocados
5-6 cherry tomatoes, finely chopped
¼ red onion finely chopped
1 lime, zest and juice
A handful of coriander, roughly chopped

250g cherry tomatoes
A handful of coriander, roughly chopped
½ red onion finely chopped
1 lime, juice
Salt and Pepper
½tsp ground coriander
½tsp ground cumin
Dash of white wine vinegar

I’ll let you decide who won the “prettiest” burrito competition, a hopeless effort all round I’m afraid (and this is with the “unsightly” ones edited out!).

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