This post is part of the Vocal Cooks Collaborative.
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Previous Recipe: Scotch Egg
You can read part 1 here: Berry sauce for Red Meat
When cooking for large groups in a semi-buffet setting, the ideal is to have at least one thing per course that everyone can eat. In more technical terms, that means at least one carb, one protein, and one allergy-friendly* dish.
*Booking forms with the opportunity to list any allergies or intolerances are your friend here. It also means that anyone who shows up on the day and demands a personalised menu can be justifiably told to go jump.
For the Viking-themes second course, I had roast meat with berry sauce, roast vegetables, a leafy greens pottage and a fish stew.
I'd been of two minds about the fish, since most people are happy with a roast and a cook should always keep within a budget. However, we had a number of pescatarians, vegetarians and dairy intolerances, and the ingredients were largely inexpensive, so I decided to do a smaller serving of fish, just in case.
The serving size was a mistake.
It turned out incredibly popular, with people lurking for a second helping before we'd finished dishing out the first, and we wound up scraping the pot to feed the last person in line.
Lesson learned: never assume that someone won't like a dish. Besides, starving university students will eat anything, and you can bribe them to wash pots in exchange for leftovers.
Fish in Ale
Source: “An Early Meal – a Viking Age cookbook and culinary odyssey”
Type of dish: Meat (or can be adapted as Stew)
150g wild leek or scallions
1 tbsp salted butter
250ml non/low-hopped ale
1 whole fish (eg. zander, perch or pike) approx. 600g
2 tbsp bread crumbs
1) Gut and clean the fish
2) Chop the leek and saute it in the butter
3) Add the ale and bring to a boil
4) Put in the fish and let it simmer with the ale, about 30 minutes under a lid
5) Take out the fish and place on a serving platter
6) Sieve the sauce in order to get rid of scales etc.
7) Thicken the sauce with some breadcrumbs
8) Pour the sauce over the fish
- Only buy the whole fish if you have the first clue what you're doing in terms of cleaning and gutting. Otherwise, fish markets and seafood shops will have the appropriate fish pre-cleaned and filleted. Your guests will not complain about not having to pick around bones.
- If serving this dish by itself, rather than part of a larger feast, mashed turnips are a good accompaniment.
- Zander, bream, herring, perch and pike were common in Birka, where this recipe originates. It’s harder to find fresh Scandanavian-local fish in Australia, and preserved ones are too pricy to buy in bulk for more than half a dozen people, but it’s likely that any white-flesh fish will do. I used basa fillets, mostly because they were on sale in bulk.
- While using fillets will cut down on the cooking time, it’s also harder to make them stay in one piece, resulting in a more stew-like composition. Use a frying pan or roasting dish instead of a pot if this is a concern.
- As with the berry sauce, this is another dish where it’s a good idea to have a friend that brews. Commercial non-hopped ales are almost universally artisan, and ridiculously expensive. Most ‘summer sour’ ales are low-hopped, however, and worked well. Ask your local bottle shop for assistance, and ignore the offended looks they give you.
- I used a single 375ml can to 8 fillets, so feel free to play around with the ale-to-fish ratio
"Can I have seconds? Or your hand in marriage?" (Answers: "Only after everyone else has had firsts, and no.")
"How did you make fish taste so good?"