Wednesday 18 January 2012

Pip's Tips - Making The Most of Sardines & Goat Butter

There is a wintry episode in Wind in the Willows where Mole is ashamed to have brought the hospitable Ratty to his own humble home, with nothing to eat on a cold night. His sanguine chum, dependable as he is, immediately takes charge and summons every morsel left in the cupboards including a tin of sardines.

The fact is that fish tin well and Fish4Ever are leading the way with sustainably caught produce. During these winter months when the range of fresh produce is scarcer and the weather prevents our boats from returning such bountiful catches, we can do well to stock our cupboards with a few of these tasty supplies.

With the smaller varieties, like sardines and mackerel the bones are softened and the calcium and many of the essential fishy oils we need in our diet are preserved. The Fish4Ever range at Farm Direct also includes, Alaskan salmon and Skipjack tuna (notwithstanding the propensity of oily fish returning on the breath at inopportune moments!).

A tin of sardines served on wholemeal toast is one of the most complete and beneficial meals you can have. For a delightful lunch or light supper, open the can and save the oil separately. Season the fish in a bowl with lemon juice and freshly ground pepper. In my view reheating is unnecessary. Use (as always) the best quality bread you can buy and toast. I use the leftover oil to fry the bread or you can add it to a dressing. Serve with some wilted spinach or kale, finely chopped and stir-fried.

Another treat on the shelves at the moment is the goat butter from Yew Tree Farm. When Robert first gave me a sample, I wasn’t sure that the strong taste would work but in the right balance it really lends a unique flavour, particularly to pack a punch in vegetarian cooking. I recommend a squash pâté. They are in such plenty right now and need using up.

Throw a whole squash in the oven until it’s soft. Slice in half and get rid of the seeds. Melt a decent size lump of goat butter (be generous as you would be with a meat pâté and add garlic chopped fairly large until it starts to brown. Scoop out the squash flesh into the pan with black pepper, salt and lemon juice. Stir the whole into a soft paste, add some chopped fresh herb, something with a gentle flavour like tarragon or coriander and turn into a dish to set. Then just spread it on some more of that toast.


Philip’s new book Cooking without Recipes is available from Farm Direct at £7.99. Philip is currently cooking at Islington Barn every week Fridays-Sunday. See for more details.

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