Monthly Archives: October 2012
During my trip to Nigeria I was asked to produce recipes that were simple to produce using local ingredients, the Croker is a great fish similar to Sea Bass or Bream, the presentation may seem a little dated but this is what they like.
Pan Fried Croker with Braised Yam, Poached Carrots and a Bisque Sauce
For the Fish:- Fillet the fish removing all the bones and trimming the belly ( keep this and the bones for the sauce) Cut a piece that is 150g, make incisions in the skin, dip the skin in seasoned flour and pat off the excess. Heat a frying pan and add a little oil, fry the fish skin side down, season the flesh with salt and pepper. Fry for 3-4 minutes then turn over and fry for 3 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and allow the fish to rest for 2-3 minutes.
Braised Yam:- Wash a yam well, removing the excess dirt, remove the skin and cut into 1.5cm slices, and season.Heat a large pan over a medium to high heat and add some oil and butter, fry the slices of Yam on both sides till golden in colour, place in a deep tray and cover with vegetable stock, cover and cook in the over for 30-40 minutes then remove. To re-heat take a slice of yam per order and place in a tray, cover with some stock and heat in the oven for 15 minutes.
Poached Carrots:- Wash and peel the carrots and slice lengthways, place in a saucepan with water, salt, sugar and a ¼ of an orange, bring to the boil and reduce the heat to a simmer, cook for 10 minutes, remove and chill. Re-heat with the yam slices.
Bisque Sauce:- In a large sauce pan put all the chopped up fish trimmings and bones with crushed prawn shells, add some garlic and chillies, chopped carrots, onions and celery, add a little vegetable oil and fry over a high heat for at least 15 minutes, add 2 table spoons of tomato paste and cook for a further 3 minutes stirring constantly. Now add at least 500g of roughly chopped tomatoes and a litre of boiling water, place a little dried thyme and a couple of bayleaves, bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook for 40 minutes. Place a little amount at a time in the food processor and liquidise then strain through a sieve into a clean pot. Check the seasoning and add a little brandy, if it needs thickening add a little cornflour with white wine mixed with it.
Prepare the Squid by removing the wings and tentacles then washing thoroughly, scrape away any membrane and cut into 3. Make light cross hatch incisions and rub on a little oil and season with pepper. Heat a frying pan over a high heat.
To make the Melon Salsa, skin the melon and cut into 1cm dice, place in a bowl and add a spoonful of sweet chilli sauce.
When the pan is hot add the squid and press down, fry for 1 minute and turn over then fry for a further minute. Remove the pan from the heat and add a tea spoon of chilli oil, toss the squid in it.
Place the melon salsa on the plate with a salad garnish. Slice the squid into strips and lay over the top of the salsa and serve. Spoon over any juices from the pan.
The chilli oil is equal amounts of chillies, garlic & ginger liquidised with vegetable oil and a little sesame oil.
Just over a month ago I was approached by a relative of one of my clients to go out to Lagos in Nigeria to see if I could help train the chefs at 3 locations. I put together a sample menu after looking at their menus and sent them off, the client was duly impressed. My visa applied for and collected before I knew it I was sitting in terminal 4 Heathrow awaiting my Arik flight to Lagos. I relaxed in my Business Class cubicle with a medicinal G & T ( The tonic contains quinine which is good for malaria) After a quick sleep the flight touched down and I was cleared through customs with the help of a local policeman ( friend of the client) He guided me to my waiting driver complete with an AK47 to drive me to Victoria Island.
After a short nap and shower my new driver arrived at the hotel to take me to the restaurant. All the restaurants on the Island are heavily gated, this is for a multitude of reasons, from making it exclusive to ensuring it doesn’t get robbed, they are all guarded by security.
I was introduced to the staff at a formal meeting and the plan for the week was laid out, the HR talk was more of a staff bollocking and to listen up to what I was going to teach them.
After initial observation it was straight into whites, the kitchen had no “Brigade” structure so it was like the Nigerian Keystone Cops. Even after splitting the chefs into their areas and tasks they inevitably wandered back into their old places, this was going to be difficult.
Cooking techniques took on 1 of 2 methods, boiled or fried. My 1st job was to get the Head Chef on my wavelength and to understand why a kitchen is split into sections, each responsible for their own mise-en-place and bringing their part to the pass on time ( he must have thought I was speaking Japanese, because all he did was cock his head to one side with a blank expression).
The biggest challenge was how to get them to understand the importance of preparation and keeping it constant so they are not leaving customers waiting for an hour for their meals and not running out. By working in each section with the chefs it was a real uphill challenge that I thought would never work, but come last Thursday I had the eureka moment when it all just fell into place.
In amongst this challenge I was also trying to introduce a specials menu, to show different methods and using up ingredients that were not shifting as fast as others, each new dish was photographed and the recipe attached with a simple method.
The week was a long one and as I said my goodbyes on Friday evening I realised it was working they all told me they would be doing this and that and they were proud of their work and how to present food with pride.
The plan is to return in a couple of months time and do follow up training. My girlfriend and sister will accompany me so we can cover as many corners as possible, they will concentrate on front of house and taking the business forward. This simple Seared Mackerel with a Chilli Melon Salsa was one of the dishes I showed the chefs how to prepare, cook and serve in minutes.