Monday, 4 June 2007
God's Own Country....
I know that everybody has their own God's country. After spending 14 years in Yorkshire, I've had it drummed into me that the land of the White Rose is the land that nobody can compete with. As much as I love the rolling countryside of Yorkshire, and will always class it as my 2nd home, nothing can compare to the rugged seascape of Northumberland. My God's country.
I've just returned from a short break in Northumberland, and although it is only a 30 minute drive to our base in Amble, it is like being on holiday in another area. The coastline up here is stunning; from the surreal setting of the finest castle in England, Bamburgh Castle, to the quaint and postcard setting of Craster. Every nook and cranny is a delight, and I urge anybody who has not visited the North East coast to take a little trip up here to see what all the fuss is I'm making.
Craster itself was once a huge herring fishing industry, one that has sadly diminished due to over-fishing. But even more famous are the smoking houses of Craster, still smoking away and still producing a superb and subtle smoked herring or 'kipper'. Every time I visit Craster I do two things; first I pop into The Jolly Fisherman for a crab sandwich and a bowl of crab, cream and whisky soup (and a pint of course). Then I walk over the road to the smoke shop and buy a few kippers and a bag of cockles for the trip home.
A visit yesterday had my head brimming with recipe ideas. Beautiful plump whelks were crying for some creativity, and the freshly shelled cockles were in need of more than the ubiquitous douse in vinegar. With a handful of broad beans and asparagus waiting for me back home, I decided that a simple warm seafood salad teaming the best of the Northumbrian seafood with the best of the summer vegetables was the answer. It was superb, with smoky fish and chewy flavour packed whelks contrasting perfectly with a sharp fruity dressing and the fresh vegetables.
So next time you describe your own God's country and nobody is listening, perhaps embellish it with a tale of local food produce and be proud and true. I know I am. Proud to be a Geordie!
Northumberland Sea Food and Summer Vegetable Salad
For the dressing
1tbs cider vinegar
2tbs rapeseed oil
Fresh chives, chopped
Salt and pepper
8 New potatoes
2 tbs Rapeseed oil
A small bunch of asparagus
12 Broad bean pods, shelled
1 Craster kipper, flaked
A small tub of whelks
A small tub of cockles
Fresh chives, chopped
1 - Make your dressing. Put the cider in a pan and bring to the boil. Reduce by two thirds. Place into a bowl, allow to cool, then whisk in the other ingredients. Season to taste.
2 - Boil the new potatoes. Half, then heat a frying pan with the rapeseed oil and place the potatoes in cut side down. Cook until golden and crispy then turn and cook for a further 2 minutes. Season.
3 - Bring a pan of water to the boil and add the shelled broad beans and asparagus. Cook for 2 minutes then drain.
4 - Heat the dressing in a pan and add the vegetables. Remove from the heat and add the cockles, whelks and kipper flakes. Combine thoroughly.
5 - Place the new potatoes on a plate and dress with the warm seafood salad. Sprinkle with the fresh chives.