The festive period (Part I: Billingsgate market trip)
Christmas has passed and here it is: my little break between Christmas and New Year. Now I can take time to pen down what we cooked and savoured.
In my bicultural family the Father Christmas comes on Christmas eve and the Russian variant of Father Christmas (Father Frost) comes at midnight of the New Years eve. So we sit down twice to enjoy an opulent meal. The German Christmas meal is served on Christmas eve at a normal dinner time. My Russian relatives expect the New Year's meal to be served around midnight. This Christmas we decided that instead of one big menu on the Christmas eve we will turn the whole Christmas period into a continuous festive meal. Thus, minimising the stress of preparing one large meal while actually trying to enjoy Christmas celebrations by spreading cooking and eating over a couple of days.
The preparations started with a trip to the Billingsgate market.
I embarked on a trip to Billingsgate market to stock on fish and shellfish on Saturday 21.12. I arrived around 5:30 - just to realise that the market is already full to the brim.
The atmosphere was heated, with lots of policemen around ready to restore law and order if needed. On the way from a remote parking space appointed (normally I park straight in front of the main entrance) somebody was fearlessly defending a piece of fish from a fervent contender, inside was not better - agitated customers were ardently bargaining with the sellers seeing how the prices have gone up quite a lot over the Christmas period. The prices for posh ingredients (lobster, prawns), but also also carp (a fish, which I have never really understood) surged by half (later on I rang my local fishmongers to see that their prices went up by the same amount).
Nevertheless, some of the fish, not very popular choice for Christmas, but nonetheless, very good, were as low as always.
So I got a combination of a posh and not so posh ingredients (some lobsters, to treat my mother-in-law, some scallops for the dehydration experiment and 6 large gurnard, who at 2 GBP a kg were hard to resist.) I was unable to carry more - and the menu started to crystallise in my head:
Lobsters were to be served with a shellfish risotto, and shellfish sauce (there was still some langoustine butter lurking in the freezer, waiting to be used).
Scallops were to be dehydrated and then hydrated again to create an a la viajante starter
Gurnard were to be served with gnocchi and sage butter.
The recipes to follow...