Simple pleasures

Sea bass, celeriac rémoulade

Sea bass fillet, rubbed in turmeric, herb salt and seaweed, with celeriac, chilli and carrot remoulade 

Two weeks into September and I think we are just about surfacing from the shock of returning to real life after a leisurely August with the children attached to our legs 24 hours a day.

While it’s great they are back at school with their pals, the Stockholm syndrome we’ve developed for our captors has left the days quieter and although we are back full steam with work, I miss having them around all the time.

Still, it will be half term before we know it, then Christmas, then the summer holidays again, then all of a sudden they will have graduated from University. (Assuming of course we somehow manage to find a million dollars in a jacket pocket to pay for it).

But the end of summer brings my favourite season, and while I look happily toward autumn, it has this year somehow managed to bring a fruit fly colony into the house. I suppose this is what happens if you go away having forgot to empty the bin before going away for the week, but honestly, it’s ridiculous. It may be necessary to knock the whole place down and rebuild. I honestly don’t know where they keep on coming from. Roll on the cold, with hope that’ll do for them.

I’m also now two weeks into a no carb and no sugar month. And while dutifully making the family a weekly sourdough and other loaves, filling the Saturdays with the smell of freshly baking bread, I’m coping well. The sugar part seems remarkably easy for some reason, but I do really miss the bread. And I’m not counting the bowl of pasta I had at the River Cafe. I mean, you can’t go there and not have a pasta dish, but it has to be worth it as an exception, and that was most definitely worth it.

So by the end of September, hopefully feeling a little lighter around the middle I will be looking forward to tucking in to a fresh crusty loaf straight from the oven. In the meantime, pearl barley and chickpeas are filling in place of rice and pasta (gram flour flatbreads are excellent with dhal).

Last night’s supper was this incredibly quick and simple fish with celeriac rémoulade. A fresh and flavoursome dish that just feels summery enough to complement the fading evening light but with the earthy celeriac nodding a quick acknowledgement at the gold autumn knock tapping at the window. And the fish only takes four minutes to cook, which I’m pretty sure makes this even less work than a quick bowl of pasta on a frazzled Wednesday evening.

Ingredients for two
2 seabass fillets, scored lightly on the skin
1tsp turmeric powder
1tsp seaweed flakes (such as these)
A pinch of herb salt (or Maldon salt if you haven’t any)
1/2 small celeriac, peeled and cut into matchsticks, preferably on a mandoline, but you could grate them or spend half an hour finely slicing it if you are a masochist.
3tbsp mayonnaise, homemade the usual way preferable, but if not Delouis is a good one
2tbsp Dijon mustard
1 red chilli, sliced
Japanese pepper to season (I like this for its slightly lemony flavour. You can buy it online here)
Maldon salt (or similar) to season
Juice of half a lemon
1tbsp yuzu juice (optional)
1tsp tarragon vinegar (Make your own by sticking sprigs in a bottle of cider vinegar)
1tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
1tbsp chopped young thyme leaves
A handful of pancetta, cooked in a frying pan until crisp, keep the rendered fat in the pan for cooking the fish
A little fresh parsley to finish

Mix together the rémoulade ingredients and leave to sit for half an hour. Don’t make it too far ahead or it will be soggy and claggy like a mouthful of wet paper.
Heat the pan you cooked the bacon in until nice and hot but not smoking. Season the fish all over with the turmeric, seaweed and salt then gently lay them into the pan skin-side down so they crackle and spit. Leave for a couple of minutes until the skin is golden and crisp then gently flip them over and turn the heat off.
Leave to cook in the pan for another minute or two while you put the remoulade onto plates.
Top with the fish and serve straight away with a sprinkle of parsley and a sharply dressed butterhead salad.

This week:
: Arena – ‘Death on the Staircase’ on BBC iPlayer. Amazing documentary about a man on trial for the murder of his wife. Gripping. Also started series two of ‘Top of the Lake’ which you have to say in an Irish accent.
Saw: Giacometti at Tate Modern. Or “those thin spindly people?” as Bee asked. Great to see so much of it all in the same rooms. Even if they all do look the same and his paintings all look like he’s in charge of passport photography. Also, the Rothko room. I remember, back in the mists of time when I was an Art student being able to sit in that room, then at the original Tate gallery, alone and in silence. This time it was packed; a disappointment. I think they are best seen on your own.
Read: Finished ‘Tale of Two cities. God that was boring. Started ‘Death in the Olive Grove’ an Italian crime novel set in the ’60s, excellent, well written with full characters and a welcome relief from the sludge that was Dickens.
Ate: River Café. Faultless, if eye-wateringly expensive. Chit Chaat Chai, fun and bustling Indian street food in a restaurant.  (‘Railway’ curry, pani puri, okra fries, daal, chilli wings)
Drank: White Darjeeling snowbud from Vahdam company. Delicate and rather calming.
Listened: The Allman Brothers, ‘In Memory of Elizabeth Reed’. The War on Drugs ‘Lost in the Dream’, The Doors ‘The Crystal Ship’.

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