Sunday, 8 November 2009

Fishy Rice

Not so unusually these days, but perhaps still worthy of remark, I do all the cooking in our family (and I do mean all -- I cook evening meals six or seven nights a week, plus lunches at weekends for anyone too idle to make their own). When the kids were younger, this would often mean two meals every night, and occasionally three, as someone had usually decided that day that they didn't like rice / pasta / potatoes any more. As it was a rare meal that pleased more than three out of four, I have learned to cook a last-minute omelette or operate a grill whilst feeding myself with the other hand.

I'm not a good cook, understand, or even particularly enthusiastic; it's just that I can be bothered, and the Prof can't. After over 15 years of family cooking I have evolved a repetitive menu of set meals which I can cook on autopilot and with which, no doubt, I have dulled the palette and gustatory curiosity of my children. I'm as predictable as a school canteen: if it's Friday, it must be toad in the hole. In that respect, I resemble 80% of traditional Mums. Though my own mother was a deeply unenthusiastic cook, who relied on staples like frozen burgers, instant mashed potato and tinned and frozen vegetables to get us through the week. By comparison, I'm Nigel Slater.

Just to, um, vary the blog diet a bit, I thought I'd pass on a store-cupboard recipe I made up years ago in a tight spot, and have cooked ever since. It's called "fishy rice", because that's what it is.


1 tin of mackerel in oil
Long grain white rice (approx. 300 ml by vol. *)
1 heaped teaspoonful of Marigold Swiss Vegetable bouillon powder (accept no substitutes) in 450 ml of boiling water
1 onion, chopped
[optional] 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
half a red pepper, chopped
half a green pepper, chopped
two or three mushrooms, chopped
[optional] a handful of shredded white cabbage, or some frozen peas
Tomato puree
Jamaican hot pepper sauce
Salt & pepper
Random herbs (a.k.a "mixed herbs")

* I have found that one of those small Chinese tea bowls contains enough rice for one person, and contains roughly 100 ml, which makes the "one and half times by volume" calculation for the water very easy.

Pour all the oil from the tin of mackerel into a heavy bottomed saucepan. Heat the oil gently, and fry the onion and garlic until soft. Add the random herbs, salt and pepper, and the other vegetables and stir fry until you're bored with it.

Add the mackerel, breaking it up into chunks and stirring it in with your favourite spatula. If it's getting too dry, add a little olive oil. Add the rice, and stir to coat the rice with oil. Add a few good dashes of hot pepper sauce.

Pour in the vegetable stock -- this should make a wonderful sizzling sound. Stir, adding a good squeeze of tomato puree -- about 10 cm from a tube. Bring to the boil, then cover the pan with a square of aluminium foil, and press the pan lid into it to give a good tight seal. Reduce heat to the lowest you can possibly manage, and cook for 20 minutes.

Turn off the heat, and leave to stand for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and foil, stir and serve. It ain't pretty, but if you get it right it's very tasty. The secret ingredient is the oil from the tin, obviously (please don't tell me about mercury poisoning, etc.). I can report that if, under stress, you forget to put the rice in, it tastes quite good anyway with pasta. Serves two greedy adults plus two picky children.


Gavin McL said...

Your kids are lucky, my mum worked on Saturdays and Dad had to prepare lunch. Now when he turned his mind to it he was a superb cook, his Croissants made from scratch were a highlight of Christmas morning. But that first Saturday he cooked or heated up baked beans and some sausage rolls. He asked "did you like that?" "yes" we all said, "Ok good" he said. The next 8 years every Saturday we had baked beans and sausage rolls. The smell of BB's has that Proustian effect on me taking me straight back to childhood. By the way liked the photo of the fossil rock, tried taking something similar myself whilst wandering round the Foreign Office, a disaster.

Mike C. said...


The question with baked beans is "what brand"? Beans figured heavily in my mother's cuisine, too, and I became a connoisseur -- I would eat nothing but Heinz, and could tell Crosse & Blackwell or "own brand" beans even if -- as she tried on one occasion -- they were served from an old Heinz tin.

The campus is full of these polished slabs of fossiliferous marble -- in this case it was the sun-faded blu-tack that got my attention. How come you're allowed to wander round the Foreign Office? (and do mail me your address if you'd like a card).


Kent Wiley said...

Yeah, the "fossiliferous marble" is pretty cool. Is this locally mined material? How big are the slabs?

Gavin McL said...

It was nearly always Heinz, though I do remember the odd tin of crosse & blackwell. Though I'm not the connoisseur that you obviously are I could tell the difference.

One of the back stairs at the FCO has stone from all over the UK making it up and as love fossils and rocks I tried a few photos but the polished surfaces foxed me.

My wife works at the FCO and I visited with the kids on a family day.

It was great fun, the youngest crawling round the PPS's office and messing around with his table decorations

Mike C. said...

Kent, not local, but it might be Portland marble from Dorset, just down the coast. However, the embedded fauna rather reminds me of those Moroccan slabs you see at fossil fairs. Now you've raised the issue, I need to find out! Size-wise, this shot covers about 8" x10", I'd guess -- but the entire side of several four-storey blocks are clad with slabs about 4 or 5 feet square!

Gavin, these are not highly polished and approximate an 18% grey surface -- tailor-made for light metering! I, too, love fossils -- it still gives me enormous pleasure to pick over a quarry (we found a wonderful source of trilobites on a farm near Llandrindod Wells). In fact, my self-publishing imprint is named "Shepherd's Crown" after my favourite fossil -- it's the Hertfordshire name for the sea urchins that pop up in fields and gardens.