Sunday, April 7, 2013

California Dreamin': Day 7

Day 7 

Then: 220 pounds (15 stone 10 pounds) 
Now: 212 pounds (15 stone 2 pounds)
Lost: 8 pounds 

Well, that wasn't a total disaster. After the fish pie, dessert and all that champagne, wine and brandy at last night's forbidden dinner party, I thought I'd have to start my diet all over again. In fact, I weighed the same as I had the previous morning. 8 pounds in 6 days is not as good as 8 pounds in 5 days, but I'm still impressed with the results.

I guess my body is in diet mode. Or maybe there's a delayed reaction and I'll have problems tomorrow. Today we're back on the rules in earnest. If I've kept the weight stable, I'm going to add a new rule to our list:

Rule 6:  You are allowed one completely illegal meal, and only one, in the first week.  But don't do it again.

This morning, a late brunch - and a wonderful concoction by Jo. She calls it California Dreamin'

California Dreamin'

It's basically marinated tofu in garlic and chilli sauce. It manages to be spicy and sweet at the same time. 

She chopped 1 red pepper, 1 green chili (the Waitrose "not too hot, not too mild" type) and 2 shallots. These were sauteed in a wok with peanut oil. She added tofu and cooked it for 6 minutes. 

She then added 1 drained tin of Epicure organic black beans, a tiny sprinkling of granulated garlic powder, some coriander, and 6 hot and sweet Mexican red japapenos. 

These jalapenos are the secret ingredient and make it such a special dish.  They come in a jar from the Discovery brand. They are outstanding, with their mix of hot and sweet flavours. A generous sprinkling of black pepper, mixed together and heated through, and, with sliced avocado on top, it made a perfect Sunday brunch. 

Later in the day, after I watched Newcastle beat Fulham at St James' Park, I cooked another very fast supper. This time, it was baked halibut with seared scallops with a sauce vierge, and curly kale with shallots and lemon zest. 

Baked halibut with sauce vierge, seared scallops and kale with lemon

Here's how I make my sauce vierge: I put about 85ml olive oil in a small pan, and gently warm it. Then I add 25ml lemon juice and combine them off the heat.

Into this warm sauce I add one teaspoonful of coriander seeds crushed in a pestle and mortar, and about 10 julienned basil leaves. I leave these to soak, making sure the pan is on a warm, unlit stove, so it keeps above room temperature, for about five minutes, or as long as it takes the fish to cook. Just before serving I add some tiny cubes of tomato, with the skin and seeds removed, and some finely sliced olives (just 3 or 4) and about 8 good quality small capers. Stirred around, it makes a great warm sauce for any fish.  

Last night I cooked the scallops last and very fast, in the oil and juices left in the halibut pan.  They quickly seared, and were the stars of the meal.

The kale was made by boiling it for 6 minutes (until the green just starts to enter the water), and then sauteeing it fast in a pan in which you've already sweated a single shallot and a few thinly sliced garlic gloves. You add lemon zest strips, made with a zester, and add plenty of pepper once the kale is perfectly tender.  

The secret of this dish is the quality and freshness of the wild halibut - it was a very large fish landed from the trawler in North Shields on Thursday and I had the fishmonger* slice it across its width, and about an inch wide as I wanted it to cover the plate - you could have used a square piece as well, but it was important that it was thick so it kept its moisture. Moisture is everything with halibut and, being unable to flour it because of the diet, I seared the skin first, then very quickly turned the three other sides in the hot pan before sticking it, side down, in a hot oven for less time than it took to prepare the sauce, which was no time at all. 

Normally I cook halibut by flouring it, searing in sage butter and baking, but the butter permeates the fish, and that's strictly forbidden on this diet.  Only last week I cooked some beautiful halibut steaks for a dinner party at home with some lightly curried mussels, finished with a quantity of creme fraiche.  That was extraordinary.  But tonight's attempt wasn't at all bad, and totally legal for our rather demanding, but effective diet. At least I hope it's effective:  let's see what tomorrow's weigh-in brings. 

*Sadly Paul the fishmonger told me he was closing down next month.  A tragedy for him and for me.  I already travel 20 miles for proper fresh fish, now I'll have to go another 10 in future.  Incidentally, fish from Waitrose, or Morrisons, or Gelsons if you're reading this in America, doesn't count as fresh in my book.  Fresh means brought from the fishing boat that morning.  See my tirade in this week's Blog From The North.

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