Tag Archives: cheese

Young’s Mediterranean Fish Bake

A load of Pollocks.

It’s been a while since I actually cooked anything on here, I know.
Basically it’s because last Monday I picked up a Nintendo Wii from Virgin Megastore (or whatever they’re called now.. zazzi, vazzi, something like that) and I’ve spent the best part of the last week pulling muscles getting overly enthusiastic at Wii Sports Boxing, shooting angry villagers in Resident Evil 4, and saving lives of fictional characters in Trauma Center: Second Opinion. I’ve never been much of a gamer, but the motion detection, angle detection, wirelessness..etc of it all appeals to me. Plus it’s a lot cheaper than an xbox360/ps3, and really tiny. About the size of a dvd/cd writer in a standard pc. Or for you non-geeks out there – imagine three standard-sized dvd cases on top of each other.

A friend came over Sunday night to have a go with one for the first time, and he’s a guy very much into his gaming. He seems to have had every console created at some point of another (and still has most of them littered around).
But put him in front of a Wii and he’s just as confused as the rest of the world.
You’ll be playing baseball and he asks questions like “which button do you press to throw the ball?”. Answer: none – just throw the remote as if it were a ball (but don’t let go of it).
Having spent years getting my ass kicked at every game he had, its interesting to see him confused at what I think is a much easier system than trying to remember combinations of buttons. It’s also amusing to hear him complain about how a kind of wireless mouse pointer should really be a D-pad. Whatever a D-pad is.

Anyway, back to food.

As mentioned – I’ve planned nothing in the past week, so tonight would have been another pie and chips. However, I stopped off for some toilet roll in Tescos on my way home on Monday, and grabbed some food products at the same time. Biscuits, croissants, some frozen oven chips, and I was trying to think what to have for tea, when I happened upon the frozen chicken/beef/fish aisle.

I’ve never been sure I like fish. For years I definitely didn’t like fish. The look, the fact that its about the only meat sold with the eyes still in it, the smell – there was something about it I just didn’t like.
Even as far as fish-fingers – I didn’t really like them. I ate them as a very young child apparently, but somewhen in between primary school and 18 years old, I had decided I didn’t like fish of any type.
I used to eat a lot of fish cakes at my parents’ house. But fish-cakes being fish-cakes, there’s not a lot of anything in them. Certainly not much fish – they’re mostly potato and batter/breadcrumbs. That said, I don’t really like mashed potato on its own either.

I have distant memories from when I was very young, of my gran on my mum’s side cooking some sort of fish that smelt absolutely revolting. Something a weird yellowy colour that may have put me off for years to come.

Anyway, at some point between leaving college and now, I discovered these Birds Eye cod fillet things – essentially pieces of cod in batter. Like a kind of adult-version of fish fingers. Having decided I quite like them again after all, I started about having things with them. The obvious choice is chips. Then I added baked beans.
I later switched from chips to new potatoes, then tried to find some sort of sauce to go with it. Brown sauce didn’t work, nor barbeque. Gravy just seems like it would be wrong.
I looked around Tescos some weeks ago to try and find something to go with it. There is a big collection of Schwartz sauces that go with fish. However, they’re all in non-resealable packets and serve 4-6. Unless I starve myself for a couple of days first, that seems a bit of a waste to me.

So Monday night I picked up something in Tescos that already has sauce with it. How’s that for a stroke of genius.
So product for dinner tonight is: Young’s Mediterranean Fish Bake.

It is described on the box as “wild Alaskan pollock fillets in a tangy mediterranean sauce made with red peppers and creme fraiche, topped with a sprinkling of cheddar cheese”. It’s also got tomatoes in it.
I’ve never heard of a fish called a “pollock” before, and on the back it says “Alaskan Pollock is from the same family of fish as cod. It’s white flesh has a firm, smooth texture and a delicate, slightly sweet flavour.”
I’ve never thought of fish as having families before – just referred to them all as “fish”. I guess that particular family is cashing in on the life insurance payout now anyway.

It doesn’t say how many it serves. My sister pointed out to me recently that you can work this out, because on it somewhere it will say “a quarter of a pack contains” or “half a pack contains” however much salt, fat, etc, and this is frequently used to show one person’s share.
I don’t watch these markers on food products a lot, but it is slightly worrying that half a pack contains 21.7% of my daily salt intake. Although I suppose if the marjority of an evening meal is only 21.7%, then that’s not so bad as long as I’m not eating 6 meals a day.

So on with the cooking.
The first negative point has to be the overall cooking time. 55mins in the oven. It’s a slow one. I was originally going to have this for dinner last night but I was playing Resident Evil 4 til gone 9, and with Charlie Brooker’s screenwipe on the tv at 10pm, I had to cook something in less time. And finish eating it too – so I don’t spray it across the screen laughing.
While this might be down to my bad planning last night, I’m normally home around 6pm. By the time you’ve got the oven hot and cooked the thing, it’s still nearly 7.30 allowing for nobody else in my shared house using the kitchen (which I was unusually lucky with, tonight), and me actually starting cooking dinner the second I walk through the door. Because of this, I doubt it’ll be a common meal. I’m rarely that well organised.

As far as cooking goes – it seems very odd. It comes in a container plastic, with a plastic “film” lid, much like a microwavable product might. However, it’s done in the oven. Some housemates who know my cooking ability isn’t amazing, mentioned I should remove this film lid, but according to the instructions from Young’s – it stays on for the first 35mins of cooking. It is then removed.
I followed it all to the letter, and as I had an hour, the one upside is I had plenty of time to wash and boil some new potatoes to go with it.

I was slightly concerned when I checked on the progress of the thing. While I was waiting for my dinner to cook, I was busy trying to stop the possessed monks in the castle getting to Ashley (Resident Evil), and I paused to go and check about 10-15mins before it should have been ready. It had gone a bit burnt down one side, but I didn’t want to remove it then in case the exterior looked like a sunbed addict, while the interior was as white as – well..me.
I gave it 5-8mins (give or take a few) and removed it.

Plated with potatoes, and time for the tasting.
It’s surprisingly very sweet. I wasn’t really expecting that but it was quite a nice surprise.
I’d say I can taste the tomatoes and the cheese. I can’t get over how sweet it is though, for something with no sugar, or e-numbers or anything.
I tried some of the fish alone, and I wouldn’t say it tasted exactly like cod, but the similarity is there. Quite bland, which I guess is why you need the very strong sweet sauce with it.
It’s quite nice.
It’s probably the nicest thing that I’ve cooked with a the film lid still on it.
It’s not something I’d eat every day even if it cooked in 20minutes, but was an interesting experience.

I ignored my half-pack-being-one-person theory and ate about three quarters of it, plus some potatoes. The last step of the instructions on the box says “portion as required” anyway. Clearly its hard to cut it in half before cooking, and you can’t refreeze it so they say – so it would have gone to waste otherwise.

As normal, I’m not selling myself out and saying I’ll eat it every week – or even that I like it enough to eat it every six months. If I commit myself, I’d likely get bored of it like most other things. My interest in the Oriental stir-fry has been fading lately due to overuse. I wish I could say the same about the other oriental things I saw chatting by Trenchard Street car park this afternoon. I don’t think my interest in them will ever subside.

Tea-Roulette and Jacket Potatoes pt2

In my day-job in IT, I had a scheduled call-out this morning in an unusual place. It’s a company staffed almost exclusively by Chinese girls.
When I arrived, I was asked to wait for a moment or so as the person I had come to see (a man), was not available yet. I was given a seat in reception and offered a drink of tea or coffee. I accepted the tea politely, and the receptionist disappeared off to get it for me.

Only after I asked, and she had disappeared (although she was still visible through a doorway, from my chair), I realised I hadn’t told her if I wanted milk or sugar or what. I don’t know why, but I decided not to mention it at this point. I would just wait and see what she brought me.
This could have been risky. It could have been earl grey, green tea, apple tea, or any number of strange other variants.

After a few mins waiting, and me watching her cross the doorway back and forth as if she were looking for something, she arrived back with my tea and a smile. She presented the tea to me in a strange round glass with no handles – much like the empty Nutella jar you can wash out and use again. It was passed to me in a very oriental way as well – much like you might pass someone a bowl of soup – held at the sides with both hands, and slight bowing of the head.

I took it from her in the same way, then relaxed into more of an English way of drinking from it – one handed, occasional slurping noises, etc.
Anyway it wasn’t bad. A bit too much milk perhaps but it was definitely tea, drinkable, and may have had a sugar added perhaps. While I don’t have sugar at home, I often prefer it at work as a lot of people are so bad at making tea it wouldn’t be drinkable without it.

Dinner tonight was jacket potatoes. I thought I’d have another go after the other night.
The remaining pre-packed potatoes are 3 days past their date, but I don’t see what can go off that quick as they’re only potatoes, so decided to take my chances.
I realised I wasn’t onto a great start after I put them in the oven and stood chatting to some of my housemates for a while, only to suddenly remember I hadn’t made the holes in them like you’re meant to.

I removed the potatoes from the oven one at a time with oven gloves on, and prodded holes in them, then went and sat at my computer. Another mistake ahoy. I’d been sat there a while when I wondered how much longer my dinner was going to take. It’s at that point I realised I wasn’t really sure when I put them in the oven.
Through a series of guesstimates, questioning how long one of my housemates had been sat in a particular chair, and trying to work out what time a tv show I didn’t know the name of, that I hadn’t really been watching, finished, and how that related to when I saw it, and when I went back to the kitchen to put the oven on – I removed them after what may have been anything from 1.25 to 2 hours.
Beans and cheese added again.

They are a lot better than a few days back when I first tried them. Cooked entirely inside, and I ate some of the skin as it was so superbly cooked.
That’s quite annoying, as now I don’t know what I did differently, and I can’t really work out an optimum time based on tonight’s, given that I’ve no idea how long they were in there.

It has proved I can cook them to a good standard though – even if I’m not sure how I did it.

jacket potatoes with beans and cheese

Whenever I go to The Mall, from all of their food available, I nearly always have a jacket potato. Quick, nice, and I didn’t eat them as a child.
They’re also great at music festivals, because no matter how bad you store/cook a potato, the chances of food poisoning are considerably less than with meat of some kind. Nobody dies from eating an underdone potato. Some slightly underdone potato doesn’t keep you in the toilet for the next 2 days.

That said, I’ve always found them a sod to cook.
My first attempt at this in my old flat involved me putting one in the microwave for what seemed like forever, then removing it and finding it rock hard. Repeated blasts in microwave I think resulted in it being rock hard. Possibly even harder than it was when it went in.

I discovered a while back that Tescos sell pre-cooked jacket potatoes, with cheese already in them. You warm them in the oven for 25-30mins and then eat. They’re about 80p each though, and they taste a bit odd. I don’t know what it is – maybe something to do with the cheese. They’re not as nice as properly cooked-from-fresh ones though.

Talking of Tescos, it’s only in the last few months that I’ve realised just how poor the fruit and veg is in my local supermarket.
I went in a couple of days back, went to get a baking potato, and the loose ones were all blackened, beaten to within an inch of their lives, or a funny red colour. I’m not sure if red is good or bad, but its not the colour I was expecting. The pre-packed sets of 4 potatos “for baking” looked considerably nicer, but price wise – are clearly more expensive.
I went in this morning for some pineapple juice and went to buy some apples, and the only Royal Gala or Pink Lady varieties on display were bruised. Not beaten yet, I tried a layer below, or one of the green trays behind/beneath the visible one, and found them to be going mouldy under there.
Sometimes I wonder if this isn’t all a big con to get me to buy the fancy looking pre-packed ones.

Anyway, I got my pre-packed rip-off baking potatoes a couple of days back, so thought I’d have them for my tea with a can of baked beans and some cheese. Healthy and easy enough.
I was quite disappointed to read on the packet the potatoes came in, that the average cooking time was 75mins. It was already gone 20:00 when I was looking at starting cooking. I assumed given that I have a fan-assisted oven, I could knock 10mins off of that.
If I took a shower and watched some tv, it would fly by.

Potatoes washed, spiked, and in at 20.24.
I went for my shower – took my time. Was still out by 20:50.
Wasn’t much on tv, so started looking at some random rubbish on Youtube.
Sorted some household bills.
Finally, it was 21.20. I assumed it’d definitely be done by now.
Not really sure how to check if potatoes are done, so I cut one in half with a sharp knife, and poked the inside to see if it was rock hard. It seemed soft. Then I realised I was using an ultra sharp knife, that would probably feel soft if I poked it into a raw potato.
I repeated it with a normal knife, and it felt a bit raw.
Returned to oven.
Constant checking is probably bad for it, but by 21:40 I had waited enough, and cooked or not cooked, it was coming out.

Beans and cheese added, and eaten.
It was ok. About 95% cooked through properly, which is good I guess.
Quite nice..although not quite as nice as if someone else had cooked it for me.

I’ll cook it again – I just need to find something to do for 80mins next time, and not wait til I’m hungry before I think about cooking it.