Vintage Sardines

On a visit to Le Colombier restaurant the genial proprietor provided me with this tin of vintage sardines to take home. So impressed was he with the quality of said sardine they instantly made it onto his a la carte menu.

Sardines La Quiberonnaise MillĂ©sime 2007-Vintage 2007 Sardines, Lemon, Onion and Toasted Poilane Bread £9.80

A hefty levy I thought for a dish that reminds me of having lunch with my culinary incompitant Dad in the early 1990's. I do however often call upon this drystore staple during leaner times and always bemoan the knobbly vertebrae and pungent waft. These are altogether a diffrent beast, silky, refined and completely moreish; a premium product. I found them and others similar (here) online for a vastly reduced price.

Laid down like good wine the tins are turned regularly to enusre an even ageing process, the flavour of the fish is said to develop and mature, the attention to detail really shows in the classic packaging.

Eat with your ideal bread, salty butter, black pepper and thinly sliced red onion anytime any place!

The Altenburg Kitchen

Last Friday the Altenburg Kitchen hosted a belated Burns night dinner. Haggis, Bagpipes and lots of whisky! We were over a week late, but who cares?

I have had some really amazing Haggis and some really shit Haggis. I used to work in this cafĂ© in Scotland where for £3.50 you could get a hydroponically grown baked tatty the size of a baby with pail of molten Haggis poured over it. I used to nuke the haggis in the microwave, adding a slosh tap water for moisture and slosh it over the reheated baker. I still remember the stench of the putrid ashen log under fire in the nukebox, retch I did. Not fun!

I've had amazing Haggis in lots of different forms, most recently this Burns Night proper (see Cheese and Biscuits for the breakdown). I wanted to give it a shot of my own, this simple, primitive but delicious plate of heaped mush needed a closer inspection, especially if people were going to pay for it.

Some research later I came across the Haggis Millefuille, ideal for the Altenburg kithcen. Late burns night, preposterous usage of vocablulary, perfect, now I’ve just got to come up with two other courses.

Here is how the so-called Millfuille turned out. Millefuille is a bit of a misnoma, 'Haggis five heaps' is perhaps a bit more appropriate. Nevertheless all really simple elements; the sauce was a whisky & onion cream made by sweating tonnes of onions till sticky, adding equal parts good chicken stock, cream and milk, reduce, blitz, pass, season and add whisky to taste. It works so well with the spiced Haggis and the Rosti adds the essential texture that is always missing from the Hag, neeps & tatties trio. The tomatoes were candied but really not worth the effort.

We served salmon ceviche to start, with lots of lime and coriander accompanied with a fennel salad doused in mandarin oil. This doesn’t really smack of February in the highlands but we are in a stunning basement flat in Battersea and we had missed the 25th by eleven days, plus it worked well as a precursor to the heavy Haggis to come.

For pud we put together some shortbread, whisky ice-cream with deep fried marsbars (read celebrations) and an Irn Bru reduction. You’ve got to make your own ice cream, simple custard with loads of sugar and vanilla and whatever else you feel like, so so good it takes you back to childhood holidays when ice-cream was a real treat. Reducing Irn Bru is advised but only if you if your a curious one, utterly weird is the answer if you don’t think you’ll get round to actually doing it. Looks nice and bright and zinged-up the peviously beige ensemble.

The evening was rounded of by two other moments of note. Firstly the pre dinner whisky sours, punchy, tart and super cold! Secondly, the highlight, was Jock on the pipes this made the evening for me, very loud and quite thumping for a traditional war instrument. Bring on Februaty 12th 2011 & thanks to Lucy and Camilla residents of Altenburg Gardens.

(Images courtesty of Rosie, Camilla & McSweens)