Sunday, 17 July 2011

Dorset Seafood Festival 2011 (plus John Dory with Sauce Vierge)

Visited on a sunny weekend in July, Weymouth has the feel of a proper, old fashioned British seaside town. Deckchairs, Punch and Judy, Penny Arcades, sun, sea and sand, Weymouth has it all. The only thing needed to complete the picture is the traditional fish and chips but this particular weekend we could go one better than this old favourite with the fourth annual Dorset Seafood Festival.

We kick off with a breakfast of Aussie style Scallop and King Prawn kebabs from the South West Sushi stand and a glass of champagne from main sponsors Pommery and get the day off to a good start.

This is followed up with more scallops, this time on a stick with chorizo from Weymouth based Perry’s restaurant. While always a good pairing, chucking scallops down your throat left right and centre enables you to be a little bit picky and they weren’t quite as fresh and plump as the first lot. There is undoubtedly something magical though about the combination of fish, pork, sun and outdoor cooking.

OK. This could go on a bit so I’ll summarise. There was bbq’d lobster, oysters, crab sandwiches, fish cakes, Chilean wine, New Zealand wine, Ringwood beer, no razor clams (they’d sold out – I was gutted) and a fair bit of sunburn if I’m honest. Also, a fair few dishes we didn’t even try, the day could have turned out very expensive if I had eaten everything I fancied.

Now and then we took a break from eating and drinking to stand still and watch one of the many demonstrations taking place throughout the weekend, a couple of highlights were:

 Duncan Lucas from Passionate About Fish gave a demonstration of virtuoso fish filleting, making it look ridiculously simple and finished by deboning a whole plaice, creating a ‘pocket’ that he filled with water and held above his head in just 60 seconds (a challenge in aid of the Fishermen’s Mission)!

River Cottage’s John Wright gave a frankly hilarious, rambling talk that was vaguely about foraging seaweed with demonstrations of a lavabread cake with bacon and oatmeal and a carageen pannacotta using the seaweed as a substitute for gelatine. Later on Richard Bertinet cooked mussels and mackerel. Sadly, unable to be in more than one place at once and spend the entire weekend in Weymouth, we missed Matt Follas, Shaun Rankin, Nigel Bloxham and Mark Hix amongst others but hey, there’s always next year!

Pan Fried John Dory with Crushed New Potatoes and a Sauce Vierge

While not from the seafood festival as such, John Dory is a great fish. It’s ugly as hell but does taste good. As a weekend special recently we presented it with crushed new potatoes and a tarragon sauce vierge for a simple but classic summer dish.

John Dory – 1 fillet per person

For the Sauce Vierge
1 Finely diced shallot
2 Tomatoes – deseeded and finely diced
Olive oil
A small bunch Tarragon chopped
A few Basil leaves chopped

For the crushed new potatoes
New potatoes

-          Steam the new potatoes until soft then crush in your hand
-          Sweat down the shallot, when soft add the tomato and herbs and warm through.
-          Top up the sauce with olive oil to give a loose consistency and season with salt, pepper and lemon juice, keep warm
-          In a sauce pan warm the potatoes through with plenty of butter and salt until hot and soft and stir through the herbs
-          Cut the John Dory fillet in half lengthwise to give two long, thin fillets. Season and oil
-          Fry skin side down in a hot pan, flip when cooked a third of the way up and finish with a couple of cubes of cold butter and lemon juice
-          Serve with buttered spinach

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