Skate wings were introduced to me by our friend Bill and are now a favourite seasonal treat. I poach them in a court -bouillon then eat with a delicious nutty, buttery sauce. I don't serve with anything else, just lots of parsely in the black butter. Scrape the flesh off the cartilage with a fork. Delicious.
skate with black butter
2 skate wings
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings
2 bay leaves
2 tabs capers
2 tabs red wine vinegar
small bunch of parsley, roughly chopped
Place the skate in a large, shallow pan and just cover with water. Add the carrot and onion rings, bay leaves and about six whole black peppercorns.
Bring the liquid to the boil and immediately turn down to a simmer, leaving the skate bubbling very gently until it is opaque and tender. Depending on the thickness of your fish it will take 10-15 minutes to become tender. Lift the fish from its liquor and place it on two warm plates.
Melt the butter in another shallow pan. When it starts to foam watch it carefully. As soon as it turns a pale nut brown (it will go black in seconds) pour in the vinegar, add the parsley and the capers and immediately pour over the drained fish.
This time of the year is often fraught. Spring shows her fresh face when a ferociously cold wind arrives blasting juvenile shoots and fragile blooms. A predicted frosty morning will certainly wreck havoc with her tender buds. At this time of year I rely on the jewell-like variety of citrus fruit available. Beautiful blood oranges, ruby red grapefruit, the sweetest manderins and tangerines loosely bundled in oily scented peel. I surrender all my principles to keeping food miles low and indulge. Just what the doctor ordered.
This is this year's spectacular crop of white foxgloves. I have harvested the seed and hope they will stay true for next year's crop. Knowing how much a small packet of white foxglove seed costs, I have a fortune's worth.
The best, best thing about this time of the year is the salad - out of the garden. And I have a new trick, admittedly not mine. Buy a punnet of living salad from the super market, don't pay more than £1 and, if you are lucky, you might find one for less in the throw out bit, it doesn't matter if it looks a bit tired. Tip the salad out of the punnet and separate all the little lettuces. Plant them about 6 inches apart, water well and in a few weeks or less in this weather, you will have a wonderful crop. At the moment I'm just picking leaves, but as they start to go to seed I'll pick the whole lettuce. It's the easiest and cheapest way to grow salad.
We have two swarm of bees living in our bedroom wall, or at least I think there are two. One arrived seven years ago and the second two years later. I am convinced the yellow stain on the wall is honey and that the cavities are running with it and stuffed with honeycomb, enough to keep legions of bees alive in the coldest, longest winter. Sometimes I think I can smell it.