Sustainable fish balls and the curse of Sapiens

‘After my nana passed away, a few months ago I stopped writing on this blog. I didn’t have the enthusiasm, the commitment… of course I keep on doing the two thing I love most, cooking and reading, but I didn’t feel like sharing, taking pictures, try to find  the right words to make the dishes appealing. Why shouldn’t I admit that I was going to close the blog? So, why did I change my mind? I have to thank my good friend Feride, a few days ago she came over for dinner, and she prepared Aunt Petunia’s Lemon Meringue Pie. When I share with her my idea about closing the blog, she was surprised and she told me that it was a good blog (for a beginner I added), the recipes are easy and usually quick, so she encouraged me to keep on sharing books and recipes.

Today I will propose the recipe of fish balls, easy to prepare and very tasty, I prepare them often as my daughter doesn’t like fish and this is one of the few way she eats with great pleasure. If I should match this recipe with a book, of course I would think about Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, that I mentioned before. I will go further: at the moment I am reading Yuval Harari’s recent book “21 lessons for the 21st century”,  but if you don’t yet know the work of this Israeli scholar, please read his first best seller “Sapiens”; you will understand how it happens that from eating row radishes, nuts and small animals we came to eat food that it is potentially not sustainable for the planet 🙂.

I try to be a bit more informed about the sustainability of what we eat, I ‘ve read that fish farming in Norway has become clean and sustainable, the alternative is to use wild salmon or any fish that you like and you know that is not in danger…

As for the frying oil, please remember that is very polluting, after use, pour the oil in a bottle and bring the bottle to one of the collecting point around you: there it will be recycled without causing harm to the environment…

So let’s stop talking, and start cooking….

Ingredients:

For the balls:

1 kg salmon or any other sustainable fish

2 slice of bread

3 spoonful of milk

100 gr of grated cheddar or parmesan

1 egg

salt to season

for the crust:

2 eggs

200 gr of bread crumbs

To fry:

1 lt. high quality vegetable oil (olive oil is the best of choices)

Directions

  • Boil or microwave the fish for a few minutes. Put it in a food processor and mince it. 
  • In a bowl wet the bread with the milk until soft, then add the minced fish, the egg and the cheese. Mix everything together well. Season with salt
  • Prepare the balls: . Lightly beat the eggs with salt in a deep dish, spread out the bread crumbs on a plate, take pieces of the fish dough and form into 20-25 rounds the size of ping pong balls, dip each ball first in the egg and then cover with bread crumbs, making sure that it is well coated, putting them on a tray ready to be fried.
  • Heat the oil in a deep  saucepan to 170°C
  • Add some of the balls. Cook for about 6-8 minutes until golden brown and crispy.
  • Fry the fish balls in batches, as above.
  • Remove the cooked balls with a slotted spoon and set aside on a tray lined with kitchen paper. Can be served hot or cold.
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The Golden Log

The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion is an essay written  by the Scottish anthropologist Sir James George Frazer at the end of the XIX century.

Given that we are in the most magic period of the year and I am in my “fantasy” mood I decided to read again some part of this very interesting (yet a bit confusing) essay, to try to understand the origins of “Yule log

The_Golden_Bough
This essay can be downloaded for free at the site of the project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/3623

Here some excerpts that may enlighten the importance on the log during the celebration of the Winter solstice.

“… The custom of kindling great bonfires, leaping over them, and driving cattle through or round them would seem to have been practically universal throughout Europe, and the same may be said of the processions or races with blazing torches round fields, orchards, pastures, or cattle-stalls. Less widespread are the customs of hurling lighted discs into the air and trundling a burning wheel down hill. The ceremonial of the Yule log is distinguished from that of the other fire-festivals by the privacy and domesticity which characterises it; but this distinction may well be due simply to the rough weather of midwinter, which is apt not only to render a public assembly in the open air disagreeable, but also at any moment to defeat the object of the assembly by extinguishing the all-important fire under a downpour of rain or a fall of snow.”

foto tronchetto natale 1.jpg

“… But we naturally ask, how did it come about that benefits so great and manifold were supposed to be attained by means so simple? In what way did people imagine that they could procure so many goods or avoid so many ills by the application of fire and smoke, of embers and ashes? Two different explanations of the fire-festivals have been given by modern enquirers. On the one hand it has been held that they are sun-charms or magical ceremonies intended, on the principle of imitative magic, to ensure a needful supply of sunshine for men, animals, and plants by kindling fires which mimic on earth the great source of light and heat in the sky. This was the view of Wilhelm Mannhardt. It may be called the solar theory. On the other hand it has been maintained that the ceremonial fires have no necessary reference to the sun but are simply purificatory in intention, being designed to burn up and destroy all harmful influences, whether these are conceived in a personal form as witches, demons, and monsters, or in an impersonal form as a sort of pervading taint or corruption of the air”

dav

It is indeed a very interesting book, it helps us to understand the origins of our believes and traditions. Speaking of traditions, in many European countries we find a cake made in the shape of a log: the Christmas Log in the anglophone world, Buche de Noel in France and Tronchetto di Natale in Italy.

I decide to break the tradition and prepare a Savoury Christmas Log with shrimps and smoked salmon, nice on a buffet as well as an entree.

Ingredients

for 6 servings

15 slices white bread

250 gr. ricotta cheese

200 gr. shrimps (boiled and without shell)

150 gr. smoked salmon

Soft cheese (like Philadelphia)

1 tablespoon balsamico vinegar

Salt

dav

Preparation

  • Stack the slices of bread and cut the crusts off.
  • Arrange the slices in a 3 x 3 square and a 2×3 rectangle on Clingfilm, overlapping them slightly.
  • Roll out with a rolling pin until they are all combined together
  •  Prepare a spread combining ricotta cheese and shrimps in a mixer, spread over the square and the rectangle, then cover with slices of salmon.
  •  Roll up and remove the cling film.
  • Cut in half the smaller roll and combine it with the log to form branches
  • Mix soft cheese and balsamico and spread it on the log to create a texture similar to a oak log
  • Garnish with guacamole sauce to imitate mistletoe

ENJOY!

dav