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Wednesday 16 May 2018

Experiments with Gousto #5: Scandi-style Mackerel & Potato Salad with Spinach

The final recipe of the first new Gousto box didn't really require that much actual cooking, and yet I still managed to balls up one of the simpler tasks on my hob. This is partly due to the wonky timings in the recipe - something of a running theme, I'm finding - but mainly due to me splitting my attention between two small tasks that shouldn't have been attempted simultaneously. Nevertheless, this turned out to be a rather anticlimactic finale to my first foray into preparing evening meals for two again.

It probably would have been a lot simpler to break this up into two entirely separate tasks - the potato salad being one, with everything else in the second.  The potato salad is the most complicated task, in that the potatoes have to be chopped in half, then boiled for about a quarter of an hour, then drained and, ideally, allowed to cool. It's entirely possible, given the length of time it generally takes me to chop things, that the whole point of the recipe as it's presented is that you complete step 1 (cooking the potatoes) before even starting on step 2 (preparation of the spinach salad). However, since I wanted to ensure everything was ready ahead of time, I'd chopped the dill, the spring onions, the garlic and the potatoes as one task, a couple of hours earlier than necessary, and put the results back in the fridge till they were needed.

Then again, this particular recipe was a little 'pre-disastered' by the fact that the yoghurt container had apparently exploded in transit. It was in a small, sealed plastic pot - a miniature version of the average yoghurt pot you can buy in a supermarket - contained within a plastic bag of its own. When we unpacked the box all the ingredients came in, the inside of the plastic bag was coated with yoghurt, so the whole thing had to be thrown away. Thankfully we had a large, open container of essentially identical yoghurt already in our fridge, and we had more than the 80g worth required by this recipe. I was a little worried during the last stage of preparing the mustard dressing, in that it initially seemed as though the lemon juice was curdling the yoghurt. Thankfully a good stir sorted that out. The real problem - but still not the balls-up I mentioned at the start - was that the potatoes were still quite warm when I added them to the dressing, so it immediately got thinner and runnier than it should have been.

Where it went undeniably wrong, and mostly down to my mismanagement of the tasks, was with the almond toasting, believe it or not. It should only take about 2-3 minutes according to the recipe, but it was at this point that I realised I hadn't sorted out the mackeral, so I started to remove the skin and flake the fish while the almonds were still on the hob, resulting in a selection of flakes ranging from 'lightly brown and toasted' to 'utterly burnt'. Next time I do this - and there almost certainly will be a next time for such a simple and delicious meal - I'll make breaking up the mackerel one of the first tasks because, once flaked, it can be put back in the fridge till it's needed. I'll also be sure to boil the potatoes further ahead of time so they have a chance to properly cool, and possibly put them in the fridge at that stage, rather than just after chopping them. Everything else is quick and simple - preparing the entire meal is timed at about 20 minutes, after all - though I reckon a more generous portion of mackerel would improve it no end. The other issue is that the spinach salad seems like a bit of an afterthought - a plate-filler - compared to everything else. It's literally just baby spinach drizzled with olive oil, then seasoned with salt and pepper. A more complicated dressing may have helped but, obviously, you wouldn't want it to clash with the mustard dressing in the potato salad.

The next batch of Gousto recipes arrived yesterday, and I've prepared the first of them already... but expect a slight delay in posting about it as I'm trying to get other stuff done in the meantime.

I just hope I don't leave it too long, resulting in another batch of drafts that I can't finish...

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