I have never considered myself to be a very militant person - despite having strong opinions on the subjects that matter to me, I am not one to risk my life and freedom for any of them... but of course, that's because I lead a very comfortable life. (I resign myself to moan instead, so I can have a good rant from the comfortable position in front of the fireplace, a glass of good wine in hand.)
However, today marks the day when I was tempted to show my discontent to the powers that be... and very nearly chained myself to the Miele steam oven that I had been trialling for the last six weeks or so. I find it a tad unfair that it was delivered to me just a few days before the whole of the financial world collapsed, people lost their faith in banking and we had to realise that the fat years were finally over... had I tested this marvellous appliance six months ago, I would have bought it without hesitation - these days I don't even dare ask myself if I can spend a thousand pounds on another kitchen gadget.
I had all intentions of really putting it through its paces, but in the end life got in the way and I didn't nearly try all the things I wanted to... I never made a goulash in it, I didn't get to do a steamed pudding, but I used it daily for a myriad of things: steaming vegetables (and thus preserving the valuable nutrients that you invariably pour down the drain if you cook them) daily, making scrambled eggs (which wouldn't be the main reason why I'd buy it), sterilising bottles, dummies and jam jars, making soup stock, re-heating left-overs without them drying out, steaming mussels... the list goes on. The fabulous thing, of course, being that you can pretty much leave it to do its thing while you run out and get the kids, walk the dog or just generally get on with your life - a thing you would never do with something simmering away on your stove.
One of the best memories from the last few weeks is an Asian dinner with absolutely everything prepared in the one oven - fluffy rice, lovely vegetable and a glorious wild seabass bursting with Asian flavours... an absolute delight. Of course, you can make this the conventional way - making the rice in your rice cooker or in a pot, blanching the asparagus and pak choi in a pot on the stove and for the fish, you have the option of resorting to one of the cheaper steamers or cooking it "en papillote" or in the oven - instructions for which you will find below.
And while you do so, I am keeping my fingers crossed for an unlikely bonus at the end of the financial year, a very generous Santa Clause (how hard Finland was hit by the financial crisis is anyone's guess) or a win in the lottery - but I guess, I would have to fork out for a ticket then... in any case, as soon as I've got enough loose change in my pocket, the Miele steam oven is the first thing I'll buy!
(One slight hope I have is that they forget all about me having it... they were supposed to collect this morning, but never showed up - but I guess I just ruined my chances by publicising this very fact ;-))
Steamed seabass with ginger, garlic and chilli
(serves 2 generously)
450 g wild seabass fillets
4 baby pak choi
100 g fine green asparagus
1 pinch wasabi fleur de sel (use regular FDS as a substitute)
10 g fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic
½ red chilli
4 coriander sprigs
steamed basmati rice (to serve)
For the marinade:
30 ml rice wine
1 tsp lemon myrtle (dried herb, you could use some chopped lemon grass instead)
20 ml soy sauce
1 pinch ground cardamom
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp fish sauce
Pre-heat oven to 200 C.
First, prepare the marinade. Combine all the ingredients in a pot and heat gently in a pan.
Place the fish fillets (skin on, but any bones carefully removed) skin-side down in an oven-proof dish. Thinly slice the garlic and chilli, julienne the ginger (skin on or off depending on your liking) and place on the fillets.
Pour over the marinade, tightly cover with alu foil (shiny side up) and place in the oven. (The "en papillote" method would do without the dish, just make neat parcels out of tin foil and place, seam-side up, in the oven)
Cook for 15 - 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, steam the asparagus for 5, the pak choi for 3 minutes. Sprinkle with fleur de sel. If you do not have a steamer, blanch with some water or soy sauce until soft, but still firm to the bite.
Serve garnished with the coriander twigs, with steamed rice on the side, sprinkled with black sesame, if you wish.
Instructions for the lucky people who own a Miele steam oven:
Place the seabass in a solid container, top with the finely sliced garlic and chilli, and the julienned ginger, then pour over the marinade.
Place in the oven, set temperature to 100C, 10 minutes.
After 5 minutes, add the asparagus, after a further 2 minutes, add the pak choi, both placed in a perforated container. Sprinkle with fleur de sel before or after steaming.
Serve as above.
(You can, of course, steam the rice at the same time, following the instruction/recipe booklet).