Mid snow and ice

I need to empty my freezer and defrost it,  but it's not easy. I'm a hoarder, and I can't help buying things that look good, and then putting by a bit of leftover this or that, and keeping a bag of bones and vegetable peelings for stock, and a long list of etceteras.
But finally I'm getting there. A ruthless plan means that this week, come what may, I'm unplugging the damn thing, and if I have to throw away some stuff (a bag of chicken skin? what was that about? ) so be it.

Once the fun-size Greenland ice cap that's inside is melted, I will have a pristine, good-as-new, bigger than ever freezer. And I will have to fill it, because, duh, everyone knows a full freezer is more energy efficient, and because I'm a freezer geek.

So a fresh start means that for a few days at least, I will have the perfect wish list freezer. The real thing. The go-to ingredients that save the day, the hard to find meats and fish, the tubs of stock. So, while I struggle to plan meals that will accomodate a jar of mushroom ragù, pesto ice cubes, 6 Chinese sausages, a tub of carrot soup, another of poached pears, two bags of raspberries and a packet of broad beans, I dream up my perfect new freezer contents. 
Here they are:

First, I will buy ham hocks and chicken wings, and I will make at least 3 litres of strong stock, to pack into 500 ml containers. At least.

And maybe I'll cook up a batch of tomato sauce, so I can have a couple of tubs in there too. 

The rest is all stuff I can buy:

Fish fingers, which are my disgusting children's favourite food, and a surprisingly good sandwich filler for decadent days.

Coley and mackerel fillets. Sustainable, quick to thaw, quicker to cook, essential.

Octopus for J, and squid if I can find it.

Sausages: good British bangers, and chipolatas, which can be sliced when frozen and cook very quickly.

Minced beef and pork, mixed by myself into delicious little patties and meatballs.

Minced free range turkey, not easy to score, packed into 100 gr. pouches.

Organic chicken livers.

Smoked pork ribs, for bean dishes.

Green beans.

Whole leaf spinach.

Petit pois.

Puff pastry, the good all butter kind.

Ice cream, vanilla, or maybe Mackie's cream.

Naan bread, or pizza bases, the good ones smeared with tons of butter from the chiller cabinet.

I will try to leave room for bread, or for more ice cream, or for nestling beers when they won't fit in the fridge, and for the packets of stuff that find their way into the freezer from time to time: a bit of stew to be turned into a noodle topping, a bag of pisto to pull out for a quick lunch, bechamel, soup, etc. 

And so the long unending game of Freezer Tetris that is my life will begin anew, until the ice advances and I have to start the cull all over again.

(The drawing above is of Amundsen's crew. He's my least favourite Polar explorer, but you have to admit he was a good leader; he made sure to hire an excellent cook who kept the pancakes coming.)


Chopped chicken livers

A while ago I wrote a blog post about my favourite kitchen tools. No mention of a chopping board. Not because I don't use one, but because the one I've been using for eight years is quite unremarkable. 
Then my friend Simón, who is now a fantastic carpenter, gave me a new one, made with his own hands. A single piece of walnut, sleek and polished, smooth, heavy, with a narrow, long shape, glossy and dark. Beautiful. Everyone who saw it said, oh, you'll be sorry to use it, think of cutting into that perfect surface...
Silly. Of course I use it. Certainly it has a few nicks already, and will soon have more, but that's a badge of honour.

I use it for everything, every day, from breakfast to dinner. But this recipe is one where the board is crucial. You can't do it without a board, even if you're an expert in the traditional method of  chopping with one hand and holding with the other.

Chopped liver paté
(loosely based on a recipe in Lindsey Bareham's The Fish Store)

You'll need chicken livers. I'm never one to be annoying about these things but I think it's worthwhile to hunt down good ones, since all the nasty chemicals fed to factory chickens end up in their livers.
Garlic, or chives, or both. Parsley. Butter and oil. Salt. And some sort of liquor. I go for Oloroso Sherry but it can be anything, really.

Put a big frying pan on the fire with a biggish piece of butter and some oil. While it melts, check the livers for those slimy green bits and for any stray bits of white fat. If you're in Spain, your butcher will have done that, but still, have a look.
Salt them, and put them in the hot fat. Leave them alone until they've formed a crust underneath, and only then turn them. Now they'll need a minute at most. You want pink insides.

Take them out and let them rest on the board. Turn up the fire and deglaze the pan with the Oloroso. Now is the time to add some finely chopped garlic if you're using it. Let the sauce reduce a little and then put out the fire.

Now chop the liver into little bits, as little as you like. If you're potting it for paté then you want small, but I often have this straight away, in which case just a few cuts.
Chop the herbs you're using and smoosh it all together. It's messy, but good.

Put it in a plate, or in the terrine, add the pan juices, some pepper, check for salt.

If you're having it straight away, go for it with some toast, something sharp and vinegary (I'm currently in love with pickled walnuts) and wine, of course. And if you have some onion jam on hand, heaven.
I like it as part of a meal, with a lentil salad and a big salad, and some cheese, maybe.

If you want it cold, let it wait for a day if you can, two, even. 



Much frantic rushing about here, and I have abandoned the blog, which is bad. But just so you know, it's all because we're making an app of lobstersquad recipes, which is not a cast iron excuse but not so bad.

I have also received a beautiful present that means I might just have to ignore my no-frying rule and break out the oil and the strainer to make some oldschool buñuelos for All Saints.

This illustration is a proof from a book I've just illustrated, "101 plats de la cuina catalana que has de tastar".