Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Airgun Universe Spring Gathering

I was kindly invited to drop in and see the lads from web forum Airgun Universe over the bank holiday weekend, and what a treat it was. These folks must be one of the friendliest groups of airgun shooters I have ever met.
Unlike many of the online forums, Airgun Universe members are fortunate enough to have a regular opportunity to meet face to face, thanks to moderator Barry Hutchins. Barry organises the annual gathering in beautiful Dorset countryside where members can pitch up a tent and shoot a wide range of targets while enjoying lots of banter and good food. They also had a visit from master airgun tuner Lyn Lewington, who gave everyone a chance to sample the results of his work on the range.
Although the heatwave conditions may not have been ideal for shooting, it was certainly more suited to camping than typical spring weather and everyone seemed to be having a terrific time. Targets included a seriously impressive plinking range and an HFT-style course. Apart from the target ranges, with air supplies provided courtesy of Best Fittings, there was also an opportunity for members to take part in hunting trips. Nothing was wasted, and shot quarry, including squirrels, ended up being put to good use on the barbecue.
I'll file a more comprehensive report with more pics for a future edition of Airgun Shooter magazine. In the meantime, you can see what they got up to at http://www.airgununiverse.co.uk/
Thanks to all for making me feel so welcome. It was a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours and I'm planning to stick around for longer next time.

Some of the Airgun Universe gang - they don't just eat pies...

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Dogfish recipe

Last time I said I'd share my very simple and delicios recipe for dogfish - here it is.

To serve two
You will need
Three dogfish (prepared for the table)
Olive Oil
White wine vinegar
One lemon
One clove of garlic
Fresh parsley and fennel
Salt and pepper

Begin by making the marinade. Pour olive oil (about two tablespoons), white wine vinegar (about two tablespoons), juice from half lemon, crushed garlic and chopped parsley and fennel into a jar. Add a good grind of salt and pepper, screw on the lid and shake to mix the marinade.
Next, chop the dogfish into chunks of between one and two inches in length. Place into a bowl, pour the marinade over the top and mix until evenly coated. Cover bowl with clingfilm and place in the fridge - for a couple of hours if you can wait.

To cook, simply heat a dash of olive oil in a pan, tip in the chunks of marinated dogfish and cook until golden brown, turning once or twice to ensure they're evenly cooked. They shouldn't take much more than five minutes.

The tasty brown chunks of fish will retain all the flavours of the marinade and taste delicious served on a bed of green salad leaves with a squeeze of lemon and a dollop of mayonnaise. Serve with crusty bread and butter.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Dogfish preparation

A lot of shore anglers don't eat dogfish, which is a real pity. They chuck them back because they'd rather be catching some of the more highly regarded (and more scarce) fish such as plaice, black bream and so on. The trouble is that by chucking doggies, which are scavenging predators, back into the sea, you're helping to conserve them and allowing their swelling numbers to continue munching their way through the fish we'd all rather be catching...
A lot of anglers don't eat dogfish because their rough, sandpapery skin is tricky to remove, but hidden underneath is tasty meat commonly sold be fishmongers as huss or rock salmon. And the knack of skinning them is actually pretty easy once you've done a few.

To prepare a dogfish, begin by giving it several hard whacks across the head to ensure a swift death as soon as you beach it.
Next, you need to remove that skin, which is somewhat like peeling a very rough banana. It's best done on the beach rather than in the kitchen...
Use your heel to pin the fish's head to the ground and, using a very sharp knife, cut down into the skin at the top of the fish, just in front of the tail. Continue this cut along the length of the fish to remove a thin, shallow length of skin from tail to head, removing the dorsal fin as you go. Then turn the fish over and repeat along the underside, making a shallow cut from the tail and following the length of the fish, cutting deeper at the belly to remove the guts and underside fins as you go. Cut the whole lot away when you reach the head.
You have now removed flaps of the tough skin from the top and bottom on the fish - but the main areas of skin remain on the sides.
Now make cuts behind the gills to free the remaining side flaps of skin and, keeping your heel on the fish's head, use pliers to grip the end of each side flap of skin and pull firmly upwards to peel away towards the tail. With both flaps removed, you just need to cut off the head and tail and your dogfish meat is prepared.

The long, pink lenghs of meat look quite serpentine but make wonderful eating. Best of all, because dogfish are cartilaginous like other members of the shark family, they don't have any small pin-bones. The meat is of a firm texture, similar to monkfish, and holds up well on kebabs. Next time I'll share a very quick recipe to turn dogfish into a delicious meal.