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Posts from the ‘Fish’ Category

Getting hot under the collar.

Seasons are changing. Don’t you love it when nature transforms itself almost overnight? In the Swiss Alps, autumn has arrived and winter is slowly creeping down the mountain. The snow has made its first appearance in the resort and the lifts have opened early. My social network pages are rife with photos of the first ski outing of the season, snowball fights and glittering snow landscapes.

All these changes in climate will have you craving heart-warming stews, mashed potatoes, spicy alcohol fuelled brews, trying to prepare our bodies for the colder days and darker nights. Staying healthy and not surrendering to the stodge of winter is not an easy battle. However, what I have to offer is the warmth you need without the heavy post-meal slump.

This broth is spicy, tangy, clean. The Alaskan salmon brings mellowness to the fire and fullness to your stomach. Not to mention those precious Omega 3 oils – to lubricate that brain of yours!

Spicy Salmon Broth
Adapted from a recipe by Nick Nairn

Ingredients

1 tbsp sunflower oil
2cm of fresh ginger, julienned
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 large fresh chilli, julienned
1 small bird’s eye chilli, sliced
1 lemongrass stalk, sliced thinly
1 litre of vegetable stock (or fish stock)
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp tamari sauce (or soy)
Juice of 1 lime
A bunch of spring onions, sliced thinly (or red onion works well too)
Two good handfuls of spinach (optional)
Coriander, chopped roughly
2 Alaskan salmon fillets (MSC), cut into 2cm chunks

Method

Heat the oil in a large saucepan on low and add ginger, garlic, chillies and lemongrass for about 5 minutes.

Add the stock, tamari sauce, fish sauce and lime juice, bring to the boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the spring onions, cook for 2 minutes. Then slide in the fish, cook for a further two minutes. Throw in the coriander (and spinach if using). Let it wilt. Stir and serve in bowls.

Serves 2 for lunch or 4 as a starter. Sweating yet?

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Green and crunchy

Fruit in savoury dishes. A subject certain to elicit strong reactions. Be it the traumatic experience of eating my Mother’s chicken curry with bananas and raisins, a frequent occurrence in our household, and definitely not for the fussy or the faint-hearted, or the horror of discovering pineapple on your pizza, it can be the stuff of nightmares. However, as you grow older and culinary experiences abound, tastes change and we now have more options, more opportunities to discover interesting and subtler food combinations. For instance, mango, when not quite ripe, brings a little crunch to an Asian coleslaw or understated sweetness to a stir-fry. Blood oranges give asparagus and blue cheese salad an instant boost of freshness, a perfect balancing act. What about the humble Granny Smith, so green, so crunchy, and so perfectly sour? And by all accounts, one of the star ingredients of the summer salad I am about to share with you – quite understated but full of flavour. Tell me about your savoury fruit dishes – what’s your favourite? What was your first experience of a dish containing fruit? Pain or pleasure?

Granny Smith’s Prawn Salad
Adapted from a recipe from wholeliving.com
Serves 4 as a starter and 2 as a light lunch

Ingredients

3 tarragon stems and 1 teaspoon chopped tarragon
1/2 lemon, quartered
salt and ground black pepper
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
200g large prawns (you can use frozen)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 Granny Smith Apple, halved and thinly sliced*
1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced*
1 avocado, pitted, peeled, quartered and thinly sliced
* I use a mandolin for ease

Method

In a saucepan, bring 750ml of water, tarragon stems, lemon, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and peppercorns to the boil.

Remove from heat, add prawns and poach until opaque, about 3 to 4 minutes (more if frozen and raw). Transfer prawns to a plate and set aside to cool.

In a small jar, whisk together the oil, vinegar, chives, tarragon, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Put lid on jar and shake well. In a large bowl, add prawns, apple and cucumber and avocado. Drizzle with the dressing and serve immediately.

Asian Style Tortellini

I always remember my Mother taking an Asian cooking course when I was in my teens. She was a keen shopper at the best of times and this latest project meant she could go wild in the aisles of the Chinese supermarket in Lausanne. I’d laugh at the number of bags she’d return with, filled with these wonderful and mysterious goods – apparently we needed all of it ‘just in case’.

Back in the late 80s and early 90s, Asian food was a novelty as Switzerland only had a handful of restaurants specialising in this kind of cooking so the opportunity to try it at home was warmly welcomed in our household. I spent quite a few Saturday afternoons making so many spring rolls that our freezer was almost fit to burst!

My fondness for Asian food, be it Thai, Vietnamese or Chinese stems from this time. It’s always interesting; it can be mild or spicy, fresh or intense, light or more substantial. But more than anything it brings back some great memories.

Prawn & Tofu Asian Style Tortellini
Tortellini dough & soy dipping sauce adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe
Filling & Fish Sauce dipping sauce – my own

Ingredients

Tortellini dough
250g strong flour
2 free range eggs
4 egg yolks

Method
Whisk the two eggs and 4 eggs yolks in a bowl, mixing yolks and egg white roughly together. Place the flour on a clean counter surface. Create a well in the middle of the flour and add the beaten eggs into it… be careful it might spill out. With a fork mix the egg in with the flour, it will start to form a paste. At this stage, just get in there with your hands and knead until you obtain smooth dough. Wrap in cling film and then put in the fridge for 30 mins.

Remove from fridge and split the dough in half. If you have a pasta machine, go ahead and use it, putting the dough through several times so it’s only 1-2mm thick by the end of it. If not, use a rolling pin. It will take some effort and a little bit of time, but I promise it is worth it. Again aim for a thickness of 1-2mm. Once you have rolled it out to desired thickness, cut into 10cm x 10cm squares.

Prawn & Tofu filling
3 cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled
1 clove of garlic, peeled
2 sticks lemongrass, outer leaves removed and roughly chopped
100g frozen prawns, rinsed and defrosted
100g firm tofu, roughly cubed
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp cornflour
A handful of tinned water chestnuts

Method
Put the ginger, garlic and lemongrass into a food processor and whizz through. Add the rest of the ingredients and repeat. You should have a rough paste by now. Set aside.

How to make the tortellini:

Take a teaspoon of filling and place in the centre of the square. With a small brush or your fingers dipped in tap water, wet all around the filling.

Now fold over one corner of the dough square over to the opposite corner, creating a triangle. Cup the filling with your hand and press down so the dough sticks, ensuring there are no air bubbles.

At this stage, with the flat edge of the tortellini facing you, roll over once towards the tip.

Bring the two side flaps back towards you and squeeze together where they meet. I use a bit of water here if it doesn’t stick.

Cook in salted boiling water for 3-4 minutes. Drain. Then add some oil to a pan and fry one side of the tortellini until it is crisp and golden. Serve immediately with the two dipping sauces below.

Serves 6 as a starter.

Soy dipping sauce
4 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 fresh chilli, chopped
Chopped coriander

Method
Mix all the ingredients and refrigerate until gyozas are ready to be served.

Nuoc Mam dipping sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp water
1 fresh red chilli, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped

Method
Put all the ingredients in a small bowl and leave in the fridge to infuse all the flavours.

The invasion of the courgette

Sharing a garden with someone who is green fingered has been a lovely treat. Our landlady regularly insists we eat her salads, Swiss chard, herbs, rhubarb and courgettes. Not one to turn down such an offer, I have made the most of her wonderful generosity. As gardeners will know, once the courgette plant is ready, it seems like it will never stop sprouting. From one day to the next, courgettes grow a couple of centimetres! Rather impressive.

One of my favourite dishes involves plenty of summer flavours: crab, chillies, red onion, lemon, capers and of course, our much loved courgette. Teamed with lovely wholegrain spaghettini, you have yourself a delicious week night dinner.

Crab, Chilli & Lemon Spaghettini
Adapted from In the Mood for Food by Jo Pratt

Ingredients
Olive oil
1 large red onion, sliced finely
1 large courgette or two small ones, sliced thinly
1 chilli, chopped
1 lemon, zest and juice
2 generous tablespoons of capers
1 or 2 tins of crab
Wholemeal spaghettini

Method
Add the spaghettini to a large pot of boiling salted water. Heat a large frying pan on medium to high heat. Add a tbsp of olive oil. Then add the sliced courgette, red onion and chilli. Fry until the courgette is slightly browned.

Add in lemon zest, capers. Stir through. With a couple minutes remaining on the pasta, add the crab and a splash of lemon juice.

Drain the pasta and put it back into the pot, throw in the crab and courgette mix. Add a glug of olive oil and some lemon juice. Season if needed. Serves two generously.

Smokin’

Smoked haddock. Whenever I cook it, it reminds me of my Granny’s house. Westbury Road: with the ominous sounding doorbell, the blue and pink hydrangeas, the patterned carpets, the familiar smell of home, the verdant garden and the badminton matches played on the lawn on balmy summer afternoons. I still dream about that house from time to time, it makes me feel happy and safe.

Whenever Granny made smoked haddock, poached in milk, it felt like a treat. The flaky texture of the fish, the smokiness combined with the saltiness, it is quite simply magnificent. The perfect winter fare. I like it in risotto with leeks: gratifying, nutritious, comforting, just how food should be at this time of year.

Smoked Haddock and Leek Risotto
Adapted from roast figs sugar snow food to warm the soul by Diana Henry


Ingredients

10g butter
1 medium leek, sliced finely
125g smoked haddock
450ml of chicken stock (plus some for poaching)
75g risotto rice
20g parmesan, grated

Method

Melt the butter in a saucepan and sweat the leeks for about 15 minutes. Remove any skin from the fish and poach in the stock (make sure it covers the fish). When it’s cooked, leave covered with stock so it stays moist.

Add rice to the leeks making sure it is nicely glazed with the juices. Have your stock simmering on the side and slowly add it, one ladle at a time. Always make sure the liquid is fully absorbed before adding any more. Stir constantly during this process, which should take about 20 mins. Near the end, use some of the stock the fish has been poached in, not too much or it could be too fishy and salty!! Taste as you go along.

When the 20 minutes is up, add tbsp of parmesan and delicately break the fish into chunks and stir into the risotto. Add some black pepper if you wish.

Serves one generously.

Mango Kiss

There I was, the other week, discussing with one of my colleagues a cookbook which I’d heard from various sources was a little disappointing. Interestingly enough though, said colleague, a keen cook like me, was raving about it and after describing how he’d made several mouth-watering dishes, I vowed to make something out of it that very next weekend. What I chose to concoct was a departure for me.

Salads excepted, I have never been a big fan of fruit in savoury dishes. I was scarred for life by my Mother’s chicken curry with bananas and sultanas. Why would you do that to your own child? What was she thinking? There was obviously some logic there as she was very experimental but I never bought into it. It was far too sweet for my liking.

What finally tempted me back into this realm was some langoustine tempura which I had in a restaurant called La Vache qui Vole (there was a papier mâché flying cow complete with wings hanging from the ceiling of this establishment) in Martigny in Switzerland. The dish was served with a mango salsa. It was good. Very good in fact, and the mango, not too sweet or tart, was the perfect accompaniment to the tempura. I was hooked. Well I lie, I have been hooked on dried mango for a long time but I could take or leave fresh mango. When I came across a Vietnamese dish called Tom Sot Xoai in Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey, I knew I had to try it. It was a revelation; it was fresh and flavoursome, with the mango and prawns brought into perfect balance by the fish sauce. An absolute must-make again.

Stir-fried prawns with mango (Tom sot xoai)
Adapted from Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey

Ingredients
1 small underripe (but not green) mango
1 tsp cornflour
2tbsp vegetable oil
8g garlic, finely chopped
80g shallots, finely chopped
1-1 ½ red bird’s eye chillies, finely chopped
250g large raw peeled prawns
Juice of 1 lime
1tbsp fish sauce
Large handful of Thai sweet basil leaves
White pepper, freshly ground

Method
Peel mango and slice flesh away from stone in the middle. Cut up roughly into 1cm pieces.

Mix cornflour with 1tbsp water, set aside.

Heat oil in a wok or a large frying pan over a medium to high heat. Add garlic, cook for a few seconds, add shallots, cook for another 30 seconds. Add red chillies and prawns, turn heat up and stir-fry for approx 2 minutes, till the prawns are pink and just cooked through.

Add 2-3 tablespoons of water (less if using frozen prawns), lime juice, fish sauce and cornflour mixture and stir-fry for a few seconds till sauce thickens. Add the mango, cooking for a short time until heated through. Stir in basil and season with the white pepper. Serve with rice. Serves 2 generously.

Fast Food for Fast Work

Training 3 to 4 times a week for my 10k race has increased my cravings for carbohydrates. Entrance stage left: Potatoes. I have never been a fan but I have found myself staring at them lovingly in the supermarket. They are versatile and can be cooked in a multitude of ways but my favourite, by far, are wedges, with the skin still on.

Salmon Burgers & Spicy Wedges

Spicy Potato Wedges  Adapted from Bill’s Food by Bill Granger

1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves unpeeled and crushed with the flat side of the knife
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp Tabasco sauce
500g potatoes, unpeeled, scrubbed, dried and cut into wedges
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt

Preheat oven to 200C. Put the oil, garlic, lemon juice and Tabasco sauce in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add the potatoes and pepper and stir until the potatoes are well coated. Transfer to a baking dish spreading the potatoes evenly with the peel down. Bake for 45 minutes or until crispy. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve.

And what better way to serve this than with some burgers… John being a non-meat eater made me search high and low for an alternative and salmon burgers were the answer to my culinary prayers.

 

Salmon Burgers Adapted from Mark Bittman’s Bitten Blog

325g skinless, boneless salmon

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 shallot, peeled and cut into chunks

A good handful of coarse bread crumbs

1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp olive oil

 

Put about a quarter of the salmon into a food processor, along with the mustard. Turn the machine on, and let it run until the mixture becomes pasty. Add the shallots and pulse until finely chopped.

Add the parsley and the remaining salmon, and pulse the machine on and off until the fish is chopped coarsely but is well combined with the paste.

Scrape the mixture into a bowl, and by hand, stir in the bread crumbs and salt and pepper. Shape into 2 burgers.

Place oil in a frying pan, and turn the heat to medium-high. When the oil is hot, cook the burgers for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, turning once. Serve on a few leaves of salad greens or on some wholemeal burger buns with some parsley & lemon mayonnaise.

Fuel for any exertion!

University Fodder

I was in Brighton this weekend, visiting my best friend Sarah. We met at university back in the mid-1990s when we were both studying law. She was always bold where I was shy and I think in some ways, this is why we are still good friends today: opposites attract. One thing we very much had in common was food, we talked about it constantly. Whether it was the breakfast in the student union, or the cod on bubble & squeak with Béarnaise sauce from The Griffin in Caversham, food was always high of the list of subjects to be discussed. Every evening, we’d ring each other to discuss the intricacies of our respective dinners whilst watching Eastenders simultaneously on the television.

University food was stodgy as it was potato and baked beans ‘heavy’ and thus not very refined. It fulfilled its purpose but I ensured I always cooked something a little more sophisticated for dinner. I will always remember the look on my flatmates’ faces when I made Chilli & Prawn risotto for the first time… Disbelief, followed by mild envy!

I have made this recipe ever since. It’s perfect on a rainy summer’s day: fresh and tasty with a hint of chilli to warm you up.

Chilli & Prawn Risotto

Chilli & Prawn Risotto

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped finely

1 clove of garlic, chopped finely

1 red chilli, chopped finely

200g Arborio risotto rice

4 ripe plum tomatoes, peeled, with core & seeds removed and chopped roughly

150g King prawns

2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley

Salt & Pepper

 

For the stock

550ml fish stock

180ml white wine

4 sprigs of parsley

 

Method

First you need to peel the tomatoes. Boil water in a small pan, use a knife to score the tomatoes with a cross and put into the water for 30 to 60 seconds. You will see the skin starting to peel away. Wait till they cool down a little and then peel. Ensure you remove the core and the seeds, chop roughly.

Put all the ingredients for the stock into a pan and heat on a low setting.

Heat the olive oil on medium-high heat in a casserole dish or large saucepan. Add the onion, garlic and chilli and cook until translucent. Do not burn or it will taste bitter!

Add the rice, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until it smells nutty and the rice is well covered with the oil. Add the chopped tomatoes and stir. Cook for 2 mins.

Start adding the stock at regular intervals, stirring frequently so the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. This will take about 20 mins and will ensure the rice is cooked through. Once the time is up, add the prawns & parsley, cook for a further 4 mins. Season & serve.

Makes 4 small servings ( or 2 large ones!).

I am not a glutton

It rarely happens but I overindulged this weekend… in spectacular fashion. It was my last weekend with John before he took off for Europe for three weeks so I decided that trying new recipes was the best way to deal with it. Maybe I was selfishly and subconsciously trying to make him too fat to get on the plane.

Cheese & Wine

I’ve always loved suppers of what we call ‘les restes’ (or leftovers). A baguette, a selection of cheeses, some sort of pâté and green salad dressed with tangy vinaigrette. Not to mention a nice glass of red wine. It is relaxed, easy and really satisfying. Instead of pâté, I made salmon rillettes.

Salmon Rillettes

Adapted from Cooking At Home on Rue Tatin by Susan Loomis

I served the rillettes with slices of fresh baguette.

250g skinned salmon fillet
salt
75 g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped chives
125 g smoked salmon, cut into thin strips, then cut into 2 cm pieces
¼ smoked paprika

 

Salmon RillettesPoach the salmon in simmering salted water for 7-8 mins depending on the thickness of the fillet. Once cooked, remove from heat and leave to cool.

In a medium-sized bowl, mash together with a fork the butter and the olive oil until very smooth. This is important otherwise you will have big chunks of butter in the finished rillettes.

Stir in the lemon juice, then the chopped chives and smoked salmon.

Flake the cooked salmon over the mixture, then fold the pieces of salmon into the rillette mixture along with the paprika.

Season with salt, if necessary.

Put into a serving dish, cover, and chill for at least two hours. Bring back to room temperature before serving.

Please note that this keeps in the fridge for a good couple of days.

I also made Pistachio & Apricot Cake and Coconut Macaroons with Chocolate Ganache, but more about that later.

Simple Pleasures

Fish

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across Molly Wizenberg’s blog Orangette. Her writing is inspiring and her passion for food is infectious. She has a love of all things French and the food she cooks reflects that. Enthused, I decided to try out one of her recipes at the weekend.

 I was up in Derbyshire and after an active day comprising a 90-minute bike ride and a 2-hour walk, I was starving. I plumped for a simple but tasty recipe of poached halibut with garlic, parsley, lemon and olive oil.

 Poached Halibut with Garlic, Parsley, Lemon & Olive Oil,  from Molly Wizenberg’s Orangette blog (a recipe adapted from from Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s Weeknight Kitchen newsletter)

Ingredients

4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
8 sprigs of parsley
1 tsp salt
Water
2 halibut fillets with skin removed (if you can’t find halibut, use cod)

More parsley for the garnish
2-4 lemon wedges, for garnish
Extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle
Salt & Pepper

Method
Put the crushed garlic, parsley, and salt in a 12-inch skillet or sauté pan. Add water to a depth of about 5cm. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 5 minutes.

Halibut fillets will cook for 8 to 10 minutes per 2.5cm of thickness.

When the poaching stock is ready, delicately put the fillets into the pan. Cook for the time you’ve worked out depending on thickness. The water should just be bubbling gently. Test the fish by making a small slit with a small knife in the thickest part of the fillet: all but the very centre of each piece should be opaque.

When each fillet is ready, use a slotted spoon to transfer it to a serving plate. Garnish the plates with sprigs of parsley and lemon wedges. Drizzle with olive oil, add salt and pepper. Don’t forget a squeeze of lemon!

Serve with peas and new potatoes tossed in olive oil.

 

Cooked fishThe taste is delicate and deliciously fragrant. I served it with asparagus which was a mistake as it overwhelmed the fish a little so next time I will be trying it with peas.

I am awaiting the delivery of Molly Wizenberg’s book ‘A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table’ with much trepidation.