Haddock with Courgette and Spinach Gratin

I strongly feel we don’t eat enough fish. Actually, let me rephrase that. Every self-respecting foodie and environmentalist knows world fish stocks are plummeting due to unsustainable farming/fishing and excessive consumption. However, I agree with Delia Smith when she says the British don’t eat enough fish – despite living on an island – because they are scared of cooking it. I love fish. To me, a bowl of home-made fish soup can be the perfect ending to a stressful and manic day. A good fish baked in a salt crust is simply divine. However, my partner is more oriented towards meat and doesn’t like fish which tastes of, well, fish (duh!): this means we don’t eat as much sea products in my household as I would like to. I do compensate with sushi and sashimi whenever I can, but I have also came to the conclusion that if I manage to make the flavour of the fish very interesting and enrich it with other tones, then my partner will love it too.

This recipe started as a celeriac gratin on one of the BBC Good Food magazine but I changed it to courgettes as I couldn’t find it in my local supermarket and it definitely works. Choose a flaky white fish for this, for instance haddock or cod, as you will need a meaty fish to counteract the creaminess of the vegetables. The fish is poached rather than roasted, which keeps it really moist and succulent. A sprinkle of paprika on top will enhance the flavour of the dish and provide a colourful touch. In addition, despite the presence of cream, this dish is not as heavy as it might look like, so don’t feel guilty to indulge and have second helpings!

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Ingredients

  • 500-600g white flaky fish fillets, such as haddock or cod, cut into 4 portions
  • 300g fresh spinach
  • 2 courgettes, thickly sliced
  • 200ml double cream
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • butter (for greasing)
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 200C and butter a large gratin dish.
  2. Tip the spinach in a colander and sit in the sink. Slowly pour a kettle of boiling water on the leaves and wilt them, then run under cold water to cool them down. Squeeze any excess water out of the leaves with your hands and set aside.
  3. Tip the courgette slices, spinach and cream in the gratin dish. Season and toss everything together. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  4. Remove the vegetables from the oven, then lay the fish pieces on top of them. Sprinkle with the paprika and season with salt and pepper, then cover with the foil again and return to the oven for another 30 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and serve while hot.

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Salmon and Ginger Fishcakes

My partner’s Christmas presents was a massive Magimix food processor, something I had my eyes on for quite a while. Despite already having a food processor, I hated it. To be perfectly fair, we’d bought it a while ago because I wanted one and, having just moved into a new flat, we went for the cheapest option, Russel Hobbs. I think it probably worked fairly average for the first couple of months and then things started to go a bit pear-shaped. Because of the way it was designed, the plastic tube holding the blades kept on being pushed upwards, thus coming off its base and jamming the whole thing. It took me ages to simply process, let’s say, vegetables and making shortcrust in there was a big no.

Now, I’m in food processor paradise. It may cost 6 times as much, but believe me when I say it’s worth it. I have now made pastry in there and it’s a total delight. User-friendly, very silent (I am still impressed) and extremely easy to clean. This also means I can now tackle the recipes I was a bit worried about before, including fishcakes. This recipe comes from the delicious. magazine online portal and it originally states to mince the fish and the vegetables by hand. I say, “why bother if the food processor can do it for you?” I whipped up these fishcakes in a second. Very easy to make, quite as easy to eat, especially if accompanied by the crunchy salad. A simple recipe for a mid-week supper which can be quickly converted into a packed lunch too.

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Ingredients

  • 400g skinned salmon fillet
  • 2 tbsp minced ginger
  • 4 spring onions
  • 1 red hot chilly, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 1 red and 1 yellow pepper, finely sliced
  • 250g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • olive oil

Method

  1. Dice the salmon and add to the food processor together with the spring onions and the minced ginger. Pulse and/or process until thoroughly combined. Season well and transfer to a bowl, then cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for about 10 minutes to firm up.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine the lime juice, sugar, fish sauce and rice vinegar with the chopped red chilli. Set aside until needed.
  3. Take the fishcakes mixture out of the fridge, oil your hands with a little bit of olive oil and divide it in about 8 portions, then shape each into a small patty. Heat some oil in a frying pan, then cook each fishcake for a couple of minutes a side.
  4. Arrange the vegetables onto a platter, then lay the cooked fishcakes on top. Drizzle with the reserved dressing and enjoy while warm.

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Seafood Peppers

The jury seems to be out on whether we eat enough or too much fish on a daily basis. Some maintain the fish stocks are currently running out (and aquaculture is not helping in the slightest), while other believe we are consuming too much meat and that fish is a sustainable source of food. Whomever side you might be on, you surely cannot deny fish plays a very important role in summery dish. Personally, I love fish. I would eat it all year round, were it not for the price. And I do try as much as I can, mostly because it is good for you (and I’m not saying this just for the sake of saying it) and because, let’s face it, it tastes amazing.

This dish manages to combine vegetables and fish in a very peculiar and still tasty way. The peppers are slightly roasted with some olive oil, then stuffed with seamince (yes, that’s not a word, I know) and covered in crunchy breadcrumbs. The stuffing is both delicate and ‘meaty’ at the same time, which makes it a perfect main. It can also be eaten cold. The recipe comes from the July issue of La Cucina Italiana.

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Ingredients

  • 2 red peppers
  • 2 yellow peppers
  • 250g cleaned squid
  • 200g seabass fillet, deskinned and deboned – any other ‘white meat’ fish would also do
  • 300g crayfish
  • 150g rustic bread, sliced
  • 1 onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 50ml white wine
  • 3 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Method

  1. Slice the peppers in half, remove the green top, the white membranes inside and the seeds. Lay them empty side up on a lined baking tray, drizzle some olive oil on top, season with salt and pepper. Roast at 200C for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the side.
  2. In the meantime, finely chop the garlic clove and the onion, then tumble in a frying pan with a drizzle of olive oil and fry over medium/high for 3 minutes, until golden. Add the seabass fillets, squid and crayfish and cook for 3 minutes, until slightly firmer.
  3. Add the white wine and let it bubble away, then turn the heat down to medium/low and cook for another 5 minutes.
  4. Cut the bread slices into small cubes, then tumble those in the pan too and cook for another 2 minutes. Season with pepper.
  5. Remove from the heat, transfer to the bowl of a food processor and whiz until smooth.
  6. Use the stuffing to fill the peppers and ensure you use all of it by pressing it down inside the pepper cavities. Scatter the breadcrumbs on top, then drizzle some olive oil and roast for 20 minutes (still at 200C). Remove from the oven, decorate with the finely sliced spring onions and serve.

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Salmon & Lentils with a Chorizo and Balsamic Dressing

This is such an easy and yet rewarding dish to make. If you like fish, then you need to at least try this. The dressing itself can easily be adapted and, as a matter of fact, I have amended the original recipe (by Lorraine Pascale), as I found her version to be a bit too unctuous for my taste.

Contrary to what you might think, I do not keep bags of lentils in my kitchen. I find them really hard to cook with. If added to a soup, they tend to stick to the bottom of the pan when left unsupervisioned and ruin the whole thing. This time, however, I used the tinned variety (puy would be best, but green is also fine) and I was very happy with the result. The addition of maple syrup to a dressing might seem odd, although it works wonders here with the balsamic vinegar.

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Ingredients

  • 2 x salmon fillets, skin on (preferably, but mine were perfectly cleaned)
  • 100g chorizo ring, sliced in one-pound coins
  • 100g green beans, ends trimmed off
  • 400g tin of puy/green lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves only, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • pinch of mustard powder
  • salt and black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 tbsp butter

Method

  1. Put a frying pan on a medium to high heat, drizzle some oil and lay the salmon fillets one next to the other. Preferably skin down (if they have their skin on). Cook for about 5 minutes on one side, then flip over and carry on cooking for another 4 minutes on the other side. Adjust your cooking time according to whether you prefer it slightly raw in the middle or well done. Cover the pan with a lid if you see the salmon is cooking only on one side as this will help spreading the heat more evenly.
  2. In the meantime, melt the butter in another frying pan (or in a saucepan), then toss the trimmed green beans over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes, until evenly coated and bright green. Add the chorizo, then reduce the heat to low and cook for about 3 minutes, tossing occasionally.
  3. Add the chopped rosemary and the lentils to the pan with the chorizo and beans and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring every now and then.
  4. Prepare the dressing in a jug by combining the extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, mustard powder and seasoning, then whisking together.
  5. Remove the lentils pan from the heat and spoon some over your plate. Lay the cooked salmon fillets on top, then drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and serve while warm.

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Fennel-scented Seabass

Now this is a very easy dish. All you need to do is bake some seabass with the addition of a handful of ingredients to get yourself a tasty and colourful meal. The recipe is a free adaptation of one found in one of the many cooking magazines I buy, so please feel free to experiment with the ingredients you like the most and add them on to the fish.

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Ingredients

  • 2 seabasses, whole, descaled and gutted (you can ask your fishmonger to do this)
  • 1 fennel bulb, finely sliced – leaves put aside
  • 50g black olives, pitted
  • 2 red chillies, finely sliced
  • 1 bunch of basil, finely sliced
  • 1 whole lemon, sliced (I used limes here)

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 160C. Line a baking tray and put the fish on top of it, with their heads facing opposite directions. Season both sides of each fish with plenty of salt and pepper.
  2. Fill the cavities of the fish with the fennel leaves, some basil and one or two lemon slices.
  3. Arrange the rest of the ingredients around, under and above the fish, then drizzle with some olive oil.
  4. Bake for about 30-40 minutes, until the fish is cooked but not dry.
  5. Remove from the oven, fillet and serve.

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Scallop and Salad Cream Profiteroles

Before we even venture into the recipe, a couple of points. By salad cream I do not mean the disgustingly mayo-like and yellow or white-ish stuff you Brits squeeze/dollop/smear over your salad to dress it. Rather, I mean an actual cream made of boiled salad leaves. Secondly, I know you are used to sweet choux pastry, but its savoury counterpart is just as good.

For this recipe, please make sure to buy good quality scallops and to clean them thoroughly before use. Also, allow plenty of time to prepare and assemble everything. This recipe was featured in the March 2013 issue of La Cucina Italiana and works brilliantly as a canapé or starter when you have people over. Dead easy to make too!

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Ingredients

  • 1 quantity choux pastry
  • 100ml double cream
  • 6 big scallops
  • 180g bag of mixed salad leaves, chopped
  • 3 small artichokes from a tin/jar
  • 30g butter
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • parsley, finely chopped
  • chives
  • oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  2. Prepare your choux pastry and pipe into small balls on the prepared tins. Bake as appropriate until the balls have puffed up and are a good golden brown.
  3. Remove from the oven and let them cool on a wire rack.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the salad cream. In a frying pan, melt the butter and then tumble in the finely chopped shallot, mixing it until slightly golden. Add the salad leaves and let them wilt in the heat. As soon as they start leaking water, transfer them to a blender together with the cream and add 1 tsp chopped chives. Blend until smooth.
  5. Pour back into the pan and bring to the boil over medium heat, reducing it until slightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  6. Sear the scallops in a very hot pan. Be careful not to overcook them. 2-3 minutes per sides will be more than enough. Transfer to a chopping board and, using a very sharp knife, slice into half.
  7. Finely chop the artichokes and mix together with the parsley and a dash of lemon juice. Season with pepper.
  8. Cut the choux profiteroles into half, then spoon some salad cream in the bottom half and top with some of the artichoke mixture. Arrange the scallop slice on top and cover with the choux bun top. Repeat with all of the choux buns.

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Salmon & Pancetta Linguine

This recipe reminds me of the Kitchen Cabinet, a BBC Radio 4 podcasts in which food critics and well-known chefs debate culinary topics and give advice on making the best of the seasonal produce and cooking. In one of the episodes, the panel members jokingly suggested that the three main ingredients they would have always suggested to use were pork, cheese and cream. In this case, pancetta and salmon are a perfect match. I am using smoked salmon here, but the trimmings some supermarkets offer would do just as good. As for the pancetta, I usually buy mine cubed directly from the supermarket, but were you as lucky as to have the chance to get it directly from a butcher, then please do so. If you can’t get your hands on pancetta, then lardons is a good substitute. Should that also not be available, use bacon, but please opt for non smoked and rindless.

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Ingredients

  • 300g linguine
  • 70g pancetta cubes
  • 100g smoked salmon
  • 2 spring onions, sliced
  • 3 tbsp sour cream
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • black pepper
  • sea salt (for the boiling water)
  • oil

Method

  1. Put some sea salt in a pan and add water. Bring to the boil, then throw in the linguine and cook according to packet instructions. Stir frequently and keep an eye on the pasta so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan or the linguine don’t melt into a big gluey lump.
  2. In a shallow pan, heat some oil and throw in the pancetta cubes. Stirring occasionally, fry for about 4 minutes. By this time, the pancetta should have crisped up a bit. At this stage I usually remove the pancetta cubes which are just made of fat and don’t contain any meat at all as I don’t like biting into them. I leave them in at the beginning so as to add extra flavour.
  3. Throw in the spring onions and cook for another 5 minutes, until softened, stirring frequently. By then the pancetta will be nice and crispy. Add the smoked salmon slices and cook, stirring, to break them up as soon as they firm up. That shouldn’t take more then 3 minutes. Once that is done, take off the heat.
  4. Put the sour cream in the pan with the sauce ingredients and stir to combine.
  5. Drain the pasta and tumble in with the sauce. Add the parley and a good grinding of black pepper, then give a final stir and serve.

Tips

  • This can also be transformed into a very nice and unusual carbonara. When you are making the sauce, add 50g of frozen peas together with the spring onions and cook for an additional 5 minutes in order to dry any water. When you are draining the pasta, reserve a cup of the boiling water. Tumble the pasta with the reserved pasta water and add 2 egg yolks, then put the pan back on the heat and keep on stirring for 2 minutes, until all the pasta is covered with the sauce. Stir in the parsley and double the amount of black pepper and serve. 

Salmon en papillote

A very nice and easy supper, steaming salmon (or any other fish to be honest) with plenty of spices and accompanying it with some boiled greens allows me to have a non-fuss healthy dinner with plenty of flavour. For more options, try adding other ingredients (red peppers, spinach, carrots to name a few) or varying the fish. Trout or cod would also be nice.

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Ingredients

  • 2 salmon fillets
  • 1 stick of celery, finely chopped
  • 2 red chillies, deseeded and finely sliced
  • 2 tbsp mirin
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • juice from half a lime
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • green beans, to serve with

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  2. Cut two pieces of foil and lay each salmon fillet in the middle.
  3. Drizzle with the sesame oil, mirin, soy sauce and lime juice.
  4. Scatter the red chillies on top and add the spring onions and the celery slices.
  5. Wrap the foil around the filling so as to make a small parcel and make sure you crimp the edges and seal it properly.
  6. Lay on a baking tray and cook for about 15 minutes.
  7. Take them out of the oven and let them rest for another 5 minutes before opening on the plate and serving up with some freshly boiled greens.