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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Ham, Potato & Spinach Tart

The main concept behind this dish is how simple it is to make. Forget fiddling about with pastry cases, having to blind bake them and hoping the bottom doesn’t come out soggy. The filling here is encased in a potato crust, which makes is a lot easier to prepare (all you need is a piping bag – but you could also spoon it in the tin) which is then enriched with cheese and herbs, to make it tastier. I have used ham and spinach for the filling, but really any other fillings would do as well. Try chicken, tuna, crab, wilted salad leaves and you will get a very tasty yet easy dish every single time.

Also, I used a 20cm springform tin as I currently do not have a standard cake pan (heaven forbid, I know), but as long as you grease the sides any cake tin would do, even a standard sandwich one.

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Ingredients

  • 800g baking potatoes
  • 600g spinach
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 200g smoked cheese. grated
  • 150g sliced ham
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 70g freshly grated Parmesan
  • 4 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 sprig of rosemary, leaves only, finely chopped

Method

  1. Peel and quarter the potatoes, then boil them for about 15 minutes in plenty of salty water. When they are cooked, drain them, then tip them back into the pan and add the butter, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and leave to cool.
  2. In the meantime, drizzle some olive oil in a frying pan and cook the spinach over a medium heat until wilted (about 10 minutes). Transfer to a sieve and leave to drain from the excess water.
  3. When the potato mash has cooled, add the Parmesan cheese, the breadcrumbs, rosemary and the egg yolks, then mix well to combine. Spoon it in a piping bag and simply snip off the end of it (no need for nozzles).
  4. Now start layering your tart. Begin with the potato mixture. Pipe it in concentric circles on the bottom of the tin, starting with the outer one. Slowly make your way to the centre of the tin. Once you have covered the bottom, start building up the sides by piping more outer circles. Use all of the potato mash you have, this should be just enough to create a potato case for the pie.
  5. Preheat the oven to 200C.
  6. Tip half of the spinach onto the bottom of the tart and spread them around, then cover with half of the cheese and half of the ham. Repeat a layer of spinach, but this time top it with the ham and then sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
  7. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the top turns golden and the potato case creates a crust on the top.
  8. Remove from the oven, unmould and leave to cool down for about 10 minutes before slicing.

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Spinach and Walnut Malfatti

One of the many magazines I read (more or less) frequently is Food & Travel, mostly because it comprises my two favourite things in life. I have to admit it is slightly pompous in places and it does provide mostly insights and advice on places I probably never will go to, but looking at the pictures of green valleys and outstanding traditional and regional food does the trick for me anyway.

This is an Italian-inspired recipe. ‘Malfatti’ literally means ‘badly made’, mostly because these spinach balls will turn out very different one from the other and that is their charm. The name evokes a certain nonchalanche when preparing them which is typical Italian (or French, but that’s a different story altogether). They are very easy to make and provide instant comfort. Last note: these are served with a tomato salsa and Parmesan sprinkles. However, due to the flexible nature of malfatti (I sound like an engineer now), these will be fantastic even if you put them in a baking tray with some tomato sauce and bake them, more or less like you would do with lasagne.

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Ingredients (for the malfatti)

  • 300g spinach
  • 20g butter
  • 250g ricotta
  • 100g Parmesan, finely grated
  • 3 tbsp corn flour
  • 50g walnuts
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 egg yolk

Ingredients (for the salsa)

  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and chopped into small pieces
  • 15g parsley, roughly chopped

Ingredients (for the sprinkles)

  • 50g Parmesan, finely grated
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 orange, zest only

Method

  1. Put the spinach in a large pan and pour over enough boiling water to cover. Add 1 tsp salt and bring to the boil, by which time the spinach will have wilted. 
  2. Drain and refresh under cold running water. Drain well, then squeeze out the excess water from the spinach. When done, chop finely and put on kitchen paper.
  3. Melt the butter over a low heat. Once it’s sizzling, sauté the spinach for 4 minutes, stirring often. Put in a colander and put to one side to cool completely. Put a large pan of water on to boil.
  4. Using a food processor, finely grind the walnuts. In a large bowl, combine them with the ricotta, Parmesan and corn flour. Stir in the spinach and season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in the egg and the egg yolk.
  5. Scatter a baking tray with some flour and another with some oil.
  6. Mould the malfatti into small balls using your hands. Place them on the floured tray. When the water is boiling, throw in 1 tbsp salt and add some malfatti at a time to cook. Wait until the float back to the surface, pretty much like gnocchi. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon. Let them drain, then put them on the oiled tray.
  7. To make the salsa, warm the olive oil in a pan, then add the tomatoes and parsley. Season lightly with sea salt and  black pepper.
  8. To make the chilli Parmesan sprinkles, simply combine all three ingredients in a bowl.
  9. Serve the malfatti with some salsa e sprinkle with the chilli Parmesan.