Grilled Sea Bass with Chilli and Mango Sauce

I am lucky enough to have access to a great fishmonger, and I’m always buying his fresh-caught sea bass. It has a lovely flavour and firm flesh, is an easy fish to work with, and whatever you pair it with it makes an impressive dish to put in front of guests. To prepare it, you need to gut and descale it, remove the fins and cut out the gills – but if you don’t fancy the work your fishmonger will happily do it for you.

This recipe comes courtesy of Gizzi Erskine, and it is perfect. It’s definitely one that I will make again and again, my wife demands it.

gsbwcams.jpg


RECIPE – serves 2

2 small sea bass
4 tbsp Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
3 tbsp shao hsing wine or sherry
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp soy sauce
juice of 2 limes
1 fresh red chilli, chopped
½ firm mango (green underripe mangoes are great if you can find them), peeled and cut into matchsticks
200ml water
1 tsp tamarind paste
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp cornflour, mixed with 2 tbsp of water
To garnish, a handful of fresh coriander leaves 


METHOD 

Using a sharp, serrated knife, make 3 or 4 cuts on each side of the fish.

Put the fish into a bowl, pour 2 tbsp of the fish sauce over it and leave to marinate for 5–10 minutes.

Heat the grill to a high heat.

Put the rest of the fish sauce and all the remaining ingredients, except the cornflour and the coriander, into a saucepan. Place over a medium heat and bring gently to a simmer.

Pour in the cornflour mix and stir until thickened. Cover and keep warm.

Grill the fish for 8 minutes on each side or until crisp and golden on the outside but firm and flaky when pushed in its meatiest part.

Place on a serving platter and pour over the sauce. Finally, sprinkle with the coriander.

Cauliflower Pappardelle with Gorgonzola

Oh my.

Some recipes are classic for a reason. This is a classic Italian dish, it’s delicious. That’s the reason it’s a classic.

I have tried this using other blue cheeses but it is at its absolute best when Gorgonzola is used.

pappardelle.jpg


RECIPE – feeds 4

200g cauliflower florets

20g unsalted butter

150g Gorgonzola cheese, diced

3 tbsp whole milk

3 tbsp olive oil

1 garlic clove, peeled

1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves

400g pappardelle

25-50g freshly grated Parmesan cheese


METHOD

Parboil the cauliflower for 5 minutes in a large pan of salted, boiling water. Remove using a slotted spoon and retain the cooking water.

Melt the butter with the Gorgonzola and milk in a small pan over a low heat, stirring continuously until melted and smooth. Do not let it boil. When creamy, remove from the heat and set aside for now.

Cook the pappardelle in the reserved cooking water (add a little if you need to), per the pack instructions, until just al dente.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the whole garlic clove and cook over a low heat, stirring frequently, for a few minutes until lightly browned.  Remove and discard the garlic clove, add the cauliflower to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes until lightly browned. sprinkle with the thyme and season.

Drain the pappardelle, reserving a little of the water for use in loosening the sauce if necessary,  and add it to the pan with the cauliflower. Stir in the Gorgonzola mixture, toss well, remove from the heat and serve sprinkled with the Parmesan alongside a simple bowl of rocket and a crisp glass of white white.

Thai Hake Curry with Lemongrass and Lime Leaf

I am always jotting down notes alongside recipes, especially in my own notebooks where I record the definitive versions of everything worth making again and again. There are a lot of recipes in those notebooks, so sometimes a few words will enable me to remember something about the dish if I haven’t made it for a while.

Alongside this dish I saw the following: “Wow!”

How could I not make it again after seeing that? I made it last night, my wife and I looked at each other and we both said… wow!

I have called it a curry, but only because it has a little heat from the chillies. There are no dried spices here, just the intense natural flavours of shallots, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, chillies and lime. When everything is prepared, just sitting there in a raw pile it smells heavenly. Apply the heat and you lose none of that but gain a lot more.

Everything I blog about is worthy of your time, but you really, really must give this one a try.

IMG_0516.JPG


RECIPE – feeds 2

2 tbsp groundnut oil

4 shallots, thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

40g fresh ginger, finely chopped

4 lemongrass stalks, tender parts only, finely chopped

6 kaffir lime leaves, shredded (fresh are best, but dried are fine)

3 green chillies, finely chopped (seeds removed if you want less heat)

1 400ml tin of coconut milk

2 tbsp fish sauce

a bunch of fresh coriander, leaves and stalks chopped separately

3 hake fillets, cut into large chunks

200g tin sliced water chestnuts

1 lime, zest and juice


METHOD

Prepare all the ingredients, EXCEPT the lime and chopping the coriander leaves, these should be prepared immediately before serving so they are absolutely at their best.

Heat the oil in a large pan or wok, when hot add the kaffir lime leaves and allow to sizzle for ten seconds or so, then add and stir-fry the shallots, garlic cloves, fresh ginger, lemongrass and green chillies for 2 or 3 minutes until soft and aromatic.

Add the coconut milk and fish sauce and continue to cook for a few minutes until the mixture is just starting to simmer. Now add the chopped coriander stalks.

At this point you can turn the heat off and allow it to sit for a few hours until you are ready to eat. I do this a lot; I tend to make anything with a lot of aromatic ingredients in the afternoon and allow it a few hours for the flavours to really develop, it really does make a difference. You can of course just carry straight on…

Add the water chestnuts and the pieces of hake and gently cook until the fish is just done, this will take no more than a few minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the lime zest and juice, and chop the coriander leaves.

When the fish is done, add the lime juice, sprinkle in the lime zest and coriander leaves and stir thoroughly. Take it to the table and fall in love.

This dish works perfectly with Basmati rice, cooked with the tougher trimmings of the lemongrass stalks. Waste nothing! There is flavour everywhere.

Tip: Back in the days when I could only manage to cook a small handful of simple dishes, the one and only thing that I could cook well was rice. In my hands it always had perfect bite coupled with softness, each grain was distinct and separate from its neighbour and there was no hint of stodginess. Then it all went wrong.

I learned that the way I cooked rice was incorrect. I convinced myself that I should be using exact volumes of rice and water, cooking for exact times, sealing pan lids, leaving it to sit for ages, using tea towels as steam absorbers – the more instructions I followed, the more I got away from the simple pleasures of cooking rice simply, the worse my rice got.

My wife was in despair; “you have lost your rice mojo” she told me. Eventually I did the sensible thing and went back to cooking my rice the wrong way, and now it’s perfect again.

In my world, you put your rice in the largest pan you have and cover it in a lot of cold water, at least an inch of water over the level of the rice. Season the water with a very little salt and over a high heat bring the water up toward boiling point. Before it actually boils, turn the heat right down so that the water settles into a very gentle simmer. This will prevent the rice grains from bursting.

The time it takes your rice to cook can differ greatly, so check your rice after 3 or 4 minutes at the simmer and check it every minute thereafter. Your grains should be soft but with a definite firmness to the grain. Overall, your pan of rice should emerge as clean, distinct grains that will be a pleasure to eat.

Creamy Healthy Coleslaw

We had the remnants of a shop-bought coleslaw in our fridge the other day, somebody brought it over as part of their contribution to a family barbecue. I was quite pleased, since I was a boy one of my favourite things is a cheese and Marmite sandwich with lashings of coleslaw, and this was a premium offering from one of the major UK supermarkets. This, I thought, is going to be good.

It wasn’t. I have been spoiled by home-made food. The shop-bought coleslaw was a little too vivid in colour, a little too thick, a little too finely cut, and much too creamy. In previous years I would have loved it, because as far as I knew this is what coleslaw tastes like, but not now.

Immediately I had to go and buy a small cabbage and make my own coleslaw again; last summer there was always a large tub of homemade in the fridge, but I fell out of the habit – I won’t make that mistake again. This coleslaw is simple, cheap and absolutely gorgeous. It does use mayonnaise out of a jar, but that’s okay, it keeps it quick and easy.

IMG_0495.JPG


RECIPE 

1 small white cabbage, core removed, shredded

3 large carrots, peeled and grated

4 spring onions, finely sliced

a handful of sultanas

75g mayonnaise

2 tbsp wholegrain mustard

a dash of lemon juice

salt and pepper


METHOD

Peel away the outer leaves of the cabbage, quarter it and cut out the core, then thinly slice through the quarters. Prepare the carrots and spring onions and put them all into a large bowl with the sultanas.

Combine the mayonnaise and mustard in a separate bowl, season, then adjust to taste with lemon juice. Add to the shredded vegetables and stir very thoroughly.

Indian Spiced Rice

Think of this as an Indian version of Nasi Goreng and immediately you can see how much flexibility it gives you. Served tossed with prawns, chicken, pork, paneer or tofu it is a delicious meal all by itself. It also pairs well with milder sauces – pictured below it has been served with Prawns in a Spicy Tomato Sauce.

The list of ingredients looks daunting, but it takes minutes to prepare and can be on the table within 20 minutes.

IMG_0475


RECIPE – feeds 2 generously

2 tbsp groundnut oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

2 cardamom pods, seeds only

1 cinnamon stick

1 tsp fennel seeds

2 whole star anise

1 tsp fenugreek seeds

3 cloves

a knob of ginger, trimmed but not peeled, finely chopped

2 tsp garam masala

140g basmati rice

1 bay leaf

small bunch of coriander, finely chopped

2 red chillies, finely chopped

1 tbsp mango chutney

1 tbsp lemon juice


METHOD

Prepare your ingredients: bash the cardamom pods in a mortar and pestle to release the seeds, discard the husk. Use as much ginger as you like, but at least a thumb-sized knob; there is much flavour in the skin so trim off any rough, woody and grey bits but don’t peel it. If you like chilli heat then leave the seeds in the chillies, if not then scrape them out before chopping.

In a large saucepan that has a lid, fry the onion, garlic, cardamom seeds, cinnamon stick, fennel seeds, star anise, fenugreek seeds, cloves and ginger in the oil with 1 tsp of garam masala. Cook over a medium heat until the onion is a deep golden brown, stirring regularly. This will take approximately 5 minutes.

Add the basmati rice and stir well until the rice is thoroughly coated. Add 250ml water, the bay leaf and the other teaspoon of garam masala. Add a pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Now put the lid on the pan, turn down to the lowest heat and leave for approximately 15 minutes until the rice is cooked and the liquid has all been taken up.

Remove the cinnamon stick, star anise, cloves and bay leaf.

Add the chopped coriander, chillies, mango chutney and lemon juice. Stir thoroughly, check the seasoning and serve.

If serving tossed with any of prawns, chicken, pork, paneer or tofu, cook those separately and toss through the rice just before serving and serve with your salad of choice.

Lemon Salmon with Cherry Tomato Cous Cous

When you’re dieting, the biggest issue is always feeling full enough that you don’t eat more than you should, and aren’t tempted to snack. The other problem is that if you are relying on pre-packaged ‘diet’ foods they can be bland (a problem which is often overcome by chemical additives – not good). This fantastic dish solves both issues: it is very filling, without being heavy on the stomach, and tastes divine. It’s quick too, what’s not to love?

IMG_0472.JPG


RECIPE – feeds 2 generously

2 salmon fillets

2 tsp fine sea salt

1/2 tsp paprika

zest and juice of a lemon

a large knob of fresh ginger, finely chopped

1 tbsp and 1 tsp garlic-infused oil (see method)

140g cous cous

210ml freshly boiled water

1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

200g cherry tomatoes

a handful of fresh coriander, chopped


METHOD

First prepare your garlic infused oil: slice a clove of garlic into an egg cup, add 1 tbsp and 1 tsp of olive oil and leave for at least 30 minutes to infuse. Do this in the morning to save time later.

Now prepare the salmon: pat the fillets dry with kitchen paper, zest the lemon over a plate, add 1 tsp fine sea salt, 1/4 tsp paprika and stir in 1 tbsp of garlic-infused olive oil. Mix thoroughly then lay the fillets in the mix, turning over and using your fingers to coat the fillets thoroughly with the marinade. Cover and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

IMG_0471.JPG

Put the cous cous in a large pan that has a lid, add 1 tsp of fine sea salt, 1/4 tsp of paprika and the ginger. Mix thoroughly then add the water. Over a gentle flame, stirring continuously, cook for a minute. Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside for ten minutes.

Meanwhile, put the onion and lemon juice in a bowl, stir thoroughly and set aside.

Also, halve the cherry tomatoes and in a separate bowl toss in the remaining 1 tsp of garlic-infused oil. Set aside.

After ten minutes, put a large frying pan with a little oil or a ridged griddle pan on a high heat and get it hot but not smoking. While it is heating up, fluff up the cous cous with a fork, then add the onion and lemon juice, stir thoroughly, then add the tomatoes and oil, mix again, check and adjust the seasoning. Now add most of the chopped coriander and cover the pan again, put to one side while the fish cooks.

Place the salmon fillets in the hot pan, skin-side down if it has any, without scraping off the marinade. Cook for approximately 3 minutes on one side, then flip over and cook for a further minute or so on the other side. Do not try to move the fish around while it is cooking, it will stick until it is cooked. The exact time it will take to cook will depend on the thickness of your fillet.

Tip the cous cous on a serving platter and place the fillets on top, the crispy, seared side uppermost. Garnish with the remainder of the coriander and serve with a simple green salad, dressed with a little fresh lemon juice.

Quick and Easy Fajitas

When thinking about something quick, easy, filling and nutritious to cook, normally my thoughts turn immediately to pasta. Luckily I keep a notebook of all the dishes that I have made over the years and it proved its worth last night as I flicked through it looking for inspiration. I hadn’t made this Fajita dish in a couple of years, and now I’m kicking myself for denying us the pleasure of its company for so long.

Just a handful of ingredients and a few spices, all of which I had to hand, makes for something very much more than the sum of its parts. I have used Quorn chicken pieces here, but it is as quick to make using real chicken, and if you are making it for a vegan, Quorn now do a vegan range – though the availability of their vegan products is still quite limited so you may need to search it out. As an easy vegan alternative try small chunks of aubergine, always a treat when lightly fried.

IMG_0463.JPG


RECIPE – feeds 2

For the seasoning:

1/2 tsp hot chilli powder

a pinch of fine sea salt

1 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp ground allspice

For the fajitas:

2 tsp ground nut oil

200g Quorn chicken pieces

1 red pepper, thinly sliced

1 green pepper, thinly sliced

1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced

1 medium white onion, halved and thinly sliced

fresh coriander

4 soft flour tortillas


METHOD

Combine the seasoning ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Prepare all the fajita ingredients.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok, when hot add all the fajita ingredients except the fresh coriander leaves and stir-fry for approximately five minutes until everything is soft and staring to colour.

Add the seasoning mix, stir thoroughly so everything is coated and continue to stir-fry for another few minutes until everything is thoroughly cooked. Take off the heat and add the fresh coriander, stir thoroughly and take to the table with the soft flour tortillas so people can make their own fajitas. The way to fold a fajita is to fill the middle of the tortilla, leaving a few inches free at the bottom, fold the bottom of the tortilla over the ingredients, then fold in from the sides to make a secure, leakproof container, like this:

fajita.jpg

Add to your fajita with grated cheddar cheese, tomato salsa, guacamole, refried beans, let your imagination run riot!

Linguine with Smoked Salmon and Spicy Red Pepper Sauce

One of the great revelations of learning to cook has been that with a small handful of great ingredients you can make something that would cost you £10 a plate in a restaurant, and it will take only fifteen minutes of your time. Better to spend the money you save on a great bottle of wine.

The star of the show here is the smoked salmon; it adds just the right note of delicate smoke which, set against the heat of the chilli and the zingy freshness of the parsley and lemon zest, gets your taste buds doing a little dance in appreciation.

IMG_0458.JPG


RECIPE – feeds 2

225g linguine

25g unsalted butter

2 tbsp olive oil

1 medium leek, halved and cut into 5mm slices

1 red pepper, de-seeded and cut into small chunks

150g smoked salmon, cut into 5mm slices

1/2 tsp chilli flakes

60ml dry vermouth

the finely grated zest of a lemon

a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, chopped


METHOD

Bring a large pan of salted water to a rolling boil, add the linguine and cook until just al dente. The brand I use takes 10 minutes.

While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter with the oil in a large frying pan. Add the leek and pepper and fry over a medium heat for 5 minutes until softened.

Add the salmon and chilli, cook for a further minute then add the vermouth (if you don’t have any you can use white wine), cook for a further minute to cook off the alcohol. Season, and set aside while the pasta finishes.

Drain the linguine, then tip into the frying pan, bring back over a medium heat and toss until well combined. Grate the lemon zest over the pasta then scatter the flat-leaf parsley. Toss again, then serve.

All this needs to accompany it is a big bowl of rocket. Quick, easy and so delicious.

Seared Tuna Stir-Fry

Stir-fried food is the ultimate fast food, taking literally less than 5 minutes from hot oil to finished dish. Obviously, that means that once you start cooking things move fast so you need to be well organised and have all your ingredients weighed-out, measured and chopped before you even think about turning on the gas. There really isn’t much that goes into this dish, but even so it is absolutely packed with flavour. Preparation should only take 10 minutes even if you take your time.

If Chinese takeaway food is your only experience of Chinese-style cooking then you are in for an extremely pleasant surprise, and this dish is a quick and easy way in to a delicious, filling and healthy cuisine. The sauce is what really makes this dish sing, the interplay of the various aromatic components is just divine. Hoisin sauce is the only ingredient that you might struggle to find, though it is now readily available from larger UK supermarkets.

I have specified Ramen noodles here, just because they go extremely well with stir-fries, but feel free to use whatever you have, or perhaps serve it with Beijing rice. The Ramen noodles I use have a cooking time of 4 minutes, at which point either serve them immediately or plunge them into cold water to stop them cooking. If you want to ensure you don’t have too many things going at once it is a good idea to cook them in advance. They can be heated again when you are ready to use them by plunging them into a pan of boiling water for a few seconds. Always make sure you know how long your noodles take to prepare by reading the instructions on your particular packet.

IMG_0418.JPG


RECIPE – feeds 2

2 tuna steaks

dark soy sauce

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

2 servings of Ramen noodles (approximately 160g dry)

For the sauce:

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp hoisin sauce

1 tbsp dark soy sauce

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

For the stir-fry:

1 tbsp groundnut oil

a large knob of fresh ginger, cut into thin matchsticks

2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

1 medium red chilli, finely chopped (seeds left in if you like it hot)

2 red peppers, chopped into 1.5 cm chunks

3 fat spring onions, finely sliced at an angle

For the garnish:

a bunch of fresh coriander, leaves and stalks, chopped


METHOD

Fill the bottom of a dish large enough to hold your tuna steaks with dark soy sauce to a depth of 2 millimetres. Crush two garlic cloves into it, stir thoroughly then place the tuna steaks in the soy sauce, turning until it is completely coated. Cover with cling film and chill in a fridge for 30 minutes.

Prepare all the other ingredients.

Combine the sauce ingredients, stir thoroughly and set aside.

Heat a wok over a high heat, and a ridged griddle pan also over a high heat.

Get a large pan of unsalted water to a strong rolling boil, add the noodles and cook for 4 minutes. Set a timer – everything moves fast from here…

When the griddle pan is very hot, scrape any pieces of garlic and excess soy sauce from the tuna steaks and lay them in the pan. Cook for approximately 1 minute per centimetre thickness on one side, and half that on the other – to make that clear, a 2 cm thick tuna steak would be cooked for 2 minutes on one side, then flipped over and cooked for a further 1 minute. Do not move the tuna while it is cooking, it is likely to stick until it is properly cooked, and you want well-defined char lines where the ridges are. Cooking it this way should ensure the outside is well-sealed and the very middle is still quite rare, the tuna steak will cook on even when it is on your plate though.

At the same time as the tuna is cooking, when the wok is smoking hot add the groundnut oil and swirl it around the wok to coat all surfaces. Add the ginger, cook for a few seconds then add the chilli and garlic and stir fry for around 15 seconds, then add the chunks of red pepper. Stir-fry for 1 minute then add the spring onions and the sauce and bring to the boil, by this time your noodles should be ready so tip them in to the wok and toss everything together. Garnish in the wok with chopped fresh coriander leaves, and serve the tuna steaks on a bed of the noodles and stir-fried vegetables.

Carrot and Ginger Salad

This simple, quick to make and very attractive salad is the perfect accompaniment to Indian curries.

IMG_0414.JPG


RECIPE – feeds 4 

5 or 6 large carrots

1 fresh red chilli, de-seeded and finely sliced

a 2cm knob of fresh ginger, trimmed but not peeled, finely chopped

a handful of flaked almonds

a small bunch of fresh coriander, leaves only, chopped

lime juice


METHOD

Peel and trim the carrots. If you are lucky enough to have a food processor with a grater attachment then you’re in luck, otherwise you will have to grate the carrots by hand. Put them into a salad bowl.

In a small, NOT non-stick pan lightly toast the flaked almonds until they are lightly and evenly browned. Keep your eye on them as they can burn quickly, when you judge that they are ready tip them out of the pan onto a plate to cool – the pan will be hot and they will cook on if left in it. Remove any toasted almonds that are burned as they are bitter.

Add the almonds to the carrots, together with the chilli, ginger and coriander. Toss thoroughly to mix, and when you are ready to eat sprinkle lime juice over the salad and toss again. Check the taste and add more lime if necessary, a little at a time.

Serve as a side salad alongside anything spicy, but this goes particularly well with many Indian dishes.