Seared Tuna with Braised Little Gems and Peas, with Mustard New Potatoes

My cooking time remains seriously limited at the moment, so I am largely confined to old favourites and quick bites. This combo is a new favourite however, we are having it again this evening due to popular demand and thankfully it is very quick to make as well as being delicious.


RECIPE – Serves 4 

4 tuna steaks, approx 200g each

20g unsalted butter

2 banana shallots, finely sliced

6 little gem lettuce, halved

150ml light vegetable stock

400g petit pois

a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

a small bunch of chives, chopped

1 tbsp creme fraiche

For the mustard new potatoes:

500g new potatoes, scrubbed

2 tbsp creme fraiche

1 tsp wholegrain mustard


Defrost the tuna steaks if necessary.

If necessary, cut the potatoes so they are all a similar size. Bring the potatoes to the boil in a large pan of salted water, then reduce to a simmer for approximately 20 minutes. Set aside to steam dry in a colander; when cool enough to handle, mix the creme fraiche and mustard with some salt and pepper in a large serving bowl, then toss the warm potatoes through the dressing, set aside.

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.

Gently saute the shallots in the butter over a medium-low heat for 5 minutes, until softened but not coloured. Place the lettuce in the pan, cut side down, and cook for a minute, then turn over and cook for a minute more.

Add the stock, cover and simmer gently for around 10 minutes until the lettuce is tender. In the last couple of minutes of cooking, add the petit pois.

Season, add the chopped herbs and creme fraiche and stir thoroughly, set aside while you cook the tuna.

Heat a ridged griddle pan over a high heat. 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.

Serve the tuna on warmed plates and let everyone help themselves to the braised lettuce and mustard potatoes.

Quick Cod and Prawn Gratin

A few years ago Si King and Dave Myers – aka The Hairy Bikers – released a series of diet books that completely transformed my outlook on dieting. I’ve always kept myself fit and healthy, but creeping age and a slowing metabolism meant that the pounds crept on over the years. Sound familiar?

Dieting though? Everybody I have ever known who has been on a traditional diet – one that is based on denying yourself treats and cutting down your food intake – has lost loads of weight, only to put it all back on again, and a little more, once they return to ‘normal’ eating. There are complex metabolic (and mental) reasons why this happens, so, it struck me that the way to lose weight and keep it off isn’t by denying yourself but by finding other ways to satisfy yourself. The way to do that is by eating food that is low in calories but delicious, filling and satisfying. That way you don’t feel like you’re doing some kind of penance. Coupling that outlook with cycling through the 5:2 diet a few times a year, I changed the way I view treats and I have kept the weight off as I approach my mid-fifties.

Those Hairy Bikers books contain recipes that could be tailor-made for a 5:2 eating plan: low-calorie, healthy and absolutely delicious. I’m not a diet guru, but if you’re struggling with your diet then try this recipe, try it even if you’re not. My wife is one of those lucky people who will probably be slender forever, but when I am not on the 5:2 diet she still asks me to make stuff like this, just because she loves it.

Total calories per portion are 287. Yep, just 287 – that means you can have a fat boy portion if you want but not turn out to be a fat boy!


RECIPE – Serves 4 

100g raw, peeled king prawns

400g white fish fillets (cod, hake, pollock etc)

150g undyed smoked haddock

400ml semi-skimmed milk

2 bay leaves

1/2 small onion, or 1 banana shallot, peeled and finely chopped

3 tbsp cornflour

3 tbsp water

100g frozen peas

2 tbsp vermouth

40g coarse breadcrumbs

25g cheddar, grated

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Cut the fish into 3cm chunks.

Gently heat the milk in a large pan, with the onion and bay leaves. Bring it to scalding point (where the milk at the edges of the pan just starts to foam) and keep it there.

Add the water to the cornflour to make a smooth paste, then add to the milk, stirring constantly over low heat for 5 minutes until the sauce is thick, rich and glossy.

Meanwhile, heat your grill to high.

Season the sauce, then add the vermouth and peas, cook for a minute or so then add the fish, stirring gently a couple of times and cook for two minutes. Add the prawns and again stir gently a couple of times for a further two minutes.

Transfer to a large warmed oven dish or, if you are serving individually, to whatever number of heatproof serving dishes you require. Combine the breadcrumbs and cheese, scatter over the top and grill for 2-3 minutes until the cheese has melted and the crumbs are lightly browned.

Serve alongside green vegetables, broccoli and/or cauliflower are excellent low-calorie and filling accompaniments.

Kipper Chowder

I get strange looks when I mention this dish, I’m not entirely sure why because it is just a variation on the Scottish classic Cullen Skink. I threw this together last night after noticing a few packs of kippers in the freezer that were somewhat past their best-before date – 2 years past it in fact…

Before you ask the obvious question, nobody died. Kippers are smoked herrings, and smoking a fish is of course a method of preservation. It obviously works.

I urge you to give this a go: the combination of the creamy broth, the smoky aroma of the fish and the mild onion tang of the leeks is delightful. It’s quick to make and only cost me 55 pence – the cost of a packet of flat-leaf parsley – everything else I needed to make this was already in the house.


RECIPE – Serves 2 generously

1 tbsp rapeseed oil

1 large or 2 small leeks, trimmed, washed and finely sliced

250g floury potatoes (Maris Piper, Roosters etc) peeled and diced into 1cm cubes

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

4 kipper fillets

2 tsp cornflour

850ml whole milk

2 bay leaves

a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

a few chive stalks, chopped

the zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon

sea salt

freshly ground black and white pepper


In a large saucepan, heat the oil then sweat the leeks over a medium-low heat, under a lid, until softened. This will take around 5 minutes.

Add the diced potatoes and garlic and cook for a further 3 or 4 minutes, stirring often.

Put the cornflour into a small bowl and add a little of the milk, stir thoroughly to make a thin paste. Turn the heat up and add the remainder of the milk to the leeks and potatoes, with the bay leaves. Pour the cornflour paste into the pan and stir thoroughly.

Bring the milk to a gentle simmer, stirring frequently, then cook gently for around ten minutes until the potatoes are just tender. The broth should be thick and creamy, coating the back of a spoon.

Meanwhile, take the skin off the kippers and chop the fillets into 2cm chunks.

When the potatoes are ready, add the fish to the broth, bring back to a simmer, then remove from the heat, cover and set aside for ten minutes. The fish will gently poach with no danger of it overcooking.

When ready to serve, add the chopped herbs and lemon juice. Stir thoroughly and check the seasoning carefully – you are unlikely to need much salt. Add a few good grindings of black pepper, and a little fresh ground white pepper as well (if you have it).

Serve with a little crusty bread, that’s all it needs.

Salmon with Super-Crispy Skin


The absolute best way to serve salmon is with the skin on and cooked so that it is as dry and crunchy as a potato crisp, while retaining the moistness of the salmon fillet.

The trick is two-fold: ensuring the skin is as dry as it can possibly be, and being brave enough to cook the skin side of the fish for long enough and at a high enough temperature to ensure any remaining moisture is driven out.

To get the skin as dry as possible: first remove any scales, then pat the skin dry as thoroughly as possible using kitchen paper or a j-cloth. Now take a chopping board that is set aside solely for use with raw fish, and lay several layers of kitchen paper on it. Hold the fish fillet, skin uppermost, in the palm of one hand and using the other hand season generously with sea salt. Now lay the fillet, skin side down, on the kitchen paper. Repeat with the remainder of the fillets that you are using, then cover and set aside for 30 minutes or so.

The salt on the skin will draw out any remaining moisture in the skin, and the kitchen paper will absorb it. You will be amazed at how much moisture is extracted.

When you are ready to cook, cut a circle of baking parchment the same size as the base of your frying pan – the same way that you would line the base of a baking tin. Drizzle a couple of tablespoons of light oil over the parchment, turn the heat up and let your pan get really hot, until it is just below the smoke-point of the oil.

Carefully lay the fish fillet, skin-side down, on the oiled parchment, press down so that it lies flat – the fish will probably shrink away slightly at the edges. Cook at high heat for 90% of the cooking time, which for a fillet around 2cm thick will be around 5 minutes, then flip the fillet over and flash-fry the flesh side for 30 seconds – just enough time to give it a bit of colour.

Remove the fillets from the pan and place onto a warmed plate to rest for a few minutes, then serve. It is as easy as that!

Thai Yellow Fish Curry with Coconut Rice

There are some dishes that encourage you to eat far more than you should, this is one of them. A rich, creamy yet – relatively – healthy mild Thai curry that is so moreish it should be a controlled substance. It’s the combination of coconut milk and rice, it is as warm and comforting as a hug from your mum.

As an added bonus, it’s almost as quick to make as a stir-fry, without all the chopping. It’s my new favourite dish.


RECIPE – Serves 4

2 tbsp groundnut oil

2 tbsp yellow curry paste

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

400ml tin of coconut milk

1 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla)

1 tbsp soft brown sugar

6 kaffir lime leaves

300g green beans, trimmed into 3cm lengths

600g thick white fish fillets (cod, hake, haddock etc), skinned and cut into bite-sized pieces

For the coconut rice:

400ml tin of coconut milk

175ml cold water

400g long-grain rice

To garnish:

chopped coriander leaves

mild red chillies (optional)


First, make the coconut rice: combine the coconut milk, water and rice in a saucepan, bring to the boil then reduce the heat to minimum, cover and simmer very gently for 12-14 minutes until the liquid has been absorbed. At this point, cover the rice again and set to one side for ten minutes while you start making the curry.

Place a large wok or frying pan over a medium-high heat and add the oil, when hot add the curry paste, coriander, cumin and turmeric. Stirring constantly, fry for a minute then stir in the coconut milk, fish sauce, sugar and lime leaves, then add the green beans with 50ml water.

Bring to a simmer and cook for 3 minutes, then gently add the chunks of fish and cook for a further 3 to 5 minutes, until the fish is just cooked and starts to flake. Serve alongside the coconut rice and your choice of garnishes.

Sesame Salmon, Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Sweet Potato Mash

We had a fish-hating visitor staying with us last week, so in deference to her we had ten days of lentils, pulses, vegetables and soups. All lovely stuff, but man did I miss the fish…

It was the salmon fillets that initially attracted me to this recipe in the current issue of BBC Good Food magazine, that and the fact that every ingredient here works perfectly with everything else.  What I wasn’t prepared for was just how good the sweet potato mash was (I wax lyrical about it here), and the alchemy that occurs when you put this particular set of ingredients together in this way. The first mouthful was a ‘WOW’ moment, and it only got better from there.


RECIPE – serves 2 

For the marinade:

1/2 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp dark soy sauce

a large knob of fresh ginger, finely chopped

1 fat garlic clove, peeled and crushed

1 tsp runny honey

For the sweet potato mash:

2 large sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into wedges

1 lime, cut into wedges

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 red chilli, de-seeded and thinly sliced

a pinch of sea salt

And the rest:

2 boneless, skinless salmon fillets

250g purple sprouting broccoli

1 tbsp sesame seeds


Heat the oven to 200C/ 180C fan / Gas 6.

Mix the marinade ingredients together in a small bowl.

Pat the salmon fillets dry with kitchen paper and season lightly, then line a baking tray with baking parchment and spread the purple sprouting broccoli in a single layer. Then put the salmon fillets on top of the broccoli and spoon the marinade over the salmon and broccoli. Roast in the oven for 12-15 minutes until the salmon is just cooked.

Meanwhile, make the mash: scrub the sweet potatoes clean and cut away any rough bits, otherwise leave the skin on. Cut each potato into eight wedges, and the lime also into eight wedges. Put the sweet potato and lime wedges into a large glass bowl and cover with cling film.

Microwave on high power for three minutes. Leave to stand for a couple of minutes then microwave for three more minutes. Repeat this process until the sweet potato is completely soft; it took me a total of 11 minutes of cooking – I judged that the last blast in the microwave should only be two minutes.

Remove from the microwave and take out the lime wedges. You should see a puddle of hot lime juice in the bottom of the bowl, leave that there and roughly mash the sweet potatoes with the lime juice, using a fork. Add the chilli and sesame oil with a small pinch of salt, then mash until fairly smooth.

Check the seasoning of the mash, scatter the sesame seeds over the cooked salmon and serve the mash, salmon and broccoli with a simple green salad.

Moroccan Prawns with Paprika and Honey

It’s been a while since I made a stir-fry. I kept telling myself I didn’t have time to make one… if you have ever made a stir-fry you will know how absolutely ridiculous that statement is. There is generally a lot of chopping involved in a stir-fry, but the cooking takes mere minutes. This recipe doesn’t even involve much chopping, so it’s super-quick.

The paprika, ginger and honey do a sexy little dance on your tastebuds, it’s a bit like sweet ‘n’ sour but not quite – however you care to define it, it is absolutely delicious. It works all by itself with some flatbread as a starter, or you can cook up some Basmati rice and it makes a great evening meal. I made this with Basmati rice with butter and lemon, I cannot begin to tell you how well they go together.


RECIPE – serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main course

50g butter

4 tbsp olive oil

3 banana shallots, finely chopped

1 long green chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped

3 fat cloves of garlic, finely sliced

a big thumb of ginger, finely chopped

1 tsp paprika

250g peeled raw tiger prawns

250g large tiger prawns, shell on

the juice of half a lemon

2 tbsp runny honey

the zest of half a lemon

a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

lemon wedges, to serve


First, prepare all your ingredients, this cooks quickly so you need to have everything to hand.

In a large pan or wok, melt the butter with the oil and when it is hot fry the shallots for a couple of minutes until translucent.

Add the chilli, garlic and ginger and cook for a further couple of minutes, then add the paprika, stir thoroughly then add all the prawns. Stir-fry over a medium heat – adding the lemon juice part-way through – for a few minutes until the prawns are just pink, they will cook on so take them off the heat sooner rather than later.

Once you have taken the wok off the heat, add the honey to glaze the prawns, stir well then add the lemon zest and parsley, then adjust the seasoning and take it to the table.

Perfect with flatbreads as a starter or, my favourite, with Basmati rice with butter and lemon.

Lemon Risotto with Seared Prawns

If you have made my chilli oil and you are wondering what to use it with, here is your answer. Fast-frying the prawns in a couple of tablespoons of chilli oil lend a spicy undertone and a rich colour, without overpowering; the oil that you cooked with makes an ideal drizzle to finish the dish as well.

The spiced, delicate flavour of the seared prawns marries perfectly with a simple creamy risotto and makes for a very elegant dish indeed. Seared scallops work equally well and make it even more special. You can use Arborio rice to make risotto, although many Italians consider Carnaroli and Vialone Nano far superior. Carnaroli is what I prefer to use.

If you can get them, use big, fat Amalfi lemons or something similar. If you are stuck with the small offerings from your local supermarket then use four of them, this risotto is all about the citrus.


RECIPE – serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil

2 shallots peeled and finely chopped

400g Carnaroli or Arborio rice

300ml vermouth

1 litre (approx) hot vegetable stock

the grated zest and juice of 2 large lemons, or 4 small lemons

2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley

60g mascarpone

2 tbsp chilli oil

16 raw, peeled king prawns, deveined


First, heat the stock until it is hot but not boiling. Keep it on a very low heat throughout.

Heat the oil in a large frying or risotto pan over a medium heat, add the shallots and fry gently for a few minutes until softened but not coloured. Add the rice and stir constantly for a minute or so until completely coated and glistening with oil.

Add the wine and simmer for a minute until it has largely evaporated, then add two ladles of the stock, bring it to a simmer and stir until it is absorbed. Continue adding the stock, a little at a time and letting it be absorbed before adding more. The rice is cooked when it is soft but still has a slight ‘bite’ to it. This should take 15-20 minutes and you may not need to use all of the stock.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the lemon zest, most of the lemon juice, the parsley and mascarpone and stir it through until the risotto is thick and creamy. Season with salt and pepper and keep it warm while you cook the prawns…

Season the prawns with salt and pepper then heat the chilli oil on a high heat in a frying pan large enough to take all the prawns. Fry the prawns for a minute or two on each side, until they are just pink – there is nothing worse than an overcooked prawn. Nothing.

Pour the leftover lemon juice into the pan, swirl it all around with the prawns then serve the risotto in bowls, topped with four prawns each and finished with a drizzle of the oil and lemon juice that you cooked the prawns with.


Oven-Baked Fish with Tomato and Parsley

The aroma that filled my kitchen last night was indescribable – I am yearning for the day that some clever boffin invents a way to transmit smells across the internet. Until then, you’ll have to take my word for it, unless you decide to make this for yourself, and I strongly recommend that you do – delicious food doesn’t come much easier than throwing some flavourful ingredients into a casserole and sticking it in the oven.

This Greek-inspired recipe comes from ‘Falling Cloudberries’ by Tessa Kiros, a book my wife initially bought just because it was a beautiful book. The picture below comes from that book, and when I first laid eyes on it I knew we were having it for dinner that night. I have made it several times since, and every time I do my wife says she could happily eat this every night for the rest of her life. Praise indeed.

Tessa Kiros claims that this tastes great straight from the fridge; I have to wonder how she ever has any leftovers to put in the fridge!

This needs nothing more than some crusty farmhouse or sourdough bread to wipe every trace of sauce from the casserole, your bowl and your cutlery.


RECIPE – serves 4 

1 kg firm white fish fillets (cod, hake, haddock or similar)

1 400g tin of chopped tomatoes

a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, stalks and leaves chopped separately

4 fat garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

the juice of 2 large lemons

2 celery stalks, with some leaves, finely chopped

1 tsp golden caster sugar

3 tbsp olive oil

farmhouse or sourdough bread to serve


Heat the oven to 200C/ Fan 180C/ gas 4. Place your fish fillets between pieces of kitchen paper to absorb any excess liquid and set aside.

In a casserole, mix together the tinned tomatoes, chopped parsley stalks, garlic, lemon juice, celery and sugar with the olive oil. Season, then cover with the lid, or some foil, and bake in the oven for 30 minutes or so, then remove the lid, stir and place back in the oven uncovered.

Lightly season the fish fillets and cut into chunks around 2 inches thick.

When the sauce has been uncovered in the oven for ten minutes, place the fish pieces into the sauce with the parsley leaves and ensure that each piece of fish is covered by the sauce. Put back in the oven for ten minutes or so, until the fish is just cooked and flakes easily. By now the sauce will be rich, thick and unctuous.

Take to the table with a big spoon, some bowls and plenty of bread, and bask in the appreciation that will surely follow.

Pan-Fried Sea Bass with Herby Salsa and Fennel Chips

This was a meal born out of necessity: I was short on time, short on inspiration and short of the will to do much in the way of cooking. Fennel chips are a staple in our house because they are healthy (being oven-cooked), easy and delicious. The question remained: what to have with them? Normally I would sear a couple of tuna steaks and serve alongside a zingy salsa verde, but I nearly always do that and I fancied a change.

Lurking, unloved, in the back of my freezer was a bag of sea bass fillets. They needed to be used, Christmas is coming and I will need the freezer space. Now what? Something was required to tie my posh fish ‘n’ chips together and tartare sauce, lovely as it is, is a bit too overpowering for sea bass. Instead I put together a simple, fresh, citrusy herb salsa and… wow. What a delicious meal it was. You can’t really call chips – however they are cooked – a light meal; in this meal though that is exactly what they became. It may be cold December right now, but this is a meal that would be equally appropriate for a warm spring evening, eaten in the garden with a good Pinot Grigio alongside it.

I’m making a calendar entry right now, just so I don’t forget to make this again in April…

At this stage, to avoid confusion, I should point out that fennel chips are not made of fennel, they are regular thick-cut potato chips scattered with fennel seeds – a match made in heaven for just about any fish, cooked any way you like.


RECIPE – Feeds 2

For the chips:

2 large floury potatoes (e.g. maris pipers, roosters) per person, plus 2

olive oil

fennel seeds

sea salt

For the salsa:

2 ripe tomatoes, skinned, and finely diced

1 long red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped

1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes

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

a small bunch of fresh coriander, leaves only, chopped

zest and juice of a lemon

a pinch of sea salt

To serve:

3 or 4 sea bass fillets, skin on

sea salt

the juice of half a lemon

a few good handfuls of rocket

lemon wedges


First get the chips cooking…

As a rule of thumb, allow two large floury potatoes per person, then add two more for the pot. So if you are cooking for two use six potatoes, if cooking for four people use ten large potatoes – believe me, there will be no leftovers.

Pre-heat the oven to 220C / 200C fan / gas 7.

Peel the potatoes and chop them into thick and chunky chips. The chips at the extreme sides are likely to end up skinnier so will be more crispy, adding great contrast.

Place the chips in a large pan of unsalted cold water, bring to the boil. Keep an eye on the water and when it just begins to boil set a timer for three minutes. After three minutes drain the chips in a colander and let them steam themselves dry for a minute or two. Hang on to the empty pot, you will need it again.

Give the chips in the colander a good shake, the edges of the chips should roughen and fluff up slightly. Tip the chips back into the pan and drizzle a good glug of olive oil over the chips – don’t overdo it, all you are trying to do is coat each chip with a film of oil so it doesn’t stick to your baking tray. Agitate the pan to spread the oil around, then take a small handful of fennel seeds and scatter them all over the chips, agitate the pan again then tip the chips out onto a large roasting tray.

Give each chip plenty of room, if you crowd them together they will steam and so won’t roast so effectively. You only need a millimetre or two between each chip, but if you need to use two roasting trays then use two roasting trays. Scatter more fennel seeds over the chips, ensuring they are evenly distributed. Season lightly with sea salt, then roast on the middle shelf for approximately an hour. Turn them after 30 minutes to ensure even browning and so you can gauge how much longer they will actually need.


Now make the salsa:

To de-skin your tomatoes: boil a kettle, lightly score a cross in the base of the tomato and put it into a cup. Pour the just-boiled water over the tomato and leave for 10-15 seconds. Empty the hot water out and immediately refill it with cold water. Lift out the tomato, insert the point of a knife under the score and lift the skin away, you should find that the skin peels off easily. If you leave the tomato in the hot water for too long it will begin to cook, and the skin will not come so easily.

Cut the tomatoes into quarters then slice into thin strips, then slice across to make fine dice. Combine with the rest of the ingredients, season with the salt, then put the salsa to one side.

Pat the sea bass fillets dry with kitchen paper, then place on more kitchen paper, skin side up and season with a little salt. Allow to sit for 15 minutes or so; the salt will draw more moisture out of the skin. Pat the skin dry; the skin needs to be as dry as you can possibly make it so that the skin will turn beautifully crisp. Now turn the fillets over onto more clean, dry kitchen paper and lightly season the flesh side. Then heat the oil in a large frying pan.

When the oil is hot, but not smoking, fry the fillets, skin side down, over a medium heat for approximately 3 minutes until the skin is crisp and the fish moves freely in the pan. Carefully flip the fish over, squeeze the juice of half a lemon into the pan, and cook for a further minute.

Remove from the pan onto a chopping board, skin side up and, using a sharp knife, cut each fillet in half.  Place a good handful of rocket leaves on the plate, arrange the fillet pieces on the rocket, then drizzle the salsa over the top. Serve with lemon wedges on the side of the plate.

Serve the chips separately, in the middle of the table along with the remaining salsa, so people can help themselves.