Hake Gratin Dauphinois

My recipe notebook has a note beside this recipe: ‘indescribably awesome’. It is.

Perhaps the ultimate comfort food, a fish pie is difficult to beat when the weather is autumnal and the central heating is on – and it’s the end of June.

This one is a bit different though, rather than a mash topping it uses Dauphinois potatoes layered over the top of an onion base with a fish and basil cream filling. Simple to make, and just delicious, it is so moreish it is not a dish you can eat if you are on a diet!

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RECIPE – feeds 3 

500g floury potatoes (Roosters, King Edward, Maris Piper etc)

2 large onions, peeled, halved and finely sliced

2 tbsp olive oil

3 hake fillets or loins (or other firm white fish)

300 ml double cream

a bunch of basil, leaves only, shredded


METHOD

Slice the potatoes to the uniform thickness of a pound coin. Use a mandolin if you have one, it makes the job much quicker and accurate, just be sure to use the guard – I managed to slice my thumb while making this.

Put the sliced potatoes into a large pan in just enough slightly salted cold water to cover them, and bring to the boil. As soon as the water is just at the boil, turn the heat right down until bubbles just break the surface and poach the potatoes for five minutes.

Drain the potatoes in a colander and set aside.

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

Finely slice the onions and fry them gently in a large pan, in the olive oil, for around ten minutes until softened but not coloured. I use my risotto pan for this, I can then leave the onions in it and layer everything on top before I put it into the oven. Use whatever you have though, a large ovenproof dish is perfect.

Spread the onions out in an even layer in the bottom of your pan or dish. Cut the fish into large chunks and season lightly with salt and pepper, then place them evenly on top of the onions. There will be gaps, this doesn’t matter.

Stir the basil into the cream, season lightly with salt and pour evenly over the fish and onions. It will look as though you don’t have quite enough cream, but you do. Don’t be tempted to use more.

Now start laying the potato slices over the fish and onions, slightly overlapping them, until completely covered. Drizzle more olive oil all over the top – not too much – or dot it with butter.

Bake for around 40 minutes until the potatoes have lightly browned and are starting to char at the edges.

Serve with a simple green salad.

 

Salmon Fishcakes

Made well, fishcakes are one of the most delicious meals on the planet. Simultaneously soft and crunchy, mellow yet full of flavour. Made poorly, they can be flabby, soggy, oily and tasteless. It’s obviously best to ensure that they are made well then, and the best starting point is a great recipe.

This recipe was inspired by the Michelin-starred Tom Kerridge, so as you would expect they are full of flavour but do involve a fair bit of work. As a result these are best made on an afternoon when you haven’t much else to do, though I guarantee that once you have found the time to make them you will be yearning to repeat the experience.

Most fishcake recipes involve shallow frying, I have often found though that you need high heat to avoid them getting oily, but then the breadcrumbs tend to burn before the middle of the fishcake is cooked. Far better to bake them, it keeps the breadcrumbs crunchy, ensures even cooking and it also gives you a wider margin for error. It also means they are that much lower in fat and therefore even healthier than they already are.

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RECIPE – makes 6, feeds 3 people easily

3 or 4 baking potatoes – you will need 350g of potato flesh

350g salmon fillets

2 tbsp capers, drained

2 tbsp dill, chopped

2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped

1 tbsp English mustard powder

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

finely grated zest of a lemon

100g smoked salmon, chopped

150g plain flour

2 eggs, beaten

150g panko breadcrumbs


METHOD

Heat the oven to 200C/ 180C fan /Gas 6. Bake the potatoes for between 60 and 90 minutes until soft. Allow them to cool, and when they are cool enough to handle, cut them in half and scoop out the flesh. Pass the flesh through a potato ricer or just mash it, without adding any butter or liquids. Weigh out 350g of the flesh and set aside for now.

*Tip: When you make mashed potato, make as much as you can (far more than you will need) and freeze the excess. It freezes well and it is always useful to have some mash ready-made for fishcakes, or toppings for fish pie or shepherd’s pie.

Season the salmon, wrap it in kitchen foil and place on a baking sheet then roast for 8-10 minutes until just cooked and the salmon flakes easily. Set aside.

Put the potato in a large bowl, then add the capers, dill, parsley, mustard powder, cayenne pepper, salt and lemon zest, then mix in the smoked salmon. Mix thoroughly, then flake the salmon fillets into the mix and fold in.

Divide the mixture into 6 balls, then shape them into cakes. Cover with cling film and put into the fridge to chill for at least an hour.

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When ready to cook, place the flour, eggs and panko breadcrumbs each into an individual deep plate. One by one, coat the fishcakes with flour, egg and finally the breadcrumbs. You can use regular breadcrumbs here, easily made by putting stale bread into a food processor and blitzing until crumbed, but be careful not to go too far or you will end up with dust. Panko breadcrumbs are far superior, being dry and crunchy and bringing a lovely textural difference to the finished fishcake.

Place the coated fishcakes on a baking sheet, and bake at 200C/ 180C fan /Gas 6 for approximately ten minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are golden brown and beginning to char.

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These go extremely well with tartare sauce, roasted sweet potato wedges and a simple green salad.

The empty baked potato skins can be deep fried and served as a starter with sour cream and chives, or your favourite crispy skin dips and fillings.

Cod, Fennel & Potato Traybake with a Tomato Salsa

Think of this as jazzed-up fish and chips and you will get a very good idea of the kind of flavours to expect. Roast potatoes in any way and they will be delicious, roast a fennel bulb and it will also be delicious, roast a piece of cod… you get the idea.

There’s a lot going on here, lots of flavours and lots of lovely scents. Tying it all together and adding the sharp tang of vinegar is the salsa. It turns what is already a delicious meal into… um, what is more delicious than delicious?

Just try it, you’ll soon find out; it’s so simple to make and though it takes a little time in the oven the preparation is minimal.

One other thing: my wife commented that the fennel and potatoes are so delicious on their own with the salsa that you don’t actually need the fish to complete the dish. This makes it an ideal tummy-filler for vegans and non-fish eating vegetarians, without cheating anybody of flavour.

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RECIPE – feeds 2 

300g new potatoes, or floury potatoes like Roosters, cut into 5mm slices

2 fennel bulbs, trimmed, cored and thinly sliced, retain the fronds

2 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges

1 tbsp fennel seeds

2 tbsp olive oil

2 cod fillets or loins (or similar firm white fish)

another 1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

1 banana shallot, finely sliced

another 2 medium tomatoes, de-seeded and diced

a handful of basil leaves, shredded, set aside a couple of small sprigs

a small handful of pitted black olives, quartered


METHOD

Preheat the oven to 200C/ 180C fan /Gas 6. Slice the potatoes, use a mandolin if you have one, it will make the job much faster and more precise.

On a large baking tray, scatter the potatoes, fennel bulbs, wedges of tomatoes and fennel seeds. Season with a decent pinch of sea salt, then drizzle all over with olive oil and toss it all together, using your hands, ensuring that everything is coated and the fennel seeds are distributed evenly. Spread out into a single layer on the baking tray, otherwise the potatoes are more likely to steam than roast and they won’t be as good as they can be.

Roast for 25 minutes or until the potatoes are golden and just about cooked through.

Meanwhile, make the salsa: combine the shallot and vinegar in a bowl and set aside while you chop the tomatoes; then add the tomatoes, basil and olives. Combine well, season lightly and set aside for now.

Remove the tray from the oven, place the fish on top, season the fish lightly and scatter the crushed fennel seeds over them, drizzle with a little olive oil and return to the oven for 7-9 minutes until just cooked through.

Pour the salsa evenly over the hot fish and potatoes, scatter the fennel fronds and reserved sprigs of basil and serve. All this needs by way of accompaniment is a pile of rocket leaves.

Thai Green Prawn Curry with Indian Baby Aubergine

We have lately become addicted to Thai green curry, the creamy, spicy sauce is very vibrant and when mixed with plain steamed or boiled rice makes the most deliciously moreish meal. We could quite happily just knock up a batch of the sauce, pair it with a bowl of rice and tuck in.

With such a promising beginning you can only make it even better by adding more flavours and textures. Flicking through another of my favourite books, ‘Rosa’s Thai Cafe’ by Saiphin Moore, I spotted a green chicken curry that uses pea and Thai aubergines. Interesting.

I have only slightly tweaked Saiphin’s recipe, so credit where it is due. Raw, tail-on king prawns are a match made in heaven for green curry, as is chicken, so use whatever you fancy. I swapped the pea and Thai aubergines for Indian (baby) aubergines, purely because they were the only ‘exotic’ variety available when I popped into my nearest international supermarket. They were perfect, and based on that experience I would recommend that you use whatever aubergines you can find, even the regular large Black Magic variety that are ubiquitous in UK supermarkets. Do try and use the smaller, more interesting looking varieties if you can though, just because they look more interesting. After all, the first bite is always with the eye.

You can have this on the table within 15 minutes from heating the oil, that’s quicker than a takeaway, with much more flavour.

Please, please, please make up your own Thai green curry paste. It is infinitely superior to anything you can buy ready-made in a jar. It freezes well so make up a large batch and put some aside for when you make this again, which you will…

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RECIPE – feeds 2 

1 tbsp vegetable oil

3 tbsp Thai green curry paste

1 400ml tin of coconut milk

1 tbsp of palm sugar or jaggery

2 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla)

3 kaffir lime leaves, fresh or dried, shredded

300g raw, tail-on king prawns or 300g skinless chicken breast in bite-size pieces

100g Indian (baby) aubergines, cut in half

100g cooked bamboo shoots, cut into bite-size pieces

a handful of Thai or regular basil, leaves only, shredded

a couple of sprigs of basil to garnish

2 long red chillies, sliced thinly lengthwise to garnish


METHOD

Heat the oil in a large pan over a high heat and add the green curry paste. Stir-fry for ten seconds or so until it is fragrant, then reduce the heat to medium and add half the coconut milk. Cook for a couple of minutes until the curry paste splits and the oil becomes visible.

Now add the remaining coconut milk, palm sugar, fish sauce and lime leaves. Season carefully, bearing in mind that the fish sauce brings saltiness.

At this point you can remove the sauce from the heat and allow to sit and infuse for a few hours if you wish, this will deepen the flavours. Otherwise, add the aubergines and bamboo shoots and cook for 5-7 minutes until the aubergines are tender. If you are using chicken then add this with the aubergines.

If using the prawns, add them just before serving, along with the shredded basil leaves and cook very gently for a few minutes until the prawns are just pink.

Ladle into serving bowls, garnish with the thinly sliced red pepper and a sprig of basil each, and serve alongside bowls of steamed or boiled rice.

Cajun Meatballs

My wife is vegetarian which means that by default my own diet is largely vegetarian as well. Some of my friends pity me, “don’t you miss meat?” they ask. The short answer is no.

I could, if I wished, prepare vegetarian and meat-based versions of the same dish by dividing the sauce, or I could cook entirely separate dishes for the two of us. Much as I enjoy cooking, why would I make more work for myself? No, I would rather concentrate on creating one dish that works because it is delicious; if it tastes good then you will be thinking about what is good on your plate rather than thinking “I wish this was steak”.

I am a real fan of quorn meatballs, they have a good firm texture and ‘mouth-feel’, and more importantly they carry flavours really well. My default dish for quorn meatballs is to cook them in a great tomato sauce and serve them with spaghetti. I thought it was time I did something different with them though, so I turned to another cuisine which is big on flavour – the cajun cuisine of the deep south of the USA.

Reliant on green peppers, celery, white pepper and dried herbs to give the sauce a kick, and a very dark roux to give the depth of flavour and thicken the sauce, the flavours can be surprisingly varied just by modifying the relative quantities of green pepper and celery.

Be careful with the white pepper, it is quite fiery and an early version of this dish had me sweating profusely because I was a bit too liberal with it. Be sure to cook it in and the flavours will mellow; experiment with it and tweak it to your own taste. This one is perfect for me.

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RECIPE – feeds 2 with leftovers

For the seasoning mix:

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp freshly ground white pepper

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp dried thyme

For the sauce:

1/2 small onion, finely chopped

1 stick of celery, finely chopped

1/2 green pepper, finely chopped

3 tbsp vegetable oil

3 tbsp plain flour

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1 400ml tin of chopped tomatoes

1 vegetable stock cube

200ml water

a dash of tabasco or hot pepper sauce

300g Quorn meatballs

4 spring onions, very finely sliced on an angle

a small bunch of coriander, leaves only, chopped


METHOD

Prepare all of your ingredients before you do anything else, and combine your seasoning mix in a small bowl. Also combine the onion, celery and green pepper in a small bowl.

In a large pan, over a high heat, heat the oil until it just starts to smoke. Add the flour gradually while whisking constantly, keep it on the heat. Keep on whisking over the heat until the flour and oil are fully combined and smooth, by now you should notice that the roux is starting to change colour. The longer you cook and whisk it the darker it will go. You need to get the colour to a very dark brown, the colour of a hazelnut; be brave, just keep on whisking and if you think you are ever in danger of burning it just lift it away from the heat for a few seconds – just keep on whisking.

When your roux is a very dark brown remove it from the heat and immediately stir in your combined onion, celery and green pepper, and half the seasoning mix. Keep on whisking it all together until the roux and the pan have cooled sufficiently that you can safely leave it for a minute or two and nothing will burn. That should only take a minute or so.

Now add the tomatoes, water, stock cube and tabasco; bring it to the boil and keep on stirring until the sauce has thickened, then simmer gently for ten minutes. Add the meatballs and simmer for a further ten minutes.

If you have the time, this is a dish that benefits from resting for a few hours to allow the flavours to develop. If you do so, add the meatballs and turn the heat off. They will cook very gently as the sauce cools and when you are ready to serve just reheat as you normally would.

Add the remainder of the seasoning mix and stir well, then remove from the heat and serve. Garnish with the chopped spring onions and fresh coriander leaves and serve in a bowl alongside Cajun rice.

Middle-Eastern Spiced Vegetable Soup

I have made a lot of spiced soups over the years, every time I make a new one it seems to be an improvement over the previous one. Then I go back into my notebooks and make one of my earlier spiced soups only to discover that the earlier ones are fabulous as well. You could put it down to experience: the more you cook, the better your ‘touch’ becomes. Actually though, I reckon it is just that you can’t go wrong with a spiced soup, especially when it’s raining outside and the wind is howling, like it was here last night. The thick broth is filling and comforting while the flavours make you want to eat and eat well beyond the point where you should stop.

I am well aware that I declare every recipe that I blog about to be delicious, fabulous, outstanding or some other superlative. The thing is, I don’t blog about everything that I cook, only the dishes that are truly outstanding – like this one, my favourite soup of the moment.

The soup is great on its own, but the garnishes take it to a whole other level, adding more flavour and texture. They don’t take long to prepare so use them if you possibly can.

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RECIPE – feeds 8 easily

olive oil

1 butternut squash, flesh chopped into rough 1.5 cm chunks

2 large onions diced

3 fat garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

3 medium leeks, trimmed and finely sliced

3 medium floury potatoes, washed but not peeled, roughly chopped

4 large vine tomatoes, roughly chopped

4 heaped tsp ground cumin

1 heaped tsp ground cinnamon

2 tsp sweet smoked paprika

1 tbsp chilli bean sauce

2 tins of chickpeas

1 large courgette, finely diced

For the herb oil:

olive oil

a handful of flat-leaf parsley

a handful of dill

a handful of pistachio nuts, crushed

a squeeze of lemon juice

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the garnishes:

a small onion, very finely sliced

2 tbsp groundnut oil

goats or feta cheese, crumbled


METHOD

Heat a very large soup pan, pour in enough olive oil to thinly cover the base and add the squash, onions, garlic, leeks and potatoes and saute for ten minutes or so until softened.

Add the tomatoes, cumin, cinnamon, sweet smoked paprika and chilli bean sauce, stir thoroughly so everything is coated in everything else then pour in enough just-boiled water to completely cover the vegetables. Season generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, bring to the boil then simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. At this point the potatoes and squash should both be very tender.

Drain the tins of chickpeas, reserving the water from the tins.

Puree the soup either in a blender or using a stick blender. It will probably be very thick at this point, so add the reserved chickpea water to loosen it, adding more from the kettle if required.

Set aside a handful of the chickpeas to use as a garnish later, bring the blitzed soup back to a simmer and add the rest of the chickpeas to it together with the courgette. Simmer for 20 minutes. At this point you can turn the soup off and allow it to sit for a few hours (or, even better, overnight). The flavours will deepen and there will be more character to the soup, though it will still be fabulous if you plough straight on…

…so while the soup is simmering make the herb oil by crushing the pistachios in a mortar and pestle, then adding all the ingredients including the pistachios to a food processor and blitz until everything is combined, adding just enough olive oil to give you a consistency like pesto. Check seasoning and put to one side.

Fry the thinly-sliced onion in 2 tbsp of groundnut oil at a high temperature, stirring regularly so they go brown and crispy but do not catch and burn. Shortly before the onions are fully ready, add the reserved chickpeas to the oil and brown them as well. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper until ready for use.

Serve the soup garnished with a drizzle of herb oil, crumbled goats’ or feta cheese and the crispy onions and chickpeas.

This goes fabulously well with crusty bread, and if you happen to have some Focaccia with Middle-Eastern Flavours lying around then these two are a match made in heaven. Loosen your belt and tuck in!

Thai Prawn Green Curry

The Thais are generally a slender people, I have to wonder how they do it. I just wanted to continue eating this incredible Thai prawn green curry until I burst. The silky sauce is so full of flavours, each of them entirely distinct from one another, and yet it takes so little time to make. I could have made another batch of this within about 20 minutes; believe me, I was very tempted.

To experience this at its best please make your own Thai green curry paste if you can. It doesn’t take long but the difference in the depth of flavour compared to a shop-bought jar of paste is indescribable.

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RECIPE – serves 4

1 fresh lemon grass stalk

1 1/2 tbsp sunflower oil

2 tbsp Thai green curry paste

4 kaffir lime leaves, shredded (or the finely grated zest of 2 limes)

2 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla)

2 tsp caster sugar

1 400ml tin of coconut milk

500g raw king prawns, peeled but tails on

200g fine green beans, cut into 2cm lengths

a small handful of fresh Thai basil leaves, or ordinary basil leaves, shredded


METHOD

Peel off the tough outer layers of the lemon grass, trim the root end then slice the tender whitish centre finely.

Heat a wok or large frying pan until it is hot, then add the sunflower oil. Now add the green curry paste and stir fry for a couple of minutes.

Add the lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves (or lime zest) fish sauce, caster sugar and coconut milk. Reduce the heat and simmer for around 5 minutes.

At this point, if you wish, you can turn off the heat and allow the sauce to sit so the flavours can develop for a few hours. If you have the time then it is well worth doing.

When you are ready to serve, add the prawns and fine green beans and cook gently for around 4 minutes, stirring occasionally until they are just pink on both sides. Take off the heat, add the basil leaves and stir thoroughly.

Serve alongside plain steamed or boiled rice. Beware: this is seriously addictive!

Hyderabadi Fish with a Sesame Sauce (Macchi Ka Salan)

The majority of curries use tomatoes as the basis for the sauce, this one is very different in that it uses toasted sesame seeds as its main ingredient, and is thickened with onions and peanut butter. The result is as fabulous as it is interesting: an almost-bitter nutty undertone overlaid by the almost-sweetness of the dessicated coconut, tempered by the sour edge of the tamarind.

I didn’t know what to expect when I first made it, but I was converted after one mouthful, and by the time I had finished it I was completely in love with it. You can use salmon or any white fish – cod, hake, pollock, haddock, or monkfish is a particular treat – and if you use a mix of fish it is even better.

This is a sauce that is best made early and allowed to sit for a few hours, or even overnight. Like all curries, the ingredients list looks daunting but this is actually a quick and easy dish to make.

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RECIPE – for 4 people

Paste 1:

2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp turmeric

2 tbsp dessicated coconut

4 tsp ground coriander

Paste 2:

2 tbsp chunky peanut butter

5 cm fresh ginger, not peeled, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

3 tbsp tamarind paste

1 tsp salt

For the sauce:

115g sesame seeds

ground nut oil

2 medium onions, peeled, halved and finely sliced

1 tsp brown mustard seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

12 curry leaves

4 salmon or white fish fillets or loins, or a mix


METHOD

Combine the paste 1 ingredients in a bowl. Lightly toast the sesame seeds in a large pan that is NOT non-stick. When toasted, remove from the heat and add the paste 1 ingredients. The pan will still be very hot, so just agitate the ingredients for a minute or so off the heat, then pour everything back into the bowl and allow to cool. When cool, use a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle to grind it in to a smooth paste. This will probably have to be done in two batches, and because the sesame seeds are oily it will grind into something more like a paste rather than a powder. Set aside.

Pour ground nut oil into a large pan to a depth of 3mm, get it very hot but not smoking then add the onions and stir-fry for around ten minutes until they are brown and crisp. Remove the onions with a slotted spoon and drain them on kitchen paper; retain the remaining oil for use later.

Put the paste 2 ingredients in a blender, together with the onions and 250 ml of hot water and blend to a thick puree. Add the paste 1 ingredients that you toasted and ground earlier, together with a further 250 ml of hot water. Blend again, check the seasoning and the balance of sourness, adding more tamarind paste if you feel it needs it.

Heat the oil that was set aside earlier, add the mustard and cumin seeds, and when they start to pop add the curry leaves and cook for 15 seconds, then add the blended sauce. Pour another 250ml of hot water into the now-empty blender and swirl it around to wash out the sauce that is left behind, pour into the pan with the rest and bring to the boil before setting it to a gentle simmer.

If you will be leaving the sauce to sit and develop then at this point you can allow the sauce to cool until needed.

Lightly season the fish you will be using, you can leave the fish as whole fillets or cut it into 2 cm wide chunks, whichever you prefer. When ready to cook, gently push the fish into the simmering sauce so that it is just submerged and poach it for 5-7 minutes until it is just cooked.

Serve alongside plain rice and garnish it with fresh coriander. Madhur Jaffrey advises that this is also excellent served with new potatoes and lightly sauteed brocolli, garnished with chopped flat-leaf parsley. Who am I to argue?

Quorn Meatballs in a Rich Tomato Sauce with Spaghetti

When my children were young, on the rare occasions that I was called upon to cook for them we had a delicious concoction we called ‘spaghetti and meatballs a la papa’. Truth to tell, although we all loved it and my children have fond memories of it, it actually wasn’t very good, consisting of a couple of tins of Campbell’s meat balls in tomato sauce, a teaspoon of dried oregano and some packet spaghetti.

Like so many things in life, it was the circumstances in which we had it that made it special: It’s spaghetti! Dad is cooking! We can stay up late!

We always had a lot of fun making it; we all mucked in, they were little and I was almost useless so we all muddled through it together. They were happy times.

Every time I make spaghetti and meatballs I am transported, misty-eyed, back to those days, and when my now-adult children come to visit we very often have the new, updated and very much improved meatballs a la papa. I still use meatballs that have been made by somebody else (though I do actually make a pretty good real meatball) but now they are made of quorn and they are enhanced immeasurably by a proper, rich and flavourful tomato sauce which began life as a Jamie Oliver recipe. Many times I have made this for carnivores and they have had no idea that they are eating quorn rather than mince; when they found out they didn’t care and went back for second and third helpings.

I have specified cans of chopped tomatoes here, though you can use canned whole tomatoes. You have to handle them slightly differently though; whole tomatoes are picked and canned before they are fully ripe, because it is easier to remove the skins and keep them whole when they are firm and immature. This means that the seeds can be bitter so when you cook the sauce down don’t break the tomatoes up before the cooking is completed, somehow this completely removes any bitterness. Chopped  tomatoes are picked and canned when they are fully ripe so this problem doesn’t arise.

Please don’t try and shortcut the cooking time, the sauce here is everything and it needs the time to reduce, thicken up and intensify its flavour. Some things can’t be rushed, and you will be glad that you took your time.

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RECIPE – for 4 people

2 tbsp olive oil

2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes

2 tsp dried oregano

3 tins of chopped tomatoes

1 tsp fish sauce

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

500g Quorn meatballs

1 ball mozarella

a small handful of basil, leaves only, shredded

salt and pepper

120g of spaghetti per person (a generous serving)


METHOD

Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat and add the garlic, cook gently for a minute until aromatic, then add the chilli flakes and oregano. Cook for a further minute, allowing the flavours to infuse the oil, then add the tomatoes and fish sauce. Mix thoroughly, bring to the boil, then simmer gently for an hour to allow the sauce to reduce, thicken and intensify.

After an hour, add the red wine vinegar, cook for a couple of minutes then check the seasoning. At this point you can set the sauce aside for a few hours or overnight to allow the flavours to develop further.

In a large pan of salted water at a rolling boil, cook the spaghetti.

Meanwhile, add the quorn meatballs, simmer for 10 minutes, then add the mozarella (cow or buffalo, it doesn’t matter) and shredded basil. Stir well, the cheese will melt and make the sauce stringy and unctuous, the basil will wilt and add lovely flavour and aroma.

Drain the spaghetti, then tip it into the sauce. Toss the spaghetti in the sauce until thoroughly coated.

Serve with a simple green salad dressed with the juice of half a lemon. Lovely!

Sticky Jerk Salmon with a Crunchy Mango and Red Cabbage Salad

Spring has officially sprung here in England, the evenings are long and hot and our garden is in full flower. The weather is so variable here that we take every chance that we can to eat outside. That doesn’t always affect the choice of what we will have to eat, but sometimes the evening is so glorious that all that is required is something light and easy and, perhaps most importantly, quick to make.

I had a small stock of jerk paste that I had made a few weeks ago lurking in the freezer, and decided that if I didn’t use it now it would end up in the bin. I also had a very ripe mango that I picked up yesterday, for no other reason than that it was reduced for a quick sale. Thinking cap on, I searched through my flavour thesaurus, came up with an interesting combination of flavours that ought to work together and was rewarded with one of the most glorious salads I have ever eaten.

We are having a big family barbecue in a few weeks – when we can depend on the weather a little more – and so I have been thinking about what to make to feed a lot of hungry people who will expect something special. This salad just shot to the top of my list; it is wonderful with the salmon here, but would also be great with jerk chicken, or even just as a salad all by itself.

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RECIPE – for 2 people

1 heaped tbsp jerk paste

1 tbsp clear honey, plus 1 tsp

2 salmon fillets

juice of a lime

1/2 red cabbage, core removed and thinly sliced

1 ripe mango, thinly sliced into strips

1 red pepper, thinly sliced

3 spring onions, finely sliced on an angle

a small bunch of fresh coriander, leaves only


METHOD

Mix the jerk paste with 1 tbsp of clear honey. Lightly season the salmon fillets, place on a foil-lined baking tray and spread the paste all over the top of them. Place under a hot grill for 8-10 minutes until just cooked through and the paste is starting to caramelise. Meanwhile make the salad.

Tip: I found that the paste on top of the fish hadn’t quite caramelised as much as I would have liked by the time the fish was done. I finished it off with a cook’s burner, not something I use very often in my kitchen but an extremely handy thing to have available at times like these.

Put the 1 tsp of honey, the lime juice and a little seasoning in a large salad bowl and mix thoroughly. Add the red cabbage, mango, pepper, spring onions and coriander, toss thoroughly with the dressing.

Serve the salmon in a bowl on top of a bed of the salad.