Saturday, December 29

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Chorizo, Pine Nuts and Parsley

I was babysitting today so needed a lunch that was steadying, but with sufficient interest to take my mind off the more mundane trivia associated with looking after a one year old. This soup is all about layers of flavour and texture. Boom.....job done.

Lunch that is......the raising of one's child goes on. For two:

Jerusalem Artichokes - 8 large ones
Juice of 1 lemon
A pinch of vegetable bouillion powder - I use the Marigold brand
Milk - 1/2 a pint or so
Cream - a splash
Pine nuts - 25g
Soft cooking chorizo, spicy or otherwise - 100g
Flat leaf parsley - 1/2 a small supermarket packet. 

Peel and roughly slice the artichokes then drop into a bowl of cold water to which the lemon juice has been added - this stops them going black.  When you have peeled the lot, drain and transfer to a saucepan. Just cover with milk and bring gently to the simmer. Add the bouillion powder and a light seasoning of salt and white pepper. Simmer until the artichokes are very soft adding a little more milk if required. The milk may separate into curds and whey during the cooking process - panic not, it all comes back together once blitzed in the liquidiser. 

Drain the artichokes and place the solids in the blender along with a little of the cooking liquid and a splash of cream. Blitz adding more of the cooking liquid until you have a nice thick soup consistency. Check the seasoning again and keep warm.

Peel the papery skins off the chorizo sausage and pinch off small nuggets. Fry this off gently in a pan (mashing with a spoon as you fry) until the oil begins to render and the sausage is crumbled and cooked through. Chop your parsley and lightly toast the pine nuts in a dry pan. Plate up, eat and carry on. 

Thursday, December 27

Pitivier of Turkey, Sprouts, Chestnuts & Bacon

Stuck for what to do with that left-over Christmas bird? Well, there will be no fooling you lot that this is a pie and as such, not a particularly ground breaking use of Turkey. But what a pie it is! The technique to take away here is the use of meat stock thickened with a roux to make the gravy - called a veloute in the trade. The combination of Turkey, sprouts, chestnuts and bacon work surprisingly well, but don't get too hung up on what vegetables to add - use what you have leftover.

500g chopped turkey
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp plain flour
500ml good turkey or chicken stock
50ml double cream
2 large handfuls of chopped vegetables
1 packet of shop bought 'all butter' puff pastry
1 beaten egg

Reduce your stock by half to intensify the flavour. In another pan melt the butter and flour together then beat in the stock using a whisk. Bring to the simmer beating all the time then add the double cream and a good seasoning. Toss in the turkey and vegetables then chill the filling.

Heat your oven to 210c. Cut your pasty into 2 pieces, one 2/5, the other 3/5 (the larger piece is for the top). Roll out into rough circles and using two plates, one approx 2 inches larger than the other, cut two perfect circles of pastry. Grease a baking sheet and place the smaller of the two circles on the tray. Top with the filling leaving an inch round the edge free to allow you to seal the pitivier. Egg wash the edges of the base, then lay the other larger pastry circle on top sealing all the way around. Traditionally a pitivier is crimped and scored in a spiral pattern on the top - I didn't bother but feel free to ad lib. Egg wash the whole thing and bake for 10 minutes. Egg wash again for a deep glossy finish and bake - turning occasionally - until the pastry is crisp and deeply golden.  As good served warm as it is cold as part of a buffet.

Sunday, December 9

Anglicised Osso Bucco, Mustard Mash & Hispi Cabbage

There is a cracking little butchers in central Bristol called "Source" ( If you haven't already found this hidden gem, go seek it out. Their meat counter is a great place to get some inspiration if you are stumped on what to cook. When I visited they had a whole beef shin in the display cabinet and Joe the butcher kindly laboured for a good 5 minutes sawing me off two cracking chops. 

Shin of beef is a rarely used cut of meat but one that is great for stews and casseroles as the high proportion of connective tissue melts away during slow cooking yielding an unctuous gelatinous jus. The bone and the marrow make the resulting sauce richer still - a great winter warmer. It is also cracking value - my two chops weighed in at 650g and cost £4.

A classic Italian dish 'Osso Bucco' translates rather less romantically to 'bone with a hole'. More usually served with a risotto Milanese or wet polenta, I wanted something more recognisably British so I paired mine with mustard mash and cabbage. For two:

Two beef or veal shin chops weighing approx 350g each
1 small leek - well washed. Reserve a couple of the dark green outside leaves.
1 small onion, peeled
2 sticks of celery - well washed
1 medium carrot - peeled
200ml dry white wine
200ml beef stock, or water if you have none
A few shakes of Worcestershire sauce
Fresh thyme - 2 bushy sprigs
Rosemary - 1 medium sprig
Bay - 2 leaves
Garlic - 3 cloves, peeled
Olive oil for frying
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Finely chop the leek, celery, carrot and onion. Season and brown the chops on both sides in a heavy frying pan in a little olive oil. Transfer to the bowl of a slow cooker or a casserole dish. Toss the chopped vegetables into the same frying pan with a little more oil and fry over a medium high heat until they start to soften and brown. Deglaze the pan with the wine, Worcestershire sauce, the beef stock or water and another generous seasoning of salt and pepper. Tip the vegetables and gravy into the same bowl as the meat.

Make a bouquet garni by wrapping the herbs and garlic cloves in the reserved leek leaves and tying up with string - see the inset photo for guidance. Add this to the pot and cook in the slow cooker or in an oven at 140c for 3 to 4 hours until the meat is very tender but still just clinging to the bone. You may find that after an hour of cooking the chops are all bent out of shape. The outside skin of the chop tightens during cooking and distorts the nice flat shape. You can either ignore this and allow the cooking time to breakdown the offending band of skin, or remove the meat and trim off the perimeter - your call. 

At the end of the cooking time remove the bouquet garni and skim as much fat from the surface of the stock as you can. Remove the meat from the cooking vessel and tip the remaining juice  and vegetables into a shallow pan. On the stove, reduce the stock by half to intensify the flavour then check the seasoning. Serve up with a buttery mash enlivened with the mustard of your choice (I used Tewkesbury mustard which is a blend of hot mustard and horseradish), and steamed Hispi cabbage.

A little foot note here: If you have overcooked your beef and it is falling apart - panic not. It is much better to have melting tender beef and poor presentation than tough beef, pretty as a picture. Just try and arrange the lumps of meat around the bone as best you can and have faith that the depth of flavour alone will wow your guests!

Sunday, December 2

Bubble & Squeak - a forgotten classic?

My fridge was full of odds and sods and lacking cash and enthusiasm for something fancy, I decided to make a 'bubble and squeak'. My wife was delighted by the idea: "What....we are just having leftover vegetables for dinner on a Saturday night? Can't we have a take away? You had better make it taste bloody good!!!"

You know what? The end result was pretty much better than every meal the constituent vegetables had formed in their original incarnation. Paired here with a poached duck egg and some black pudding I found in the fridge, it was archetypal comfort food. Now you cannot just dog a load of vegetables in a pan and expect them to turn out well. There are rules and are some thoughts on making the most out of leftovers:

1) The mix of vegetables is unimportant as long as you have approx 1/3 starchy vegetables that will enable the mix to bind together e.g. spuds, squash, parsnips etc. Oh, and you need cabbage as that is the 'squeak' part.

2) Caramelised onions and Worcestershire sauce are essential. Do not leave them out.

3) You cannot skimp on the oil and butter - this is not a healthy dish, don't try and make it one.

4) First chop all the larger veg into small pieces, then run your knife through everything on a chopping board. Toss into bowl and season judiciously with salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce.

5) Al dente vegetables are not a friend of bubble and squeak - make sure you fry out the mix long enough to yield a soft, well cooked vegetable mass.

6) Be aware of the three distinct cooking stages of the bubble and squeak:

a) The initial fry - to drive off excess water
b) The compress - squishing the vegetable matter into a cake so that it can crisp and brown
c) The flip - can't be done to early, you want that coloration and crisping

Now you are armed with all the information you need.....go make bubble.

Ingredients for Two People:
Cooked vegetables - 600g
1 large onion - peeled and very finely sliced
Worcestershire sauce - 1 to 2 tsp
Salt and pepper
Butter - 50g
Vegetable oil - a good slug

With your vegetables follow rules 1 and 4. In a large non-stick pan, gently fry the onions in half the butter and oil for 20 minutes or so until nicely golden and very soft. Mix in with your vegetables. 

Get the pan back on the stove and melt the remaining butter into the oil. Turn the heat up to medium high and toss in the seasoned vegetables. Spread them out evenly over the base of the pan and agitate occasionally. You are trying to drive off the excess water (and cook any al dente veg) so that they will start to brown and crisp. When you notice that some edges are starting to colour and crisp, give the mix a good stir and then compress the mix over the base of the pan using a spatula or fish slice. Now leave it for a few minutes so that you build up a nice golden crust can check progress by lifting an edge - you want to achieve the coloration in the photo. 

When you are there, flip it. Nothing spectacular, no pancake antics as it will fall apart. What you want to do is lift large bits of the bubble and flip over. You won't be able to do it 'in one' and quite frankly it matters not. When you have flipped the whole lot, compress back into a cake and cook for a few minutes longer to colour the other side. In total the cooking process takes about 20 minutes - serve with what you like.

Wednesday, November 21

Devon Crab & Jerusalem Artichoke Risotto

You have probably never used these knobbly little root veg but they are sure to be hiding somewhere in your local greengrocers as they are bang in season. They taste nothing like the more common deli counter Italian artichoke and have a unique taste that is all their own. Sweet and earthy, they work brilliantly in soups, stews, in mashes or paired here with brown crab. 

They are a bit of a bugger to peel and you must immediately toss in acidulated water (lemon water) to stop them going black, but a few go a long way in flavour terms. At the greengrocers, try to pick out larger artichokes with less knobbles to make your peeling job easier. If you are less fussed at having flecks of skin in your risotto, you can just fastidiously scrub and boil in their skins. 

Your fishmonger should have some packs of 50/50 white and brown crab meat that are perfect for this recipe. Also ask if they have any crab or prawn shells kicking about. These can be tossed into the stock pot to intensify the flavour. For 2 to 3

1 leek, carrot, onion and 3 sticks of celery - washed and finely chopped
1 bay leaf
A palm full of black peppercorns
Jerusalem artichokes- 500g, peeled
Juice of 1 lemon
Milk to cover the artichokes
Risotto rice - 300g
Banana shallot - 1 large one, peeled and very finely chopped
Brown crab meat - 100g
White crab meat - 100g
White wine - 1 small glass (nothing too acidic, like a muscadet)
Parsley - 1 small bunch leaves separated from stems and finely chopped
Garlic - 1 small clove, finely chopped
Butter - 50g, cubed
Salt and white pepper

First make your stock. Boil a litre of water and simmer the leek, onion, celery, carrot, bay leaf, peppercorns and the crab/prawn shells if using. After 1/2 hour or so, drain the stock through a sieve pressing the detritus to extract all the flavour. Discard the veg - they have done their work.

Peel the artichokes then slice to the thickness of a pound coin. Toss immediately in a bowl of water and lemon juice - this stops them blackening. When you have peeled and chopped them all, drain the artichokes and transfer to a pan. Just cover with milk and bring gently to the simmer. Blip away until they are very soft, maybe 20 minutes. Drain, reserving the milk. Puree the artichokes in a blender with a little of the milk to allow the blender blades to catch. Set the puree and reserved milk aside. Return the vegetable stock to the simmer.

In a large pan gently fry the shallot and garlic in half the butter. When translucent but not browned, chuck in the rice and fry for a couple of minutes tossing the rice in the butter. Add the wine and bubble to nothing, then ladle in the reserved milk from the cooking of the artichokes and 2/3 the artichoke puree. Stirring continuously, the milk should begin to absorb into the rice. Season lightly with salt and pepper then add the hot stock - ladle by ladle - as it is absorbed. After about 20 minutes the rice should be almost cooked but sill have a little bite, you may not need all the stock. Take the risotto off the heat and add the brown crab meat and the remainder of the butter. Allow the risotto to rest for a few minutes. Give it a good stir and check the seasoning and flavour. You can add more artichoke puree if you feel it needs it. To check you have the correct consistency for the risotto, draw a spoon across the base of the pan to make a furrow in the risotto. A thick creamy juice should just ooze from the rice. Try to manage your stock ladling whilst cooking - little and often is the way to go.

Plate up in warm bowls topping with the white crab meat and parsley. 

Saturday, November 10

An interesting salad from the supermarket aisles

Whilst on holiday I have been gorging myself at some of the regions best restaurants and pubs - Mark Hix Oyster and Fish House and The Lord Poulet Arms to name but a few. Feeling bloated and corpulent I was in need of something healthy, something to balance my Yin and Yang. A salad suggested the missus.......? Sure, why not.

But I am on holiday and can't really be arsed to cook anything too fancy, let alone roast a beetroot for hours. So I am saying that it is ok to cheat on vacation, make life easy on yourself whilst taking it easy. Here is an interesting salad where the bulk of the prep effort is lifting the item and putting it in your shopping trolley. Ok, there is a little peeling and chopping but no pain no gain right?

A bag of lambs lettuce
A punnet of spicy cooked beetroot
Halloumi - half a pack
Grapes - a large handful
Conference pear - 1 large ripe one
Parsley - 1/2 a small pack, roughly picked
Tzatziki - 1/2 tub
Juice of half a lemon
Extra virgin olive oil

Halve the grapes.
Peel, core and finely slice the pear, toss in the lemon juice to stop it browning.
Slice the halloumi as thin as you can.
Artfull arrange all the fruit, vegetables and cheese on a nice plate.
Drizzle with the tzatziki and olive oil.
Eat with hot pitta breads.
Drink beer.

Roasted Plaice, Potted Shrimp Butter

It has been ages since I last wrote up a recipe, it's not that I've been abstaining from cooking, I just forgot my USB cable whilst on holiday in Devon......doh!

My philosophy on holiday cooking is not to plan meals, just keep your eyes open for great local ingredients and throw something together on the spur of the moment. I was down on the beach in a little fishing village when a boat came in with a box of still flapping plaice. I'm not sure I have ever bought a fish that was still alive but clearly it could not be fresher or more local - I had to have one. 

This is not a particularly innovative dish, I have seen this on the menu of more than one gastropub. It is however a winner - tasty, really easy to make and it allows the key ingredients to shine, namely the beautiful fresh fish. Brown shrimp have a wonderful flavour and are available in little packs in all large supermarkets - these are used in the famous Morecambe Bay potted shrimps, hence the title. For two:

Plaice - 1kg. Ask your fishmonger to gut it and remove the head and frills
Brown shrimp - 100g
Butter - 100g
Garlic - 1 small clove, peeled and finely grated
Cayenne Pepper - a good pinch
Ground mace - a good pinch
White pepper - a good pinch
Grated zest of half a lemon and a squeeze of the juice.
A small bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves picked from stems

Heat your oven to 220c. Give the fish a good wash, particularly the gut cavity. Remove any roe and scrape out any blood around the spine near where the head used to be. Place on an oven tray dark side up, and chuck it in the oven. No need to skin, as it is much easier to remove once the fish is cooked.

Melt the butter over a gentle heat and add the garlic, lemon zest, pepper and spices and a pinch of salt. Allow the flavours to warm and get to know one another, but don't boil the butter.

Depending on the size and thickness of the fish, it should take somewhere between 12 and 15 mins to cook. An easy way to check is to try and tease off a little flesh from the bone at the thickest part of the fish. If it comes away easily and the flesh at the bone is white and not translucent, then the fish is cooked. 

Quickly warm the shrimp in the butter - they are cooked already so don't over cook. The skin should have split and be starting to peel off, gently remove it then transfer the whole fish to a warmed serving plate. Top generously with the shrimp butter and a handful of parsley. Serve with some simply boiled potatoes and some seasonal green vegetables to soak up all that butter.

Friday, October 26

Mackerel, Potato & Caramelised Onion Pasties

I found some mackerel fillets in the back of my freezer the other day, a little too freezer burned to be useful as the focal point of a dish. Loathed to throw them away I decided to cook them off and make some pasties for lunch. The addition of caramelised onion sweetens the pasties just enough to make a delicious, if rather unconventional filling. Oh, and for me the pastry must be shortcrust but feel free to use puff pastry if you are of the Ginster's persuasion. Makes three or four:

Pastry Ingredients:
Plain flour - 500g
Butter - 200g
Eggs - 2
A little milk and salt
1 extra egg for glazing, beaten

Pasty Filling:
Mackerel fillets - 6, skinned and boned
Potato - 1 large potato, peeled and chopped into 1cm dice
Onion - 1 large, peeled and very finely sliced
Butter - 25g
Veg Oil - a good splash

First make the pastry in a food processor by blitzing the butter into the flour with a pinch of salt until fully incorporated. Add the eggs and continue to process until the pastry starts to come together. Tip into a bowl and finish the mixing by hand adding a little milk if too dry. Cling and chill for 30 mins.

In a roomy pan, gently fry the onion for 30 mins in the butter and oil until deeply golden. Add the potato and on the lowest heat - covered - cook the potato until just soft but still holding its shape. Add the mackerel fillets and continue to cook stirring gently until the mackerel flakes - this should only take a few minutes. Season well and allow to cool in a colander so that excess liquid drains away. 

Roll out the pastry to the thickness of a pound coin. Cut out circles using an 8 inch plate. Place sufficient cooled filling on one half of the circles leaving a 2cm edge. You will need to use your discretion here as too much filling will make the pasties split open during cooking, too little and you will end up with joyless pasties. 

Egg wash the edge then fold the unfilled side of the pastry over to make a half moon. Roll the pasty 90 degrees so that the unsealed edge is facing upwards and crimp along the edge to seal well, shaping the pastry and distributing the filling to the edges as you go. Repeat and place the pasties on a well oiled baking sheet. Egg wash and bake at 200c for 30 mins until golden and fully cooked. I like to glaze my pasties again after 15 mins cooking so that the pastry is deeply golden and shiny.

Monday, October 22

Ginger Pot Roast Chicken, Root Vegetable Masala

Our little son was ill this weekend and me and the Mrs needed something substantial, nourishing and life affirming in order that we might cope with serious sleep deprivation, fraying nerves and malnutrition. Time to break out the slow cooker. Got one? I bet you have never done a pot roast, let a lone an Indian inspired version.

The 'pot roast' method sounds vaguely American for some reason, but it is just a casserole with little or no sauce. All the juices and flavours from the bird and marinade are kept in the pot and the long and slow cooking results in a very tender, juicy, flavour packed meat. Will feed four with bread and chutneys:

A whole free range chicken - 1.6kg to 1.8kg, skinned (ask your butcher to do this)
Fresh ginger - 2 inches, peeled and roughly chopped
1 head of garlic - peeled
Ground cumin - 1/2 tbsp
Ground coriander seed - 1 tbsp
Salt - 1 tsp
Juice from 1 lemon
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Turmeric - a pinch
Chilli powder - a pinch
100g each of squash, parsnip, onion, carrot, turnip - diced all the same size
1 tin of coconut milk
2 tbsp mild curry powder or paste from a jar
A bunch of fresh coriander - stems finely chopped, leaves roughly chopped

In a food processor blitz the ginger, garlic, cumin, ground coriander, lemon juice, salt and oil to a rough paste. Slash the thighs and breasts of the chicken to the bone and really rub all the paste over the bird. Place in the slow cooker, lid on and cook on low for 4 hours. 

30 mins before the chicken is cooked, make the curry. Gently fry the onion until soft in a little more veg oil. Add the curry powder or paste and fry for another couple of minutes. Add the vegetables, coconut milk, seasoning and then bring to the simmer. Add the chicken juice that will have accumulated in the bottom of the slow cooker bowl and continue to simmer until the vegetables are soft and the sauce has a nice consistency.

Serve the curry in a large bowl with the chicken on top. The chicken will be a bit anaemic as it has mostly steamed, so sprinkle with turmeric, chilli and fresh coriander to add colour and drama. Serve with chutneys, yoghurt and naan breads.

Saturday, October 20

Hot Water Crust Game Pie

I was recently at Bath Farmer's market and was sorely tempted to buy a large pork pie for tea, but became sidetracked by an elderly gent, fully clad in shooting attire complete with pheasant feather in his tweed cap. He was selling a small selection of wild game, all locally shot, and he had some packs of mixed game at a stupidly cheap price. There was pheasant, rabbit and guinea fowl in the mix. A deal was struck and I walked away smiling. However the lure of the greasy crispy pastry of a pork pie still nagged, so I decided to combine the two.

The result was a triumph with a crisp pork pie type lid and a softer, suet pudding like base. Game is very lean so I added some fatty pancetta lardons, and only poured the hot stock into the pie after cooking to make sure the pastry didn't get sodden.

Lard - 50g
Butter - 50g plus more for frying
Plain Flour - 275g
Water - 120g
Mixed Game - 300g
Pancetta Lardons - 50g
1 small onion - finely chopped
2 bay leaves
Black pepper
1 beaten egg
Good stock - game preferably or beef - 100ml

Boil together the water, butter and lard with a pinch of salt. Mix into the flour with a spatula until cool enough to handle. Roll into a ball and cut one third off setting aside for the lid. On a floured work surface, roll 2/3 of the pasty into a rough disc (it may split and tear but don't worry). Line a buttered 12cm pudding basin with the pastry moulding the pasty into the basin as you go. Aim for an even layer and plug any holes and cracks as you go.

Gently fry the onion and lardons in a little butter until softened. Mix with the game, the bay leaves and a generous seasoning of pepper (no salt as the lardons carry lots). Fill the pie as full as you dare, then roll the lid and fix to the pie top using egg wash as glue. Trim, crimp, egg wash, and put a large hole in the lid for the steam to escape.  Bake at 180c for a good hour until dark golden and bubbling. If you want to de-mould the pie, allow to cool for a few minutes the tease out - the top edges may stick a little to the rim of the bowl but a small knife should remedy the issue. Then fill with hot stock before serving - magic!

Wednesday, October 17

Roast Heritage Squash & Carrots, Feta Yoghurt, Pine Nuts and Honey

Local seasonal vegetables taken for a ride somewhere warmer, possibly the Middle East. It is the balance of sweet, sharp, earthy & fresh that makes this dish work........and is there any dish that is not made better by the addition of toasted pine nuts? For two:

Heritage squash, try Iron Bark - a slice approx. 200g
A bunch of heritage carrots, top and tailed and well washed
Ground cumin - a good pinch
Ground caraway - a good pinch
Feta - 50g
Thick greek yoghurt - 2 tbsp
Coriander - a handful, chopped
Olive oil
Lemon juice - a squeeze

Peel, seed and cut the squash into slices, oil and dust with the spices and a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Roast with the carrots at 180c until nice and soft. Mash the feta with the yoghurt, coriander and a squeeze of lemon to taste. Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan until a bit golden in places.

Plate the squash and carrots, feta yoghurt on top, drizzle with olive oil and honey and then sprinkle with pine nuts.

Wednesday, October 10

Scallops, Celeriac & Braeburn, Black Pudding & Pepper Viniagrette

Autumn is in full swing, and although leafy salads are on the way out, it doesn't mean you can't make something light using seasonal autumnal fruits & vegetables. Celeriac has a crunchy celery like taste and paired with apple and black pudding, we have some very classical flavour combinations that work especially well with sweet scallops. What makes this dish unusual is the black pepper dressing, it uses a lot of pepper but it is not overpowering, the pepper just lending a warm background heat. For two:

Large sacllops - 6, roes removed
Celeriac - 1/3, peeled and very finely shredded
Braeburn apple - 1, cored and very finely shredded
Chives - 1 small bunch, finely chopped
Good quality black pudding - 2 slices, approx 75g each
Extra virgin olive oil - 1 tbsp
Veg Oil - 1 tbsp plus more for frying
Honey - 1 tbsp
Sherry vinegar - 1 tbsp
1 heaped tsp finely ground black pepper - it must be fresh, grind your own.

Remove your scallops from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature - maybe half an hour. Make your dressing in a jam jar, shaking together the olive and vegetable oils, the vinegar, honey, salt and pepper. Heat your oven to 180c.

In a good non stick pan, gently fry the black pudding on both sides for a couple of minutes until cooked and keep warm in the oven. Wipe out the pan and get on a medium high heat. Season your scallops with salt only, then pan fry in a little vegetable oil until golden on one side. Flip over and brown the other side. Depending on how fat your scallops are, you may need to flash them through the oven for no more than 2 mins to warm them through. If you are using supermarket scallops, pan frying alone should be sufficient.

Mix the celeriac and apple with the chives and the dressing. Season with a little salt if it needs it, then serve the scallops on the salad with the black pudding.

Monday, October 8

Roast Cod, Curried Mussels, Sauté Potatoes

Up until recently cod was pretty much off the menu due to overfishing. Now the situation is not so clear, with media reports of good fish stocks and plentiful catches sadly thrown back due to restrictive fishing quotas. I'm no expert on this issue so you will have to make up your own mind on whether to eat cod or is however a beautiful fish to cook with.

Paired up here with curried mussels, much of the prep can be done in advance meaning the cooking time itself is short. The curry flavour is very mild allowing the mussels delicate flavour to come through. For two:

Thick cod fillets - 2x 180g (ask your fishmonger to scale and pin bone the fish for you)
1 large jacket potato
Mussels - 500g
Fish stock - 100ml
Frozen Peas - a large handful
Onion - 1 small, peeled and finely chopped
Garlic - 1 clove, peeled and finely chopped
Butter - 50g
Spring onions - 1/2 bunch, chopped
Mild curry powder - 1 tbsp
Double Cream - 50ml
Vegetable oil - for shallow frying
Fresh coriander - a small bunch
A squeeze of lemon

In a large lidded pan, cook the mussels in the fish stock for a couple of minutes until all have opened. Drain in a colander reserving the cooking liquor and allow the mussels to cool. Reduce the cooking liquor by half making sure you discard any grit that may have settled. Pick the meat from the mussels discarding the shells and chill the meats.

Fry the onion and garlic in half the butter until translucent. Add the curry powder and cook out for a minute or so then add the cream, mussel cooking liquor, peas, spring onions and the finely chopped stems of the coriander. Cook for a minute more, then season with salt, pepper and a  squeeze of lemon - turn off the heat.

Heat your oven to 220c. Microwave the jacket potato until cooked then slice into thick rounds. Using the vegetable oil, pan fry in a non-stick, metal handled pan over a medium heat until golden and crispy. Transfer to kitchen paper to drain and season with salt and keep warm in the oven

Give the frying pan a wipe out then put back on a medium high heat. Season the cod with salt only, then fry skin side down in a little vegetable oil. Press the fish flat to the bottom of the pan with a spatula so that the skin crisps evenly. When the skin starts to turn golden, add the remainder of the butter to the pan and transfer to the oven to cook through - maybe 5 minutes depending on the thickness of the cod fillet. You will know when the fish is cooked as you should be able to tease the flakes apart and see to the centre of the fillet - the fish should be white in the middle, not translucent.

Warm the curry sauce with the mussels but don't boil them - remember the mussels are already cooked - then finish with fresh coriander leaves. Plate up with a few sauté potatoes, the sauce and the cod on top.

Monday, October 1

Roasted Figs, Homewood Fresh Ewe's Cheese, Rose Honey

Figs are in plentiful, cheap and at their peak right now. This remarkably simple dish is ultimately versatile as it falls somewhere between sweet and savoury. It would work well as a light lunch, a dessert, a cheese course or as part of a mezze. The fresh Ewe's cheese from Homewood Farm ( is stunning and about as local to me as it gets. If you can't get hold of this one, try a gorgonzola, aged feta, ricotta etc etc.....they would all work well.

Ingredients - measurements are per person
3 ripe figs
Honey - about a tbsp
Rose water - 1 tsp
Homewood Ewes milk cheese - 1 generous spoonful

Heat your oven to 210c. Mix the rose water with the honey. Cut the tough stem off the top of the figs then cut a 'cross' into the top of the fig going about two thirds through the fig. Squeeze the base of the fig to make the cut fan out. Arrange the figs in one layer in a tight fitting and shallow oven proof dish. Drizzle with half the honey and bake for 10 minutes until the figs start to sag. Transfer the figs to a pretty plate, mix the remaining honey with the syrup that will have accumulated at the bottom of the baking dish then drizzle over the figs. Top with the sheep's cheese.