Monday, July 22

Grilled South Coast Mackerel, Caponata, Rosemary Polenta Chips

Caponata is a Sicilian fried vegetable salad that works brilliantly with oily fish as the vinegar cuts the richness of the mackerel. Great for bbqs as the salad works best if not put in the fridge and should be served at room temperature.

Mackerel Fillets - 6, ask your fishmonger to 'V pin bone them'
Mild olive oil - 500ml
1 medium red onion 
1 bulb of fennel
1 small aubergine
2 sticks of celery
1 courgette
4 ripe plum tomatoes - seeds removed, roughly chopped
Good extra virgin - a glug
25g toasted pine nuts
4 tbsp passata
1 small buch of basil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
50g sultanas
Fine Polenta (dry) - 100g
Rosemary - 1 sprig
1 tsp vegetable bouillon powder

Prep the onion, fennel, aubergine, celery and courgette then cut into 1 cm dice keeping each vegetable separate. Heat the mild olive oil in a pan of sufficient size that the oil fills the pan to a depth of 2cm. Gently fry each vegetable in turn until it has softened and takes on a little colour. Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon and drain well on kitchen roll. Repeat until you have cooked all the vegetables.

In a large bowl mix the red wine vinegar and sugar until it has dissolved. Add the pine nuts, sultanas, plum tomatoes, passata and most of the basil torn into small pieces. Mix in the still warm vegetables and season well. Allow to rest at room temperature for an hour or so. 

To make the polenta, boil 200ml of water with the vegetable bouillon powder. Throw in the polenta, turn down the heat and stir well until the mix gets really thick. Stir in the finely chopped rosemary and check for seasoning. Spread the mix out onto an oiled baking tray and allow to cool - it should set to a pastry like consistency. Tip onto a board and chop up into rough pieces about the size of a large grape. Dust with flour and deep fry in the oil in which you fried the vegetables. You want the polenta to be crispy and golden - when it is ready, remove from the oil and drain on kitchen paper. 

Season the mackerel and grill skin side up until cooked. Taste your caponata and add more sugar, vinegar or seasoning if you think it needs it - it should be mildly sweet and sharp.

Serve the caponata at room temperature with the hot crispy polenta chips and the mackerel on top. Sprinkle with more basil and a drizzle of good olive oil. 

Thursday, July 11

Hot Smoked Trout, Tzatziki, Purple Heritage Potatoes, Watercress, Flowers

Soooo pretty it hurts and perhaps a bit effeminate for an old guy like me......but the ladies who lunch do love this dish. Really just an assembly of great summer produce brought together with the tzatziki. The flowers are nasturtium and borage grown in my garden and are purely optional. For two:

Purple heritage potatoes - 200g
Organic watercress - 1 pack (I used John Hurd's which is super peppery)
Hot smoked trout fillets - 4 fillets
Greek yoghurt - a small pot, Total brand is the best from the supermarkets
Cucumber - 1/2
Dill - 1 small bunch, leaves only
Mint - 1/2 a small bunch, leaves only
1 small clove of garlic - peeled and crushed to a puree
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Vinaigrette made with a little extra virgin, good red wine vinegar and a little sugar

Boil the spuds until tender, slip off the skins while still warm and dress with a little vinaigrette and seasoning.  

Half the cucumber lengthways, then remove the seeds with a teaspoon. Dice finely and lightly salt to draw out some of the moisture. Leave for 30 mins, then wash the cucumber dice and drain well on kitchen paper. Mix with the yoghurt, garlic, dill, mint, and add salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.

Slice the warm spuds and plate to make a base for the trout. Top with tzatziki and flaked trout. Dress the water cress and arrange artfully about the plate and add the flowers if you are using.

Pig Cheek Tortellini, Sweet Corn Puree, Crispy Sage

Sweetcorn is not quite in season yet but it won't be long, so here is a cracking little recipe to get you ready. I am not a big fan of sweetcorn kernals but love it in purees and soups etc. The dark gelatenous pork goes exceptionally well with the puree, add butter, sage and parmesan and you are onto a winner. The purple flowers are from my sage bush which is going mad at the moment - they are edible but taste of little so please view them as superfluous cheffy garnish....they do look pretty though! For two:

Pig Cheeks - 500g
Chicken Stock - 250ml
Masala - 100ml
Sweetcorn - 2 fresh cobs
Milk - to just cover the sweetcorn
Sage - 20 leaves and optionally a few flowers
Butter - 75g

For the pasta:
"00' pasta flour - 200g
2 whole large eggs

In a slow cooker or in a covered pan on a very low heat, season & braise the pigs cheeks with the chicken stock and masala until very tender. Drain reserving the stock and, when cool enough to handle, shred the meat removing any sinew and fatty bits. Strain and reduce the stock on the stove until syrupy and mix this syrup back through the shredded meat to intensify the flavour. Chill.

I've covered the making of pasta and tortellini here - so follow this method using the the quantities above and the pork cheek stuffing. This recipe should yield 10 to 12 large tortellini depending on how big you make them.

To make the sweetcorn puree, take the corn kernels off the cob using a short sharp knife. Gently simmer in milk with a little seasoning for five minutes. Drain reserving the milk and blitz the sweetcorn in a blender until smooth. You may have to add a little of the reserved cooking milk to make the blades turn. Push the puree through a sieve discarding the fibrous mass left.  Keep the puree warm. 

Cook your tortellini for 3 mins in rapidly boiling salted water. Fry the sage leaves over a medium heat until they are crispy taking care not to burn the butter. Smooth a generous spoonful of the sweetcorn puree over the bottom of warmed pasta plates. Drain the pasta and place these artfully on the plate. Anoint generously with the sage infused butter and add the crispy sage leaves and flowers if using. Grate over fresh parmesan and serve.

Thursday, July 4

Basmati & Lentil Pilaf, Fried Halloumi, Crispy Onions, Tahini Dressing

We have been slowly moving onto a new, more modern menu at the pub. Light, creative plates of food that focus on seasonality but are not necessarily constrained to British dishes or flavours. Creating interesting vegetarian dishes that don't rely solely on the old stalwarts of risotto or goats cheese is hard work for a die hard meat eater like me. 

Whenever I'm stuck for ideas, I turn to the Middle East or Asia for inspiration and Yotam Ottolenghi is never one to disappoint. The pilaf here is his recipe, the other additions are my own - for two:

For the pilaf:
Basmati - 150g
Green lentils - 100g
Ground corriander & cumin - 1 tsp of each
Ground turmeric, all spice, salt & ground black pepper - 1/2 tsp of each
Marigold vegetable bouillion powder - 1/2 tsp
Garlic - 4 cloves
Butter - 50g

The rest:
1 medium onion - peeled and finely sliced
Plain flour for dusting
Halloumi - 250g
Fresh Coriander - 1 small bunch, chopped
Extra virgin oil - a glug
Tahini - 2 tbsp
Juice of 1 lemon
Vegetable oil for shallow frying

Boil the lentils in water until tender but not falling apart - maybe 15 mins. Drain and set aside. Gently heat the butter and fry the garlic until lightly golden. Measure the volume of the rice in a container and then measure out twice the volume of water. Add the spices and salt to the garlicky butter and gently cook out for a minute or two. Add the rice and bouillion powder and toss in the spiced butter. Add the measured water, mix well and cover the rice with parchment and then a lid. Set on a very low simmer for 12 to 15 mins until the rice is cooked - you may want to stir it a couple of times to stop it sticking, replacing the parchment and lid each time. When the rice is just cooked, take off the heat and leave to steam for 10 mins. 

Meanwhile toss the onions in a little flour until just coated. Heat 2cm of oil in a wide frying pan and cook the onions over a medium heat until crispy and golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper. To make the tahini dressing mix the tahini with a little water until you have the consistency of single cream. Season and add lemon juice to taste.

Pan fry slices of the halloumi until golden on both sides. Add the lentils to the rice and mix to separate the grains. Pile the rice onto warm plates, drizzle with the tahini dressing and extra virgin. Top with halloumi, crispy onions and fresh chopped coriander.