Thursday, March 31, 2011

Seriously fresh fish - cod in parsley and caper sauce

Sorry for the radio silence over the past couple of weeks... The husband has done something fairly nasty to his back and, after a quick visit to casualty, has been convalescing at home for the past week-or-so. I've been busy making cups of tea and doing other useful wifely things.

I haven't even managed to blog anything about our fantastic holiday on the Suffolk coast a few weeks ago. We spent five days bathed in glorious Spring sunshine enjoying the delights of Aldeburgh, Thorpeness and Southwold. What a wonderful part of the country - extremely pretty with lovely little towns. Quite foodie too which is no surprise considering the coastal location and the vast swathes of agricultural land. We saw a great many pigs (and ate plenty of excellent sausages) but most of all we enjoyed some wonderfully fresh fish.

All along the beach in Aldeburgh, sit little fishermen's huts. Here they sell their daily catch and it really is as fresh as it could be.

We had rented a little cottage in Aldeburgh so cooked for ourselves most nights. We love to do this on holiday. Whilst we love eating out too, it is such fun to seek out local produce on holiday and take a little time to prepare something tasty. It also saves money of course - we spent much less on food which allowed us to splash out a little on some really super wines to enjoy with our food.

The dog ready for his holiday long before us!
When going on a self-catering holiday, I have to be prevented from taking the entire contents of my kitchen. One can never be too sure what kitchen equipment one will find in a rented holiday cottage. I also am unable to live without certain condiments (mustard, ketchup) and feel irked by the idea of having to buy new pots of herbs and spices when I have them already at home. This time, I tried to limit myself to one box of basic 'staples'. Plus a couple of tea-towels and my potato peeler (I can't be doing with a bad potato peeler). I also took my pancake pan as Shrove Tuesday fell in the middle of our holiday and we were not going to do without pancakes! As we were going to a seaside town, I also took my favourite fish cook book and a jar of capers (!) Is there anything you can't leave home without?

Holiday essentials

Anyway, back to the fish. The huts had a variety of fish and we asked for advice as to what was freshest and best. The first evening we were recommended some line-caught cod - it was new season cod, according to the fishermen, and came highly recommended. We bought a large piece at a fraction of the cost of supermarket fish and took it home wrapped up in newspaper.

We decided to cook it very simply as we didn't want to mask the flavour of the fresh fish. Having consulted my fish cook book we decided upon a simple parsley sauce studded with capers. New potatoes and a few green vegetables completed the dish along with a stunning bottle of Californian Chardonnay from Au Bon Climat, a winery we visited on our honeymoon. It was a comforting dish that reminded me of my childhood but the capers added a slightly more adult kick to the sauce. Delicious!

This simple yet super fish supper would work well with other varieties of white fish, including sustainable catches such as pollack.

The recipe is a pared down, simplified version of Mitch Tonks' 'Cod in Parsley Sauce' from his excellent 'Fish' book.

The Freshest Cod in Parsley Sauce
Serves 2 

300ml milk
1oz butter plus a small knob extra to 'finish' the sauce
1 heaped tbsp plain flour
Generous handful of parsley, chopped
1 tbsp capers, drained, rinsed and finely chopped
2 portions of cod, skin on, about 180g each

1. Pre-heat the oven to 230C.

2. Make the parsley sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low head. Stir in the flower and combine with a wooden spoon until you have a paste. Gradually add the milk, little by little, stiring well in between each addition so that you have a smooth consistency. Keep adding until you have a smooth sauce about the consistency of double cream.

3. Add the parsley and capers, season with salt and pepper and set to one side in a warm place whilst you cook the fish.

4. Heat a little oil in a frying pan (use one that can also go in the oven, if you have one). When hot, season the fish and lay flesh side down in the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes (depending on thickness) until the fish is golden. Transfer pan to the oven, or place fish in a small roasting tin, and roast for a further 5-6 minutes until cooked through.

5. To serve, add a small knob of butter to the sauce and heat through, stirring. Serve the fish with a generous pool of sauce.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Egg-citing Hotel Chocolat Competition

Milk Chocolate Easter Eggsposé

It has to be said that I am partial to a bit of chocolate.
I'm a bit funny about chocolate though. Quite particular. Until very recently, I have to confess that I was a 'cheap chocolate' sort of a girl. I was unimpressed by rich truffles. I eshewed Equador's best dark chocolate. All I was really interested in was overly-sweet milk chocolate. At Christmas, the rest of the family would indulge in sophisticated Bittermints and luxurious Belgian truffles. I would bring my own box of Milk Tray and happily scoff the lot (...with the exception of the Turkish Delight - one has one's limits).

I'm still more than happy with a bar of something cheap and cheerful but, in recent years, I've been persuaded to branch out. I've been seduced by pralines, salted caramels, guianduja and velvety ganaches. I attribute this change of heart entirely to the arrival of Hotel Chocolat on some of the more upmaket high-streets of our nation. Whilst their mail-order and internet service is absolutely first-class, there is nothing to beat actually visiting a store 'in the flesh'. It is a true chocolate emporium with treats to please everyone. There are wonderful slabs of chocolate studded with caramel and cookie pieces, little bags of truffles in every flavour under the sun, gorgeous gift boxes and intriguing cocoa-based ingredients (including chocolate pasta). It really is heaven for chocoholics and I defy you to come out without clutching a little something.

What I particularly love about Hotel Chocolat is that their products are fun. Many have a touch of whimsy about them and this really sets them apart from their competitors. I've been lucky to receive a host of Hotel Chocolat presents recently from visiting friends and also from my lovely husband on Valentine's Day. We've really enjoyed sampling the imaginative offerings in the Sleekster boxes which make a great gift as they will fit through a letterbox!

Anyway, just as we were fighting over the last Caramel Sweetheart, what should arrive but a lovely Easter Egg sent from Hotel Chocolat for me to review. Hurrah! As you would expect, Hotel Chocolat have the most fantastic selection of Easter Gifts at all prices and to suit all ages and tastes. I was sent the Milk Chocolate Easter Egg Eggsposé - a deliciously extra thick milk chocolate half-egg shell filled with delicious mini praline-filled eggies. I was already a fan of the variety of filled mini eggs having given my husband a selection box last year for Easter. I them promptly insisting on sampling at least one of each flavour and particularly liked the pralines. Not only are these mini eggs far prettier than your average, they really deliver on deliciousness too. So I certainly enjoyed the lovely mini eggs. But the actual egg? Now that was very exciting. It was much thicker than a 'normal' Easter Egg and, as such, much more satisfying for the die-hard chocoholic that I am. A delicious thick and creamy 40% milk chocolate - not too sweet, I'd say this is definitely a grown-up Easter Egg.

Wonderfully thick Easter Egg shell

Would you like to win a Hotel Chocolat Eater Egg?

It didn't take us long to polish off this delicious egg (which also comes in a dark chocolate and white chocolate version). The great news is that Hotel Chocolat have kindly provided me with another egg to give away to one of my lucky readers. You could give this egg away to a loved one this Easter, but I suggest you sit back one afternoon with a nice cup of tea and devour the lot yourself (....but you probably shouldn't listen to me!).

To enter the competition:

All you have to do to win this competition is take a look at the Hotel Chocolat website and leave a comment to let me know what Easter gift you would most like to receive this Easter.

For a 'bonus' entry, please follow Hotel Chocolat and Foodglorifood on Twitter and then comment below to let me know you have done so.

Anyone in the UK can enter, bloggers and non-bloggers alike. If you are a non-blogger, please leave details of how I can contact you should you win!

Deadline for entries is midnight on Sunday, 3rd April.

The nitty gritty (dull, but important):

-Regretfully, this competition is only open to those with a UK address.
-Winner will be selected at random.
-Prize cannot be substituted.
-Deadline for entries is Midnight, Sunday 3rd April.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Nigella's Slutty Spaghetti

Pasta puttanesca is probably my favourite pasta dish. Loosely translated as 'prostitute's pasta', it is a punchy concoction of tomatoes, chilli, olives, anchovies, garlic and capers. Reasons for the intriguing name are various with many suggesting that it is the sort of dish made by slovenly people who can't be bothered to go to the market to buy fresh ingredients and rely on a storecupboard full of jars and tins instead. I prefer to think that the brazen, salty, firey flavours of the dish are akin to the character of the ladies of the night who used to frequent the backstreets of Naples (from where this recipe originates). Whatever the reason, I love it. Furthermore, I generally have all the ingredients required just ready and waiting in the storecupboard.

I've blogged about this dish before, having used Delia's recipe, but haven't actually cooked it for ages. I was reminded of it recently when flicking through the new Nigella book; Kitchen. True to form, the recipe is accompanied by an image of the Domestic Goddess herself wrapped in a silky crimson gown and comes with a suggestion that it should be eaten with an 'untipped cigarette clamped between crimson lips'. I'm not quite sure about the logistics of this (and didn't try), but the image brought a smile to my face.

As if by chance, the theme for this month's 'Forever Nigella' food blogging event is 'Ciao Italia'. Hosted by Sarah from Maison Cupcake, bloggers are challenged to celebrate Nigella's greatness by cooking a recipe from one of her books which falls in line with the monthly theme. Last month's chocolate-themed round-up was truly spectacular!

The assembled ingredients - storecupboard staples
So, last night I cooked up Nigella's version and can heartily recommend that you do the same. I was cooking for one so I adjusted a few things but rather greedily used a whole tin of tomatoes and almost finished the lot. I made a couple of very minor additions - a finely chopped shallot added at the start (simply because I found it, looking lonely, in the bottom of the veg box) and a little fresh basil stirred into the sauce at the end. Unnecessary but tasty. I'd probably just stick with the suggested parsley next time though - it is traditional and marries very well with the gutsy flavours of the sauce.

The recipe can be found on Nigella's site. Just click here for all the details.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Harissa Turkey Burgers

We're just back from a fantastic holiday on the Suffolk coast. The weather was unseasonally wonderful - we ate lunch outside, picnicked on the beach and have even come home with slight suntans. Incredible! We took advantage of the row of fishermen's huts on the beach at Aldeburgh to feast on deliciously fresh fish each night and enjoyed every minute. I'll be sharing one or two of our fishy feasts later in the week, but today I want to tell you about the turkey burgers we enjoyed with our Greek Salad a few nights before we headed off.

We love burgers in all their forms but, in an attempt to be healthy-ish, we try not to indulge ourselves too often. We are always on the lookout for healthier alternatives to some of our favourite dishes and this prompted me to make some burgers from turkey breast mince. To spice these up somewhat, I added a generous dollop of harissa which gave these burgers a fantastic, exotic flavour. Paired with crisp little gem lettuce leaves and a smear or coriander-flecked yoghurt, these were extremely tasty. My only criticism would be that they were perhaps a little on the dry side - the downside of opting for a leaner meat.

This is what I did....

Harissa Turkey Burgers
Makes 4 burgers


450g turkey breast mince
1 red onion
1 generous tbsp harissa

Burger buns, rolls or small ciabatta
Iceburg lettuce
4 tbsp plain low-fat yoghurt, creme fraiche or mayonnaise (or more, if you like)
Generous handful coriander

1. Place mince in a large bowl. Grate the onion into the bowl, add the harissa (use more or less to taste) and stir together thoroughly. This is easiest done with the hands, if a little messy.

2. Shape the mixture into burgers, brush with a touch of oil and grill, griddle or BBQ for around 15-20 minutes until cooked through.

3. Meanwhile, chop the coriander and mix into the yoghurt (or creme fraiche or mayo). Make more if you feel like it - there were just two of us. Toast/warm the buns and split in half.

4. Assemble the burgers! Layer them up with the lettuce, burger and coriander yoghurt mix. A big slice of tomato wouldn't go amiss either.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Greek-ish salad

I call this vibrant salad a Greek-ish salad as I have zero Greek credentials and everywhere I look there is debate and criticism on what a Greek salad really is. It seems that a number of Greeks get quite hot under the collar about this, perhaps their most famous national dish. Some insist that the salad should be onion-free whilst others say that finely sliced red onion is a vital component (and that this is the way their mother/grandmother/great-grandmother made it). Controversy also surround the use of cucumber which, to me, has featured in all 'Greek' salads I've ever tasted. There is also disagreement about herbs - fresh or dried? Dressing - plain olive oil, olive oil and lemon juice or something more elaborate?

My take on all of this is that there is no such thing as a truly 'authentic' recipe. There are recipes. There are variants. All are valid. There is no such thing as a 'wrong' recipe. There are many ways of creating a good 'Greek' salad. This version is mine and it contains the things that I love and the combination of flavours that work for me.

I served this alongside some harissa turkey burgers (recipe to follow) and it was a real hit. Wonderfully fresh, vibrant and crunchy and beautifully colourful too. If you can get those knobbly, hard-skinned cucumbers for this salad, so much the better. You'll definitely need to peel them and cut out the seeds but they are crunchier and (in my opinion) much more flavoursome. Obviously this salad is all about the quality of the ingredients - it would be miles better when tomatoes are actually in season. I was lucky enough to find some on-the-vine tomatoes with plenty of flavour in my local supermarket but I know this would have tasted much more wonderful with fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes, still warm from the sun! Go for the best feta you can afford too - there is quite a difference in flavour.

My Greek-ish Salad
Serves 2 as a side dish


Half a red onion
1small  lemon
4 good-sized tomatoes
Half a long cucumber or a whole knobbly, crunchy one
100g good quality feta cheese
small handful Kalamata olives
4tbsp good quality extra-virgin olive oil (Greek, if possible!)
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper

1. Half an hour before you want to eat the salad, slice the onion very finely and place in a bowl with the juice from the lemon. This will soften the onion and take away some of the harsh flavour of raw onion.

2. In a small bowl, measure out the olive oil and sprinkle in the oregano with a good sprinkling of salt and pepper. Set to one side.

3. Chop the tomatoes into bite-sized pieces and remove the seeds and mushy middle bit (unless you love seeds and mush, in which case feel free to leave them in!). Peel the cucumber and remove the seeds/fleshy core. Chop the crunchy flesh into small pieces. Cut feta into small cubes and olives into rough quarters.

4. Assemble the salad just before serving. Throw tomatoes, cucumbers, feta and olives into a bowl and mix gently to combine, season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle softened onions over the top and pour over most of the lemony juices over the salad. Use your judgement here - I found I used just under the juice of a whole lemon! Finally pour over the oregano oil which will mingle nicely with the lemony juices.

5. Devour and mop up the gorgeous juices with crusty bread!

This salad would be great with so many things - a side dish at a barbecue, alongside some simply-grilled fish or chicken, a summery lunch time dish, with grilled and marinated lamb chops....

And here is my lovely Sinbad enjoying the Spring-like sunshine in the garden. Absolutely irrelevant to this recipe, but equally lovely...

Sinbad, the husband and I are off on holiday next week. We're heading to Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast. we plan to eat lots of fish and plenty of picnics (probably in the rain, knowing our luck!). Look forward to sharing it all on our return!

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Pea and watercress purée for fish

Last Friday I asked the husband what he fancied for supper. His response? 'Chips'.

Hmmm. Anything in particular he wanted with his chips? 'Anything'.

Not brilliantly helpful, I have to admit, but I aim to please and so chips were on the menu. As it was Friday, it seemed somehow appropriate to have fish and, as we try to be healthy-ish, I bought two trout which we steamed to serve with our chips. To accompany this fishy feast, I made a vibrant pea and watercress purée which really was the star-turn of the meal. I often make a plain pea purée to accompany fish but I actually like this version better - the peppery watercress adds a bit more interest and somehow tempers the sweetness of the peas. On making it the second time, I was didn't have quite enough watercress and so I added little rocket which also worked well.

The recipe can be found here so I won't repost it as I followed it to the letter. But you hardly need a recipe - simply boil some peas, add watercress (minus woody stems) at the last minute until it wilts, drain (reserving a couple of tbsp of liquid) and whizz with a finely sliced spring onion or two. Warm back in the pan and season to perfection!