Sometimes a magazine recipe comes up trumps

February 29, 2016 § Leave a comment

I spotted a recipe in last month’s edition of the M&S food magazine for something they called “Salmon and ricotta brunch”. Practically every food publication that comes out at this time of the year features healthy eating and detox options. The brunch recipe was billed as being high protein fuel for those concerned with their health and nutrition. The recipe title wasn’t great, nor was the health-food angle but the picture looked pretty so I gave it a go and was really pleased with the result.

At the time I decided it was far too fussy a dish to make for breakfast. Who wants to tumble out of bed on a Sunday morning and start separating eggs for goodness’ sake!

But on reflection, if you’re in the right frame of mind, with a bit of forward planning it is manageable and making this dish for a second time at the weekend, the process seemed a whole lot easier.

Don’t let the whole seventies-retro vibe feel of a roulade put you off either. The end result is delicious, filling, and yes, being high-protein and low carb probably counts as healthy too.

I bet you’re thinking that the roulade in the picture looks just a tad too golden-brown. You’re right as I mistakenly baked mine at 200 degrees C fan rather than the 190 degrees C fan I suggest in the recipe.

Salmon, spinach and ricotta roulade

Serves 8 for brunch or a light lunch.

Ingredients

For the roulade

50g unsalted butter
50g plain flour
300 ml milk (whole or semi-skimmed)
60g grated parmesan
4 medium eggs at room temperature
freshly ground black pepper
2-3 further tablespoons grated parmesan

For the filling

240g bag ready-to-cook spinach
250g ricotta
salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ grated nutmeg
175g cooked flaked salmon or hot-smoked salmon or trout

1. Heat the oven to 190 degrees C fan and line a swiss roll tin with baking parchment.
2. Make a very thick white sauce as the base of the roulade. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, add the flour and cook the resulting roux for a minute or two but do not allow to colour.
3. Take the pan off the heat and add the milk a little at a time whisking thoroughly after each addition. Return the pan to the heat (medium heat) and, whisking constantly, bring the mixture to the boil and cook for 4-5 minutes, again whisking all time to produce a thick smooth mixture.
4. Remove the pan from the heat and add the 60g grated parmesan. Mix well to incorporate then set the pan aside for the mixture to cool for 5-10 minutes. Stir it from time to time while it cools to stop a skin from forming.
5. Separate the eggs. Reserve the yolks and whisk the whites until firm but not too stiff and dry.
6. Beat the reserved egg yolks into the thick cheese sauce mixture.
7. Take a big spoonful of whisked egg white and mix it into the thick cheese sauce mixture to loosen it a little then add this mixture to the whisked egg whites. Fold together using a balloon whisk trying not to knock too much air out of the whisked mixture.
8. Carefully pour the roulade mixture into the prepared tin, spread it to the corners with a palette knife and sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons grated parmesan over the top.
9. Bake for 15 minutes until risen and golden-brown.
10. Meanwhile, lightly steam the spinach, squeeze out all the excess water, chop roughly and place in a bowl. Add the ricotta, salt, pepper and grated nutmeg to the bowl and mix thoroughly to combine.
11. Place a sheet of baking parchment on a work surface and when the roulade is cooked, turn it out onto the parchment. Peel away the parchment used to line the tin.
12. Quickly spread the spinach and ricotta mixture over the roulade and top with the flaked fish. Roll up the roulade using the parchment on the work surface to help create a tight roll.
13. Cut into slices with a serrated knife and serve while warm with roast cherry tomatoes if liked.
14. The rest of the roulade is good served cold for lunch the following day.

Cod from the Suffolk coast

June 6, 2013 § 2 Comments

We’re just back from our family holiday to Southwold on the Suffolk coast. I went with intentions of cooking lots of the wonderful fresh fish you can buy there straight from the fishermens’ boats. We did indeed eat plenty of fresh fish – crab salad with new potatoes, skate wing with black butter and capers, crispy battered fish and chips, flavourful fish stew with French bread – but embarrassingly this was all eaten in Southwold’s many pubs and restaurants.

Shamed, as we prepared to drive home on Saturday morning, we called in at Samantha K’s fish shack on Southwold’s Blackshore harbour, to pick up whatever looked most tempting. That turned out to be a lovely piece of cod, from a fish caught on the tiny fishing boat Laura K and landed the evening before, its grey-green mottled skin a thing of beauty.

Back home that evening, I cooked one of my favourite fish recipes, Cod with Cabbage, Bacon and Peas from Gary Rhodes’ 1994 cookbook “Rhodes around Britain”. The cod is skinned (on reflection this isn’t necessary) and briefly seared in a hot pan before being finished in a hot oven. It’s served with mashed potato and a butter-enriched broth containing pieces of smoked bacon, onion, shredded green cabbage and peas. It’s a perfect dish for late spring combining all that’s good about fish pie with the lightness of a flavoursome broth and new season green vegetables.

I still haven’t found an entirely satisfactory fish cookery book – I get a little bored as they descend into encylopaedic lists of uncommon fish species (am I really likely to come across a walleye, pompano or porgy on my local market stall?) or obscure definitions (pelagic, epipelagic, demersal and the like…). My favourite fish recipes are dotted about here and there in different books, clippings and folders.

When deciding what to do with my lovely piece of cod it was a close run thing between the Gary Rhodes recipe and one from Simon Hopkinson’s best book, coincidentally also from 1994 “Roast Chicken and Other Stories”. This recipe requires the cod to be poached and served with braised Puy lentils and a punchy salsa verde. I’ve included it as a second recipe here as it sounds so good and I don’t want to forget about it.

Recipe for cod with cabbage, bacon and peas

Adapted from a recipe in Gary Rhodes’ “Rhodes around Britain”.

Ingredients

4 smoked back bacon rashers, rinded and cut into strips
2 onions, finely chopped
25g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
600ml chicken stock (homemade or a good quality bought fresh stock rather than from a cube)
½ green cabbage, finely shredded
100g fresh podded or frozen peas
25-50g soft unsalted butter
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 thick pieces cod fillet, skin on, each one 175-225g
a little vegetable oil
knob of unsalted butter

To serve

1 quantity mashed potatoes made with 900g floury potatoes (Maris Piper or Vivaldi); plenty of unsalted butter, salt, pepper and a little grated nutmeg

Make sure you have all the recipe ingredients, pans and utensils prepped and ready before you begin cooking as the vegetables and fish each take only a few minutes to cook. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C fan.

Prepare the mashed potatoes and keep warm.

Gently fry the bacon and onions in 25g of the butter and the tablespoon of olive oil until soft (about 10 minutes). Add the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Cover, turn off the heat and set aside for a moment while you start the cooking of the fish.

Heat a little vegetable oil and a knob of unsalted butter in a large frying pan with a heatproof handle. When hot, put in the pieces of cod fillet skin-side down and fry for 2 minutes. Place the frying pan into the preheated oven for 3-4 minutes (170 degrees C fan), depending on the thickness of your fish.

While the fish is in the oven, bring the stock back to the boil and add the shredded cabbabge and peas and cook at a brisk boil until tender but retaining a little bite and vibrant green colour.This will take only a few minutes.

The fish will now be ready. Remove it from the oven but keep it warm while you finish the bacon and vegetable broth by whisking in 25-50g unsalted butter in pieces (the amount you choose to whisk in is up to you).

Divide the hot mashed potato between 4 shallow bowls. Sit the fish on top of the mashed potato skin side up and spoon the broth and vegetables around.

Recipe for poached cod with lentils and salsa verde

From Simon Hopkinson’s 1994 book “Roast Chicken and Other Stories”. Serves 4.

Ingredients

700g cod, descaled, filleted and cut into 4 pieces (leave the skin on)
water for poaching
juice of a lemon
enough salt to season the cooking water lightly (a teaspoon)

For the lentils

225g Puy lentils, washed and drained
450ml water
½ chicken stock cube
1 clove
1 bay leaf
1 small onion, peeled
salt and pepper

For the salsa verde

Bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves only
10 basil leaves
15 mint leaves
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
6 anchovy fillets
1 tablespoon capers, drained
150ml extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

To serve

1 lemon, cut into wedges
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
pepper
a few sprigs of flat-leaf parsley

First cook the lentils. Place them in a saucepan and cover with the water. Push the clove through the bayleaf and into the onion. Add the onion to the pan. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Now add the stock cube (I don’t add this at the outset as salt in the cube can toughen the lentils and prevent them from softening) and simmer for 10 to 20 minutes more until the liquid has been absorbed and the lentils are tender. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm.

While the lentils are cooking, make the salsa verde. Put the herbs, garlic, mustard, anchovies and capers into the food processor with a few tablespoons of the olive oil. Process for a few minutes, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula from time to time. Once the mixture is smooth, with the motor running add the remaining olive oil to the mixture in a thin stream through the processor bowl lid’s funnel. The process is akin to making mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper once the oil has all been incorporated. Transfer to a serving bowl.

Once the lentils and salsa verde are ready, it’s time to poach the fish. Bring a large pan of water with some salt and the juice of a lemon added to it to the boil. Slide in the fish fillets carefully, bring the pan back to the boil, cover and switch off the heat. After 5 minutes, carefully lift the fish out onto a hot plate

To serve, place a portion of fish onto each individual plate with a wedge of lemon. Drizzle a little olive oil and sprinkle a little sea salt and a grinding of black pepper over each piece of fish and scatter over a sprig or so of parsley. Pass the lentils and salsa verde separately.

Weird fish

June 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

The weird fish in question is a ling, a member of the cod family. Rick Stein writes about ling in his “Taste of the Sea” like this:

“Ling is one of those underrated fish which, in addition to being reasonably flavoured, is also firm in texture – a cheap version of monkfish, if you like. It is an extraordinary looking fish which could easily be mistaken for an eel, so long and sinuous is its appearance.”

He’s certainly right about how it looks as the picture above, snapped at Samantha K’s fish shack on the harbour at Southwold, shows.

Over the years we’ve gently fallen in to the routine established by my husband’s family of joining a large family party at Southwold on the Suffolk coast. We eat out some of the time but for the most part take turns to cook an evening meal served on the big kitchen table.

Last Thursday, it was my turn to cook so, being by the seaside, I decided to cook fish. One of the pleasures of a holiday in Southwold is wandering along the Blackshore Harbour waterfront to buy the freshest possible fish without guilt – it’s caught sustainably on lines by small day boats which supply the harbourside shacks in the most direct way possible.

You have a choice of 3 fish shacks to buy from. My favourite is the smallest and simplest of the lot, Samantha K’s:

The Sole Bay Fish Company, a pebble’s throw away is good too and clearly has a superior PR machine. Blimey, you can even find Jasper Conran extolling its virtues in a Guardian Online article…

Having looked at what was on offer, I couldn’t resist choosing the impressive and rather scary whole ling. All mine for £24. The fish guy kindly filleted the monster for me while Tim and I slipped off to the Harbour Tearooms for an early morning coffee and toasted teacake.

I chose a simple Indian-inspired recipe to show off the fish at its best – the fish fillets are briefly marinaded in lemon juice plus added aromatics, then coated in lots of chopped fresh herbs before being baked for 20 minutes in a hot oven.

I included wild fennel which I found growing wild on the beach in my fresh herb mix for a truly local flavour:

It’s a very adaptable recipe which would work well with all sorts of white fish and the half hour marinading period gives the cook a perfect excuse to slip off to the local pub for a sundowner.

Cooking with fish this fresh was a real revelation. The raw fillets on the board didn’t smell fishy at all, there was just the faintest seaweedy smell of the sea. The cooked fish flaked easily, was an amazing pearly white and the taste was clean, fresh and very summery. So yes, Rick, I agree with you about the fish being underrated and reasonably flavoured but beg to differ on its texture being similar to monkfish – it’s much closer to the flaky texture of cod. A cheaper version of monkfish really would have been too good to be true.

I served the fish with spiced basmati rice, an Indian style grated carrot salad, cucumber raita and some simply steamed greens. A shameless attempt to persuade some of the curry fans in our family to give fresh fish a try – it seems to have worked:

Recipe for fish baked with herbs

I’ve adapted this recipe from one given in Thane Prince’s “Summer Cook”, a slim paperback volume perfect for slipping into your bag if you’re heading off on a self-catering holiday. Her recipe is called Pudina Macchi and she attributes it to Indian chef Satish Arora. Pudina is the Hindi word for mint, a key ingredient in this summery, fresh tasting and straightforward dish.

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 square chunky pieces of white fish fillet, one per person, each weighing about 6 oz so approx one and a half pounds in total. I left the skin on to help the fish keep its shape. I used ling but cod, haddock or any similar variety would work fine in this adaptable recipe
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 fresh red medium hot chilli deseeded and roughly chopped (adjust quantity of chilli to suit your group’s capacity for heat)
juice of 1 lemon
small bunch each of mint, coriander and an aniseedy herb such as fennel or dill
2 tablespoons light olive oil

In a shallow glazed ceramic dish which which will hold the fish fillets snugly without overlapping to much mix together the garlic, coriander, chilli and lemon juice to form a marinade. Place the fish in the marinade flesh side down, skin side up, cover with cling film, refrigerate and leave in the marinade for betweeh 30 minutes and 1 hour. Don’t leave it longer than this as the lemon juice “cooks” the fish and you’ll end up with a ceviche on your hands rather than fish ready for cooking.

Meanwhile, prepare the herbs. Remove the leaves from the mint stalks and chop roughly. The coriander and fennel/dill can be chopped just as they are as their stems are tender. Mix together the chopped herbs.

Once the marinading period is over, remove the fish from the marinade and discard the liquid. Press the flesh side of the fish into the herb mixture aiming for a really thick generous herb coating. Place the fish skin side down, herb side up in a shallow baking dish.

Drizzle the light olive oil over the fish and bake in a preheated oven at 200 degrees C for approximately 20 minutes. Test the fish for doneness as it approaches the end of its cooking time by pressing with the point of sharp knife feeling for the difference in resistance between just cooked and slightly underdone fish.

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