Friday, 22 May 2015

Toasted cheese hath no master

This was my toasted sandwich, made for my lunch.  Husband walks in, just as I was sitting down to enjoy; "Oh, that looks good - is that for me?".  Flattery, it turns out, will get you a toasted sandwich.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Haddock and parsley fish cakes

'Better small fish than an empty dish'.
Fish cakes are easy to do, but it's the time invested isn't it?  If you aren't using leftover potatoes and cooking the fish freshly, it's quite a process that doesn't make for quick family suppers.  If I am boiling or steaming potatoes one evening, I often think if I should cook extra for a pie topping or to make fish cakes the following day.  Traditionally you would use left over potatoes from a previous meal and these sometimes inspire me to knock up some fish cakes using tinned fish.  However, on this occasion I boiled potatoes and baked some haddock from scratch for these.  I also added some chopped parsley, lemon juice and bread crumbs and a raw egg to bind.  The bread crumbs were grated white bread and I added them to the fish cake mixture, but also coated the outside of the cakes in them.  This gave them a nice golden crunch.  I sometimes oven bake fish cakes, but on this occasion, I pan fried in olive oil and added extra lemon juice.  You can make easily with tinned salmon or tuna or use freshly cooked fish.  Taking this photo, I realise how difficult it is to photograph food - it's obviously a whole different genre and food that tastes great doesn't necessarily look/ photograph that well.  I think I should have left the vegetables out of the photo. 

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Pears poached in vanilla syrup with Florentines, whipped cream and chocolate.

'Give us the luxuries of life, and we will dispense with its necessities'. John Mötley, US Historian (1814-1829).
Ok - so I went a bit Jackson Pollack with my melted chocolate!  This is adapted from a Nigel Slater recipe.  I found a few problems with it that are easily addressed.  Firstly, you need to simmer peeled and cored pears in a water, sugar, syrup with a vanilla pod and leave them to stand for at least an hour until the pears are "butter soft".  It took ages peeling eight pears and I was up early on a Sunday morning which seemed a bit of a faff.  Frank pointed out that you could probably just about get away with using tinned pears if you soaked a vanilla pod with them overnight. Pears must be served chilled so this needs to be done well in advance of serving.   It's easy enough to whip up the cream, adding vanilla essence and this should be done no longer than half an hour before eating.  The photo doesn't show off that there are crushed Florentine biscuits in the cream.  These were great as it made the cream chewy with a nutty flavour and contrasted with the softness of the pears and cream.  You could also use smashed up brandy snaps.  I drizzled the melted chocolate on just before serving, but the cold pears/ cream set it almost immediately.  The whole dish is very rich and I'd use less cream next time.

Slow roasted lamb with spiced rice, salads, yogurt and aubergine chutney

"The king reigns, but does not govern" Jan Zamoyski, Polish Statesman, 1605)

Frank slow roasted lamb in yogurt and cumin and rice and asked me to prepare salads to accompany.  The rice has dry pan roasted pine nuts, sultanas and fried onions in it and was delicious.  I wanted a simple green salad, but it looked a little dull with just lettuce, cucumber and spring onions, so I added some radish shavings and the grated carrot on the side.  The carrot goes well with the rice too.  The aubergine chutney was from Waitrose and the coolness of the Greek yogurt make it a quite essential part of the dish.The photo shows my plate, but diners served themselves.   The king reigns refers to my husband in this instance, but it was a joint effort.  I like the saying that 'while a man may consider himself the head of the family, the woman is the neck, and the neck can turn the head'.   

Friday, 1 May 2015

Pan fried halibut with creamed peas, spring onion and bacon.

Be bold, be brief, be gone...
I love to eat fish, but it is my nemesis;  I often overcook it.   I like to pan fry, so I can keep an eye on it, cook it quickly, plate and go eat.  This dish is from a recipe in a marvellous book from the restaurant, J Sheekey, called simply, ‘Fish’.
Cook some frozen peas, then put aside.  Then chop and fry in olive oil a shallot.  Add a couple of chopped smoked bacon rashes to the pan and once these have cooked, add the peas and a couple of tablespoons of double cream and about 150mls of vegetable stock.  Give it a stir and then add some chopped scallions (spring onions) and some finely shredded lettuce – (I’ve used iceberg or baby gem lettuce before).  Put the lettuce in the pan last, season and give it all a stir. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.
Heat some olive oil or butter and pan fry the halibut on both sides for 3-4 minutes. Squeeze on some lemon juice.  Serve the halibut on top of a couple of tablespoons of the creamed peas. 
The smoked bacon give the dish some depth but not too much to detract from the fish.  The crunch of the scallions and lettuce in the peas give texture.  I served this with chipped potato cubes roasted in garlic and rosemary and also roasted some cherry tomatoes on their vine to put on top.  The dish didn’t photography so well, but tasted good.