Many of you will know that Mr E is a helicopter pilot. For many years, he flew helicopters over the North Sea, based in Aberdeen and because of that, we’re always huge supporters of the RNLI whose crews work tirelessly to rescue people and save so many lives (including those of 12 oil workers and two pilots who ditched in their helicopter about 30 miles off the Aberdeen coast in 2012). Did you know that 2016 RNLI lifeboats rescued 8,643 people? And they do all that good work with the majority of funding coming just from voluntary contributions. When Crisp ‘n Dry contacted me to tell me that they’re supporting RNLI’s Fish Supper campaign, I was happy to join in and I’ve got two delicious recipes for you if you want to host your own fish supper, including this yummy, creamy fish pie with sweet potato mash, plus a delicious crispy Baja fish taco recipe coming on Saturday.
So it was the Disreputable One’s birthday on Saturday. As he loves a bit of tapas, I thought I’d cook him a tapas feast fit for a birthday boy. The menu looked like this:
Olives and spicy nibbles to start (we used these from Olives et Al – very yummy they are too)
baked cod with garlic and oregano
Spicy garlic prawns (click for recipe)
Smoky bacon meatballs (Albóndigas) in tomato and pepper sauce
Selection of cheese including The Birthday Cheese
Baked cod with garlic and oregano
When we were in the Canary Islands last year, we ate a beautiful baked hake dish with garlic and oregano. Sadly there was no hake at the market this Saturday, but I was determined to cook this dish for my Dad so we picked up some nice, chunky cod, which works equally as well. Here’s my approximation of the dish. Use a decent make of dried herb – you don’t want a dry, dusty one. I like dried oregano from Schwartz, but if you’re using fresh, double up and use 2 tsp.
1 kg fresh cod fillets
1 clove garlic
1 tsp oregano
Olive oil (preferably Spanish!)
Preheat the oven to 190/gas 5.
Pop the cod fillets into a large ovenproof dish. Bash the garlic with a pestle and mortar, add the oregano, then slowly glug in about 50ml olive oil.
Pour the mixture over the cod, then bake, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until the fish flakes easily.
I’ll publish all the rest of the recipes for you, but until then, here’s the Birthday Boy, blowing out his cheesy birthday candle. Happy birthday Dad!
Asda’s Fishmonger, Darren Wrend has created some recipes to give you a bit of inspiration for how to cook a whole salmon. They asked me if I’d like to have a go and have kindly allowed me to publish their recipes (and turned a blind eye while I fiddled with them too, bless ’em):
Salmon en croute filled with parsley, lemon and lemon and pepper butter
Our verdict: delicious, easy to do and really attractive to look at – would make a perfect dinner party dish. The boys absolutely loved this and have begged me to make it again – the combination of crisp, flaky pastry and soft lemony salmon is a winner. I did think the oven temperature was slightly too hot though (see note below):
Recipe will serve 6 people
- 2 skinless salmon fillets (fillets taken from a whole salmon)
- Bunch of flat leaf parsley
- 1 lemon
- 3 lemon and pepper butter ovals (available from the fish counter – I didn’t have these so I used butter with a squeeze of lemon and a grinding of pepper)
- Cracked black pepper
- Sea salt
- Cup of milk
- 2 sheets ready rolled puff pastry
- 1 sheet of baking paper
- Pre-heat the oven to 230C/ gas mark 8 (I found 200C/gas 6 was enough here)
- Lay a sheet of greaseproof paper on a oven dish/tray, and on top of this lay flat one sheet of rolled out pastry
- Place one salmon fillet on top of the pastry, skin down (if the fillet is too long for the pastry tuck the tail under to fit)
- Along the middle of the fillet place sprigs of flat leaf parsley, then finely grate the lemon over the parsley, along with some cracked black pepper
- Crumble on the lemon and pepper butter ovals for additional flavour
- Place the second salmon fillet skin side down on a chopping board and season with sea salt and cracked black pepper
- Once seasoned place the second fillet on top of the other fillet skinless side down
- Brush the visible edge of the pastry with milk, then lay the second sheet of pastry on top of the salmon
- Using the side of your hand go around the edge of the fillet and seal the pastry together, cutting off any excess pastry
- Using the excess pastry decorate the top of the en croute and brush the top layer of pastry with milk
- Place the salmon en croute on the middle shelf of the pre-heated oven and cook for 30-35 minutes or until the pastry has gone a light golden brown colour
Salmon Fillets Stuffed with Cod Our verdict: I won’t lie, this was tricky for me, but I’m not tremendously dexterous and trying to tie up slippery fish wasn’t easy. I managed it, but my offering was slightly less attractive than Asda’s photo! The taste, however was delicious and fabulously healthy too. This recipe will serve 8 people Ingredients needed:
- 2 skin-on salmon fillets (fillets taken from a whole salmon)
- Approx. 300g skinless cod loin
- 2 lemons
- Sprig of dill
- Salt and pepper for seasoning
- Pre-heat the oven to 200C /Gas mark 5
- Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper
- Cut six pieces of string (measure from hand to elbow) and lay along the width of the baking tray
- Place one fillet in the middle of the string, skin side down
- Season well with cracked black pepper and sea salt, then place five wedges of lemon across the salmon fillet
- Place a layer of cod in the middle of the salmon (about three fillets), and squeeze the juice of one lemon over the cod
- Lay the second fillet on the work surface, skin side down, season with sea salt and cracked black pepper
- Place the second fillet on top of the first fillet so the skin is upwards. To secure the fish take both ends of string wrap around the salmon and tie in little bows, finally season with sea salt and cracked black pepper and drizzle over a little olive oil
- Place the salmon filled with cod in the pre-heated oven for 45 minutes, until the skin has gone crispy
The lovely chaps at Fish is the Dish work hard to promote fish as the perfect family food. They often send me little surprises, and this time it was a tray of the freshest sardines. There’s really only one thing to do with sardines: obviously that’s eat them fresh from the barbecue with a glass of local wine at some beautiful beachside location. Failing that, you can make this easy, fresh version of gremolata to go with your shiny silver dinner:
You will need:
Fresh sardines, gutted
Large bunch parsley
2 cloves garlic
Couple of glugs of olive or rapeseed oil
Salt and pepper
First, preheat your grill so it’s really hot. Sprinkle the sardines with salt and pepper and pop them under the grill. They’ll only take a couple of minutes each side – just enough time to make the gremolata oil.
Traditionally gremolata is a ‘dry’ mixture of lemon zest, garlic and tons of parsley all chopped together. I’ve added oil here to make it easy to drizzle. So just squish the garlic with the side of a knife (use a pinch of salt for grip), then chop the parsley into it and add the zest of the lemon. Transfer into a bowl and add the olive oil. Squeeze in the lemon juice. I added a pinch of dried chilli too.
Serve the sardines piping hot with crusty bread (or I made little square crispy potatoes) and drizzle with the gremolata.
So as you know I’m involved with the Fish is the Dish project, a fabulous endeavour from Seafish.org encouraging families to eat more fish. Basically I get challenged every couple of weeks to cook with a different fish ( love it when my delivery man appears at the door clutching my parcel – it’s like a fish version of Christmas). This week it was beautiful fillets of undyed smoked haddock from Delish Fish. The fillets were firm and meaty, and not at all yellow (remembering the smoked haddock of my youth here).
I fiddled with this recipe quite a bit, but I have to tell you, the end result was fabulous, and was woofed down by every member of the family – even the curry-hating Death Wish Dude. English Dad isn’t sure he could eat it for breakfast (I certainly could), but it’s an easy and nutritious supper and would make a fab brunch if you have guests or over Christmas:
450g smoked haddock
2 bay leaves
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 pinch crushed chilli
350g basmati rice
4 hard boiled eggs
Firstly, boil the kettle (the man from British Gas told me never to heat water on the stove – apparently it’s much more energy efficient to use kettle-heated water!)
So lay the haddock fillets in a nice heavy frying pan and pour over enough milk to just cover them. Add in the bay leaves and quartered onion. Poach for about 8 minutes or until the fish is beginning to flake.
In the mean time, pour boiling water over 4 eggs in a saucepan and place on the heat. They’ll take 8 minutes too.
Once cooked, remove the fish, cover and keep warm in a low oven. Reserve the cooking milk in a jug, topping up to 600ml with stock.
Chuck out the bay leaves, but keep the onions and chop them as finely as your burning fingers will allow. Fry them in the butter for a few minutes until softened, then add in the spices.
Pop in the rice, stir around until coated and then add the milky/stock liquid. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Then stir in the flaked haddock (and add frozen peas if you’re using them) and cook for about another 5 minutes or until the rice is just cooked. Keep an eye on the liquid. You might need to add a bit more stock.
To serve, top with the boiled eggs. And I think a nice sprinkling of coriander would be perfect.
I’ve already told you about the lovely chaps at Seafish – they work really hard promoting great quality, sustainable seafood, and their campaign, Fish is the Dish, is all about encouraging us all to eat more fish and the website is a fabulous resource for recipes, cooking tips and advice about choosing and cooking fish.
They’d noticed the Sea Bass debacle, and invited me up to Billingsgate Seafood School at the famous fish market, to teach me some fishy skillz. The course was a special one as we were being taught by none other than Allan Pickett, Head Chef of the beautiful Plateau Restaurant in Canada Place, in the very heart of the Docklands.
Allan was a brilliant teacher. We warmed to him straight away as he abandoned the teaching ‘stage’ at the front of the kitchen to come and work next to us at the workstations. First of all we were presented with a whole Sea Bass and a scary scraper-contraption and had a good old go at descaling. This was hilarious as scales were flying everywhere. I found several scales down my cleavage that night, alarmingly…
Next, Allan took us through filleting the Sea Bass. It really is all about technique (as the actress said to the bishop), pressing down firmly on the flesh ‘opens up’ the fillet as you gently cut the flesh away from the bones. It’s a bit gruesome when you have to break the heads off after you’ve cut round them, yes, but it’s also fascinating, and there’s a real sense of satisfaction when you’re left with two neat fillets at the end of the process.
After we’d finished the Sea Bass, we moved onto the Plaice. These ugly mothers have two larger fillets on the top side, and two smaller on the underside. I found this a bit more tricky, as the fillets are thin anyway – a bit too much enthusiasm while you’re cutting and you can find that there’s hardly anything left!
After the filleting, we got down to the cooking. Here are the very simple, and very delicious, recipes we used:
Shallow fried Plaice fillets with French beans and almonds, with nut brown butter sauce
1 Plaice (per person)
Flour, for dusting
Salt and pepper
60g French beans, blanched in boiling salted water
10g almonds (toasted then chopped)
Fillet the Plaice (or ask your fishmonger to do it), then skin as well. Season the flour well then dust each fillet, tapping away the excess.
Heat a little vegetable oil in a pan, then shallow fry the Plaice fillets (we were taught to fry them on the presentation side until golden and NOT to mess with them). Flip over briefly to make sure the other side is just cooked through.
Put the fillets on a warm plate then add in the butter to the pan, swirling around until it’s bubbling and beginning to brown. Pop in the beans and almonds, just to warm them through, then spoon the whole lot over the cooked Plaice fillets.
Roast fillet of Sea Bass with a sauce vierge
1 whole Sea Bass, well scaled and filleted
300g new potatoes, cooked then peeled
1 punnet red or yellow cherry tomatoes
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 bunch chives
1/2 bunch chervil or parsley
125ml good quality olive oil
30g pitted black olives, sliced lengthways
Salt and pepper
Heat a pan then add a little vegetable oil. Once hot, add in the Sea Bass fillets carefully and cook slowly on the skin side until crisp and nearly cooked through.
Meanwhile, slice the cooked potatoes and sauté in butter in another pan until brown.
Cut the tomatoes in half and grill until just warmed through and starting to soften.
Spoon the potatoes onto the middle of a warmed plate. Quickly flip the fish over in the pan just to make sure the other side is cooked through, then put the hot fish on top of the potatoes, and arrange the cherry tomatoes around the plate.
Mix the olive oil with a little lemon juice, pour into the hot pan. Add in the chopped herbs and olives. Warm through and pour over the dish.
And that’s it! The evening went so quickly I was actually really disappointed when it ended. We had a chance to sit and chat while we ate our dishes with a glass of wine, which was really nice.
The dishes were both delicious and I really feel ready to buy a whole fish and have a go myself at home. Remember, though, your fishmonger will always fillet any fish for you, so don’t feel you can’t ask.
Massive thanks to Jo at Seafish for arranging my fab day out, and to the lovely staff at Billingsgate, and the ever-patient Chef Allan Pickett,
You know when you write up a whole recipe, then the internet gremlins get to work over the weekend and delete it all? Yes, that.
Ah well, I’ve blown my nose, wiped my tears, and here’s my second attempt at telling you all about our spooky Halloween fishy supper.
You will need:
500g firm, white fish
250g breadcrumbs (this was a bit much actually, 200g would be fine)
80g finely grated Parmesan cheese
300g fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
200g plain flour
1 large egg
Splash of milk
So whizz up a couple of slices of bread in the food processor, then add in the Parmesan and parsley (I whizzed it all together and it was fine). Season generously.
Now, you need to assemble your eggy wash department. Grab three bowls, and in the first one put the flour, in the next the egg and splash of milk and in the third, the breadcrumbs.
Get your production line rolling by slicing the fish into nice fat fingers, then placing them into the flour, then the eggy wash, and finally the breadcrumbs. Arrange them on a buttered (or non stick) baking tray, and bake at 180/gas 4 for around 10 to 15 minutes (you don’t want to overcook the fish – it needs to stay lovely and moist).
For suitable Halloween spookiness, I served my ‘severed fingers’ with olive tapenade (I let it down with a little olive oil) but I’ll be honest, it didn’t go down well. It would be much better with a quick homemade tartare sauce made with mayo, a squeeze of lemon and some chopped capers.
And the verdict? Gorgeous. Everyone loved the fish fingers and they were quick and easy to make, with soft, delicate fish and a lovely savoury crust. Yum!
So English Dad has a large Asda near his work and often drops in for random stuff like all the various pills, potions and herbal whatnots he pops every morning for his bones and his joints and his whatevers (‘what? I’m getting old’), prune juice (remind me to tell you about the prune juice incident, it’s a cracker) and, occasionally, to have a quick perusal of the fish counter.
English Dad loves the fish counter. This is all good, but it does mean that sometimes he arrives home with a slightly fishy smelling mystery parcel and I have to conjour up some form of accompaniment at short notice. Recently, his niffy romantic offering was a clutch (a school?) of very fresh and rather lovely sea bass. Whole sea bass.
They were beautiful: fresh, gleaming, with clear eyes and that lovely ozone scent (and two quid each. TWO QUID!). But then it all kind of went downhill. Well first of all I’d kind of planned hotdogs. I’d bought baguettes and those horrible ‘lips and arseholes‘ hotdog sausages that come in tins (oh admit it, you love them too). And suddenly to be presented with an enormous bag of slightly wet scales, glassy eyes and gaping maws kind of threw me off kilter.
I know. Horribly ungrateful. His little face fell, bless him.
And then the boys came in. Comments were made. Sulky, teenagery kind of comments:
‘I thought we were having hotdogs‘
‘They’re looking at me!’
I grabbed the knife with a flourish and announced that I would fillet them.
The first thing I did was to impale myself through the thumb with the spiky bit at the top of the fin. Who knew sea bass could be so darned painful? Cursing and beplastered, I swiftly decided to dispense with the filleting and just chop off their heads and tails. They were gutted (there were livid – boom boom!), so this seemed the easiest option.
Have you ever tried to cut off a sea bass’s head? It’s hard work. They’re slippery and there’s nothing to hold on to… I stabbed myself about another three times until, swearing and sweating, my fishy massacre was complete. The kitchen was littered with severed heads, and the poor Ninja Cat of Death was so traumatised by all the hacking and the swearing she went to hide under the table. The beady eyed sea bass heads mocked her as she left: ‘where are you going, you hairy pansy? Never seen a headless fish before? Wuss!’
Anyhoo, bloodbath aside, stuffed with parsley and lemon, drizzled with oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper and wrapped in a comfy foil blanket, they were delicious (bake at 180/gas 6 for about 1/2 an hour), served with little oven roasted new potatoes…
They were proclaimed ‘alright, but a bit bony’ by de brevren, (which they were – you just have to be a bit careful), but apart from one near-choking incident and the fact that I was riddled with sea bass spine puncture wounds, it was an altogether delicious dinner.
Tonight, adorned with slightly fishy smelling plasters, I shall be making hotdogs.
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