Sunday, 25 March 2012

Claypot Fish (or saucepan fish)

Delicious & virtuous = winner
'We eat too much meat.' I said to the Boyfriend. 'We need to have a few veggie nights.' The tantrum that ensued gave me second thoughts, mostly in the shape of fishy ideas. I have been meaning to cook Claypot Fish for about three and a half years. It has very few ingredients, is quick and straight-forward and promised some very exciting flavour contrasts thanks to the sugar, lime and my bit on the side, fish sauce. The recipe which I based this on suggests halibut, but I couldn't get any and used (sustainably sourced of course), cod. It would work with any firm white fish, what you don't want is something you overcook which ends up flaking all over the place.

Caramelly garlic and ginger 
Feeds two. Take a smallish casserole dish/claypot/saucepan and sprinkle in 1tbsp caster sugar and 1tbsp water. Dissolve the sugar over a gentle heat, then turn it up and bubble away until the colour goes dark and you get an unmistakable wiff of caramel (this took ages for me but I think I was being a wuss with the temperature for fear that I was going to burn it). As soon as this happens add 1 tsp groundnut oil, a finely chopped garlic clove, a chopped chilli and a tbsp of finely shredded ginger. Stir for a minute, then turn the heat down, add 100ml hot water, 2 tbsp fish sauce and two fish fillets. Season well and turn to coat in the sauce. Let it cook for a few more minutes, then turn the fish, carefully, pop the lid on and cook for a further 3 minutes. Remove the lid and let it bubble for a minute, reducing a little, and carefully lift out the fish, serve on rice (cue massive brown v white rice argument with the Boyfriend, I love brown and don't see why he's such  a baby about it), sprinkle with chopped spring onions, something green and steamed, and a wedge of lime. Pour over the sauce and marvel at how something with so few ingredients can taste so damn sexy.

Permission to lick the plate? Granted.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

McMoules with Fries

Cauldron of moules anyone?
Moules, mussels, whatever you call them, these juicy little bi-valves never fail to provide a treat at the dinner table. The key to great mussels is the prep, do this properly and you'll have great success. As with oysters, they say only buy them when there is an R  in the month. I personally think you cannot beat classic moules mariniere, I'm not all that interested in mussels doused in green thai curry sauce, and I much prefer a garlicky white wine sauce to a tomatoey one, but that's just me. The French really know how to do it, and I have fond memories of gorging myself on moules, fresh from the car, after an argumentative, bickery ferry crossing to Saint Marlo with my sisters and long suffering parents. Moules Frites. Pure heaven, crusty bread works too, to suck up the garlic laced liquor, but you can't beat thin crispy chips. And who does thin crispy chips best? MacDonald's. Yes. This Christmas eve, Dad and I made true our mouley dreams, I whipped up the moules while he raced to Macca's to get the chips. I think it might be a new tradition.*

Feeds 2. Take approx 1 kilo of mussels and put them in the sink and cover with cold water. Given them a good swirl around, then one by one, pick them up, pull out their beards (the weird stringy bits hanging out) and place in a colander. Discard any that don't close. Rinse the sink out, put the mussels back in and again, cover in cold water to make sure they are nice and clean, no-one likes gritty mussels, make sure you are thorough. Mussels prepared, in a large saucepan, gently soften one finely chopped onion in a bit of butter for a few minutes. Then add two fat sliced garlic cloves and cook until the onion is soft. Throw the mussels in the pan, add a couple of glasses of white wine, season, stir really well and put the lid on. Let this bubble away for about 5 minutes, as soon as the mussels are open they are done, then stir in approx 150ml single cream and a handful of chopped parsley. Discard any that haven't opened. Serve with MacDonald's fries and munch and slurp away to your heart's content.

*Mum, this in no way is meant to put down your amazing Christmas Eve fish pie, we love it.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Duck & Red Wine Risotto with Chard

Sooooo it's ok if I have a fat boy bagel for lunch because I'm going to the gym tonight and then I'm having dinner with my gorgeous friend who is preggers, so I won't drink and it will all be saintly. Erm no. She had to cancel, I DEFINITELY didn't want to go to the gym (something about a particularly hard day at work makes me really anti-exercise) and as I stopped and started on the normally reliable train service between London Waterloo and Surbiton, I became fixated with red wine risotto with duck. I don't know why but I did. Maybe there was some Derran Brown style subliminal messaging weirdness going on but that's what I wanted and that was what I was going to cook. After fantasising about crispy fat laden pan fried duck breasts (what else would you fry it in duh?!) I remembered the pounds I'd popped on during the holiday food and wine fiesta, and remembered I was back on the weight watchers (YES I KNOW, SHUT UP!) and I went for some skin free (boo) mini fillets instead. I also grabbed some chard which I love, which ended up making the dish.

Feeds 2: Fry 1 finely chopped onion in a splash of olive oil for 5 mins and then a couple of finely chopped garlic cloves. Add approx 150g aborio risotto rice and stir around, coating in oil for a minute. Add a glass of red wine (I was like a sulky child, un-willing to share, until I remembered it was my dinner...) and it's the usual risotto ritual: add a ladle-full of hot stock at a time, stirring almost constantly (stopping only for wine glass re-fills) until the liquid has been absorbed, and then add another one.You'll probably need about 1ltr stock in all. Repeat until the rice is cooked but still with a slight bite. Not crunchy. While all this is going on, (it will take 25 minutes or so) plonk about 300g sliced duck breast/mini fillets into a bowl with a decent splash of red wine and plenty of salt and pepper. Also take a big handful of chard and remove the very bottoms, and then cut the white bits off. Wash the green tops and white stalks. Chop a big clove of garlic and a small red chillie, and then dry-fry 2 tsp caraway seeds until toasted an fragrant. When the risotto is done, stir in a big handful of Parmesan and seasoning and set aside with the lid on. Get both a frying pan and a biggish saucepan on the heat. Into each pan slosh a bit of olive oil. In the saucepan add the garlic and white parts of the chard and into the frying pan add the duck and it's juices. Keep the duck moving, you just want to sear it, when you think it's done, just turn the heat off. After a few minutes of stir frying the white bits of the chard throw in the chopped chillie and the green bits of the chard. Squeeze half a lemon over it and add the caraway seeds. Season and pop the lid on for a minute, it won't take long for the green bits to wilt. When they have wilted give them a stir, also stir the risotto. Plate up by spooning a big blob of risotto onto each plate, top with the duck and the chard on the side. Sprinkle the duck with chopped flat leaf parsley and make suggestively rude noises while gobbling it down.

If that sounds a bit involved, it isn't, each bit is super simple, and the excitement from the chard totally makes it, just be organised. Just don't get too pissed while stirring your rice...yeah, easier said than done. Hoever, I definitely had more fun than I would have had in the gym.

Monday, 5 March 2012

The Secret is Out : Nana's Yorkshire Puddings

This New York Strip defeated me...
Apologies for lack of posting recently, Hungry People. I have been away in foreign lands eating giant steak in America and far too many flat breads and tagines in Morocco. It's been tough but I made it through, and now will try to ease up on the (very) bad stuff for a while, to make up for what was pretty much gorging for two weeks. Well surely to have good intentions is better than nothing?
Too many of these isn't enough

Before the good behaviour begins, (whatevs) I thought it was about time to share a very sacred family recipe. My Nana's Yorkshire puddings. I'd love to say that my Nana is from Yorkshire, but she isn't, she's pretty Southern and now lives in Devon, but that doesn't stop her recipe for Yorkshire Puddings from being the Best Ever.

We went for a rather juicy forerib joint (not four-rib as I originally thought), and yes, it did cost more than our normal little chicken. But my god was it worth it. The beef required some battery goodness to accompany it and I dug out the scrawled hand-written instructions that I scribbled while on the phone to my Mum who has passed the Secret down to me. This was actually the most stressful roast ever, I was so worried about overdoing the beautiful beef that I had timers going and everything, having carefully calculated my cooking times, something I hardly ever do. It all paid off. I have messed up roast beef AND Yorkshires before and it took me a good week to get over it. My Mum never actually times her beef, yet she gets it right every time, maybe I will learn this skill one day. It's a bit like when I needed her help with maths homework, and teary and frustrated I'd ask her how to do it, and she didn't know, she just got the answer right. Maybe she's a genius, maybe she's a secret witch...

Makes at least 12 decent YPs. In a medium sized measuring jug whisk up half a pint of milk mixed with a tsp water, 4oz flour (yes, ounces!), and two eggs. Once this is nicely mixed, leave in the fridge for half an hour. I have no idea why but this is important. They take about 20-30 minutes, so cook them as soon as you take the beef out to rest. Take a muffin/Yorkshire pudding tin, and in each part, drop a little piece of dripping. Put this in the oven so it gets really super hot and melts. Quickly remove from the oven and pour in the mixture into each hole, not quite filling to the top. Now put back in the oven and do not open it until they are done. Usually takes 20 mins, and they are ready when giant and golden.

Douse with gravy and devour with super pink beef smothered in horseradish. Don't tell anyone the recipe though, I'll be in trouble with Nana.