Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Fish Stew to Warm your Cockles (no cockles involved).

Note the drill bits top right, building work is FUN!

This is quick, easy and very welcome when you've just got in from work having frozen your balls off having waited for your dog to sniff Every. Single. Lampost. on the way home. Oh just me then. Don't feel you have to stick to the fish I used, if I wasn't cooking for the Husband, I would have thrown in clams, squid, maybe a scallop or two, but he's a bit boring, I mean shy, when it comes to seafood, so I used some lovely big prawns and some pollack that I dug out of the freezer. If you don't have fennel lying around you can just use an onion, but I do think the gentle aniseed flavour makes it. Also this is a one pot wonder. Yessss.

That'll warm you right up.
Feeds two cold hungry ones. Chop a fennel bulb quite finely, leaving out any really tough outer bits and saving any soft fronds for later. Also, finely chop a carrot and slice two cloves of garlic. Warm some olive oil in a medium sized saucepan and gently fry/sweat the carrot and fennel, once it has softened (don't brown it) add the garlic and continue stirring for a minute or two. Pour in a large glass of white wine and let it bubble away for a minute. Now add a tin of chopped tomatoes (fresh would be nice, but can you really be arsed to skin them and chop them all up?). Fill the tin with water and add that to the pan along with two big handfuls of length-ways sliced little potatoes (like Anya or baby Charlotte and for God's sake don't worry about skin) and some chilli flakes, if you like a little heat. Bring to the boil and simmer until reduced to a less watery, more stew like consistency, about 10 minutes. Potatoes should be cooked but not mushy and carrots should have lost their bite but again, not mushy. Season it and check how it tastes. Now for the fish, I laid the pollack fillet over the stew with the prawns and pushed it down a bit so it bubbled in the hot stew and cooked. As soon as the prawns are pink and the fish breaks up (stir gently so it doesn't completely flake up) it's ready. Ladle into two bowls, and top with a big blob of creme fraiche, some chopped flat leaf parsley, the grated zest of a lemon and a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

This is really nice with some toasted sourdough rubbed with garlic, but since we had just been to the pub and had a whole Camembert 'starter' we went with the lighter option. Great either way.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Pink Gravadlax (cured with beetroot & horseradish)

My boss's husband is someone who takes his food very seriously, but not in a nobby way. He makes his own gravadlax all the time and no matter how many times I have been told how easy it is, I shied away from it, raw fish = danger, right? WRONG! This is so easy and delicious and about a million times cheaper than buying the equivalent of smoked salmon for a party. I did a side of salmon for my parent's Christmas drinks bash, and despite a very nervous discussion about whether or not it was too salty, with my Father, it turned out brilliantly, and furthermore, very pink! DO IT NOW!

This recipe uses a side of salmon, skin on, about 700/750g. You could do it with a smaller piece but I would reduce the curing time. Be aware that you need to cure it for 48 hours, so this isn't a last minute thing. Don't panic if you can't get fresh horseradish, just leave it out, but it does give a nice firey punch.

Not a salad.
Grate three raw, peeled beetroot and a 5 inch piece of fresh horseradish and mix together. Put the salmon in a big flat dish (I used a baking tray and cut the fish in half for ease), skin side down, and sprinkle over enough sea salt flakes to cover the fish with a decent covering of salt, about 150g depending on the surface area. Now sprinkle over a handful of demerara sugar and the beet horseradish mix and pat down to make sure it's all covered well. Sprinkle over two shots of gin, a big handful of chopped dill and then grate over the zest of a lemon (un-waxed obvs). It will look like a very healthy bright salad but don't be fooled. Wrap the dish tightly in clingfilm and put something on top to weigh it down, I used a smaller tray and a load of tinned tomatoes. 

Hard work done. Leave it in the fridge for 48 hours. 

Pull out of the fridge and marvel at the tonne of liquid that has come out (DON'T spill it all over your fridge. A pink food hygiene issue is not what you need.) Get it over the sink, and however you want, remove all the bits and pieces you have lovingly strewn on the salmon, bin them, and give it a good rinse with COLD water to remove every last bit of salt (I didn't do this at first, hence the very serious 'oh dear it's a bit salty' chat). Now scrub your hands as they will be very pink and a bit fishy. Nice. You can leave the skin on if you like, removing as you go but if you're using the whole lot in one go, using a long sharp knife, and skin side down, carefully remove it. Slice it (a jamon knife is ideal for this) in long thin ribbons and do with your beautifully cured bright pink gravadlax what you like. We had it on blinis with creme fraiche with dill and fake caviar, but it would be amazing in scrambled egg, on crackers, on it's own...I tossed some leftovers in some creamy pasta which completely changed it, not in a bad way, waste not want not and all that. 

Rather annoyed I didn't get a shot of the finished blinis but we were all a bit busy eating them and getting pissed on quince bellinis. Not quince blinis. Or salmon bellinis.