April 11, 2009

Filed under: Cuisine, Mediterranean, Main Ingredient, Oily fish — ros @ 6:48 pm

So it would appear that blogging is a holiday only activity for me now. I can’t apologise any more for my infrequent posting but I’ll try my best to not disappear completely.

I suppose the reason for my lack of writing is three-fold. Firstly, I spend most of my day talking, generally saying the same thing over and over again in various different ways, phrasing and rephrasing over until I’m convinced I’m never going to get through. After a day like that, my brain loses the ability to produce any more words.

Secondly, spending time doing after school stuff with the kids is far preferable to spending time alone in your poky little studio flat and finally, it’s hard to get motivated when you rarely have anyone to cook for. The last point makes the biggest difference. I really need to invite more people over for dinner.

However one thing recently proved to me that, at heart, I am definitely still a foodie. That was the look on my mortgage broker’s face when I put down my anticipated food budget for next year. Aprroximately three times the average. Whoops. But,then again, good quality food costs money and I’d much rather have this swordfish…..

Marinated swordfish and potato salad

than that extra glass of wine in the pub on a Friday. Let’s face it, if I had that extra glass of wine I probably wouldn’t be capable of cooking properly and I’d probably convince myself to have a skanky chinese take-away. I’m sticking with the swordfish.

The real gem in this meal was the sweet and sour potato salad. it was a first for me but definitely one to become a regular. It’s Sicilian in origin, simple to make and a light reefreshing accompaniment to the fish.

Garlic and Mint Marinated Swordfish with Sweet and Sour Potato Salad

  • 1 swordfish steak
  • 10-12 finely chopped mint leaves
  • 2 small cloves garlic, made into a paste
  • the grated zest and juice of half a lemon
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Cut narrow slashes into each side of the steak, just a few millimetres deep and about 1 inch appart.
  2. Season the steaks with pepper- leave the salt for just before cooking the fish
  3. Mix the rest of the marinade ingredients with just enough oil to lightly coat the fish. Brush this over the fish and leave to marinate for at least two hours.
  4. Shaking off any excess marinade from the fish, griddle it on each side for about two minutes, depending on the thickness of the steak. I aim for the fish to be just pink in the very centre.
  5. Take it off the heat, wrap in foil and allow to rest for about 5 minutes. Serve with chopped parsley, lemon for squeezing over and the potato salad.

For the potato salad

  • 4-5 new potatoes, cut into small cubes
  • half a small onion, sliced into thin rings
  • 1 level talespoon caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 heaped tsp capers, well soaked and drained to remove as much salt as possible
  • 1 tablespoon sliced black olives
  1. Sauté the potatoes in the olive oil over a high heat until crispy on the outside. Turn the heat down and add the onions and cook until the onions are soft and the potatoes are just cooked through.
  2. Stir in the capers and olives,
  3. Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar. This will be the salad dresing, so taste it and adjust quantities to your taste.Add this to the potato mixture, stir well, bring to the boil for just a minute, then remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature before serving.

February 2, 2009

Filed under: Oily fish, Mexican — ros @ 12:46 pm

It’s 8am and I’m awake even though I’m not working today! It’s a miracle!

my window this morning

Well, actually it’s more of an accident. London woke to around 4 inches of snow this morning which meant, of course, that nothing worked. Buses and tubes all stopped running. Schools closed. My head of department rang me just as I was leaving the house to tell me I could go back to bed. Sadly, by then, I’d already consumed a two very strong cups of coffee so sleep wasn’t really an option.

Generally I don’t like the snow. I detest being housebound and already the boredom of being stuck inside has resulted in me scoffing most of a big block of cheese, several slices of toast and a significant amount of a giant Hotel Chocolat slab. But then again, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to teaching the Lower Sixth a lesson on data representation. At least now I can put that topic off for another few days and can blog and play the very silly facebook game that I seem to have become addicted to. Anyone want to be my hunting buddy? No, I thought not.

Another first for me was this bottle of Resposada Tequila I bought over the weekend to use in an interesting looking dish from my Mexican recipe book.

resposada tequila

I know what you’re thinking, ‘Any excuse,’ but please note that I have refrained from drinking more than one double shot over the whole of Saturday and Sunday.

This tequila has bas a slightly smoky, woody taste from being aged in oak casks. It is rounder and fuller than standard tequila but still works best when paired with citrus. It was this fullness of flavour that as called for in the recipe for salmon with avocado and tequila cream sauce. 

Salmon with Avocado and Tequila Cream Sauce 

salmon with tequila sauce

Quantities for 2 people  

  • 2 salmon steaks about 180g each
  • a little vegetable oil for frying
  •  a touch of flour to dust the salmon skin (optional)
  • 1 small, ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced into thin strips
  • half a small onion, very finely diced
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, cut in half and deseeded
  •  zest and juice of half a lime
  • 150ml fish stock
  • a splash of single cream
  • salt and pepper 
  • strips of green pepper and chopped fresh parsley to garnish
  1. Put the halved jalapenos, skin side up under a medium/high grill. When the skin is blistered and charred, turn off the heat and allow to cool. Peel the skin off and chop the flesh finely. 
  2. Sweat the onions gently in some butter or vegetable oil.
  3. Add the fish stock and bring to a gentle bubble.
  4. When the stock has reduced by one half, stir in the cream, lime zest and jalapeno and continue to bubble until it has thickened.
  5. Brush the salmon with a little oil and pan fry skin side down until golden brown. Dust a little flour and salt onto the skin side (if it has skin) then turn over and fry until the skin is crispy and golden.
  6. Stir the tequila  and lime juice into the sauce, season to taste and warm through for a minute ior two.
  7. Pour the sauce onto the centre of a large serving plate. Arrange the avocado and salmon on top, then garnish with the green pepper and chopped parsley. This meal worked well with sides of fried potatoes and roasted red peppers dressed in olive oil.

***************

I think salmon is too often served with bland flavours. It has a farily robust flavour, especially if it’s wild, and it is a welcome change to pair it up with a stronger sauces like this one. The jalapeno and tequila played equal parts in the flavour of this sauce and the lime gave it a light and fresh aftertaste. It would suit a white meat like chicken very well too.

New potatoes, cubed, par boiled then fried in olive oil made an excellent accompaniment to this. We also had roasted sweet red peppers dressed in a little olive oi.

January 5, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized, Cuisine, Far East, Japanese, Light, Oily fish — ros @ 2:38 pm

Regrettably, I’ve never been to Japan. I hope to one day. It sounds like an amazing place and the little bits I hear about the culture fascinate me.

Of course, the cuisine captivated my attention as soon as I heard about it. Raw fish! How many other cultures will serve this up? Ok, there’s the cured salmon we have in Europe and things such as ceviche in Mexico, but not such a range as you’ll find in Japanese cuisine.

Having said that, I remember being unimpressed the first time I was introduced to sushi. Those little rice rolls from M&S in the mid nineties did nothing for me. But then, sometime during my student years, I was at a certian popular conveyor belt restaurant and discovered sashimi. My fellow mathmos raised their eyebrows slightly as I devoured several plates of raw salmon and tuna and then they indiscreetly pointed ot that I was now responsible for most of the bill.

Within the last week or two I visited a nice Japanese retaurant in Westminister, heard a friend wax lyrical about his amazing new life in Tokyo ad was told about a nice restaurant in Barcelona that I must visit if I ever got around to going there. I take this all to be a sign that I should learn more about Japanese food. So my starting point was to buy some Japanese ingredients I hadn’t used before.

In the dish below, which is an amalgamation of various ideas I found online, we have my new purchases of mirin and soba green tea noodles. I used these and some wasabi powder and pickled ginger to create something which is probably not much like a real Japanese meal but at least is a step in the right direction. I’m not confident enough in my knife skills to atempt tuna sashimi yet. I go for the next best thing- tuna just seared so it’s practically raw but the very outside is cooked.

Tuna ‘almost sashimi’ with Soba Noodles, Mirin dressing and Raw Vegetables with Wasabi Dip

tuna and soba noodles

  • 350-400g fresh tuna steak in one piece. I find that it is best to let it come to room temperature before searing it.
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds( I think black would look good but I couldn’t get any) plus a bit extra to garnish
  • Sesame oil (2 tbsp should do)
  • salt and pepper to season the steaks
  • about 175g soba noodles
  • half a cucumber, finely diced
  • 4 small spring onions, sliced thinly on the diagonal
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped coriander

For the dressing

  • 4 tbsp mirin
  • 2 tbsp light soy
  • 2 tsp ginger, finely grated/crushed
  • 1 heaped tsp brown sugar
  • a squeeze of lemon

Accompaniments

  • 8 baby carrots, sliced into thin strips
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced into thin strips
  • wasabi and pickled ginger to serve, plus perhaps extra soy
  1. Prepare the vegetables and coriander.
  2. Rub the tuna steaks all over lightly with sesame oil. Season and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Sear over a high heat until just cooked on all sides, Wrap in kitchen foil and leave to rest in a warm place.
  3. Make up the mirin dressing. Combine the dressing ingredients as listed above. Taste and adjust to your liking.
  4. Cook the soba noodles according to packet instructions, drain and refresh in cool water.
  5. Toss the noodles with the spring onion, cucumber and coriander, then toss the mixture in the dressing. Place a portion of the noodle mixture on each serving plate.
  6. Thinly slice the tuna steaks amd arrange over the noodles. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  7. Serve with the matchstick vegetables and the wasabi and ginger.

************

I did a bit of research on my two new ingredients.

Mirin is an ingredient I haven’t knowingly encoutered before, although no doubt it was one of those flavours in plates of sushi unidentifiable to me. True mirin apparantly is about as alcoholic as sherry, although versions with less than 1% alchohol are produced now which have the same flavour. The flavour is unique and very strong, but dominated by a heavy sweetness.

The word soba can refer to any noodle of medium thickness- i.e. not an udon noodle. Usually they’re eated cold with a dipping sauce or dressing  or hot in a broth. Mixing them with salad vegetables like this is a fairly modern idea. My soba noodles were flavoured with green tea but the flavour was barely discernible even before the dressing was added.

Also, Goon says the noodles don’t taste good raw. He should know, he ate a quarter of a pack. You probably guessed that yourselves without trying them.

July 31, 2008

Filed under: Far East, Chinese, Oily fish — ros @ 6:41 pm

We are now on a tighter budget than ever before. In a couple of weeks I will be putting down a deposit for a rented flat. I suspect that many of you are lucky enough to not have to deal with the London rental market at the moment. To give you an idea of what it’s like, a small studio flat suitable for one person, that is not near any tube station requires an up front payment of just over £2,100. The ones near tube stations were approximately 30% more expensive.

This is why Goon and I will not be living together next year. He is still looking for a job and there is no way I can afford a flat to fit two people, especially not after I’ve supported both of us through the first year of my career.

Needless to say, I’ve spent most of this week with my head buried in various bargain bins around Hackney and Islington. Apologies to the peaople that I’ve hissed and/or snarled at for getting to the best deal before I could fight my way forward. Hunting for cheap food brings out the killer instinct in me. To make things even more exciting, as soon as the hot weather started, our ancient freezer let out a final wheeze, fell over and died. No more hoarding bargains for me- everything is now bought on the day. Of course, we’ve been having a lot of vegetarian food (more on that when camera is fully fixed) and eating meat only when it’s on offer.

Last Sunday, I was doing my usual rounds when I found a pack of two decent sized salmon fillets for just over £2. It was carried to the tills in a vice like grip. Salmon cheap! Salmon mine! Since it was the end of the week, I had spent all but £1 of our budget and so the salmon would have to be paired solely with things I had in the house already or could be bought at practically no cost. 

I carried out a cupboard and fridge audit and discovered that I have a lot of very useless stuff: little that could help me with the salmon. However, with a quick trip to the Turkish Grocers across the road, my remaining £1 bought me some coriander, three chillies and a red pepper, which combined with storecupboard stuff, made this.

crunchy sesame salmon

I’ve heard it said that, in order to enjoy salmon, you don’t need to do much to it at all. Just grill it until the skin is crisp and the fillet is slightly pink in the middle before serving with a wedge of lime and some buttered new potatoes. Not this salmon. This salmon was from a farmed fish, a touch fatty and just about to go out of date. Simplicity would merely accent it’s lack of freshness. But this is what strong marinades were made for. The fish was subjected to a burst of honey, soy, garlic and ginger, coated in sesame and fried untll golden. Then i contrasted the sweet saltiness with some earthy, spicy noodles. 

Crunchy Marinated Salmon with Hot Coriander and Peanut Noodles 

For the marinade… 

  • 1-2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 level tablespoon light soy
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh root ginger
  • 1 teaspoon five spice
  • a touch of dry sherry or rice wine- enough to make this into a thin paste

and the rest….

  • 2 skinned salmon fillets (around 175g each)
  • sesame seeds- around 100g
  • 2 portions egg noodles, cooked.
  • half of a large bunch of coriander
  • 1 large green chilli 
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1 red pepper, cored and sliced
  • 100ml sesame oil
  1. Mix together the ingredients for the marinade
  2. Cut the salmon into bite sized pieces. Toss in the marinate and refridgerate for at least an hour.
  3. Scatter the sesame seeds into a thick layer over a small plate. Keep another small plate at its side.
  4. Take a piece of salmon, shake off the marinade, then roll it into the sesame seeds, pressing down firmly, until it is well coated., Put it on the spare plate and repeat with the rest of the salmon.
  5. Heat a little vegetable oil in a frying pan. Fry the salmon pieces over a medium heat, turning every 30s or so, until they are golden brown. You may need to do these in batches, so keep a side plate handy.
  6. Put the salmon pieces on a plate, cover with kitchen foil and keep warm.
  7. Put the corianderand chilli into a food processor and blitz until smooth. Adding a little oil, at a time, continue to pulse until you have a medium thick paste. stir in the peanut butter and mix until smooth. This will prbably thicken the mixture, so you may want to blend in some more oil.
  8. Quickly stir fry the noodles woth the paste until heated through and well coated. Keep warm while you finish up.
  9. Sautee the red peppers in a little vegetable oil until they have softened slightly.
  10. Pour over the excess marinade from the salmon and let it bubble down to a glaze.
  11. Serve the crunchy salmon on the noodles with the peppers, pour over the reduced marinade and garnish with coriander leaves.

 

May 25, 2006

For some reason I’ve been craving Sri Lankan food recently. This is very weird as I thought my parents’ cooking had put me off it for life.

My parents see food as being purely functional.  Everything in the kitchen gets thrown in a pan and stir fried to death. Every vegetable in the fridge gets chopped up, thrown together with soya mince, quorn sausages (yes, they’re veggies) rice, chilli sauce, soy sauce, tomato sauce and lettuce and cooked until the sausages are solid and the lettuce is soggy. Once, for a dinner party, tandoori chicken got made with strawberry yoghurt because Mum thought it wouldn’t make it taste any different. And then there was the lamb chop that was left in the oven so long I thought it was pork.

However there were some things which I really miss. Mostly things I had on holiday in Sri Lanka. Kiribath is amazing stuff and a well made Sri Lankan fish curry never goes down badly. I’d like to find some breadfruit too.

So I thought I’d give it a go, and it worked. Very well in fact. I made..

Mungatta Kiribath: Kiribath is rice cooked in coconut milk and is traditionally served on New Year, birthdays and other special occasions. It has a risotto like texture, but is slightly more sticky. Its often pressed into a large square and cut into diamond shaped pieces. Mungatta means mung beans. These are sometimes added for a bit of extra texture and flavour.

Fish Curry: Sri Lankan curries are similar to South Indian curries in a lot of ways. There are subtle differences in the spicing. Often a LOT of chilli is used. Also the spices for the curry powder is roasted before being ground, giving the flavour of the curry more depth

I served these with some okra that I fried gently with curry powder and a touch of chilli powder. I would say that it was a big success. It certainly seemed to go down well with my housemates who tried it.