Baked Wild Salmon with a Lemon Butter Caper Sauce

 

I had to blog this “recipe” as it is one of the tastiest dinners I have served up in a long time!

Best of all, the dish can be put together as a main meal in half an hour with a very few ingredients. So, hooray all round! Well, ticks my boxes.

In our family, we made a conscious choice a while ago to eat wild salmon, even if it meant we ate salmon less often due to the higher cost. I’m Scottish by origin, so I know the debates around wild salmon stocks, farmed salmon and pollution, creating and sustaining jobs in rural areas and the release of farmed fish into the ocean. But, for us it comes down to taste. Farmed salmon can be flabby, fatty and lacking in flavour. Wild salmon is firmer, arguably “healthier” and simply tastes better.

I serve the salmon fillet on a bed of crushed new potatoes with a little sauce drizzled over the tatties and then over the top of the fish. Side dishes–perhaps flash pan-fried samphire, or a steamed veg medley. This dish goes particularly well with baby sweetcorn in the medley.

Ingredients

  • One Boneless Salmon Fillet per person, Skin On (Wild salmon fillets may look thinner/smaller than farmed salmon, circa 100g-120g each in weight per fillet is the usual portion I serve as a main course.)
  • Two thin slices of Lemon per fillet
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

For the Sauce:

  • Juice of 1-2 Lemons depending on number of portions. (The grated rind of half a Lemon is optional–I am not a fan of citrus rind as I find the flavour can be too harsh.)
  • 25g of Butter per person (I use unsalted butter as a matter of course in our house; leave out the salt if you are using salted butter.)
  • 1 fat Garlic Clove, minced
  • 1/2 Tablespoon of rinsed Capers per person
  • A couple of grinds of Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Equipment:

  • A baking tray sufficient to lay out the fillets; tinfoil; a thin covering of a light oil for foil (vegetable or light olive oil will do), a small saucepan

Method
Pre-heat the oven to 210 degrees Celsius. This fish cooks quickly, so prepare any side dishes first so that they will time with serving up.

Line a baking tray with enough foil to create a “tent” over the fish. Lightly oil the foil base, and place the fillets skin side down, season and place on the lemon slices. Fold back the excess foil for now so the fish is fully exposed, and bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

Remove the fish from the oven, unfold the foil and “tent” the fish–the foil may be hot at the edges. Leave aside for another 10 mins, the fish keeps cooking and will be done perfectly.

Prepare the sauce–melt the butter gently in the saucepan, then add the rest of the sauce ingredients and heat again on low for a few minutes until the garlic is just cooked through but not browning, a couple of stirs and this is done.

Unwrap the fish, remove the lemon slices.  The skin can be removed with a fish slice as you plate up.  Serve with the sauce spooned over.

IMG_0057.JPG

Baked Wild Salmon with Samphire and Crushed New Potatoes

 

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Recipe: Tortilla (or is it a Frittata?) with Potatoes, Cheese, Leek & Sage

Potato, Leek, Cheese and Sage Frittata

Potato, Leek, Cheese and Sage Frittata

Recipe: Frittata with Potatoes, Cheese, Leek & Sage

Please, please send me on a holiday to Barcelona! 

http://holidays.easyjet.com/spain/barcelona/barcelona-inner-city-breaks.htm

(Oh my, am I shamelessly advertising!  Yes! I really would love to go back to Barcelona…)

And now to cooking. I often find that tortilla Espagnola—the Spanish deep omelette with sliced potatoes and onion—can be rather dry and bland, but the Spanish version is often acting as a counterpoint to far spicier tapas dishes, so fair enough really.  Italian-inspired frittata tend to have more ingredients—incorporating leftovers and whatever is in season and available, any old thing can go in there, from artichoke to zucchini.  Another difference between the two is in the cooking method: a tortilla is usually flipped over using a plate or lid half way through, whereas a frittata is generally finished under the grill.  But, no hard and fast rules in Spain or Italy–almost every human culture breaks eggs to make omelettes.

This version of a sliced potato omelette (I’m calling it my tortatta) is not bland at all, and it majorly ticks my boxes in that it has few, simple ingredients in quantities that I would usually have to hand and it is an easy dish to make.  The recipe is an adaptation from a BBC Good Food Magazine original, where I was surprised to see several comments on it being not very tasty, but if you use good quality ingredients (leeks in summer= tasteless rubbish) and your dried sage has not been hanging around in a cupboard for two years, I really can’t see where those comments came from.  Dried sage is, of course, the worst herb for losing its pungency over time and turning into acrid green-brown dust so perhaps that is the reason for those remarks.

This amount would serve four as a lunch with a big salad and nice bread, or two to four as a warm winter supper with some extra bits of tapas e.g. Tomato & Mozzarella Salad, Calamaris, etc.  It takes around half an hour all in to make and could be a good lunch box/picnic dish.  You could of course add other ingredients as you fancy, but why bother when this dish is so nice?

Up Close, Mmmm

Ingredients:

  • 250g-275g Potatoes (this is a surprisingly small amount of potatoes, about four smallish or two medium sized ones and they need to be pre-cooked.)
  • 1 medium-sized Leek—I would substitute spring onions or fresh white onions in the summer months.
  • 6 medium Eggs, or 4 large Eggs
  • Large knob of Butter
  • 80g good, mature hard Cheese such as a strong, vintage Cheddar
  • Large Pinch of Dried Sage, rubbed in your palm before adding to release the oils, or use 3-4 leaves of fresh sage, very finely chopped.
  • Salt and Pepper to taste—you may not need much salt depending on the cheese used.

Method:

Peel and boil the potatoes and be careful not to overcook them, they need to be in decent shape to slice down without crumbling or going to mush.  As they are cooking, slice the leek as thinly as you can, I used a mandolin.  Over a low heat on the hob and in a reasonably deep non-stick skillet/frying pan gently soften the leek in butter until it melts down but is not browning, this can take up to 10 minutes depending on how thickly sliced. My skillet is 10” or 26cm diameter and it is probably on the outside size of making this whole dish work with these quantities. Cool the potatoes once cooked, then slice down—certainly not more than half a centimetre thickness.  The original recipe states to place potatoes over leeks, but I prefer to do it the other way around, as the potato layer at the bottom gives it more of a base for cutting and serving.  Beat the eggs, add the cheese, sage and seasoning and make sure the egg is settling evenly round the pan and moving around and under the leek and potatoes to encase everything.  Gently cook the mixture on the hob over a low heat until the eggs set—should take just a few minutes.  I tend to annoy it a little by moving a flexible spatula around the edges and under the frittata just to loosen things off and check the base is not browning too much (aka burning), but I think my skillet is not so non-stick as it once was. To finish, place the entire skillet under a medium hot grill to set the frittata top for a couple of minutes or so but too long under the grill equals rubber omelette.  The frittata/tortatta can be served hot or at room temp, it slices better when cooled, but I prefer eating it warm.

I Shouldn’t Even Share This: Prawn / Shrimp Curry Recipe

This is a signature dish, right up there among the best dishes I know how to make.  Why am I publishing it?  No idea.

Being completely honest & upfront here, this recipe is NOT VINDALOO HOT unless you want it to be.  It contains no chili, as I am ‘llergic.  BUT, it is very, very tasty and seems to be none the worse for the lack of actual chili chemical.  The ginger, turmeric, black pepper and cumin gives it such a strong *heaty* kick that chili eaters don’t believe their own taste buds.  The recipe is adapted from a golden curry I used to make in Malaysia, a kind of hybrid Thai/Chinese/Indian affair.  I have indicated below where you would add chili in if you absolutely must…Pah!

Also, on the quick part, it really is quick once you get the hang of what it’s about.  The veg prep and the rice take longer than the cooking.  On rice, Uncle Ben’s 10 minute boil in the bag…I hate myself for loving that old guy.

Ingredients (for 4):

  • 100g / 4 oz small, peeled pre-cooked shrimp per person or 6-8 large king size prawns per person. Raw King Prawns take just a minute or so longer to cook.
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic, peeled
  • 3-4 small Shallots, peeled
  • 5 cm / 2 inch piece of Ginger, peeled
  • 1 Lemongrass stalk, the pinky-white/lightest part is the most flavoursome
  • 1 Star Anise
  • 4 Cardamom Pods
  • 2 Cloves
  • …There is a reason for carefully counting out the hard spices, you have to fish them out later…
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of a good Curry Mix Powder. I use a Sainsbury mild curry powder that does not contain chili but does have turmeric, fennel, coriander seed, cumin, black pepper and mustard powder.
  • Small handful per person of assorted Veg as available: I have used  Sugar Snap Peas & Baby Sweetcorns here, but Green Beans or Carrots cut into half moons are fine too, just lightly parboil carrots first.
  • Half a pint / 1/4 litre of coconut milk made up from whatever source: powdered, cream with added water, block coconut, etc…it is a matter of taste, I prefer a milkier sauce and we eat my curry with a spoon and fork, but you can make up a thicker paste of coconut if preferred.
  • Scant pinch of coarse Sea Salt to provide grist to the pestle 
  • Fresh Coriander (cilantro) to garnish, a small handful de-stalked
  • Tablespoon of cooking oil that can take a higher temperature e.g. Vegetable Oil or Groundnut Oil
  • 2 dried Chilis, if you absolutely insist…but seriously!

Method (this is quick cooking so be pre-prepped!):

Set the rice to cook. Prepare the veg if par-boiling or steaming anything for a few minutes.  I sometimes set a steamer over the rice.

Prepare garlic, shallots, lemongrass & ginger by chopping & mincing first and either pounding to a paste with a pinch of coarse sea salt in a pestle and mortar or whizzing in a blender (much easier but a faff to get the thing out the cupboard).  Make up coconut milk to taste and look out the spices and line up.  Heat a wok on a low heat with no oil, and then place the oil inside, swirling round as this stops food welding to the inside of the wok.   Chili-lovers?  Ramp up the heat and fry two large dried chilis in the oil and then remove before they burn and go bitter.  Turn down the heat to medium low and add in shallots, lemongrass, garlic and ginger paste and stir.  Once the paste aromas begin to waft around (two to three minutes), turn the heat down again and let the shallots soften for another couple of minutes.

Once cooked, raise the heat again and place in the cloves, star anise, cardamoms and curry powder and stir all the ingredients until the spice aromas are again released and wafting around your kitchen–two to three minutes or so is usually long enough.  Do not let the spices burn, and to cool things down if required, sprinkle in a little cold water–you might experience an alarming puff of turmeric-yellow steam like an old London fog, but it saves the day. Remove the hard spices–cloves, cardamoms and star anise–they have done their work now in flavouring the dish.  Add in the prawns and veg and stir around to cover in the brown-golden spicey mix and heat through, and then add in coconut milk.  Forgot to take out the cloves etc? They float to the top usually.  Bring the dish to a low simmer while stirring, adding in half of the coriander garnish just before serving.  It is pretty much ready.

Serve with white boiled rice, garnish with fresh coriander on top.  This dish does not really suit the usual curry add-ons like lime pickles and so on, but fresh sliced fruit as a dessert seems to bring together the taste experience.

Green Beans & Cherry Tomatoes Recipe with Lemon

Green Beans & Cherry Tomatoes with Lemon

Green Beans & Cherry Tomatoes with Lemon

I massively over-ordered French green beans via Tesco online, not realising there was a buy one get one free thingy.  As there is only so much steaming a girl can do, something was required other than just blanching and freezing the excess. I (vaguely) remembered a recipe for green beans and cherry tomatoes in the Terence Stamp Collection cookbook.  That book is Lord knows where at my mum’s, I may have to actually order my own copy though I am a bit loathe as it is all wheat and dairy free *.  All I can recall is the recipe had the two ingredients above and that Terence used a lot of lemon juice as a salt substitute.

So, like the good researcher I am, I went looking for something like it online, and wouldn’t you know there are hundreds of recipes, but not that one.  So here is my half remembered homage, takes about 10 minutes start to finish:

Ingredients (to Serve 4 as a Side Dish)

  • 400g fresh Green Beans, cleaned, topped and tailed.  Cut in half if very long, but try to have them all roughly the same length
  • 200g of fresh Cherry Tomatoes, whole, with a tiny notch cut into the top.  Good quality tomatoes are required for this dish. The notch stops them bursting in uncontrollable ways, helping to keep them (almost) whole.
  • Tablespoon of Olive Oil
  • Juice of 1 large Lemon
  • Fresh ground Black Pepper to season (let the lemon be your salt substitute, it works weirdly well…)

Method:

Drop the trimmed green beans into plain boiling water, bring back to the boil, simmer vigorously for 4 minutes or so. Drain the beans very thoroughly, and pat dry’ish with kitchen towel or a napkin to remove any excess surface water.  Keep warm in the oven in a pyrex serving dish or similar, but not for so long they go flaccid. Flash fry the cherry tomatoes for about 30 seconds to a minute in olive oil in a hot skillet–beware, they spatter like crazy.  You want the tomatoes to singe, soften but stay in shape and open a little at the tops without de-skinning completely, but not remain raw and cold in the middle. Add in the lemon juice (again, it spatters) and black pepper and simmer to heat through again.  Spoon out the tomatoes onto your hot serving dish of green beans and drizzle the lemony juicy sauce over.  NB Green beans have a nasty habit of going cold and watery on your plate too quickly, hence all these keep warm instructions.  And cooked, pre-frozen green beans are the worst offenders for this.

I served this with breaded chicken escalopes and slow fried roast potatoes.  It is a nice dish when it is too cold for a salad but you want something very fresh-tasting as a side.  Variations could include adding in some basil and/or garlic though I find I want a rest from the old garlic/herb combo now and again.

*The Stamp Collection Cookbook (hardback 1997, paperback 2002) was a collaboration between actor Terence Stamp and cook Elizabeth Buxton on wheat and dairy free cooking.  Second-hand copies on Amazon are available for a penny + postage.

(BTW recent lack of activity–I have been moving house…we’re in now, and properly broadbanded, interneted, and phoned.  Thanks to goodness.)

Cupcakes are the “My Little Pony” of Baking…

First Cupcake

My First Cupcake

…Or so says my husband.  He thinks cupcakes are an utterly twee and girly obsession, much like the My Little Pony phenomena, and while I don’t bake, I had bought a tray of some very nice cupcakes a couple of weeks ago which the man and boy were sort of fighting over after dinner.  Tweeness not necessarily an obstruction to scoffing then…

So, baking in all probability would be rather well received round our house, and above is my very first home-baked cupcake.  But, more of the provenance of my lovely cake (and BTW my very first attempt at piping frosting) later since in all probability this is likely to be the pinnacle of my achievements in this competitive field.  There are much better blog sources to go to for cupcake inspiration/porn/sheer wonder.  And there sure are some weird and wacky innovations in the cupcake world; what women can achieve in their own domestic environments amazes me…and slightly horrifies at the same time.  All that creative energy poured into paper cake cases and sprinkled on butter cream icing.

Or, indeed, delicately spooned into actual egg shells.  Easter cupcakes baked inside a hollowed out egg shell?  Check out this amazing feat in not just one blog but two: Cupcake Project and Delicious Days.

Cupcake flowers are very popular. Heaven is a Cupcake have some stunning examples of bouquet baskets, and claim to have originated the concept.  Cupcake wedding cake tiers to me are a bit “yesterday” but an actual cupcake wedding bouquet?  See this super example over at Souperior.

Cupcakes can celebrate every life stage, from baby showers to birthdays, marriages, divorces and remarkably, cupcakes can even mark the final event.  Sympathy cupcake bouquets (wreaths?) are being made and blogged about, e.g.over at Cakecentral.com.  The baker used “devil’s food cake mix” for the sponge and I am not entirely sure the irony was intended.  If it was, then that is bloody hilarious. I am thinking about putting in an advance order for a couple of folks I know who are unfortunately still with us.

Celebrations aside, cupcakes can also accompany you through life’s traumas.  We could all do worse than check into Cupcakes on Bedrest with a few words of encouragement for the blogger recovering from serious illness and distracting herself with cupcake making.  Don’t mention though the site http://www.cupcaketherapy.com.au, a commercial venture with the incredible tagline: “They taste so good you won’t want to be cured“.  Only in Oz.  And for experiments in pink champagne cupcakes (now that’s my kind of therapy) checkout a WordPress blog also called Cupcake Therapy.  Yet another therapy site–www.cupcaketherapy.biz of Baltimore–could send you a carton of their rather frankly named “piglets” or perhaps half a dozen “southern comforts”.  Eat, drink and be merry…all in a cupcake.

An amazing resource and a great place for generally surfing the world of cupcakes is the self-proclaimed #1 Blog about cupcakes, “Cupcakes Take the Cake“.  Their blogroll is truly awesome, hundreds of sites listed either dedicated to or that include the art of making pretty wee sponges.  Random browsing through their roll, I love/hate the vegan blog “Post Punk Kitchen” and can’t decide whether it is too sickly to be postmodern, or the epitome of post-postmodernism.  All I can say is that I won’t be making a punk rock cookie jar.  Or buying one of their naff aprons.  But, enough folks must like such kit(sch) or they wouldn’t have an online shop. (I should say in fairness that if they did oven gloves I might be tempted into a purchase myself.)

And so to the provenance of my own (and in light of all of the above, rather pathetically feeble) efforts.  My blog is about making family cooking easier, not harder.  Et Voila 😉

Quick, Cheap and Delish Pate Recipe

chicken liver pate
chicken liver pate

Chicken Liver Pate

I don’t have a story to tell, just that this is a “save money” dish, costs far less to make than to buy and takes hardly any time at all.  And, if I say so myself, it is wonderful.  This is another “Billy the Chef” (my cousin) recipe, and very lovely it is too.  The quantities below would serve 4 for a starter.

Ingredients:

  • 500g / 18 ounces of Chicken Livers, chopped
  • 2 slices of Smoked Bacon, rinds removed and chopped into small pieces
  • 4 shallots, minced
  • 2 Tbsp Brandy (any old cheap rubbish will do, for Gawd’s sake don’t break out the good stuff for this)
  • Pinch of Herbs (I used Herbes de Provence, but Thyme works very well too)
  • Squeeze or Tablespoon of Tomato Puree (this adds depth of colour and helps keep its colour in the fridge, pate has a nasty habit of going grey…)
  • 125g Unsalted Butter
  • Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper to Taste

Method:

Dry fry the chopped bacon, ie with no oil in a large frying pan.  Add in the shallots and butter and fry gently until the shallots are very soft (only 5-8 mins).  Add in the chicken livers, tomato puree, herbs, seasoning–be careful not to oversalt due to the saltiness of the bacon–along with the brandy and cook at a medium heat for about 15-20 minutes giving the odd stir.  There is real satisfaction to be had in breaking down the livers with the back of a wooden spoon, not sure why this might be…?   Leave, covered, to cool, check the seasoning before blending in a processor to a smooth but grainy texture.  Place in a dish and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours or so before serving.  It will keep, covered, for a few days.  Don’t bother faffing around with clarified butter seals, that only extends its natural fridge life for a few days and only if you do not break in there and eat it first!

My Meatloaf Recipe

Sliced Meatloaf

Sliced Meatloaf

Yes, the blogosphere is stuffed with meatloaf recipes….well, this is how I make mine, with absolutely no fuss or fancy stuff.

Ingredients (to serve 4):

  • 300g Minced Pork
  • 500g Minced Beef
  • 1 Onion, chopped very finely
  • Large pinch of Herbes de Provence
  • Tablespoon of Breadcrumbs
  • 1 Egg, Beaten
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • Tablespoon of Tomato Sauce

Method:

Mix the pork, beef, breadcrumbs, egg and chopped onion together with the seasoning and herbs.  Mould into a loaf shape on a non-stick baking baking tray or place in a loaf tin.  Spread over the tomato sauce and cook in a medium hot (190 degrees Celsius) oven for about 50 minutes-1 hour, until the meatloaf is firmed up.  Allow to cool slightly before turning out onto a chopping board and slicing and serving.

Hummus bi Tahina

Hummus bi Tahini

Hummus bi Tahina

What’s bi Tahina?  Basically, there are two hummus recipe methods (humus, hummous, pick your own spelling!) one with Tahini sesame paste and one without.  I do the “with” version.  Home-made hummus is usually softer and creamier than shop bought ones, but does firm up with some fridge chilling and frankly, like a lot of things, the flavour improves overnight in the fridge too.  Soaking and cooking your own chick peas?  Don’t be daft, use a tin unless you have oodles of time on your hands as the price saving is not so vast.

Ingredients (to Serve 4 as a starter):

  • 400g tin of cooked Chickpeas, check the label if they are in salted water, you may not need to add any additional salt later on, but not all are packed in brine (Waitrose own brand is salt-free).
  • Tablespoon of Tahini sesame paste (it keeps for ages, so don’t worry about not using it all up at once)
  • Good, extra virgin Olive Oil, at least a couple of tablespoons
  • Half a cup of water
  • Teaspoon, heaped, of ground Cumin
  • Couple of large cloves of fresh Garlic
  • Juice of a large Lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Drain and rinse the cooked chickpeas.  Place all ingredients (retaining one tablespoon of olive oil) in a blender and pulp away until you achieve a consistency you like, adding in more olive oil as you desire for a softer mix.  You will probably have to spatula it around and whizz it a few times to get a nice blend.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Turn out onto a large, flat soupbowl or similar and drizzle some more olive oil over the top.  At this point, you can sprinkle paprika over the top just to make it look nice if you like, but this is optional.

Variations:

  • Chop up some mi-cuit or sun-dried tomatoes and add into the blender, this is lovely as long as they are not too tart.
  • Fresh coriander chopped through works well 
  • Carmelised onion sounds nice but I have not tried this
  • Chili and red pepper, well, again sounds OK but not for me and my allergy

Serve with a warm baguette or quartered pitta breads.

Roasting Joints of Beef: Cooking Notes, Times and Tips

I have had very mixed results over the last couple of years cooking Sunday joints of beef, even so-called top of the range butcher’s joints have been turning out dry and none too tasty.  I decided it was probably my cooking at fault rather than every joint I seemed to buy, so decided to do the usual hampshirecook in-depth research.  I came across a different cooking method and used it with a (frankly fairly cheap and rubbish) joint of beef from Tesco that cost a fiver.  There were no high hopes but the surprise was the method worked beautifully and my rubbishy joint was declared the best roast ever in my house…hence my reason for sharing!

Method:

1. A note on roast beef joint sizing: if our lot were not so utterly into their roast beef and not all growing boys (and a man who should have stopped growing some time back), a 1kg joint would serve 6 easily accompanied by lots of side vegetables and Yorkshire puddings.

2. If the joint is pre-stringed, keep this on throughout cooking and up to carving as it keeps it all together.

3. Most current advice seems to hinge around blasting the heat up very high for the first 20 minutes or so to “seal” the joint, and then turning the heat down to the low end of medium for the rest of the cooking time.  Well, this method was different.  Instead, lightly sear the joint all over in a large, hot pan on the stove with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  Season the roast with salt and pepper.  Then, rather than into a roasting tin, place the joint directly on the wire rack of an oven pre-heated to 180 degrees Celsius/approx 355 degrees Farenheit, with a tray underneath on a second rack to catch the juices.  This way, the heat circulates round the joint and ensures a more even roast.  Makes sense to me, and this is indeed what appeared to happen.

4. Roasting Times: 30 mins per 500g + 20 minutes resting time for a medium roast up to 1.5 kg.  Subtract 10 mins of cooking time per 500g for rare roast beef, and add 10 minutes of cooking time per 500g for well done beef.  Add resting time, up to 40 minutes, for large joints of beef.  When resting the beef, cover with foil and leave in a roasting tin or some kind of receptacle so you can collect the juices for making gravy.

4. Basting: The methods I was looking at were all talking about basting the joint twice throughout cooking, but mine came with so little natural fat that there was no juice really to baste with, so I was a little concerned.  I need not have been worried at all, things worked out just fine!  Next time I should ask the butcher if there is any chance of a piece of white fat to wrap over the top.

The joint carved very nicely, and was moist, done exactly to our liking with good colour on the outside, pink circular middle but no real blood and raw gore as the younger ones can’t handle that yet.  Perfect.