Fish

Ben’s Japanese style fried fish

Ben'sjapanesefish

Well it’s not really Ben’s recipe, it’s actually Nic Watt’s from the Saturday Kitchen at Home cookbook. This is a very good book if you fancy upping your game in the kitchen from time to time. The dishes are or all a little more complicated than your average Nigella, Nigel, Jamie or Delia recipe but still achievable for the ambitious home cook. Look out for it in your local charity shop – it’s a few years old now so it’s bound to crop up.

Image result for nic watt chef

This is Nic Watt.

This has become one of Ben’s signature starter dishes. Ben by the way (if you’re new to this blog) is my husband. He does not look like Nic (above).

The recipe involves deep frying the fish skeleton (not shown in the photo above). This sounds vile but it crisps up beautifully and tastes rather like a fishy version of pork crackling.

The dipping sauce and marinade is amazing and I guess you could use the concept for other meats like pork or chicken if you like.

We have made this with turbot instead of lemon sole and you could probably substitute any firm white fish. The deep fried skeleton however only really works with sole.

Nic Watt’s Crispy lemon sole with chilli, sesame and soy

For the marinade and dipping sauce

  • 1 teaspoon of chopped green chilli
  • 1 teaspoon of chopped red chilli
  • 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh ginger
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of chopped garlic
  • 2 teaspoons of ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon of black sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of Djon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • 50ml of soy sauce
  • The juice of half a lemon
  • 5 tablespoons of vegetable oil

For the fish

  • 2 lemon sole
  • 50g-75g of potato starch (you can buy this from Holland and Barrett)

To serve

  • The zest of two lemons
  • A little coriander

Put all the ingredients for the marinade (except the oil) into a bowl and mix to combine.

Heat the vegetable oil on a high heat until it is smoking, then pour it over the other marinade ingredients and stir. It may spit a little so be careful. Put one half of the mix into little bowls for the dipping sauce and leave the rest in the bowl for the marinade.

Prepare the fish by cleaning, descaling, skinning and filleting it. Or ask your fishmonger to do this for you. Cut the filleted fish into bite size pieces and place in the marinade for 15 minutes.

For the skeleton, cut in half lengthways keeping the backbone intact on one half. Discard the half without the back bone. Dust the skeleton with potato flour and place around a small bowl placed upside down to shape.

Heat some oil in a very large saucepan to 190oC

IR GM300E Infrared Thermometer

PS.These infrared thermometers are brilliant for testing the surface temperature of oil and can be bought online for less than £20.

First place the skeleton in the heated oil for 2-3 minutes until crispy and drain on kitchen paper. Hopefully it will keep it’s bowl like shape.

Lift the sole from the marinade and coat evenly in potato starch. Shake to remove any excess flour, then drop into the oil and fry for 2-3 minutes until a light golden colour. Drain on kitchen paper.

To serve, arrange the fish pieces and skeleton nicely on a serving plate, grate over some lemon zest and sprinkle over some chopped coriander (these garnishes are not shown in the photo above).

Serve the bowls of dipping sauce alongside.

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Lazy fish tacos

fish tacos

It has been far too hot this week for extravagant cooking.

I never lose my appetite in the heat (this only ever happens when I’m really, really poorly) but I do change the way that I eat – grazing lazily on smaller dishes throughout the day rather than wanting big, hot food.

In this summer weather I’ve been craving fresh, simply cooked fish and this recipe is just perfect. It’s basically a posh take on a fish finger sandwich (ever so Nigella).

I’m too lazy to bother with the corn relish or the quick pickled onion in the original recipe (find these on the BBC Food website if you like). I just serve the baked fish inside some sort of bread, with whatever salad bits happen to be in the fridge and some sort of sauce – usually mayonnaise and/or chilli sauce.

Nigella’s fish tacos

Serves 4-6

(I made this with 500g of hake and this served 3 generously. I then roughly halved the quantities of spices below)

  • 750-900g of hake (or haddock)
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin (or grind your own from whole with a pestle and mortar – it helps to dry fry in a hot pan for a minute first before grinding)
  • ½ a teaspoon of paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt flakes
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely grated or minced
  • 2 tablespoons of regular olive oil

Preheat your oven to 200C fan.

Skin and remove any pin bones from the fish fillets (or ask your fishmonger to do this for you). Then cut into longish chunks and arrange in a shallow roasting tin.

Mix together the cumin, paprika and salt, and sprinkle over the fish fillets.

Mix the garlic and the oil in a small bowl. Drizzle the fish with the garlicky oil, and roast in the oven for 8–10 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fillets. Check to see if the fish is cooked through before taking out of the oven.

Serve the fish wrapped in some sort of flatbread. Tortillas and pittas both work well. Bought ones are just fine but the best (if you can be bothered) are homemade – such as my ‘sort of naan’ flatbreads (recipe here). Then add in some sort of salad and sauce of your choice.

Here’s a photo of the baked fish inside a toasted pitta with broad bean hummus (it’s the season) and my new addiction – Sriracha chilli sauce.

fish tacos 2

I’ve realised that there are a lot of Nigella recipes on this blog. If you fancy trying any of the others here’s a recap.

My favourite Nigella recipes

Chocolate Guinness cake (I made this for the first time in ages this week – I’d forgotten how seriously delicious it is and it went down very well with my Bollywood dancing troupe)
Old-fashioned chocolate cake
New York cheesecake (the best cheesecake ever)
Ricotta hotcakes (I make these almost every weekend for my children as a breakfast treat)
Breakfast bars 
Crunchy cornflake coated chicken
Pea and garlic soup

 

Prawn cocktail

prawn cocktail

I’m not cooking Christmas dinner this year, but if I was, this would be the starter.

It has always been tradition in our family to have something fishy to start the Christmas meal (I was simply horrified when I had Christmas dinner at my in-law’s and they served up tinned beef consomme with packet croutons – we took over the cooking after that). You may think prawn cocktail dull and old fashioned – at times I’ve thought the same – but I’ve tried alternatives and still come back to this because it’s just so damned delicious.

And this Rick Stein recipe for the Marie Rose sauce is the best one I’ve found. The secret ingredient is brandy.

I love prawns but my son is so obsessed with them that he even tried to persuade me to make prawn curry when his friend came for tea. “Mummy, J’s never had prawn curry and he really wants to try it”. Nice try Eddie – I went for Spaghetti Bolognese – but to appease him we made prawn cocktail for Saturday night’s tea and he enjoyed helping to make it (see photo below).

PS. In case you’re interested here’s a recap of some of the Christmas recipes on this blog. I made my first batch of mince pies this week and am feeling quite Christmassy (I’m currently burning cinnamon scented candles and playing the Pogues).

Christmas pudding
Mincemeat
Fudge
Christmas biscuits
Mincemeat filo cigars and no nonsense mincemeat tart
Bread sauce

Best ever prawn cocktail sauce

(from Rick Stein’s seafood lovers’ guide)

  • 8 tablespoons of mayonnaise (shop bought is fine or you can make your own)
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato ketchup
  • 4-6 shakes of tabasco sauce
  • 2 teaspoons of cognac or brandy  (cheap cooking brandy is fine)
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice

Mix up all the ingredients above and add some good quality prawns. I like little ones the best as they tend to have more flavour than larger king prawns.

Serve over thinly sliced ice berg lettuce and cucumber.

Don’t forget the retro paprika sprinkling.

prawn cocktail sauce and Eddie

Prawn lover.

 

Thai fish cakes with cucumber dipping sauce

thai fish cakes

My children are back at school and so I’m back to recipe blogging with a vengeance. My youngest has just started this week so I’m holding back the tears whilst writing this and using it as an excuse to avoid cleaning the house or look for a proper job  (both of which are inevitable).

I’ve been carefully nurturing three French bean plants at the allotment just to make this dish. Most were annihilated by rodents and slugs and so I built little fortresses around the remaining three and they just about survived.  You may think I’m a mad woman but I refused to just buy some from Tesco. And the waiting did make the tasting all the sweeter which is what I love about growing your own vegetables and eating seasonally.

Thai fish cakes don’t exactly spring to mind when you think of French beans but they are an essential part of this dish (although to be truly authentic you would use Chinese long beans). This recipe is another from the little pink Chiang Mai Cookery School cookbook (with a few minor alterations).

Thai fish cakes with cucumber dipping sauce

For the fish cakes

  • 500g of white fish (I used Cornish Ling but you can use any cheap white fish. My fishmonger tells me that the lady from an un-named local Thai restaurant requests only the smelliest fish which is on the verge of going off, but I don’t go that far to achieve authenticity)
  • 2 tablespoons of red curry paste (I use the Mae Ploy one which they sell in most supermarkets these days)
  • 4 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of cornflour
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon of palm sugar (or I use soft brown sugar)
  • 10 kaffir lime leaves (or I use 1 tablespoon of lime juice instead)
  • 8 French beans, finely chopped
  • ground nut oil for frying

For the cucumber dipping sauce

  • 6 tablespoons of water
  • 6 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar
  • 1 chilli
  • 2 tablespoons of roasted peanuts chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of cucumber cut into small chunks
  • a handful of chopped coriander

For the fish cakes, first chop the fish into large chunks and pulse in a mini food processor until roughly minced. Add all the other ingredients (except the French beans) and then pulse again in the food processor until well combined. Tip into a bowl and add the French beans and mush in. Then using wet hands shape into small flat cakes about 4cm in diameter and no more than 1 cm thick. This amount makes about 18 – 20.

In a large frying pan heat about 1/2 cm of groundnut oil until very hot. Add the fish cakes to the pan and fry for about 3 minutes on each side until golden brown – you may need to turn the heat down after a while if they start to go too brown too quickly. Don’t overcrowd the pan – you will probably need to fry in 2 or 3 batches and you can keep the cakes warm in a low oven while waiting for the others to cook.

For the dipping sauce, put the water, sugar and vinegar into a pan and dissolve the sugar over a low heat. Once the sugar has dissolved bring the water to the boil and leave to bubble for 4 to 5 minutes until the mixture has thickened but not caramelised. Turn off the heat and allow to cool. Before serving add the chilli, peanuts, cucumber and coriander and stir well. Don’t mix together too far in advance or the cucumber makes the sauce to watery and the peanuts go soft.

Other Thai dishes on this blog

Thai marinated steak
Pad Thai
Mmmm curry – Red curry with pork from the Chiang Mai Cookery School

Curry flavoured pies – so wrong they’re right

curried fish pie

I have to admit to having a very guilty food pleasure. At some point in the football season, usually when there’s a lunchtime kick off at the City Ground, I like to indulge in a Chicken Balti Pukka-Pie. It just sounds wrong doesn’t it – a cross cultural food mix that surely shouldn’t work? The strange thing is that it does, they are really, really tasty, even if penetrating the stiff, rather anaemic pastry balanced on your knee with a plastic fork is a bit of a challenge.

So it was with this in mind that we first tried Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s ‘Curried fish pie’ from his ‘River Cottage everyday’ cookbook. Again, it sounds wrong but with the knowledge that curry and pastry really can work we gave it a go and I would urge you to too.

We had some people over one Saturday and cooked a selection of pies. There were the usual suspects (beef and ale, chicken and mushroom) and we included this to liven things up a bit. At first everyone was dubious, ‘fish…curry…pastry…really!!!’ However, once we persuaded a few doubters to give it a try and word got around that it was nicer than it sounded it ended up being the most popular. Several people asked me for the recipe – so here it is (albeit about a year later).

Hugh FW’s curried fish pie

Meant to serve 4-6 but we seem to polish off most of it between the two of us with a tiny bit of filling left over for the children

  • 2 fillets (600g) of firm white fish. Sustainable fish advocate Hugh suggests pollack or coley but I’m afraid I find this hard to get in our local fishmongers so I tend to use (although I do hate to say it) cod
  • 200g smoked pollack or kippers. I use smoked haddock (I’m sure this is wrong too)
  • 750ml whole milk
  • 1 onion, 1 carrot and 1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • A few pepper corns
  • 75g butter
  • 75g plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of curry powder, or curry paste
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped coriander
  • Salt and pepper
  • 250g of ready-made puff pastry
  • A little beaten egg or milk for glazing

First cook the fish. Put the fillets in a pan and add the milk, onion, carrot, celery, peppercorns and bay leaf. Place over a low heat and as soon as the milk comes to a simmer remove from the heat and cover the pan with a lid.

The fish will continue to cook in the milk and should be ready after 5 minutes. After this time drain the fish with a sieve placed over a bowl as you need to reserve the milk to make the sauce. Lift out the fish and put to one side but discard the vegetables, peppercorns and bay leaf.

Now you need to make a white (béchamel) sauce with the flavoured milk. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and stir well. Cook gentle for a couple of minutes to cook out the flour then gradually add the milk stirring continuously until you have a smooth and creamy sauce. You probably won’t need the whole amount of milk, you’re looking for a consistency like that of thick double cream. For the pie in the picture 650ml was used and it was still a little on the sloppy side. Season well with salt and pepper and then cook on a low heat for another couple of minutes.

Remove the skin and bones from the fish and break it up into large chunks.

Now for the curry flavour. Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onion and cook gently for 5 minutes until soft. Sir in the curry powder and cook for another few minutes. Add this curry mixture to the white sauce and then stir in the flaked fish and coriander (being careful not to break it up too much). Check the seasoning and add more salt and pepper if you think it needs it. Put the filling into a pie dish.

Preheat the oven to 200oC fan.

Roll out the pastry with a rolling pin using a little flour to stop it sticking. Then cut it to fit your dish. Dampen the rim of the dish with a little milk and lay the pastry over the top pressing down at the edges to seal. You can decorate the top if you like with fish cut outs or a criss cross pattern. Brush lightly with beaten egg or milk and place in the oven for about 30 minutes until the pasty is golden and puffed up.

Serve with some sort of green vegetable.

Note: You can also add cooked prawns to the mix just before adding to the pie dish. I also think chopped boiled egg would be good.