Ginger

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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Noodles with kale, pork and sesame

kaleporkstirfry.jpg

What I love about the internet is that you can search quickly for a recipe based on what’s in your fridge. There’s no trawling through badly indexed recipe books in the vague hope of finding something suitable.

And the internet is exactly how I found this one – in a rush when we were starving and my husband was reaching for the takeaway menu.

It’s not going to win any gourmet awards but it’s perfectly tasty and a good dish to have in your repertoire of quick, easy (and relatively nutritious) weekday dinners.

Noodles with kale, pork and sesame

Serves 2

  • 2 teaspoons of sesame seeds
  • 250g of pork mince
  • 200g of kale, finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli, finely sliced (or ¼ teaspoons of dried chilli flakes)
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • A thumb sized piece of fresh root ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of kecap manis (Malaysian sweet soy sauce – or use regular soy sauce with a teaspoon of sugar)
  • 3 spring onions, trimmed and shredded
  • A pack of straight to wok noodles (I buy mine from Lidl, you get two small portions in a pack and I use both)

Optional (i.e. don’t be put off making this if you don’t have these in your fridge)

  • A tablespoon of fresh mint, chopped
  • A tablespoon of fresh coriander, chopped
  • Lime wedges or bottled lime juice, to serve

Put the kale in a small saucepan, add a tiny splash of water, put a lid on and turn the heat up high until the water is steaming. Then turn off the heat and leave for a few minutes to wilt.

Stir fry the sesame seeds and pork mince until cooked through and a deep brown colour (about 5 minutes on high). You should not need any extra oil as the mince has a high enough fat content as it is.

Add the kale, chilli, garlic and ginger to the pan and stir over a high heat for a few minutes. Add the kecap manis and sesame oil and stir again. Then add the noodles and stir fry until the noodles are cooked through. Finally add the spring onions and fresh herbs and mix well.

Serve with lime wedges.

Pumpkin pie

pumpkin pie with pumpkin 2
I’m a total Grinch when it comes to Halloween. I will carve a pumpkin (if pushed) but I was bought up to believe that ‘trick or treating’ is evil and the rest of the hype (a whole aisle of flammable costumes in Tesco for example) just makes me want to find a dark hole to climb into.

We do grow pumpkins because they are easy to grow at a time when not much else is happening on the allotment, but this year they were small and not great for carving. The upside was that they tasted amazing – the flesh was sweet and fresh, almost melon-like. My children happily gobbled it up raw.

With these delicious insides I decided to try making a pumpkin pie. I never liked it as a child but I thought I’d give it another go. So I googled for a recipe and this is an amalgamation of those that used ingredients I already had in my cupboard.

I stole the idea of a biscuit base from Good Food online (because I’m rubbish at pastry). Most recipes seemed to use evaporated milk but I only had condensed, so I found one that used that instead. The result was a pumpkin pie that was perfectly edible – rather like an egg custard tart with pizazz. Ben said it tasted Christmassy (that will be the cloves) so I might freeze some of the pumpkin puree and make this over Christmas.

Anyway, I know that I’ve missed the boat in posting this recipe now that Halloween (and Bonfire Night for that matter) have passed, but I wanted to record what I did ready for next year.

Pumpkin pie

At least 12 servings

For the crust

  • 200g digestive biscuits (approx. 13 biscuits), crushed (or you can use ginger biscuits)
  • 50g butter, melted

For the filling

  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves (or you could use nutmeg if you dislike cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 425g pumpkin puree (see below if you don’t already have this to hand)
  • 397g can sweetened condensed milk

To make the pumpkin puree, first cut a medium pumpkin (or two small ones) into large wedges and remove the seeds with a spoon but don’t peel. Put the wedges into a large baking tray, cover with foil and roast in the oven for 1 hour at 180oC (the pumpkin flesh should be soft and you can test this with a skewer, if it goes through with no resistance then it’s done). Leave to cool and then scoop out the flesh from the skin and puree in a food processor. This will probably make more than the quantity required for this recipe.

For the base, smash up the biscuits either with a rolling pin in a plastic bag (my preferred method), or in a food processor.

Add the melted butter and mix until well combined. Tip into a 23cm, loose-bottomed tart tin. Use the back of a spoon to spread the mixture evenly over the base and up the sides of the tin. Put in the fridge and chill for at least half an hour.

Preheat your oven to 17oC.

Mix all the ingredients for the filling together until smooth.

Remove the crust from the fridge and place on a baking tray in the middle of the oven. Pull out the shelf and carefully fill with the pumpkin mixture, pouring it right to the top. Try not to slosh the filling over the sides as you push the shelf back in.

Bake for 40 minutes until set.

Cool in the tin to room temperature then chill completely in the fridge.

Serve cold.

Pumpkins sinister

pumpkin pie slice

Pork with cashew nuts, lime and mint

pork lime cashews

I was rather mean about Nigel Slater in a recent blog post and it’s been bothering me. Being horrible doesn’t sit well with me – I was just trying (and failing) to be clever and cutting like many journalists (forgetting that I am not clever, or indeed a journalist). So I’m sorry Nigel, as I constantly remind my children, how someone looks should never be important.

And my view that Nigel is a really good food writer was strengthened recently when I picked up his recipe book ‘Real Food’ in a charity shop. It was written 16 years ago and it’s brilliant. A no nonsense cookbook, full of straightforward recipes with big flavours – just the sort of food I like. It also includes several Nigella recipes (from the time before she was on the telly).

I’ve tried a few recipes but so far this ‘pork with cashews, lime and mint’ is my favourite. It’s punchy, refreshing and just perfect for a Sunday evening when you’ve drunk a little too much over the weekend. If you like powerful flavours and a feeling that you’ve in some way cleansed your body then you should definitely give this dish a go.

Nigel Slater’s pork with cashew nuts, lime and mint (in my own words)

Serves 2

  • 400g of pork fillet (trim off as much fat as possible, then cut into 1/2 inch thick medallions and cut these into thin strips)
  • 5 tablespoons of groundnut oil
  • 90g of cashew nuts (finely chopped with a knife or roughly crushed in a pestle and mortar)
  • 4 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • a 4cm knob of ginger, finely shredded
  • 4 small red chillies, finely chopped, (or I use 1 teaspoon of dried chilli flakes)
  • The zest and juice of 3 limes
  • 2 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • a handful of mint leaves, chopped
  • a handful of basil leaves, torn

Pour three tablespoons of oil into a really hot wok and stir fry the pork for three or four minutes, keeping the heat high and stirring from time to time so that it browns nicely. Tip the meat into a bowl along with any juices.

Return the wok to the heat and add the remaining oil. Add the spring onions, garlic, ginger and chillies and fry for a minute, stirring constantly so that they don’t stick or burn.

Then add the nuts and stir fry for another minute.

Add the meat back to the pan, along with any juices and stir in the lime zest and juice and fish sauce. Fry for a couple of minutes and then stir in the herbs.

Serve with plain rice.

Rhubarb crumble

rhubarb crumble

I love this time of year when everything starts happening in the garden and down at the allotment. As well as all the weeds (and potatoes popping up everywhere other than where they should be) the rhubarb has gone bonkers.

This is brilliant news and with the first pickings there is always one dish I can’t wait to cook – and that’s a classic rhubarb crumble of course. I salivate at the thought of it because (and I know I probably say this every time I post a desert recipe) it’s one of my favourite ever puddings. Definitely in my top five and certainly my crumble of choice.

Whilst rhubarb is the best crumble in my opinion, you can use this crumble topping with any fruity bottom – apple, blackcurrant, blackberry, plums, gooseberries, peaches. It’s not bland and powdery like the crumble topping of school dinners, but instead crunchy and slightly chewy because of the demerara sugar and oats. Adding oats to the topping for more bite is something that my mother taught me.

Rhubarb crumble

Bottom

  • 10 sticks of rhubarb (cheffy recipes often insist on young rhubarb which is redder and needs less sugar than the regular sort. I’m not so fussy; if your rhubarb is on the tart side then you just need to add a bit more sugar)
  • 100g caster sugar (or more if your rhubarb is greener and tarter)
  • (optional) 1 tablespoon of stem ginger in syrup or I use a good tablespoon of marrow and ginger jam (from Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook)

Topping – this can be used for any fruit crumble

  • 100g softened butter
  • 100g demerara sugar
  • 150g plain flour
  • 50g rolled oats

Preheat your oven to 180oC fan.

Wash and cut the rhubarb into 1 inch pieces and spread out on a large rectangular baking tin (with sides). Sprinkle on the sugar and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the rhubarb is soft enough for a fork to go through with little resistance.

If you want a ginger kick then spoon the stem ginger or marrow and ginger jam into the baking tin and give everything a gentle mix (you don’t want to break the rhubarb up too much if you can help it). It’s worth having a taste at this stage to check the sugar level – you may need to add a bit more if your rhubarb is on the tart side.

Spoon the rhubarb mixture into an over proof dish or dishes – I use three small oval Denby ovenproof dishes with 0.5 litre capacity. If your mix is very watery (this will depend on the water content in your rhubarb) then you don’t need to use all the syrupy liquid you just need enough to cover the rhubarb pieces (but don’t throw the rest away – it’s delicious over ice cream).

For the crumble topping measure all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl and rub the ingredients together between your fingers until you get a mix that resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Sprinkle the topping over the rhubarb and bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until the topping is golden brown.

I like to serve with lots of single cream but you may prefer custard.

NOTE: You can prepare in advance and keep in the fridge before baking but I think it’s better to keep the fruit and the crumble topping separate until the last minute so that it doesn’t go too soggy in the middle.