starter

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.

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.

 

Russian salad

russian-salad 3

The jury’s out when it comes to the ‘Russianness’ of this salad. Some say that it’s actually Italian and should be called ‘insalata russa’. All I can say in its defence is that I ate it a lot when travelling across Russia. It was a staple in railway buffet cars and one star hotels where I suspect it was made with tinned vegetables but I still found it tasty enough to attempt to recreate the dish at home.

This salad wouldn’t be considered a looker (unless you’re a three year old girl with a Disney Princess/colour pink obsession) but it is still delicious considering how easy it is to put together (although perhaps this is just because anything smothered in mayonnaise tastes good).

It’s also a great way to disguise lots of vegetables (although my four year old son, who prefers blue, is rather suspicious of the colour).

Russian salad

Serves two (as a hearty starter, or as a main course with bread on the side)

  • 1 medium beetroot, cooked (see below) or pickled
  • 2 medium waxy potatoes, I used Charlotte potatoes
  • 50g of fresh or frozen peas
  • 50g of carrots
  • 50g of green beans
  • 1 pickled gherkin
  • 2 hard boiled eggs (or, I like to use one pickled beetroot egg – see my post Things in jars – pickling and pesto – and one hard boiled)
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • Some chopped fresh dill (if this is easily available, don’t use dried)

If your beetroot is raw then roast it in the oven (whole with the skin on) in a baking dish covered with foil at 160oC for one hour. Leave to cool then top and tail, peel off the skin and chop into small cubes. If you’re using pickled beetroot then just drain and chop into small cubes.

Peel and chop the potatoes into quarters then boil for 5-7 minutes until tender. Drain, leave to cool and chop into small cubes.

Chop the carrots into small cubes, slice the beans thinly then blanch all of these with the peas in boiling water for one minute. Drain and plunge into cold water to stop the cooking process, drain again and set aside.

Chop the gherkins into small cubes.

Cook the eggs in a pan of boiling water for 8 minutes. Cool in a pan of cold water, peel off the shell and chop into quarters.

To assemble, mix all the prepared ingredients together with the mayonnaise (leaving some of the chopped egg as a garnish) and put into small bowls or glasses. Garnish with the chopped egg and fresh dill.

If you want to work the presentation a little, then mix everything except the beetroot together and spoon two thirds of the mix into glasses. Then spoon over two thirds of the beetroot. Finally mix the beetroot with the remaining potato mixture and spoon this on top. You will then have distinctive, white, red and pink layers which I think looks a little more pleasing than all pink.