Mussel, spinach and bacon gratin

This may not be the simplest way to serve mussels but it is an incredibly tastey way. It took me around an hour to prepare this dish but on a rainy Friday in September I couldn’t think of a better way to start a lazy weekend at home.

The dish was rich and comforting, packed with the flavour of mussels and perfect served with crusty bread to mop up the sauce. We both loved this dish and I will cook it again some time no doubt. Continue reading

Fishy fishy cookbook review & a giveaway

This competition is now closed.

I’ll be honest before I was approached to review this cookbook I’d never heard of Fishy Fishy brasserie. I have learnt it is a Brighton based restaurant opened up by Dermot O’Leary, James Ginzler and Paul Shovlin. They share a passion for fish but most importantly for locally source, in season and sustainable fish. In their first cookbook they share their passion for fish and their expertise in sourcing and preparing fish.

The book starts out by explaining the importance of eating fish when they are in season, explores different fishing methods and explains how to buy and prepare fish. As well as this information, I found the chart at the back of the book particularly useful for knowing which fish are in season when.The main body of the cookbook features over 90 recipes, most of which include a beautiful photograph of the dish to tempt you in to preparing the recipe. There are chapters on starters, barbecue & al fresco eating, everyday fish and shellfish, special occasions and finally a chapter on sauces, side dishes and desserts. The recipes appear simple to prepare and there is a wide variety of fish and seafood used as well as a variety of recipe styles. Everything from pasta & risotto, fish cakes, salads, fish cooked whole and simply cooked fish fillets are included.As a self-confessed fussy fish eater who’s fish cooking skills are somewhat lacking, I have to say I really like this book and look forward to cooking more recipes from it (I know, I’m shocked too). I really think this is a good fish cookbook for novice fish cookers. The recipes are straight forward yet inspiring, there is lots of information on how to buy and prepare different types of fish and the book is full of beautiful photography. In case you missed it, I posted a recipe from the book a few days back - Sticky mackerel, I loved this dish and will be making it again this month before mackerel goes out of season. Other recipes I hope to try include warm mackerel salad with rhubarb chutney, fishburgers, quick crab, chilli and basil linguini, Provencal-style mussels, whole roasted grey gurnard and baked plaice with garlic and thyme new potatoes.

If you’re considering buying this book and want a bit more of a preview why not download their free app from itunes. 10 of the recipes from the book are included as well as a few demonstration videos. The video on preparing crab made it look so straight forward I’m think of buying one to have a go myself!

Giveaway

I have one copy of this cookbook to giveaway to one of my readers. All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning a copy of this great cookbook is leave me a comment telling me your favorite way to cook fish. For a bonus entry please tweet about this giveaway using the button below and come back and leave me a comment to tell me you have done so.

The rules

This competition is only open to readers with a UK mailing address. The winner will be selected using an online randomiser and I will announce the winner in a post on this blog (and notify them by email) as soon as possible after the giveaway closes. Giveaway ends 7th September 2011, 7pm.

Please leave a separate comment for each different type of entry.

Please make sure when you leave a comment you include your email address so I can contact you if you win.

Thank you to New Holland publishers for my review copy and for sending one of my readers a copy too.

Sticky mackerel recipe

This might have become my favorite recipe for fresh mackerel (this was my previous favorite). The sticky sauce is packed with flavour and every mouthful tastes a bit different. This recipe is from Fishy fishy cookbook (review to follow later in the week) and is also included as a video in the free fishy fishy app. strangely though the recipes differ slightly between the book and the app (and even between the video and the text recipe on the app). I watched the video and then got the book out to cook from but found there were a few differenced between the two.

Firstly the book uses onion powder in the sauce and the video shallots and secondly book talks about making the sauce by bringing the sauce to the boil on the hob and then simmering for 5 minutes. Thirdly the sauce is applied to the fish whilst it is in the griddle pan in the video (and cooked for less time in the oven) where as the sauce is applied 5 minutes from the end of the cooking time in the oven. I’ll be totally honest with you I used half a small onion in my sauce as I had neither shallots or onion powder in. I also stuck with the videos method of applying the sauce (and not pre cooking it)to the fish whilst in the griddle pan as I felt this would caramelise the skin and maximise the flavours. I’m no expert though so perhaps the other method would have worked as well or better.

Sticky mackerel
serves 4

4 x 500-600g mackerel, cleaned and gutted
olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper,

For the sticky sauce
50ml ketchup
25g brown sugar
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp onion powder (or 1 shallot, finely diced)
1 tsp crushed garlic
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp mace
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

  • Put a griddle on to heat over a high heat. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4.
  • To make the sticky  sauce, place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend.
  • Make small cuts along both sides of the mackerel and season with salt and pepper. Rub some olive oil over the skin too. Place on the griddle pan once hot and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side.
  • Paste the sauce over the top side of the fish and turn the fish over. After a 30 second to a  minute of caramelising the skin and sauce repeat by applying the sauce and grilling to the other side of the fish.
  • Line a roasting with baking parchment. Transfer the fish to the tray and bake for 3-5 minutes until the fish is cooked. Serve immediately.

Adventures in sustainable fish

I’ve never really eaten enough fish. As a child the only fish I ate were fish fingers and tinned tuna. As a teenager salmon (but only if flaked into a tomato sauce for pasta) and prawns were added to the list. My husband loves fish and seafood so when we moved in together four years ago I started to try to cook and eat more fish. I discovered Rose Prince’s cookbooks last year and they really made me think about eating fish sustainably. I watched Hugh’s fish fight this January which only convinced me even more that I needed to try more varieties of fish.

Since then I have been making more of an effort to try more types of sustainable fish. Some fish I have liked and others not so much but I’ve tried them. I don’t enjoy white fish like cod/coley/pollack so much but I have had some success using coley in paella and fish soups (although I don’t like fennel so I am still trying to find the perfect recipe). I’ve discovered I like rainbow trout, fresh sardines (although I do get fed up of all the bones) and we have started eating more mackerel. We ate a lot of fresh mackerel last summer that my husband and his dad caught (read about it here and find a delicious recipe for mackerel with Asian spices). I’ve also been buying and using smoked mackerel (instead of smoked salmon) in risotto.

My husband and his dad off mackerel fishing, easter weekend 2011.

So my days of mindlessly throwing pre-packed salmon fillets in to the supermarket trolley may be behind me but as a result I don’t think we eat enough fish (not sure we did before either though). I would go as far as to say cooking fish is my biggest weakness in the kitchen but I’m determined to change that. This is the first in a series of posts on fish (including book and app reviews, recipes and a giveaway) that will be featured on this blog in the next week or so. Who knows perhaps this will even be the start of a regular monthly feature on fish, I know I need something to push me to cook more fish.

A week in my kitchen (including River cottage bread baking)

I can’t believe it’s a week since my last post. It’s not through lack of cooking/baking though so this post is a bit of a catch up with my River cottage bread baking experience and a few other things I have cooked and want to bookmark (plus share with you) for future cooking over the last 8 days.

Pizza

I’ve been baking my own pizza’s from scratch for some time now to the point where I know longer look at a recipe to make the dough or remember where the recipe came from. But in the spirit of baking my way through the River Cottage bread handbook I followed the recipe in the book last week. I’m so glad I did! The River Cottage recipe uses half plain flour and half bread flour making the resulting dough much softer than I am used to and the end result was a perfectly thin pizza base. I also used a recipe in the book for garlic infused olive oil to make a garlic pizza bread as well. The topping in the photo above was spinach, feta and prosciutto. This pizza dough recipe was previously published in the guardian here.

Sourdough

I baked my first full sourdough bread last monday following the recipe in River Cottage Bread. It started with making the sponge the night before and then the following day I followed the recipe to make the dough and let it rise as directed. You can find a sourdough recipe here on Belleau Kitchen. The bread turned out well, I’m just not sure we enjoyed the sourness enough to be worth the time it takes to make sourdough. I’m still keeping my started alive as I think I will use it to try some recipes from Dan Lepards the handmade loaf but I’m not sure if I’ll make another sourdough (even though there are several different sourdough recipe I haven’t baked in RC).

Simple pasta sauce

I shared my secret to delicious, simple pasta sauces here.

Malted and seeded loaf

I’ve updated my post on the malted grain loaf to include details of a very similar bread.

Pikelets

I baked a big batch of pikelets from the River cottage book. I love crumpets but don’t have any of the rings needed to cook them in. Pikelets are really simple to make and they taste delicious toasted spread with butter (the recipe made a lot so I froze most of them and I am happy to report they toast well straight from frozen). I can see these being baked a lot in my kitchen.

Smoked mackerel and pea risotto


In an effort to eat more sustainable fish, I cooked a smoked mackerel risotto. I just cooked a basic, plain risotto and added frozen peas and flaked up smoked mackerel with the last ladle of stock and finished it off with a squeeze of lemon juice. If your looking for more of a recipe to follow you can find one here.

Mackerel with Asian spices

I don’t know about anyone else but I am loving the new River cottage series (channel 4, Thursdays, 8pm) and finding it very inspiring. Last weeks episode was on fish. I’m fairly new to eating fish, I hated it when I lived at home. These last three years of living with my boyfriend and really getting in to cooking has pushed me to try more and more fish. He loves his fish and seafood (except prawns which unfortunately I love). Now when we eat out I regularly order fish (I had a gorgeous risotto of saffron, shrimp, chorizo and peas with a fillet of sea bass on top a few weeks back which can eat every week it was that good). I’m starting to cook more fish at home too. I like recipes which give the fish flavour or where I can serve the fish with something with lots of flavour (I’m not keen on fillets of fish (particularly white fish) with simple potatoes and veg).

This summer we have eaten a lot of mackerel, that my boyfriend and his dad, have caught off the coast of Anglesey. Mostly I’ve cooked it quiet simply (I find mackerel much more flavourful than the white fish fillets I was used to, so simple was ok), either on the griddle or in a foil parcel in the oven with a bit of oil and lemon.  Then I saw River cottage last week, where Hugh also cooked mackerel in a foil parcel but as well as oil he added a fennel, fresh ginger, chilli, garlic, star anise and soy sauce. Inspired to try this idea, I put it to the test last night. I omitted the fennel as I personally don’t like it. The flavours were taken on really well by the fish and we both loved the recipe. I served my fish with some green beans (stir fried with some sunflower oil, grated fresh ginger and a splash of soy sauce) and some noodles. Hugh’s serving suggestions are noodles, mash or rice and some wilted greens, such as spinach, pak choi or choi sum which would equally be a perfect accompaniment. We’ll certainly be having this recipe again, it’s just a shame that this was the last bag of mackerel in our freezer.

Mackerel with Asian spices
Serves 2

Sunflower oil
1-2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 tsp grated or finely chopped fresh ginger
1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
Half a star anise, broken up
2 medium mackerel (fillets would also work)
Soy sauce

  • Take a piece of strong kitchen foil, big enough to sit your fish on and then form a parcel. Cut slits in to the fish, on both sides, so the flavours can infuse the flesh. Place your fish in the middle of the foil, sprinkle with sunflower oil. Sprinkle over both fish the ginger, garlic, chilli and star anise. Season with soy sauce, then bring up the sides of the foil and scrunch them together tightly to form well-sealed but baggy parcels.
  • Place the parcels on a baking tray, transfer to an oven preheated to 190°C/Gas Mark 5 and bake for 15 minutes. Open up the steaming, fragrant parcels and pile the contents, including all the lovely juices, on to 2 warm plates.
  • Serve with noodles, mash or rice and some wilted greens, such as spinach, pak choi or choi sum.

Bill’s basics review

I must confess to being a big fan of Bill Granger. I love his simple, laid back way of cooking and presenting. In this cookbook he presents over 100 recipes that are his favorite, classics (think coq au vin, spaghetti carbonara, fish and chips and ‘fried’ chicken) which he has worked his magic on, not only simplifying but also putting his spin on them to modernise them. Examples include fish and chips, where the fish is coated in bread crumbs and shallow fried (instead of battered and deep-fried), coq au vin which can be made in less than one hour and ‘fried’ chicken which is oven baked yet he says still has all the flavour of southern fried chicken (this recipe is next on my list to try, so I can not confirm this).

Of course there is a chapter on his trademark breakfasts as well as baking, soups, meat, seafood, chicken, vegetables, rice, pasta and bread, salads and desserts. The recipes all appear simple and straight forward, the photographs are stunning and Bill’s passion for food and good home cooking is evident throughout.

So far I have tried Bills coq au vin, which he cooked on Saturday kitchen (and is also in this months Sainsbury’s magazine) and the recipe can be found here.  The recipe was straight forward to cook and tasted delicious (it reminded me of this dish from his last book feed me now). I also cooked his fish and chips with tartare sauce recipe. The fish had a subtle hint of paprika which I really enjoyed and the chips were deliciously crisp on the outside and fluffy in the middle.

Fish and chips
Serves 4

75g plain flour
1/2 tsp paprika
1tsp ground cumin
2 eggs, lightly beaten
80g fresh breadcrumbs
500g firm white fish fillets, cut into fat strips
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra just in case
25g butter, plus extra just in case

    To serve

    Oven-baked chips
    Tartare sauce
    Lemon wedges
    Chopped flat leaf parsley

        • Mix the flour, paprika and cumin with sea salt and ground black pepper in a bowl. Season the breadcrumbs well with sea salt and black pepper and put in another bowl. Put the eggs in a third bowl.
        • Dip each piece of fish in the flour, then the egg, then in the breadcrumbs.
        • Heat the olive oil and butter in a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook the fish strips, in batches, for about 2 minutes on each side until lightly golden, adding a little more butter and oil to the pan if needed.
        • Serve with oven-baked chips, tartare sauce, lemon wedges and a scattering of parsley.

          Oven-baked chips

          1.25kg potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
          3 tsp olive oil

              • Preheat the oven to 230C/gas mark 8 and put a couple of baking trays in the oven for 20 minutes to heat up. Cut the potatoes into chips, dry with a clean tea towel, toss with the oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
              • Put the chips on baking paper on top of the hot baking trays and bake for 30 minutes, turning once, or until golden.

                Tartare sauce
                serves 4

                4tbsp mayonnaise
                2 gherkins, finely chopped
                2tsp tiny salted capers, rinsed and chopped
                1tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
                1tsp snipped chives
                Lemon juice to taste

                    • Stir together all the ingredients.

                      Thank you to Quadrille publishing for sending me a review copy of Bills basics.