Friday, 30 July 2010

Pan Fried Sea Bass with Gremolata

Wow! Thanks to a post at the lovely French for Cupcake (you should check it out, Claire's an amazing baker and all round domestic goddess) my blog hits have gone through the roof this week and I have gained some new followers, so, hello! Do say 'hi' back - I don't bite and I love talking to people.

Anyway, this in turn induced blogger's guilt. I felt I should blog something nice. Something a bit special. Something that's really easy, but would snare the heart (or at least, stomach) of a hot date. Hell, if anyone gave me pan-fried sea bass, I'd be theirs. I've used a little tapenade to bring out the gorgeous, delicate flavour of the sea bass, and accompanied it with gremolata, which is also lovely with steak or chicken.

Ingredients (serves 2):
2 sea bass fillets, skin on
1 tsp black olive tapenade 
For the Gremolata:
20g flat-leaf parsley
2 garlic cloves
2 tsp lemon zest
1 dsp olive oil
1 dsp lemon juice 
pinch of salt and pepper

You can make the Gremolata up to an hour in advance. I advise that you do, as it gives the flavours a chance to combine. Finely chop the parsley and crush the garlic then add the lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix together and then set aside until you're ready to dish up.

Spread half a teaspoon of tapenade over each fillet and drizzle with a little olive oil (not too much, you don't want to make the fish greasy). To pan-fry the sea bass, heat 1 tsp of oil in frying pan over a medium heat. Place the sea bass skin side down and fry gently for 2-3 minutes,  until seared and crisp. Turn and fry for a further two minutes. The flesh will begin to flake and turn opaque when cooked.

Once cooked, spoon the Gremolata over the sea bass. I served this with french beans and semi-sautéed baby new potatoes. 

(apologies for the quality of the photo - I left my SLR at work. Whoops...)

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Mini Plum, Cherry and Apple Crumbles

I hadn’t intended to blog this as I blogged another crumble very recently, but as I was making it, my other half peered over my shoulder and said “I bet those are for the blog, aren’t they?” They weren’t, but after posting a message on Twitter it seemed there was demand so the crumble got blogged. 

I decided to make these in individual ramekins for a change.  It looks beautiful, especially once cooked, and the size means that they are the perfect light dessert. I took these over to my mother’s on Monday and despite protests that they were full, every last mouthful was gobbled up. Best served while just warm – allow to cool for about 15 minutes after removing from the oven.

Ingredients (makes 8):
For the filling
12 ripe red plums
1 granny smith apple
200g Picasa cherries
1 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp lemon juice
50g muscovado sugar

For the crumble
75g plain flour
75g muscovado sugar
75g salted butter
25g dessicated coconut

First, preheat the oven to 180° C. Then halve the plums, discard the stone and slice into 1cm wedges. Next, halve and de-pip the cherries then peel, core and slice the apples into 1cm pieces. Toss the fruit with the rest of the fruit layer ingredients in a large bowl before spooning into individual ramekin dishes. 

To make the crumble, whizz the ingredients together in a food processor until the mixture resembles fine crumbs and just starts to cling together in nibs. Take care to stop the motor before the mixture turns into dough. Alternatively, you can do this by hand, massaging the butter and flour mixture together until you have crumbs. Again, if you knead for too long you will end up with dough, so don't overdo it!

Sprinkle the crumble over the top of the fruit filling (you may find you have some crumble left over, but fear not, it freezes very well!), cover with foil and bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for a further 10 minutes. They should come out the oven golden on top, with the fruit filling bubbling slightly. Let cool for about 15 minutes before serving – I served mine with a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream and my other half’s Langue de Cheshire Chat, which was perfection.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Langue de Cheshire Chat

Inspired by Rebecca at The Thrifty Chick, I spent Sunday afternoon in front of a sewing machine, mending and altering a pile of clothes that I’d been meaning to tackle for a while. While working away, I had a craving for biscuits (quite unlike me; I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth) and my other half leapt to my rescue. The result was so lovely that he’s earned a guest-blogging spot of sorts!

In his words: "These are a slightly over-the-top variation on the French classic – being Cheshire cat's tongues because they're longer, curlier, more chocolate-y, ginger-y and nutty versions of the original. Designed to bring a smile to your face…!"

These are delicious served with vanilla ice cream, or even as an indulgent accompaniment to the plum, cherry and apple mini-crumbles which will follow shortly.

Ingredients (makes approx. 10 large biscuits):
60g butter
60g caster sugar
30g flaked almonds
25g dark chocolate, broken into very small chunks
5g crystallized ginger
Teaspoon vanilla extract
Two tablespoons Bailey's Irish Cream (you may wish to use an alternative liqueur flavour, e.g. Cointreau or Grand Marnier for a slight orangey zing)
2 egg whites
80g plain flour

Equipment: piping nozzle, baking paper, rolling pin, string or rubber bands

Pre-heat the oven to 190˚C.

Put the butter in a saucepan over a low heat and melt then fold in the sugar and stir through to a golden liquid. Next, add the chocolate and mix through to a golden-chocolatey mix. Add the vanilla extract, ginger and Bailey's and stir in.

Turn off the heat, then fold in flaked almonds and ensure they are thoroughly mixed through. Add the egg whites and stir the mixture to become a thicker curd then add the flour and continue to beat to a firm paste.

Transfer the paste to a pastry bag and Pipe through with a medium star tip into long thin strips on the baking paper, leaving at least 5cm between each (they will spread out during baking). Try to keep them as straight and narrow as possible; about 15cm x 1cm would be perfect. Typically you may fit 5 in parallel on a baking tray, each taking up the full depth of the tray – and will probably need two baking trays, or bake in two batches.

Bake in the oven for approximately 9 minutes until a dark treacle-y gold colour, then remove and transfer baking paper with biscuits on it to a flat work surface. Once it they stop bubbling, quickly lay another sheet of baking paper over the top, then flip the sandwiched biscuits-within-paper upside down.

Use the rolling pin to roll up the biscuits lengthways within the paper, turning them into large curls (having flipped them upside down means the normal 'up' side is on the outside of the curl). Use string or rubber bands to hold paper in shape – the rolling pin can be removed.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Grilled Mini Portobello Mushrooms with Halloumi

As my sister headed off to sunny France for a week she bequeathed to me some ingredients that wouldn't keep for the duration of her absence, one of which was a packet of baby portobello mushrooms. Knowing I also had some halloumi in the fridge and plenty of garlic, I decided I must use up the mushrooms with great haste and made this delicious warm salad. This was partly inspired by a friend's recent barbeque, where I was reminded just how well mushrooms and halloumi go together.

250g mini portobello mushrooms
3 cloves garlic
200g halloumi
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Turn the grill on to medium/high then brush off any dirt from the mushrooms. Crush the garlic and distribute evenly across all the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper then drizzle with a little olive oil. Place under the grill for 5-10 minutes, until the mushrooms are cooked and the garlic is lightly browned in places but not burned. 

Set the mushrooms aside on a plate to cool, then griddle the halloumi for 3-5 minutes, until slightly softened, with griddle lines across the surface. Scatter over the mushrooms, drizzle a little more olive oil on top and serve. I found these were ideal as part of a selection of mezze-type dishes.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Courgette, Asparagus and Green Bean Salad with Garlic Yogurt Dressing

I recently went over to my sister's for dinner, and among other things she made me the most gorgeous salad. We're both huge fans of Ottolenghi and have spent many hours perusing and cooking from the cook book. This is Ottolenghi-inspired, so apologies to both the restaurant and my sister for tarnishing their names!

Ingredients (serves 4):
2 courgettes
1 bunch, asparagus
100g green beans
200g fat free yogurt
2 cloves garlic
a pinch of saffron
1 tablespoon olive oil

For this recipe, I used my ever-trusty George Foreman grill, but you can get similar effects using a grill pan. Slice the courgettes in half both sideways and lengthways, then cut into 7mm ribbons. Grill for approximately 5 minutes and set aside. Put some water on to boil and then snap the woody ends off the asparagus. Chop them in half so you have two shorter stems and then blanch in boiling water for 3 minutes. Making sure to reserve the water, remove the asparagus using a slotted spoon and then put them in the grill to chargrill too - this should also take about 5 minutes. Add the green beans to the reserved boiling water and blanch these for 4-5 minutes. Once done, drain and run under cold water to cool and retain the colour. Transfer all the ingredients to a serving bowl and drizzle with a little olive oil.

For the garlic yogurt dressing, put the yogurt and olive oil in a bowl and fold together until emulsified. Put the saffron strands in a heat-proof bowl and pour over about 2 tablespoons boiling water. Allow to infuse for about 20 minutes before adding the liquid to the yogurt. Again, fold this in fully. Finally, crush 2 cloves of garlic into the yogurt, stir, and allow to sit for 10 minutes before drizzling over the vegetables. You should have a beautiful, pale golden sauce which complements the grilled vegetables beautifully.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Mozzarella Stuffed Ramiro Peppers

I can't remember how I came across this recipe. Given the ingredients, I could hazard a guess and say that it came via my aunt in Rome, but the reality is I'm not so sure. What I can remember though, is that my mother makes it beautifully. I had a look on google to see if I could find out any more about it, but it seems most people tend to stuff their Ramiro peppers with chicken or beef. This, to me, is much nicer.

With the current heatwave, my other half and I are both somewhat off proper cooked foods so salads are the order of the day. However, heatwave or not, I still felt like cooking. Having spied the Ramiro peppers in my local Turkish supermarket and with a basil plant going from strength to strength, this seemed like the perfect option.

Ingredients (serves 2):
2 Ramiro Peppers 
60g fresh Mozzarella
Approx. 4 basil leaves per pepper
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the peppers under a hot grill for 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally. You want the skin to blacken in places, but not all over. Once sufficiently blackened, remove from the grill and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, turn the oven on to about 180°C. Once the peppers are cooled enough to handle, carefully make a slit from top to bottom, taking care not to slice through both sides. Open them out a little and, taking care not to tear the pepper, remove the seeds. 

Slice the Mozzarella into 5mm half moons - this will make it easier to fill the pepper than with full slices - and place inside the pepper. I found 4 half-moons filled my peppers. Then, tear the basil and scatter over the Mozzarella. Season with a little salt and pepper then drizzle with olive oil.

Bake in the oven for 5-10 minutes and then serve. I think these are lovely on their own as a starter, or served with various salads as a main.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Coconut and Green Chilli Prawn Curry

Having emptied out the fridge and freezer before going to Ireland and coming home to find we had little more than some coconut milk, frozen king prawns, an onion and some garlic in stock, my other half suggested making a prawn curry. Which I then took to be a challenge to do just that. On top of what we had in stock, I purchased some ginger, green chillis, fresh coriander and a lime. I think next time I’ll tweak the recipe a bit by setting aside half the sliced chillis and adding them to the onions, ginger and garlic; and also throwing some soaked red lentils into the mix.

The ingredients list may look quite long, but it's very simple to put together. I found it surprisingly mild considering the amount of chilli in the sauce, but the combination of coriander, chilli and coconut milk is wonderfully fragrant.

Ingredients: (serves 6)

400ml coconut milk
5-10 green chillies
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp coriander leaves
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp ground coriander
1½ tsp ground cumin
4 tbsp olive oil
2 onions
3 garlic cloves
3cm ginger root
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp Thai fish sauce
120ml water
900g peeled king prawns
300g Thai jasmine rice


First, lightly salt and put the water on to boil for the rice. Then, roughly slice the chillis and finely chop the coriander. Set a little aside to garnish at the end. Pour the coconut milk and water into a blender then throw in the chillies, turmeric, chopped coriander, pepper, ground coriander, ground cumin, lime juice and fish sauce and blend until smooth.

Slice the onions and garlic, then peel and slice the ginger into matchsticks and fry these together for 6-7 minutes, until golden at the edges. Pour in the chilli coconut sauce and simmer for 10 minutes.

Put the rice on to boil and reduce the chilli coconut sauce for five minutes before adding the prawns and cook for a further five minutes. Drain the rice then serve immediately, garnishing with the reserved chopped coriander.