Luxurious fish pie

Fish pie is a classic recipe that is a firm favourite throughout the land. Each family’s repertoire needs one so look no further! I have used a combination of bite size chunks of salmon, smoked haddock and white fish with a few king prawns thrown in for good measure but play around to find a combination that suits you.

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Ingredients- serves 4
600g potatoes- peeled and cut into equal chunks
2 tbsp creme fraiche
50g unsalted butter
4 eggs- hard boiled, peeled and quartered (optional)
150g each of smoked haddock, salmon and cod- cut into bite size chunks 200g peeled and deveined king prawns
1 leek- sliced
150ml fish stock
1 tbsp plain flour
1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
600ml milk- skimmed or whole
Handful of flatleaf parsley- chopped

1. Start off by preheating the oven to 200c/ 180fan ready for later. If you like hard boiled eggs in your fish pie and haven’t yet cooked them then now is the time so they can be cooling whilst you get on with the other steps.

2. Take a large pan and boil the potato chunks until tender. Drain well and mash until smooth. Add the butter, creme fraiche and seasoning and set aside.

3. The fish pie needs to be cooked in an ovenproof dish. Place the fish chunks and prawns in the bottom of the dish ready for it to receive its saucy coating later. For the sauce, start by taking a smaller pan and cooking the leek and fish stock together for a couple of minutes over a medium heat. Next up goes the flour, stir well to combine and make sure lumps don’t form. If any do, take the pan off the heat and stir vigorously. Cook the mixture with the newly added flour for a further minute before adding the mustard for an additional minute.

4. Gradually add the milk to the pan and bring up to the boil. Stir continuously until the sauce has thickened before adding the parsley and pouring over the fish. Arrange the egg quarters if you’re using them. Allow the fish to cool for 20 minutes before covering with the mashed potato. You can either use a piping bag (just make sure the mash is the right consistency) or fork it on. If you like, you can pop a little cheese over the top. Cook in the oven for 30- 40 minutes until the mash is golden.

Serve with mixed greens, peas or green beans for a hearty winter meal or lighten it up with a side salad.

Classic fish pie- a touch of luxury for everyone’s dining table!

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Christmas cranberry and clementine marmalade

No festive season would be complete without liberal lashings of this marmalade! This could not be easier so give it a try even if you’re not the usual preserve making sort of person. This recipe makes plenty for you to keep at home but also to give as presents. I mean who could resist the look of these little beauties bobbing around?…

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Ingredients

600g clementines

4 lemons

220g cranberries

1.5kg preserving or granulated sugar

2 litres of water

1. To start with, halve the clementines and lemons and squeeze the juice from them all. Remove any pips as you go but hold onto them! Tie the lemon into a muslin bag or square along with the reserved pips.

2. Slice the clementines to your preferred thickness. I recommend keeping it in the style of thin shred so it is easy to eat. Place the slices into a pan before adding the fruit juices, muslin bag and 2 litres of water. Bring it up the boil before reducing the heat to a simmer for one hour.

3. Remove the muslin bag from the pan and add the fresh cranberries and simmer for a further 2-3 minutes. Add the sugar and stir until it is all dissolved. You can use either granulated or preserving sugar here; if you want a clearer marmalade then preserving sugar is the one for you.

4. Bring the mixture up to the boil once more and boil for 20-35 minutes until it reaches the setting point. To test it, simply coat the back of a spoon and set it on a saucer. If it ready then it will appear wrinkled if pushed and the marmalade should not run back. If you need to give it a couple more minutes then put the pan back onto the heat and then test again.  When it is ready, allow it to cool before spooning to sterilised jars. The marmalade will keep for around 2 months in the fridge.

A festive marmalade to keep everyone happy this Christmas!

Christmas spiced clementine loaf cake

This time of year there is an abundance of clementines and the loaf is perfect for tose moments when you have too many clementines to eat before they turn. It combines the delicate citrus sweetness with the heady spices that evoke Christmas. It is also gluten free as it uses ground almonds rather than flour but do check your baking powder is suitable. You could also make a glaze however I felt it didn’t need it.

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Ingredients- makes 1 loaf cake
600g clementines
6 large eggs
250g ground almonds
225g granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp mixed spice

1. Take a large pan of cold water and place all the clementines in it. Bring it to the boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook the fruit for an hour and a half. When cooked, remove the clementines to cool and then quarter them. Remove any rogue pips and discard. Take a blender and puree the clementines. You can also do this by hand if you prefer to use a bit of good ol’ elbow grease!

2. Preheat the oven to 190c/ 170 fan and lightly grease a 20cm loaf tin with butter. My tin is non- stick but by greasing or lining it you just make sure you won’t have any sticking disasters! Combine the almond, sugar, spice and baking powder in a bowl before mixing in the eggs well. Fold in the clementine puree and it’s good to go into the tin!

3. Cook for an hour until the loaf is cooked through and a skewer comes out clean. Leave the loaf in the tin to cool. If you like you can make a glaze for the top which can be made and then added whilst it is cooling. It really couldn’t be more simple- combine some icing sugar, clementine juice and a little water before brushing or drizzling over.

Serve a slice with a cup of tea or treat is more as a dessert and eat with creme fraiche or double cream on the side.

Festive spiced clementine cake- you’ll never throw out old fruit again!

Mixed mushroom and ruby chard ragout with creamy polenta

This time of year is perfect to celebrate the mushroom. Love it or hate it, there are so many varieties to try and choose from to embrace the earthy delight before the wild mushroom season is over for another year! To make this recipe fully vegetarian then you can substitute the cheeses with vegetarian alternatives or leave them out if you prefer.

Remember that a mushroom is a delicate thing so be gentle when cleaning them; simply wipe any dirt using a piece of kitchen roll. I have used field, chestnut and porcini mushrooms here but get creative and try different mixes.

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Ingredients- serves 2
For the ragout:
Handful of dried porcini mushrooms- rehydrated
15g unsalted butter
1 shallot- finely sliced
1 garlic clove- crushed
3 sprigs of thyme
250g field mushrooms
100g chestnut mushrooms
60ml red wine
60ml vegetable stock
5-6 stems of chard- stems separated from the leaves and halved
50g Taleggio cheese or similar- optional

For the polenta:
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of thyme
125g instant polenta
25g butter
40g parmesan

1. Before you start soak the porcini mushrooms to rehydrate them and drain well and squeeze out any excess water. Keep hold of the liquid for – never throw this away, it has so much flavour. Heat the butter in a pan over a medium heat and cook the shallot until softened. Next pop in the garlic and thyme leaves and cook for a further minute.

2. Increase the heat and add the mushrooms and fry rapidly to remove the water from them; cook until soft. Add  the wine and bring to the boil for a minute before the stock goes in along with the porcini liquid. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the mushroom mix has thickened. A few minutes from the end add the chard to cook in the mushroom mix. Alternatively you could lightly steam the chard separately and then add in. Turn off the heat and leave to stand.

3. For the polenta choose an instant variety. Boil in a pan along with 250ml of water plus the thyme and bay according to the packet time. When ready remove the sprigs then pop in the butter and parmesan until smooth and creamy. Add a little more butter if needed.

5. When the polenta is ready, serve into bowls and create a crater in the middle of each bowlful into which you can spoon the mushroom ragout. Pop the Taleggio (or similar) slices or chunks on top and melt under the grill until oozing if you like but it is also great without cheese too. Alternatively you could stir the cheese through the warmed ragout if you prefer.

Mushroom ragout- a seasonal celebration of the humble ‘shroom!

Fragrant spice crusted sea bream

Sea bream has to be one of my favourite white fish; it’s delicate yet meaty and can stand up to bold flavours if you strike the right balance. In this recipe I have used Indian spices as a crust and then stuffed the bream with lemon slices and kaffir lime leaves to freshen it up even more.

If you’re nervous about cooking a whole fish then don’t be- it really couldn’t be simpler. Ask your fishmonger to prepare the fish so it’s ready to go if you don’t fancy doing it yourself! One fish should serve one person so it is really simple to double this recipe if needed.

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Ingredients- serves 2
2 whole sea bream- gutted, scales removed and ready for stuffing
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 dried red chilli- snipped
3 garlic cloves- crushed
3cm piece of fresh ginger- grated
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp oil
1 lemon- sliced
Handful of kaffir lime leaves

1. Preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan ready for the fish. To make the spice paste roast the cumin, coriander seeds and peppercorns for a few minutes until they are lightly toasted and release their flavours. Pop into a spice grinder or a pestle and mortar along with the chilli, garlic, ginger and salt and grind to a coarse paste before mixing in the oil.

2. Get the fish ready by stuffing them with the slices of lemon and lime leaves. Grab your spice paste and rub the fish all over with it. Pop the fish on a lightly oiled baking tray so it doesn’t stick and cook in the oven for around 15-20 minutes (depending on the size of the fish). If the spice crust starts getting a bit too much colour on it then cover the fish with a piece of foil. When the fish is ready the juices should run clear and the flesh should look white and translucent. Serve with rice or salad for a lighter meal.

Spice crusted sea bream- a celebration of this stunning fish!

Slow cooked oxtail vindaloo with festive Brussel sprout bhajis

Banish the thoughts of rowdy people in an Indian restaurant later at night ordering the hottest curry they dare or fans singing the classic football song which takes it’s name from this curry… this is the real deal! ‘Vindaloo’ comes from a Portuguese origin however we have come to know and love this dish more as an Anglo- Indian delight so put down the takeaway menu and get cooking!

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Ingredients- serves 4
For the marinade

Glug of oil
4 large pieces of oxtail roughly the same size
50ml malt or cider vinegar
1 tsp sugar or palm sugar
1 tsp garlic puree
1 tbsp ginger puree
5 whole black peppercorns

For the spice paste
2 tbsp malt or cider vinegar
6-8 kashmiri red chillies or similar
Seeds of 3-4 cardomom pods
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 onions- finely chopped
400ml beef stock
400ml tinned tomatoes or chopped fresh tomatoes

1. With a bit of forward planning this can be yours! Start up to 12 hours ahead of when you want to start cooking and marinade the pieces of oxtail in the vinegar, sugar, peppercorns, ginger and garlic. Cover well and leave in the fridge until you’re ready for it.

2. Preheat your oven to 170c/ 150 fan whilst you brown the pieces of oxtail in a large pan. Brown it on all sides; the more time you spend on this the better the finish of the curry sauce will be so don’t rush it! When browned, remove from the pan and set aside.

3. Next up goes the onions to soften for a few minutes. Combine all the spice paste ingredients and grind before adding to the pan with the onion and cook out for a further couple of minutes. Try using a couple of black cardomom pods for a smokier flavour too.  Add the oxtail back in the pan along with the stock and tomatoes. When it comes to the spice paste you could either grind all the chillies or do what I like to do and grind half and then prick the remaining chillies and drop into the tomatoes so it infuses further.

4. Bring the oxtail up to a simmer before covering and popping in the oven for 2 1/2- 3 hours. Do check from time to time and give a gently stir. When the meat is ready it should be tender and falling away from the bone. Serve with rice or naan or get a bit festive with Brussel sprout bhajis…

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Brussel sprout bhajis- serves 4
100g Brussel sprouts- shredded
100g gram flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp curry powder
1/2 tbsp chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 dried red chilli- snipped (optional)
150ml cold water
Oil to fry

1. Shred the Brussels before you make the batter. Gram flour is made from chickpea and lends itself to the perfect bhaji. The baking powder gives a lightness so don’t forget it! Sieve the flour into a large bowl before adding the baking powder and spices. Add the water little at a time until you achieve a thick batter before mixing the sprouts into it.

2. Carefuly heat the oil in a pan so it is a couple of inches deep over a high heat. To test if it;s ready, drop a small piece of sprout into it and it should bubble around it before turning golden. Use a couple of dessert spoons to shape the bhaji mix and carefully lower into the oil. The will take a few minutes to fry and remember to turn them halfway through so they colour evenly. Cook around four at a time so the pan doesn’t get overcrowded. When they are ready, remove from the pan using a clotted spoon and blot onto kitchen towel before serving.

Authentic oxtail vindaloo- a curry house favourite with a festive side dish!

Spicy gochujang tofu

Tofu is so versatile and shouldn’t be reserved only for vegetarians. Most hear the word ‘tofu’ and recoil in horror but now is your chance to try it in a new way.

Tofu is perfect for adding flavour onto and spicing up. Gochujang is a Korean spicy red bean paste; you can buy it as a medium spice or a hotter version so you can choose whichever suits your tastes- just remember to adjust amounts of it; you can always add more but you can’t take it back out again!

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Ingredients- serves 2
250g firm tofu
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 garlic clove- crushed
1 small piece garlic- grated
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp gochujang
2 tbsp mirin
5 tbsp water with 1tbsp cornflour mixed in
1 tsp sesame seeds
1/2 tbsp groundnut oil
2 spring onions- shredded

1. Take your block of tofu, pay it dry and cut into 2cm pieces. Combine the soy, garlic, ginger, sugar, gochujang and mirin in a small bowl and coat the tofu to marinade. Leave aside for at least 30 minutes or longer if you can. I used a medium gochujang and was have enough to put 2 tbsp in which gave a gentle warmth!

2. Meanwhile, lightly toast the sesame seeds and reserve for serving. When your tofu is ready for use, heat the groundnut oil in a wok over a medium/ high heat and remove the tofu cubes to fry separately to get some for to it. fry the tofu. Next pop in the marinade and cook for a minute or two until it leaves a sticky, spicy coating. Serve with the shredded spring onions and sesame seeds over the top. This is perfect served with rice or noodles. I also served stir fried choy sum on the side too.

Spicy gochujang tofu- even carnivores will devour this!