Springtime fricassee with pan fried sea bream

If you’re a regular reader of this blog then you’ll notice by now that, not only do I enjoy cooking with seasonal ingredients as far as possible, I also have a penchant for pan fried sea bream. I love how delicate it is whilst also being able to stand up to a range of flavours. If you can’t find sea bream then sea bass will also work well. When fish is fresh you really don’t need to do much to it to bring out the best in it so keep it simple. I have chosen to pair the fish with spring vegetable fricassee; asparagus, peas and broad beans are in plentiful supply at the moment so take advantage of them whilst they are at their best. I served the fish and fricassee with roasted garlic mashed potato to bring the dish together and indulge in my other love in life- garlic!

Ingredients- serves 4
Olive oil
Unsalted butter
4 sea bream fillets- pin boned and skin left on
1 shallot- finely chopped
200g asparagus
200g shelled broad beans
200g podded peas
150ml double cream
Salt and pepper to season

For the mashed potatoes
1 bulb of garlic
Olive oil
500g Maris Piper potatoes- peeled and quartered
100g butter

1. Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Take the bulb of garlic for the mash and remove some of the outer papery layers. Carefully use a sharp knife to cut the bulb across the top to expose a little of the cloves. Place the garlic on a sheet of foil, drizzle with some olive oil and gather the side of the foil to make a parcel; roast in the oven for around 30 minutes or until the garlic has softened. When tender, remove from the oven and allow to cool until you can handle the garlic. Squeeze all the garlic from the bulb and use the back of a fork to lightly mash it down; set aside.

2. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add a little salt. Cook the potatoes until tender; drain well and set aside before mashing with the butter added. Pop in most of the roasted garlic and combine well. Keep the mash warm.

3. Next up you need to make the fricassee and this could not be more straightforward. Bring a medium pan of water to a vigorous simmer but just below a boil. Take the asparagus and quarter each spear before then chopping each quarter to give thick sticks of asparagus. Add to the water and blanch for 1 minute before removing with a slotted spoon and refreshing in a bowl of ice cold water. Take the shelled broad beans and do the same for 3 minutes and then do the peas for 2 minutes.

4. In a medium pan add a glug of oil and soften the shallot. Pop in the remaining roasted garlic. Add the asparagus, broad beans and peas and pour over the double cream. Simmer gently for a few minutes until the vegetables are nice and tender. Taste and season well.

5. As the fricassee is finishing off get going with the fish. Heat a non- stick frying pan over a medium- high heat and add a good knob of butter and a glug of oil. Lightly season the skin of the fish and place skin side down into the hot pan; when the butter and oil starts to bubble then its ready to use. Fry the fish for around 4-5 minutes before gently flipping it over and cooking for a further minute or two. Serve the mash and fricassee and mash in deep bowls and top with the golden pan fried bream; serve immediately.

Springtime vegetable fricassee with pan fried sea bream- a celebration of seasonal ingredients!

 

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Tray bake ‘fry up’

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The term ‘fry up’ conjures all sorts of images of greasy spoon cafes offering calorie laden breakfasts with tea so strong that you can stand a spoon upright in it but this is a completely different take on this. Rather than a meat heavy breakfast this makes the best of two of my favourite things which are both in season in the UK at the moment- Jersey Royal potatoes and asparagus. Each year I eat the best part of a family’s asparagus quota to myself and I hope this year will be no exception. My tray bake ‘fry up’ is much lighter and healthier than the usual fry up but it is perfect not only as a breakfast but also as a brunch or even a midweek dinner. It’s speedy but also is low on washing up which is always a bonus in my mind!

Ingredients- serves 2-3
Glug of vegetable oil
Jersey Royals- as many as you want depending on hunger!
1 red or white onion
1-2 garlic cloves
4-6 rashers of streaky bacon
Bag of baby spinach
200g asparagus spears
Cherry tomatoes on the vine
4-6 Portobellini or Portobello mushrooms
1 tsp chilli flakes
2-3 eggs

1. Start by preheating the oven to 200c/ 180fan and bringing a medium pan of water to the boil. Take the tray that you will be making the majority of the meal in, add a splash of oil and heat on the hob over a medium heat. Meanwhile simmer the potatoes until just tender; drain well. Take a separate tray, add another small glug of oil and toss the potatoes in it. Season with salt and pepper and roast until golden whilst you crack on with the rest.

2. When the oil is warm, add the onions and garlic and fry until softening. Shred the spinach and add to the tray; stir until combined with the onion and garlic and continue to cook over a lower heat until wilted. Remove from the hob whilst you assemble the rest.

3. When the potatoes are golden, use a slotted spoon to remove from the tray and use the back of a fork to lightly crush them. Add the asparagus, tomatoes, mushrooms and potatoes to the pan. Sprinkle with chilli flakes and season well. Brush the vegetables with a light coating of oil so they don’t catch in the oven and bake until just tender. Make a couple of hollows in between the vegetables and crack an egg into each; return the tray to the oven and cook until the eggs are set.

4. While that is in the oven, fry the streaky bacon in a dry pan or even wipe out the tray that you used to roast the potatoes and use this on the hob to minimise washing up further! Streaky bacon has a high fat content so you won’t need any extra oil. Fry until golden and remove from the pan. Towards the very end of cooking you have a bacon related decision to make… You can either serve the bacon on the top of the tray bake in whole rashers or you can do as I did and crumble a couple over the top whilst keeping a couple whole so it’s up to you. Serve immediately.

Tray bake ‘fry up’- just as delicious but minus the calories!

 

Wild garlic pesto, asparagus and goats cheese puff tart

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This puff pastry tart makes the most of the seasonal produce around at the moment. The wild garlic and asparagus season in the UK is short so now is the time to get your hands on them and get cooking. Wild garlic is as it sounds- wild! You can forage it (if you’re sure what you’re looking for) but can now be found in some farmers markets or specialist grocers. It can be used in a range of dishes and pesto is only the start and even this can be picked up premade. Failing this, substitute this with a different pesto of your choosing. To ramp up the flavours in this tart, I have also used some Parma ham which I crisped and crumbled over the top for an extra element and texture.

 

Ingredients- serves 4
1 premade pack of puff pastry
3 tbsp wild garlic pesto (see below for recipe)
200g asparagus spears
100g soft rindless goats cheese
4 slices of Parma or Carmarthen ham
1 egg- lightly beaten

Wild garlic pesto
120g wild garlic leaves
1 garlic clove- crushed
15g pine nuts
200ml olive oil
Zest of a small lemon
35g parmesan
Seasoning

1. Get going by preheating the oven to 200c/ 180fan but do check the instructions on the pastry packaging in case this differs slightly. Take the sheet of pastry and place it on a work surface. Leaving a border around the edges of the pastry sheet, use the prongs of a fork to lightly prick the centre of the sheet. This will stop the centre of the pastry from puffing up but will let the edges do so.

2. If you want to make your own wild garlic pesto then simply take the leaves and blanch for 20 seconds in a pan of boiling water. Remove using a slotted spoon and plunge into cold water to refresh it. Take some kitchen roll and pat it dry before roughly chopping. Add all the remaining ingredients to a food processor and blitz and, hey pesto! Sorry… couldn’t resist…

2. Take the pesto of your choice and spread this in the centre of the pastry. Make sure this is as even as possible. Lay each asparagus spear on the pastry and scatter pieces of the cheese in amongst them.

3. In a small pan dry fry the parma ham slices until crisp. Remove from the pan and set aside for a moment; you will find that as they cool they go even crispier which makes the slices much easier to crumble or you can use a knife to roughly chop into smaller pieces.I added the ham topping towards the end of cooking so it didn’t catch..

4. Lastly, use a pastry brush and carefully glaze the edges of the tart with the beaten egg. This will give a wonderful sheen and shine to the tart. Cook the tart for around 20 minutes until the asparagus is tender and the pastry is golden. About 2-3 minutes before the pastry is ready then sprinkle over the parma ham before finishing off. I served this with a simple side salad and new potatoes. Jersey Royals are bang in season so look out for these too. Boil and toss with some butter and fresh herbs.

Wild garlic pesto, asparagus and goats cheese puff pastry tart- a light way to use the best of spring’s offerings!

Asparagus, feta and mint frittata

This time of year brings the end of the asparagus season so cue me raiding the shops and markets for what’s left in an attempt to hold onto this glorious British grown vegetable. Green, white and purple- you can’t beat asparagus in all its splendour and each with different flavour profiles so you can choose your favourite.

Frittata is perfect for a light summer lunch or dinner. I have chosen to add Jersey Royal potatoes as well to add another flavour and texture so all you need to do is serve the frittata with a salad and away you go! The frittata is also brilliant the next day when chilled overnight and then served at room temperature which makes it perfect for a make ahead picnic idea.

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Ingredients- serves 4
300g new potatoes
Glug of olive oil
1 banana shallot- finely sliced
6 large eggs- lightly beaten and seasoned
200g asparagus
100g feta
Handful of fresh mint- finely chopped

1. Boil a kettle of water and simmer the new potatoes for a few minutes until just tender. Drain and set aside, allowing them to cool until you can handle them. Slice them into thin rounds and place in a large bowl.

2. In a frying pan that is going to be large enough to hold the eggs, potatoes and asparagus, add a glug of oil and gently fry the shallot until softened. Depending on the size of the asparagus you have, cut them into chunks and if they are particularly thick then you can also cut these lengthways. If the asparagus is a little more woody (as it can be at the end of the season) you may like to blanch it for a minute or so before using it.

3. To the bowl with the potatoes, add the beaten eggs, asparagus and most of the feta along with the mint. Gently mix to combine and add into the pan with the shallot. Sprinkle the frittata with the remaining feta. Increase the heat to medium and cook until set. Towards the end of cooking, fire up your grill and pop the pan underneath to melt the feta until golden. Serve with a salad.

Asparagus, feta and mint frittata- a frittata fit for picnics across the land this summer!

Pancetta wrapped cod loins with tomato and asparagus orzo

When the sun comes out, it’s time to get outdoors and enjoy a colourful meal before the clouds threaten again. In the UK we are about to see the end of this year’s asparagus season (boo!) so this is a perfect way of enjoying it before it goes. Orzo is rice grain shaped pasta which is great for cooking in risotto style as it is here as well as using for pasta bakes and salads. Unlike classic risotto, the stock can be added all in one go rather than one ladleful at a time. Next time you cook this try playing around with combinations such as cherry tomato, chorizo and red pepper which are equally as delicious.

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Ingredients- serves 2
Glug of olive oil
1 red onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- finely chopped
50ml white wine
200g orzo
150g cherry tomatoes- halved
100g asparagus- chopped
300ml vegetable stock
Slices of pancetta
2 cod loins
1/2 tsp paprika

1. Add a glug of olive oil to a large pan that is large enough to hold the orzo. Gently cook the onion and garlic together until softening but not so they are turning golden. Pour in the white wine and simmer until it is reduced by half.

2. Stir in the orzo until it is well coated in the onion mixture. Pop the halved tomatoes and chopped asparagus into the pan. Add the stock little by little until the orzo starts to turn tender and the tomatoes will break down to form a light sauce. If you are using fine asparagus then you may like to add this in slightly later in the cooking of the orzo. You are aiming for the asparagus to retain a little crunch to add texture.

3. Meanwhile, you can prepare the cod. Preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan. Depending on how big the cod loins are and the size of the pancetta slices, lay -pancetta slices on a chopping board so they slightly overlap and are the length of the cod loin. Season the cod well with salt, pepper and paprika and wrap one of the cod pieces in it; repeat for the other loin. Take a small frying pan and add a small splash of oil, heating it to medium. Place the wrapped loins seal side down into the pan and fry for a couple of minutes. If the pan you are using is ovenproof then pop the cod straight into the oven for around 10-12 minutes until the cod is cooked. If it is not ovenproof then use a baking sheet to cook the cod on instead. When the pancetta is cooked and crisped it is ready to serve on top of the orzo. Serve immediately.

Pancetta wrapped cod loin with tomato and asparagus orzo- a colourful dish to cheer up anyone’s day!

 

Carmarthen ham, asparagus ribbons and ricotta fusilli

This has to be one of the quickest recipes around so there’s no excuse not to get cooking in the week. Keep it simple and keep it delicious! I love the lightness ricotta brings which makes the other ingredients sing!

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Ingredients- serves 4
300g dried fusilli
1 banana shallot- finely sliced
2 garlic cloves- finely chopped
1 small red chilli- deseeded and finely chopped
4 slices of Carmarthen or Parma ham- cut into pieces
150g asparagus- ribboned with a vegetable peeler
4 tbsp ricotta

1. Start off by boiling a large pan of water and cook the fusilli according to packet instructions. Meanwhile take a large frying pan and heat a glug of vegetable oil over a medium heat. Pop in the shallot, garlic and chilli and cook out for a minute or so. Next up goes the asparagus and ham. Cook for an additional couple of minutes until the asparagus has a slight crunch to it and the ham is cooked through.

2. Drain the pasta well, add a little olive oil and stir through the ricotta whilst the pan is on the heat. Add in the asparagus and ham mix and combine. You may also like to top with a parmesan and panko crumb for added texture. Simply take the panko and parmesan and toast in a dry pan before sprinkling over.

A light, fresh pasta for a summer day!

Sweet roasted tomato, asparagus and Carmarthen ham spaghetti

This is the perfect pasta that can be thrown together when time is short and hunger levels are high. Raid your fridge for seasonal treats and get cooking! Carmarthen ham is a Welsh delicacy that can be ordered online but you can use Parma ham instead.

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Ingredients-serves 2
Glug of oil
1 garlic clove- crushed
1 small red chilli- finely chopped
Handfuls baby plum or cherry tomatoes- halved lengthways
4 slices of Carmarthen ham or Parma ham- cut into pieces
Small pack of asparagus tips- cut into thirds
Handful of basil
150g dried spaghetti

1. Get started by pre using the oven to 160c/ 140 fan. Take the halved tomatoes and lay on a baking tray cut side up. Drizzle with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and some chopped basil. Roast for a few minutes until softened and smelling wonderful. Cover and set aside. If you like, you can also roast the asparagus with the tomatoes by I like to quickly pan fry to keep a bit of crunch to them.

2. Boil a large pan of water ready to cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions. Meanwhile take a large frying pan and heat a glug of oil over a medium heat before adding the garlic and chilli. Throw in the asparagus and cook together for a couple of minutes. Next up goes the sliced ham to cook for a further couple of minutes.

3. When the spaghetti is ready, drain well and add to the frying pan. Pop in the roasted tomatoes and toss the asparagus mix through the pasta to heat. Add an extra glug of oil if it looks a little dry but the tomatoes should add an extra bit of moisture.

Serve with some additional basil stirred through it if you like and a good grate of fresh parmesan cheese. Dish up into warm bowls and dig in.

Roasted tomato, fresh asparagus and ham spaghetti- your answer to a midweek dinner dilemma!