Sea bream with fennel, onion and pancetta

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Sea bream is one of my favourite fish so there’s nothing better than pairing with other fresh ingredients to bring out the flavour of it. This recipe does not require a huge amount of ingredients so it is simple to achieve when you want something delicious but without the faff! For ease I have cooked the dish in the oven to make sure the fennel is well roasted which brings out the sweetness however it could also be made on the hob top if you prefer.

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Ingredients- serves 2
2 sea bream fillets
Glug of oil
200g new potatoes- thinly sliced
1 white onion- finely sliced
1 fennel bulb- finely sliced
3 slices of pancetta
Juice of half a lemon

1. Preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan. Take an ovenproof wide bottomed pan and heat the oil in the pan in the oven. Season the potato slices add to the pan and roast in the oven until turning golden and tender; this may take a little while so take your time and check them from time to time. Reserve the fennel tops and set aside.

2. Add in the onion and fennel slices continue to cook until both are softened. Roughly chop the pancetta and add to the pan; cooking until crisp. Take a frying pan, add another small amount of oil and heat to medium- high; season the sea bream fillets and fry skin side down for a couple of minutes until the skin is crisp. Remove from the pan and place on top of the potato, onion and fennel. Cook for around 10 minutes until cooked through. Take the reserved fennel tops and scatter. Squeeze the lemon juice over before serving.

Sea bream with fennel, onion and pancetta- make the most of fresh ingredients with this simple supper!

 

 

Halloween pepperkins

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That time of the year is upon us once more- when children go trick or treating and adults hide in their homes pretending nobody is in! It also sees the carving of magnificent pumpkins but if you think that pumpkins are the only thing that can be carved for Halloween then think again! When walking around the local market I came across orange and yellow striped peppers and I thought they would be perfect for stuffing. Now stuffed peppers tend to be thought of as a vegetarian cliché however these are packed with Indian style spiced rice which can be spiced up as much or as little as you want. I have kept them vegetarian however you could also add some minced meat or similar if you like.

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Ingredients- serves 4
8 bell peppers
250g long grain white rice
1 tsp turmeric
Vegetable oil
1 tbsp black mustard seeds
1 large onion- finely chopped
3 garlic cloves- crushed
2 tsp each of ground cumin, ground coriander, ground fenugreek and garam masala
1 green chilli- finely chopped
4 vine tomatoes- finely chopped
1 small aubergine- finely chopped
100g paneer

1. Make the rice mix first by heating a glug of oil in a large pan. Add the mustard seeds and heat until they start to pop before then adding the onion and garlic to the pan; cook the onions until turning golden.

2. Meanwhile you can cook the rice. Add the rice into a pan along with a teaspoon of turmeric and cover with boiling water; bring to the boil before lowering the heat, covering with a lid and simmering for 10 minutes. Do not remove the lid! When the 10 minutes is up, remove the pan from the heat and allow to stand (still covered) for another 10 minutes so the rice steams and fluffs up. Use a fork of carefully work through the rice to make sure the grains are separate.

3. By now the onions should be a lovely golden colour so add in the remaining spices. Stir well to combine and coat the onion. Add in the chilli, tomatoes and aubergine and simmer for around 10 minutes until the vegetables are breaking down and the tomatoes are starting to reduce. Stir through the rice and make sure it is all well mixed. Remove from the heat and grate through the paneer; allow to cool.

4. Now for the carving! Get creative and think of the designs you would like to use. Use a craft knife to carefully carve the pattern. Cut the top of the pepper and reserve this. Scoop out the seeds and pop out the carved areas. Repeat for all the peppers. When they are all ready, spoon in the rice mixture and replace the lids on the peppers.

5. Preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan. Carefully transfer the peppers to a baking tray. Give a quick drizzle of oil and a sprinkling of salt and roast for 20-30 minutes until tender. Serve as part of an Indian feast and enjoy!

Halloween pepperkins- it’s not only pumpkins that get a look in this year!

 

Tuscan panzanella salad

From time to time most households have leftover bread that it heading past its best but there’s no need to waste it- that’s where panzanella comes in! Panzanella is a traditional Italian tomato and bread salad that’s full of fresh, seasonal flavours. There is no one panzanella recipe so this is my take on it. I included fried capers to give an added dimension and texture. Anchovies are also added to ramp up the savouriness but you can omit these if you prefer.

For the perfect panzanella the tomatoes you choose are important as you want the freshest available. I have used a combination of smaller heirloom varieties which have become easier to find and add a range of colour. Panzanella makes a great light lunch or it can also be served with simple grilled meats for a more substantial meal. if you have any leftovers, you can simply baked the remaining pieces of bread on a tray in the oven until crisped and then serve with the salad- delicious!

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Ingredients- serves 4
200g open textured bread such as sourdough or ciabatta
500g assorted tomatoes- chopped
1 red onion- sliced
Jarred or fresh red and yellow peppers- finely sliced
6-8 anchovy fillets- finely chopped
2 tbsp capers- drained
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
6 tbsp olive oil
Salt
Fresh basil

1. Take your bread of choice and roughly tear it into pieces. Place on a tray and leave for around 20-30 minutes to help dry it out a little. Meanwhile pop the chopped tomatoes, peppers and onion in a colander with a bowl underneath and add salt and pepper. Leave to sit so it draws some moisture out of the tomatoes and softens the peppers.

2. Take a small frying pan and add a small amount of oil over a medium heat. Fry the capers until crispy. Tip the bread, tomatoes and onion into a bowl along with the peppers, anchovies and capers. Drizzle over the vinegar and oil; taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Finish with some freshly torn basil and serve immediately with some simple grilled meat such as chicken if you like.

Panzanella- a sunshine dish to brighten up even a rainy summer’s day!

 

Mediterranean sea bass tray bake

Sea bass is a wonderful, readily available fish that deserves a place on all good dinner tables across the land. Cooking fish can be a daunting prospect if it is not something that you are used to and a tray bake is a brilliant introduction to it so read on and give it a try. I have taken inspiration from the Med and used sweet cherry tomatoes, olives, capers and peppers to ramp up the flavours. The ingredients are so fabulous that very little needs doing to them. I used Jersey Royal potatoes which are currently in season in the UK but new potatoes work well if you cannot find these.

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Ingredients- serves 2
2 boneless sea bass fillets
1 tbsp vegetable oil
200g Jersey Royal potatoes or new potatoes
1 red onion- cut into small wedges
150g cherry tomatoes- halved
50g pitted black olives- halved
1 tbsp capers
2 jarred roasted red peppers- sliced
Squeeze of lemon juice
Torn basil leaves to finish

1. Start by making sure that the sea bass fillets are boneless as nobody likes to find one of those. Preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan and think about what you are going to bake this in; a normal baking tray or roasting tray is perfect but I used a cast iron roasting pan. As the oven is heating, pop your tray of choice in there to heat too with a glug of vegetable oil.

2. Meanwhile slice the potatoes so they are 5mm thick. Remove the heated tray from the oven and place the potato slices in. Leave to bake for 20 minutes or until starting to turn golden and soften.

3. Remove the tray and add in the onion wedges, halved tomatoes, olives, capers and peppers and cook for a further 10 minutes. When the potatoes look like they are nearly ready and the onion is nicely softened pop on the sea bass fillets to finish off for 5-7 minutes depending on the size of the fillet. Use your judgement with your oven, if you think the fish skin won’t quite crisp up to how you like it then you can always cheat a bit and pan fry the fillet skin side down for a couple of minutes before finishing in the oven for another 2-3 minutes. When the sea bass is ready the fish will be translucent- do not overcook. Finish off with a squeeze of lemon juice to bring all the flavours together and a few torn basil leaves. Serve immediately.

Mediterranean inspired sea bass tray bake- a colourful addition to your culinary repertoire and a summertime winner!

 

Scallop, king prawn and lobster fregola

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Fregola is a small Sardinian pasta shape that is very similar to cous cous and lends itself to a range of recipes. It can be boiled like normal pasta but I have cooked it here like you would a risotto so a little time and patience is needed but it really is worth the effort.

This recipe uses a mixture of all my favourite seafood and is perfect for a special occasion when a little extra luxury and indulgence is needed. Feel free to add in any extras such as mussels or squid which would also be delicious. I chose to use king prawns that still have the shell on as this adds to the flavour and keeps them beautifully juicy and tender.

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Ingredients- serves 2
200g fregola
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- crushed
Half a red chilli- deseeded and finely chopped
6 vine ripened plum tomatoes- skin removed (if you like) and chopped
100ml dry white wine
600ml hot vegetable stock
2 lobster tails- shell removed and cut into bite sized pieces
100g small scallops
100g raw king prawns with shell on
Salt and pepper
Handful of parsley- finely chopped

1. Get going by heating the olive oil over a medium heat in a wide pan- I use one that resembles a paella pan and it heats evenly and the finished dish looks great in it. Cook the onion and garlic together until softened but make sure it does not colour. Pop in the chilli and cook for a further minute or two- a pinch of chilli flakes can also be used if you prefer but only a small pinch is needed.

2. Add in the white wine and simmer until reduced by half before adding the tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes are starting to break down and release their juices. Stir in the fregola and ensure it is well combined with the onion mixture. Now for the stock and stirring! Add the hot stock little by little and, as you would with a risotto, add the next amount when the previous has been absorbed by the fregola. Fregola should take around half and hour to become tender. Stir from time to time; I also covered the pan to keep the moisture in. Towards the end of cooking, check and adjust seasoning to taste.

3. Next up goes the seafood and this could not be more simple. All you need to do is add the lobster tail meat, scallops and king prawns on top of the fregola, cover the pan and steam for a few minutes until the prawns and lobster are cooked through and the scallops are tender. Finish with a sprinkling of parsley and serve immediately.

Scallop, king prawn and lobster fregola- an impressive meal for many occasions!

Spiced lamb kofta with quick pickles and yogurt dressing

When the sun starts coming out, minds start turning to BBQ weather and when the first opportunity will be to eat al fresco. Well fingers crossed this will happen very soon but in the meantime there is no reason you can’t enjoy these lamb kofta indoors. Kofta are easy to make and children can also help out! I served the lamb kofta layered on warmed flatbread along with pickled cabbage, carrot and chillies drizzled with a cool, refreshing yogurt dressing. I will admit that I did use shop bought flatbreads on this occasion to save time but feel free to make your own if time allows.

I have separated the recipe into its constituent parts so you can plan ahead. the dressing and pickles can be made ahead of time. The dressing can sit in the fridge overnight but I would tend to make the pickled carrot and cabbage on the day so they retain some crunch.

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Ingredients- serves 4
For the kofta
400g lamb mince- I used 20% fat mince
1 small red onion
2 garlic cloves- crushed
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1/2 tbsp chilli powder (optional)
Large handful of fresh mint leaves- finely chopped
Salt and pepper to season

For the pickles
1 small red cabbage- shredded
1 large carrot- grated
3 tbsp.white wine vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp caster sugar
Jarred mild to medium green chillies

For the yogurt dressing
100ml plain Greek style yogurt
Handful of fresh mint leaves- finely chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves- crushed
1/2 tsp salt

1. Get started by making the dressing. All you need to do is combine all the ingredients, cover and leave in the fridge  until you need it. Simple!

2. Again, the kofta recipe itself is also straightforward. Take a pan and a very small amount of vegetable oil over a medium heat. Add in the onion and garlic and cook until softened. Remove from the heat and cool. Take the mince and add the spices. mint and seasoning to it. Chilli can be added if you like a bit more heat but it is delicious without so you can taste each spice. When the onion and garlic mixture is cool, add this to the mince and use your hands (clean of course!) to squidge and squish it until firm. Cover and place in the fridge for half an hour whilst you do the pickled veg.

3. I pickled each vegetable separately so each retained its colour. Take two bowls and add the cabbage to one and the carrot to the other. Add 2 tbsp white wine vinegar and 1 tbsp sugar to the cabbage and 1 tbsp vinegar and 1/2 tbsp to the carrot. Mix well to combine and set aside for at least half an hour; stir from time to time.

4. When you are ready to get cooking simply shape the kofta into small balls or sausage shapes; make sure they are as unform in shape and size as you can so they cook evenly. Heat a little oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the kofta and cook for around 10 minutes until golden on the outside and cooked through. Sometime I like to start them off on the hob and then finish them in the oven which also frees a bit of hob space up if you need it. For this heat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan and cook to finish them off.

5. Now for the assembly! Take 4 flatbreads and reheat either in a dry, hot pan or griddle. Place one on each person’s plate and layer with the pickled vegetables, kofta and yogurt dressing. This is perfect for feeding a crowd as everyone can load up their own flatbread as they like. A little crumbled feta is also a delicious addition!

Flatbreads loaded with spiced kofta- roll on BBQ season!

 

Spicy Middle Eastern chickpeas with feta

When the weekend comes around again, spend a little time preparing a delicious breakfast or brunch- after all, you’ve earned it following a busy week! This spicy chickpea dish was inspired by the flavours of the Middle East to give a hearty and satisfying start to the day but would also be perfect for a dinner. If you have any leftovers, these can be kept in a sealed container in the fridge for a couple of days and can be enjoyed at lunch the next day.

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Ingredients- serves 3-4
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 red onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- chopped or crushed
1 red or yellow bell pepper- chopped
1 tbsp each of ground cumin and ground coriander
1/2 tbsp harissa
400g soaked chickpeas- rinsed and drained
400g tinned chopped tomatoes
2 handfuls of baby spinach- washed, drained and roughly chopped
50g feta
1 tsp chilli flakes- optional

1. Kick off by heating the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Take a large frying pan, or similar, and heat the oil over a medium heat. Cook the onion, garlic and pepper together until softening nicely. Add in the ground cumin and coriander as well as the harissa. Stir well so the spices and harissa coat the onion mixture; cook for a further minute.

2. Add the drained chickpeas to the pan and combine well. In next goes the tinned tomatoes. Simmer the chickpeas for a few minutes until the sauce is starting to reduce and thicken slightly before adding the spinach. Cook until it wilts in the sauce and can be evenly distributed throughout it. Crumble over the feta and a sprinkling of chilli flakes if you want a but more spice and pop in the oven. Leave it until the feta warms through and starts to melt a little. Serve with crusty fresh bread and dive in!

Middle Eastern inspired chickpeas- spice up your day!