Cullen Skink

those Scots eat some crazy stuff (stuffed haddock heads, fish haggis in a fish stomach! etc.). This is actually pretty good. Below is how I made it, adapted from a recipe in

The name of this rich, tasty soup comes from the fishing village of Cullen, in Morayshire. “Skink” is a soup made originally from a shin of beef. But in this case, the main ingredient is smoked haddock.

Approx 225g smoked fish (I’d prefer less but Julian liked it so) – I used smoked mackerel but you could be traditional & use haddock or try salmon
1 medium onion, finely chopped.
300ml milk
2 massive potatos, mashed (or 5-6 small potatos)
1 bay leaf
Chopped parsley
Cover the fish with water, in a shallow pan, skin side down. Bring to the boil and simmer for 4/5 minutes. Take the fish from the pan, remove skin and bones. Break up the fish into flakes, return to the stock and add the chopped onion, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Simmer for another 15 minutes. Strain, remove the bay leaf but retain the stock and fish. Add the milk to the fish stock and bring back to the boil. Add enough mashed potato to create the consistency you prefer (don’t be afraid to make it rich and thick!). Add the fish and reheat. Check for seasoning (my fish was salty & peppery enough not to need any).

Serve with chopped parsley on top. This is a rich & filling meal in itself


Now to the ‘learn from my mistakes’ section

Sherry is never good in salad dressings.Okra is better cooked for a short period of time and hey, maybe that Jamaican goat curry just doesn’t need okra!

There is such a thing as too many chickpeas!

Relatedly, yes you can use too much saffron – if in doubt when the Moroccan tagine recipe says use 1tsp, just use a generous pinch of strands….

And getting back to my first serious cooking disaster as a 10 year old: 2min noodles cannot be jazzed up using mince meat & even freeze dried peas & tomato sauce won’t save your camping holiday meal from complete disaster!

Happy cooking!

Oh and getting to more recent culinary misadventures – does tinned tomato ever taste good?

And yes red wine spilt in the fridge & forgotten about can go mouldy & stink incredibly…..

Stay confident & pushy in job interviews – as soon as you lose the ‘I am your next…..’ you lose your edge 🙁


The ‘ok’ (Julian might debate this with me)

I am the first to admit that my ‘own recipe’ veg food is not always outstanding. However there is a certain male-female bias in how food should taste is my impression. I.e. men seem in general less keen on having a meat free night….. Anyway below are some of my more recent efforts.

Frittata, take 12 eggs, whatever veg you have left in the cupboard, slice said veg & microwave until done. Fry up some onions & garlic, chop some parsley, chives, thyme, oregano & whatever other herbs you have. Break half the eggs & whisk to mix with salt & pepper. Drain off any water on the veg & mix in with the egg – if there isn’t a good covering of egg on each slice of veg then add more eggs. Pack into greased baking tins (don’t use springform!!!), bake in a preheated oven say 160 deg for about an hour until they’re cooked. Serve with a salad.

Veg lasagne. Ideally make your own pasta & precook the sheets, however I realise Latina is easier! Roast whatever veg you have (ideally including tomatoes, root veg – potato, sweet-potato, parsnip), either cook some red lentils or use hommus. When the veg is cooked, mix with a 500g pack of creme fraiche & some herbs, season. Grease some loaf tins or other lasagne holder, if you have lentils mix with the veg, if you have hommus spread on the bottom sheet of pasta, layer otherwise as usual, using a quiet cheese (I found the feta a bit strong, so cheddar, mozzarella, gouda, etc.). Add some water if you’re using dried pasta, if you’ve made & precooked your own, it’ll be fine. Put in a preheated oven say 175 deg, check after 30mins to see how it’s going (the baked veges will mean that the whole thing is quite warm already) and make a judgement call on how much longer if any is necessary.


Laal Maas

my version

from Curry: fragrant dishes from India, Thailand, Malaysia & Indonesia, foreword by David Thompson

If you enjoy a curry from many different countries but don’t want to get too in depth I’d really recommend this book – great recipes, great photography, a good introduction to the different styles of curry. So getting back to Rajasthan (North India).

I made this last night, but didn’t have any yoghurt and used creme fraiche instead, which was just as good!

1tbs dried capsicum flakes (i bought by accident thinking they were chilli), 5-10 dried thai chillies, stalks off; 1.5tsp cloves; vege oil; 250 natural yoghurt; 2 tsp roasted cumin seeds (do under grill or in a frypan, careful not to burn!); 20g ground coriander (ideally you’d grind your own seeds in a mortar & pestle or a dedicated spice grinder); 1/2 tsp chilli powder; 2 tsp salt; 3 bay leaves; 10 green cardamom pods; 6 black/brown cardamom pods (necessary, they are a different species to the green & give a distinctive earthy note, you can get them in little delis, indian & asian stores); 2 heads of garlic finely chopped (trust me it’s good!); 250g onions finely chopped; 1kg goat shoulder in cubes (or lamb if you must!); 750mL lamb stock or water; finely chopped leaves of 1 bunch of coriander.

Set aside 2 chillis & soak the rest in water. Also set aside 6 cloves. Mix the yoghurt, cumin, ground coriander, chilli powder & salt in a small bowl. Heat some oil (1 tbs) in a heavy bottomed large pan, add cloves, bay, both cardamoms. WHen they begin to crackle & change colour add the garlic. Saute for 2 mins or until garlic changes colour, add the onions & cook until golden brown (10 min). Stir in meat & cook for a couple of minutes before adding soaked chillis with water & cook until the liquid has evaporated a bit (if possible) & meat browns. Add spiced yoghurt & cook 10-12min until liquid has evaporated. Depending on how much water evaporates, add some of the heated water/stoc, bring to the boil & simmer until the meat is tender (1-3h, depending on what you get, cooking in the microwave seems to tenderise quickly if you’re running out of time, not that I recommend this step ;-)) Now to boost the flavours, heat a small pan with another tbs of oil & fry the reserved cloves & chillis, cook 1-2mins until the spice smells good. Pour over the curry, sprinkle with the coriander leaves & serve with basmati rice.


Coconut basil perch fillets

from the Age many years ago, still a favourite. Again for this recipe you whizz up a few ingredients in the blender, marinate & fry. I used whole sea bass this time. At first when I went to Peckham Rye (an area in the south of London) I was worried about being ‘in da hood’ & felt a little uncomfortable. Nowadays I keep my valuables close & enjoy the produce – Jamaican & African shops, Irish & Jamaican butchers (Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall may bemoan the difficulty of procuring goat meat – I don’t, it’s easy) & a wonderful fresh fish shop where the eyes are unglazed, the crabs wiggle their legs & I choose my fish which are then scaled & gutted for optimal freshness. Mmmmm fish.

Revision – I gutted fish recently, as the Billingsgate fish market don’t do the work for you & it’d be easy if you took the head off first – having decided that I wanted to bake fish head on it was a little harder to persuade the fish to part company with it’s trachea & oesophagus. Doing it yourself means that you’ve got great fish heads & backbones to make fish stock from! And trust me even just boiling a carrot, some leek & an onion in water for half an hour is better than using bought stock!

Actually I’ll give you the recipe below:

serve with Jasmine rice & bok choy (I actually cooked runner beans & carrot in the same pan as the fish)

5 fillets of sea perch (or any firm white-fleshed fish); 2 tbs fresh ginger, roughly chopped; 2 tsp fresh turmeric roughly chopped (or 2 tsp powdered); 2 tbs galangal chopped (wasn’t available so I added some lemon rind & juice, not quite the same); 2 garlic cloves chopped; 2 small red chillies sliced; 4 tbs coriander roots or stems, well washed & finely chopped; 14 kaffir lime leaves sliced (I had to use frozen – the asian store has mangosteens, but not fresh kaffir lime…); 1.5 cups thai basil leaves roughly chopped (the unlabelled leaves on branches with an aniseedy smell usually); 4 tsp white palm sugar, grated (or equiv raw sugar); 4 tsp lemon juice; 2 cups of coconut cream (not available here – I used 1 tin of milk); sea salt

Cut 1 cm deep slits throughout the fillet (to slide in basil leaves). Put everything except 1/2 cup basil leaves, coconut cream & salt in blender & puree, use a little of the coconut cream to make blending easier. When smooth add the rest of the coconut cream & mix. Put half in the fridge & pour the rest over the fish to marinate for an hour in the fridge. Take the fish out. Put the remaining basil leaves in the slits in the fish, dust with salt & fry it in a pan on med-low heat with a lid so that it is just cooked, flipping half way. I can’t bear to waste the sauce so I put all the marinade in the pan to heat up to a simmer (& kill all fish germs). Serve on rice drizzled with the warmed reserved sauce from the fridge (don’t boil it!)

food recipes

Prawn and paprika fish stew with tomato rice

This is my version, adapted from a Gourmet Traveller article found on the net. I made it last night & LOVED it!

I used scallops as well – which is not ideal. With the fish mix, remember that the history of fish soups/stews is that the fishermen used whatever fish couldn’t be sold (too small, unfashionable etc.), so make your own mix of reasonably priced fish. I’m tempted to add green beans to the fish stew, but it’s up to you!

Langostinos al all-i-pebre
6 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
1/3 cup olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
Pinch of cayenne
1 teaspoon smoked hot Spanish paprika (in little tins in the supermarket)2 dried bay leaves
6 ripe, large tomatoes, chopped
1 red capsicum
5 cups fish or vege stock
1 slice woodfired or rustic-style bread, crusts removed
60g pinenuts, roasted (or substitute whatever nuts you have – I used a mix with pistachios)
½ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
Large pinch of saffron strands, soaked in ¼ cup warm water for 10 minutes
400g (2 cups) Calasparra (paella rice) or arborio rice
800g soild white fish fillets, skinned, pin-boned and cut into 3-4cm pieces
(that said I used a mix of a whole small snapper – the head & bones became my fish stock & trim from a huge tuna fillet)
24 large green prawns, peeled and cleaned, leaving tails intact
Garlic Oil: Cut a slit through skin into each garlic clove. Place in a small saucepan with olive oil and cook, stirring frequently over low-medium heat for 10 minutes or until golden.
Stew part 1: Pour half the garlic oil into a heavy-based saucepan & heat, keep the rest of the oil & cloves separately, add onion, sliced capsicum, cayenne, paprika and 1 teaspoon salt and cook for 5 minutes, then add bay leaves and half the tomatoes and cook, covered, for another 8 minutes or until tomatoes are pulpy. Add 2 cups fish stock, bring to the boil and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, then set aside.
Rice: Chop 1/2 the garlic from the garlic oil and set aside. Heat remaining garlic olive oil in flameproof casserole, add saffron mixture, reserved chopped garlic and remaining tomato and cook for 5-7 minutes. Stir in rice, add remaining fish stock and 1 teaspoon salt and bring to the boil, cover and cook on a low heat 20-25 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and stand, covered for 5 minutes.
Garnish: Meanwhile, brush bread with a little garlic olive oil and toast on both sides under a hot grill until golden. Cool, then break into pieces. Peel reserved garlic and combine half with bread, pinenuts and parsley and process in a food processor until coarsely chopped.
Stew part 2: Five minutes before rice is ready, bring tomato mixture to a simmer, stir in fish and cook for one minute, add prawns, cover and cook for another 3-5 minutes or until seafood is just tender.
Serve: tomato rice divided among bowls, spoon over fish stew and scatter with nut mixture. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.

Note: For fish stock; heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan, add 1 chopped carrot, 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped leek and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, add any fish bones or prawn shell water to cover & 125ml white wine (if you have & feel like putting in your food) and bring to a simmer, then add 2 litres water, bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Strain through a muslin-lined sieve. Makes about 1.8 litres.
I watched Heston Blumenthal recently & he recommends clarifying a stock by freezing it & then letting it defrost into a muslin lined sieve – if you have the time & the frozen stock it could be worth trying! Also Noilly Prat or other vermouth is a traditional thing to put in a fish stock and might be more appropriate for the wine component than your best riesling!