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


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!

recipes vegan

Pasta sauce – pumpkin, spinach, tomato, lentil

I was surprised to find that Julian really liked this ‘I really don’t want to go shopping tonight so what do I have in the cupboard’ sauce – in fact he ate it as a soup/stew.

Put around 100g of red lentils in a pan of boiling water (unsalted) & boil for around 15 mins until tender & add salt and drain to give a thick soupy consistency. In the interim chop up around 200g of a washed pumpkin (e.g. 1/4 of a butternut) and cook in the microwave until tender but not falling apart. I leave the skin on because it becomes soft anyway and takes ages to peel. Fry 1 chopped onion with 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic. Add the lentils, 1.5 tins of tomatoes or 1 x 700mL bottle of passata, some sprigs of thyme & oregano and bring to the boil. Then add around 200g of well washed roughly chopped spinach, put the lid on the pan & simmer for about 2 minutes until the spinach is soft.

I would eat this with a more substantial pasta (e.g. bows or spirals) to carry the sauce and if I had had any I would have stirred ricotta or creme fraiche through the pasta before putting the sauce on top. But I didn’t so just grated parmesan on top.

To drink: a robust fruity but unoaked red.

Vegan friendly.

recipes vegan

Helen’s Christmas cake recipe

….for this year – nice & moist with the apple! Apparently english people would eat it with a nice piece of cheddar. I’m fine with that though I quite like it plain!

250g unsalted butter
340mL apple juice
~950g of mixed dried fruit, my preferred mix:
250g pitted dates chopped
200g dried figs
200g prunes
320g mixed dried fruit (includes peel but not fake cherries!)
1 big granny smith or other tart apple peeled, cored & grated
1tsp bicarb
150g plain flour
150g ground almonds
150g whole almonds
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
finely grated zest 1 orange & 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 150C (140C for fan). Melt butter in large saucepan with apple juice, add & stir all the items up until the line of dots, bring to the boil & simmer for 5 mins.
Transfer the mix to a large mixing bowl & stir in the bicarb (will sizzle like mad) & leave to cool for 10 mins.
Mix in the dry ingredients.
Transfer to a greased 20cm tin (wrap with alfoil if it’s a spring form as the butter will leak). Tie a circle of baking paper over the tin, prick it with a fork to release steam.
Bake for 2.5h approx. Ready when a skewer comes out clean.

For Christmas wrap well in baking paper, make holes in the top with a skewer & regularly feed with with some calvados or brandy.

(N.B. the original recipe says use 315g of butter, so if you feel that the mix is too dry, feel free to add more butter!)


Salmon with Cajun Blackening Spices

this one’s for Monika. This spice mix is awesome, I’ve been using it on tuna steaks too. I’ve halved the amount of salt because it was too much for me last time!

1 tbs cround cumin

1tbs crushed coriander seeds

1tbs dried ground garlic

2 tbs pimenton (Spanish smoked paprika, available in little square, often bright red tins at your local supermarket, really special!)

1tbs coarsely ground pepper

1tbs dried thyme

1tsp dried oregano

1 tbs salt

I just use the same amount of whole spices & bash them down. Not having dried garlic I used fresh. This is enough for 8 pieces of meat, if you use fresh garlic, I’d store any excess powder in the freezer.

Mix everything. Rub into both sides of the salmon/tofu/meat/whatever so that it’s covered. Cover & leave at room temperature for 30mins (approx).

Heat a frypan very hot, brush with oil & add fillets. Cook for exactly 2 minutes without moving, turn the fish over, cover the pan & cook for another 2 mins. THe spices will have blackened & the fish will be rare. Serve with thick yoghurt, lemon wedges & a tomato & cucumber salad or whatever you prefer!

recipes vegan

Simple pumpkin & lentil curry (vegan)

I found this recipe in The Age a long time ago & it’s very good. With lentils I don’t worry too much if I don’t have the correct variety, I use whatever is to hand rather than go out on a special shopping expedition!

200g chana dhal (lentils)

vege oil

either 1 large onion sliced or a handful of those fried onion flakes available in asian stores

1.5 tsp cumin seeds

2 small red chillies, slit

600-700g pumpkin (= 1 butternut) chopped into 2cm chunks (life’s too short to peel a pumpkin!)

20 curry leaves

1 tsp brown mustard seeds

Cook the dhal in 500mL water in a covered pan 30 mins or until nearly cooked.

If life isn’t too short to fry an onion fry the onion with a pinch of salt until brown in a medium saucepan, remove the onion & then fry the cumin seeds in the same pan for a few seconds, before tipping in the dhal. Add the chilli, pumpkin, some salt & cover. Simmer stirring regularly until the pumpkin is soft. Add the curry leaves. Heat the mustard seeds in a dry small pan until they crackle & then tip into the pumpkin mix. Serve with the fried onion on top with steamed basmati rice.

food recipes vegan

Rice with pulses (one dish vegan meal), much nicer than the ‘saffron rice’ at Indian restaurants

150g split yellow lentils

vege oil

60g dessicated coconut soaked for an hour in 60mL water (I’m going to try it dry next time)

7 dried red chillies

2tsp corainder seeds

1 tsp split chickpeas (chana dal)

1 tsp split black lentils (urid dal)

1tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds

500g basmati rice

50g tamarind soaked in 120mL boiling water for 10mins, then strained to get the water


vege oil

1tsp mustard seeds

10 curry leaves

3 tbs chopped raw cashew nuts (the original recipe uses 1 tbs, but they’re very good!)

Boil the yellow lentils in 450mL water until tender, drain.

Fry the coconut, chillies, corainder seeds, extra lentils, turmeric, fenugreek in oil in a frying pan until fragrant. Cool, then grind to a fine powder (so I bashed them until I lost patience in a mortar & pestle).

Rinse the rice, simmer it in 1L salted water for approx 20mins.

Then add the yellow lentils, tamarind water & coconut etc. powder. Cook for a further 5mins, add a little more water if necessary.

For the tempering heat the oil in a small saucepan, add the mustard seeds. When they begin to pop add the curry leaves & cashew nuts & cook, stirring, until the nuts turn golden brown. Pour the mixture over the cooked rice, mix & serve hot.

food recipes vegan

Ginger Parkin – no eggs, vegan suitable if you use margarine & soy milk!

mmmm cake! This is exceedingly easy to make & tastes a bit like anzac biscuits! It’s nice & moist and would work as a pudding with custard. Don’t worry the mix is really liquid, it turns out fine!

Preheat the over to 150 deg.

Melt in the microwave a mix of:

200mL milk

2 tbs golden syrup

110g butter

In a bowl or mixer mix:

175g plain flour

200g sugar (raw would be nice, white is fine though!)

125g porridge oats

1.5 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp bicarb

grated one thumbs length of fresh ginger (optional) – with ginger the exact amount is unimportant – more = stronger ginger flavour!

Mix the melted ingredients into the dry using whisk or mixer.

Bake in a buttered loaf tin for 45 mins. I hate lining tins, but this is a sticky cake so I’d have to recommend lining the base of this one!

Makes 16 squares.


Durban Roast Chicken

p60 approx Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry BibleI love this recipe – it’s incredibly simple to make – skin a chicken, whizz up 7 ingredients in the blender, marinate for 30mins, roast for 1.1h. Now you’ll call me a bit of a philistine, but the flavour reminds me a bit of the time I ate Nando’s back in 2001 (ginger, chilli). At any rate it’s lovely & very easy.