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!)


Uncorked Italian wine tasting

The winner for me at this tasting was the Nicodemi Montepulciano d’Abruzzo at £8.49 an absolute bargain. Well balanced, gamey with tobacco box and chocolate & damson plum notes. This was long, tasted typically Italian & is a great food wine. We later drank this with pizza – perfect!

And the winner in the whites was a Soave – what a revelation, I thought everything from this region was undrinkable! From Inama (Veneto) 2005 Vigneti di Foscarino Soave Classico – lovely pear, honey & green peach aromas, light & crisp, really well balanced with a slightly oily mouthfeel – £12.95. This only just beat the 2006 Soave Classico by the same people, not quite as well balanced, with more of a stewed apple character, mineral tones and slightly bitter at £9.49

Other wines that got my attention were: 2003 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano from Il Macchione with raisin & licorice on the nose, hazelnut & cedar £16.95. The Corte Sant’Alda 2003 Amarone at £37.95 was a nice restrained example. Amarone is made by drying the grapes before pressing them, which in a less well made style can bring port like tones of raisin and prunes and huge amounts of alcohol. This had an agreeable raisin note along with damson, cherry, cinnamon & vanilla, very full bodied & well balanced. And the highlight was probably from La Fiorita the 2000 Brunello di Montalicino with great fruit and licorice notes, underlain by clean fresh oak notes of pencil shavings. This being the last wine of the tasting, my notes are somewhat sparse.


Waitrose Decanter awards wine tasting Canary Wharf

Last night was a tasting of some of the wines stocked by Waitrose, which won trophies or medals in the recent Decanter awards, & I have to say there were a lot of nice things there at quite reasonable prices!

So here are the highlights for me:

Chateau Jolys Cuvee Jean from Jurancon, France. This is an incredible sweet wine from a region close to the border of Spain whose wine making dates back to the 14th Century. Fantastic slightly botrytised ripe pear notes with honey, great oily mouthfeel & long £10. I’d love to try the sweet Jurancon from Chamarre but I don’t know where to find a Co-Op store.

Chateau Jolys Jurancon Sec light dry wine with light tropical fruit aromas made of Gros Manseng grapes tastes a little like a chardonnay with more acidity £7.

Montes Alpha Syrah will have to check my notes – Argentinian??? £10 lovely wine with deep black fruits, clear fresh new oak with a smokey note, long well balanced.

Cono Sur Gewurztraminer very fruity intense lychee, rose, citrus wine, well balanced strong, my pick for Thai £6.


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!


Crumpets – this recipe actually works!

I’ve been trying with frustration to make a couple of crumpet recipes to work for a while now, but tonight by dint of completely misreading the recipe I managed to get it right!

The entire process takes about 3 hours (what with all the rising time!) but it’s really worthwhile.

So before I forget below is exactly how I made them:

2 tsp dried yeast

600g strong plain flour

2 tsp sugar

1tsp salt

800mL milk

later addition

1/2 tsp bicarb mixed in 1tbs warm water

I put all the first ingredients in my breadmaker on dough setting (using a mixer does the trick too). Then I let it rise for about an hour (it should be around double the size) & stirred in the bicarb in water & after a further hour of rising it was bubbly & about double in size.

I then heated a frypan with egg rings in it really hot, took it off the heat & greased the lot. Then poured about 2tbs of mix into the rings (so that it comes 3/4 of the way up the sides), put it back on a low-medium heat (3 of 8 on my stove). When top is almost set & all bubbly, flip, cook for a minute or so until slightly browned & put on a rack to cool. And continue with the rest of the mix.  Oh & if you don’t have rings that doesn’t matter – they just turn out irregular in shape & slightly thinner…

This made so many I’m going to be freezing, refrigerating & eating for about a week. I’m so excited that it’s finally worked!!!

OK just counted: 57 in total!!!


The Rolling Curry

For the past week I’ve been cooking another 2 curries (or curry & pilau) approx. every second day, which is working really well – we have at least 3 curries & a pilau for dinner each night and it’s fairly varied as we use up the older curries & add in the new ones.  And I don’t need to cook every night!


Things I learnt about business by observing my local drug dealer whilst riding through the park yesterday

1) have an exit strategy ready – trying to produce one when it is needed often leads to a shambles (& potentially arrest), the local drug dealer was standing on his bike, ready to go at the slightest whisper of ‘you’re nicked’

2) don’t get too close to your business partners or their failure may bring your business down too – he kept the buyer at arms length

3) be prepared – he wasn’t paying attention to what was coming down the bike path & was very surprised & upset by the sudden rattle of my bike rack – this lack of awareness of what is happening in his area could lead to him being arrested, just as lack of awareness of the mood of the population and what’s happening in the market can bring down your business


Good Budget Wines

and I’m not talking about exceptional £10 wines here!

Last night we had a simple little Corbieres from Tesco, producer Lionel Faivre year 2000. It tasted quite fresh & nicely of damson plums. Nothing spectacular, but for around £5 very drinkable. I’m still angry though that I got the 2 cases I got to fill the order and not the case I actually wanted. Never trust Tesco!

Waitrose always treats us well & according to the wine importers they are an ‘honorary independant wine store’ for fair dealings & fair pricing and no outrageous market destroying gimmick marketing. Below are a few things we’ve been enjoying…

We drink a lot of the Moscatel by Lustau – this is a fortified wine at 15% alcohol, sweet but well balanced with nice aromas of grape. The great thing is that being fortified you can keep a bottle open in your fridge for about 3 weeks without it going off, however we rarely manage more than 3 days. At £5 really great value.

We recently had a little Portuguese red which is getting the critics (Wine Spectator, our local rag) excited at the £5 price (Altano Douro 2005), we weren’t that thrilled, however it was a solid little light bodied wine that drank well, so no complaints!

I believe I paid £5.50 for a lovely little pink bubbly, for that price great balance between the red fruits & the acidity which had both Julian (moscato drinker) & myself (champagne drinker) excited. It was the Marques de Monistrol Reserva Cava Seleccion Especial Rose Brut. The addition of a small amount of sugar to the wine implied in the term ‘brut’ gave it excellent balance. This is a traditionally vinified sparkling, however it did have slightly bigger bubbles than champagne.

Oh and a word of warning the Waitrose Pale Cream sherry at around £6.50 for 1L is really disgustingly undrinkable – the one sip I had before making Julian drink the rest was very sulphuric & lead to some nasty hangovers for Julian. On the other hand the Solera Jerezana Cream which is sweetened with some PX giving it lovely caramel and coffee tones is a bargain for £7.50.

However if you have the option always get the Lustau East India Sherry (available at Uncorked) for around £13 or around $40 at The Prince Wine Store as it is a truly magnificent sweet sherry with great complexity!