So… I took a bit of a sabbatical from the blog apparently… Wasn’t intentional, I just got a bit distracted by life there, and in a good way. In the meantime, lovely Hubby gave the blog a wee bit of a design refresh which I am seriously loving! Doesn’t it look all grown-up and shiny 🙂 Refreshed from sabbatical + shiny blog + Autumn on the way = time to get stuck back in! And I thought I’d start with a new favourite 🙂
While we’re still clinging on to Summer, here’s a recipe that we seem to have been indulging in quite a bit. The dish is light, the pasta dressed rather than swimming in a heavy sauce, and its really quick to rustle up which is perfect for when the weather is stupidly hot and you don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen for any longer than you have to be.
I think I’ve probably mentioned this before but I’m a wee bit fussy when it comes to seafood… It’s mostly a trust thing, i.e. I don’t trust it not to be hiding tiny bones or bits of shell in a random mouthful. But I’ve been making my peace with it, fish by fish, and have finally gotten round to the joy that is white crab meat – all tasty and sweet and not at all ‘fishy’, unlike brown crab meat.
I’ve been finding excuses all summer to rustle up a bowl of this with deliberate forays down the fish aisle seeming to end more often than not in “Oh look! Crab meat! Shame to let it waste away on the shelf there…” much to Hubby’s amusement.
There are a lot of recipes out there for this, believe me, I tried most of them! My version is a bit of a mash up of the ones I tried, dialling up this and dialling down that until it hit just the right spot for me.
In keeping with my preferrence for cooking short cuts (understatement of the year!) you can get some fantastic ready cooked white crab meat from the supermarket (M&S is good but Watirose stocks our favourite from Seafood & Eat It). Be prepared to go higher end for it – without naming names, we bought some white crab meat from a reputable supermarket only for it to be not very ‘white’ at all…
With the crab meat taken care of, aka ready cooked, the rest of the recipe is barely any work at all which is what makes it perfect for a midweek summer supper. Not to mention that it is fair bursting with lovely flavours!
Spaghetti works just fine but I think it’s best really with linguine, the crab meat just seems to cling better to a flatter noodle. The capers are entirely optional, but they do add another layer of flavour not to mention texture. And finally, parmesan at your peril. There’s that whole food crime thing that Italians have about putting cheese on seafood and having tried this with and without a sprinkling of parmesan it’s safe to say that the Italians are definitely on to something…
Chilli, Lemony, Garlicky Crab Linguine
A light and zingy pasta dish with a wee kick, too delicious for how easy it is to rustle up.
2 lemons, juice and zest 1, cut 1 into wedges for serving
Half pack of Linguine
Salt and pepper
Start by bringing a large saucepan of water to the boil. While you’re waiting, mince your garlic and finely chop your red chilli, seeds and all for a wee bit of a kick (or de-seed before chopping if you'd prefer this kick free).
When the water is boiling, salt well and then pop in your linguine and cook per the packet instructions.
While the linguine is cooking, heat the oil and butter in a deep frying pan (a wok is perfect for this) before adding the garlic and chilli. Fry gently for one minute without letting it brown before adding the crabmeat and stirring everything through for another minute.
Add the wine and turn up the heat until you've brought it to a boil. Season and then reduce the heat a little so that it's still bubbling away quite happily - you want to reduce this right down and cook all the alcohol off in the time it takes the linguine to finish cooking.
When the linguine is ready, scoop out about 1/2 a cup of the cooking liquid before draining. Add the linquine to the crab mixture together with the parsley, capers, lemon juice, lemon zest and a splash of the linquine cooking water. Give everything a good toss together before dishing up with lemon wedges on the side.
Lamb is my favourite red meat, hands down. Roast has to be lamb, curry has to be lamb (but pathia or kofta?), and the pie has always got to be shepherd’s, never cottage. So when I got invited by Quality Meat Scotland to an afternoon of sharing their new recipes for cooking Scotch Lamb with Scottish food bloggers I couldn’t say yes quickly enough! And what a fantastic afternoon it was, and not just because it culminated in a plate of this 🙂
Hubby works for Scotland Food & Drink so we usually try to shop the Scottish options when we can (he makes me put things back if they’re not Scottish, honestly!!) but I learnt a couple of things at the Scotch Lamb afternoon that made me even more determined to shop Scottish when it comes to lamb.
Did you know…
1. that to qualify as Scotch Lamb, the wee bleaters have to have spent every day of their lives in Scotland – born, raised and processed?
2. that Scotch Lamb was one of the first red meats in Europe to have been granted the Protected Geographical Indication status?
3. that apparently we Scots eat only half as much lamb as the English…! #gobsmacked!
Scotch Lamb is just coming in to season now and the season continues until February/March, so there really isn’t a better time to tuck in and support Scottish, ESPECIALLY since it’s Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight right now! Not to mention all those nasty food miles you’ll be saving…
But back to the afternoon! It was held at the Edinburgh New Town Cookery School where we got to watch one of their chefs demonstrate three fairly different recipes, all using different cuts of Scotch Lamb. The first was a Lamb Biryani, which went against convention and used neck for a relatively quick cook – delicious! Second was Lamb Meatballs with Penne… I had never heard of of using tarragon with lamb before but it is a properly winning combination and one I can’t wait to try again – deliciouser! Last, and zomg not least, was the Lemony Lamb Fillet which was the most delicious dish of the three! It’s not a cut of lamb I’ve ever cooked with before, but that is going to change…
What I loved about all three of the recipes, other than the downright tastiness of them, were just how quick and easy they were to cook. And to prove it wasn’t just because the chef was good at her job we all got to pick one of the three dishes to try cooking ourselves right there and then (fyi, the Lemony Fillets seemed to be most everyone’s favourite!). It also gave all of us a chance to chat while we cooked, which was awesome as some of the bloggers were ones I’d been following for a while so it was kind of like meeting my blogging heroes 🙂
Socialising and eating aside, I came away from the afternoon wondering why I’d never really thought about cooking lamb for midweek suppers, but I realised that all of my lamb recipes are real labours of love that are better suited to the weekend. Not anymore! In fact, I’m already planning on making those tarragon meatballs tomorrow, they were that good.
If you’re interested in checking out the official recipe it’s here, along with all the other new Scotch Lamb recipes which I recommend having a peek at, but I’m going to write this up the way I cooked it on the day because it was absolutely lush, properly melt in the mouth stuff, and I don’t want to change a thing 😉
300g Scotch lamb fillet, all fat removed and sliced lengthways into three strips
Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
2 tsp olive oil 300g new potatoes, halved if large
Bought mint sauce OR…
a large handful of fresh mint leaves
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
75 ml cider or malt vinegar
Other stuff you’ll need…
pestle and mortar, or a small bowl and rolling pin (or spoon)
griddle pan, or large frying pan
First things first, set your griddle pan over a high heat and leave it until it’s searing hot and literally smoking. Start a saucepan of water heating too – new potatoes, unlike their larger non-new brethren, should go into hot water and not cold apparently.
While you’re waiting, rub the olive oil onto the lamb and then loosely sprinkle over half the lemon zest and garlic before pressing the flavouring lightly into place. Give it all a good grind of black pepper and then turn over and do exactly the same to the other side.
As soon as the water is boiling, lightly salt and then drop in your potatoes and leave them on the boil for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until they’re tender.
Next, make the so-ridiculously-easy-you’ll-never-buy-it-ready-made-again mint sauce. Finely chop the mint and put into the mortar or a small bowl, sprinkle the sugar and salt on top and then crush to release all that lovely minty juice from the leaves. If you don’t have a pestle and mortar, the rounded end of a rolling pin will do the job just as well, or failing that, squash it all together firmly with the back of a spoon. Add the vinegar – you might want to hold some back and taste first, adding more vinegar until you hit your preferred sweet/sour mix – and stir together well. Set aside until needed.
By now your griddle should be smoking hot, perfect for searing the lamb fillets and giving them that lovely chargrilled flavour. Sear for about 2 to 3 minutes per side which should be enough to leave the middle perfectly pink but not bloody (if it’s too pink, just pop it back on the griddle pan for another minute or 2).
THE IMPORTANT BIT! When you remove the fillets from the pan, cover with foil and leave to rest for about the same amount of time the lamb was cooking, so between 4 to 6 minutes depending. This allows all the lovely juices to be reabsorbed, giving you a far far juicier eat. Don’t be tempted to skip this and tuck right in, your lamb will be drier for it.
While the meat is resting, drain the potatoes and then return them to the hot pan. If you’re not quite ready for them yet just pop the lid on to keep them warm.
When you are ready, add the butter to the pan and break the potatoes up with the back of a fork so that they’re less mashed and more bashed. Plate the potatoes and then slice your lamb fillets and lay on top. Finally, daub with the mint sauce, and then tuck in.
My newly discovered love of cod continues! So far I’ve only been brave enough to eat it after I’ve popped it in a sauce, but cod has this amazing buttery flavour even when buried under a tomato sauce or a curry sauce that I just knew could stand up all on its own without too much fussing. I was right 🙂 As far as simple suppers go, and Summer suppers too, it really does not get much simpler than this, or tasty, helped by a generous squeeze of caramelised lemon. I’m sure that cooking this in butter isn’t the healthiest option but the butter is just for the pan, and helps the cod get those lovely brown bits from frying.
This is another one of those starter recipes that has a wealth of flexible possibility. You can pimp it up with some crushed garlic, or herbs, and it goes great with mash or couscous or a side of spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino (garlic, olive oil and chilli).
My problem with fish was never knowing when it was cooked. It’s not like chicken or meat that changes colour, white fish is white when it’s raw and still white when it’s cooked. Not very helpful for a fish novice… I’ve found that about 10 minutes total does the job, and when the cod flakes easily with a fork then you’re definitely good to scoff.
The other thing that put me off cooking fish for so long is the smell, and being convinced that how it smells will be how it tastes. My mum taught me her trick, which is to pat as much of the moisture off the fish with kitchen paper, and it works like a charm. Alternatively (or if you’re really cautious like me then in addition!) lightly salt the fish and pop in the fridge for at least 15 minutes and that should draw the excess moisture out. Doing either or both of these, and eating it on the day you bought it, will stop the cod from tasting bad fishy, I promise.
I personally prefer cod to other white fish, it’s so wonderfully inoffensive if you’re not a fishy fish fan, and loins to fillets, they’re fatter and tend to be more uniform throughout so easier to get an even cook. Don’t cut your pieces too small, bite sized is bad, or else they’ll flake apart in the pan. And if your loin has a pretty side and a not so pretty side, cook the pretty side first so that when you dish up it’s the side that faces up. Food is as much about the looking good as the tasting good 🙂
Pan-fried Cod in Butter with Caramelised Lemons
Fresh flaky buttery cod that needs nothing more than a squeeze of caramelised lemon.
500g cod loin, cut into pieces about a hand’s length
3 tbsp cooking oil
1-2 tbsp salted butter
chicken powder – optional
1 lemon, halved
Lightly salt the side you’re going to cook first. If you have chicken powder then lightly sprinkle that over the fish loins too.
Heat the oil and butter in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat until it starts to bubble – using an oil/butter combo stops the butter from burning if the heat gets too high – and then place the fish pieces down, salted side first. Then add the lemon halves to the pan, cut side down.
After five minutes, gently lift a piece of fish to check if it’s got some lovely brown bits going on before flipping it over (invest in a fish slice, honestly!) and leaving for another five minutes, or until the cod flakes easily with a fork.
Dish up with a caramelised lemon half on the side for squeezing all over, and enjoy 🙂
FINALLY! The sun is actually out and its beginning to feel warm! So before it disappears again, taking our sorry excuse for a summer with it, time to get some appropriate beverages chilling in the fridge, like this easy peasy lemon squeezy homemade sweet iced tea. The secret ingredient is bicarb, a pinch of which stops the final brew from going cloudy. But you really can’t go wrong with a glass of this (or a jar, which seems to be very popular right now for putting most anything in!) over ice on a hot Summer’s day. Honest 🙂
For a nation that loves tea, and by love I mean use as a crutch for most any type of social or emotional situation, we really haven’t taken to it at all as a cold drink. I’m guessing the weather has a lot to do with that… But growing up in Hong Kong this stuff was hugely popular, usually made up from a Liptons’ powder mix which I’ve recently discovered on sale at one of Edinburgh’s Chinese supermarkets in the most addictive mango flavour *glee* It wasn’t until Hubby moved in that I actually had it from scratch, being American he was near as dammit weaned on the stuff – they even sell it in McDonald’s stateside!
So now, as soon as there’s any hint of warmth in the air I can pretty much be guaranteed to find a “vat” of this taking up most of the top shelf in the fridge! Not that I’m complaining when it’s delicious and thirst quenching
Sweet Iced Lemon Tea
Poured over ice, this is the perfect thirst quencher on a hot Summer's day.