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.
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 🙂
I’m not entirely convinced that this recipe is in any way authentically creole, but it is authentically delicious and isn’t that what really matters 😉 It’s also another one of my mum’s recipes that I’ve been cooking since Uni (at least) but I’d always made it with chicken… Until now! Mum made us her fish version last month and the whole family were completely converted, so much so that I don’t think I’ll ever make it with chicken again – tasty as that was, with fish it’s even tastier 🙂
This is a properly comforting dish and is perfect for chasing this last lingering bite of winter away. The warmth of the paprika and chilli just goes so well with the garlicky tomatoey stew, and its heartiness is a perfect contrast to the delicate flakey buttery cod.
Speaking of butter… This is a dish that lovesbutter, and lots of it. I’ve tried subbing corn oil in an attempt to make it healthier but ended up with a pale shadow of the real thing, so much so that I’d rather not have it if I can’t go all out on the butter in a James Martin stylee (!) My compromise, then is to just not make this too often 😉
If you do want to make it with chicken instead then use thighs not breast (so much more flavour!), keep the pieces pretty big and sautee off to seal and brown before cooking in the stew for 30 minutes.
PS – how cute are my little fishy bowls! They’re actually measuring cups but serving fish in them was too good an opportunity to miss!!
Cod in a rich, spicy, garlicky tomato stew, comfort food Creole style.
1 green pepper, cue into vaguely triangular shapes
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 tsp paprika (not smokey!)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 chicken stock cube or pot
pinch of sugar
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
Put a wok, or large saucepan, over a medium-high heat and melt a generous tablespoon of butter until it’s starting to bubble and saute off your onions for a couple of minutes until the edges are starting to brown. Add the green peppers until the skin has blistered a wee bit and then add the garlic and saute for another minute or two, taking care not to let the garlic burn.
Add the tomatoes, spices, chicken stock cube and a generous pinch of sugar. Fill the empty tomato can about a quarter full with water and give it a good swirl to pick up any last bits of tomato, and add.
Now, the measurements I’ve given for the spice is probably a little cautious. That and I’ve long since stopped using actual measures of spice for this dish so don’t actually know what the measures are! Taste and add more parpika and/or chilli to suit.
Leave the tomtoey stew to simmer away for 30 minutes.
When the time’s up, pat the cod fillets on kitchen roll until they’re as dry as you can get them – this stops them from tasting fishy (apparently!) Cut the cod into generous sized chunks, about 2 inches by 2 inches which should hold them together while cooking. Shake some flour onto a dinner plate and season with salt and pepper. Roll your fish chunks in the flour to just coat them, and then lift out with a shake to get rid of any excess flour.
In a frying pan, melt another generous tablespoon of butter and as soon as it starts to bubble lay your fish chunks gently in the pan. Give them 2-3 minutes and then gently turn over. The flour should colour up nicely so that you’ve got some lovely brown bits on the fish. Give the other side 2-3 minutes as well and then move the pieces of fish from the frying pan into the tomatoey stew. Add the lemon juice and then give everything a gentle stir before leaving to simmer for 12-15 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through. Add a final tablespoon of butter to give the sauce a lovely glossy sheen, stirring until it melts.
Serve on a bed of fluffy white rice, and try not to think of all that butter… 😉
Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m properly fussy when it comes to fish. I like the expensive stuff (like lobsters, and big prawns, and scallops) or the meaty stuff (monkfish, I’m looking at you!) but can’t do anything that actually smells or tastes fishy, or hasn’t actually been cooked (smoked salmon is my nemesis…). But I’ve got a couple of months of dental work lined up so I’m on a quest to find “easy” things to eat, and fish is one of the most obvious candidates. Only I don’t eat it often, and have probably only ever cooked it from scratch once. Ever. So yeah. This was going to be tough! But I saw this recipe in Olive magazine and remembered various people raving about fish tacos so figured it was worth a shot. OM(G!) NOM NOM!!!!
Seriously, what is not to love about this recipe! Lovely fresh homemade salsa that is a total doddle, and despite frying the fish it was properly light and flakey with just that wee bit of spicey crunch from the seasoned flour coating. And eating it all felt all kinds of virtuously healthy!
This is yet another crazily imbalanced taste to effort ratio recipe – the salsa takes longest (ha!) and if you can do that in the afternoon then all you’re left to do in the evening is the fish, and that really does take next to no time. Honest. Given how terrified I was at the thought of cooking fish this was a good recipe to start with. And when the weather gets warmer this will be the perfect light supper to rustle up quickly, more so if you cheat and buy ready made salsa 😉
Lightly battered bites of spicey fish, topped with fresh zingy salsa, all wrapped up in a warm tortilla.
300g sustainable firm white fish, cut into bite-sized pieces
Stuff you’ll need for the salsa…
3 ripe tomatoes
1/2 small red onion, very finely chopped
1 small avocado, diced
1/2 lime, zest and juice
handful coriander, chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tbsp pickled jalapenos, chopped (optional)
Stuff you’ll need to finish it…
Tortilla wraps (4-6 depending on how stuffed you like your wraps)
1 lime, quartered
If you can, make this a couple of hours ahead of time as it will give the salsa time to develop.
The best salsa, according to Hubby, is made by skinning and gutting your tomatoes first, so… fill a deep bowl with boiling water, and the sink with enough cold water to cover your tomatoes. Cut a wee cross at the top and bottom of each tomato and then one by one plunge into the boiling water first for about 30 seconds, fish out with a slotted spoon and drop into the cold water in the sink. The skins should now peel off really easily. Once you’ve peeled them, quarter, and then pull/scoop out the seeds and liquid and discard. Dice up what’s left and pop into a bowl, and then mix in all the rest of the ingredients and give it a good stir about. Place in the fridge until you’re ready to eat – the lime juice will keep the avocado from turning colour so make this as ahead of time as you like.
Mix the flour and cornflour with the spices and season really well (seriously, do not be shy with the salt here!) and put on a flat plate.
Crack your egg into a shallow bowl and beat.
Heat a large saucepan with 2cm of oil. When you can brown a cube of bread in 30 seconds then its ready.
Toss all the fish in the beaten egg until it’s well coated, and then toss it in the seasoned flour until, again, it’s well coated (I slapped on the CSI vinyl gloves and got stuck right in!). Fry for 2-3 minutes until the pieces have turned crisp and golden – depending on the size of your saucepan you may need to do this in two batches - and then “fish” out (sorry!!) and drain on kitchen paper.
Try a bit when it’s cooled down enough and salt if required.
Warm some tortillas up, pop three or four bits of fish down the middle, spoon over the salsa, squeeze a bit of lime all over, wrap it up and eat it up!
My retro trip continues! This weekend it was the turn of that total guilty pleasure starter, prawn cocktail, with the scales tipped most definitely in the favour of pleasure 🙂 I’m a big fan of M&S’s ready made but making your own Marie Rose sauce is so easy that it really is a sin not to just whip it up yourself. That and you can go for the biggest, fattest prawns you can find!
And if you like it as much as Hubby does, it makes for a great salad lunch with some avocados and cherry tomatoes tossed in too.
King Prawn Cocktail
A delicious retro classic, with an easy peasy homemade Marie Rose sauce.
1 lemon – juice half, and quarter the other half for serving
Dash of Tabasco
200g cooked prawns – king or tiger
Lettuce – iceberg if you’re sticking with the classic, or baby gem
Sprinkle of paprika
In a bowl large enough to hold your prawns and allow for some movement, mix the mayonnaise, salad cream and ketchup. Add lemon juice to taste and mix well. Next, add a dash or two of tabasco – you don’t want to be able to taste its distinctive flavour, just apreciate the piquancy it brings to the party – and mix again.
Tip your prawns into the bowl and stir until they’re all coated. I like to pop the bowl back in the fridge for a half hour to chill everything, but it’s not a must.
When you’re ready to serve, grab a few leaves of iceberg and roll them up like a cigar before slicing into ribbons. Half fill your serving bowls with lettuce (if you’re going for that full retro feel then it has to be a large wine glass!) before topping with the prawns. Or, make a wee cradle out of two or three baby gem lettuce leaves on a small plate and spoon the prawns into it.
Sprinkle with a little paprika and serve with a quarter of lemon.