Archive for March, 2013

We leave Winter behind and step into Spring but sadly even though the temperatures have gone up the weather does not really seam to be reflecting this yet.  So with the dreary weather hanging over us I still have penchant for comfort food.

So what does comfort food really mean to me? ¬†If I were to really breakdown my thoughts on this I would have to say that comfort food for me is anything that can be eaten with spoon or fork in hand, whilst in PJ’s, sat on the sofa. ¬†Every mouthful should have me nodding in approval with the occasional, “Mmmmm…” And when I finish what’s on my plate, belly full to burst, I should be thinking; “Would one more mouthful be just right?”

So what dish can honestly provide me with all these thoughts and emotions on a plate?  piePIE!

Pie, yes, pie.  This can be savoury or sweet, filled, cobbler-style or two crust.  By crust I not only mean pastry but anything that can be used to encase the filling, such as oats, potato slices or mash.

So which crust will ultimately provide the ultimate comfort?  Mashed potato does it for me.  In the Recipes section of my blog can be found my delicious Steak and Ale Pie.  So what other pies can be delicious topped with mash?  One of my easy to make pies is a simple fish pie.

jamie-oliver

As Jamie Oliver himself says:

‚ÄúThe whole fish pie thing is one of the most homely, comforting and moreish dinners I can think of.”

And I couldn’t agree more.

Fish Pie

First of all Рthis does not need expensive cuts of fish, just make sure there are no bones.  Supermarkets now stock trays with different fish cuts specifically made for fish pies.  Also check your local fishmongers as they may have special offers too.

For the mash:

1st: Preheat the oven to 230¬įC.¬† Peel and boil 5 large potatoes. ¬†Boil for 10mins. ¬†Add 2 eggs and boil for 8mins.

2nd: Drain the potatoes and set aside.  Peel the eggs under cold running water.  Set aside.

3rd: Wilt 200g of spinach by rinsing the spinach and adding these moist leaves to a hot pan.  Once the spinach has wilted drain and squeeze out any excess water.  Set aside.

For the cream filling:

4th: In a saucepan, sauté a medium onion and add a small pot (254ml) of double cream.  If you want to use a large pot of double cream or half double half single feel free to.  Bring the cream to the boil.

5th: Remove from the heat and add 200g of Cheddar cheese, the juice of a lemon and a teaspoon of mustard.

Assemble the pie:

6th: Add approximately 500g of different fish cuts to your pie dish (if making individual pies then share this out equally) I tend to use salmon fillet, cod fillet and prawns.

7th: Spread the spinach equally throughout the dish.  Pour the cream sauce over.  Sprinkle with parsley.  Quarter the boiled eggs and add to the dish.

8th:¬†Mash the potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper and a rasp of nutmeg. ¬†Try to¬†cover the creamy fish base. ¬†Don’t be too neat and if it does not cover everything better as this will provide areas for the sauce to bubble through the mash!¬†(Optional extra: beat an egg and wash the top of the mash for a crispy finish).

9th: Place in the oven for 25-30 mins until the potatoes are golden.

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Enjoy!

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When it comes to food, Gibraltar should be very proud of herself. ¬†Not only do we have a celebratory food festival “Calentita” in June where we celebrate food from the different backgrounds that make up our unique heritage but now we can add Rock Chef to our food culture.

“Passion for food, fierce competition, a unique challenge, fun and a race against time: Just some of the ingredients for ROCK CHEF”

Is the Facebook information given about the competition.  The most important fact though is not included and that is that this is a competition for amateur cooks.  So after weaning out those that have had professional experience and then setting a level for the competition the GFSB picked 12 contestants to appear on the TV show produced by GibMedia.

rockchef

taken from the Facebook page “RockChef” GibMedia (c) 2013

Having then to complete several challenges such as working service at local restaurants, three contestants made it through to the semi-final.

Semi-Final

I was present at the Caleta Hotel for the semi-final and all I can say about the three courses without giving anything away is that we were treated to superior home cooking with one dish in particular delivering aspects of fine dining.  When you watch the dishes on TV you will see what I mean by this.  We then had to decide which course we thought was the best created dish based on creativity, technical ability, how it complimented the overall menu as well as flavour.

“superior home cooking”

The person with the least votes would be eliminated.  We were not informed of the outcome of this; even though we all had our suspicions based on the question and answer session that followed.

IMG_2355Final

The final was held at the Mons-Calpe Suite at the Cable Car Top Station.  May I just say that this venue was incredible.  We arrived around 7pm and the sun was still shining with the surroundings being lit up in gold.  The Mediterranean Sea to one side and the Atlantic Ocean to the other.  A truly magical venue for a finals dinner.

I was invited to attend by Gemma Arias, President of the GFSB, to whom I am¬†eternally¬†grateful. ¬†My luck however, didn’t end there, as I was sat at the centre table surrounded by some of the contestants who had been knocked out in the previous rounds.

“sheer passion for food”

Their company was fantastic!  I marvelled at the anecdotes about the competition itself but ultimately it was their sheer passion for food that impressed me the most.  Listening to them tell the rest of us stories about their home cooking (suckling pig, dishes with height and architecture, chocolate fondants) had me salivating before the cameras started rolling!

2 Menus

So with two finalists cooking their winning 3 course meal for us, how were we going to award the title of Rock Chef? ¬†On this¬†occasion¬†we were not responsible for picking a winner. ¬†A famous celebrity chef was given that daunting task. ¬†And no we were not going to eat 2 x 3 course meals either! ¬†Out of the two menus, we were meant to pick which we wanted to try. ¬†At our table we collaborated and thought we’d share all the courses to get the best impression of who we thought should win.

12 contestants, 3 semi-finalists, 2 finalists, 1 winner!

And the winner is….

So as not to give you any clues as to the finalists and dishes that were created I’ve not included food photos but will upload a photo gallery after the TV series has aired.

Think you’ve got what it takes? ¬†

Why not compete next year for the title of Rock Chef!

The recent Horsemeat scandal has left farmers incensed as meat sales have plummeted, supermarkets have lost billions in profits and governments struggle in vain to draw a line under the scandal over horsemeat being sold as beef.

horsemeat

So with consumers ditching beef for veggie ready meals it makes me question why people feel that creating vegetarian dishes can be difficult. ¬†Wouldn’t it be just as easy to buy ingredients to create a vegetarian dish than buying a microwave pre-packed one?

By creating your own dish, you control the quantities, the amount of salt, volume… So why don’t some people cook their own vegetarian dishes? ¬†Simple:

 Vegetarian = Boring!

If you try to convince a non-vegetarian that a meat free meal is delicious and exciting then you’ll just be faced with the deadpan certainty that they are awaiting the punchline in your joke. ¬†Either that or they think you’re going to resurrect the vegetable stir-fry. ¬†It is just a case of changing a mindset. ¬†Question: how can culinary giants such as Italy and Spain create amazing vegetable dishes without the ridicule of their respective nations? ¬†Answer: by never compromising on flavour.

The key to a great vegetable dish is to keep it simple.  Let the product speak for itself such as aubergines and honey; a simple Starter to any meal:

IMG_2337

Aubergine and honey

1st: Heat a griddle pan for approximately 8mins before you start cooking.

2nd: Slice the aubergine however you wish; I tend to favour cutting them in half along their length and then slicing into thin strips along the length of each half.

3rd: Pour olive oil into a dish and soak both sides of the aubergine slices in the oil.  Aubergines are like sponges and will soak up a lot of oil so try not to leave them dunked in the oil for too long.

4th: Griddle until scorch marked and softened from the griddle.

5th: Drizzle honey over just before serving.

Use ingredients to compliment your vegetable:

Mushrooms with garlic, chillies and butter IMG_23271

1st: Make the Garlic, Chillies and Parsley butter found on the recipes page.

2nd: Share between the mushrooms.

3rd:¬†Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and bake at 180¬įC for 20mins.

Disclaimer: ¬†The butter retains a lot of heat so take care when eating as you don’t want to end up with your palette blistered to shreds!

For the more adventurous cook why not try a Roast Vegetable Lasagne or an impressive melanzane alla parmigiana where instead of using lasagne sheets you use slices of aubergine with plenty of parmesan.  

Toptip:¬†When roasting vegetables don’t add salt until the end otherwise they braise in their own cooking liquid.

Or if you want to impress:

Aubergine rolls filled with spinach, ricotta and pine nuts: 

aubergine rolls

Photo taken from bbcgoodfood.com

1st: Soften the aubergine slices by either griddling or cooking them in the oven.

2nd: Mix the wilted spinach leaves with the ricotta cheese and add a good shaving of parmesan.  Season to taste.

3rd: Either use tomato passata from a jar or create your own.

Start to assemble the dish:

4th: Place a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce into the bottom of the oven dish.

5th: Add a teaspoonful of the mixture to one end of the aubergine slice and roll it.  Repeat this for the remaining aubergine slices.  Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese.  To make this a dinner party indulgence why not cover in bechamel sauce before sprinkling with parmesan cheese.

Most of these vegetable dishes make a great accompaniment to any meal.  For example both the mushrooms and the aubergine rolls can be a side dish to meat or chicken if you so wish.  But celebrating them as a main course with some crusty bread is just as rewarding.  Remember, there are plenty of health benefits from eating more vegetables, they are tasty and good on the budget.

Buy vegetables at the height of their season as this will mean you’ll get the best quality product at the best price. ¬†Buy what you need as they have a limited longevity; buy small but buy often.

No, I am not a vegetarian, but I hope through this blog entry I may have given you some ideas as to how to take the jump and cook up simple meat-free dishes that you won’t find boring or predictable.

Give them a try!