Archive for the ‘Fish’ Category

Relaxed home cooking

What would you define as: relaxed home cooking?  For each of us the term will mean something different.  For some of us, relaxed home cooking will literally just be simple home cooking, for others it may be the one pot meal, the tray-bake or bowl-food, however, for some it may be something that requires meticulous or repetitive action which in itself can create a sense of calm.  Ultimately we will all have different benchmarks of what we perceive as relaxed home cooking; let’s be honest, some people can find the idea of walking into a kitchen stressful!

First of all, people need to make the distinction between what is easy and what takes a long time.

For me it is all about the familiar.

No matter how simple or complicated a recipe is to follow or a dish to recreate – if it’s familiar to me, getting immersed in its necessary activity will make it relaxed home cooking.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently as I’ve spent a lot of time cooking away from my own kitchen, however, never daunted nor panicked that it hasn’t been my kitchen, with my cupboards organised the way I have them back at home.  And I can only attribute this to the fact that the food was familiar.

The time away has taught me a few things and I’ve picked up a few kitchen tricks along the way too.

One of my new favourite dishes has to be homemade gin and tonic battered fish – or as I like to call it: fish and tonic!

Fish and Tonic

This is very easy to put together in mere moments but does require a deep fat fryer for optimum results.  The first time I made this, I measured all the ingredients accurately, however the second time I was looking out more for the consistency of the batter:

Ingredients:

fish&tonic.jpg

Relaxed home cooking: Fish and Tonic

200g plain flour
1 tspn baking powder
1 small can of chilled tonic water
1 shot of gin/vodka/cider vinegar*

*I left this out of the mixture on both occasions to very good results.

Coat your pieces of fish in the batter and deep fry.  Hold the fillet in the bubbling oil for 30 seconds until the fish fillet floats near the top then let the rest of the fillet dive into the oil.  If you drop the fish into the fryer it can stick to the wire basket at the bottom – flavour will be untarnished but the battered carapace will be torn.

Every time I served fish and tonic for dinner we would wolf the pieces of fish down!

Recently, I boiled cauliflower florets and sliced them before dunking them into the same batter recipe but replacing plain flour for chickpea flour and then mixing this with a teaspoon of cumin and turmeric.  As the cauliflower slices as smaller than fish fillets, they were easily shallow fried.

I never wanted a deep fat fryer before but after this I can see myself having to push, a new food processor, down my list of kitchen-gadget-priorities!

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The beginning of summer heralds tuna from the Atlantic to make their way to the warmer spawning grounds of the Mediterranean.  As they swim along the western coastline of Southern Spain to cross through the Straits of Gibraltar they become ensnared in a maze of nets – the subsequent slaughter; Almadraba is an age old tradition practised in fishing villages from Conil to Tarifa since Phoenician times.

This method of catching tuna preserves the integrity of the animal’s meat which makes it as soft as butter to eat – hence why it is such a delicacy.

And if slicing this tuna and eating it sashimi style was not delicious enough, Chef Lede at El Capote, showcased 9 exquisite dishes to celebrate this glorious fish.

Atún de la Almadraba

The ideology behind a lot of the food served at these evenings is to challenge your culinary practices – anyone can cook a tuna steak – but can you think outside the box and create something different and innovative that is still a flavoursome tuna dish?

Once again Chef Lede pushed boundaries and broke culinary norms.  There was still an element of Asian influence in some of Chef Lede’s approaches; for example tuna sashimi sprayed with a mist of soya vinaigrette served with an intense spicy tomato relish.  Simple, clean but beautiful.  Or the decadent tuna tataki served with ajo blanco, kimchi and sushi sauce which I have to say was absolutely divine; my favourite dish.

The evening’s entertainment started with Chef Lede going round each table and assembling the first dish of Chicharrones de Atún (Tuna Scratchings) directly onto the centre of the table.  The tuna scratchings were delicious; salty, crispy and puffed in every bite, served with puffed corn crisps on a bed of fried breadcrumbs spiced with pimentón and olive oil caviar.  The creativity in this dish got everyone talking and buzzing with excitement as to what might be coming next.

The next dish was a subtle but savoury macaroon filled with smoked tuna and Manchego cheese.  At first bite the sweetness of the macaroon came through and some people were put off by this – however I found that the sweetness was very subtle and balanced the seasoning well.  I enjoyed this idea but would have liked it served warmer; I thought it could be an excellent dinner party starter – even though as delicate as macaroons are, one would be enough.

I had tried the following ‘tomatillo’ at Calentita where Chef Lede cooked at the Live Kitchen but there were some changes to the execution of this for the better.  Tomatillos de salmorejo con mojama, falsa tierra de migas y polvo de aceitunas (Salmorejo ‘tomatoes’ with salt cured tuna, served on a bed of breadcrumbs and black olive powder).  At Calentita the salmorejo was frozen almost slush-like and very cold; this time round the salmorejo was at room temperature and seductively oozed out of the tomato-shell and mingled with the mojama and the savoury breadcrumb and black olive rubble.  A delicious mouthful.

Tunafest Tuna TartareTuna and green apple tartare served on avocado and lime puree with scorched kimchi sauce was met with mixed reviews.  I personally would have liked the tuna to be minced further and the apple itself being less dominant in the dish – a quick grating of green apple might have achieved this.  I tend to like tartare dishes to have an almost vinegary tang to them and this was achieved mainly from the kimchi sauce rather than the apples themselves – perhaps the apples were not acidic enough?  Maybe some diced cornichons (which are normally served with steak tartare) might have given a more acidic note to the dish.  This however is purely a matter of opinion as the dish was well executed and the theatre of Chef Lede blow torching his way around El Capote was an added bonus.

Michelin starred peasant food at its best!

Callos de Atún followed and this really stumped everyone.  The magic behind this dish was in the fish sausage that was present in slices throughout the dish.  Not just adding flavour that you would normally associate with callos but texture.  The pescetarians as our table were very confused as to whether they would eat it or not and even started picking out the pieces of tuna sausage; however, once reassured that there was no meat in any of the dishes they dived back in, scraping the bowl and wanting more!

 

Ventresa de atún (tuna belly) served with ‘onion rings’ was another piece of theatre as there were two stocks.  The first being the
solid rings of stock placed on the dish, the other served hot in shot glasses where each guest needed to pour over the stock over their dish, melting the ‘onion rings’ and warming the slightly cooked dish.

Tuna belly also known as fatty tuna is the most succulent and flavoursome part of the fish and is seen as a delicacy in Japan.

Galete de atún guisado como un rabo de toro Andaluza surprised me with its rich and intense flavours.  I am assuming that the flesh at the tail end of the tuna was used for this dish and not necessarily that the dish was cooked as you would prepare oxtail; either pressure cooking or slow cooking for many hours.

The 9 tuna dishes presented to us were of a very high standard and each one delicious in its own right.  I felt that this year Chef Lede and Ian managed the serving of courses much better than they did at their previous tuna event and it is very impressive to think that in little old El Capote 320 plates were served over the course of the evening to an appreciative crowd.

Dessert will remain unmentioned as there was no tuna in it!

If there is anyone who would have liked to have attended a tuna inspired evening as above, let myself or El Capote know as there are only a few more weeks available of Atún de la Almadraba.

Tuna that cuts like butter!

 

 

 

Saturday morning.  8am. Body clock still set.  Coffee to kick start the wake up process.  Pottering around the house and finally surfing and checking the latest news on social media.  And there it was.  A phone number.  I dialled…  “Do you have any left? …I’m on my way!”

My summer began beckoned to Coaling Island.  What mystical attraction reeled me in?

tunaTUNA

Social media is a great thing.  A family member had posted that local fishing enthusiasts were selling their catch off their boats and posted a phone number.  I called and arranged that I’d swing by to pick up a couple of kilos of their recently caught tuna.

Unfortunately when I got there he had sold out.  So I made my way along the pontoon to another lucky fishing enthusiast.  I watched avidly as a recently caught tuna was moved from boat to pontoon.  Having already put in my claim for 2 kilos worth of fresh tuna I lingered whilst a team of men cleaned, sliced and prepared bags of tuna to sell to the first who turned up.  “6 kilos! Two bags with 5 kilos in each! My restaurant wants…”

3.8Kg of tuna later I made my way home thinking of all the delicious recipes I was going to create with ‘my’ catch.  Most however were going to involve a tuna steak; grill marked and quiveringly rare or cubed and made into pinchitos.

No exciting sauces – none needed when the product is this fresh.

I went to work cutting the 3.8Kg hunk of tuna into decent sized steaks ready for my tuna dinners throughout the summer.  I made tuna steakssure to cut a chuck off that I was going to use immediately in an experiment: maki sushi rolls.

I have never made my own maki rolls before but they are remarkably simple to make.  All you need is a bamboo rolling mat, nori (dried seaweed sheets) and any fish/veg/meat that you wish to use.   Most supermarkets stock these items but Ramsons stocks all of the asian components needed.

The most important thing to get right when making sushi rolls is the rice.  Make sure to buy sushi rice which is more glutinous once cooked.  Once cooked, add rice vinegar with dissolved sugar and salt.  Mix it well and set to cool.  Chop the cucumber into batons, slice spring onions and cut the avocado into slices (I didn’t have any ripe avocadoes so left them out.) Sesame seeds to either sprinkle over or use around some types of maki roll are an optional extra.  Pickled ginger as a palate cleanser, soy for dipping and wasabi to spice it up make the whole experience more authentic.

Please note: Sushi recipes will always ask for “Sushi-grade” tuna/salmon.  This is fish that has been frozen for at least 7 days at -20˚C to kill any parasites.  However, bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna and farmed salmon are exceptions.

sushi1

Considering how easy it was to make I will definitely be trying to make these maki rolls again.  It would be something fun to do with other people round: DIY Dinner.  If you’re up for a night of sushi making let me know – the combinations are endless.

マグロ真紀ロール – おいしい!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the first full moon of May as the Spring turns to Summer the Spanish coastal towns from Tarifa to Conil watch in the splendour of Blue-fin tuna making their way from the cold Atlantic waters to warmer Mediterranean spawning grounds.

Their streamlined bodies having packed on blubber during the winter months make these massive Blue-fin tuna a mighty catch. Most are frozen and shipped to Japan at a hefty price but some are destined for the restaurants that line the south west coast of Andalusia and even make their way as far south as El Capote (Gibraltar)!

With plenty of newcomers to El Capote’s food and wine matching evenings, Ian and Chef Lede set out a fantastic menu to herald this fantastic fish. And may I say, what a treat was in store for us!

9 different fresh tuna courses. Tostas, Mojama, Brocheta, Sashimi, Tartar, Tataki, Galete, Lomo, Albondiga!

A modo de Tapas

  • Tostas de Atún en manteca colorá de citricos y polvo de ibérico

Fresh tuna sitting on a toasted tortilla spread with lard that had been mixed with the zest and juice of an orange to cut through the fatty fish. Served with tiny pieces of cured Spanish ham which added a necessary salty intensity to the tuna. Beautiful.

  • Salmorejo cordobés con Mojama de Atún y huevos de codorniz

This dish was delicious – sweet salmorejo that had cured meat and boiled egg served with. However, instead of cured jamón; mojama (cured tuna). The mojama cube adding salty seasoning to the intensely sweet salmorejo topped with a boiled quail’s egg. Simple and wonderful in one bite!  And then finish the bowl of sweet, silky salmorejo.  We had a competition on our table to see who could get their bowl the cleanest – if my memory (after all that wine) serves me correctly the winner was Owen – as I cheated and used my finger!  Finger-licking-good!!

  • Brocheta de Atún con espuma de soja

Tuna, wrapped in nori (maki roll) with pearled rice and fried.  Served with a little wasabi sauce and soya cream.  Originally meant to be a tempura dish, however some of the diners expressed the need for some dishes to be gluten-free.  Therefore Ian with Chef Lede redesigned the finish to this dish so that it would still have the same structure with crispy pieces to provide contrast in texture.  Just as tasty and gluten-free.

A modo de Japo-Andaluz

  • Tartar de Atún, condimentos y mezclum de hierbas con nieve de manzana

A very light and delicate balance of flavours in this dish. The tuna tartar was sublime – accompanied by a tangle of zesty-green, fresh leaves. I was watching Chef Lede’s assistant add the green apple ‘snow’ to the dish; a workman should never blame his tools but the ‘snow’ was snowballing onto the plate as opposed to his anticipated light flutter. He did try to clear some of the snow-flurry off but his fingers literally ploughed through the delicate tartar! Perhaps creating an apple sorbet or freeze-drying the apple shavings previously would have created the desired effect. However, I loved this dish, I thought it would make a great light lunch or even a starter at a dinner party – fantastic.

  • Sashimi de ventresca de Atún con helado de Wasabi y vinagreta de Yuzu

Tuna belly sashimi. Wasabi ice-cream. Yuzu vinaigrette. Sounds simple – but this dish got me very excited! The wasabi ice-cream sitting on top of the sashimi was such a clever touch to what was already a gorgeous dish. Tuna belly is a prized ingredient in sushi and sashimi – sometimes referred to as the ‘king of ingredients’ due to its rich, fatty flavour. The yuzu, a kind of japanese citrus fruit, with its aromatic, almost floral flavour provided a an acidic backnote to cut through the fatty tuna – absolutely delicious.

  • Tataki de lomo negro de Atún con su ajoblanco – ajonegro

Tuna tenderloin of dark meat sitting on ajoblanco (aka white gazpacho: almonds, garlic, bread, water, oil and vinegar). The tenderloin was meaty and served in slices showing us the quality of the meat. Seared on the outside and quiveringly rare in the centre. The ajoblanco with its caviar and balsamic notes providing necessary tang and to what was otherwise a sublime dish.

beautiful, tasty, fantastic, absolutely delicious, sublime

I didn’t eat the ajonegro as the idea of bitter burnt garlic didn’t appeal to me – but then again was I meant to? And this is what I absolutely love about eating at El Capote on these evenings – it’s not just fuel consumption but a multisensory experience where diner must look, touch, smell, taste, think before taking the culinary plunge.

A modo de guisos de toda la vida pero a mi manera

  • Lomo blanco de Atún en tomate con su pellejito

Tenderloin of white meat in a tomato sauce. Again another winner. We’ve all had tuna in tomato before. I used to have tuna in tomato with pasta as a student but never as good at this! It goes to show how the quality of the product is what Mediterranean cooking is all about – simple dishes where the product sets the standard for excellence.

  • Patata de feria, Galete de Atún con papas en su papel de plata

“I’m sorry everyone but the next dish went a bit wrong. The foil paper that the potato is cooked in has stuck to the jacket skin – you’re going to have to peel it off but the inside is delicious!”

Was the voice of Ian as he served us up the next dish. With regulars heckling the man demanding a discount and newcomers trying to explain to their fellow diners that everything had been fantastic so far so they had no problem with this, the Patatas arrived at the table. A hush descended on the room…

…very clever. The foil was edible silver leaf! Cutting through the potato revealed flaked tuna (reminiscent of El Huerto De Lede). The potato sat in a light broth adding seasoning and flavour to the whole dish.

  • Albóndiga de Atún encebollado

By now most of us couldn’t have thought of how else tuna was going to be served and then suddenly we were given a massive tuna meatball each! However, a delicious tuna meatball. An absolute shame that as we cut into the tuna meatball none of the eggs were runny as this would have been impressive on the eye but the flavour was still there. Delicious.

The entire evening’s menu degustacion of tuna dish upon tuna dish was deliriously excellent.  However, if I have to pick the dish that was my favourite of the night it has to be the Tuna Tataki con su ajoblanco/ajonegro.

dessert

As a little bonus, we were given a dessert that wasn’t on the menu: pinenuts, vanilla ice-cream and basil sauce served with a parmesan melt.  Fresh and zingy – an excellent way to liven the palate after the rich dishes we had just been given the pleasure to share with eachother.

What’s next?  It’s surely got to be El Capote’s Greatest Hits.  I know which ones would make my top 5 – which are yours?

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:

“The 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 – this 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°C.  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.

IMG_2389

Enjoy!