Archive for the ‘Seafood’ Category

How to prepare…

Posted: August 21, 2016 in Seafood, Summer, Uncategorized
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When on holiday in the Mediterranean we all like to feast on deep fried squid rings; sweet and succulent to the bite with a lemon spritz.  For those of us that live on the shores of the Med, we are fortunate enough to dine on this delicious cephalopod as often as the seas allow us.  However, for those of you less fortunate, squid or as it is now trendily referred to on restaurant menus, calamari, is something you can only long for on your summer hols.

If you can’t wait for next year to enjoy delicious calamari rings and those you find in restaurants back home don’t quite measure up, then your only option is to purchase whole squid and turn them into calamari rings yourself.

“Can’t be bothered doing that,” I hear you say, “I’m too squeamish!” scream some, “I don’t want that mess in my kitchen,” justify the others BUT this is a work of mere moments.

All major supermarkets sell fresh squid and those that have a proper fishmongers onsite will clean and prep them for you, should you wish, however cleaning and preparing squid is not daunting.  Follow these simple steps below:

1st: Hold the squid firmly above the eyes and pull the body away from the hood.

2nd: Cut the tentacles off by holding the squid below the eyes.  Take care not to burst the ink sack as this will be very messy. Avoid the beak (mouth) as this will not be pleasant to eat, this can be found inside the head, near the eyes.  Reserve the tentacles and discard the remainder of the body.

3rd: Remove the cartilage from the inside of the hood.

4th: Now thoroughly clean the hood, inside and outside.
Remove the pinkish layer of skin and wings.  These come off easily.
Turn the hood inside out, I find this easiest to do by pushing a chopstick from the tip until the hood has turned inside out.
Give the inside a good scrape with a knife and rinse to get rid of any gritty, slimy traces.

5th: Turn the hood inside out again, taking care not to rupture it, this is now ready to cook.

Slice into rings and pass through seasoned flour before deep frying for delicious calamari rings.  Wedge of lemon on the side.

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Alternatively, open the calamari hood and score the flesh on both sides and grill over hot coals – for a true taste of summer.  I love the way they curl as the heat hits them trapping any salsa / dressing juices that you drizzle over.

CalamariSalad

photo taken from http://www.taste.com.au

 

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I know this is probably an over-generalisation but in my travels in the USA (both in the past and more recently) I feel as if eateries in USA make a great deal of brunch as opposed to a normal breakfast – like a pumped-up breakfast; on steroids – You still get fresh OJ and a cup of coffee but you’ll also get fries with that!   Ask for plain toast and butter and some establishments would be offended that there was nothing in their extensive brunch menu that you wanted and they would struggle to provide this measly option for you as the toast would be considered a side to accompany your pancakes, Eggs Benedict or ommelette!

Some of the simpler breakfast options were a French patisserie and a cup of coffee to eat on the go, however, these occasions were few and far between.  Hence, on some days we were only able to have brunch and dinner as we were so full-up.

Eggs Benedict
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Eggs Benedict

One of my all-time favourite breakfast/brunch dishes is Eggs Benedict.  Poached eggs sitting on roast ham, resting snugly on English Muffins and covered with hollandaise sauce.  At least that’s the way they come in New York; which is magnificent.

On the West Coast, Eggs Benedict was an adulterated version of the classic and arrived on food platters to feed a family of four!  In LA, these were served with a side of oil drenched French fries and toast!

Hash House a Go Go; Las Vegas

Hash House a Go Go, advertises itself as “Twisted farm food” – saw its popularity rise after IMG_2355a Man V Food Challenge and is almost as much a tourist attraction as it is a 24hr cafe.  The menu choices and portion sizes are out of this world; if somewhat vulgar.  Drink combos such as their BLT Bloody Mary which arrives in a tall glass with a romaine lettuce leaf and a slice of bacon sticking out of the glass – I could do with one of those now – are just as obscene.

HHaGoGo’s extensive brunch menu of pancakes and waffles also has 4 different versions of Eggs Benedict.  I gave Andy’s Sage Fried Chicken Hash House Benedict a go – the very same one that Adam Richman ploughed through on Man V Food.  I was amazed that the waitress could carry the huge platter in her hand with such ease and set it down delicately in front of me (let’s not forget she was carrying two dishes to the table at the time).

I remember holding my head in both hands and whispering, “Dear Lord, what have I done?!”

Picture a platter, filled with mashed potatoes topped with wilted spinach, slices of tomato, more bacon and a mountain of scrambled eggs; sitting proudly on this, a huge sage fried chicken breast escalope skewered in place with a rosemary spear, all smothered in a chipotle cream sauce.  Oh I forgot to mention the English Muffin that was in there somewhere as well…

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…as you’ve probably gathered, on 19th July; food won.

Seafoodseafood risotto OLIVES

The other ubiquitous West Coast food staple is seafood, more specifically prawn and lobster.  In Vegas, most restaurants have a plethora of lobster/prawn inspired dishes on their menu – you could devour a plate of prawns whilst playing on the slots if you wanted.

Of all the meals I had in Vegas, the stand out dish was at Bellagio’s Olives by celebrity chef Todd English.  A stunning seafood risotto that arrived loaded with clams, razor clams, shrimp, fish, crab and lobster set in a saffron broth.  Delicately divine.

Los Angeles

San Francisco

I’ve never experienced a winter so cold as a San Francisco summer!  – Mark Twain.IMG_2789 (Edited)

And on cold, misty days by the sea – a bowl of heart warming soup hits the spot.  I know
that clam chowder is a New England culinary creation but serve it in a hollowed out Boudin sourdough bread and you’ve got something that is totally San Francisco.  Even though the locals don’t eat this, tourists queue up at all of Fisherman Wharf’s seafood establishments for a taste of their chowder.  Boudin’s Bakery being one of the most popular.

Another delicacy is crab – Dungeness Crab – served whole either steamed or roasted in garlic butter or in crab cakes, or served with garlic noodles.  I enjoyed my snow crab legs thoroughly as they poked out of a mountain of shrimp and whitefish in Bubba Gump’s “Boat Trash”.

Cycling from Fisherman’s Wharf, through the Marina district, over the Golden Gate Bridge and into the village of Sausalito, you work up a pretty good appetite and the Seafood Peddler’s Daily Special of Clam chowder (in a bowl) and pound of lobster served with ‘slaw and corn on the cob was exactly what I needed.  Clearly not conducive to cycling back.

Therefore, a ferry trip back to Fisherman’s Wharf is essential to help the food settle as well as breathing in the sea air to open up your appetite for the next onslaught of sea-crustacean delights.

Please note that the photos above are only some of the food memories I’ve experienced throughout the past two weeks, more often than not, either excitement or greed, or a little of both would take over my usual self-control and I’d forget to take the photo before ploughing through the dish.

It has now been a week since I got back from my hols in Las Vegas, LA and San Francisco and even though I enjoyed every mouthful of food I am glad to return my belly (and gout!) to a proper food regime with enforced portion control.

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:

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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!

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!

 

 

 

One of my all time favourite restaurant dishes is fillet steak with garlic prawns – served rare! But whenever I order this some diners will always question the whole meat and seafood combo and whether it really works.

So what is Surf and Turf?

Surf and Turf or more commonly ‘Surf ‘n’ Turf’ or better still, ‘Beef ‘n’ Reef’ (Australian); is a restaurant term that refers to a dish incorporating both a portion of meat and a portion of seafood.  The term appears to have originated along the East Coast of the United States during the 60’s.  The “Surf” in the title clearly refers to seafood – usually lobster – but it can be any other type of crustacean.  “Turf” is any type of grass-fed land animal but usually refers to beef in the form of steak.

The steak part is usually grilled with dark brown grill marks clearly showing its proximity to fire!  The seafood is usually boiled, baked or grilled to retain its contrasting purity in both texture and colour.

Whereas sceptics might argue their dislike because of the decadence of the dish with its extravagant ingredients (traditionally fillet mignon and lobster) others will defend the complementary pairings where one item works almost as a seasoning; a vehicle to carry flavour e.g. frying salmon fillets in bacon fat is about boosting flavour, wrapping the salmon in bacon is about insulating the fish from the intense heat of the grill and stopping them from sticking to the pan whilst also continuously basting them in salty, smoky fat that renders out of the bacon!

Here are some of my Surf ‘n’ Turf home favourites:

Salmon wrapped in streaky bacon, Lamb shanks with Anchovy and red wine, Spaghetti with Prawn and Chorizo

Salmon with streaky bacon is very simple to make.  One piece of Salmon fillet per person, wrapped in streaky bacon (OR use lardons should you be cooking with larger pieces of salmon).  Please don’t skip making the mushy peas which add a grassy ‘turf-like’ note to the dish.

The lamb shanks must be cooked for a long time to become fall-off-the-bone tender.  Unless using a pressure cooker or a slow cooker, cook in the oven at a low heat for 2 hrs+.  Do yourself a favour – if entertaining with this do not bother telling anyone about the anchovy in the dish as people have an immediate prejudice against these salty fish.  They dissolve into the red wine meaty juices and add a saltiness that you just cannot get with salt and no one will know that they are there!

Spaghetti with prawns and chorizo is just a pasta version of a stylish restaurant starter: Scallops and prawns / black pudding.

By adding the pasta you can make the prawns go further; the chorizo renders out its smoky, paprika fat which coats the spaghetti.  Substituting the prawns for scallops could make this a more decadent alternative.

So if you you’re a surf ‘n’ turf cynic why not give one of these combos a go?  You never know – you may even make some discoveries of your own…

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.

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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.

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Enjoy!

  • In the past, no matter what time we went to bed at and no matter how much toasting to the new year had gone on, someone (Gran and Mum) had to wake up early and get started on preparing and cooking a New Year’s lunch for a family of 7+.  On most occasions, the same food as that on Christmas Day was painstakingly prepared and elaborately presented throughout a lavish meal where no one – not even the dog – could could eat any more.

brussels-sprouts

Buttons ready to pop and the brussel sprouts working their magic, everyone then descended onto the sofa to sleep off the meal as well as the previous night’s excesses.

Then in the evening, even though still full to bursting, a cheese board or sandwich were necessary to stave off the hunger pangs that would then attack during the night.  Or the best one: “I could really do with something sweet,” as you slice into the banoffee pie for the third time!

“Buttons ready to pop and the brussel sprouts working their magic”

However, this year we came up with an alternative idea. Primarily to try to eat with some modicum of sense but also to accommodate a very necessary lie-in. We decided upon starting the day with a New Years Brunch and then having a Roast Dinner for supper.

New Year’s Brunch

  • Ricotta Hotcakes with Strawberries, Raspberries and Blueberries
  • Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Bagels
  • Cooked Breakfast (scrambled eggs, hash browns, sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes, baked beans and toast)

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Whereas everyone else had juices to wash their breakfast down with I hit the jackpot with my choice of breakfast beverage, CHAMPAGNE!  So as not to encourage the idea that I may appear to be an absolute dipsomaniac please let me explain:  On New Year’s Eve I had put a bottle of champagne (not cava) into the freezer to chill whilst I got on preparing the food for the evening party and forgot about it.  5 hours later when I went to pour out some glasses of bubbly to toast the New Year with the champers was solid!  Thankfully M&S had given us a complimentary bottle for spending so much on food that my actions were not totally disastrous.

New Year’s Supper

  • Scallops and King Prawns San Jacques
  • Roast beef with horseradish gravy, roast potatoes, green veg and Yorkshire Pudding.
  • Warmed Brownies and Ice-Cream (for the kids!)

This was a much more appreciative way of preparing food.  The brunch consisting of smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels, ricotta hotcakes with summer fruits and champagne was on the right side of decadence to herald in the new year.  The fry-up very necessary at filling us all up until dinner time.

“breakfast with champagne was on the right side of decadence”

New Year’s dinner was delicate and flavoursome, gutsy and well-balanced.  The beef was prepared with a horseradish gravy and cooked rare, potatoes par boiled and then roasted in goose fat served with steamed vegetables.  Below you can find the recipe for my simple Scallops and King Prawn San Jacques.

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1st: Prepare the bechamel (white) sauce:

  • Bring 300mls of milk to the boil with bay leaves, a couple of rasps of fresh nutmeg, peppercorns and salt.  You can also add a couple of cooking cloves but I tend to leave them out.  Remove it from the heat and leave to infuse for 15mins.  
  • To make it easier to work with I then strain the milk into a measuring jug for easy pouring.
  • Melt a wodge of butter in a saucepan and add 2 tablespoons of flour.  Cook gently, stirring, for 1 minute.  This is now called a roux.
  • On a low heat, add the milk infusion a bit at a time whisking it into the roux before pouring in the next bit.  Continue like this until all the milk is absorbed.
  • If you want to make this a cheese sauce add your cheese at this stage.  Stir it gently until all the cheese has melted.  Take care as this has the tendency to catch on the bottom of the pan if your hob is too fierce or you discontinue stirring.

2nd: In a shallow saucepan, fry the king prawns until pink.  Decant them into an oven dish.

3rd: In the same saucepan, quick fry the scallops for around 30secs a side.  Add these to the prawns in the oven dish.  Cover over with the bechamel sauce and sprinkle with parmesan cheese &/or breadcrumbs.  Place under the grill until it begins to colour.

If preparing individual portions, try to use the actual scallop shells instead of an oven dish to serve the scallops and prawns.

Delicious…

Happy New Year!