Monthly Archives: February 2015

Easy spicy salmon supper

peppers pan frying and white beans cookingSicilian salmon, pan roasted peppers, white beans and salad 1

When Tom was a-wooin’ me; days which were happy indeed, he invited me around for supper to his flat in Camberwell and valiantly cooked a meal for me (without any of the bossy input that he would soon grow to know and love). I will never forget going into his kitchen for the first time, and looking round for clues about this person who I already knew I wanted to marry (although I was keeping that to myself for the time being).  I saw 7 cherry tomatoes lined up on the counter, beside a recipe that called for… ‘7 cherry tomatoes’. As it turned out, that was one of the biggest clues I could have been offered: extreme precision and a follower of recipes – to the letter. As it happens, I couldn’t be more different on both fronts – if a recipe calls for 7 tomatoes I generally double it, because the more is the merrier, right? – so I was at first slightly alarmed to be in the presence of such a law abiding recipe follower. However, after a life time of slap-dashery, I soon began to see the sense in following recipes – at least the first time I cook something.  And, more importantly, the second supper he cooked me – Sicilian salmon – was so simple, and yet so delicious, that it has become part of our family repertoire, to the point that if ever I ask Tom what we should cook for supper he will think for a moment and say….”Sicilians?”.  Every time we have it, a little part of me re-lives the glory days of Camberwell.  And it is this that we cooked last night.

Sicilian Salmon

4 fillets of salmon

drizzle or spray oil

1 lime

chilli flakes

paprika

Heat the oven to 200 degrees and put the salmon into a lightly oiled oven-proof dish. Cut the lime in half and squeeze liberally over the fillets of salmon (keep them huddled together while you are seasoning, for maximum and even coverage). Then drizzle or spray some oil – just a tiny bit, to avoid burning. Shake as many chilli flakes as you tend to care for, plus a liberal scattering of paprika, and salt and pepper. Then cook for about 10-15 minutes, until cooked – which is obviously a subjective concept. I, being an non-sophisticate,  prefer it to tend towards overdone, with slightly crispy edges, so if you are that way inclined, just leave your fillet in for a bit longer than the others.

We ate it with garlicky pan-fried romano peppers chopped and pan fried. And of course the mashed beans (that are still enjoying a bit of a moment in our house). And a crispy salad. The whole thing was ready in less than half an hour.

Tom’s fish curry

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For some reason I’ve always dismissed curry as too complicated – to cook, I mean. Then Tom (when he was wooing me) made me this coconut fish curry, which was quite simply sublime. I mean, I couldn’t quite believe how utterly delicious it was.

For ages I revelled in not knowing how to make it, which meant that Tom had to cook it, leaving me free to lie on the sofa reading. However, I decided that 2015 was the year that I would combat my curry fear, so last night we made it together.

And if you, too, fear the curry, then I am here to spread the good news: you need fear no more. This curry is really, really simple. But still sublime, nonetheless, and the perfect solution to Friday night curry cravings.

We served it with roasted aubergines drizzled with a dressing of home-made yoghurt with coriander, chilli and a dash of extra virgin olive oil. Plus green beans and tender stem broccoli, steamed then quickly fried in olive oil, mustard seed, garlic and a tea spoon of garam masala.

Poppadoms, naan bread and rice optional would have been great too. But you cannot have everything (more is the pity).

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 medium onions

A whole (medium) head of garlic, peeled (don’t be spooked by this – it sounds preposterous but honestly is not overpowering)

2 large thumb sized chunks (about 3 inch/1.5 inches) of ginger, peeled

1 de-seeded red chilli finely chopped (this is to taste, so less if you don’t like it hot, with seeds if you do)

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

2 teaspoons coriander seeds

1 teaspoon mustard seed

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

3 teaspoons garam masala

Half a lime

Salt

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 cans coconut milk (you could use low fat if you prefer)

6 fillets of salmon (about 750g in total). You could use any kind of fish, but ideally use a firmer fish so it doesn’t disintegrate).

1 tablespoon coriander

Blitz together the onions, garlic and ginger in a food processor into a paste. If you don’t have a food processor, chop as finely as you can by hand, into a paste.

Dry fry the cumin, coriander, mustard, fennel seeds on a medium to high heat, keeping an eye on it. When you can smell the flavours and it starts to slightly smoke and pop, put them into a pestle and mortar and grind into a powder (rolling rather than pounding). This sounds like a faff but the flavours are so much more intense and fragrant than ready ground powders that it’s really worth doing. Add the turmeric, and the garam masala (which just means ‘mixed spice’, so varies, but usually has things like cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, which spices things up even more) and a generous pinch of Maldon sea salt. Add 2 tablespoons oil to the powder and stir to create a thick paste.

Put a splash of vegetable oil into a large pan (we use a non-stick wok-pan which is good for stirring but any would do). Fry the onion/garlic/ginger mix on a medium heat, stirring gently, for five minutes or so. Add the paste. At this point your kitchen will be infused with intensely delicious curry flavours that seriously excite the palate! Turn down the heat a tad and stir gently for another few minutes – you want the onions to be cooked.

Once they are cooked, pour in the coconut milk, add the chopped chilli and a squeeze of lime juice, and bring up to a simmer. Turn down and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Taste it at this point, and season to taste.

If you have people coming over and want to be organised, you can do all of the above in advance, turn off the heat then just leave it for a couple of hours to be heated up in order to cook the fish.

If you are pushing on, this is a good moment to chop the salmon into smallish – about half inch – chunks and put into the spicy coconut milk. After a couple of minutes add most of the coriander, very finely chopped. Then cook for about ten minutes – or until the fish is cooked.

Serve garnished with the remaining coriander, roughly chopped. That’s it!

 

Ban-nutty cheesecake

BANANA PEANUT CHEESECAKE 2 BANANA PEANUT CHEESECAKE 1

I’ve long resigned myself to the fact that pudding is no longer on the menu for me, like ever: it’s just really hard to make a pudding without sugar, chocolate, cream, flour or any other grains and if you do, let’s face it, it’s not going to be very nice. Or it will be just fruit (fruit is not really pudding in my book). So, over the years I really have actually switched off the pudding switch and don’t even really feel hard done by any more when everyone else is tucking in to a delectable Tart Tatin or ice-cream with hot chocolate fudge sauce or a deliciously gooey banoffee cheesecake…Mmmmm. OK so I do feel a bit hard done by.

Still, hard done by is not the mother of invention. As I think I may have previously mentioned, it is greed!

And that is probably what spurred me on to adapt a recipe I saw in the Abel &Cole newsletter yesterday thinking all the while that it was probably going to be inedible – but – newsflash: it was not! It was scrumptious. And it was actual cheesecake. I fed it to two non-special needsers and, although they are family members and therefore more inclined than others to be kind to me, I honestly think that they liked it to.

Also, on the massive upside, this has only got FOUR ingredients and needs barely any cooking. This was my first foray into using coconut oil, which I’ve always been wary of for some reason and it was great – but (for the uninitiated, like me) does taste quite coconutty, which worked in favour of this recipe but if you are not a fan then you could try using butter instead. And the other thing, which feels like an exciting new vista to me is the discovery of whipping banana and peanut butter together; I used an electric whisk, it blended together fantastically and tastes sublime. OK, ready?

Ingredients 

300g almond flour (ground almonds)

100g coconut oil (melted)

5 ripe bananas

Four heaped tbsp peanut butter (I use  Whole Earth crunchy because it has no added sugar and also the crunch adds a certain something; you may feel differently and abhor the crunch, in which case use smooth.)

Cheesecake tin (8 and a half inches) with removable base.

Melt the coconut oil into a pan large enough to accommodate the almonds too. Once melted, stir in the almonds and mix thoroughly. Transfer and press into the base of the tin and cook at 180 degrees for 20-25 minutes until brown, then remove and cool. Meanwhile, whip the bananas and peanut butter together, adjusting quantities to taste. Once whipped, cover, and cool in fridge. When the base is completely cool and the topping is chilled, pour the topping onto the base, smooth flat, then cover with cling film (chef’s tip: if you allow the cling film to directly touch the topping all over, it will stop a skin from forming). Leave in the fridge to cool for a couple of hours. The original recipe suggests melting chocolate buttons and spreading on top as an extra layer, which, believe you me, if I could do I would. However, this was still pretty darn good and, best of all, it is an actual pudding – and not just fruit!