Monthly Archives: April 2015

Suffolk seabass and Norfolk asparagus

Suffolk seabass Norfolk asparagus

I didn’t actually cook this meal but I ate it, and it was so glorious I just felt the need to share the glory. And the reason for the glory – although it was of course masterfully cooked (by Lady Nick, in Southwold, which is where we were) – is the simplicity of the ingredients, plus that they were all local: wild sea bass, caught on Saturday morning, eaten that night with a lemon, butter and caper sauce and Norfolk asparagus, first crop; plus delicious purple sprouting broccoli and a giant mushroom baked with garlic.

I have always been a bit spooked by the idea of cooking whole fish, partly because I’m wimpily freaked out by the head and tail, but Lady Nick de-mystified the process mainly by leading by example, but also informing me that it’s good to keep the head on because when the eyes go white it means it’s cooked (bit gross, but helpful). Also, I think it does taste better cooked whole than in fillets.

Now that asparagus is in season I strongly feel that we are all morally obliged to eat it every single night for the next six weeks, ideally with dollops of freshly made mustardy mayonnaise. But that is another story and another blog post. So, stand by for that. (I know: hold on to your hats!).

Oh yes and the other thing to mention is I just wrote  this guest mumsnet post  about the worry that people think you are making it all up when you have to declare that you are on a restricted diet. (I used to the the person doing the eye-rolling, which is how I know that this sometimes occurs). Does that resonate with you?

Whole roasted seabass

One whole sea bass, gutted cleaned and de-scaled

3 lemons

2 tablespoons capers

50-100 g of butter (depending on how many are eating)

Preheat oven to 180 fan/200 non-fan. Wash the sea bass inside and out, and pat dry with kitchen paper. Score across the fish and through the skin 4-5 times on each side, then put it on a large piece of oiled foil, big enough to wrap it up loosely. Season inside and out then stuff the inside with slices of 1 lemon, a tablespoon of capers and some chunks of butter. Rub the skin with a bit of olive oil and loosely wrap the parcel. Then bake for about 25 minutes depending on size (remembering the eyes-going-white rule). Let it rest for 5 or 10 minutes before opening the parcel.

While it is resting, make the sauce by putting the butter in a pan with the zest of one lemon and the juice of 2, a table spoon of capers and salt and pepper. Melt and drizzle onto the fish, which you have cut off the bone into squares then serve with your veg of choice (as long as that includes asparagus).

Stuffed chicken breasts wrapped in proscuitto

chicken stuffed with artichoke basil and garlicchicken stuffed with artichoke basil and garlic 2

 

I have come to accept that I really really don’t like saying the word breast and, perhaps for that reason, chicken breasts are always known as ‘beasts’ in our house. But  beasts on their own can be a bit dull, dry and almost like a job-of-work to get through, I find. Stuffed beasts, however, open a doorway to an exciting new world of gorgeous beastliness. But I had forgotten the joy they can bring until the other night, when our supermarket delivery turned up without the legs’n’thighs I had ordered and chicken fillets instead. Since we were marooned in the middle of Suffolk, we had to make do.

As luck would have it, we also had some parma ham to wrap them in which is quite crucial to this concept, if you want to stuff each beast so full that the filling is bursting out and needs containing (just to clarify, that is exactly what you want to do).

And the good thing about these is that the filling can consist, pretty much, of whatever blitz-able stuff you happen to have in your fridge or cupboard. With this in mind I try always to have a jar of M&S artichokes, which have no added sugar, and which are good for this (as well as antipasti and salads). I have gone down the sun-dried tomatoes. basil and cheese route which works very well too.  I’m sure there are as-yet-undiscovered options and I will of course keep you posted.

You can serve these with whatever you like but a dollop of home-made mayo and a green salad with a really mustardy dressing is a pretty good bet.

Stuffed beasts (serves 2-4 depending on greed levels)

4 chicken breast fillets

parma ham (allow 2 pieces per fillet)

1/2 to 3/4 jar artichokes

large chunk cheddar or smoked cheddar or gruyere (to taste)

handful of mushrooms

2 spring onions

3 cloves garlic

Sorry to say that this really is so much easier If you have a food processor BUT I have done it by hand in the absence of one – it is just a bit more laborious.

Put the oven on to 200 and then put all the ingredients (bar the chicken and parma ham) into your food processor and blitz into a very fine paste.

Use a very sharp knife to cut a slit lengthways across each chicken fillet then scoop a couple of spoons of the filling inside. It will try to fall out but don’t let it! Then firmly bind  each stuffed fillet with two slices of parma ham wrapped side-by-side. It’s easiest to complete the whole process one-by-one.

Put a liberal splash of oil into a roasting pan then baste either side of each wrapped chicken in the oil and cook for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of your beasts.

Serve with whatever veg/salad/mayo combo floats your boat.

Bit of a pause…

TORY COOKING 2

So. While I am pleased to announce that normal blogging service is about to be resumed, I just thought I would mention – for  any enquiring minds that might want to know – that last month’s bloggage was a bit interrupted by two other writing projects (one a bit off-topic, one very much on) which may also tickle your fancy…

I was EXTREMELY excited when the very fabulous woman&home magazine – which knows, loves and reveres food, and takes the whole business very seriously indeed, and rightly so – invited me to become a guest blogger for them, which has been great fun. You can read my first three posts here:

http://www.womanandhome.com/recipes/537161/how-to-eat-blog

Also (this is the off topic part) it’s been a while in the pipeline but last month my book ‘Things I wish I’d known (women tell the truth about motherhood)’ was published. It’s a fabulous collection of essays by 20 different women (ranging from Emma Freud to Jenny Colgan to Adele Parks) about their experience of motherhood, and a sort of antidote to all the ‘How to’ books about parenthood that are out there (which I found REALLY unhelpful when I first became a mother). ‘Twas a labour of love, but I’m really thrilled with the end result. And now it is out in the real world. Here is a bit more info:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Things-Wish-Id-Known-Motherhood/dp/1848318367

Anyway, now I’m back on the straight and narrow so: stand by for some more recipes, coming to this blog near you, very soon.