Pan-fried plaice with capers, mint & lemon

Plaice with capers, lemon & mint

Plaice is a delicious fish.  It’s often over-looked on menus and fish slabs for some reason, but I love it!  It’s extremely quick and easy to cook, versatile (grill, fry, bake or poach) and is fabulous to eat – its fine, moist texture and delicate flavour making it ideal for family meals and entertaining alike.  Better still it is high in protein, low in fat and calories.

It’s in season for most of the year from May – December, but at its best in the summer.  When buying plaice I look for nice bright orange spots on it’s pretty skin and perky, clear eyes.

Try it in this light, quick and easy recipe.

Prepare 10 minutes
Cook 10 minutes
Serves 2

2 plaice fillets
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
8 cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp nonpareille (baby) capers, drained
Finely grated zest 1 unwaxed lemon
4 sprigs mint

  1. Warm a large frying pan over a high heat.  Rub a little olive oil over the fish and season.  Cook in the hot pan for 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden and thoroughly cooked.  Remove to warm plates.
  2. Add the tomatoes to the pan with one tablespoon of oil and cook for 1 minute until just starting to soften.
  3. Add the remaining oil, capers, zest and mint and cook for a further minute, stirring often, until fragrant.  Season.
  4. Spoon over the fish.  Serve with seasonal veg or salad and lemon wedges to squeeze over.
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Sticky fig, red onion & pine nut focaccia

Sticky fig and red onion focaccia

This delicious and easy bread recipe makes a perfect accompaniment to scores of dishes and is also amazing on its own spread with lashings of Taleggio or goat’s cheese.

Preparation: 20 minutes, plus proving time
Cooking: 20 minutes
Serves: 8

250g strong white bread flour
1 tsp (5g) salt
7g sachet easy blend yeast
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
2 figs, cut into thin wedges
1 small red onion, cut into thin wedges
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 large sprig rosemary
1 tbsp pine nuts
Maldon sea salt, for serving

  1. Place the flour, salt, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and 200ml warm water (1 part boiling:1 part cold water) into the bowl of a stand mixer. Knead with a dough hook on a low setting for 15 minutes until soft.  Alternatively knead in a mixing bowl by hand.
  2. Cover the bowl with a lightly oiled piece of kitchen film and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size. Turn the dough into a square tin 20 x 20 cm in size and press it into the corners.  Cover with the film again and leave for a further 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 220C, gas mark 7. Meanwhile toss the fig and onion wedges with the molasses.  Press them randomly into the top of the dough, together with little sprigs of rosemary and the pine nuts.  Drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.
  4. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and drizzle with more oil and sea salt flakes, before cutting into squares to serve.  Great spread with soft taleggio or goat’s cheese.
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Gone fishing

 

watching the boats come inWhilst UK fish stocks aren’t what they used to be there is still an awful lot of fantastic fish out there.  Supporting your local fish monger or getting down to the coast and chatting to fishermen directly is such a joy and helps keep the industry going.

Recently on a trip to Hythe, on the Kent coast, we visited Griggs of Hythe for brunch.  It was a beautiful, crisp spring morning and the hour was most definitely civilised (previous forays to fishing harbours and markets around the world have usually required a 4 or 5am wake up call!).
Whilst walking on the beach a fishing boat came into view and I watched with anticipation as the crew winched the vessel onto the pebble-ridden beach.   Their cargo was soon revealed, in laden baskets and crates thrown down onto the beach, each one causing increasing excitement from an ever-growing crowd.

The morning's catch
The morning’s catch

Whelks came first, quickly followed by a crate of beautiful looking cod and bass.  Then the stars of the show were revealed – local lobster and scallops sitting pretty in a melange of other briny finds.  The lobster weren’t as excited to be there as we were.  They were clearly up for a fight and in feisty spirits as they grabbed onto everything they could find, including each other.

lovely lobster

 

 

 

Not being able to resist the thought of cooking and eating something so fresh and so special, I was quick to secure a price for both lobster and slipped them, pincers down, into my bag. We made a quick but excited exit and returned with great anticipation to our kitchen.

The lobster were dispatched as humanely as possible (placed into the freezer for 15 minutes to become drowsy) and cooked simply in boiling water, before being served with a delicious and easy beurre blanc.

Click here for a list of sustainable fish.

 

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Love is in the air

Lobster tails with mayonnaise

If you’re cooking for Valentine’s Day this year then something quick and easy is just the ticket – leaving you plenty of time for eating, drinking and romance!

Lobster tails are luxurious and a lovely treat – they’re also incredibly versatile and super-speedy to cook.

Try them split in half, brushed with butter and grilled until opaque and thoroughly cooked.

Make your own mayonnaise to go with it by whisking an egg yolk, some lemon juice and seasoning together, then very slowly adding light olive or sunflower oil, drop by drop, until thick and unctuous.

You can do this in a food processor for ease and speed too.  Delicious with chips and salad on the side.

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Happy New Year!

It’s Chinese New Year – the year of the Rooster.  If you don’t think it’s inappropriate to celebrate by eating chicken (!) then try this delicious, family-friendly (not too spicy) and very easy roast recipe.  The slow cooker version can be found in my book – Slow Cooking.

Whole roast Chinese chicken with plums

Prepare 15 minutes, plus resting
Cook 1 hour 25 minutes
Serves 4

1.5kg whole chicken
1 tbsp five spice powder
1 tbsp sesame oil
600g plums, halved and stoned
100ml dry fino sherry
200ml chicken stock
1 tbsp clear honey

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C, gas mark 5. Place the chicken in a roasting tin and pat the skin dry with kitchen paper.  Mix the five spice powder and the oil together. Rub the mixture over the chicken as evenly as possible. Place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes.
  2. Place half of the plums around the chicken, and pour the sherry and stock over them. Return to the oven and cook for another 45 minutes.
  3. Add the remaining plums and continue to cook for another 25 minutes or until the chicken is golden (cover the chicken with foil if it is browning too fast) and the juices run clear when tested with a skewer inserted into the thickest part between the leg and the breast.
  4. Place the chicken on a platter and allow to rest in a warm place. Warm the plum mixture in the roasting tin over a high heat. Stir in the honey to taste and season well. Carve the chicken and serve with the plum sauce, steamed oriental greens and rice or noodles.

Image from Slow Cooking by Katie Bishop.  Photograph© David Munns

 

 

 

 

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Burn’s Night

Burn's night supper - haggis, neeps & tatties, whisky sauce by Waitrose

January 25th is Burn’s night.  Time to celebrate all that is Scottish and of course all that is haggis.

I think haggis is really delicious, so I will be cooking up a quick Burn’s Night mid-week supper to mark the day, as I do every year.  It’s always so easy – haggis is a most amazing ready-meal.

It’s warm and hearty and takes minutes to cook in the microwave if you’re in a real hurry.  If you have more time you simply put it into a preheated oven in a dish with a little water and leave it to heat through thoroughly.  So it couldn’t be easier.

A drizzle of whisky over the top just before serving will make all the difference, as will a simple whisky and cream sauce to spoon alongside.  If you want a guide give this tried and tested Waitrose recipe a go – as seen in their photo above.

Neeps and tatties are a traditional accompaniment.  Neeps actually refer to swede rather than, as the name might suggest, parsnips or turnips.  Mash them up with some butter and maybe a dash of cream, a little nutmeg and seasoning and you’re ready to eat.

 

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Winter warmer

This is such an easy recipe and a brilliant option when cooking for the family, or for friends.  If you like it, then why not try a variation with different fillings such as harissa and cumin seeds, or sundreid tomato paste, olives and pine nuts?

1-1.5kg rolled shoulder of lamb, bone removed
2 tbsp baby capers in brine, rinsed and drained
2 garlic cloves, peeled
50g tin anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained
2 fresh lemon thyme sprigs, leaves only
2 tbsp cold water

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 6-8 hours, plus resting
Serves 4

  1. Remove any strings from the lamb and un-roll. Place it fat side down on a board.
  2. Place the capers, garlic, anchovies and the thyme leaves into a mini processor or use a pestle and mortar and blitz or pound to make a coarse paste. Spread the paste over the meat-side of the lamb. Re-roll the lamb to form its original shape and tie with kitchen string at 2cm intervals.
  3. Place the meat in the slow cooker dish and drizzle over the water. Cover with the lid and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until tender.
  4. Remove the lamb from the slow cooker, place on a board and leave to rest for 10 minutes before carving into thick slices, discarding the string. Serve with roasted new potatoes and dollops of Greek yogurt.

Fab for the freezer, make in advance and freeze either raw or cooked for up to three months. Either way, defrost thoroughly before use.

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