Category Archives: Fishy

Fish and twitter

I’m in a twitter dilemma.

I’m having trouble deciding what I should and shouldn’t be saying through the new age loudhailer. There are schools of thought (@micycle) that insist twitter should be used solely as a professional tool and if you’ve got something to say of a personal nature, keep it to facebook (or to yourself if you’re a normal person who can allow an emotion to pass through your brain without a primal urge to share it with as many people as you can). There are others though – columnists, for example – who spend much of their day sharing personal thoughts and experiences with massive armies of loyal followers who they don’t know from Adam. I suppose that’s their job though, so they’re allowed to do that, right?

The thing is, however much I’d like to be, I am not a columnist. And I wouldn’t dare to suggest that my life holds any interest for anyone apart from the odd stalker (I know you’re out there) and my mother (I’m sure you’re out there, but you’re not reading this anymore it seems). My friends certainly don’t give a shit – in fact even the more progressive of them take every opportunity to take the piss out of me for “being a gay and writing a big gay food blog”. Perhaps new friends are in order…

The thing is, I was given very specific advice when I first kicked off this blog to not, under any circumstances, talk about myself. People are simply not interested. But surely I’m allowed to share my opinion about things that affect us all (like children, flying on Virgin, doing nothing untoward in Las Vegas, writing blogs, being recursive) even if that opinion is articulated in a roundabout, meandering sort of way, and never really gets to a substantive conclusion.

So, I think I’m going to bumble along on under the assumption that one or two people may just have a vague interest in my musings (you can comment on here if you think I’m deluded) and get down with @caitlynmoran and @alaindebotton (now there’s a guy who’s got something to say that’s worth reading). Sorry @micycle.

Of course, I have a more fundamental problem, which makes much the above musing somewhat moot. When I said one or two people, it wasn’t simply a figure of speech. It is my sad reality that I have a grand total of bugger-all followers on twitter. Anyone who knows me or who is interested in what I’ve got to say is already on facebook getting all my tweets in the form of status updates hot off the press thanks to the wonders of modern technology, so there’s no reason for them to inflate my rather miserable followership (should that be fellowship? I don’t think so – sounds a bit religious).

So how do I persuade complete strangers to come and find me and follow me? Why do I even care? Well, at the onset of the new year, and at the deranged direction of my sister, I set out a goal to try to get over 500 views on this blog in a single day before the year is out (along with write a book, a song, conquer everest, become chief exec of NewsCorp…), and I’m not going to do that with 32 followers. Not even I’m that deluded. So if you’re reading this and you’re one of the lucky ones with the twitter equivalent of a big nob (in case it’s unclear, that means you have lots of followers. and no it’s not sexist), then go on – do me a favour and retweet…

All that said, I think I’m ignoring the elephant in the room here – what has all this got to do with fish? Feck all as it appears…

So – to business – this is a brilliant starter – I do it all the time and now my pa seems to love it too (that’s father, not assistant by the way…)

Potted salmon

Take a couple of really good salmon fillets and place them in a saucepan submerged in olive oil. Heat the pan very carefully so that the fillets slowly poach (but don’t fry) in the oil. This will take less than 10 minutes, and you may want to turn them over during the process. After about ten minutes take the pan off the heat and set aside to cool down.

Now chop, fairly roughly a small pack of good, mildly smoked salmon – nothing too smokey.

Once the poached salmon has cooled a little, carefully peel off the skin with your fingers along with the unsightly brown flesh, and falke the good stuff into a bowl, along with the smoked salmon.

Now add the following to the bowl: two tablespoons of capers a couple of spring onions and a handful of cornichons all chopped finely, the juice of a lemon, two or three large tablespoons of soured cream, a large teaspoon of dijon mustard, a little finely chopped and seeded chilli (for warmth) a handful of chopped coriander and salt and pepper to taste. Mix it all and serve at room temperature in ramekins with melba toast or crusty bread. And it freezes really well if you make too much (which I recommend you do..)

And here’s a really good variation using mackerel (although I still prefer the salmon one):

Smoked Mackerel Pate

Take a whole smoked mackerel (or fillets if you must) and gently fry in butter, without letting it colour. Once cooked, flake it into a bowl with your fingers, making sure you remove all the bones and dark brown flesh. Add another knob of butter and a teaspoon of mustard along with a little finely chopped parsley and a couple of tablesspoons of soured cream and the juice of half a lemon. Then add either finely chopped spring oninions or chives, mix together, season carefully and serve in ramekins again with crusty bread.

I really mean it this time…

I’ve tried three times to get back into doing this blog and this time I’m going to persevere. I promise…

After having made my now famous ceviche a few nights ago (yes, I have had people come up to me in the street telling me about how they loved it), I had left over stuff that needed eating and this turned out really well.

Coriander and chilli tuna
Finely chop a handful of fresh coriander and half a red chilli and sprinkle over course ground sea salt and black pepper (with a dash of cumin if you fancy it), then rub a couple of nice thick tuna steaks with olive oil and dip them into the spicy herby mix, covering them all over. Let them sit for as long as you like and then fry in a searing hot pan for 45 seconds on each side. Leave to stand and serve with a green salad with red onion, dressed simply with lemon or lime juice and a good olive oil, well seasoned.

Turns out that last night I still had some coriander left over, so I did the same as above but with beef fillet (and added freshly ground cumin, coriander and fennel seeds) – really really good…

Back with a herring and a mandoline

I used to turn over to those shopping channels from time to time and smirk at the infomercials selling the new “wonderchopper pro” a device so innovative that it would change your life by slicing, julienning(?) and chopping the hell out of anything that you dare to pass through its plastic protected jaws, but as far as I was concerned a good knife was all you needed to prepare anything you want. Year after year however, I’ve been gradually worn down to the point where I have come to the conclusion that a decent quality mandoline is probably a good idea. And so it was that this morning I succumbed and got myself one – not on the shopping channel – god no – but from somewhere probably just as bad – so bad in fact that I dare not speak its name.

Anyway, armed with mandoline and a desire to chop, I got myself some veg and a fish and set out trying to decide what to do with them. This is what I came up with:

Pan fried herring with courgette, onion and chilli salad

You need a herring for each person. Gut and fillet the herring and slice across the skin with a sharp knife (so that when you fry it, it doesn’t curl), then season the fillets and set aside.

Now take a courgette and julienne it, then put it in a bowl with finely sliced red onion, red chilli and basil or coriander leaves. Season well and add the juice of a lime and plenty of olive oil.

Fry the herring and when it’s ready serve with the courgette salad.

It’s very light indeed so would work well as a starter or with two fish for a main course. So light in fact that I’m still hungry…

A lovely lunch

It’s August bank holiday weekend and the newspapers are trying to work out whether this was the hottest, wettest, windiest or coldest summer since records began. My bet’s on two of the above…

Anyway, as it turns out, the sun is out, there’s warmth in the air and I have a hankering for clams with linguine. Sadly the fishmonger is closed and Waitrose aren’t playing ball – but no worries, I decide to give it a go with mussels – here’s what to do:

Mussels with Linguine

Clean up your mussels, removing the beards and leave in water. They should all be pretty much closed – discard those that are not. Now get a saucepan with a few glugs of white wine and bring to the boil, then add the mussels and put on the lid. After a few minutes have a quick look – the mussels should now be open – take them off the heat and put to the side.

In the meantime, finely chop a couple of shallots, an inch of red chilli and a handful of parsley.

Fill a saucepan with boiling salty water and drop in the linguine.
Fry the shallots and chilli in a saucepan with butter and olive oil, salt and pepper. Pick the mussels from the shells (discard any that don’t fully open) and when the shallots are soft start to incorporate the liquid from the pan you cooked the mussels in and let it reduce.

When the linguine is ready, drain the linguine and throw in the mussels, chopped parsley and the reduced wine and shallot sauce. Mix it all together and serve with crusty bread (as always it seems) – Gorge!!


Catch up time

It’s been too long. Far far too long. I expect it’s typical of the amateur blogger – great expectations at the start, a spurt of enthusiasm for a few weeks then fizzle to nothing. So it is with renewed vigour that I sit here hoping to log another recipe or two.

Frankly the major challenge over the last six months has been talking the kids into eating something other than the same old stuff I trot out week after week.

Anyway – as luck would have it, I managed to take a photo of something I cooked recently, so I may as well commit it to e-paper –

Tuna Nicoise Salad

You need a lovely thick piece of fresh tuna to make this really good, although tinned can still work well. Bars and restaurants up and down the country attempt to wow us with this dish but it invariably ends up disappointing. Try this version – you’ll love it…

In a pestle and mortar, grind sea salt, black peppercorns and a pinch of cumin, then rub it all over the tuna. Put the tuna in a hot pan with some olive oil and sear for just  one minute on each side – no more – then set aside.

Boil a handful of new potatoes and when cooked, cut into slices the thickness of a pound coin. If you like, you can then fry them lightly in butter. At the same time, steam a handful of green beans. When they are just done, toss them in a pan with good olive oil, salt, pepper and finely chopped garlic for just 30 seconds and leave – they will soak up all the lovely salty, garlicy oil.

Tuna NicoiseBoil a few eggs for a few minutes until just hard boiled (hopefully the yolks will still be a litte runny) and peel.

Cut up a cos/romaine lettuce, a handful of plum tomatoes and a small red onion.

Now the dressing – a creamy one works best and if you have the patience (it’s really not that difficult to be honest) then I would do the following:

Separate an organic egg yolk into a bowl and add a teaspoon of dijon mustard, salt, pepper and a good splash of white wine vinegar and some tarragon. Now take a whisk and start beating while adding very slowly either very light olive oil or sunflower oil (It’s essentially a mayonnaise that you’re making – perfect for this salad). Keep adding oil until it reaches your desired consistency – for me that is thick and creamy…

Now to put it all together on a large plate. Cut the tuna into large slices and lay over the salad along with five or six anchovy fillets. then pour over the dressing and season further if needed.

Eat with really good stone baked organic white bread and a bottle of provence rose. Perfect for a hot/warm/rainy summer’s day.

Christmas Eve

There is so much to cover with regards food, I’m going to cut straight to chase and avoid stories of family and friends. Besides, a helpful colleague of mine told me that one should avoid getting into the whole diary thing as what might be interesting to me certainly won’t be to you…

So – we’ll start with the Spicy Apple Chutney and go from there…
There are one or two key ingredients in this, beyond that you can chuck all sorts of things into it. This is what I did –
Peel a few bramley apples and chop into chunks along with a handful of roughly red onion, white onion, red chilli and finely chopped ginger. Grind a good quantity of spices – cinnamon, star anise, salt, black pepper and cloves.
Put the lot in a saucepan along with half a litre of malt vinegar and a couple of table spoons of muscovado sugar for about half an hour, then add roughly chopped cucumber and tomatoes and cook for a further 15 minutes. I also added a handful of pickled jalapenos for an extra little kick, and a teaspoon of saffron for colour and depth.
Spoon the contents into sterilized jars and leave to cool. That’s it.
Perfect for dark meat and cheese…

Next, the Game Terrine – I’ve been looking forward to doing this for ages…
I used a couple of pigeon breasts, six pheasant thighs, some venison steak and 300 g of sausage meat. Cut all the meat into thin strips and colour in a hot frying pan them put in a large bowl. add the sausage meat, a couple of handfuls of breadcrumbs, a glug or two of cognac, salt, pepper and olive oil. Fry a finely chopped onion and add to the mix, then add lots of chooped fresh herbs – thyme and parsley for me…
Mix the whole lot up and put it into a greased, lined loaf tin and put in the oven in a bain marie at 180c for an hour and half. Take it out, let it cool, turn it out, cut it up and eat it with the chutney…

By this time the Christmas gang had arrived and it’s time to eat.
We start with Tuna and Scallop Ceviche
I practiced this a few weeks ago knowing that I wanted to cook it for Christmas Eve – it was brilliant then and it was even better the second time – and it is seriously easy to do:
Take fresh tuna steak and cut very finely into slices. Now take fresh scallops without the roe and again slice very thinly.
Lay the tuna and the scallops onto separate plates and add the following:
Finely chopped red chillies, red onions, and coriander, lots of lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Leave it to marinade for about 15 minutes and serve with lovely bread. Simple and completely fantastic…

And then to continue in fishy fashion we continue with one of my favourites – a really good Fish Pie that my sister taught me – you must try this one…

I used a mixture of fish and seafood – a monkfish tail, fillets of plaice, haddock and trout – to be honest it doesn’t matter what you use (although the monkfish works very well as it stays nice and meaty when the pie is cooked), a handful of peeled raw king prawns and a handful of scallops (cut in to pieces if necessary) depending on size.
Take the fillets and put them in a frying pan skin side down with a knob of butter and heat gently for a few minutes. Turn them over and take the pan off the heat. While the pan is cooling, carefully peel the skin off the fillets. They should not be cooked at this stage. Take a large dish and rip the fish into pieces and place in the dish, then leave to cool.
Now take your pan and make a roux (butter, then flour, then milk) and add 1/3 of a bottle of white wine, a couple of tablespoons of Dijon mustard, tarragon, salt and pepper to taste. When it starts to thicken, add cream. It should now taste great 0 if it doesn’t adjust accordingly. Make sure the sauce is quite thick as liquid from the fish will thin it during cooking – it should be the consistency of custard (not crème anglais).
When you come back to the fish, there should be liquid in the bottom of the dish that has come out of the fish as it cooled. Drain this away before adding the cooled sauce and mixing thoroughly.
For the topping, peel and par boil potatoes, then once cooled, grate them into a bowl with a huge lump of butter, salt, pepper and finely chopped capers (a must).
Put the topping over the fish mixture and place in an oven at 180c for 35 minutes.
Leave it to calm down a few minutes before serving…

Fishcakes, but not fried off

It starts with Saturday kitchen and I finally realise what it is that I hate about TV cooks – they always have to add a spurious word at the end of everything they say – so “fry it” becomes “fry it off”, “trim it” becomes “trim it up” – the list goes on – “brown it off, “whisk it up”, “boil it down”. And they all seem to do it. Infuriating.

The days starts with – need I say it – croissants and pain au chocolat – I have to find something different next week. Then simple spaghetti with ragu sauce for lunch. But supper is a little more interesting –

Trout and Smoked Salmon Fishcakes

Peel a handful of potatoes and place them in salted boiling water. Take a couple of trout fillets and very gently fry them in a pan with butter – not cooking them fully through.

When the potatoes are cooked, mash them with butter, double cream salt and pepper, then take the skin off the trout and flake it into the potato mixture. Finally, pull the smoked salmon into little pieces and add.

Finely chop a handful of dill and mix it all together, checking that the mixture is well seasoned. If it is a little too wet, add a handful or two of breadcrunbs.

Now form the mixture into individual cakes, no more than about 1 cm thick and 3-4 cms in diameter. Fry them in butter and serve with a green salad.

Brilliant with a bottle of Australian Riesling (Tim Adams is a good one)