Friday, 26 February 2016

Simple Fish

Fish should be easy to prepare and enjoy.

I know that catching it, scaling it and filleting it are not that simple- I watched this poor little fella being landed on the port, then prepared for sale with brutal efficiency- but once you have your fillets, then the rest doesn't need a lot of messing about.
I've put together a few ideas this week that use prepared fish and other fishy things (and their leftovers) in easy recipes which I hope you will like.

I'm starting with whiting fillets en chapelure.
Chapelure is the fancy name for toasted breadcrumbs. I make mine by blitzing biscotte toasts into crumbs, but that's easy in France. If you don't have biscottes where you are, then toast stale bread or bake it until crispy when you have the oven on for something else and then blitz it and store it in an airtight container.

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees and lightly oil a baking tray.
Lay out three plates- one with seasoned flour, one with milk and one with the chapelure.

Dip your fillets first in the flour, then the milk and then the breadcrumbs. Coat both sides.

Lay the fillets on the baking tray and bake for 15 minutes until just cooked through.

Whiting Fillets en Chapelure

You can make this fancier by adding Parmesan to the crumbs - as here, atop salmon fillets.

Parmesan Crusted Salmon

Salmon of course, is one of the easiest and nowadays most reasonably priced fish to use. You can flake a cooked fillet into a quiche:

Salmon and Leek Quiche

Or make it into fishcakes- like these Salmon-Broccoli Galettes:
Slice 250g of salmon into small cubes

Finely slice 1 leek and 200g broccoli and soften in a pan with some crushed garlic
Mix the fish and the veg in a bowl with 2 beaten eggs, 1 tbsp flour, 1 tbsp chopped parsley, 1 tsp curry powder, a squeeze of lemon and plenty of salt and pepper

Place spoonfuls of the mixture into a pan with some hot oil and fry gently on one side for 4-5 minutes

The galettes will be easy to turn and cook on the other side.

Salmon-Broccoli Galettes
Every Friday in this part of Provence, cafes and bistros have Aioli as their Plat du Jour- a dish of poached white fish and prawns with veg with a pungent garlic mayonnaise which makes the simple ingredients sing.
The table laid with Aioli

I am grateful to blog follower laBarbe for both the recipe and the demonstration of how to prepare it:
First make your Aioli sauce.
Crush as many garlic cloves as you dare into a bowl. I suggest 3, but if you really like garlic and live alone then you can go up to 6.

Crush as many garlic cloves as you dare!

Beat in two egg yolks, a tablespoon of mustard and a thin stream of olive oil until the mixture becomes creamy. Add a squeeze of lemon.
Poach your white fish in water or milk until just starting to flake.
Boil your veg- potatoes, carrots, courgettes, cauliflower etc

Serve all the plain poached ingredients warm with the sauce.

There were leftovers of course- and I put them into a Gratin Terre-Mer (Fish Pie to you and me):

Make a sauce from white wine, cream, a cooked leek and parsley gently heated and reduced slightly.
Mix in your leftover fish and shellfish
Top with mashed potatoes and some grated flavoursome cheese.
Bake in the oven at 170 degrees until brown and bubbling.

Gratin Terre-Mer

Finally, and I know my in-house Biologist takes issue with me as to the fishy nature of this- I'm making some mussel dishes.

My all-time favourite food- and desert island dish of preference- is Moules Marinieres- made simply with white wine, lemon, onion, garlic and parsley. Definitely no cream.
I like to clean, debeard and rinse the mussels then cook some onion and garlic in a deep pan until soft. Tip the mussels into the hot pan and add 1-2 glasses of white wine, a good handful of chopped parsley and a squeeze of lemon.
Cover and cook for 7-8 minutes or so, or until all the mussels have opened.

Moules Marinieres

Leftover mussels can be kept for up to 3 days in the fridge- so I used them up in a Seafood Risotto.
If you prefer, you can make this dish with pasta ( little rice-shaped stuff called orzo is good). The same methods apply. Cook it from dry like rice and add the liquid bit by bit until it is tender.

For the risotto you need 200g of risotto rice, 1 litre of hot fish stock - either fish bouillon enriched with a tbsp of tomato puree and a pinch of saffron, or (as I prefer) left over fish soup and hot water- 1 shallot and 1 clove of garlic, leftover seafood and some creamy cheese (I used Boursin).
Soften the shallot and the garlic in olive oil and then add the risotto rice and coat.
Ladle in the stock, bit by bit, stirring all the time and adding it as it becomes absorbed by the rice.
When the stock has all been absorbed, test to see if the rice is tender. If not, add more hot water or stock and keep stirring. Adjust seasoning to your taste.
Take the mussels out of their shells ( keeping a few for decoration) and mix into the rice. Finally stir in some creamy cheese and serve.

Seafood Risotto/Pastotto
And so here ends my fishy tale. I hope you like the sound of some of the recipes and make tonight Fish Night.
Here's looking at you!

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

'Forgotten Vegetables'

The 25th January has come and gone for another year- and again we found ourselves celebrating Burns Night with French friends: this time in the Auvergne.

Although last year's Haggis Parmentier and whisky went down well in the South of France, this year the traditional triumvirate of haggis, neeps and tatties enjoyed even greater favour with our fellow Lavoutaises.* This is partly because the local hearty food is not dissimilar in many ways.

Gourmets from other parts of France, dismiss the cuisine of the Auvergne as 'peasant food' but, as a good Burns Supper shows, humble dishes should not be underrated.

In fact, vegetables like turnips, swede, squashes and heritage carrots are becoming very popular and indeed a bit trendy.
A stall at my local market in fashionable Cassis specialises in what are called 'forgotten vegetables'(legumes oublies), and they feature on many a restaurant menu in the expensive little streets of the port.

For Burns Night, I refined my Parmentier dish of last year by making individual portions in little dishes- just haggis, topped with mashed potato and grated emmental cheese and baked in the oven until golden- but well received.

Individual dishes of haggis

Topped with mashed potato and grated Emmental

Individual Haggis Parmentier
I accompanied these with purees of carrot and swede.

All three of these purees can enjoy a bit of an Auvergne makeover- the local speciality is Aligot- a delicious combination of mashed potato and Tomme cheese ( which is stretchy, creamy and slightly tart like a good Mozzarella). You can make this from scratch ( as in the recipe below) or use the cheese to jazz up leftover mashed potato by beating it in as you reheat.


Bring peeled mashing potatoes (like Maris Piper) to the boil, and then simmer until tender.
Drain and add a splash of milk, a knob of butter, salt and pepper, a grating of nutmeg and 125g of Tomme fraiche, cut into small pieces.

Beat in vigorously with a wooden spoon until the cheese has melted and the mixture beomes sticky and stretchy- it is ready to serve.

Carrots are another simple veg that can be made glorious with a few added ingredients- boil them until tender in stock rather than water, drain, add a knob of butter, plenty of salt and pepper and a good splash of cream. Puree in a food processor, adjust seasoning and serve.

Vibrant carrot puree

Swede are known as rutabagas or navets suedois (Swedish turnips) in France and until recently were very difficult to find (other than as animal fodder!) They are now having a bit of a renaissance - and I found a recipe which marries them with apple.

Swede and apple- a marriage made in heaven
The combination is excellent and you should try it.
Just slice and boil your veg and fruit, drain, mash with a potato masher and season with plenty of salt and pepper.

I came back with quite a haul of 'forgotten veg' last Friday from the market, and used them in a variety of ways.
My veggie basket
Firstly, I roasted them all in the oven for about an hour at 180 degrees ( peeled and chopped into even sized pieces, tossed in a little olive oil along with plenty of salt and pepper and 4-5 whole garlic cloves).
A colourful trayful
A lovely accompaniment to meat dishes.

Oven roasted 'forgotten' veg

The colourful leftovers went firstly into a soup, not unlike the Clapshot Soup I've featured after Burns Night before. Beware of using purple carrots in leftover dishes though as they do turn things a funny colour!
Clapshot Soup

I also made a Squash Risotto:

You need- leftover roasted squash (abut 150-200g), 200g short grain or risotto rice, 1 litre hot chicken or vegetable stock, 1 glass white wine, 2 leeks or small bunch of spring onions, 1 clove of garlic- crushed, 50g Boursin or other cream cheese with herbs.
Soften the garlic and leeks/onions in some olive oil.
Stir in the rice to coat the grains with oil.
Pour in the wine and bubble.
Add ladlefuls of hot stock as the mixture begins to dry- stir in and continue until the rice is tender
( about 15 minutes).

Stir in the cream cheese and serve with optional extra grated cheese (Parmesan or Emmental.)

Squash Risotto

Finally, back to haggis and I have an Auvergne version- no, although this is a hunting area, they haven't started trapping the little beasts there yet- this is a vegetarian version which uses the delicious Puy lentils from the region:

Grate 2 carrots then pulse together in a food processor- 2 shallots, 1 clove of garlic, 50 g mushrooms, a pinch each of cayenne or paprika and salt, 1/2 tsp ground mixed spice, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, a grating of nutmeg, 2 cups of cooked Puy lentils, juice and zest of 1/2 lemon, a sprinkling of thyme and a small can kidney beans (drained and mashed). Tip into a bowl, mix in the grated carrot and add 1 egg and 50g of oats. Shape into patties and fry like little burgers.

Vegetarian Haggis- Auvergne style

Here's tae us!

* Lavoutaises is the name given to people who live in the village of Lavoute-Chilhac in the Auvergne.