I was thinking of Confit of Duck, as you do, as I had a couple of duck legs planned for dinner. Of course, all the decent recipes wanted really long slow cooking, preferably a day or so in advance. I also didn’t have any duck fat to hand so had to think of an alternative. An “aha” moment came to me, not the Norwegian band from the 1980s you understand, although they did have their charm, but a turning on of a little light deep within the little grey cells. Patatas a lo Pobre, poor man’s potatoes. They are slow cooked in olive oil so there was no reason why the same process couldn’t work for my duck legs.
For those of you who are now digging deep within their own little grey cells to think of an A-ha song, here’s one to hum along to.
Now, back to the cooking.
Ingredients (to serve 2)
- 2 duck legs, seasoned with salt and pepper
- 2 very large potatoes peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 onion thinly sliced
- ½ a red pepper cut into thin strips
- 4-6 cloves of garlic (peeled or unpeeled)
- About ¼ cup of olive oil and ¼ cup of white wine
- Salt and pepper
- Heat the oven to low (Gas 3 or about 130 degrees C)
Pour the oil and wine over the potatoes, onions, garlic and peppers, season and mix. Place the potato mix into the bottom of an ovenproof dish then place the seasoned duck legs on top. Cover with foil and put into the oven for about 3 hours.
When the juices of the duck legs runs clear, remove the foil and turn the oven up to the highest setting, remove the foil, drain off any liquid and cook for a further 20 minutes or until the duck legs are browned and the potatoes and peppers start to char.
Leave to stand for 5 minutes before tucking into meltingly tender duck and potatoes. Fight using your fork with your loved one for any crispy bits in the pot.
If you fancy an oriental influenced duck dish, take a look here.
Special occasion food should be all about what you love most, shared with the people you love most. And sometimes it’s also about spending time with those loved ones enjoying the occasion and not spending too long in the kitchen preparing the food and being away from your guests. Don’t misunderstand me, I love spending hours and even days preparing a special meal, but this is one for when you don’t want to be in the kitchen for too long.
Ingredients (per person)
- 1 small Dover Sole (or other small flat fish)
- 4 large prawns (peeled and the heads removed but the tails left on to make eating them with your fingers much easier!)
- 2 scallops
- About 2 tablespoons of fresh samphire (or use a few stalks of fresh, blanched asparagus chopped into smaller pieces)
- Olive oil
- Lemon juice
- Salt & Pepper
Warm a little olive oil and butter in a large frying pan and heat. When the oil is hot, put the fish in, skin side down and cook for about 2 or 3 minutes until the skin starts to become crispy.
Turn the heat down to medium and turn the fish over. Add the scallops and prawns and cook them on each side for about a minute or two (the prawns will turn pink and the scallops will lose their opacity).
Remove the fish, prawns and scallops to a serving plate (keeping the oil in the pan). Squeeze in a little lemon juice to taste and add the samphire. Stir fry on a high heat for less than a minute, just to heat it through and spoon the samphire and juices over the fish. Season to taste (it probably won’t need much salt) and serve with a small wedge of lemon.
Pour glasses of wine for you and your loved ones and enjoy the moment.
In our little Up the Mountain village, sweet potatoes are only available to buy in the local shops during late summer and autumn. They even sell them ready roasted as there are still folk who don’t have ovens and do most of their cooking on the stove top. Of course, if we venture down to the coast and the big supermarkets, we can buy sweet potatoes whenever we want, but the choice of variety is still fairly limited to the large orange fleshed, thick skinned varieties.
Time spent in England Down by the Sea brings a world of vegetables to us in a local supermarket whenever we want. I try to buy seasonally, but with vegetables flying in from all over the world it’s sometimes hard to know what is in season and what is not. It’s also tempting to buy things just because you fancy them. This was the case with some very small, thin skinned sweet potatoes I spotted the other day. They were about 25cm long and just a bit thicker than a fat sausage. I was intrigued and couldn’t resist.
Two were simply roasted and utterly delicious but a lot sweeter than the ones we’re used to. I turned to my old pal Ottolenghi for inspiration and his cookbook delivered with a sweet potato gratin which I chopped and changed (adding in regular potatoes with the sweet ones and changing the chopped sage for parsley as I am being over run by the stuff, and using milk instead of cream). Go back to the original ingredients for a really stunning and luxurious dish (I’ve eaten that version too – it’s incredible) or stick with my recipe for a more every day dish.
This is pretty filling and is great as a vegetarian main course or as part of a larger meal as a side dish.
Ingredients (to serve 2 people as a main course)
- 2 small sweet potatoes, thinly sliced but with the skin on
- 2 medium potatoes, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
- 3 tsbp finely chopped parsley
- 2 cloves of peeled garlic, crushed
- A tablespoon of olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- About 120 ml (1/4 cup) of semi skimmed milk
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Mix together the two types of potato and the parsley, garlic and olive oil.
Layer the slices in an ovenproof dish and season. Cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes then remove the foil and pour over the milk. Roast for a further 30 minutes and check that the potatoes are cooked by testing them with a sharp knife.
The dish will be bubbling and hot, serve in the baking dish. Tastes great too at room temperature or even cold the next day.
Monkfish is an “oh so ugly but oh so good” fish. If you’ve ever seen it at the fishmonger before it’s been prepared it’s the one with the enormous gargoyle mouth and scary teeth and a body that looks a bit out of proportion with the head. It can also be an expensive fish, but like other luxuries such as fillet steak, you don’t need much.
My lovely Bexhill fishmonger had some beautiful monkfish recently and I bought a tail. From this I made two separate meals for two people, so I really managed to make the most of it!
First up is a curry recipe I came across which I think is now going to be my “go to” curry recipe. It was so easy, it didn’t have a huge long list of ingredients and the flavour was amazing. If, like me, you’re a curry fan (and if you’re not, perhaps I can convert you – this one is about balancing delicate flavours rather than smacking you around the chops with burning hot chilli), do give this a try!
- About 250g monkfish cut into bite size pieces and about 10 raw, peeled langoustines or large prawns
- The juice of two limes
- Pinch of salt
- 1 Tablespoon turmeric
- 3 Tablespoons ghee or clarified butter (or use a light vegetable oil)
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 5 cloves garlic smashed into a fine paste
- 2 inch piece of ginger smashed into a fine paste
- 1 chilli pepper finely chopped
- 1 chilli pepper halved
- 1 Tablespoon cumin powder
- 1 Tablespoon coriander powder
- 12 cherry tomatoes – halved
- 1 small bunch fresh coriander – finely chopped
- 400ml coconut milk
- Salt and pepper to taste
Place the cubed monkfish and peeled prawns into a bowl with the lime juice, salt and turmeric. Allow to marinade for about 30 minutes.
In a large pan or wok, melt the fat or heat the oil. Add the chopped onions and fry until translucent and lightly browned. Now add the garlic and ginger pastes along with the chopped chilli pepper and fry for a couple of minutes.
Pour in the coconut milk and bring to a bubble then add the cumin and coriander powder and stir to combine then add the halved chilli. Finally, add the marinated monkfish, prawns and the tomatoes. Stir it all into the mixture. Allow the monkfish to cook gently in the sauce for about 5 minutes. Taste and season if necessary and sprinkle over the chopped coriander to serve. Perfect with plain boiled rice and/or naan bread.
Chorizo in Spain is not like the chorizo you used to be able to buy in England – it was the hard, dry variety, rather like a little salami. In Spain chorizo is sold fresh – it looks like a bright red sausage and if you buy it at the butchers it’s sold in strings. You will be asked if you want it “fresco o seco” “fresh or dry”. The fresh variety is like a recently made sausage and is for cooking on the “plancha” or in a pan. The drier will have been made a few days or weeks previously and can be sliced and eaten as it is, in the same way as a salami.
It’s typical to buy a good supply and then hang some up for eating later and cook the fresh chorizo. I’ve noticed that in England, in some butchers at least, they are coming up with some wonderful and authentic tasting varieties of fresh chorizo, but if you can’t get hold of any, use your favourite sausage and add a little spicy pimentón to give it a warm Spanish taste.
This is a very typical dish served as tapas, with or without the addition of the onions. As we were still working our way through the onion glut, I did it with onions!
Ingredients (to serve as many as you like)
- For every chorizo you cook, you’ll need about half a medium onion finely chopped and a splash of medium dry Spanish sherry
Slice each chorizo into 4-6 pieces and fry in a little olive oil until the outside is slightly charred. If you are lucky enough to have a terracotta cooking pot, use this as it really does add something special to the flavour.
Remove the chorizo and put to one side. Add the onions to the olive oil (and the chorizo will also have released some oil) and if you are using it, add a little pimentón. Fry the onions until they start to soften, but not caramelize and then add the wine. Cook until the liquid has almost completely disappeared and the onions are soft and coloured from the juices. Add the chorizo back into the dish and cook for a couple of minutes more until warmed through. Normally you won’t need any seasoning as the chorizo is highly spiced and salted, but check to taste and adjust if necessary. Serve with a glass of ice cold fino and plenty of delicious bread.
Back in England and Scallops are very much back on the menu for us. This is a simple but luxurious starter or a light lunch or supper. I also served the scallops with some excellent smoked salmon I happened to have but it would have been just as good without.
Ingredients (to serve 4 as a starter or 2 as a light main)
- 12 scallops
- Some finely chopped rocket mixed with the finely chopped zest of a lemon (unwaxed)
- Some finely chopped coriander to sprinkle over
For the dressing
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, 1 teaspoon of fish sauce, a tablespoon of rice wine vinegar, half a crushed clove of garlic, the juice of half a lemon, a little honey (to taste), salt and pepper.
Mix or shake up all the ingredients for the dressing, tasting and adjusting as you go
Heat the griddle pan until it is smoking hot and quickly sear the scallops on each side (about a minute is all they’ll need) then plate them up. Pour the dressing over the hot scallops, and sprinkle over the rocket and lemon mix.
Fast food doesn’t get much better than this!
For more scallop inspired recipes, take a look at this or this.