The Emperor’s New Clothes – Red Emperor (Snapper), Pargo Rojo

In our little seaside town of Bexhill-on-Sea we are now lucky enough to have two wonderful fishmongers. As lovers of fish and shellfish we are spoilt for choice. This weekend I decided to try out the new shop, which goes by the enchanting name of The Angry Whelk.

Big Man and I decided to avoid the Valentine’s Day menus in local restaurants. Not from a “bah humbug” point of view, we just decided that we’d rather have a relaxed Sunday at home with the pups and a meal of our choice.

Red Emperor Pargo (10)

The fishmonger had a fantastic display of fish but what really caught my eye was a beautiful red monster. A red snapper, or Red Emperor. It really was huge, far too big for the two of us, but unable to resist a bargain or a challenge I was soon heading home with the beast which weighed about 2kg.

A quick check on the internet told me that if I wanted to cook it whole, it was best to keep it simple with a sauce or something interesting on the side. Am so glad I followed this advice as the cooked dish was incredible. The fish has a meaty texture (perfect for anyone who does not like to grapple with fish bones) and a delicate (not very fishy) flavour. My monster fish would easily have fed 6, so today we’ll be eating leftovers lightly pan fried in olive oil just to warm them through and I’ve also frozen the rest to make a lovely fishy fideua another day.

Red Emperor Pargo (1)

Ingredients (depends on the size of your fish as to how many it will serve)

  • 1 Red Emperor
  • 1 lemon thinly sliced
  • A handful of flat leaf parsley
  • Salt flakes (I used Maldon)
  • Olive oil
  • Freshly ground pepper

To serve

  • 2 slices of slightly stale sourdough bread (or similar)
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • The grated zest of an unwaxed lemon
  • About 2 tablespoons of finely chopped flat leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. If your fishmonger has not already cleaned and gutted your fish, you’ll need to do this. I kept the head on as I think it adds flavour but this is personal choice. pat the fish dry with kitchen paper.

Line a large oven dish or tin with aluminium foil – enough to allow you to make a tent around the fish. Drizzle a little olive oil over the foil and rub and place the fish on top.

Season the cavity with salt and pepper and fill it with the lemon slices and the handful of parsley. Season the top of the fish and rub a little olive oil all over it before sealing it up loosely in a parcel.

Cooking time will depend on the size of the fish, mine took just over an hour but you can check that it’s cooked by pulling gently on the fin which is on the side of the body (it will be facing up towards you). As soon as you can pull this away easily, you’re done.

While the fish is cooking make the crouton/gremolata. Cut the bread into small croutons and fry in the olive oil until it is just starting to brown. Add the garlic at this stage and fry until the bread and garlic are golden. Allow to cool slightly and mix with the lemon zest and parsley.

Red Emperor Pargo (3)

When you are ready to serve, peel back the skin from the fish (it is thick and although I generally eat the skin on fish, this time the dish was better without). The fish comes away from the bones easily in large chunks. Serve with the garlicky, lemon croutons and an extra drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.

Simple to prepare, you’ll dine like royalty….go on, be an Emperor or an Empress in your own lunchtime!

Slow Cooked Chinese Style Barbecue Pork

We’re now back from Spain after a hectic month of family, friends and house repairs. Some good times and some sad times but that’s life isn’t it? Back in Bexhill for the moment and life is taking on a gentler pace for the next couple of weeks. That’s good as far as we’re concerned!

A gentler pace means time for slow cooking. I seem to have been rather enthusiastic about my passion for the slow cooker as my best pal Ria decided she wanted to give one a go, so I bought her a slow cooker for Christmas. My mum then decided that she’d join in so bought a slow cooker too. We’re all at it – slow cooking with passion and exchanging recipes. Not a bad way to enjoy food, especially when we’re able to share the results of our experimenting with each other.

 

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Here’s a great recipe which works equally well in the oven or the slow cooker. It takes very little preparation and after the required number of hours you’re rewarded with a dish which looks and tastes as though you’ve done something very cheffy and clever.

Ingredients to serve 4-6

  • 2 finely chopped or grated garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
  • 2 tbsp runny honey
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp mirin (use sweet sherry otherwise)
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
  • a bones and rolled pork shoulder (about 1kg/2lb in weight)
  • Steamed or boiled rice and chopped spring onions to serve

Put the garlic, ginger, honey, soy sauce, mirin, oil and five spice powder in a large bowl and mix. Add the pork to the bowl and coat it in the sauce.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, overnight if possible.

When you are ready to cook, bring the pork to room temperature. Put into an ovenproof dish with a lid or into a slow cooker. In a conventional oven, cook at Gas Mark 3 for about 4 hours, If you find it is drying out, add a small glass of water. In the slow cooker cook on high for 6 hours or low for 10 hours until the meat is very tender (you won’t need to add any additional liquid in the slow cooker).

Slice the meat and shred lightly to serve. Pour over any cooking juices and serve hot with the rice and spring onions.

Leftovers are wonderful cold in sandwiches.

If you’re inspired by this, why not take a look at my twice cooked melting pork?

Twice Cooked Melting Pork (8)