January was a month for trying to eat a little healthier and lighter. Less meat, some fish and more veggies and pulses. This didn’t mean boring meals though and we finished off the month with a little luxury, treating ourselves to some monkfish. It is an expensive fish compared to others, but a little goes quite a long way and portions of about 150g per person (even us who are greedy guts!) is about fine. Especially if you add a handful of prawns or mussels and serve with rice or potatoes and the last of your summer runner beans from the freezer.
Ingredients (to serve 4)
4 fillets or steaks of monkfish
About 200g fresh mussels, cleaned
About 400ml of homemade tomato sauce or make up a simple sauce by sautéing one finely chopped onion in a little olive oil until transparent, then add 2 finely chopped cloves of garlic. Fry gently for a few minutes then add a tin of chopped tomatoes, 2 tbsp tomato purée, a good slosh of red wine, seasoning and a sprig of basil. Cover and simmer gently for about 30 minutes, removing the basil before using.
Some seasoned plain flour for dusting the fish
The grated zest of an unwaxed lemon
Some finely chopped flat leaf parsley and lemon wedges to serve
Start by coating the fish in seasoned flour and shallow fry on both sides until lightly browned. Remove from the pan to a plate and cover with foil.
Warm the tomato sauce and add the lemon zest and fish to it, cooking gently for about 2 or 3 minutes. Carefully turn the fish over, add the mussels to the pan and cover with a lid. Cook for a further couple of minutes by which time the fish will be cooked through and the mussels will have opened. Discard any which refuse to open, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with the lemon wedges.
We enjoyed a lovely bottle of sauvignon blanc bought on our recent jaunt to Le Touquet..a perfect end to the month!
If you enjoy monkfish, you might like this beautiful, delicate, monkfish curry.
Oh it’s so easy to slip comfortably back into our Spanish life. Friends and family keep asking us “which is better, Spain or England?”. We answer, absolutely sincerely, “we love them both, they’re different, you can’t compare, we make the most of each country and enjoy all the good things they each have to offer”.
Fish Man seems to have disappeared from our route, but the supermarkets here have an amazing choice at good prices. Mostly fresh and local (or at least, from Spain) too. The other day I bought a kilo of mussels which came from near Pontevedra in the North of Spain. It’s famous for the mussel beds and we ate plenty on our trip there a few years back.
I also bought some fresh langoustines but forgot to ask where they came from. Peppers, tomatoes and onions grown down on the coast and a rosé wine from Rueda were pretty much all the ingredients I needed to make this simple but delicious lunch dish. Oh yes, a lemon from our tree…
Ingredients (for 2 people)
1kg cleaned mussels
Half a small red and green pepper, finely diced
3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped into small pieces
1 medium tomato, finely chopped
A small glass of wine (whatever colour you like!)
Half a lemon cut into small chunks (and I also added half a teaspoon of my lemon myrtle)
Half a teaspoon of hot pimentón or chilli powder (or to taste)
I used a lidded cazuela to make this dish but a deep frying pan with a lid or a saucepan would also work.
On a low heat, warm the olive oil and add the garlic and peppers. Cover and sweat until soft. Add the tomato, wine and spices and cook for a few minutes. You can now turn this off if you’re not ready to eat and then just warm the sauce up a few minutes beforehand to finish the dish off, or continue to the last stage.
Add the mussels, prawns and fresh lemon, stir and cover. Cook for a few minutes until all the mussels are open. Don’t eat any that won’t open!
Garnish with some freshly chopped parsley. Unless of course, Big Man has been gardening all morning and cleared all your herbs thinking they were weeds. Oh my, kitchen unexpectedness, I laugh in your face. Pour a glass of wine, and enjoy your lovely lunch with plenty of bread to mop up the juices and perhaps (as we did) a salad of tomatoes, olives, garlic and onion. No herbs though, obviously.
As a child celebrations were always marked with great big meals for friends and family. Starters were a giant “antipasto” – the dish before the main meal. This became more elaborate the bigger the crowd and the grander the celebration.
Of course, the temptation was to fill up on the antipasti and then bemoan the fact that we were too full to enjoy the pasta, the meat, the fish, the cheese and salad and the desserts that followed. A lucky predicament to be in.
My mum was great at pickling and grilling vegetables, a mainstay on the Italian table. But for me the highlight was always her seafood salad. Back in the day it wasn’t as easy to buy affordable, fresh seafood as it is nowadays. And to be honest, even now it’s still a luxury and for many people, living far from the coast, it’s not always available. This great thing about this dish is that, as you’re packing it full of so many fresh and zingy flavours, frozen seafood is fine. Yes, you heard it here, don’t be ashamed of making your seafood salad with frozen seafood – just be sure you defrost and cook with care and store chilled until serving. No one will be any the wiser!
Another great thing about this dish is that quantities are not important. If you can’t get squid, add octopus, if you can’t find mussels, leave them out or add a few more prawns. It’s up to you, so this is not really a recipe, just an inspiration for you to mix it up your way. What is important is to make it ahead, at least a few hours, or even overnight to allow the dressing to soak into the seafood and the flavours to develop.
For the seafood mix, use peeled king prawns, small prawns, sliced squid or baby squid and mussels. Ensure all the fish is cleaned and defrosted and well drained if necessary. Chop up a couple of cloves of garlic and reserve.
For the dressing make up a vinaigrette with two thirds extra virgin olive oil, one third acid (I use part lemon juice and part white wine vinegar), a sprinkle of sugar, half a teaspoon of made up mustard (or ¼ teaspoon of dried mustard powder) and salt and pepper. Put it all into a jar and shake it up well.
As a main course for 2 people, one tin of drained cannellini beans and two sticks of celery finely chopped.
For the salad a mix of finely chopped lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, red onions, and flat leaf parsley. For garnish and flavour at the end, some finely sliced hot chilli pepper and the zest of a lemon.
Keep the seafood separated out (each item takes a slightly different time to cook). In a wok or large frying pan add some olive oil and the garlic. Heat the oil gently and add the king prawns. Cook until the prawns have turned pink and the garlic is just starting to turn brown. Spoon out the prawns and garlic into a large bowl. Add more oil if necessary (no more garlic) and stir fry each of the seafood ingredients and add to the bowl. Mix the seafood together and allow to cool. Don’t worry if you are left with some lovely fish flavoured juices at the bottom of the bowl, these will add flavour to the dressing. If you are using pre cooked seafood, just mix it all together and move onto the next stage.
After the seafood has cooled down, add the celery and beans and pour over the dressing. Mix well and chill for a few hours or overnight.
When you are ready to eat, bring the seafood and beans back to almost room temperature and add your salad ingredients. Mix, taste and adjust the seasoning. Plate up and garnish with the chilli and lemon zest.
Perfect as a filling main course, a special starter or as part of a celebration antipasto. Buon appetito!
So, you’d think I’d have learned by now that if you want a decent photo of food in a restaurant you have to eat at mid day, take a camera, not dig in first and ensure the light is good.
Oh dear, most of our best meals in Jersey were eaten at night, in dimly lit restaurants, with the photos taken on the phone and only after we had started eating and then remembered “ooh, must take a snap of this”!
But…being an honest Chica and wanting to share the experience with you, here are the photos in all their awful glory. Suspend your reaction to the bad photos and imagine the deliciousness of the actual food. Buen provecho!
Oysters featured frequently – and often at mid day with a glass of wine, so this photo is not too bad…
Mussels in white wine and Jersey cream…
A beautiful carpaccio of beef
Duck spring rolls in a home-made pastry…
Blueberry creme brulee…
There was also a wild mushroom and puff pastry tart, a bacon hock with borlotti beans, panna cotta, cheese boards, fish pie, fruits de mer, scallops…but if I tell you that the photos above are the best of a truly bad bunch…well, you get the picture.
So…I’ll leave you with a few more scenic shots and we’ll move on back to the cooking in the next post.
A week, so it is said, is a long time in politics and an extended absence from the mountain is a long time in terms of what arrives at our doorstep. Bread Man was a bit all over the place for the first few days, but we seem to have settled back into a routine. I’m also getting going with my sourdough starter, using Sawsan’s brilliant tutorial, so I’ll let you know how my adventures in sourdough bread making go once I’m ready.
Fish deliveries continue but Fish Man has been replaced by a very jolly young lady who hails from Big Man’s home town, so she can clearly be trusted to bring us nothing but the best (according to Big Man). Yesterday she had some beautiful mussels, and for once they didn’t need too much scrubbing to get them ready for the pot.
A simple, hearty lunch of mussels with chorizo was made in minutes, and thanks to Bread Man, we were able to mop up any juices that had escaped our slurping.
Ingredients (for 2 as a main course or 4 as a starter)
1kg cleaned mussels (discard any broken or open shells)
4 cloves of garlic peeled and thinly sliced
2 fresh chorizo sausages (or about 30cm of dried chorizo) sliced
A small glass of white wine
Freshly chopped parsley and lemon wedges to serve
Simply sauté the chorizo until it starts to brown (no olive oil needed usually as chorizo is quite fatty) then add the garlic. Stir into the oil for a minute or so until it starts to soften then add the mussels and wine (or a glass of water if you don’t like to cook with alcohol). Cover with a lid and continue to cook for a few more minutes until all the shells are open.
Serve with all the juices poured over, sprinkle over the parsley and let each person add lemon juice to taste. ¡Buen provecho!
A typical tapas here which offers the best from the sea and the best from the salad garden is a Salpicón de Mariscos. We also enjoy it as a light lunch or supper dish or a starter. Of course, there are many ways of making it, depending on what you have available. Avocado? Yes, put some in. Don´t like cucumber? Leave it out.
Here´s my version which I also made a lemon vinaigrette for. Typically though it would just be dressed with salt, white wine vinegar and olive oil.
Serves four as a starter or two as a main course.
Vegetables (all to be chopped into roughly 1cm squares)
Two long thin green peppers or one green bell pepper
Half a large red bell pepper
One medium red onion (or a sweet white onion). Tip…if you thinly slice and then leave in iced water for about 30 minutes and then drain before adding to your salad, it will remove any harshness of flavour
One small cucumber, partly peeled
Two carrots peeled and cut into thin strips with a peeler (this is not typical, but I enjoy the crunch and colour) and then cut into smaller pieces
One large salad tomato (add this just before serving)
Two heaped tablespoons of chopped flat leaf parsley
A mixture of cooked prawns, octopus, mussels – I had about 2 cups in total
One clove of crushed garlic, half the juice of a lemon, olive oil (you want 3 measures of oil to one of lemon), salt, pepper, half a teaspoon of sugar, a quarter teaspoon of English mustard powder (or use half a teaspoon of made up mustard)
Also – the grated zest of one lemon
Mix together the salad and seafood. If you are using tomato (and/or avocado) add just before serving.
Shake the dressing ingredients in a jar, taste and adjust seasoning to your preference. Pour over the salad and mix gently.
This benefits from sitting somewhere cool (but not cold) for at least an hour before eating. Otherwise you can make ahead, store in the fridge and then remove it an hour before serving. Add the tomatoes and/or avocado if using, grate over the lemon zest and give it one final stir.
Have plenty of crusty bread to hand to mop up all those lovely lemony juices.
One of my very dearest friends, Donna came to stay in the summer, and she´s a chick who enjoys cooking and eating, even though she´s a tiny little thing who looks like she eats like a sparrow! On her first night I wanted to prepare something special for us all and one of the first questions she asked as I picked her up at the airport was “What are we eating tonight?”. When I told her I was making a fish soup I could see her little face fall, she looked so disappointed. I don´t know what she was expecting, but when I served a similar version to this recipe, she brightened up considerably and then gave me a good telling off for giving such a delicious meal such a dull name.
So that´s why it now has a “proper” name, and I have to agree, it does sound so much nicer than “Fish Soup”. Mind you, a lot of things sound so much more exciting when you say them in French.
For two hungry people as a main course I used a mixture of mussels (500g), prawns (250g), clams (250g) and a large squid cleaned and chopped into bite sized chunks.
You´ll also need an orange, half a bulb of fennel (however I used wild fennel), a pinch of saffron stamens or turmeric, a cup of chopped tomato, four fat cloves of garlic peeled and thinly sliced, a medium onion peeled, halved and thinly sliced, the juice and zest of a medium orange, a bay leaf, a dried chili (optional), a glass of white wine (also optional but if you prefer to cook without it you may need a little extra liquid) and some olive oil for frying.
Start by peeling the prawns and covering the shells with about 600 ml of water. Then add the bay leaf and bringing to a boil. Turn down to a simmer for about 10 minutes and then strain, reserving the stock.
Clean your mussels well and rinse the clams two or three times to remove any grit.
Now lightly fry the onion and garlic in some olive oil until soft and transparent, and add the finely sliced fennel and cook for a few minutes more. Add the tomato and allow it to cook down for a few minutes. Now add the chili if using, season with a little salt and and few good grinds of fresh black pepper and the juice of the orange plus the grated orange zest, the fish stock and finally the wine. Simmer for a further 5 minutes then begin to add the seafood and shellfish. Start with the thickest first (in my case it was the squid) then after about 2 minutes when the squid had turned white I added the clams and mussels and covered with a lid. When they had opened I added the peeled prawns which were quick to cook, just a minute or two.
Finally, remove from the heat, taste and adjust seasoning and serve garnished with fennel tops, some grated orange zest and with plenty of crusty bread for those lovely juices.
For another, slightly different version with vegetables and fideo, take a look at this recipe.
Well, it´s been a while since I posted anything at all, let alone a recipe. It´s been a hectic 5 or 6 weeks with 3 lots of visitors, which was wonderful. Also, a fall down the patio steps (am still feeling rather delicate in the nether regions) and a broken camera which meant that I couldn´t take any pictures. All very frustrating but the derrière is now on the mend and we´ve bought a new camera. Hurrah!
Fish Man came by this morning, and I decided to see what he had tucked in the back of his little van. I´d been fancying a warming soup as we´ve had the worst (and wettest) Easter here in Andalucía for 80 years, and the rain and storms are set to last for a few days more. Combine this with the most dreadful hay fever and I feel like I have a bad dose of flu with a serious hangover on top. I don´t actually have a hangover, although it might have been fun putting in the work to achieve it, just the pain! Fortunately Fish Man had some beautiful mussels, not of the bicep kind you understand, so I bought a kilo.
I was torn between doing them in a creamy, oniony, white wine base or a garlicky, tomatoey one. The tomato won – I felt that my nose needed a good assault of powerful smells! This is a very easy and quick to cook dish that looks as though you spent hours in the kitchen creating something “gourmet”.
The serving I made would feed two as a main course or four as a starter.
Ingredients used were:
A kilo of mussels
3 fat cloves of garlic, crushed
Half a medium onion finely chopped
About a cup or half a tin of chopped peeled tomatoes
Olive oil for frying
Small glass of white wine
About 2 tablespoons of finely chopped parsley
Salt and pepper
Start by cleaning the mussels. Not as tricky as it may seem. I usually rinse them three or four times in cold running water. Throw away any that are cracked or open. You then need to remove the “beard” which is the small strand of seaweed looking stuff which usually just pokes out of the straighter side of the mussel. Hold the mussel in one hand with the point facing down and the curved part into the palm of your hand. Grab the seaweedy strand with your thumb and forefinger of the other hand and pull it upwards – it will slide out and you´re done!
If your mussels have any barnacles attached, you can pop these off with the blade of a flat (butter) knife. Finally a quick scrub (I use a metallic pan scrubber for this) and a final rinse and they´re done.
Put the mussels to one side and start on the base. In a deep saucepan which has a lid, heat some olive oil (enough to sweat the onion and garlic). On a low heat, sweat them off for a few minutes until soft and transparent. I used a red onion today as it was what I had, but it´s just as good, if not better, with a stronger tasting white onion.
Now add your tomato (you can also add a teaspoon of tomato puree if your tomatoes are a bit pale or lacking in flavour). Keep on a low heat and put the lid on and leave to simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove the lid, add your wine and seasoning and bring to a bubble then reduce to a simmer and leave to cook gently for 5 minutes.
The base is now ready and you can stop here until you´re ready to eat – the final stages will only take you about another 5 minutes, so this is a good “prepare ahead when you´ve got guests” dish.
When you´re ready to eat, warm the tomato sauce, add the mussels and the chopped parsley and put the lid on. I usually do this on a medium heat and after about 2 minutes check and see how the mussels are doing. You may need to put the lid on and give the pan a shake to move the mussels around a little.
Once they´re all open they´re ready to eat. The mussels will release their juices so see how much you have in the pot. If you feel you´d like a little more liquid, add a glass of water (or fish stock or wine), if not, they´re fine as they are. I don´t usually add more liquid, these measurements give two large bowls of mussels and enough stock for two good bowls of soup.
You can serve with a salad and plenty of crusty bread to mop up the juices. I recommend serving with a spoon and fork. The fork is for getting those mussels out of their shells for those guests who don´t want to use an empty shell to do this, and the spoon is for the soup part. They´re also nice, particularly if you serve them with less liquid, with crispy chips and garlicky mayonnaise. Don´t forget to put an empty bowl on the table to chuck the shells into and a bottle of chilled white, rosé or red wine. Yes, I do mean chilled red, believe me, it works! It´s one of those dishes that works with any wine. A bit like me really…
So in 2016 I turned 50. I was in Italy for my 21st, 30th and 40th. To keep this birthday tradition going I always knew I'd be in Italy for my 50! This blog starts with my 5 week adventure in Puglia but my love affair with Italy continues.....