Monkfish and mussels with a tomato and lemon sauce

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.

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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.

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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.

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Slow Cooked Beef Ribs

Before we set off for Spain and the kingdom of the pig, we had one final beef-feast meal in England. We have a local butcher, a young man called Ben who is passionate about locally sourced, organic meat and providing new and exciting cuts of meat to his customers. We love to shop at his store and make the most of what he recommends.

Slow Cooked Beef Ribs (5)

The other week it was beef ribs, something I hadn’t eaten for years. Put images of the court of Henry VIII out of your mind, with massive roasts supported by half a cow. Something like that just wouldn’t fit in our modern day ovens! I bought six ribs which I asked him to separate into individual ribs, so that I could slow cook them. I had anticipated 2 ribs per person but after our prawn starter, we managed 4 ribs between 3 people – I leave it to you to decide if, like me, “your eyes are greedier than your belly” (as my grandmother used to say)!

It’s not a complicated dish to prepare, the impact of flavour comes from the long, slow cooking which can also be done in a conventional oven.

Ingredients (to feed 4-6 people)

  • 6 beef ribs, separated into individual ribs
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of tomato purée
  • 2 crushed cloves of garlic
  • A large sprig of rosemary
  • A glass of red wine (plus one for the cook)
  • Olive oil
  • Seasoning
  • Maldon (or kosher) salt

Heat a griddle pan to high and switch your slow cooker on to heat (or switch on the oven to low). Sear the ribs on all sides on a high heat until browned. You will probably need to do this in a couple of batches unless you have a huge griddle pan like me!

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While they are being browned, gently heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a deep frying pan. Add the garlic and as soon as it starts to soften, add the tomatoes, the tomato purée and the wine.  Bring to a gentle bubble, season lightly and pop the rosemary in. You are not looking to make a finished sauce at this point, just to get it started and to ensure that it’s hot when it goes into the slow cooker or oven.

Put the ribs into either the slow cooker or an oven dish which you can cover. Sprinkle lightly with Maldon salt and pour the sauce over. Cover the pot/slow cooker and be very, very patient. I cooked mine on low in the slow cooker for about 10 hours, turning them over gently 3 or 4 times during this period until the meat was falling off the bones. In a conventional oven I think 5 or 6 hours should be fine, and if you can make the dish a day ahead, even better.

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Gently remove the ribs from the sauce, trying to keep the meat with the bones if (like us) you feel cheated if someone else gets your bone.

Slow Cooked Beef Ribs (6)

Put the sauce into a pan, remove the rosemary and reduce for about 10 minutes on a medium heat. If you want a silky smooth sauce, use a hand blender to sort out those little chunks of tomato. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve the ribs with the sauce on the side so that strange folk like Big Man can eat them without and normal folk like me can smother them. Creamy mashed potato is always a good idea.

If you happen to be in beautiful Bexhill, do pop into London Road Butchers and say hello to Ben!

For more slow cooked dishes, why not try Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks or Mustard and Cider Chicken?

Crab, Lemon, Chili and Ricotta Ravioli and Mushroom and Tomato Ravioli

That’s a whole lot of ravioli, but as Chgo John will confirm, if you’re going to make ravioli, you may as well make plenty!

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A previous ravioli making session confirmed that they’re much easier and more fun to make if you work with friends. A recent Sunday lunch with girlfriends was a hands on affair – cooking first, eating later, but all accompanied with laughter, wine and chatting.

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We made half a kilo of pasta (500g of flour with 5 eggs, salt and a splash of olive oil) and two fillings. Weights are approximate, but will make filling for about 25 ravioli per filling and you may find you have enough pasta left over for making a little batch of tagliatelle.

Lemon & Chilli Filling

  • About 200g fresh ricotta
  • Approx 200g cooked crab meat (white and dark)
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger
  • The grated zest of a lemon
  • 1 small red chilli, deseeded (or not!) and very finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Mix all the ingredients together, taste and adjust seasoning and use to fill your ravioli. We served these with melted butter melted butter mixed with a little crème fraiche, lemon zest and fresh rosemary with parmesan.

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Mushroom Filling with Tomato Sauce

  • 1 dozen medium sized mushrooms and stalks very finely chopped and fired gently with 2 cloves of crushed garlic and 1 teaspoon of finely chopped rosemary until softened
  • About 125g mascarpone cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon of smoked pimentón
  • ½ ball of mozzarella, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • About 2 cups of thick homemade tomato sauce
  • Fresh parmesan

Mix together the mushrooms, pimentón, mascarpone and mozzarella to form a paté type paste, season and adjust if necessary. Use to fill your ravioli and serve with tomato sauce and freshly grated or thinly sliced parmesan.

Calamares en Salsa de Tomate – Quick Braised Squid in a Garlicky Tomato Sauce

This is a lovely, light dish which looks impressive but is quick and easy to prepare. More so if you have already made some tomato sauce and buy ready cleaned  squid.

If you need some help cleaning your squid, click here.

Ingredients Per Person

  • 3-4 medium squid, cleaned
  • 1 cup of garlicky tomato sauce (To make mine I soften 3 crushed cloves of garlic in olive oil, then add 1 kilo of crushed peeled tomatoes, 2 tablespoon of tomato purée, half a teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of sugar, plenty of fresh garlic, a glass of red wine and a few stalks of basil leaves. Simmer for about an hour, remove the basil and you´re done. This will give you 6-8 cups of sauce).
  • Seasoning

Simply warm the sauce through then drop in the squid (this can be served whole or cut into smaller chunks. Simmer gently for about 5 minutes or until the squid has turned white. Taste, season, then serve – see, I told you it was easy!

Speedy Pasta with Aubergine and Tomato Sauce

When I lived in London my life was, as you can imagine, very different from life Up The Mountain.  For a start I had a Proper Grown Up Job. And I travelled a lot, sometimes spending weeks living out of a suitcase or briefly stopping at home for a pit stop to repack the case.  At times like this my best friends were the local take away menus.  Luckily, I lived in an area that boasted an amazing amount of pretty good quality restaurants who could get something tasty to my doorstep within about 30 minutes of me placing a call.

When I moved to Spain, it took me a while to adjust to the fact that when I didn´t feel all that much like cooking it was either Big Man´s special fried eggs, or jamon, cheese and melon to eat. The nearest take aways or delivery services are, I imagine, in a town a 45 minute drive away.

Finally I realised that I could still have something tasty to eat in about the same amount of time as it would have taken me to decide what to order from the take away menu, make the call and wait for the delivery guy to show up.

This is one of my speedy suppers.  In the time it takes for a large pot of water to come to the boil and the pasta to cook, I have a delicious sauce made to serve with my favourite pasta, plenty of grated parmesan and I even get to swig a glass of wine while it´s cooking.  Well, I need a dash of wine for the sauce.

Per person you need half an aubergine finely diced, two cloves of crushed garlic, two medium tomatoes peeled and chopped, a large slug of wine, a tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs (I used a mixture of parsley and basil), seasoning and olive oil. I also use a crushed dried chili as I like my sauce spicy, but this is up to you.

Put the pot of water on to boil and sauté the aubergine until brown.  Now add the garlic and once it is softened add the tomato and seasoning and the chili if using.  Let the tomato cook down a little by which time you will probably be ready to put the pasta into the pot.  Add your wine and herbs to the sauce and let it bubble away gently until the pasta is cooked and ready to be drained. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

The sauce is a little like the one used in Pasta alla Norma  (ChgoJohn has a fine example of it here and Linda at Savouring Every Bite here).   These recipes give you a deeper tasting, richer sauce as it´s cooked for longer. Yum!

Now all you need to do is mix the sauce into the pasta, grate or shave over plenty of your favourite cheese, pour another glass of wine and think about how you are putting the fast food delivery services out of business.

Ensalada Cateta – Country Salad

¡Ay que rico!

Before I start this quick post, I have to tell you that I´m having a giggle.  The word cateto or cateta translates perhaps more literally as “Peasant”, but not in an offensive way.  Before I started typing I just thought I´d do a quick translation check to see if there was another word I could use and all the on line translation tools, bizarrely come up with the word “leg”!  Not quite sure what is going on there…but I decided to call it Country Salad.

It´s another celebration of that most Andalucían of fruits, the orange.  Again, typically a poor person´s salad it was originally made with salt cod as it was cheap and you didn´t need to use much.  A few other bits of country produce like potatoes, peppers and olives, a good soak in olive oil and you were done.

Of course, nowadays you can get all sorts of glorified versions, but the one I´m giving you here is the one you´ll find in all my local bars and homes around here.  It´s served as tapas in bars, and as a light meal at home.  Of course, some people make their own little tweaks, and why shouldn´t they?  They might leave out the peppers and add tomatoes.  Some people like tomatoes or onions in it, others don´t.  And complete heathens, like me, sprinkle chopped fresh chili all over it to the amazement of their other halves….each to his own I say!

A delicious serving of “Leg” Salad!!

This is what you´ll need (approximately) per person as a light main dish servng size

  • 1 hard boiled egg, finely chopped
  • 2 medium potatoes (boiled in their skin) peeled then chopped into chunks
  • 1 small tin of tuna (I use tuna in brine and drain it, but use your favourite)
  • 1 roasted red pepper, chopped
  • 2 medium oranges (bitter if possible) peeled and cut into chunks
  • About 2 tablespoons of pitted olives sliced (or use ones with stones, your choice!)
  • Optional – chopped onion, chopped tomato, small flakes of salt cod (or use whatever you have available)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • White wine Vinegar (optional) but I like to use it

All you need to do it combine everything in a bowl, season and dress it and leave it for at least half an hour in the fridge so that the potatoes can soak up some of the lovely olive oil.

Good to serve at a party or buffet as it can be prepared ahead and does not suffer from being forgotten in the fridge for several hours.  Hope you enjoy it!

Up The Mountain Pizza Dough

Definitely not thin and crispy, but still delicious!

I adore pizza, and I drool with the memory of childhood pizzas in Rome with my family.  All thin and crispy, not too much topping and hot from the wood burning oven.  I make pizza up my mountain, but for some reason I can never get the dough to stay thin and crispy.  It just wants to keep on rising, no matter how much I knock it back!  Some people have suggested that the combination of heat and altitude are probably affecting the yeast, I think they´re right.

It does mean that I generally don´t have problems getting my bread dough to rise beautifully though.  I have learned to accept that unless I go back to Rome, I will have to wait for the perfect pizza, but in the meantime enjoy my puffier, slightly saucier ones!

For the dough I use my bread maker to knead, but it can also be done by hand by mixing the dry ingredients together then adding the oil and finally gradually adding the water until the dough gets to the right consistency.  Knead for 10 minutes, knock it back then cover in cling film and leave in the fridge until needed.

Ingredients (in this order) for the bread maker

  • 280ml water
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 cups of strong flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 packet of easy blend yeast

When I´m ready to make the pizza, I heat the oven and a large, wide baking tray at maximum temperature. Then I get my toppings ready to use.

I usually roll the rough into one large rectangle (the pizza is enough for four) and put it onto my large flexible chopping board which I have floured. This is so that I can slide the pizza, when it has been assembled straight onto the hot baking tray which gives it a nice crispy base – but if you can´t do this, just take the tray out, lay your dough on it and then work as quickly as you can with the toppings.

This weekend we had tomato sauce, white asparagus tips, hard boiled egg, bacon and crumbled mature goats cheese.  Yes, not very “Plan Bikini” I know, but we were off to a fiesta and had a long night of dancing ahead of us to burn off the calories!