Sunday, August 4, 2019

End of Holiday Celebration with Turbot for Dinner

We recently had a two week break where we headed up to the North of England and were spoilt by glorious weather. There was plenty of interesting food too, but the weekend we came home a local fishing boat was selling direct from the quay in Appledore and we picked up a beautiful whole turbot weighing just over 2kg.

This beauty provided the two of us with three perfect dinners, though the final meal of curry did have some prawns added for variety. I needed to rummage around for my largest chopping board and strongest, sharpest knives to make cutting the whole fish up a little easier. The fish was divided into a combination of two thick steaks on the bone, two good fillets off the bone but skin left on, and the rest of the turbot flesh removed from the bone and skinned to use in the curry. The head and bones were all used to make fish stock with some of the tastier morsels from the cooked head being quietly reserved for cooks perks.

The first meal we had used the bone in steaks.  I served them with a gratin of potatoes and baby turnips flavoured with garlic and thyme. The dish was a much simplified version of a Nathan Outlaw recipe reproduced on and printed in Nathan Outlaw's Fish Kitchen cookbook. I did not make the seaweed butter but added plenty of plain butter.

For a video clip of Nathan Outlaw preparing a small whole turbot to cook as 'on the bone' steaks do watch this 2012 Saturday Kitchen YouTube clip.

For the fillets of turbot I chose a recipe from a much treasured cookbook, Joyce Molyneux's The Carved Angel Cookbook. The Carved Angel was a restaurant in Dartmouth, Devon that was once run by Joyce Molyneux who favoured local produce and encouraged local growers and foragers to supply her restaurant. There is a quote in the book that I would wish could be part of all restaurant staff training ' ..we try to make service as unobtrusive as possible, anticipating people's wants, without constantly fluttering around them'.

There is an elegant simplicity about all of the recipes in the book and this turbot dish is flavoured with just lime and ginger.

1 lime
4 x 175g turbot fillets
1 tsp grated ginger root
salt & pepper

Hollandaise sauce to serve ( I cheated and just served a good quality mayonnaise)

Preheat oven to 140C

First pare the zest off the whole lime with a small sharp knife and then cut each strip of zest into thin shreds removing any white pith first.

Peel the thick white pith off the whole lime and remove each lime segment from the surrounding skin. (BBC food website page showing the segmenting technique).

Place the turbot fillets in a buttered ovenproof dish and scatter over the lime segments, half of the shredded zest and all of the grated ginger.

Season with salt and pepper.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the turbot is just cooked.

Blanch the remaining zest strips in boiling water for 1 minute and then refresh under cold water.

When ready to serve, remove the foil and scatter over the remaining zest strips.

Hollandaise sauce will go well with this dish but I find it very rich so am more inclined to serve a small portion of a light mayonnaise and have buttery mashed potato or buttered new potatoes alongside.

The final dish we cooked from our turbot was a Rick Stein curry of potatoes and peas which was augmented with a small addition of turbot and prawns near the end of the cooking time. I had a small quantity of home grown french beans in the garden so took the liberty of adding those too. So apart from the spicing,  I rather veered away from the original recipe. This was served with cucumber raita and a fresh mint and coriander chutney.

While we were away the weather was very warm and dry so, I was amazed that nearly all of the plants in both the garden and allotment survived. The warm weather had brought a lot of the garden plants into flower so we were welcomed home by quite a lot of flowers in bloom, some of which I picked to enjoy indoors:
Dahlias, purple verbena, lavender, purple sage leaves and greek oregano flowers

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Meals inspired by the 2019 Women's World Cup Football Tournament

This post is a summary of some of the dishes I cooked during the 2019 Women's World Cup Football competition. The tournament was hosted by France, so I have taken French food as my inspiration for many of the meals we prepared while the tournament was on.

I learnt to cook in the 1970s and I look back on that period of my life with great fondness. French classical cooking was very in vogue and I still believe many of the classical dishes that I learnt to prepare stand their culinary ground today. It wasn't all butter sauces and elaborate garnishes, but they did feature rather strongly. The food I was really in awe of though was France's bistro style cooking, and the breads and viennoiserie rather than the elaborate cakes and tarts.

The unique flavour of so many dishes relies on quite specific ingredients so I am always delighted when I come across a supplier that sells specialist ingredients by mail order, and my most recent discovery in the UK is frenchclick where among the many things you can order they have french cuts of meat and a superb range of french cheeses.

I think of french cheese shops as quite magical places where I could spend many hours studying all of the fascinating cheeses - so many shapes and textures created by such skillful cheese makers and affineurs. So a cheeseboard was the very simple way we celebrated french food for the opening game of the tournament.
The three cheeses above  are Port Salut, Corsica Fromage de Brebis and Tomme de Savoie.

Another simple but perfect lunch is a plate of terrine or pate with a bitter leaf salad and toast. The salad on this plate is chicory, walnut and slivers of dry cured ham. The terrine is rabbit and prune and the pate is chicken liver and brandy. Both of these were bought ready made.

The above dish may look rather British, but casserole is a saute of french veal kidney and mushrooms which was my first time cooking veal kidney. The kidney was ordered from the frenchclick supplier mentioned above and it came vacuum packed in its full casing of veal fat. I must confess to throwing away the veal fat but I need to research a little more how to use it as it seemed a terrible waste not to.

The weather really has been rather warm for 'meat and two veg' meals so the next dish was back to salads with the very classical salad niçoise. I have managed to grow some quite flavoursome new potatoes in large tubs on the patio at home, so these were put to work and this dish really does benefit from using ingredients at their best.

Now for a dessert, or this could equally be breakfast: French Toast (Pain Perdu) with Strawberries, blueberries and thick plain yogurt, maple syrup if you wish. We enjoyed this while watching Canada play Cameroon.

There are not many perennial vegetables that I grow in the garden but sorrel is one that I would not want to be without. It is often the first 'crop' of a new year. I have a large patch of the small leaf buckler sorrel and a small area of broad leaved sorrel. The buckler leaf sorrel is really welcome in spring salads and the broad leaf I use for soup. The colour of cooked sorrel can be a tad grey and if this annoys you then you can always mix in some fresh spinach to punch up the green colour.

Rarely able to resist a bargain cookbook purchase this lovely book  'Cooking South of the Clouds; Recipes and Stories from China's Yunnan Province by Geogia Freedman, was snapped up from amazon at £6.36 back in early June 2019. The above, rather beige looking soup is a chicken and chestnut soup flavoured with black cardamom. This works well as a summer soup if you cheat and use vac packed chestnuts rather than fresh ones, which I only see available in late autumn and winter. The recipes include a wide range of ingredients such as carrot greens, thai chillies, banana leaves, potatoes, squash leaves, and  flatbreads, as well as the more ubiquitous chinese flavourings. We had this on a day the Chinese team were battling against Spain.

My next dish was back to traditional french ingredients with a cervelas and emmental salad with bitter leaves. I made quite a bad job of poaching the cervelas sausage so they all ended up with very split skins and looking frankly volcanic. The neat slices the recipe called for were out of the question as what I had left after removing the skin was sausage rubble. This was my least successful dish of the series.

Although I live very close to the coast, really fresh fish is hard to buy, so I was delighted to discover this summer that a local boat will be landing and selling fish direct to the public about once a week. The first time I went along they were just selling shellfish and I came away with two beautiful spider crabs and a lobster.
The lobster was used for a recipe that I based loosely on one by the chef Georgio Locatelli in his vast book on Italian cuisine, Made in Italy,  and we ate this while watching Italy play Brazil.

Later in the week I made Thai crab fried rice with one of the cooked and picked over spider crabs. Every time I buy a whole crab that I will have to pick the flesh out of myself I vow at the end of the process to never attempt it again. After about two years though I forget how tedious I found the process and I am back buying a whole crab again. We enjoyed this fried rice dish the day of the Thailand vs Chile game.

I went back to a rather English style starter for the Japan vs England game. In the 1970's just about every restaurant I remember going to had this starter on the menu along with soup, melon and fruit juice. It could often turn out to be a rather large mound of limp lettuce and salad cream with a few prawns on top but when made up with good ingredients I still enjoy eating this childhood memory dish. The sauce which is often called a marie rose sauce will in its most basic form be just mayonnaise (or salad cream) flavoured with a little tomato ketchup and lemon juice. I like a bit of chilli in mine and some cooks add a splash of alcohol to the sauce too. The many variations are discussed in detail by Felicity Cloake in her Guardian newspaper article 'How to make the perfect prawn cocktail'.

The above salmon with cucumber and tomato is a recipe from 'My Gastronomy' by Nico Ladenis which was published in the late 1980's. The salmon is steamed with a little butter and the cucumber is cut into spaghetti like ribbons before being briefly cooked and then dressed with dill and olive oil. The dish is garnished with chopped peeled and seeded tomatoes and a butter sauce.

England vs Argentina -Griddled beef steak with Francis Mallmann's Smashed Potatoes.
I am rather in awe of Argentine bbq methods and Francis Mallmann has written two really good books on the subject Mallmann on Fire and Seven Fires.

Germany vs Nigeria quarter final
Blue Cheese (Forme d'Ambert) and bacon salad with warm new potatoes

Sweden vs Canada quarter final
A very simple rye crispbread with smoked salmon, cream cheese, cucumber and dill. I wish I liked rye crispbreads more, they seem so wholesome when I eat them, but none the less I find them rather hard work to eat.

Italy vs China quarter final
Meatball and spaghetti pasta with a fresh tomato sauce and peppery salad leaves. I like to use a mixture of veal and pork mince for these and add a little parmesan cheese, dried oregano and breadcrumbs to the mix.

England vs Cameroon quarter final
Baked plaice (from our local fishing boat) with chips, mayo and mushy peas.

England  vs USA semi-final 
This is a Robert Carrier recipe for an omelette stuffed with a tomato and aubergine filling. Robert Carrier was a restaurant and hotel owner in England from the 1960's to early eighties who was born in the USA. He had a highly acclaimed restaurant in Camden Passage Islington, London where I was very lucky to once be treated to a meal. I always thought he achieved an ideal balance between some of the more enchanting aspects of french, english and american cooking.

Dessert 1, Gooseberry Fool for England,  in the England vs USA semi-final
Dessert 2, Blueberry Cheesecake for the USA in the England USA semi-final
I was hoping for sweet news for England but the USA put an end to our hopes of being in the final.

Netherlands vs Sweden semi final in Lyon
Meatballs with cumin flavoured carrots and lyonnaise potatoes

Chips & Mayo for an afternoon snack during the final match Netherlands vs USA, which resulted in the USA taking the cup once again.

Finally some consolation english strawberries and ice-cream for England who lost to Sweden in the 3rd/4th place play-offs.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

World Cup 2018: Spain vs Portugal

The team from Portugal made drawing against Spain look easy, or rather Ronaldo made it look easy. I had hoped for a win from Spain but on the day that looked rather doubtful. Spain had sacked their manager just before the tournament started and although they may have felt this was the only option, I hope they asked the players before they did it, but some how I doubt it.

So the chosen cocktail for this match, 'Adios Amigos', which was chosen in hope of Spain beating Portugal, turned out to have a different meaning.

To make this martini style drink you will need:

1 shot Bacardi light rum
1/2 shot Martell cognac
1/2 shot dry gin
1/2 shot dry vermouth
1/4 shot freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 shot sugar syrup
1/2 shot chilled water

Shake all of the ingredients over ice and strain into a chilled martini glass.

This is rather punchy on the alcohol. I sipped mine slowly but was still feeling rather sleepy by the time I reached the bottom of my glass.

The dish for this match was a Russian salmon pie or 'Kulebiaka'. Perhaps more traditionally made with a yeasted dough, I have only ever made this with puff pastry (bought pastry at that). The pie is made up of layers of cooked rice or buckwheat, fried onion and mushroom, dill and parsley, salmon fillets and hard boiled egg, all moistened by little sour cream. It is a rather splendid thing to both look at and to eat.

It may be a rather British thing but pies and football seem to go well together.

World Cup 2018 - Russia

I will be cooking my way through the 2018 Football World Cup as usual, and for this tournament I am going to be exploring the cuisine of the host nation Russia and its neighbours. Many of the cookbooks that I own on the cuisine of Russia also include many of the neighbouring regions such as the Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Estonia and other near neeighbours where there are common food cultures.

So for each game I am going to try and prepare a dish from either Russia or a near by country, and I will also be making a cocktail that will have a link to one of the teams playing. In many cases my cocktails will have very tenuous links but I have recently bought a huge book on cocktails written by Simon Difford and I want to try out as many as I can while I have the excuse, and there are 3,000 in there to have a go at.

So for the opening game of Russian vs Saudi Arabia we had a smoked trout open sandwich on black bread with egg, dill and horseradish cream and a Sputnik #2 cocktail.

The hot smoked trout is from a Blakewells a local trout farm that also has a nice cafe.We often stop off to buy some of their smoked  trout when we are visiting the near by Broomhill sculpture gardens which are just outside Barnstaple, North Devon and well worth a visit. Broomhill also has a good restaurant.

I have been trying to grow a lot of dill in preparation for this adventure into Russian cuisine but the rather fine weather we have had in the last month has resulted in the plants peaking too soon. Much of the dill I planted is shooting up and producing flowers rather than more leaf.

I realised this too late, so the rapidly sown second batch of seed will no doubt be ready to pick just as the world cup is finishing.

To make a Sputnik # 2:

Shake the following over ice and strain into an ice filled 'Old-Fashioned' glass

1 shot Bacardi light rum
1 shot Martell cognac
2 shots freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 shot sugar syrup

Russia had a fairly easy first game against Saudi Arabia though it was far from dull as had been predicted in the press. No surprise though that the second days match of Spain vs Portugal was rather more entertaining.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Cheese & Football Feast the Final: Portugal

I cannot hide my disappointment, I wanted France, the Euro 2016 football tournament hosts, to win last night against Portugal, but it was not to be.
It seemed a struggle for both teams, even with Ronaldo taken off early following a knee injury France did not seem to gain any edge. Goal less at full time, the extra time was looking nearly over when Portugal scored. France appeared to liven up for the last few minutes but to no avail.

So although I was disappointed with the football outcome, the Cheese Feast has been a lot of fun and I have discovered many new dishes and beers along the way. My dish for the final match, Cheese Stuffed Pork Tenderloin, was one published by the Washington Post and is an adaptation of one by David Leite for his book The New Portuguese Table. The meat is marinaded in a hot pepper paste which they give a recipe for, but you can also buy suitable pepper pastes from Portuguese or Turkish delis, which is the route I took. I stuffed the tenderloin with Portuguese Jorge cheese which is quite a full flavoured one. The cheese did ooze out a little while it was cooking and even more when it came to carving the tenderloin to serve, but some stayed inside!
It was served with home grown new potatoes and sugar peas. The meat stayed very succulent which does not often happen when I cook pork tenderloin. The stuffed tenderloin is browned in a pan and then finished in the oven. With all the pepper paste it is impossible to see if the meat juice is pink so I used a thermometer to check the temperature. I think spinach would have been a good vegetable to serve with this but I had freshly picked peas in the fridge so we had those.

I found a similar style of recipe for a cheese and ham stuffed pork loin served with a port and onion sauce on TiaMaria's Portuguese food blog . Her dish is lighter on the paprika/red pepper flavouring which whilst I love smokey pepper flavours, they are not to everyone's taste.

So that is the end of Cheese and Beer/Booze Feast (although I still have a few beers and remnants of cheese to finish up). I hope you have seen one or two dishes you might like to try, or perhaps have been reminded of an old classic you have not made for a while.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Cheese & Football Feast day 22: Germany

The second semi-final in the Euro 2016 football championship was a hard fought game between Germany and France. Germany started in good form, but not for so long, and after an early controversial penalty in which France scored  they seemed to lose their confidence. England supporters are used to seeing their team fluff it on the night, but I think Germany's performance in this game came as more of a surprise to us all.
My cheese feast for the night was Käsespätzle, or Swabian cheese noodles, served with a Franziskaner wheat beer. This cheese noodle dish is very filling food, so I served it as a side dish rather than a main course on its own. The chicken breasts were roast in a mustard and lemon marinade and went well with the noodles but I doubt there is any tradition of serving the cheese noodles with a roast meat in the Swabian area of Germany where Käsespätzle originates.

You can buy the ready made dried egg noodles, and that is a lot easier than making your own, but they are not quite the same. The noodles can be made by spreading the dough onto a small board and scraping it into a pan of boiling water using a knife or by pushing the dough through a special spätzle press, or colander. I have tried two different press designs and found both hard to work with but as one rusted in the cupboard I now just have this one.
 There are some helpful photos and instructions for making the noodles on this step by step guide at

Here is a link to a recipe from for a very basic version of how to make this dish. This recipe for Kaesespaetzle , again from the Germanfood site is much more detailed but like me you may still get yourself in a bit of a tangle trying to make the noodles. I imagine the amount of liquid added to the dough is the critical part, not too thick and not too thin but only practice will tell you what that magic spot is.

Now France play Portugal in the final and I shall be making a Portuguese Jorge cheese stuffed fillet of pork and cheering for France.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Cheese & Football Feast day 21: Wales

Wales played Portugal in the first of the semi finals for Euro 2016 and sadly they did not go through. I am not football savvy enough to know if Portugal raised their game from earlier shows, or if Wales lost their spark, but it never looked like Wales had much of a chance to win.

My cheese feast dish was 'Glamorgan Sausages' which have no connection with sausages other than the shape. These are in effect croquettes of cheese and leek, and very tasty so long as you are not expecting anything resembling sausages. The mixture includes breadcrumbs, egg, leek, cheese and herbs such as parsley and thyme with an egg and breadcrumb coating. You can shallow fry them quite successfully and then finish off under a grill or hot oven.

I looked at a recipe I had used many years ago from a book by Sophie Grigson and was reminded how portions have changed somewhat over the years. The recipe stated it served 4 as a supper dish but only had 150g each of cheese and breadcrumbs and 2 eggs. In my world that only serves 2.

The recipe is reproduced online here but I am afraid there are pretty irritating adverts on that website too. So many of the websites I used to look at regularly for food articles are clogged with video adverts now. My broadband speed is pretty slow where I live so now I just crash out as soon as I find they have trashed their sites with this stuff.
For the beer we returned to the Welsh Brain's Brewery and enjoyed a bottle of the Rev James.
Next up is the semi final between Germany and France and a dish of cheese noodles.