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Juicy, tasty morsels with a little spice

Juicy, tasty morsels with a little spice

Finally I have dug myself out from under the pile of work that filled my last few months. Finally, finally I have a little time and energy to post a recipe again – I have been missing it!

So to celebrate the occasion I threw myself a tiny little party. All very private and exclusive: just me and a plate of nibbles.

I got off from work much too late to buy fresh ingredients. But my mad working hours have made me rather good at stocking up the freezer. So I grabbed some frozen fish and prawns and within no time I had these lovely fish cakes sizzling in the oven. (Actually I even grabbed the coconut milk from the freezer – whenever I have some left-over I freeze the rest in an ice-cube tray and then pop the cubes into a freezer bag).

The amazing thing is this really is a store-cupboard/freezer dish – you need nothing fresh (I do admit I would suggest adding the fresh coriander, but I have done it without plenty of times).

I’ll be honest these are not quite authentic Thai fish cakes, but they are so tasty and healthy so I have stuck with these. ( I love them as a starter or side to zucchini “Pad Thai”)

By the way, you can play with the texture of these by adjusting the baking time. Baking them longer makes them a little chewy and more like the fish cakes I have eaten in Thailand. If you cook them for a shorter time they are more succulent and airier.  Either way, they are fabulous.

The only thing I have to admit…..this recipe is not coming to you very ‘fresh’. It has been over a week month since I threw myself that I-finally-have-time-to-blog-again party. I guess I still need to do some work on the recipe for the perfect free – and work time balance.

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Ingredients
(a hardly altered from the blog ‘45 Degrees‘)
Serves 2

350 g  white-fleshed fish fillets( frozen is fine) (I have used cod, red mullet)
150 g uncooked, peeled prawns (frozen is fine)
2 tbsp ( low-fat)  coconut milk
1 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tbsp chili powder
1/3 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp brown sugar
optional: 1 kaffir lime leaves (I find mine in the freezer section of my Asian supermarket)
1 spring onions
small handful fresh coriander
2cm piece ginger,
3 cloves garlic
1 red chili (alternatively 1/2 tsp dried crushed chili)

 

Recipe

  1. Rinse the fish and prawns and pat as dry as possible.
  2. Cut in chunks and place in food processor.
  3. In a cup combine coconut milk, fish sauce, chili powder, cumin, coriander and brown sugar. Pour over the fish.
  4. Use scissors to cut the lime leaf into strips.
  5. Slice spring onion.
  6. Chop coriander.
  7. Grate the ginger.
  8. Mince the garlic
  9. Chop the chili.
  10. Add all the above ingredients to the fish.
  11. Pulse to create a thick paste.
  12. Use your hands to form the paste into little balls (about the size of a golf ball). Press to make a thick disk. (Tip: wet your hands to make the rolling easier. If your paste is too wet you can add a little flour or breadcrumbs.)
  13. Refrigerate the cakes for 10 min (you can scip this step but I find it makes for juicier cakes).
  14. Preheat the oven to 190C.
  15. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Place cakes on tray.
  16. Bake 15 min. Turn and bake another 10-15 min. The cakes will still be quite moist. If you prefer a chewier cake bake for a little longer).
  17. Serve with a dipping sauce or Sweet chili sauce, a lime wedge and a few coriander leaves.

Serve with

  • Plain as a starter
  • As a side to zucchini Pad Thai

 

Tips

  • All the ingredients can be stored in the freezer (and the coriander can be left out.)
  • Left-over coconut milk can be frozen in an ice cube tray and then stored in a freezer bag.

Related recipes

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I have a new favourite recipe book! Honey & Co – Food from the Middle East.

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What I like most: it is honest and transparent. Pictures, recipes, stories, all – and that makes it inspiring!

The other week I went to an evening of talks on food and business. Interesting stuff about sustainability, awareness etc. But then one of the guests was a food stylist working with one of the major popular food magazines. Quite inadvertently she ended up sharing that more often than not dishes “need a little help” to be photogenic. In the background there was this perfect photograph of a fish en papilotte … which turned out to be pretty only because it was still half raw.
She had to admit that anyone how would cook this dish would be disappointed because the end result could never look anything like the promise of her picture.

I am not sure which was worse, her obvious discomfort when she shared this or the defeatist shoulder shrug that followed: there she was telling us that she had turned her passion for food into a job, but in the same breath she revealed that she was compromising on her dream to scrape together a living.

It was only a small moment, but it seemed like this insincerity sucked up the positive energy in the room and left us all a little deflated.

Insincerity is apparently common enough for me to forget all about it until I read the introduction to this recipe book: every word radiates the authors’ passion for food and their desire to spread this joy. I would have appreciated this book regardless, but at that moment I realized that what can be seen as “just” another recipe book, is at the same time an expression of possibility: the passion to dream, the dedication to create and the strength to live whole-heartedly.

I will not share many recipes from this book as ….. well, you should buy the book J

But to spark your curiosity here is one recipe that should tickle your taste buds. This dish is like nothing I have eaten before:  fish, grapes, cucumber, yoghurt and herbs – just imagine that mix of fresh flavours and contrasting textures – and it takes no time at all to put together. I served it with a quick side of couscous, chickpea and harissa (another recipe from this beautiful book).

What a beautiful gift of inspiration (foodie and otherwise)!

Ingredients
(Hardly altered from ‘Honey & Co. Food from the Middle East’ by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich)
Serves 2

2 small Lebanese cucumbers (or 1/2-1 regular) about 300g
125g good quality(!) red grapes
about 6 mint leaves
about10g fresh dill
1/2 tbsp lemon juice and a little more to drizzle the fish before serving
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil, plus 1 tbsp for frying
100g yoghurt (the authors advise goat. I used ‘Total 0% fat’ Greek yoghurt)
2 filets of sea bream (NL:zeebrasem, DE: Graubarsch?)
 

Recipe

  1. Shave off thin slivers of the cucumber skin lengthwise to give it a stripe pattern.
  2. Cut the cucumber into half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Cut the cucumber into 2cm slices and place in a large bowl.
  3. Cut the grapes in half. Add to the cucumber
  4. Chop the mint and dill and toss with the cucumber and grapes.
  5. Season the salad with lemon juice, salt, pepper, a little olive oil and mix well
  6. Place a dollop of yoghurt on each plate. Place some of the cucumber salad on/next to the yoghurt.
  7. Heat the remaining olive oil in a thick based pan. Place the fish in the pan, skin side down.
  8. If you like crispy skin: cook about 4 min on the skin. Alternatively cook 2 min, flip and cook another 1-2 min.
  9. Place the fish on top of the salad on your plates.
  10. Drizzle with lemon juice.*

 

 Tips & Variations

* the original recipe has you put the juice of 1/4 of a lemon in the pan with the fish and let it sizzle before plating. Personally I found the lemon flavour too strong. 

Serve with

  • Couscous with chickpeas and harissa (same recipe book)

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'Although I cannot lay an egg, I am a very good judge of omelettes' - George Bernard Shaw

‘Although I cannot lay an egg, I am a very good judge of omelettes’ – George Bernard Shaw

It is funny what can make you feel happy. I just found myself thinking: finally, finally it is cold, grey and rainy again – how fabulous that the weather is so dismal and I am so tired, that I want to stay inside, sit behind my laptop and finally write a post again. 🙂

The summer has been filled with long sunny days that were just too short for cooking extensive meals. Therefore the last weeks have been all about quick and easy dinners fixes. This dish has been one of my favourite discoveries: a simple silky omelette with plump and juicy prawns. The flavours are a combination of the saltiness of soy sauce and the delicate garlic of chives. It makes a lovely lunch dish or a light dinner with some fried rice and steamed paksoi.

I came across this Asian dish in the most roundabout way. It all started with a visit to Spain earlier this year and a day trip to Gibraltar. On a lunch menu full of rich and heavy dishes, the “Prawn Omelette” caught my eye.  The combination made so much sense. There I was looking forward to a delicate fluffy omelette, when my plate arrived piled high with these odd crispy fritters. Unfortunately they were greasy and lacked favour, but they had caught my imagination.

I discovered that Tortitas de Camarones, shrimp pancakes, are a specialty of Andalucía. They are made from an egg-less batter of (part) chickpea flour and of course shrimp.  Once home I almost became obsessed with turning, what sounded like a winning combination of ingredients, into a tasty dish. Obstinate as I am, I tried (and failed) over and over again. When I was mean with the oil the results was rubbery, almost slimy. When I gave in and cooked the fritters in generous amounts of oil, the texture was lovely, but the fritters were sickly greasy.

As I was about to make another experimental batch when my eye fell on the beautiful plump prawns I had bought (a variation on the tiny shrimp I had been using until then, in the hope it would improe things). And I realized I just didn’t have the heart to waste these beauties on another failed dish. So instead I decided to make the omelette that I would have wanted to have been served that day. Simple and plain but so satisfyingly delicate. 

The thing I like best about the island of Gibraltar …….is that it inspired me to make Asian Prawn Omelettes....and how it looks in the distance

The thing I like best about the island of Gibraltar …….is that it inspired me to make Asian Prawn Omelettes….and how it looks in the distance

Ingredients
(based on ‘Wokking Mum‘)
Serves 1

Marinated prawns
1 tsp shaoxing rice wine (or dry pale sherry or at a pinch some vermouth or sake, use a little less)
1/4 tsp tapioca- or corn starch
salt
pepper
6 large prawns

Omelette
1 small tomato
1 spring onion
optional: oil
1/2 tbsp tapioca- or corn starch
2 tbsp milk or chicken stock or water
1 tsp soy sauce
optional: a few drops of sesame oil
2 eggs
salt
pepper
chives
optional: oyster sauce

 

Recipe

  1. Combine the rice wine with the starch and mix until smooth.
  2. Add the salt, pepper and prawns. Refrigerate until ready to use. .
  3. Skin the tomatoes (bring a small pot of water to the boil. Cut a cross into the skin of the tomato. Briefly drop into the hot water. Remove and skin.)
  4. Dice the tomato. If it is very juicy you might want to discard the seeds.
  5. Chop the spring onion.
  6. If using, heat a little oil small pan. Fry the prawns until 80% cooked. Remove from the pan.
  7. Combine the starch with the milk, stock or water and mix until smooth.
  8. Whisk in the two eggs.
  9. Season with soy sauce, sesame oil (optional), salt and pepper.
  10. Add the tomato, spring onion and prawns to the egg mix.
  11. Pour the mixture back into the pan.
  12. Reduce the heat and cook until the egg is 90% set.
  13. Chop the chives.
  14. Plate and sprinkle with chives and oyster sauce, if using. 

Tips & Variations
After you have cooked the prawns add some thinly sliced onions and/or bean sprouts to your pan


Serve with
Fried rice and paksoi or sugar snaps

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ผัดไทย

ผัดไทย (Pad Thai) – bringing authentic Thai street food to your table – with a twist.

 

“Tick, tick, tick”-  that sound was my first encounter with Pad Thai.

It was a few lifetimes ago, on one of my first holidays outside Europe. I had been in the country only a few hours and was waking up from a jet lagged coma in a tiny Bangkok hotel room.

At first I wasn’t sure whether the “tick, tick, tick” belonged to the world of my dreams or this exotic foreign land. I lifted a dream heavy hand to pull back the curtains (not too hard to do, as the room was only a few centimetres wider than the bed). The world outside had changed whilst I had been napping:  night had fallen and the day’s desolate street had tuned into a bright and buzzing stage.

There was a crowd in a circle on the street below.  At the heart of all, there was a little aluminium cart. Blue flames licking a wok. A man industriously working a stir-fry.

“Tick, tick, tick” and moments later I was holding a little square plastic tub. At first I was a little disappointed, that all this anticipation delivered no more than a few noodles, some bits of chicken and a few diced veg. But then I used my flimsy chopsticks to slide a bite into my mouth; an amazing flavour explosion hit me: sweet first, followed by spicy- salty and then the lightest touch of sour.

I experimented for a while with different recipes to get as close as I could to the memory of that taste. This time I combined the traditional flavours of Pad Thai with one of my newer discoveries: zucchini noodles. I was amazed how well they worked in this dish. If you do not feel inclined to take a julienne cutter – even better a spiral cutter – to a zucchini, this recipe works just as well with the customary rice noodles.

A plate of Pad Thai always takes me down memory lane for a few moments. But then it mainly makes me smile at all those new discoveries and adventures that lie ahead.

Tamarind, fish sauce and brown sugar are a must, but the shrimp are optional

Tamarind, fish sauce and brown sugar are a must, but the shrimp are optional

 

Ingredients
Serves 2

1-2 zucchini (or rice noodles)
150g raw prawns
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp tamarind sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
pinch of dried chilli
optional: 2 level tbsp dried shrimp
spring onion
coriander
1/2 red onion or 1 shallot
2 garlic cloves
1 red chilli
black pepper
100g bean sprouts
2 eggs
peanuts
1 lime

 

Recipe

  1. If making zucchini noodles: Use a spiral- or julienne cutter to cut the zucchini into noodles. When using a spiral cutter, break the strands about three times as they are too hard to eat when they are too long.
  2. If using rice noodles: bring water to the boil and prepare the noodles according to packet instruction.
  3. Peel and devein the prawns.
  4. In a small pan combine the lime juice, fish sauce and tamarind sauce and brown sugar. Heat gently to dissolve the sugar and taste – add more of any of the ingredients as you wish. Season with dried chilli to taste. Set aside.
  5. If using dried shrimp: Pour some of the boiling water on the shrimp. Allow to sit 10 minutes.
  6. Thinly slice the spring onion.
  7. Chop the coriander.
  8. Slice onion into very thin half moon slices.
  9. Deseed and chop the chilli.
  10. Fry onion, chilli, garlic on a high heat until just soft.
  11. Drain the dried pawns and add, keeping the heat high.
  12. Add the noodles to the hot pan. Heat until the zucchini wilts (You are looking for the texture of al dente pasta.)
  13. Add the sauce.
  14. Push the noodles to the side. Add the prawns and black pepper. Cook until the prawns are just pink.
  15. Toss in the bean sprouts. Move all to the side again.
  16. Add the eggs. Pierce the yolks and, when they start to set on the bottom, scramble. Stir vigorously until almost set and then mix into the noodles.
  17. Add half spring onion and coriander (and peanuts).
  18. Arrange on a serving plate and sprinkle with remaining spring onion and coriander (and peanuts).
  19. Cut the lime in the wedges and serve on the side.

Serve with

  •  this is a dish of its own right, but you can add
  •  steamed bok choy
  •  Thai fish cakes

 

Variations
Replace the prawns with a combination of chicken and tofu

Some of the health benefits
Click on the links to discover some of the health benefits of bean sprouts or zucchini

A simple weeknight treat

A simple weeknight treat


I present, “The Vegetable of the Week“: leafy green spinach.

I couldn’t stand the stuff when I was a child – ugh, that pureed frozen stodge, usually heated for ages. But then I discovered that spinach is actually a lovely fresh leafy vegetable….that is, if you only heat it ever so briefly or eat it raw.

Now spinach is one of my favourite veggies, especially for a quick weeknight meal.

This dish, for example, is one of my go-to dinners for busy week days. Usually I take the 30 minutes to cook some dried lentils, but when I am really rushed and starving I just pop open a tin of lentils and have a plate of healthy, comforting food ready in 15 minutes.

By the way, instead of cooking the fish in a fry pan, you can also prepare it en papillotte (wrapped in parchment paper and baked in the oven). Although it took me a few tries to get a feeling for the time the fish needs to cook, I now prefer this method. I’ll share my ‘recipe’ (more like an instruction) for fish en papillotte soon!

And if you like the idea of pairing fish and lentils have a look at this unique and delicious recipe for Tuna with lentils and strawberries (yes! Strawberries.)

Ingredients
(from the blog ‘Dishing up Delights’
Serves 2

150g lentils – I like using French Lentils, but regular green lentils are great to (or a can of lentils)
375ml water
optional: ¼ stock cube
optional: 1 bay leaf
2 tbsp fresh parsley
2 tbsp fresh basil
2 tbsp fresh mint (optional)
400g spinach, organic*
1 small shallot (or a ¼ onion)
1 tbs oil
100g cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper
2 fillets of firm white fish like halibut

Recipe

  1. If using dried lentils: Rinse the lentils in a sieve. Put in a small saucepan with the water and the stock , bay leaf (if using). Cook according to package instructions (usually: bring to the boil, turn down the heat and cook 30 or so min).
  2. If using tinned lentils: Rinse the lentils in a sieve. Put in a small saucepan with a tiny bit of water and warm gently whilst preparing the rest of the meal.
  3. Chop the parsley finely and carefully cut the basil and mint into very fine small ribbons.
  4. Wash the spinach. Chop the shallot. Cut the tomatoes into halves
  5. Heat the oil and gently fry the shallot until soft.
  6. Add the tomato and fry gently, turning them carefully a few times.
  7. Remove the tomato and shallots on to a plate. (Keep the pan on the stove.)
  8. Heat a separate pan and cook the fish.
  9. When the fish is almost done, throw the spinach in the pan you used for the onion and. Move the spinach around just enough for it to wilt.
  10. Add the chopped herbs and the lemon juice to the lentils and check for pepper and salt.
  11. Plate up the lentils mixed with the spinach and topped with tomatoes and fish.

* Tips

Spinach is one of the high pesticide-containing foods, so it’s important to eat organic spinach if you can.

Other recipes using spinach

 

 

 

Some of the health benefits

  • This is a very nutrient-dense food. It’s low in calories yet very high in vitamins, minerals. For example:
  • Spinach is loaded with flavonoids which act as antioxidants, protecting the body from free radicals. Researchers have discovered at least 13 different flavonoid compounds that act as anti-cancer substances. The various nutrients offer much in the way of disease protection.
  • Another of the benefits of spinach is that this is a heart-healthy food. It’s an outstanding source of vitamins C and A which are antioxidants that help reduce free radical amounts in the body. The antioxidants work to keep cholesterol from oxidizing. In addition, folate is good for a healthy cardiovascular system, as well as magnesium, a mineral that helps to lower high blood pressure.
  • In comparison to red meat, spinach provides a lot less calories, is fat and cholesterol free, and an excellent source of iron. Because iron is a component of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to all body cells, it’s needed for good energy.
    (source: www.naturally-healthy-eating.com)
Summer days on a plate

Summer days on a plate

What a summer! Full of experiences which left little time for cooking and blogging. But cooler air and quieter days have returned and I am looking forward to pottering around in the kitchen again.

When times are as busy as they have been lately, this tuna pasta sauce is one of my go-to dishes. All the ingredients come straight out of the storage cupboard and it takes hardly any effort or time to throw together. As I try to get as many vegetables on my plate as possible I serve it on a tiny portion of spaghetti with a big pile of zucchini “pasta”.

The reason why this recipe is at top of my lists to share, is because it is a big thank you to my friend LL for the lovely visit I had with her in Italy at the beginning of the summer. This recipe (originally her mother’s) takes me straight back to the early years of our friendship:  she made this dish a few times before we went out for a night on the town.

Thank you L for all those long years of friendship…and this fab sauce recipe (and apologies if it is not quite the same as you taught me all those years ago) 🙂

Strolling through Cervia

Strolling through Cervia

Ingredients
Serves 1-2

1 onion
oil
1 clove of garlic
1 can of good quality tuna (I have to admit that using a tuna on a good olive oil tastes best but I tend to use tuna packed with only a few drops of water)
1 can of tomato
1/2 tsp vegetable stock powder / cube
chili flakes
salt, pepper
1/3 – 1/2 portion of whole wheat spaghetti
1 zucchini
optional: parmesan cheese

Recipe

  1. Chop the onion. Fry in a saucepan in a little oil.
  2. Squeeze in the garlic and fry until golden.
  3. Drain and add the can of tuna.
  4. Chop the tomatoes and add with the juice.
  5. Season with stock powder, chili flakes, salt and pepper.
  6. Allow to simmer, stirring once in a while.
  7. Bring a large pot of water to the boil add plenty of salt.
  8. Using a julienne peeler* cut the zucchini into strips.
  9. Add pasta and cook.
  10. 2 minutes before the pasta is done add the zucchini strips.
  11. Sprinkle with parmesan shavings.


Tips

The only thing I use my julienne peeler for is to cut zucchini into pasta. Nonetheless I find it totally worth having. I love the fact that it lets me have all the joy of eating pasta with all the health benefits of eating vegetables.
If you do not have a julienne peeler, you can also use a regular peeler or knife to cut the zucchini into thin ribbons.

This tuna olive tapenade is full of powerful flavours that pack a punch

This tuna olive tapenade is full of powerful flavours that pack a punch

You know you are a lucky person when you can look up from your plate and see a table surrounded with the smiling faces of friends. The air is full with the sound of buzzing conversation, bubbling laughter and clinking forks.  The table is full of tasty bites and scrumptious nibbles. Life is good!

This tapenade is a great little make-ahead dish for a fuss free dinner party. It tastes salty, rich and earthy. Originally tapenade is made with just olives and capers. This version includes tuna.  Quite moreish!

Thanks againTC and VV for giving me….and my tapenade… a place at your table.

Ingredients
(from ‘Aller Lekkerste Zomer’)

50g capers
150g  good quality pitted black olives
3 anchovies filets
1 can of good quality tuna in olive oil (about 200g)
a pinch of dried thyme
1/2 tsp lemon juice
salt, pepper
about 2 tbsp olive oil

Recipe

  1. Rinse the capers. Add to a food processor together with all the ingredients except the olive oil.
  2. Blend until the dip has reached the desired consistency. Add extra olive oil if necessary. ( I like my tapenade rather smooth.)
  3. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  4. Refrigerate for at least one hour or preferably over-night. Can be stored in the fridge for about four days.

 

Tips & Variations

Consider some of the following

  • leave out the tuna and anchovies for a more traditional tapenade
  • replace anchovies with anchovy paste
  • add a clove of garlic
  • add lemon zest
  • replace thyme with oregano
  • add chopped parsley


Serve with

  • raw vegetables as a dip
  • cream cheese or rye bread
  • crostini and baked ricotta