Thursday, 27 January 2011

Sea Bream with Fennel and Orange

The greatest (or worst) part of cooking a fish dish is that it is often hard to predict what the fishmonger will have that day, so unless you cannily bring a recipe book in with you, one has to improvise on the spot the rest of the ingredients to match the fish. In this case, I went to the fishmonger thinking I would be doing a bouillabaisse but all they had were two (lovely) little sea bream, so sea bream it was! Next door in the grocers they had some slightly worse for wear fennel which I thought I should rescue and fish loves fennel so that seemed perfect. At home I made a sauce for the fish by braising 2 fennel bulbs (quartered) in the juice and zest of 1 orange, thyme, sliced garlic and some stock. 

When it came to cooking the fish, I’ve found that the easiest way to cook fillets (after the fishmongers done the smelly gutting and filleting for one) is to whack an oiled baking tray into a 200˚C set oven until smoking, then add the seasoned fillets, skin side down, and cook for ten minutes. Check the fish is done by having a look to see if the translucent flesh has all turned opaque – it may need another two minutes. For the last 2 minutes I added the fennel and it’s cooking juices to let the fish take on some of the delicious Sicilian flavours. I topped with fennel fronds and served with crushed new potatoes. 

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Soul food for the bleak mid winter

Osso Bucco on Saffron Risotto with Gremolata

Blueberry and Lemon Friands

Sometimes I find that the more beautiful a cookbook, the less I will use it - Nigel Slater's homage to vegetables, Tender, is such a wonderfully bound tomb I rarely take it off the shelf rather than for a flick but cookbooks from Jamie, Nigella, Delia....whilst also being no doubt fine looking but average in the world of cookbooks, appear dog-eared and splattered with gravy from their devout usage. So the other day I decided to cook something from Jane Lawson's Snowflakes and Schnapps, a beautifully photographed and bound book that had not moved from the coffee table since it was received. The recipe I chose was the Osso Bucco with saffron risotto - risotto is actually one of the very few things I don't like as I find it a bit heavy and dry (and 20mins of continuously stirring irks me!), but the idea of the tender veal with all its flavorsome juices combining with the risotto sounded (and was!) delicious. The recipe was fairly long winded but not at all complicated and looks very fetching too. 

I also made some Blueberry and Lemon Friands which I have made countless times as they are so light and moist that I barely count them as a treat but a prerequisite with coffee! Originally a small French cake, apparently they are very fashionable in Australian coffee shops...hopefully they'll catch on here as they're much nicer than muffins and less naughty than cakes as ground almonds take the place of the majority of the flour and only the white of the egg is used. 

  • Blueberry and Lemon Friands
    • Preheat the oven to fan 180C/conventional 200C/gas 6. Generously butter six non-stick friand or muffin tins. Melt 100g Butter and set aside to cool.
    • Sift 125g Icing Sugar and 25g Plain Flour into a bowl. Add 85g Ground Almonds and mix everything between your fingers.
    • Whisk 3 Medium Egg Whites in another bowl until they form a light, floppy foam. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, tip in the egg whites and the Grated Rind of 1 Lemon, then lightly stir in the butter to form a soft batter.
    • Divide the batter among the tins, a large serving spoon is perfect for this job. Sprinkle a handful of Blueberries (about 85g) over each cake and bake for 15-20 minutes until just firm to the touch and golden brown.
    • Cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then turn out and cool on a wire rack. To serve, dust lightly with Icing Sugar.