Saturday, 16 March 2013

Cod, Chermoula Crust, Roasted Butternut Squash & Brown Rice Pilaff with Samphire

Recently I have hankered to eat fish. After a never-ending winter, I am dreaming of warm days, preferable spent by the sea eating freshly caught fish and vibrant salads (one can dream!). This recipe sort of bridges that gap, as fresh fish is swaddled in a moreish crust and the combination of cod, creamy squash and a buttery, nutty pilaff are deeply comforting on a winter's day.

The inspiration came from a delicious supper I had this week cooked by my friend Letizia. After a first course of pasta (of course, she’s Italian) we were served a piece of haddock, bought from her local fishmonger, baked in a lightly spiced crust with an incredibly creamy pumpkin mash. Very simple but so satisfying. On asking her what I should cook for a house supper the next day, she said ‘this’. So I did, chopping and changing with my own recipe and additions.

My fabulous fishmonger supplied the best and freshest cod fillets I have ever eaten. The flesh was pearly white and so clean tasting and a million miles away from the packaged cod you buy from a supermarket. From the grocer next door I found some samphire to add to a brown rice pilaff and a large bunch of flat-leaf parsley, fresh garlic and green chillis to make a chermoula crust for the fish.

Served with some roasted squash the result was delicious, comforting and everyone loved it.  For pudding Ellie made her signature Vanilla Crème Patisserie and Fresh Raspberry Jelly Cups which were heavenly. 

Cod with a Chermoula Crust, Roasted Butternut Squash & Brown Rice Pilaff with Samphire
Serves 4-5

For the squash…
  • Preheat the over to 200C. Half one large Butternut Squash lengthways. Slash the flesh and top with 2 tbsp Butter, Seasoning and a drizzle of Oil. Roast in the oven, cut-side up, for 1hr.
  • When soft and golden, taken out of the oven and scoop the flesh out into a saucepan, removing any seeds along the way. Crush slightly with a fork and add a dash of Milk, some Butter and Seasoning (it may need a little sugar also). Reheat when ready to serve. 

For the pilaff…
  • Melt 50g Butter in a small heavy based saucepan or casserole. Add 1 Onion, finely diced, a tsp Salt, and gently sauté until translucent. Add 1 Tbsp Curry Powder and 2 Garlic Cloves, finely chopped and cook for 1 min. 
  • Add 300g Brown Basmati Rice and stir to coat the grains.  Then add 500ml Chicken Stock, place a lid on top turn the heat to low. Cook for about 40 mins, until the rice is cooked but retains a bite. 
  • Just before serving add a large handful of Sampire which has been rinsed and drained, pop the lid back on to let it steam for a couple of minutes, then serve.

For the fish…
Preheat the oven to 190C
  • In a food processor whizz 400g White Bread, 1 large bunch of Parsley, 1 chopped Green Chilli, 4 chopped Garlic Cloves, 1 tsp Smoked Paprika, Juice and Zest 1 Lemon and some Salt & Pepper.
  • Arrange 2 large Cod Fillets (enough to serve 4 depending on how hungry you are) in a baking tray, skin side down, and press the crust onto the fish.
  • Drizzle with Olive Oil and roast in the oven for approximately 20 minutes. It will be ready when a butter knife easily pushes through the flesh. 

Monday, 11 March 2013

Almond French Toast, Slow-cooked Lamb & Creme Bachique

 This mothering Sunday I decided to opt for the classic: French Toast. Is their anything better than a hunk of golden, buttery, eggy bread doused in maple syrup? No siree. Crispy bacon takes it up a notch. But I like to keep it simple with a sharp raspberry compote and a dollop of yoghurt. As I can't resist playing, I also dipped the bread in flaked almonds before frying so that they toasted while the bread caramelised in a nod to my mum's favourite Croissants aux Amandes. It worked really well and she loved it.

So did Amelie. She managed to jump paw-first into the action and ended up in prime toast-licking position. The little minx.

 Breakfast cleared away and my next task was lunch. I did our family’s no-recipe, easy peasy and incredibly melt-in-the-mouth shoulder of lamb.  The hardest part is remembering to put it in the oven as soon as you wake up (after a lazy Sunday lie in of course). Whilst the oven is heating to max, put a shoulder (or two) of lamb into a roasting tin, score the skin lightly and drape/drizzle the contents of two tins of anchovies over the lamb with lots of cracked pepper. Don’t worry if you hate fish as they merely act as a seasoning and  all fishy flavour is surrendered to the rich lamb-y juices. 

From this... this

When the lamb has been in the oven for 20 minutes, spread the melting anchovies over all the skin and turn the oven down to low i.e somewhere between 80 – 100°C or at the bottom of an aga, and cook for anything between 4 – 8 hrs basting occasionally until it is almost falling off the bone. All this dish needs is, potatoes boulangere (with plenty of onion) and any seasonal green vegetables, perhaps coated in a white sauce if you are feeling greedy. I love adding a heavy hand of gremolata at the end.

Heavenly Creme Bachique

For dessert I made Diana Henry's Creme Bachique which is just SO GOOD. If it was an English dessert it would be called 'Wasted Custard' or 'Boozy Cream' due to its alcohol content - but Creme Bachique just sounds so much better. It is in fact a very elegant dessert, albeit one that takes half a bottle of dessert wine - the better the wine, the better the result as the flavour really shines through. I used Royal Tokaji 5 Puttonyos Aszu, a beautiful sweet wine from Hungary which somehow had survived Christmas untouched. Henry recommends a Sauternes.

Strangely I managed to make far more mix than could fill the 6 x 125ml moulds suggested and they didn’t completely set (see my sorry picture!) so I have contacted Diana to see what could have happened. She has very kindly agreed to investigate. Additionally she said she created this dish merely from reading about it in an old French cook book sans recipe - how clever is that? I love that there are still so many undiscovered recipes - and this one beats the creme caramel norm hands down. Anyway, imagining it is my mistake, here is her original recipe:

Creme Bachique by Diana Henry published in House & Garden April 2013

  • First make the caramel by dissolving 115g Granulated Sugar with 3 tbsp Water over a low heat. Turn up the heat and boil until it turns to a dark caramel. Slowly add 100ml water (be careful, it splutters) and  leave to cool.
  • To make the custard, preheat the oven to 130°c. Whisk 2 Eggs, 6 Egg Yolks, 100g Sugar & ½ Tsp Vanilla Extract in a large bowl.
  • In two separate saucepans, heat 475ml Double Cream & 250ml Sweet White Wine until they begin to simmer.
  • Slowly whisk the wine into the egg mixture, followed by the cream.
  • Strain through a sieve into a jug and then pour into six buttered, metal, dariole-type moulds, sitting in a roasting tray.
  • Pour boiling water up to halfway around the moulds and cook for 35 minutes until set with a slight wobble.
  • Cool in the water and then chill for 4-6 hours.
  • To unmould, run a knife around the edges and dip in boiling water. Spoon the caramel over each and enjoy.

With thanks to my dad'd delicious rum cocktail which helped write this post - after a
long stretch of inedible cocktails, he finally got his signature punch. So proud.