Sunday, 25 August 2013

Caranguejo à la Del

In terms of sunshine and fun times I've had the best summer in years. Which is probably why my fishy blog has been so neglected.

We've had trips to Madeira and the beautiful Western Islands of Scotland, snorkelled, surfed and sunned ourselves from sunrise to sunset. And eaten a lot of fish, but none of it has made it onto here. I could have blogged about the glorious lapas (limpets) that we ate on the beach at Calheta and the fantastic Tagliolini Lobster that Filipa had at San Carlo restaurant in the city, but other stuff happened I guess.

Yesterday we popped to the market mid afternoon. The fish looked dire but there were some pretty decent sized boiled crabs. For £3 we got a little belter. He was packed full of meat. More white than brown too. It took half an hour of messing with a hammer and teaspoons and skewers to get it all out but that's part of the fun hey. Then I dressed him back in his shell freshly seasoned and with a pinch of cayenne pepper. We had him centre stage along with some beautiful asparagus, serrano ham, a crusty baguette, some artichokes and salad. I had also picked up an amazing Sicilian white wine from M&S to go with it called Zibibbo. Easily one of the best bottles of wine we've had this year. 

Have a good week :) 

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Barbecued Balinese spiced fish in banana leaves

We had a brilliant bank holiday weekend in West Wales. Wind, flat lagoons, a new kitesurfing spot, fun with friends and SUNSHINE! It was all rounded off perfectly with the first back garden barbecue of the year.

Secret spot (click images to see large)

Last week I made a trip to Wing Yip in the city. Wing Yip is a chain of Oriental supermarkets with large shops nationwide. I went a bit mad and came home with sushi rice, sake, shrimp paste, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass and banana leaves. It was the banana leaves that I was really after.

I'd tried a recipe of Shelina Permaloo's last week, she being the talented Mauritian winner of Masterchef last year who won the show with her outstanding dishes of Mauritian Octopus Salad and Mutton Curry.

The dish I made was King Prawn Rougaille (Spicy Creole sauce) with saffron and cumin rice. The recipes can be found here and I really do recommend you check them out. I'm afraid I balked at the 30 ingredients necessary for the octopus however. I don't think Filipa would appreciate the washing-up for that one.

The Rougaille was gorgeous and with summer flirting, my mind started with ideas for tropical tones and lush spicy flavours. I'm not going to give you the recipe for barbecued Balinese spiced fish in banana leaves. It's not my recipe, it's Rick Stein's from his Far Eastern Odyssey and although it takes half an hour to make the spice paste, its definitely worth it.

However, I can show you how easy it is to barbecue a fillet of fish on a barbecue using this dish as an example.

serves 4

4 fillets of firm fish such as haddock, monkfish, snapper, cod etc
(or lovely whole fish scaled, gutted, slashed and simply cooked for longer)
8 tsp of spice paste
8 kaffir lime leaves (frozen are better than dried) finely shredded into strips
Banana leaves (frozen and defrosted) or kitchen foil

Light your barbecue and let the flames die down. You want your coals still to be glowing and giving a good heat.

Place your fish fillets in the middle of your banana leaves or foil. Put a teaspoon of spice paste on each side and season with salt. Scatter the shredded kaffir lime leaves on top.

Fold the edges of the banana leaves together and secure with cocktail sticks soaked in some water. If using foil then simply scrunch up the edges so that steam can't escape.

Cook your parcels on the barbecue for 10 minutes turning once. Serve on warmed plates with Thai jasmine rice and maybe some asparagus and sugar snap peas cooked on the barbecue in the same way for 5 minutes. Amazing.

P.S. Don't do like we did and nearly incinerate the cats when the paint on your £5 bucket barbecue ignites. Remember that and you'll be grand :)

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Azores Octopus

The Azores are an archipelago of nine volcanic islands strung across the Northern Atlantic some 1500km west of Lisbon and 1900km southeast of Newfoundland.

Like Madeira, these once-uninhabited islands are autonomous but integrated within the framework of Portugal. They look fascinating.

Travellers return with tales of active volcanoes, tea, pineapple and tobacco plantations, vineyards, boiling seas, towering green cliffs and a lush marine environment with over twenty five species of whales, loggerhead turtles, blue sharks, bottlenose dolphins and deadly Portuguese Man of War jellyfish.

A recipe for jellyfish will have to wait. Octopus girl is back. This recipe makes a lovely and unusual starter and it scored full marks from Filipa. Can't be bad.

serves 4-6 as a starter

750g octopus, cleaned and cut into small chunks
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
celery stalk, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cloves
good handful chopped parsley
large sprig thyme
two pinches ground piri piri or chilli flakes
5 tablespoons white wine
3 tablespoons brandy

Heat the olive oil in a large pan and saute the onion and celery until soft and golden. Add the garlic, parsley and thyme. When you can smell the garlic, add the octopus.

Cook for 15 minutes until most of the liquid has reduced. Add the piri piri and the cloves and season with salt and pepper.

Add the wine, brandy and 125ml of water and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, cover the pan and leave to simmer for 1 hour until most of the liquid has evaporated and the octopus is looking almost caramelised. Remove the lid if needed.

Taste to make sure the octopus is nice and tender and adjust the seasoning. Serve with crusty bread and a big smile.

Recipe adapted from Tessa Kiros' Piri Piri Starfish

Sunday, 31 March 2013


We made a trip back to North Wales over the Easter weekend and took our Portuguese friend Isabel to show her the sights. On route we called in Chester and whilst seeing a small scrap of the city, we stopped by at the lovely Steamer Trading Cookshop on Bridge Street.

Stylishly spun over three floors, they stock gorgeous products from Mauviel, Alessi, I.O.Shen Tai Tang, KitchenAid, Wesco and more. I don't need to say that the prices make your jaw drop.

It was a chance to see the new blue Marseille range of cookware from Le Creuset up close but I have to say that I was rather disappointed. It's nowhere near as vibrant as I'd hoped. The offerings from Staub on the other hand dazzled.

I'd heard Staub mentioned by a chef on Twitter some months ago and marvelled at their Mussel pot with an ingenious internal rack to hold the discarded shells. Like Le Creuset, Staub specialises in enamelled cast iron cookware and the quality is outstanding. At the top of my list is the beautifully made bouillabaise pot crowned with a lovely fish handle. Up close it really is a thing of beauty, and although madly expensive, it's versatile and will last a lifetime.  One day.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Razor clams marinière

Razor clams are fabulous! Most commercially collected razors end up heading to the continent to the Spanish, who call them navajas and the French who call them couteaux corbes. I nabbed some before they left our shores and cooked them as a starter steamed in white wine with lots of butter, garlic and parsley just like the more conventional moules marinière.

This recipe is from The River Cottage Fish Book, my copy of which is now so splattered and beaten that it would probably make a food safety inspector wince and a cat drool.  I've made half the recipes and only one has disappointed. Check it out on Amazon here.

serves 4 as starter or halve for 2

16 razor clams
75g unsalted butter
olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
1 glass white wine
handful of parsley, chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper

Scrub the clams well in cold water. Heat a large deep frying pan or saucepan over a high heat. Add the butter and a dash of olive oil to stop it from burning. When hot and bubbling, add the garlic, chilli and the clams. Toss the clams and then let them fry for a couple of minutes.

Pour in the wine and let it bubble for a further minute. Then add the parsley and season well. By this time all the shells should have opened (discard any that remain shut) and the flesh cooked. Serve in warmed dishes with the cooking liquid spooned over them . Good bread for those juices is essential.

I'd love to try hunting for some wild razor clams this spring and barbecuing them at the beach. The Scots call it spooting and it's perhaps the ultimate in foraging / hunting at the beach. Let's hope for some nice warm balmy evenings and a low tide :)

Friday, 8 March 2013

Scallops & wilted wild garlic with foam butter

Being as there hasn't been any decent breeze for over a month now, last weekend was another spent in sunny Manc. I was also supposed to be writing an economics assignment but that's a different story.

We ended up at a favourite. Bolton market. Bury market down the road gets the press, and it's actually much closer to us, but the fish, seafood and food in general at Bury pales compared to Bolton in terms of both quality and variety. It's also half as busy.

On the slab in Bolton yesterday was cuttlefish, catfish, razor clams, whelks, pike, periwinkles, huss, tope, and live brown crabs in addition to sea bass, hake, flatties, prawns, octopus, squid, haddock, cod etc etc etc.

And if you're just a little bit lost and don't actually like fish and seafood at all, then I also spied goat legs, pigs heads, goose eggs and whole host of weird and wonderful vegetables, fruits, herbs and chillies.

Anyway! If you like scallops then this recipe is a great little starter for spring. Wild garlic gets growing this month so it's a pretty seasonal dish and there are plenty of damp woodland spots where it grows prolifically in North Wales. In Manchester the forage was a bit more urban.

I got the bare bones of the recipe from the link below and I suggest you do the same for the wilted garlic leaves and the butter foam. My only gripe is that it's ridiculous to slice beautiful scallops into smaller discs!

Just sear them in a small amount of olive oil in a searingly hot pan for 1 minute on each side. Remember to place them in the pan starting at the 12 o'clock position and work around the pan clockwise so they all cook evenly. Easy.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Portuguese pork with clams

Another Portuguese dish! But I make no apologies because it's awesome. The sweet saltiness of the pork and clams and the sweet acidity of the tomatoes works brilliantly. The recipe is an Anthony Worrall Thompson effort from the BBC site and I think it's pretty much perfect. Find it here. Instead of rice I made crunchy little sauteed potatoes and served with plenty of fresh herbs. Filipa reckons it's the best Portuguese dish I've ever made so it must be alright. 

I believe pork with clams is a signature dish of the Alentejano region of Portugal which also just happens to produce some great red wines. Fate! This is a 2010 Terra D'Alter from the region and it's a beauty.  The surf isn't bad either in this south central region of the country. What more could you want...