Friday, 3 April 2015

Good Friday & Seafood Risotto

Good Friday is perhaps a fitting day to awaken my slumbering blog. A day when many look to the fruits of the sea for nourishment. 

What I want to write about is last weekend however. A heady monthly occasion whereby I've just been paid and I act like a weekend millionaire. This month I celebrated by making a seafood risotto full of what the market could offer for Filipa and our lovely friend Em's. Fresh prawns, squid and monkfish, joined by some scottish mussels and plump scallops. 

I've read a lot of recipes for seafood risotto and thought what... the.....funk?! Some demand the inclusion of fennel and whipping cream, others fish heads and tinned clams. I've even seen brandy sneaked in. I confess that I haven't actually bitten the bullet and tried any of these additions so maybe I'm missing out. But then if you're going to the time and expense of making something special then you want to know that it works and that the whole thing isn't in danger of being a disaster. 

This is my tweaked recipe and dear reader, it works. It's based on the seafood principles of Rick Stein and the risotto workings of Jamie Oliver combined with all that I can gleam from Leith's teachings on bouillon and stocks. 

If you're not totally confident then I would suggest that you don't serve a starter beforehand. Risotto really does need your attention 100% and any interlude will probably result in a sticky mess or a long wait for your guests. Serve instead centre stage, flanked by great bread, salad and excellent crisp dry white wine to make the whole thing sing as the curtain comes down and your belly hopefully applauds all that has gone before. 


400g prawns, shell on
small bag of say 30 mussels
200g monkfish thinly sliced
50g squid, cleaned and thinly sliced
3 or 4 scallops

For the stock

25ml olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 carrot roughly chopped
small leek
1 tomato
1 celery stick
1/8 teaspoon of saffron 
1.2 litres fish stock - good quality cubes or pots are fine
Cooking liquid from the mussels.

For the risotto

1tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
50g butter
350g risotto rice like Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano 
1 garlic clove chopped
150ml dry white wine
25g parmesan
Scattering of flat leaf parsley to serve 

Read the whole recipe before getting stuck in! Total time will probably be 60 to 90 mins and it will serve 4 royally. Peel the prawns but keep the shells for the stock. Set prawns aside until needed. Wash and scrape the mussels and pull out the beards. Cook on a high heat in a large pan with a splash of water until they open. Strain through a sieve and save the juices for the stock pot later. Shell the mussels, but keep 8 or 10 whole for presentation later. Set aside mussels. Note that you need a lot of prep bowls for this recipe so be prepared! 

Heat oil in a large pan and fry the garlic, carrot, celery, and leek for 5 minutes on a low heat. Add the prawn shells and fry for 2 more minutes then add the tomato, saffron, fish stock and mussel liquor. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes then push through a sieve. 

Get your stock simmering next to you. Melt the butter in another heavy-based pan like a Le Creuset and add the shallots and garlic. Cook until softened. Add the rice and stir continuously for a couple of minutes until hot and well-coated with butter. Pour in the wine. This should smell amazing! 

Add one ladle full of stock at a time to your risotto. Stir with a flat wooden spatula slowly and continuously until the rice has absorbed all the stock. Don't add more stock until the last has been absorbed. The heat should be medium so that everything is bubbling along nicely. 

Taste the rice after 20 minutes or so. You want it al-dente. Tender but with bite. Stir in the cheese. At this point Giorgio Locatelli says that the risotto should ripple like the waves of the sea, so there should be enough liquid for movement when disturbed. Taste for seasoning and grind in some pepper. You may not need to salt but a little bit will probably heighten the flavours. 

While the risotto is cooking, brush the rest of the seafood including the mussels with olive oil and grill for 3-4 minutes. Then carefully mix the seafood into the risotto. Leave a few pieces of seafood and the mussels in shells on top for effect and scatter the parsley. 

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.