Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Devilled Mackerel with Tomato, Onion and Mint Salad

An early start today with a 6am rendezvous on South Shields pier with a spinning rod and a shiny spinner. Mackerel season is in full force and I love this fish with a passion. Cheap, delicious and plentiful, it is the fish for frugal times.

Trying to catch them is another matter. They should be the easiest fish in the ocean to catch when they are in season. 3 hours of spinning and 2 dropped mackerel later, I packed away veritably fishless. But thanks to a very generous Graham Slesser and his daughter, the best fishermen in the world, and a couple more generous chaps alongside me, I came home heavy laden with 8 fat mackerel. And before you ask, and despite the temptation to pretend to be the caveman returning with his meat for the family, I told the truth to my girls.

Now to the treatment - devilled mackerel. A beautifully rich fish to eat, the combination of spices in this recipe cuts through the oiliness to create the most delicious of fish suppers. Devilling is a combination of 'British spices' from our East India Trading days, and our Victorian ancestors utilised this combination of cayenne, mustard, paprika and coriander to perfection. It needs nothing other than a simple salad of tomatoes, onions and mint and a few crisped potatoes.

This is typical Rick Stein grub, the kind of simple pleasurable food that gets both of us excited and one that I am proud to reproduce with a few tweaks from his 'Seafood Lovers Guide' for your pleasure. But the main thanks go to real fishermen, Graham and his daughter who despite fighting out a 2-2 draw became true champions in my grateful and greedy eyes...

Devilled Mackerel with Tomato, Onion and Mint Salad
Feeds 4

4x mackerel, gutted, cleaned and trimmed
20g butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp English mustard
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp teaspoon paprika
1 tsp teaspoon ground coriander
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

For the tomato and onion salad
4 onions, thinly sliced
1 small onion thinly sliced
A handful of mint
1 lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

1 - Heat a grill to high.
2 - Slash the mackerel skin at 1cm intervals from the head to the tail, ensuring you do not go through to the bone.
3 - Melt the butter in a shallow pan. Remove and stir in the sugar, spices, vinegar and plenty of salt and pepper to make a paste. Turn the mackerel in the paste ensuring it enters the slashes you made as well as the cavity.
4 - Transfer to the grill pan and grill for 5 minutes each side until blistered and fragrant.
5 - To make the tomato and onion salad, bash the mint in a pestle and mortar then stir in the olive oil, lemon juice and a little seasoning. Arrange the tomato and onion on a plate and pour over the dressing.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Easy Creamy Chicken and Pepper Curry

Easy Creamy Chicken and Pepper Curry
Feeds 4

4 chicken breasts, sliced into chunks
1 thumb of ginger, finely grated
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
Juice of a lemon
2 tbsp sunflower oil
Salt and pepper
1 red pepper, diced
1 onion, finely chopped
300ml creme fraiche
Fresh coriander

1 - Place the chicken, ginger, garlic, spices, half the juice of the lemon, sunflower oil, salt and pepper, onion and pepper into a mixing bowl. Mix together thoroughly and leave to marinade for 30 minutes to an hour.
2 - Heat up a large non-stick pan. Add the ingredients and cook, stirring, for about ten minutes.
3 - Turn down the heat and add the creme fraiche. Bring to the simmer and cook with a lid on for 10 minutes.
4 - Add the remaining juice of the lemon, chopped fresh coriander and taste for seasoning.
5 - Serve with basmati rice, breads and pickles.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Warm Salad of Sausage, Bacon, Almonds and Chick Pea Shoots

Warm Salad of Sausage, Bacon, Almonds and Chick Pea Shoots
Feeds 2

4 good quality lamb sausages (or your sausage of choice)
5 rashers of streaky bacon, sliced into pieces
A good handful of almonds or hazelnuts
10 sage leaves
2 or 3 handfuls of rocket leaves or watercress
2 handfuls of chickpea shoots, or cooked chickpeas
Olive oil


For the dressing
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper

1 - Heat some olive oil in a non-stick frying pan. Add the bacon and cook until crisp and golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and put aside on kitchen paper.
2 - Add the sausages to the bacon fat and cook gently until cooked right through. Remove and slice into diagonal pieces.
3 - Keeping the pan on the heat, drain some of the fat from the pan then add the bacon and sausage along with the almonds and sage leaves. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the almonds have turned golden and the sage has crisped slightly.
4 - Make the dressing by combining all of the ingredients and mixing well together.
5 - Dress the plates with the hot ingredients, then scatter over the rocket leaves and chickpea shoots, followed by a good drizzle of the mustard dressing. I served it with some simple toasts, rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Warm Potato, Bacon, Leek and Caper Salad


One of my most favourite potatoes, and certainly one that you never see in the huge superstore near me, is the pink fir apple potato. Distinctive by its nobbly exterior and ever so slight pink shady skin, this is a salad potato with style. You hear people describe certain potatoes having a 'nutty' taste. The pink fir apple is nutty and creamy, absolutely perfect for those first warm salads of the year.




Warm Potato, Bacon, Leek and Caper Salad
Feeds 2

10 pink fir apple potatoes
2 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
4 rashers of un-smoked middle back bacon, trimmed and cut into strips
1 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
1 large or 2 small leeks, trimmed and sliced into 1 cm chunks
A couple of handfuls of baby spinach leaves
A handful of fresh chives and parsley, chopped

For the dressing
A handful of capers, rinsed
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp white wine or cider vinegar
2 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
Freshly ground pepper

1 - Scrub the potatoes then place into a pan of cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes or until just cooked through. Drain and allow to cool.
2 - Half the potatoes. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan and place the potatoes in, cut side down. Cook for 5-10 minutes until golden brown, then turn and cook the other side.
3 - Heat a little more oil in a separate pan and add the bacon and leeks. Cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes until cooked and golden.
4 - Throw in the spinach and quickly toss in the heat of the pan until slightly wilted.
5 - Mix together the salad dressing ingredients in a bowl.
6 - Arrange the salad onto a plate along with the fresh herbs and a good drizzle of the dressing.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Leek and Chicken Rarebit


I adore Welsh Rarebit, or posh cheese on toast, that combination of cheese and beer that grills to golden perfection. Looking at the tired leeks at the bottom of my fridge, nestling alongside yesterday's roast chicken scraps, gave me a great idea. An even posher posh cheese on toast! So here you have it. Hot, beer tinged spicy mustardy roast bubbling delight. Hungry yet?




Leek and Chicken Rarebit
Serves 2

2 medium leeks, halved, trimmed and sliced into 1cm chunks
1 tbsp fresh or dried thyme, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
25g butter
25g plain flour
100ml beer
150g strong Cheddar cheese
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp English mustard
A couple of handfuls of leftover roast chicken, shredded
Salt and pepper
4 thick slices of wholemeal bread

1 - Heat up the grill to medium.
2 - Heat up the oil in a pan and gently cook the leeks until soft and beginning to colour. Keep aside.
3 - Melt the butter in a pan and add the flour. Stir for 1 minute then gradually add the beer until you have a thick beer-like roux.
4 - Stir in the cheese, egg yolk and mustard. Season with a little pepper; it won't need much salt due to the cheese. Stir in the leeks and chicken.
5 - Toast one side of the bread, turn then pile on the mixture. Cook under the hot grill until golden and bubbly. Serve with the leftover ale.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Roast Mushroom and Cobnut Soup with Tarragon and Nut Butter

My favourite season has definitely arrived. I know that Autumn is here as each of my windows are covered in condensation. I also know that it is here when my washing remains damp and cold on the drying line.

Something about this time of the year gets me a bit excited and brings out the food obsessive in me. I start to plan ahead with great enthusiasm. Already I have chutneys made with marrows and damsons. I've lots of jams made with various summer berries. Herbs have been dried and crumbled. Litres of sloe gin and sticky plum vodka are marinating away ready for a winter treat by the fire. I've done battle with the grey squirrels and hoarded a few bags of cob nuts.

The cob nuts excite me the most. Bags of hazelnuts, fresh ones at that, are not cheap. So a few squeaky fresh creamy textured fresh nuts make me more than happy. It is hard to resist just cracking them as I find them and eating them as they are. But if you can resist, you can make all kinds of lovely produce.

Soup is going to be pretty much a daily food in my house now that the roots and mushrooms are here in abundance. This soup combines a magnificent pairing in tarragon and mushroom, the aniseed of the dried tarragon perfectly matching the meatiness of the field mushrooms I use.  A few of my lovely cob nuts, pan roasted and distributed throughout, gives a nice crunchy surprise. There are reasons for seasons.

Roast Mushroom and Cobnut Soup with Tarragon and Nut Butter

Serves 4

1 leek, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
500g wild mushrooms, sliced (I used field mushrooms)
2 tbsp dried or fresh tarragon
2 handfuls of cob nuts or hazelnuts
750ml vegetable stock
Salt and pepper

For the butter

25g butter
1 tbsp fresh or dried tarragon
1 tbsp cob nuts or hazelnuts

1 - Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add the leek, mushrooms and tarragon and cook gently for 10-15 minutes, until golden and well reduced.
2 - Add the stock, bring to the boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.
3 - Blitz in a blender until smooth then return to the pan. Pan roast the cob nuts in a dry pan until golden, then roughly chop and stir into the soup.
4 - For the butter, pan roast the cobnuts then finely chop. Mash the butter with the herbs and nuts.
5 - Taste the soup for seasoning, then serve in bowls with a spoon of the butter.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Lemon Curd Cake

If you are going to have some form of lemon cake, make it taste like lemon! This one pulls no punched with a triple hit of lemon.

Lemon Curd Cake

200g caster sugar
200g butter or margarine
3 large eggs
Zest and juice of one lemon
2 large tablespoons curd
200g self raising flour (I used Dove's gluten free flour)
For the drizzle:
3 tbsp caster sugar
Juice of one lemon

Icing sugar to decorate

1 - Preheat the oven to 180C/GM4. Grease a large loaf tin.
2 - In a large bowl, cream the sugar and butter with a whisk, electric whisk or wooden spoon until light and fluffy.
3 - Beat in the eggs one by one followed by the zest and juice of the lemon and the lemon curd.
4 - Sieve in the flour and gently fold until well combined.
5 - Pour into the loaf tin then place on the middle shelf and bake for 35-40 minutes.
6 - Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin.
7 - Heat up the lemon juice and sugar in a pan until combined. Whilst the cake is cooling, prick the cake with a knitting needle or something similar and gently drizzle on the lemon and sugar.
8 - Once cooled, remove from the tin and drizzle over icing sugar for decoration.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Breakfast Rhubarb Cranachan

Scottish cranachan is one of those quick fix creamy desserts that are a doddle to knock up when time is short.

Traditionally made with whipped cream, honey, toasted oats and fresh raspberries, it is a car crash of a recipe, a bit like an Eton Mess which is neither here nor there but utterly delicious.

This is a healthier version which uses seasonal rhubarb stewed in a little honey and omits the whisky, meaning it can be eaten for breakfast. If you want to use it as a dessert, add a drop of decent single malt whisky if desired.

Toast the oats in advance, combine a pro-biotic yoghurt with Greek yoghurt, flavour with a little vanilla extract or if you are feeling posh, a whole vanilla pod and sweeten with honey. It's a great way to start the day even if you are going to upset the traditionalists.

Breakfast Rhubarb Cranachan
Feeds 2-3 people

150g rolled Scottish oats
6 sticks of rhubarb, cut into pieces and stewed in a little honey until soft, cooled
250g pro-biotic yoghurt
250g Greek yoghurt
50g honey
1 tsp vanilla extract or seeds of 1 vanilla pod

1 - Put the oats into a dry frying pan. Heat up and cook until beginning to toast. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
2 - In a mixing bowl, combine the yoghurts, honey and vanilla. Mix in a couple of handfuls of rolled oats and stewed rhubarb.
3 - Place a tablespoon of stewed rhubarb into each of your serving glasses. Top with the yoghurt mixture then top with a little more rhubarb, toasted oats and honey.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Ratatouille with Mussels and Lemon Balm


In a little twist to the usual ratatouille - vegetables in a tomato sauce - this has a few handfuls of fresh and plump Northumbrian mussels and a good dose of lemon balm rather than basil. Lemon balm is a herb that is rarely used in modern day cookery but grows so well in any domestic garden. But with its surprising citrus fragrance and earthy taste, it is a natural herb to accompany shellfish. It is also brilliant in a lemon ice cream. Enjoy.

Ratatouille with Mussels and Lemon Balm
Feeds 4

1 aubergine, cut into small chunks
2 courgettes, halved and sliced into chunks
1 yellow pepper, deseeded and sliced into chunks
3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 clove of garlic, sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tins of plum tomatoes
1 tbsp balsamic or red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
6 handfuls of live mussels, cleaned
A handful of lemon balm or basil leaves, finely sliced

1 - Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the aubergine and cook, tossing regularly, until beginning to turn golden. Remove and set aside.
2 - Heat up the remaining tbsp olive oil and add the peppers and courgette. Cook, tossing regularly until beginning to soften and turn golden. Remove and set aside.
3 - Heat up the olive oil in a separate pan and add the onion and garlic. Cook for a few minutes then tip in the tomatoes. Bring to the boil, stir in the vinegar and cook for 10 minutes until beginning to reduce and deepen in colour.
4 - Tap any open mussels onto a hard surface. If they do not close, throw away. Put the mussels into the tomato sauce, put on the lid and cook for 5 minutes. If the mussels have not opened properly, throw away.
5 - Stir in the vegetables and heat through. Taste for seasoning. Sprinkle on the lemon balm and serve with rice or crusty bread.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Roast Pumpkin, Chick Pea and Garlic Soup with Golden Salt and Pepper Pumpkin Seeds


This soup entails sticking everything onto a baking tray, roasting it for half an hour in a hot oven, tipping it into a blender with a little stock or water then puréeing it into a soup. Can anybody tell me that this is difficult? If you think so, please give it a go. Easy Peasy Pumpkin and Pie.

Roast Pumpkin, Chick Pea and Garlic Soup with Golden Salt and Pepper Pumpkin Seeds

Feeds 4

1 small to medium pumpkin or butternut squash, cut into large chunks with seeds removed and kept aside
1 whole onion, peeled
1 bulb of garlic, broken and cloves left whole
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tin of chick peas
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
750ml vegetable stock

1 - Pre-heat your oven to GM6/200 degrees C.
2 - Place all of the vegetables on a baking tray. Scatter with the mixed spice, a little salt and pepper and olive oil and mix thoroughly. Roast on a high shelf for 30-40 minutes until golden.
3 - In the meantime, scatter the seeds onto another baking tray with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Toss together then place on the middle shelf of the oven. Cook until golden.
4 - When the vegetables have cooked, cut the pumpkin skin off and place the flesh into a blender along with the onion and the garlic cloves, squeezed straight out of their skins. Pour in the stock and chick peas then blitz to a fine purée. Taste for seasoning.
5 - Pour into bowls and serve with a scattering of delicious nutty golden pumpkin seeds.