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Almond Crusted Tuna with Chilli Roast Pumpkin, Wilted Lettuce, Tomato & Curry Leaves

Tina

Almond Crusted Tuna with Chilli Roast Pumpkin, Wilted Lettuce, Tomato & Curry Leaves

Almond crusted tuna frequently pops up my idea periscope when my mind wanders. I first had it in Sicily a few years ago in San Vito Lo Capo, when I was a judge for the International Cous Cous Festival (yes, I really was, and it was bonkers, and a lot of delicious fun). There are many almonds in Sicily, pistachios too, and they appear a lot in the cuisine. Almond crusted tuna was one of my favourite dishes that I tried, a fabulous alternative to breaded fish, the tuna remains crisp and is – obviously – nutty.[Read more]

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Taste Portugal: A Day on the Algarve Clam Digging & Cooking with Heinz Beck [Part 2: Heinz Beck’s Recipe for Green Tortelloni with Frutti di Mare]

Making Heinz Beck’s Green Tortellini with Fruitti di Mare 

So,  you have just been out foraging for clams with a 3* chef. You have fallen over on the boat (just a few scratches), and you have a wicker basket full of clams. What do you do next? Head to the kitchen, of course.

Getting a chance to cook with Heinz Beck in his kitchen at Gusto at The Conrad, Algarve was a treat. He is (obviously) talented, but he is also very thoughtful, helpful and open to food writers blundering around his kitchen. We cooked 2 dishes, Bacalhau with Herbs, Pepper sauce and Fennel and Green Tortellini con Frutti di Mare, both flavourful, light and healthy, and just what my body is screeching for at the moment. I am on a bit of a fresh pasta kick – you will have noticed – so I will share the pasta recipe with you now. It seems complex, but it is all achievable, and it is a perfect lunch for friends. Just give it time, perhaps get your friends to pitch in as you do it.

Enjoy!

Ps. – passionate pastanistas out there, there are only 2 places left for my full day pasta cooking class on Saturday 18th October. There are still places for the later dates, but they are filling up.

RECIPE: Green Tortellini con Frutti di Mare

adapted from Heinz Beck 

[Read more]

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Ras El Hanout Prawn Kebabs with Cous Cous & Chilli Tomato Sauce

Harissa Prawns with Tomato Chilli Sauce and Cous Cous

Ras El Hanout Prawns with Tomato Chilli Sauce and Cous Cous

It is hot. It is muggy. I know we aren’t supposed to complain, but hey, I have no air con and I work from home. I do love the bright light and long evenings, and firing up the BBQ, though. For the first time in 12 / 13 years in London, I have a little garden (same one as last year, but I am still rejoicing in it).

Summer has been busy, in a good way. I have had work related travel, travel related work, and lots of recipe development to get on with. Project Bacon is nearly there. I had forgotten how traumatic writing a book can be, or I thought that the second would be easier. Right now, I am the bottleneck and I have to finish it and let it go. I have a fabulous team who are waiting for me too, and have other projects that they are juggling.

Project: Bacon means a lot to me. It is a very personal project that will be a limited edition, firstly. So, it is special. There will be a digital one but right now the only hardback versions are available for pre-orders only (I need to get Shopstarter to change the date but you can still order there, if you want to). I love cooking, especially for friends and I want this book to inspire you to do the same. I want it to be different, brilliant and fun and I want it to send you rushing to your kitchens. I aspire for your faces to be joyful when you taste the results, and for you to want to share everything. Bacon is the ultimate seasoning, and while amazing on its own, it really brings some cakes, drinks and sweets to life too. It also contains a whole selection of bacon condiments, which are fun and utter flavour bombs too.[Read more]

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Thoughts On Dry January, Diets and a Recipe for Salmon Tacos

Homemade Salmon Tacos (Recipe)

Homemade Salmon Tacos

It won’t surprise you, but I don’t do dry January. Nor do I do diets. I reign myself in, become a little more pragmatic and try and restore balance by eating a little lighter but still in normal amounts. Or rather, I start eating normal amounts. Replacing sour cream with yogurt. Eating more fish and less meat. A bit more salad. Lots of avocados. Frying less, although still a little. Lighter Brighter cooking is what I shall call it. It is all about being aware that every little bit makes a difference but not killing the enjoyment of it. Food is sustenance and a source of great pleasure. The key to health is home cooking, moderation and exercise. And good sleep.

With diets, I think a lot of people feel better not because they have cut out a food group (don’t get me started), but because they have started paying attention to what they eat, and what they cook. One very big thing is cutting out processed food. Some go from not cooking at all to eating predominantly home cooked food. I bet that if you speak to a lot of very successful dieters, you will discover that they transitioned from not really thinking about what they ate to being a lot more considerate about what they cooked, and eating less processed food. They almost certainly exercised a lot more.

The reality (certainly for me) is that even when you think about what you cook (and I do a lot), it doesn’t mean that you are necessarily eating well. But when you do think about it from a health perspective, and start to feel the benefits of Lighter Brighter cooking, when you can see exactly what you are eating, not through a film in a plastic tray spinning around in a microwave, but because you have cooked it and see just how much of everything has gone in, that is empowering. When you cook, you can also adapt your recipes to make them lighter and no less delicious.

Enter salmon tacos. I am lucky that I live near a great fishmonger (and I have a great butcher too). Last Saturday I went late and there was not much left, but there was some lovely salmon. I did two things with it it, a teriyaki (a simple combination of 50ml soy sauce & 50 ml mirin with 1 tsp of honey, reduced by half over a medium heat, and then used to glaze a just-cooked piece of salmon, delicious) and also some lovely light salmon tacos.[Read more]

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Recipe: A little Indulgence with Chorizo, Smashed Pea, Mint & Scallops

We don’t eat enough fish. We really don’t. I don’t know why, for islanders, we have such an aversion to it and why it is so difficult to source good fresh fish.

Of course, there are great fishmongers and we need to support them. Fish is so good for us, healthy and quick too cook too. It’s an ethical minefield but your fishmonger will advise what is good to eat. Ethical fish is often inexpensive too, there’s a lot of fish which we usually don’t eat – and therefore over fish – that tastes great too.

Now, you hear scallops and you probably think ‘eeeek, they’re so expensive!’ And they are. Especially if you buy the ones that don’t harm the sea floor and taste better – and please do buy hand-dived scallops from your fishmonger if you can. However, there are ways of serving a scallop dish where it becomes a bit of a bargain. And that is to serve them with other ingredients that suit and also bring down the cost of the over all dish.

This dish is a perfect starter or grazing snack if you have friends round. One large scallop will do per person, and will feel so luxurious that everyone will be happy. Serve with a crisp white wine on cold winter night and remember summer while you toast your toes in front of the fire. Of course you can also serve it as a main or just make a lot for yourself.

Chorizo is a dream with scallops. It’s bolshy big, strong and is a perfect partner with the more delicate scallop, and in small amounts it doesn’t overwhelm. The sweetness and delicacy of the humble pea – and frozen is fine – pitches in perfectly, and some fresh mint livens it all up. Some onion serves as a gentle base adding some further sweetness.

This takes 15 minutes – honestly – and rewards you with flavour in spades. If you want to be a bit more luxurious, add some cream, although it is perfectly nice and fresh without it.

Recipe on iVillage: A little Indulgence with chorizo, smashed pea, mint & scallops | iVillage UK

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Recipe: Passion Fruit & Lime Salmon Ceviche

I went to Argentina, and I fell in love with Peruvian food. I loved the Argentinian food too, the sweetbreads particularly and the empanadas, especially those gorgeous beef ones from Mendoza. I have long been a fan of chimmichurri with steak, although, controversially, I like to make mine with fresh herbs.I prefer the fresher flavour and softer texture.

The Peruvian food though, that was a revelation. I have been interested in Peruvian food for a while, and bought a number of Peruvian food ingredients when I visited Florida in February. Then my interest was piqued further when Astrid Y Gaston in Lima was selected for the Worlds 50 Best list (I tried the tasting menu at their Buenos Aires branch recently – more on that later). Then I met Martin, a Peruvian entrepreneur in London opening a Ceviche and Pisco bar in London later this year.

It seems Peruvian food is in, and I can absolutely understand why. I just wonder why it took so long?!

I arrived back in London last week obsessed and craving many things, but especially the food that I had at a particular restaurant in Buenos Aires, Sipan. Argentinians love sushi, and they love ceviche,  so hybrid Japaanese-Peruvian restaurants have mushroomed. It sounds like an awful fusion concept but, surprisingly, it really works, and most serve terrific and very fresh sushi and ceviche.

My favourite dish at Sipan was a salmon ceviche with passion fruit. I say ceviche it was more a take on salmon sashimi with a passion fruit sauce poured over it. Ceviche is fish that is allowed to “cook” in citrus for 15 – 20 minutes, so I decided to take those flavours and do a more traditional ceviche at home.

Note on the ingredients: One of the Peruvian products I brought back from the US is called Aji Amarillo, a very fruity and sweet bright yellow chilli, mine was pureed and jarred. It has a unique flavour, almost slightly charred and very sweet and fruity. I love it and have been using it everywhere. You can source it online, but do substitute with fresh chopped chilli if you need to.

Recipe: Passion Fruit & Lime Salmon Ceviche

400g salmon fillet, skin removed and cut into thin slices or strips
2 passion fruits, halved with fruit scooped out and passed through a sieve
juice of 2 limes
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
coriander
2 tsp aji amarillo or 1 fresh chilli, deseeded and chopped
1 tbsp fresh coriander leaves
half red onion sliced

Combine the lime, sieved passion fruit, garlic and aji amarillo. Add to the salmon and make sure the salmon is coated thoroughly. Cover and leave to marinade in the fridge for 15 – 20 minutes.
Remove from the fridge and serve with the coriander and red onion.
Eat immediately and enjoy!

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Decadent Snacking: Crayfish with Lime Mayonnaise

You will have cottoned on to the fact that I am in lovely Nova Scotia. A great friend of mine lives here and we are catching up, exploring, cooking, eating, and imbibing plenty of wine. She is a bit of a wine buff so I had to bring her a bottle of Nyetimber English sparkling wine (the award winning 2005 vintage) to try. Happily she loved it.

I love wine, but food is where I am happiest. So what to eat with that? Seafood is plentiful, super fresh and reasonably priced here so I am in my element. I have eaten it every day and will continue to. The local fishmonger had lots of shell on crayfish which looked too great to leave behind, so we bought a bunch of them, and then I whipped up some decadent lime mayo to dip them in when we got home.

Home made mayonnaise is beyond easy, luxurious, cheap to make and very quick (with a mixer). It is really tricky by hand with the drop by drop addition of oil (an egg yolk can only take so much at a time so if you add to much with slow whisking it will split and then it’s bye bye mayo).

Mayonnaise actually tastes best with less flavourful cheaper oils, so if using extra virgin olive oil I would recommend using only half with half sunflower, rapeseed or groundnut oil. I usually use cider vinegar or lemon juice to acidulate but I used red wine vinegar here and it actually worked really well. It seems to really suit the lime.

This would be great with prawns or lobster too. Also, try it with chipotle sweet potato chips – a personal favourite, perhaps I should blog them soon.

Enjoy!

Crayfish with Lime Mayonnaise Recipe

Ingredients

Crayfish – shell on or off, whatever you can get, cooked (and as much as you want to eat)

Lime Mayonnaise:

2 large egg yolks
1 tsp mustard
1 tsp red wine vinegar (or cider or white wine vinegar)
250mls oil (rapeseed, groundnut, sunflower or similar ideal, or half one of these with half olive oil for that lovely olive oil flavour too)
zest of 1 lime and the juice of half the lime
sea salt to taste

Method

Whisk the egg yolks with the mustard and vinegar until creamy and frothy, then slowly add the oil in a thin drizzle. The mayonnaise gets thicker as you add more oil, so don’t worry if it isn’t thickening straight away.

When you get to the consistency you want, or when you have used all of the oil, add the lime zest and juice, whisk in, and  season to taste with the salt.

See! EASY.

Serve with the crayfish or whatever seafood you are using.

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Crab Claws with Wild Garlic & Chipotle

Crab claws are very common on restaurant menus by the sea in Ireland, but I rarely see them here. Perhaps this is because I don’t spend enough time by the sea here (I don’t), or perhaps we just love them more in Ireland. Either way I bet many of you don’t cook them much at home? I don’t either. I don’t know why that is.

At the market at the weekend, the fish stall had 1 kg of crab claws just sitting there, and I thought, oooh, I bet they would be lovely in a wild garlic butter sauce! They were, they were really good, but not just because of the wild garlic but also because of the robust smokey and warm undertones provided by some chipotle that I had brought back from the US with me on my recent trip there (you can get it very easily online here too).

They look like a lot of work, both to cook and to eat, and they are a little bit for both. I had to prep them a little bit to get rid of random broken bits of claw stuck on the end, but it took minutes and wasn’t too gruesome. To eat, you can suck the meat out or tease it out with a fork, I prefer to smash it with my crab claw pincer things. A nutcracker would do the job very well too.

If you can’t deal with the crab claws, and it’s ok if that’s the case, I think this sauce would be terrific with scallops and prawns too.

Crab Claws with Wild Garlic & Chipotle

Serves 2 as a starter or more to graze

600g crab claws, raw
50g butter
2 tbsp chopped wild garlic
1 tbsp chipotle, roughly chopped
100 ml white wine

Reduce the white wine by about a third in a hot shallow pan.
Add the butter, the wild garlic and the chipotle.
When the butter has melted add the crab claws and cook for 6 – 8 minutes over a medium heat until cooked through.
Season to taste.
Serve warm with good sliced bread to mop up the delicious sauce.

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Light Lunch: Calamari with Cous Cous,Jammy Roast Tomatoes, Scallions, Pine Nuts & Parsley

Light Lunch: Calamari with Jammy Roast Tomatoes, Scallions, Pine Nuts & Parsley

So, you’ve bought some squid to make the last recipe, and you’ve a little leftover. What to do with it? Lunch! Or supper. Make this lovely light dish in no time at all. It’s packed with flavours and textures and is really delicious. Don’t tell anyone, but I think it might even be healthy too!

I had this today, and in the interest of speediness and keeping it light, I didn’t egg-and-cornmeal the squid as before but just dipped it in seasoned cornmeal on its own, which resulted in a super light and delicious calamari. The cous cous was easy, just normal cous cous, covered in (boiling) hot water in a covered bowl, and left for 10 minutes or so until it absorbs it and becomes fluffy.

I’ve taken to roasting tiny tomatoes at a high temperature until they caramelise and become rich and jammy, they are like a gorgeous flavour bomb when you hit them as you eat. Scallions, well they’re sharp and have a great texture that bounces against the rest. Toasted pine nuts are rich and lovely, who can resist adding extra? Not me. Parsley and lemon juice lift it all.

What more could you need?

Calamari with Jammy Roast Tomatoes, Scallions, Pine Nuts & Parsley

Ingredients

1 squid, cleaned and cut into rings
a handful of small juicy cherry tomatoes
75g cous cous
3 scallions/spring onions, chopped
a handful of chopped parsley
a handful of pine nuts
extra virgin olive oil
juice of half a lemon

Method

Heat the oven to 200 deg C and roast the tomatoes with olive oil and S&P for 10 minutes or so until caramelising/about to burst. Take out and put to the side.

Place the cous cous in a bowl, season lightly and just cover with boiling water from your kettle. Place a plate on top or cover with cling film for 10 minutes or so.

Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan (no oil) over a high heat for a couple of minutes until turning darker brown, but not too dark as they will turn bitter.

Season a bowl of fine cornmeal with S&P, and dip the squid in. It will coat lightly.

Heat some oil in a deep pan, or a frying pan, to 200 deg C, and fry the calamari for no more than a couple of minutes when they are brown or crisp. If you cook for too long they will get tough.

Fork the cous cous and dress with some olive oil and the lemon juice. Toss with the parsley, scallions and pine nuts. Put the tomatoes on top (they will be too delicate to toss) and serve the calamari on top of everything.

Enjoy!

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January Charmer: Calamari with Blood Orange & Fennel

Calamari withi Blood Orange & Fennel

January should be the worst month of the year, and it has all the potential to be. The build up to Christmas is lengthy and intense, Christmas itself whizzes by in a flash and, thud, hello January. Quiet and long, we’re all reeling from spending too much money and January just doesn’t have anything going for it. Or does it?

It does, it really does.  And I love January for it. At least, I do at times. I love it for two reasons, both bright and varying shades of red. Fruity and juicy and special, January is the month of the bright red blood orange and spindly, pink, sweet and sour forced rhubarb.

These are possibly two of my favourite ingredients, particularly after the sensory deprivation of the preceding weeks of kale, cabbage and sprouts. They are intense and bright and – smack – that flavour when you bite into them is so big, sweet, sharp and divine. Fantastic in sweet dishes as you would expect, but they are both equally brilliant in savoury.

Tonight I had some blood orange with fennel in a salad. Nice, eh? Now imagine that on top there is crisp fried calamari, coated in fine cornmeal, and really, what more could you want?

Squid is great January fodder, healthy and fresh, and really reasonably priced. The cornmeal provides a delicate coating with gentle flavour, panko or very fine breadcrumbs would work too, this is just what I fancied tonight.

This dish is a perfect January one for me as it’s healthy and light, but a little bit naughty, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It comes together so quickly, the squid takes only a couple of minutes to fry, and there is only three ingredients to prepare. You can buy squid pre-prepared, which would make this even quicker. If you do prepare your own, it’s best to ask your fishmonger to take the ink sacs out for you, as these can get a little bit messy. And I am messy enough as it stands!

Calamari with Blood Orange & Fennel

Ingredients (for two)

2 average sized squid
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced as finely as you can
2 blood oranges
1/2 lemon
a bowl of fine cornmeal (or panko/breadcrumbs) to coat, seasoned with S&P
one egg, beaten
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
A little parley to dress (optional)
Enough oil to deep fry in a pan or a deep fat fryer

Method

Half one of the oranges and juice, saving the juice for the dressing. Remove the skin and the pith from the remaining one and a half and slice thinly.

Juice the half lemon, and add to the blood orange juice you have set aside. Add the same amount of extra virgin olive oil, and season with S&P to taste. Dress the sliced fennel, and put to the side.

If you’re preparing the squid, remove anything inside, there may be membranes and/or remnants of the ink sac. Remove any coloured membranes from utside (excl tentacles) and you should be left with white flesh.

Slice the squid into rings (excl the tentacles if attached which you can fry as they are). Dry, and dip in the cornmeal, then the egg, then the cornmeal again. Set aside.

Heat some oil in a deep pan to 390F/200C, and fry the squid in small batches. Don’t crowd the pan. Each batch should take no more than a couple of minutes, they will be done when they are brown. Don’t overcook them as they will get tough.

Dry on some kitchen paper and serve with the dressed fennel, some parsley and sliced oranges. Pour some of the dressing on top, but not on the calamari, you don’t want it to go soggy.

Enjoy!

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Fish pie for the soul

Fish pie

This month has been one for comfort foods, certainly not one for diets, not that I’ve ever gone beyond thinking that it might be a good idea to cut out x or y (usually x = crisps & y = cheese) and planning how I should successfully do so, usually to fall at the first hurdle, whichever shop crosses my path that sells the finest of either. I am not unhappy about that, I’ve never approached diets or the thought of them too seriously, moderation is best in all things (with the occasional lapse of course). Life is for living, might aswell just get on with it and make the most of it, eh? Especially when food gives such pleasure.

Once in school, we made a dish called fish crisp, a baked mackerel dish topped with irish tayto crisps (I kid you not). I was 13 or so, and hated fish at the time. When my mother would grill fish I would leave the house in protest and not return until I had deemed the smell gone. I virtually fainted when I had to skin the mackerel and had to be taken outside for some air but was brought back inside to complete it, much to my horror. I adored crisps but hated fish, how was I to eat the crisps without having even a scent of mackerel from them? It wasn’t to be, there was no way of rescuing them, and save the few crumbs from the bottom of the bag, I had to abandon them. I have no memory of what happened to that fish crisp after, but I do remember the build up in excruciating detail.

I’ve been thinking of that dish lately, along with quite a few others that we made in school, including one white pudding tart that I loved and would love to make again if only I had the recipe. It was one of our teacher’s own so wasn’t in the book but I do recall some carrot, white pudding and some shortcrust, but, that’s about it. I have a few ideas for potential white pudding tarts that could work, but that’s a project for the weekend.

For tonight, I had settled on fish pie – something of the calibre of that comforting and tasty tart. It had been a while since I had eaten fish so I made up for it with 3 types – salmon, prawns and smoked haddock in a smokey and fragrant bechamel with some velvety mash on top. I poached the fish first in some milk, with some peppercorns, coarsely chopped carrots, celery and onion, adding the prawns about half way through as they cook quicker. I then used the poaching milk for the sauce and it was lovely, it had some of the flavour of the veg and the peppercorns and the smokiness of the smoked haddock – very delicate and light. It would be perfect served with greens or peas, I had neither and was too lazy to leave my flat! I split the mixture into two pie dishes about 6 * 3 inches, but really there was so much fish I could have made three. You can also make one big one, of course. Serves 4.

Here’s the recipe in more detail.

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Salmon Fish Cakes

I was at a BBQ at a friends house at the weekend and came home with lots of leftovers. These leftovers included a side of uncooked salmon and leftover boiled potatoes. I also raided their herb garden and came home with a bouquet of herbs including chives, mint, basil, thyme and rosemary. What to make? Could be fish pie but it’s not Winter (although it feels like it again today) and I wanted something light with some salad on the side. Quick and easy was also important. I had one of those days yesterday and wanted to sit down with a glass of wine, pronto. So, fish cakes it was. Perfect, ready in half an hour and before I knew it I was plonked in front of the tv browsing a stash of cookbooks while watching some food shows, Sanjeev Baskars India, and, dare I say it, Big Brother. Don’t judge me. I was weak. It wasn’t me, yer honour! ;)

Food like this makes me think back to Home Economics class when I was 13 and the first time I made potato cakes. I was amazed that you could make something so nice with leftovers and so quickly. Some mashed potato, flour, butter, egg & seasoning, cooked like a pancake and served in slices. YUM! Home Economics wasn’t always such a success, mind. I was very giddy and one day tipped a whole bag of salt into my homemade vegetable soup by accident. I am feeling very nostalgic for those days and have been trying to source the Home Economics book we had – All about home economics: A complete course in Intermediate Certificate and Day Vocational Certificate home economics byt Deirdre Madden, but to no avail. If anyone knows where I can get a copy I’d be thrilled!

Anyway, back to the fish cakes. They’re so easy. Really. I like my fish cakes to have more salmon than potato but that’s down to your individual preference. Play around with quantities until you get the consistency you want. I used chives but you could use flat leaf parsley or a selection of herbs. The quantities below will serve four. I chose to make 4 big cakes but 8 small ones is good too. I served one each with a side salad of rocket, quartered cherry tomatoes & finely sliced red onion in a balsamic and olive oil dressing – (one third vinegar to oil plus seasoning).[Read more]

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Wild salmon with samphire, broad bean & tomato salad and crisp sauté new potatoes

Samphire is the ingredient of the moment. It’s on TV (e.g. Great British Menu), in the newspaper food sections (Independent last week, Guardian last month) and on the web (Clotilde at Chocolate & Zucchini for example). Samphire has many names, sea asparagus, sea beans & salicornia. There are two types of samphire – Marsh Samphire & Rock Samphire, the one you’ve been seeing everywhere is marsh samphire, found growing in the tidal zone and found all along the coast. The Norfolk coastline is particularly rich in it. You can buy it from most fishmongers and farmer’s markets. It’s not cheap, mine cost £1.50 per 100g, 100g works out at approximately a handful so I bought a couple. If you’re having it on it’s own with fish you’ll need about 100g-150g a person, maybe a bit more.

I first had samphire two years ago when we went to the Salusbury Pub & Dining Room in Queens Park for my birthday. It was served with sea bream and roast potatoes and was absolutely delicious. I have been a fan ever since. My samphire that night was absolutely soaked in butter, it works really well with it, but as a lactose intolerant that generally isn’t an option for me. Besides, I wanted to make something light & summery that paired well with the rich wild salmon that I had bought on my way home from work. Salty samphire pairs extremely well with fish but is also beautiful in salads. I tried both with my 200g batch, for today I’ll talk about the fish dish.

I went to Marylebone Farmers Market at the weekend and bought beautiful Isle of Wight tomatoes and a large bag of broad beans. I was keen to use them in this dish so decided on a samphire salad to go with the salmon.

Recipe notes: Samphire is very easy to cook but it is very salty so I would advise soaking in several changes of water over a few hours. If this isn’t possible, at least wash it in a few changes of water. Early season samphire can be eaten raw, however, it’s no longer early season and besides I like it blanched briefly before eating – 2 minutes or so does it. Take care to remove the woody bits from the end of the samphire stems and any bad bits. Be warned that samphire doesn’t keep very long as I found out last time I bought it! While double podding the broad beans is painful, it really is worth it, otherwise the rubbery broad bean skin overpowers the sweetness of the actual bean. [Read more]

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Prawn Laksa – an interpretation

Laksa is food for the soul. It’s delicious – spicy and fragrant and packed full of goodness. I always feel so good after eating it! It’s messy, it’s true, but I think that adds to the value. Although, I did have to suffer through an afternoon at work recently with laksa all over my top having treated myself to one for lunch. My lunch partner, who shall remain nameless, was also drenched in laksa. I think we pulled it off. Looked like it should have been there! Erm, maybe not.

There are several types of laksa originating from Malaysia and Singapore. It’s essentially a spicy noodle soup, usually containing seafood, sometimes chicken. It’s hugely popular in Sydney which is where I came across it. There are many types, the ones I normally make (and haven’t blogged yet) are penang & singapore laksas – I’ll blog these soon. This one is a little different, fruity with the addition of tomatoes with a lovely sourness provided by the tamarind.

Laksa recipes seem fiddly and time consuming but they’re really worth it and not all that bad. The laksa spice pastes that are available in oriental shops are never the same as a homemade paste. I usually make double the amount so that I can make two meals from that one effort.

Enjoy and let me know how it works out for you. I am curious![Read more]

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Tuna steak with warm new potato, chorizo & tomato salad

 

We’ve just had a long sleepy bank holiday weekend in London with plenty of time for cooking. We brightened up a rainy Sunday with a tuna steak and a warm salad accompanied by some lovely rioja. It was very quick, the tuna itself takes only a few minutes to cook and the salad is very straightforward. The recipe is for one as everyone else was eating steak, double it for two.

Ingredients (for one):

Tuna Steak

Salad:

Chorizo sausage – as much as you fancy
a handful or ripe, juicy cherry tomatoes
salad leaves – we used rocket, watercress & baby spinach
baby new potatoes – we used jersey royals
red onion
lemon
extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Chop the potatoes into halves or quarters (depending on how big they are) and boil until soft.
Finely slice the onion and squeeze some lemon juice over the onion slices.
Halve the cherry tomatoes.
Slice the chorizo and fry in some olive oil until tender (a few minutes).
Once the potatoes are cooked, drain and season while hot, they’ll absorb the seasoning better this way.
Heat some oil over a high heat and fry the tuna for 2-3 minutes on each side. It should be scorched on the outside and still quite pink on the inside. I really like it rare but if you prefer it medium or well done cook it for longer.
Mix up all your salad ingredients and season. Dress with some fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.
Serve immediately while still slightly warm.

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Eating in Japan: Tsunahachi, Shinjuku

Tsunahachi, Tokyo

I was extremely fortunate to have a work trip to Japan this year and while it was a very busy week I did get an opportunity to sample some of the wonderful food and sights that Tokyo has to offer.

I had never been to Japan before but had heard a lot from varied sources. I have always had a fascination with Japan, from the history and clothing to the food. I went through a phase of buying vintage kimonos from Japan for the beautiful silk, but, until now I had never had an opportunity to visit. I had heard that Tokyo was a very busy city and was very expensive – even worse than London. Well, I live in London, and thought, really, how much more busy/expensive can it be?! The answer is it’s not. Perhaps London is the best leveller for world cities, I have been to a few and each one has been calmer and less expensive (I haven’t been to NY yet before you comment). Relative to London, Tokyo is actually quite cheap, this is attributed to their lengthy recession, prices haven’t increased in years.

So, on my second day there, still very jet-lagged, I was determined to go out and eat some tempura. I had a list of food to eat whilst in Japan – tempura, sushi, sashimi, okonomiyaki, gyoza, unagi (eel) and tea in a traditional Japanese teahouse. I had brought two guidebooks with me – the Lonely Planet Guidebook to Tokyo and the TimeOut Tokyo Guide. Both great but for food I’d prefer the TimeOut guide. I had planned to visit Shinjuku and spotted a Tempura restaurant in the cheap eat section, Tsunahachi.

I found it without much difficulty, it was quite close to the seven floor electronics shop I had spent the previous two hours in (camera window shopping!). It had a beautiful old wooden front and was really understated and hidden in the mesh of neon lights in Shinjuku. There was one person waiting outside the door so I waited with him. I quickly discovered that not many people speak english in Tokyo so I had to rely on my *extremely* pigeon japanese. I must stress that I didn’t expect them to speak english, why should they, it’s Japan not England! A queue quickly gathered behind me and within 15 minutes I was seated at a counter facing the open kitchen. The waiter brought me a menu, most of which was in Japanese so I chose a fish set menu and some sake.

The waiter brought me a little tray with some rice, pickles, miso soup and green tea. The miso was beautiful with tiny clams at the bottom. The rest was pretty impressive too. I saw one of the chefs about to fillet a flat fish and it looked very wet still, well, not surprising as when he stuck the knife in him I realised he was still very much alive and on my plate within 5 minutes. Harsh, I know, but the fish was beautiful to eat, really light with delicate white flesh. Next up were two tempura king prawns, also fresh from the tank, some green pepper and half an onion. All lovely, crisp and fresh but the onion was astounding, intensely sweet soft flesh contrasting beautifully with the tempura batter. I thought that this was it so finished my rice and miso, when a cake of tempura prawns arrived. It consisted of 15-20 large very fresh prawns and again, was very impressive. This was swiftly followed by some unagi (japanese eel) which was not unlike a white fish, very light, sweet and delicate. All the time I was washing this down with the sake which was beautifully dry and the perfect complement. I finished my meal with some green tea.

I requested the bill, expecting it to be a little more than I had expected given how much I had eaten. It came to a total of 2,000 yen which was incredibly good value, just under £10 sterling. The staff were very friendly and accomodating of my poor communication skills. I would recommend to anyone visiting Tokyo, it’s a very pleasurable experience.