Seafood Tarts

There are more than a few signs that Spring is definitely here. Last weekend we had an impromptu picnic in the nearby park and the weather was truly glorious * And when Spring is the air we chefs start to think about some delicious, lighter lunches and dinner instead of all the hearty soups and stews. I think I have the perfect recipe then, for you today, Seafood Feuilleté, a buttery, puff-pastry case full of sensational seafood in a creamy vermouth sauce.

Seafood Tart

Now before we start I don’t want you to panic at the thought of puff pastry, I’m going to put up my hands up right now and admit straight away few of us are lucky to have the time and patience to perfect the technique of making puff pastry at home. Even after hours of practice, I struggle to get an even rise and perfect bake every time, so my solution, used correctly the bought-in product is practical, versatile and very labour saving. Rich and flaky, ready-made puff pastry can top a rich fish pie, enclose marzipan and fruit for a luxurious dessert or make simple crisp cheese straws to nibble.

Puff pastry can also be used to make savoury hors d’oeuvre or bite sized appetisers. The most famous of these being little-stuffed Vol-au-vent cases topped with a little lid or delicate Crolines, small lattice topped parcels. My recipe today is how to make the third, great little tartlet case that can be used in a savoury starter, light lunch or filled with whipped cream and fruit as a simple, elegant dessert.

*The fog returned Monday morning with a vengeance and it was more than a tad chilly.

Feuilleté Pastry Tarts

Why not try roasted Provençal vegetables topped with whipped Goat’s cheese and a little rocket dressed with sea salt and Balsamic, creamy garlic mushrooms or a seafood medley as well as fruit purées and Confectioner’s custard, glazed poached peach halves and raspberries.

Puff pastry ( ready made or homemade )

Egg wash

For the method please follow this link.

 

For the Filling

6 -8 Gamba’s or large Shell on Prawns

500 gr Fresh Mussels Fresh Clams

500 gr Fresh Clams

12 Scallops

6 large Banana Shallots, peeled and finely diced

3 cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

A small handful of fresh Dill

200 ml thick double cream

50 ml of Vermouth ( White Wine is a great substitute )

25 ml Olive Oil

25 gr Butter

Juice of one fresh Lemon

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan ( with a tight fitting lid ), melt the half of the butter and add half of the oil. Over a medium heat soften the shallots for ten minutes without colouring. Add the garlic and cook out for two or three minutes stirring continuously. Tip in the mussels and clams and add the Vermouth place on the lid add steam the shellfish for five to six minutes. Carefully holding the pan with a heat proof cloth remove from the heat. Place a colander in a large glass bowl and tip in the mussels and allow to cool. Reserve the cooking liquid to be used to make the final sauce.

When cool pick the majority of the mussels and clams from their shells leaving a handful for garnishing. Carefully pour the cooking liquid through a fine strainer into a small pan and place on a medium heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce the volume by half. Add the cream and simmer for a couple more minutes before seasoning with a generous grind of pepper. Melt the remaining butter and oil in a large heavy-bottomed frying pan and saute the gambas, over a gentle heat, for three minutes before turning up the heat and adding the scallops, turn over the prawns and the scallops as soon as they are brown. After two more minutes remove from heat, squeeze over the juice of one lemon and keep warm.

Heat the mussels and clams gently in the sauce. Take care not to boil or the shellfish will toughen, add the remaining lemon juice and finely chopped dill, taste and add more pepper if required. Place a warm pastry case onto a deep lipped plate and carefully spoon in the picked mussels and clams. Add a couple of scallops then fill with sauce and top with the prepared lids or a large prawn. Spoon around a little extra liquid and the retained shellfish in shells and sprinkle with a little extra dill to garnish.

 

National Fish and Chips Day

Today is National Donut Day and National Fish and Chip Day, a very healthy pairing and sales of cooking oil must get a massive boost. I have to make a little admission for someone with the seaside on the doorstep I don’t eat fish and chips that regularly but when you’ve had a long walk on the beach and the sun is setting a steaming hot paper parcel of fresh fish and chips doused in salt and vinegar takes some beating. Now fish and chips have become a British institution served with Tartare sauce, a slice of white bread and butter and a mug of hot tea. Fish and chips have been deconstructed, updated, made into sophisticated Michelin-starred worth dishes is a staple of pub menus up and down the land but the true home of fish and chips is the Chip Shop.

Many fish and chip shops traditionally use a simple water and flour batter, adding a little sodium bicarbonate or baking soda and a little vinegar to create lightness, as they create bubbles of carbon dioxide in the batter. Many restaurants now use a beer batter as the naturally present carbon dioxide in the beer lends a lighter texture to the batter. The sugars present in the beer also help produce a wonderful golden brown colour on frying. A simple beer batter might consist of a 2:3 ratio of flour to beer by volume. The type of beer makes the batter taste different, the alcohol itself is cooked off, so little or none remains in the finished fried fish.

Battered Cod

I cannot state how simple my recipe is just beer, flour, and seasoning. No eggs, baking powder, turmeric for colour it could not be easier or tastier. Experiment with some local ales and lagers until you find your own favourite. Lagers are fine and produce very light fine results almost like tempura. I find a nice session bitter or IPA will create a nutty, tasty batter. Your batter is always better made slightly in advance to allow the flour to absorb a little of the liquid and let the gluten relax. Do not make it to early however as the raising agents will effervesce and disappear with time leaving a flat batter mix.

My Perfect Beer Battered Fish

4 thick white fish fillets ( around 220 gr  per portion )

150 gr Self-raising Flour plus a little for dredging the fish

A large Bottle of your favourite Beer

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

for the frying

2 kg Lard or Dripping to cook

Sieve the flour into a large bowl and add a generous amount of salt and pepper. With a whisk, mixing continuously, add the beer to the flour until you have a thick, smooth batter about the consistency of thick cream. Place the batter in the fridge to rest for between 30 minutes. In a large heavy bottom pan, heat the oil to 160°C / 320 F using a thermometer to check. If you do not have a thermometer have a few cubes of stale white bread to hand. Place a bread cube in the oil if it rises to the surface and cooks to a golden brown in a couple of minutes the oil is hot enough.

Take two tablespoons of flour and place in a shallow tray, season well. Dredge each fish fillet in the seasoned flour until covered. Shake off excess flour and dip into the batter mix before carefully lowering into the hot oil. Fry the fillets for around eight minutes or until the batter is crisp and golden, turning the fillets from time to time with a large slotted spoon.

When the fish is cooked using the slotted spoon remove the fish from the hot oil, drain on kitchen paper, cover with greaseproof paper and keep hot to serve with homemade chips, a big wedge of lemon and chunky tartare sauce.

(Fish and Chips are not as unhealthy as you would first think, fish and chips have 9.42 grams of fat per 100 grams – the average pizza has 11, a Big Mac meal with medium fries has 12.1. Fish and chips have 595 calories in the average portion with an average pizza around 871. For a healthier method of frying use vegetable oil instead of the beef dripping).

Weekend Top Tip

Rosemary Skewers

Bank holiday barbecuing for a truly  tantalizing taste bud treat use 12 – 15 cm pieces of woody rosemary stem to skewer meat or fish and vegetables for grilling and barbecuing. The skewers look great and add a fantastic flavour to your dish. Cut off the rosemary stems and pull off most of the lower leaves leaving around 2 cm at the top. Then soak the prepared stems in cold water for a couple hours, this will help prevent any skewer not covered with food from burning on the grill. Thread on your ingredients and cook.

Use marinated shoulder of lamb and peppers,  Monk fish and cherry tomatoes or king prawns and scallops wrapped in bacon.

My Mardis Gras Cajun Gumbo

And so it is Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras, and today I am cooking a Cajun classic, Gumbo. Gumbo is a type of stew from southern Louisiana combining the ingredients and techniques of a melting pot of cultures, including French, Spanish, German, West African, and Choctaw. In general, a Creole gumbo generally contains shellfish, tomatoes, okra and filé * powder. Native words for either of the last two ingredients are the likely root of the word gumbo. A Cajun gumbo is generally based on a dark roux made from fat and flour and is spicier. Both use a ‘ Holy Trinity ’ of ingredients,  chopped onion, celery and green pepper as a base,  developed from the classic mirepoix. Andouille sausage * or ham is often added to gumbos of either variety. After the base is prepared, vegetables are cooked down, and then the meat is added. The dish simmers for a minimum of three hours, with shellfish, filé and extra spices added near the end.

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*Gumbo filé powder is a necessity for cooking authentic Creole or Cajun cuisine. Filé powder is the powdered leaves of the sassafras tree. When ground, they have a rich, spicy flavour with a hint of eucalyptus. Andouille sausage is a staple of Cajun and Creole cooking brought to the United States by French immigrants to Louisiana. It is a course pork sausage flavoured with garlic, pepper, onions and wine.

If you are going to cook Cajan then you can get in the mood with this version of the Hank Williams classic. My Gumbo recipe is no exception, the only time I waiver from the truly authentic is adding a little extra butter to my chicken, sausage and prawns to produce a rich sauce to top the finished dish. As they say in New Orleans,

” Laissez les bons Temps Rouler -let the Good Times Roll “

My Cajun Gumbo                                                                                      serves 4

12 large prawns, peeled and de-veined

4 chicken breasts, butterflied

200 gr Andouille sausage, sliced

200 gr Long Grain Rice

150 gr Butter

50 gr Flour

1 litre quality Chicken Stock

50 ml Olive Oil

1 Large Onion, peeled and finely chopped

4 sticks of Celery, washed and chopped

1 Green Bell Pepper

6 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and finely chopped

4 tablespoons of Cajun-style seasoning

2 tablespoons Filé powder ( available from a good Deli )

2 Bay Leaves

1 teaspoon Tabasco hot sauce ( you can use more if you prefer )

Juice of 1 Lemon

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

Freshly chopped parsley

In a medium bowl mix the prawns, chicken half the sausage and 2 tablespoons of the Cajun style seasoning. In a large heavy-bottomed, saucepan heat the oil over a medium heat and cook the onion, pepper and celery for ten minutes without burning. Remove from the pan and reserve. Melt half of the butter and stir in the flour. Cook out the roux over a gentle heat, stirring continuously until a dark nut brown. Add the cooked trinity, the seasoned chicken, garlic, bay leaves, the sausage, the remaining Creole seasoning and Tabasco sauce. Pour in half of the chicken stock and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook over the lowest possible heat for two and a half hours. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.

In a second pan, cook the rice by bringing the remaining stock to the boil, add the rice and place on a tight cover. Simmer for five minutes then remove from heat and leave to steam for ten more minutes. Add the prawns to the gumbo and reduce the cooking liquor down by a third until the prawns are cooked. Add the filé powder, the lemon juice, butter and check seasoning. Finish the gumbo with chopped parsley then divide the cooked rice into bowls using a slotted spoon and top with a piece of chicken, prawns, sausage and some cooking liquor.

My Cajun Seasoning

3 tablespoons Smoked Paprika

2 tablespoons Onion Powder

2 tablespoons Garlic Powder

1 tablespoon Hot Mustard Powder

1 tablespoon Cayenne Pepper

1 tablespoon Dried Oregano

1 tablespoon Dried Thyme

1 tablespoon Salt

½ tablespoon ground Bay Leaves

½ tablespoon ground Black Pepper

Mix in a food processor and store in an airtight container.

Cantonese Crab and Sweetcorn Soup

As the Chinese New Year approaches, I thought for my next classic Chinese recipe it would be nice to marry my love of Chinese food with some of the amazing produce available here in the Channel Islands.  What better ingredient to use than fresh local crab, indulgent perhaps, but this recipe uses brown and white meat to really get an intense flavour. So just as every Chinese restaurant has a version of sweet and sour, a great many have their own version of this Cantonese dish on the menu, today’s recipe, Crab and Sweetcorn Soup.

Chinese Crab and Sweetcorn Soup

It is best to view most authentic Chinese soups as highly flavoured, aromatic broths and it is important to note that in Chinese kitchens they take as much care in their cooking as we in western kitchens devote to good stocks and much-celebrated consommés. This does not mean however that this is a complicated or indeed difficult dish. In fact, this is an incredibly easy recipe resulting in a fantastically tasty soup using brilliant local seafood. Enjoy.

The recipe calls for a fish or chicken stock the making of which I will cover in a future post. You can however achieve excellent results with a good quality stock purchased from your local Deli or supermarket, try to source one that is jelly like in consistency as this will add to the fished soup.

Cantonese Crab and Sweetcorn Soup                           serves 4

500 ml good quality Fish or Chicken Stock

100 gr cooked Sweetcorn Nibs

100 gr picked White Crab Meat

100 gr Brown Crab Meat, mashed with a fork

1 small Red Pepper, very finely sliced

A small bunch of Spring Onions, finely shredded

75 ml Rice Wine or Dry Sherry

20 gr Ginger, peeled weight, cut into very fine strips or finely grated

2 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

½ small Red Chilli, de-seeded and finely sliced ( optional )

1 Star Anise pod

Juice of one fresh Lemon

2 tablespoons cornflour

2 tablespoons light Soy Sauce

1 tablespoon Fish Sauce

Small bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Place the stock, sherry, soy, star anise, garlic, chilli and ginger into a medium sized, heavy bottomed pan and bring to the boil, reduce the heat and very gently simmer for at twenty minutes. This will allow the aromatic flavours to infuse into the stock. Do not simmer longer as the stock may go bitter.

Remove from the heat and strain. Return to the pan, bring back to a simmer and thicken with the cornflour mixed with a little water. Add the sweetcorn and peppers and cook for five minutes before adding the crab and spring onions. Heat for a further couple of minutes to thoroughly warm the crab, correct seasoning with the fish sauce and lemon, add the coriander and serve.

National Seafood Week – Mussels with Beer and Chorizo

This lovely Autumnal recipe pairs two fantastic flavours with fresh mussels and is perhaps my favourite of all the mussel dishes I regularly cook. There is something about the combination of the pungent braised chorizo and aromatic, slightly bitter, beer with the cooking liquor of the mussels which creates a wonderful broth in which to dip great chunks of freshly baked crusty bread. For the beer I would naturally recommend Liberation IPA or Butcombe Bitter of course but Adnam’s Broadside, Fuller’s London Pride or Moorland Old Speckled Hen all give great results, for the braised chorizo recipe follow the link to The Online Cookery School.

Mussels with Beer and ChorizoMussels with Beer and Chorizo Sausage                            generously serves 6 people

2 kg fresh Mussels ( about 350 gr of Mussels per person )
140 gr Braised Chorizo
A good sized nugget of Butter
A slug of quality Olive Oil
6 large Shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
3 cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed
½ pint of deep flavoured Beer
3 tblsp Tomato Puree
A good handful of Parsley, washed and finely chopped
The juice of 1 freshly squeezed Lemon
Freshly ground Black Pepper

To prepare the mussels see my recipe for the classic Moules Marinières

In a large, heavy bottomed pan melt the butter and add the olive oil. Add the shallots and sauté for about ten minutes until they are soft and gently coloured. Turn up the heat and add the garlic, tomato puree, chorizo and a generous few turns of the pepper mill. Stir well and cook for two minutes. Pour in the beer, stir and bring to the boil before tipping in the mussels. Cover with a tight fitting lid and steam for five minutes until the mussels are all open. Remove the lid and simmer for two more minutes to slightly reduce the cooking liquor. I like plenty of the cooking juices to mop up with lots of crusty bread. Finish the mussels with the lemon juice and lots of parsley and serve.

Saute Squid with Chorizo and Harissa

Warning: This is a Knock your Socks off Dish

Saute Squid with Chorizo
Imagine a full assault on your taste buds, a big, bad, bruising combination of squid, Chorizo, garlic, chilli, salt and spice. The big secret is cooking your squid perfectly and in this recipe it is almost the last ingredient tossed in a very hot wok and sautéed for just a couple of minutes. Your Harissa paste will handily keep for a couple of weeks in an air tight container in your refrigerator and the braised Chorizo likewise. The best thing about this recipe is the great flavour is so easy to achieve and so simple and quick to cook if you use ready prepared Harissa and Chorizo.

I developed my taste for Harissa in Tunisia, searching out Roman ruins and sampling fantastic, fresh and tasty food some fifteen years ago. Harissa is undoubtedly hot with chilli but is also rich with the flavours of coriander, cumin and garlic. It is now available commercially in tins or jars but this pales beside the freshly made product which is quick and simple to make. It can be stirred into stews and tagines, used as a thin crust on baked fish or added to couscous for a really easy taste boost.


My Harrisa

6 to 8 Serrano Chilli Peppers

1 large bunch of fresh Coriander

1 large handful of fresh Mint Leaves

2 bulbs of Garlic, peeled

2 tablespoons Coriander Seeds

2 tablespoons Cumin Seeds

1 tablespoon Caraway Seeds

1 tablespoon of Smoked Paprika

1 teaspoon ground Cinnamon

Zest and juice of 2 large Lemons

100 ml quality Olive Oil

½ teaspoon Sea Salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper


In a large, heavy bottomed sauté pan heat and gently toast the whole spices to help release the essential aromatic oils and flavourings. Cool for a few minutes. Place the spices, chilli and garlic into a food processor and blend. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse to form a rough paste. Store in a sterilised glass jar covered with a thin film of extra olive oil and sealed with a tight fitting lid.

Sauté Squid with Chorizo and Harissa serves 4

You can buy fresh or frozen prepared squid from your local supermarket or fishmonger, the squid is cleaned and the quill is removed. You can use tinned sweet red pimento peppers for your convenience. Do not season the dish as the olives and Chorizo are sufficiently salty.

3 to 4 prepared Squid ( ask your Fishmonger ), cut in half centimetre slices

250 gr waxy Baby Potatoes, washed and par-boiled then sliced

75 gr braised Chorizo and a little of the flavoured oil

75 gr roast Sweet Red Pepper, sliced

50 gr good quality Black Olives

2 heaped tablespoons of Harissa paste

A small handful of freshly chopped Coriander

Freshly squeezed juice of half a Lemon

Mixed Salad Leaves

Heat the braised Chorizo oil in a wok and sauté the sliced potatoes for around five minutes until golden brown. Add the squid and fry for one minute stirring all the time. Add the peppers, olives and Chorizo and fry for another minute. Then add the Harissa paste and cook out for one further minute. Stir in the lemon juice and coriander and divide on to four bowls of salad leaves.