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.

 

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Celebrate Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo literally ‘Five of May’ is a celebration commemorating the Mexican Army’s surprise victory over a French force in 1862. This was an important military encounter; Napoleon III was looking to secure a base to support the Confederates in the American Civil War. President Lincoln did not want to get involved and end up fighting the French and the Confederates at the same time. The much larger and better equipped French Army, unbeaten for almost fifty years was defeated by the outnumbered Mexicans. The French did return a year later, overran ran the country and Napoleon installed a puppet monarchy. But enough history you want some authentic Mexican cooking and I am going to give you Nachos.

Nachos is a Mexican dish of fried corn tortillas covered with cheese or cheese-based sauce and pickled Jalapeño peppers, often served as a snack. They were first made by Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya, around 1943 in the city of Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico, just over the border from Eagle Pass, Texas. The story goes that the wives of America soldiers stationed at nearby Fort Duncan were in Piedras Negras on a shopping trip, and arrived at the restaurant after it had already closed for the day. Ignacio, the maître d’hôtel, invented a new snack for them with what little he had available in the kitchen. There always seems to be just enough available in the cupboard in these stories such as Caesar Cardini and his celebrated salad, maybe they are just more inventive than the rest of us.

 

Nachos Grande.JPG

Nachos have since developed and many versions exist now, including large ‘loaded’ platters of Nachos ‘Grande’ or ‘Supreme’ consisting of tortilla chips smothered with layers of refried beans, Chilli con Carne, grated cheese and topped with Pico de gallo or Mexican Tomato Salsa, sour cream, Guacamole and garnished with Jalapeños, coriander (cilantro) and chopped chives or spring onions.

So we are going to need a fantastic Chilli con Carne, with lots of flavour and heat and then a pile of crisp tortilla chips, some delicious ewe’s milk Queso Manchego cheese, fresh tomato salsa and some sour cream, Guacamole and we are ready. The classic Mexican tomato salsa is called Pico de Gallo and here is my simple, authentic recipe.

 

Pico de Gallo / Mexican Tomato Salsa

6 Tomatoes, cored, de-seeded and chopped

1 small Red Onion, peeled and very finely chopped

1 tablespoon of Jalapeño Peppers from a jar, drained and finely chopped

1 clove of Garlic, peeled and crushed

1 small handful of Coriander, roughly chopped

Juice of 1 freshly squeezed Lime

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

 

Stir all the ingredients together in a medium bowl. Chill.

 

For some more detail on Chilli con Carne and a very tasty recipe please click on the link and visit Beignets and Barbecues .

 

Super Bowl 50 & The Best Buffalo Wings Ever

Sunday is a milestone in American sport the fiftieth Super Bowl. Now I am no expert on the game but I know that the Super Bowl is always celebrated in some style. I imagine that for the fiftieth the celebrations will be spectacular and as millions gather in bars or at home to watch, food plays a massive role. So what are the top snacks piled on the table tops across the USA? Heaps of Nachos with spicy dips, bacon stuffed crispy potato skins, beer broiled Hot dogs smothered in onions, cheese, mustard and ketchup, buttered corn-on-the-cob and sticky BBQ ribs all washed down with ice-cold beer will all be popular but THE Super Bowl snack is the Buffalo Wing.

As a professional chef a long time ago potato skins were what your potato came in and they were as likely as not peeled off. The only time you saw a chicken wing in a hotel or restaurant kitchen was in a stock pot. At home the chicken carcass, neck and wings made a base for hearty soups, and nothing was wasted. With the advent of commercialization of poultry farming and of mass refrigeration throughout the food supply chain from a producer, supplier, distributor and in the home, customers became ever more able to pick and choose their favourite part of the bird. People wanted the thigh, breast and leg consequently butcher’s almost paid the chef to take away the wings which no one wanted.

And then……

On October 30, 1964, in Buffalo, New York, at the now legendary Anchor Bar*, the owner Teressa Bellissimo created a late-night snack for her son and his friends. At hand, a surfeit of chicken wings, which she deep fried, dressed in a sticky, sweet chilli flavoured butter sauce and served them with celery sticks and a creamy, blue cheese dip. The buffalo wings, they are from Buffalo, I knew you were going to ask me about that, became popular and for a while they were free on the bar for regulars. Is it me but do all fridges seem to have celery and blue cheese lurking within ready for late night culinary inspiration, and anchovies and olives and Parmesan, actually that is more like a small deli and perhaps for another article.

Since that day chicken or ‘ Buffalo ’ wings have become a little more popular and on Sunday night, it is estimated a mammoth 1.25 billion wings will be eaten during the 50th Super bowl. Chicken wings are now universally popular and come in numerous sauce varieties from sweet, oriental to smoked or hickory style.

* The city of Buffalo has designated July 29 as “Chicken Wing Day,” and today, the Anchor Bar serves up more than 70 thousand pounds of chicken per month. The Anchor Bar original recipe for hot sauce is now sold commercially.

Buffalo Wings 5-2-2016

 

Oven baked Buffalo Wings                                                                 makes approx. 24 pieces

Buffalo Wings are a personal favourite I love the mix of spicy chicken, cool full of flavour blue cheese dip and crisp celery. This easy convenient recipe bakes the wings instead of frying. It is a little more healthy –  just and so much easier.

For the Wings

1 kg Chicken Wings (about 12 wings)

3 tablespoons Butter

4 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and very finely crushed

6 tablespoons good Tomato Ketchup

1 tablespoon bottled Hot Pepper Sauce

1 tablespoon Honey

2 tablespoon Dry Sherry

1 tablespoon Smoked Paprika

½ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

 

For the Blue Cheese Dip

125 ml Sour Cream

125 ml Mayonnaise

100 gr crumbled, mild Blue Cheese ( I use Danish Blue )

1 tablespoon quality Cider Vinegar

1 Clove Garlic, peeled and very finely crushed

A generous pinch or two of Celery Salt

Freshly ground Black Pepper

 

Celery sticks

The parts of the wing used will also vary from person to person and restaurant to restaurant. Some will cut off the wing tip and separate the remaining wing pieces. Some cook all three parts together. I know some people who will eat the wing tip bone and all if it is fried up nice and crunchy. A good butcher will prepare the wings as you like.

For consistent, even cooking in the oven I cut up the wings by first removing the wing tips, they can go into the freezer ready for the stock pot. Then cut wings into two pieces, at the joint. Put chicken wing pieces in a large glass bowl, season generously, cover with cling film and set to one side. ( Make sure you thoroughly wash the board you cut the raw chicken on ).

In a medium heavy-bottomed sauce pan melt the butter and sauté the garlic over a low heat, without burning for two minutes. Add the ketchup, hot pepper sauce, dry sherry, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper and cook for five more minutes stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and allow to thoroughly cool down. When cold pour all but a couple of tablespoons of the marinade over the chicken pieces in the bowl. Cover with fresh cling film and place in the refrigerator and marinate for at least two hours.

Preheat your oven to 375F / 190C / Gas mark 5. Drain the chicken pieces and place on a wire rack over a metal roasting pan. Bake for thirty to thirty-five minutes, until the chicken is tender and no longer pink. The sticky marinade may char, don’t worry this all adds to the flavour. Remove from oven and baste with reserved marinade.

Serve with celery sticks and blue cheese dip

For the Blue cheese dip, combine dip ingredients – sour cream, mayonnaise, blue cheese, vinegar, and garlic – in a blender or food processor. Blend or pulse until smooth. Cover and chill. The dip can be made ahead and will keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator.

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.

Classic Moules Marinières

Now the summer is over it is time to eat mussels again but where do you start or who do you look to as an authority for the perfect Moules marinières recipe? My shelves are groaning with cookery books by experts on classical French Cuisine and seafood cookery. Well every author is different in their interpretation and so here I guess is the rub, it is time to experiment and find out if you prefer onion to shallots? What type of white wine do you prefer? And most controversially do you add cream, mayonnaise or crème Fraiche? Well, I don’t add cream to my classic Moules marinières the butter is enough to make the cooking liquids really luxurious.

Mussels

Classic Moules Marinières                                      serves 4

Allow 500 gr to 750 gr of mussels per person for a generous portion. To prepare your mussels first rinse them in plenty of cold running water and throw away any mussels with cracked or broken shells. Give any open mussels a quick squeeze, if they do not close immediately, throw away as well as they are dead and not to be eaten. Then using a small knife scrape the shell to remove any barnacles or dirt and pull out any beards by tugging towards the hinge of the mussel shell. If you intend to cook later that day, store in a plastic container in the bottom of your refrigerator covered with a damp tea towel.

1.5 kg of prepared Mussels

3 large ( Banana ) Shallots, peeled and very finely chopped

100 gr Alderney Butter

4 cloves of Garlic, peeled and very finely chopped

A very generous sprig of fresh Thyme

A bay leaf

A large glass ( 325 ml ) of good quality dry White Wine

A small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, washed and finely chopped

Freshly ground black pepper

Plenty of warm crusty bread

Heat half the butter in a large heavy-bottomed pan and add the shallots, garlic, bay leaf and picked thyme leaves. Soften for five minutes without colouring then pour in the wine and bring up to the boil. Simmer for a further five minutes before turning up the heat to high. Tip the mussels into the pan and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Steam for three minutes until the mussels have all started to open and remove from the heat. Add the remaining butter and the parsley, replace the lid and put back on the heat for thirty seconds shaking the pan well to distribute the parsley. Season with freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately, removing any mussels which have remained closed.

Spicy Crab & Prawn Fishcakes with Sweetcorn and Coriander and a Thai style Dipping Sauce

Everyone who cooks has a list of purely personal favourite dishes, their own or at a restaurant, they can be terribly simple or frighteningly complex. As a chef you develop a list of go to classic recipes that work every time, easy to cook and as incredible eating for family, friends or paying guests. Thai Spiced Crab and Prawn Fishcakes would get an entry near to the top on to both of my lists although a little extravagant. I know living on an island spoils you with the ability to get hold of great ingredients like fresh crab every day. I love the layers of flavours in Thai cooking and while this dish is only my interpretation I hope it has a little of the depth, spice and variety with the typical hot, sweet and sour tastes. The Thai style dipping sauce can be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator but is best served at room temperature.

Thai style Crab Cakes

Spicy Crab & Prawn Fishcakes with Sweetcorn and Coriander

and a Thai style Dipping Sauce                                            serves 4 – 6

150 gr firm White Fish such as Cod, Haddock or Coley

100 gr freshly picked White Crab Meat

50 gr fresh peeled Prawns, roughly chopped

50 gr cooked Sweetcorn Nibs

1 medium sized, fresh, free range Egg

2 stems Lemon Grass, peeled and finely chopped

2 small, hot Chilli Peppers, finely diced

1 piece of Preserved Ginger, finely grated

1 tablespoon of Fish Sauce

Zest and juice of 2 fresh Limes

½ teaspoon of ground Coriander

¼ teaspoon of freshly ground Black Pepper

1 Bunch of fresh Coriander, finely chopped

A large knob of Butter and Vegetable oil for frying

for the dipping sauce

1 small Carrot, peeled and very finely diced

1 Banana Shallot, peeled and very finely diced

1 stick of Celery, very finely diced

1 sweet Red Pepper, very finely diced

2 small hot Chilli peppers, finely diced

2 stems Lemon Grass, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed to a pulp

1 piece of Preserved Ginger, finely grated

3 tablespoons of Fish Sauce

2 tablespoons of Palm Sugar or soft Brown Sugar

Zest and juice of 2 fresh Limes

1 tablespoon of fresh Coriander, finely chopped

freshly boiled Water

First prepare the dipping sauce by placing all of the ingredients excluding the coriander in a glass bowl just covered with boiling water. Stir and allow to cool. When completely cooled down stir in the coriander. Adding the coriander whilst hot can discolour the chopped leaves, allowing the sauce to cool will ensure an appealing fresh green colour. The temperature of the boiling water is sufficient to soften but not cook the vegetables leaving a slight crunch.

Blitz the fish in a food processor for two minutes on the pulse setting. You do not want to let the motor get hot as it will start to cook the fish. For a professional finish you can pass the fish through a fine sieve to remove any unprocessed lumps. Add the egg, fish sauce, lime zest and juice and process for a further minute. Transfer to a bowl and work in the remaining ingredients. Do not worry if the mixture seems quite loose as it will produce a moist crab cake.

Cooking Crab CakesHeat a thin coating of oil in a heavy bottomed non stick frying pan over a medium-high heat add the butter and using an ice cream scoop drop in four or five balls of the crab mix. Flatten gently with a spatula and cook for five to six minutes before very carefully turning and cooking for a few more minutes. When the crab cakes are golden brown on both sides and firm to the touch but not solid, remove on to kitchen paper and keep warm. Wipe out the pan and repeat the process to use up the crab mixture. Serve with the dipping sauce and lime wedges.