Category Archives: fish

Salmon fillet served with a rice salad and mango and avocado salsa

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I have been trying out a couple of new ideas for fresh and healthy suppers whilst the weather has been so hot.  During the summer months I normally resort to green salads with bread and cheese or cured meats as they are so easy to make.  However, as a friend of mine was coming over to celebrate her recent engagement I wanted to cook something a little bit more impressive than just a salad…

At the moment the markets around me are full of ripe mangoes and avocados so I thought I would buy some and make a sweet and tangy salsa.  Provided you have a food processor this salsa can be made in a matter of minutes.  If you don’t have a food processor then dice the ingredients to make a slightly chunkier version of the salsa that will be equally as delicious.

For the rice salad, I used leftover rice that I had cooked for supper the previous day and then added a combination of vegetables that are all in season at the moment which meant the salad was packed full of flavour and different textures.  The salad was incredibly fresh and complimented the delicacy of the salmon.

Whilst I enjoyed the combination of the rice salad, salsa and fish I would recommend trying the salsa with grilled chicken and/or tortilla chips and the rice salad would be a good and slightly different side dish at a picnic or BBQ so it worthwhile giving a go.

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Mango and Avocado Salsa

Ingredients:

  • ½ a red onion
  • 1 avocado (peeled and stoned)
  • 1 ripe mango (peeled and stoned)
  • ½ -1 chilli (depending on how spicy you want it)
  • 1 small handful of fresh coriander (finely chopped)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • seasoning

Steps:

  1.  Place the red onion and chilli in a food processer and blitz until they are finely chopped.
  2. Then add the avocado, mango, coriander and blitz in the food processor till smooth.
  3. Pour the mixture out of the food processor into a bowl and stir in the lime juice, lemon juice and coriander season as necessary then decant into another bowl for serving.

Note:  If the salsa is kept covered it will keep in the fridge for a few days.

 

Rice Salad (serves 2-3)

Ingredients:

  • 150g pre-cooked basmati rice
  • 4-5 cherry tomatoes (finely diced)
  • 3-4 radishes (finely diced)
  • 2” cucumber (finely diced)
  • 1 avocado (finely diced)
  • 2tbsp fresh coriander (chopped)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • Seasoning

Steps:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, season well and serve.

 

Salmon Fillet (Serves 2)

Ingredients:

  • 2 salmon fillets
  •  paprika
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • Seasoning

Steps:

  1. Place olive oil in a frying pan and heat on a medium temperature.
  2. Add the salmon fillets (skin side down)
  3. Season the salmon and sprinkle over a little paprika.
  4. Cover the frying pan with a lid, turn the temperature down slightly and cook for 7-10 minutes (or until the salmon is cooked).  Serve on a bed of rice salad with a little of the salsa on top.  Enjoy!

 

 

Oysters

My first experience of an oyster was not a good one, I had one in the North of France when I was about 6 years old and I remember thinking that the texture was not very agreeable.  With the beauty of hindsight I have come to realise that oysters are something that you grow into and I now very much enjoy them raw with just a squeeze of lemon or just a little shallot dressing.

The last time we had oysters it turned out that we had mislaid our shucking knife, undoubtedly it is ‘somewhere safe’…   So armed with a flat headed screwdriver and relatively blunt knife the Old Man set to work, as you can see in the pictures below the flat headed screwdriver worked a treat.  Where there is a will there is always a way….

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Oysters

Ingredients:DSC_0308 (3)

  • 12 oysters
  • 1 lemon (cut into wedges)
  • crushed ice (to serve on)

For the shallot and red wine dressing:

  • 1 shallot (finely sliced)
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • seasoning

Steps:

1.  Hold an oyster in a tea towel, then take a shucking knife and insert the blade between the top and bottom shell and twist it from side to side until the hinge of the oyster breaks.  Lever the top of the shell open, by running the blade of the knife along the edge of the shell to free the oyster.  Discard the top shell and remove any small fragments of shell that may have broken off as it was opened.

3.  Put the crushed ice on a plate and then arrange the shells containing the oysters on top.

4.  Make the shallot dressing, by mixing together the vinegar, seasoning and shallots then pour the mixture into a small bowl or jug.

5.  Serve the oysters with the wedges of lemon and shallot vinegar on the side.

[Note:  Oysters are best bought when there is an ‘r’ in the month, so from September to April.]

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Black diamonds of the kitchen – truffles…

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Our house is located roughly 30 minutes from one of the most renowned truffle markets in the France, if not the world – Lalbenque Truffle Market in the Lot.   If you look up ‘Truffle’ in Larousse Gastronomique it states, “The Black Truffle of Perigord and that of the Lot are the most highly esteemed.”  By all accounts the truffles were so highly rated that a railway spur was built specifically to connect Lalbenque to Paris so that the restaurateurs in the capital could enjoy this delicacy.

The truffle market is held every Tuesday from December to March and makes for very good ‘people watching’.  The few times I have been it has been easy to spot those who have travelled down from Paris as they wear smart clothes and have well-polished shoes in stark contrast to the locals who are dressed in weather-beaten clothes that are better suited for the cool winter days.

The market is divided up into individual and wholesale sellers.  Just outside the Mairie, two tables are set up where individual truffles are sold in small cellophane bags with the prices clearly marked. On the other side of the street the wholesale sellers line up on long wooden benches and present their bounty in wicker baskets lined with gingham material, normally a small piece of card is visible indicating the weight of the truffles inside.

At 2pm the sale commences for the individual truffles, you need very sharp elbow and a fierce determination to battle your way through the crowd in order to purchase your prize.  I have watched in admiration the old ladies who beat their way to the front to get a 20g truffle for a price in the region of €17-20.

 
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On the other side of the street it is a more serious affair.  There, the proud truffle hunters stand behind their baskets fielding questions about the weight and quality of their truffles.  A rope barrier separates the buyers from the sellers and creates a path for the council officials to pass ensuring that procedures run smoothly.  The all-important matter of price is not allowed to be discussed until 2.30pm once the whistle has been sounded.  Once this happens things turn somewhat frantic as the buyers rapidly negotiate a price to be paid in cash there and then.

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The last time I went to Lalbenque was just before Christmas.  At one end of the market there was a lot of excitement.  As I approached it soon became clear why – there was an enormous basket, filled to the brim with truffles, said to weigh 8kg.  It was estimated that the basket hamper would sell for around €7,500-8,000 – a little out of my price range…  I spoke with several people and they informed me that a bounty of this size is a real rarity and is unlikely to happen again.

Sadly, I was unable to buy any truffles at this market.  However, on Christmas Eve our local market at Caussade had a small truffle stand where I was able to buy 2 very small ones weighing 17g in total.  The first thing I have to say is the smell of the truffles was extraordinary – having left them in the car whilst I did the shopping when I returned the car was filled with the fragrant scent of truffles.

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On getting them home, I decided to use them as a garnish, firstly in an omelette (which I am pretty sure you’d all be able to make…) and then secondly on top of some smoked salmon bellinis.  Truth be told, the truffles lacked taste and were somewhat disappointing as they were very dry despite having been sliced into wafer thin slithers.  It is arguable that they would have benefitted from having been softened in a little melted butter, but I felt that this would have overwhelmed their flavour.  However, for me, I am pleased I bought them if only for the enjoyment I got from their smell as I drove home.

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Smoked Salmon Bellinis (makes – 15-20)

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 3 heaped tbsp plain flour (roughly 100g)
  • 1 heaped tsp butter (melted)
  • 40-50ml milk
  • pinch of salt
  • 200g smoked salmon (cut into 1” squares)
  • 2-3tbsp crème fraiche
  • ½tsp horseradish sauce (optional)
  • pepper (for seasoning)
  • 5-10g truffle (finely chopped, for garnish – optional)
  • 15-20 small parsley leaves
  • vegetable oil (for cooking with)

Steps:

1.  Firstly make your bellinis, by whisking the egg, milk, flour,salt and butter together in a bowl – add more milk as needed until you have a batter with the consistency of thick pouring cream.

2.  Heat a little vegetable oil in a non stick frying pan.  Drop a small spoonful of the batter into the frying pan (so that you have small bellinis roughly 1” – 1”½ in size).  Cook the bellinis on each side for 30 seconds to a minute, or until they are golden brown.  Continue cooking the bellinis in batches until you have used up all of the batter.

3.  In a small bowl mix the crème fraiche, horseradish sauce and pepper.

4.  Spoon a little of the mix onto each of the bellinis, top with a piece of smoked salmon and then garnish with either a pinch of truffle or a parsley leaf.

[Note:  You can vary the flavour of the bellinis by adding ½tsp if dill or ½tsp of finely chopped chives to the batter mix before cooking].

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Salmon and Broccoli Quiche

Salmon and broccoli quiche is not a revolutionary idea but I think that the flavour combinations work really well together.  This type of quiche is good hot or cold and would be ideal to eat as a light supper or lunch.  There is also a subtle flavour of lemon which complements the salmon nicely.

This quiche requires very little preparation and can be knocked up in less than 30 minutes.  It looks particularly appetising due to the different colours and tastes delicious.  I served it with a green salad with a lemon dressing and beetroot which worked really well, alternatively if time is not on your side then sweetcorn or peas would be equally as good!

 

Salmon and Broccoli Quiche

Ingredients:

  • 1 packet of pre-rolled puff pastry
  • 1 onion (sliced)
  • 3-4 heads of broccoli (chopped into bite sized pieces)
  • 300g smoked salmon
  • zest of a lemon
  • 4 eggs
  • 100ml milk
  • 1 heaped tbsp crème fraiche
  • seasoning
  • oil (for cooking with)

Steps:

1.  Preheat oven to 190C fan.

2.  Place the onions in frying pan with a little oil and cook for 2-3 minutes.

3. Add the broccoli pieces, stir together and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.

4.  Whisk the eggs, milk, zest, crème fraiche and seasoning together in a bowl.

   

5.  Place the pastry in a flan dish, evenly distribute the onions and broccoli on the base of the flan, place the smoked salmon in the gaps then pour over the egg mix.

6.  Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

7.  Once cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before eating with a salad.

 

Moules mariniere

Our local supermarket had a special offer on fresh mussels yesterday – they were being sold for the bargain price of €1.50/kg.  After a quick look to make sure they looked OK (weren’t too damaged and the shells were closed) two kilos of the mussels were bought.  There was no doubt in my mind as to how we would be eating them with – white wine, shallots, garlic, parsley and cream – yup you’ve got it – Moules Marinières!

The last couple of times I have enjoyed eating mussels have been at village fêtes this summer.  The first of the fêtes cooked the mussels in the classic Moules Marinières way, serving them with chips and was very tasty.  However, it was the way they cooked them at the second fête which made me sit up and pay attention.  They placed kilo upon kilo of mussels onto huge metal trays roughly 2m long and ½m wide and then scattered over a combination of garlic, parsley and seasoning. They next covered the mussels with newspaper before drenching them with water, covered the lot with straw, which was then set alight.  By the time the straw had burnt away the mussels were cooked and they were beyond delicious!  Over here in France this way of cooking the mussels is called, éclade de moules.

Whilst I would have loved to have made an éclade de moules yesterday I think it would have been a little bit risky given the ground is bone dry at the moment.  So Moules Marinières it was and boy did it taste good with a nice glass of white wine and some crusty French Baguette!

 

Moules Marinières

Ingredients: (serves 2-4 people)

  • 2 kg mussels
  • 10-12 shallots (finely sliced)
  • 3 garlic cloves (minced)
  • ½ a bottle of dry white wine
  • large handful parsley (chopped)
  • 80-100 ml single cream

Steps:

1.  Clean the mussels, removing any barnacles or beard.  Discard any mussels that remain open when tapped sharply with a knife or have broken shells.  [The pictures below show the cleaned shells (on the left) and a few of the discarded shells (on the right).]

   

2.  Place the shallots and onions in a large saucepan with a little oil and cook until soft.

3.  Once soft, get the pan really hot, test that it is hot enough by pouring in a little of the wine and it should boil straight off.

4.  At this point add the mussels and the wine to the pan, cover with a lid and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until the mussels are open.

5.  Add the cream and the parsley, stir well.  Remove from the heat and serve with a crusty French loaf.

 

 

Smoked salmon pasta

When I was working in London I would regularly get home from the office well past 9pm and still fancy a proper meal but one that took no time at all to prepare and used food that was easy to come by when passing the local corner shop!  I have had countless conversations with my friends who work in the corporate world about the fact they just never cook at home, partly because they don’t have any time or simply because they have no food in their fridge.  I know that many professional chefs sell cookery books with amazing suggestions for meals that “take no time at all to prepare”.  However so many of them contain ingredients that I have either never heard of or are just too hard to find unless you live near a good deli.

I used to survive on pitta bread and hummus when I was working, the reason being it was a no brainer in terms of supper – just put the pitta in the toaster and a minute later you could eat it with a dollop of hummus.  From time to time I would jazz up the hummus by adding a touch of olive oil and paprika to make me feel as if I’d actually done something creative, but quite honestly more often than not I would be just too tired to care.

When I was last back in London I was chatting to a friend who has just recently entered the corporate world and is facing the same issues.  Subsequently I have decided I am going to give this issue some thought over the next couple of months.  I will try and come up with some simple, quick meals that make you feel like you’ve achieved something if you’ve had a rubbish day at work, only using ingredients that you can get without any hassle.  So first up we have…

Smoked Salmon Pasta

The time it takes to make this recipe is directly linked to how long your pasta takes to cook.  The quantities for the sauce in this recipe makes enough for 2-4 people depending on how hungry they are.  I quite often throw a handful of frozen peas into the pasta whilst it is cooking to give the dish a bit of colour.

 

Ingredients:

  • Fusilli pasta (75-100g per person)
  • 200g smoked salmon, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 3 heaped tbsp crème fraiche or cream (whichever you can get easier)
  • 3 sprigs of parsley, chopped (optional) [Note: dill or chives would be a good alternative to the parsley]
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • ¼ zest of a lemon (optional)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Black pepper, for seasoning

Steps:

  1. Cook the pasta according to the packet.
  2. In a small pan heat the oil, add the onion and leave it to sweat until soft.
  3. Add the salmon and cook for roughly a minute.
  4. Then add the parsley, lemon zest and crème fraiche.
  5. Season the sauce well with black pepper.
  6. Once your pasta is cooked, drain it.  Then stir in the sauce and serve whilst it is hot.