Seabass with Samphire & Lemongrass Butter

Here’s my twist on Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution fish recipe. Using very similar skills to his classic pan-fried salmon and vegetable dish, I’m mixing it up a little and showing how you can create incredible variations in flavour.

If you’re buying whole fish and filleting it yourself, make sure you look out for bright, clear eyes.  The brighter the eyes, the fresher the fish. My children are fascinated by the whole process and we’ve luckily avoided any squeamishness by making it the norm whilst they’re still young.

Samphire is the asparagus of the sea. Delicate, tender, delicious.

I’ve chosen to accompany the fish with Swedish Hasselback potatoes. They’re really easy to make, and I love how this little twist transforms the humble potato to make it super-crispy and delightfully moreish.

The lemongrass butter gives everything a clean and zingy lift. You can make it ahead and store it in the freezer for future use; it’s stunning on charred corn on the cob.

Ingredients:

(serves 2)

  • 2 Seabass fillets
  • 150g Samphire
  • 100g Butter, softened
  • 1 Lemongrass stalk
  • 1cm Ginger
  • 1 Parsely sprig
  • 1 Tbsp Ponzu
  • 6 Small waxy potatoes (you may wish you’d cooked more though…)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Olive Oil

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

To make the butter, remove the tough outer leaves of the lemongrass and finely slice the core with the parsley leaves. Peel and grate the ginger into a bowl and mix it together thoroughly with the lemongrass, ponzu, butter, parsley and pepper. Tip the butter onto a sheet of greaseproof paper and form it into a log shape. Wrap it up like a Christmas cracker and pop it into the fridge so that it firms up.

The potatoes need to be evenly sliced without cutting all of the way through, so that they fan out when cooked. The more slices, the crispier the results. I use a wooden spoon as a jig to hold the potato in place and stop the blade. You’ll find it easiest with a very sharp, thin bladed knife.

wooden spoon jig

Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a roasting tray with a knob of butter and then carefully add the potatoes, making sure that they’re nicely coated. Roast for about 50 minutes until beautifully golden and crispy.

Slash the skin of your fish. This will help the heat to penetrate the thickest part so that you have evenly cooked fish.

Seabass fillet

Heat a non-stick frying pan and add a little oil just to coat the surface. Season the fish before placing it skin-side down into the pan, pressing it down for the first few seconds to prevent it from curling up. Cook the fish for 3 to 4 minutes without touching it or moving it around. Once the skin is golden and crispy, gently turn it over and cook for a further minute.

seabass

Steam the samphire for just 3 minutes and dress it with a squeeze of lemon juice.

Rock Samphire

Assemble your dish, topping with a slice of the lemongrass butter. Don’t place the butter directly onto the skin as I have done below if you want to keep it nice and crispy.

seabass with samphire and lemongrass butter

As always, recipes are merely guides; mix it up a little, adapt to your tastes and build on the foundations to satisfy your soul. The next time I cook this dish I’m going to focus on the Swedish angle and switch the lemongrass for some form of dill sauce.

 

 

Thai Basil Chicken Stir Fry

Pad Kra Pao Gai (ผัดกระเพราไก่); this is one of the most memorable dishes we acquired for the repertoire during our stint in Australia. I’d even go as far as to say that it’s my wife’s absolute favourite – it makes a regular appearance on our table.

You’ll notice that Thai basil (bai horapha) has beautifully deep purple stalks. The wonderful aniseed flavour of this variety is so distinctive, yet rather than being overpowering, it’s delicate and fragrant.

Fresh Thai Basil

This recipe introduced us to ‘garlic shoots’ which unfortunately we’ve never seen since leaving Australia, other than chopped up and frozen in mixed vegetable bags at Waitrose. Garlic shoots are so special to us that I’ll admit to buying numerous bags and picking through! Like long, perfectly straight green beans, garlic shoots have a mild flavour and provide a slightly squeaky, crunchy texture to the dish.

You could always have a go at growing them yourself as they’re just garlic scapes with the flower bud removed. If you can’t get your hands on any, fine green beans will suffice.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Chicken breasts
  • 4 Garlic cloves
  • 3cm Galangal (or Ginger)
  • 1/2 Chilli
  • 1/2 Red Pepper
  • Small bunch of Asparagus
  • Small bunch of Spring Onions
  • Small bunch or Garlic Shoots or Green Beans
  • Bunch of Thai Basil
  • 3 tbsp Oyster Sauce
  • Splash of Fish Sauce (optional)

Ingredients

Method:

Cut the chicken breasts into thin slices.

Blend the garlic, chilli and galangal into a paste using a mortar and pestle or roughly chop it all together. Marinate the chicken in a covered dish or bag in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Slice the vegetables into roughly the same size and set aside. Do make sure that you have everything ready to go and within reach before you start cooking as it’s going to be quick quick quick.

In a wok or large frying pan, heat a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil.

Stirring as you go, first fry the marinated chicken for a couple of minutes.

Add the vegetables and fry for a further minute.

Add the oyster sauce and a splash of fish sauce (or water if it’s not your thing), cooking for another couple of minutes.

Finally, add the Thai basil for just 30 seconds so that it wilts and releases its beautiful aroma.

So in total, the stir fry should take you about five and a half minutes to cook.

Serve with white rice or cauliflower rice for a healthier option.

Thai Basil

World Food Programme Falafel

This month’s Food Revolution Challenge comes to us from the World Food Programme (WFP).

The FamilyChef Project shares recipes from around the world – it helps people to explore the culinary treasures and cooking abilities of refugees benefiting from WFP’s cash and vouchers (an initiative that enables individuals to buy the food they need to cook their traditional dishes).

Wherever you are in the world, food is a symbol of dignity and freedom. We’ve opened out our cookery series so that even more of the people we serve across the globe can share their wonderful recipes with you. So check out some of their traditional dishes, get cooking and don’t forget to share your culinary efforts with us on social media!

Take a look at http://www.wfp.org/cash-and-vouchers/familychef-recipes-field for further info.

So our June challenge is to cook one of these traditional dishes and share it; I went for the falafel as it’s something I utterly adore, yet have never actually cooked before. Obviously I’d have tried the Caterpillar Surprise if they’d been in season…

split peas and chick peas

falafel mixture

falafel

Falafel combo

There’s no question that this is going to be a regular feature in our household – I just adore the combination of falafel, houmous and chilli sauce.

There’s a number of different methods for making falefal, but Nurfel’s Syrian version has got to be the easiest.

Give it a whirl!

Chilli con Jamie

Yesterday I had the absolute pleasure of cooking for a lovely group of school mums on their annual get-together in The Cotswolds.

A dear friend had asked if I’d like to cater for the event, and together we hatched a plan to use this as an opportunity to raise awareness for the Food Revolution and Elizabeth’s Footprint – [Natalia Spencer is walking the entire 6,000 mile coastline of the UK in aid of Bristol Children’s Hospital following the sudden and tragic loss of her beautiful 5-year-old daughter Elizabeth.] 

So, deep breath, what do you cook for fourteen…?

I needed something hearty, a little bit special, and above all something that wouldn’t be a logistical nightmare given Chipping Campden is a 40 minute drive from Cheltenham.

Delectable and transportable; it’s got to be a slow cooked chilli. It just so happens that I recently acquired a cast iron, 12 litre, Staub Cocotte (dutch oven)..

Let’s not reinvent the wheel here – I know a man who’s nailed this dish, so please do check out Jamie’s tried and tested recipe here: http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/beef-recipes/chilli-con-jamie/

The only tweaks I made were to scale up the quantities to make it go a bit further. I used 3kg of brisket, 5 cans of tomatoes, 750ml fresh coffee and 3 tins of kidney beans etc.

3kg beef brisket

Trimming up the beef takes a little time but once it’s all in the pot you can pretty much sit back and leave it alone for a few hours. If you’re interested, I chose to use a combination of Ancho and Pasilla chillies which were rehydrated in strong coffee.

Ancho and Pasilla chillies

I wrapped a couple of towels around my impractically heavy cast iron pot and carefully stowed my precious cargo in the passenger footwell.

Seeing a rainbow over Chipping Campden as I made my way down the quiet country lanes really made my day. I had to stop the car and take a moment to fully appreciate the world around me, basking in the horizontal early evening sunlight and cherishing every aspect of the quiet, rolling countryside. I wish I could have captured it for you Natalia.

I want to extend a huge, huge thank you to all you lovely ladies for donating a whopping £200 to Elizabeth’s Footprint – I’m so pleased you enjoyed your dinner :o)

Chilli con carne

Harissa Houmous

Love Houmous (or hummus even)?

Fancy a little twist to spice things up?

How about a super-simple Harissa Houmous for a change; my twist on Jamie Oliver’s Simple Houmous recipe

Harissa is the North African equivalent to Gochujang or Sambal Oelek chilli pastes.

Ingredients:

  • 400g tin of Chickpeas
  • 1 tbsp Tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1 tbsp Harissa Paste
  • 1 Lemon
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

 

Method:

Rinse and drain the chickpeas in a sieve or colander, and place them in a food processor. Add the tahini and harissa with about 1 tbsp of olive oil. Squeeze in half of the lemon juice, pop the lid on, and blend away.

You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl and add a touch more oil, water or lemon juice before blending it to a smooth consistency. Always be sure to give it a little taste and adjust to your liking – you shouldn’t need to add any salt as you would with plain houmous, but you may want to adjust how much harissa you add.

Serve with vegetable crudites or sliced pitta breads.

Now, if you fancy having a go at making your own Harissa paste, here’s how.

Harissa Hummus