Lemon and Garlic Cod, Truffled red pepper puree, pearl barley risotto and crispy pine nuts. Pimms Jelly, Avocado mousse and Vanilla and raspberry macaroons.

I’m sure it appears that my house is an endless stream of dinner parties at the moment. This is mostly because my parents have been storing up invitations to dinner until I came home, giving me an opportunity to practise my cooking before next year. This time it was the turn of some very good family friends of ours who I credit for helping further my career with advice and investment. They were the first people to listen to the ideas of a precocious 17 year old and trust me with catering 21st birthdays, engagement parties and even help me out with my brief hamper business. So no pressure with actually delivering something which lives up to their high opinion of me then… I was tasked with creating something not too heavy and of course given the dreariness of the British weather, something enticingly summery to counteract the rain. But then who in England isn’t extremely used to drinking Pimms outside whilst a faint mist of drizzle falls around them?

   

 

Lemon and Garlic Cod, truffled Red Pepper puree, pearly barley risotto and crispy pine nuts (serves 4)

Cod

4 skinless, boneless cod fillets, 4 garlic cloves, 1 sliced lemon, fresh coriander, black pepper, groundnut oil

Pepper Puree 

3 red peppers, drizzle truffle oil, 1tsp dried oregano, 1tsp dried basil, 1tsp chilli powder, 1tsp paprika, 1tbsp lemon juice, 2tbsp white wine vinegar, 2tsp sea salt 

Pearl Barley Risotto 

2 onions, 4 garlic cloves, drizzle olive oil, lemon juice, 3tbsp sherry, 2tsp each dried rosemary, parsley, thyme, 1tsp turmeric, 1tsp chilli powder, Fresh Coriander, 280g pearl barley, 1 stock cube 

75g pine nuts

  1. For the cod, place fillets on a piece of foil. Scatter with chopped garlic, slices of lemon coriander and black pepper (nb NO SALT) and drizzle with groundnut oil. Fold up into a parcel and crimp the top like a cornish pasty.
  2. Roast the Peppers whole in the oven on the highest setting for 20mins, turning halfway, or until skin is blackened slightly and blistered. Leave to cool.

  3. For the risotto, chop the onion and garlic and sauté in oil and a sprinkle of salt until translucent. Add the sherry and some lemon juice followed by the spices. Add pearl barley and cook for 2-3mins. Add 600ml water and stock cube. Leave to simmer stirring occasionally until water has mostly gone and barley is cooked. Add more water if needed. Stir through herbs. Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice. This can be heated up just before serving, if doing this, leave a little undercooked and add more water before heating.

  4. To finish the puree, remove the skin and seeds of the peppers. Using a blender liquidise all the ingredients, adjusting seasoning to taste.

  5. Bake the fish at 180 o C for 7-10mins. Meanwhile toast pine nuts on a medium heat in a frying pan for 3-5mins, then crush in a plastic bag with a rolling pin. To serve, spoon puree onto plates, top with risotto, then fish and finally crushed pine nuts.

  

Pimms jelly, Avocado Cream, Vanilla and Raspberry macaroon

Jelly 

125g sugar, 100ml water, 4 sheets gelatine, 125ml pimms, 100ml lemonade, selection of berries to serve, mint leaves

Avocado Cream 

1 avocado, 2tbsp greek yoghurt, pinch salt, 2tbsp icing sugar, 1tbsp lime juice

Vanilla and Raspberry Macaroons 

2 egg whites, 2tbsp caster sugar, 110g icing sugar, 175g ground almonds, 1tsp vanilla bean paste, 75g frozen raspberries, 1tsp vanilla bean paste, 2tbsp caster sugar

  1. For the Jelly, Bring the sugar and water to the boil and boil for 2-3mins. Meanwhile soak gelatine leaves in cold water. Remove syrup from the heat and add gelatine leaves, squeezed out. Add pimms and lemonade and stir. Pour into 4 teacups. Leave to set at room temperature for 1 hour. Add fruit, leave to set in fridge for 2 or more hours.

  2. For the macaroons. Whisk egg whites to stiff peaks. Add caster sugar to form a meringue. Fold in icing sugar, almonds and vanilla bean paste. Scoop mix into a piping bag and pipe into circles on greaseproof paper. You may find it easier to draw templates on the paper first. Preheat oven to 210 o C. Drop trays onto a flat surface from a low heat to remove any air bubbles and peaks. Leave macaroons for 20mins to set the tops. Put in the oven for 5mins or until the macaroons start to brown. Immediately turn the oven off and leave for 30mins.

  3. For the filling, Heat raspberries, caster sugar and vanilla paste over a medium flame. Stir and mash the raspberries together as they defrost. Leave to simmer till dark and jammy Remove from the heat. When room temperature, sandwich to macaroons with the jam.

  4. For the Avocado cream, blend all ingredients together and adjust to taste.

  5. To serve, pipe cream onto the jellies, top with a mint leaf and serve macaroon on the saucer.

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Pan fried sea bream, ginger sweet potato mash, soy and mushroom dressing

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this blog, I am going to cookery school next year. Incidentalky, I know Cambridge to cookery school isn’t exactly the most conventional of routes but according to one recent tinder conversation it is hilarious.  

I’m sorry Dylan I don’t think we can be friends.  

Part of what I am especially excited about for next year is exploring a few cuisines I am nit so familiar with. Whilst I reckon I am pretty familiar with french (cream, butter, garlic, butter, snails, butter), Italian (basil, pasta, antipasti, tomatoes, pizza) and of course british (meat, two veg, custard, bread), I have yet to explore cuisines which fall slightly outside my radar. For example whilst I have had some amazing Indian meals, mostly my experience lies in bad Indian takeaway (rarely) and I would like to find out about the proper version of Indian food, which as I know can be fantastic. Likewise Asian cuisine is something I am interested in learning about. The flavours in Asian cuisine are so different from the European flavours that I am overwhelmed even when I attempt to teach myself due to lack of experience. However you have to start somewhere, so when the classicist came over to dinner I cooked her Pan fried sea bream, ginger sweet potato mash, soy and mushroom dressing. 

1. Heat 2 sweet potatoes for 10-12 mins in the microwave on high, until soft. Heat sesame oil, 1 clove garlic (chopped), 2 tsp ground ginger, 2tsp soy sauce and 1tsp sugar in a saucepan for 2-3mins. Scoop out the inside of the sweet potato into the saucepan and combine, mashing as you go.

2. For the mushroom dressing, chop 5 chestnut mushrooms in to thin slices. Sauté in 2 tsp seseme oil, pepper, 1tsp chilli powder, 3tbsp soy sauce, 2tsp fish sauce and 2tsp sugar. Cook for 2-3mins. Add 300ml water and 1/2 stock cube. Reduce by half. 

3. Finally pan fry the bream. Cook for 1min flesh side down in a searing hot pan, flip over and cook for 4mins on the skin side down, it should leave you a crispy skin. Serve. 

  

Coast?

Coast

Anyone who knows Cambridge will inevitably remember Tatties and for those of you who don’t know Cambridge think of it as your go to hangover breakfast, weekend panini and chips or for those who live opposite, coffee break. It’s a Cambridge institution (at least if you’re a hungover student) so it didn’t go down too well when a more expensive fish and chip shop restaurant opened there this year    (Despite the fact there is still a Tatties 3mins walk away it’s the principle). Having said that, despite being as far from the sea as seemingly possible, Cambridge needs a good fish and chip place, we have so many kebab/burger/Chinese/Italian/gastropub places I think this might be the one obvious thing we are missing. So this weekend I took full advantage of the parents coming up to get them to take me for a nice lunch (after all what are parents for but making sure you’re not just living off pot noodle – on second thoughts, as if!). Coast started out well. We sat downstairs and the waiters were so desperate to take our drinks order and bring us our drinks we hardly had time to think. Ironically they then got the message rather too well and didn’t come and get our food order for another 20mins meaning we’d finished our drinks before we ordered. However this did give me time to peruse the extended menu. The first thing that struck me was that the breakfasts looked incredibly exciting (watch this space) all smoked salmon scrambled eggs etc and for about the same price as old Tatties. The main menu was equally enticing with a wide range of fish mains (fish pie, seafood tagliatelle) as well as the option to choose your own fish for fish and chips, fish cakes or grilled, all satisfyingly coming with chips. There were salads (typically overpriced) and a small number of meat and veg courses (although why you would come to a fish restaurant I have no idea). Admittedly it is a little out of student budget (Bills or Browns prices ) but it is possible to get a decent Portion of fish and chips for under £10 and they even do takeaway.

When they finally took our order they were very efficient about bringing our food out. Since the parents were paying and we were all dashing around too much that evening to think about eating, I suggested we have two courses each (also so I could try more). I may have mentioned in my San Francisco blog post how much I love crab, and I really do . I was a little sceptical of the fact fresh crab tastes the best and Cambridge is do far from the coast line….. But I was pleasantly surprised.   
The crab mayonnaise was salty and with a kick, not overly creamy and very heavy on the crab meat which is always better. The crab mayonnaise came in two huge quenelles and a hunk of bread on the plate which made me extremely happy, I always hate when you order something like this and end up with about 5 slices of bread with a teaspoon of crab on the side, the filling should always be more than the bread, not visa versa. It came with a well dressed salad and garnish of caviar which at first seemed superfluous but in fact lifted the dish, I was a very happy customer.

My dad got incredibly excited by his prawn and avocado salad because of its edible flowers and caviar, however it was concluded that my dish was better value for money as his dish was smaller, less filling and the caviar was an unnecessary addition as were the flowers. My mother’s was a lot of fun. She had piri piri prawns that came dripping in a very tasty (and messy) sauce and required a lot of work, a finger bowl and 4 napkins, but it came in a cute fake newspaper wrapping and was a good starter for anyone who likes playing with food and wants something slightly lighter but still with a burst of flavour.

Mains arrived almost as soon as our starters were picked up and they did not disappoint. You can see why the prices are higher than you expect, the portions were huge and extremely satisfying. (For real value for money go for the fish burger, only a tenner and about the size of a small dog) my mother and I went for the more expensive grilled mackeral with mash and ratatouille, while my father went for the lemon plaice, grilled with chips. Again I think we picked a winner. 

The mackeral was fiddly (it was a whole fish) but it had been butterflied and main bones removed, with a mass of charred rosemary and thyme on top. The fish was a little under seasoned (I took the lemon out of my water and spritzed this on top which lifted it) and the edge was over cooked but this just meant the centre was perfectly cooked so I could see why. It was served with a chunky pseudo-ratatouille which went very nicely with the fish but could have been a little more saucy.  The best thing about the dish though was the mash. I don’t know what they did to it ( although I suspect they cooked it a little after it had been mashed with lots of butter) but it was possibly the best mash I’ve ever tasted. It was very thick and smooth with a faint garlicky hint, it was so good I finished off my mum’s! My dad’s was also apparently well cooked and the huge mound if chips were very good, very chippy like. I tried one and they tasted so much like the takeaway chips we used to get while on holiday in Brighton, thick, chunky and slightly squashed, very impressed.

I am not easily defeated by food (see midsummer house) but after that I certainly couldn’t manage a pudding (shame I would have liked to have seen if they were any good) and was full for most of the day after meaning it didn’t matter I didn’t eat supper till 10.30. In this sense Coast is very good for filling up while your parents are here so you don’t need to spend so much on food at other times.

All in all I was quite impressed with this restaurant. Not for anyone on a diet (I’m pretty sure the salads wouldn’t be worth the extortionate price) but otherwise the portion size proves what you get for your money and the food straddles the line between homely comfort food and that extra restaurant lift. Not everyday but good for a reasonably priced treat. However I’m pretty sure it will never become as beloved as Tatties.