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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Salmon Risotto, Aldi’s finest

So Mark Francis and I are finally in the house together for the first time, me just back from Brazil (more on that later) him just back. The plan is to welcome him back from a long day at the office with a GandT and a home cooked meal of what Aldi has to offer. As I am technically unemployed at the moment I can’t really afford to splash the cash, so it is half a salmon fillet each (found in the freezer) and a pineapple I picked up for 59p from Aldi around which I create the menu. As we sit in the garden having a drink while dinner is cooking on the stove you’d almost think we were grown ups…..almost.

Salmon Risotto with peas and Swiss chard
(serves 2)

1 salmon fillet
100g risotto rice
1 bay leaf
Few sprigs of thyme
1tsp sesame oil
1 onion, chopped in to dice size pieces
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Swig of white alcohol (white wine, vermouth, sherry – I used an ancient bottle of Becherovka (look it up) donated to me by my parents)
600ml stock
4-5tbsp lemon juice
Vanilla extract
Peppercorns
Juniper berries
Salt
Large handful of Swiss chard
Large handful of frozen peas

1. Sauté the onions and garlic in the sesame oil and a large pinch of salt over a medium heat, stirring till they become translucent. Add the wine and let bubble. Add the rice, thyme and peppercorns. Let sit for 1 min, then add a little stock. Stir till stock is combined and then add more, repeat till the rice is al dente. Keep stirring it, try not to leave unattended, it will stick to the pan otherwise.
2. Meanwhile put 250ml water, the bay leaf, a few peppercorns, juniper berries and a few sprigs of thyme in a pan. Add the salmon fillet and bring to the boil slowly over a medium heat. Boil for 2 min, remove from the heat and set aside. When ready to serve remove the salmon leaving it in the water for at least 5mins. Remove the skin and cut in half, the salmon should be on the cusp of turning light pink, the innermost centre still darkish pink.
3. Empty out all but 2cm of the water, add the chard and a pinch of salt, cook over a medium heat for 2mins until dark green.
4. Add the vanilla, lemon juice and peas to the risotto, cook for a further 3mins till the peas have defrosted.
5. Serve with the risotto as a base on the plate, topped with the Swiss chard and finally the salmon.

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Crème Fraiche takes centre stage

Crème Fraiche takes centre stage
It gets to a point when you have been cooking for your parents through your teenage years that you realise when you leave for university; it’s not you who might be unable to survive but your parents. Occasionally I wonder if I should have weaned them off my cooking gently so as to prevent occasions such as the time my dad had to send his secretary out for a croissant because inexplicably the cereal wasn’t on the table for breakfast and he had no idea where we kept it. My mother is semi-domesticated, she has a talent for washing and ironing (at which I am abysmal), unloading and loading the dishwasher, boiling eggs and making coffee, but I am not sure she knows how to grocery shop after years of my sister and I taking control. You would think that shopping online would be simple, but having learnt the basics of technology (we taught her how to make animated PowerPoint’s a while ago), Internet shopping may be one technological step too far. I have taken to picking up food on the way home from university just to make sure I have something for breakfast the next day having come home too many times to an empty fridge save a little mouldy cheese and a bottle of salad dressing we can’t seem to shift. It’s no wonder the fridge has started leaking, I expect it’s feeling unloved. To be fair to my parents they both have jobs where lunch is provided and dinner is quite often offered too. There will come a time where they will need to cook for themselves (well unless I really fail in life and am living at home at the age of 30), which is hopefully where this blog will come in handy.
Once again I am staring into the fridge hoping for a little inspiration when my mum enters the kitchen. ‘I was so pleased to see you bought crème fraiche I really like crème fraiche. When you weren’t here we had some with jacket potatoes’ she states proudly, before promptly walking out of the kitchen. ‘I’m off to finish writing the book’. (I would just like to say that she did indeed finish the book that evening, so this dish was celebratory). There I have it, my inspiration, Crème Fraiche. Not usually the central component of a dish so I routed around in the freezer for something a little more focused. I find prawns and peas and decide that this was all coming together nicely. Add the remainder of those damn endless preserved lemons and you have a prawn, pea, lemon, crème fraiche risotto.
So I fried garlic in a large chunk of butter, throw in a bay leaf, salt, lemon juice, vanilla extract and lots of pepper. (It is worth mentioning at this point that you could add an onion here. My dishes tend to not include onions. My Dad refuses to eat them and he can spot them a mile off. In fact he removed all of the preserved lemon pieces methodically from this dish before being told that they were in fact not onions, at which point he ate them up without a word. Why he claims he likes onions I have no idea……) I added the risotto rice to the pan and stirred it for a bit before gradually adding fish stock, stirring till I got a thick risotto. I added a few frozen prawns, the peas, and a couple of mange tout pieces before stirring in more black pepper and the crowning glory – the crème fraiche-. It wasn’t half bad, although there is still a half full pack of crème fraiche left to eat….