Crisp-skinned Fish with Warm Potato Salad & Salsa Verde

This recipe was inspired by a photo of a dish served at The Retreat on the Row restaurant, located in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, UK. It’s very quick to whip up for a midweek family dinner, but smart enough to serve to friends. The herb mix is very versatile. You can even use a few rocket leaves if that’s all you have.

Choose a waxy potato which will hold its shape in a salad and any firm-fleshed fish fillets which haven’t been skinned.

Two portions of firm-fleshed fish, skin on (I used barramundi)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tbs olive oil
250g small waxy potatoes
Basic Salad Dressing
Snipped chives
A quarter to half a red onion, very thinly sliced
Something green to garnish – I used a pea shoot from the garden
Salsa Verde:
2 big handfuls fresh herbs – mint, coriander, basil, parsley, whatever you can find in the garden
Juice of half a lemon
2 tsp capers
Small clove garlic, crushed
2 small gherkins
½ tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

Scrub the potatoes and cut them into quarters. Cook in boiling salted water for 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain, then mix with some basic salad dressing, a few snipped chives and the red onion.

Salsa verde: place all ingredients in food processor except the oil and process for a minute or until chunky. Drizzle olive oil through the feed chute with the motor running, until you have a thick chunky green sauce.

Season fish then place skin side down in a cold non-stick frying pan smeared with the tablespoon of olive oil. Turn on the heat and cook over medium heat until skin is golden and crispy. Turn fish over and cook for another couple of minutes, or until cooked through.

Spoon some Salsa Verde on two serving plates. Top with the potato salad, then the fish and garnish with a pea shoot.

Serves 2

Apple Cake

The last few posts have all been savoury, so I thought it was time for a cake.

Everyone loves apples and this recipe, which appears in various formats on Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest, is delicious, quick and easy. It’s raining cats and dogs as I write this – what could be better on a cold and miserable day than a warm slice of cake with my morning coffee?

This cake is also nice served warm as a dessert, with cream or ice cream.

3 eggs
¾ cup sugar (150g)
4 Tbs vegetable oil
Grated rind and juice of 1 small lemon or ½ large lemon
½ cup plain yoghurt or sour cream (125g)
1½ cups self raising flour (230g)
2 apples, cored, halved and sliced
1 tsp icing sugar and ½ tsp cinnamon
50g butter
Extra icing sugar

Preheat oven to 170°C. Place eggs and sugar in a bowl and whisk with electric beaters until thick and pale. Whisk in the oil, lemon rind and juice and yoghurt or sour cream and lastly fold in the sifted flour. Scrape into a greased and bottom lined loaf pan.

Push the apple slices (leave the peel on) into the top alternating from side to side. You may think you’re going to have too many, but they just fit in nicely. Mix cinnamon and icing sugar, then sprinkle over the top, using a small sieve. Dot with small pieces of butter. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until evenly puffed and golden and a tooth pick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cool, then sprinkle with a little more icing sugar using a sieve. Serve cold as a cake or warm as a dessert, with cream or ice cream.

Makes 1 loaf

Pasta with Chorizo, Crispy Chickpeas & Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I’ve always loved Brussels sprouts, even back in the days when my mother used to boil the Bejeezers out of them to go with the Sunday roast. Nowadays I prefer them roasted or stir-fried, until they’re cooked enough to be slightly charred, but still a bit crunchy.

If you’re a fan of Brussels sprouts I think you will like this recipe. If you’re not, give it a try. Some die-hard haters have been swayed when they have tasted their first roasted sprout. Vegetarians can just leave out the chorizo or use prawns instead, if you eat fish. Feel free to play with the quantities of pasta, sprouts and chorizo. I halved the pasta but left everything else the same. The crunchy chick peas are a real winner and make a tasty addition to almost any dish.

500g Brussels sprouts, trimmed & sliced vertically into 3
2 Tbs olive oil
400g can chickpeas, drained and patted dry with paper towels
1 tsp garlic powder
500g dry pasta of your choice
250g chorizo, sliced
2 Tbs currants
An extra 2 tsp olive oil
A handful of fresh sage leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup roughly chopped hazelnuts, walnuts, or pine nuts (left whole)
To garnish:
Balsamic glaze
Extra virgin olive oil, walnut or hazelnut oil

Preheat oven to 200°C. Mix sprouts with 1 Tbs oil and season to taste. Spread out on a baking tray lined with baking paper and roast for 10-20 minutes or until starting to brown around the edges. They should be cooked, but still have a bit of bite to them. Alternatively you can cook the sprouts in an Air Fryer. Cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling salted water.

Meanwhile in a non-stick frying pan heat the other tablespoonful of oil. Mix the chickpeas with the garlic powder and a good pinch of salt, then stir fry them for 10-15 minutes until golden and crunchy, stirring frequently. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add sliced chorizo to the pan and cook, stirring often, until browned on both sides. Cover the currants with hot water for 5-10 mins, then drain.

Drain pasta, keeping one cup of the liquid, then put the pasta back into the pan with the reserved liquid and the sprouts. Cook for a minute or two, stirring, until liquid has almost disappeared.

Add the currants, chorizo and chickpeas. Mix well and season to taste. In a small frying pan heat the two teaspoons olive oil and cook the sage leaves for 20-30 seconds, add the nuts then turn off the heat.

Serve pasta garnished with the sage and nuts, a drizzle of oil (olive, hazelnut or walnut) and a drizzle of balsamic glaze around the edge.

Serves 4

Variation: use peeled green prawns instead of chorizo.

Prawn and Pesto Pizza

I don’t eat pizza very often, but when I do I’m fussy about what goes on top.

This is my favourite combination, using home-made pesto instead of the usual tomato base and a gourmet topping of prawns, bocconcini balls, grated mozzarella and pine nuts. This combination elevates the humble pizza to a whole new level.

To speed things up you could use a bought pizza base and bought pesto, but the home made options are, as always, best. The dough recipe makes one very large pizza (or two smaller ones) and is easy to double for a crowd. Many teenagers have hollow legs and are capable of demolishing a whole pizza each!  If you do make double the dough recipe, do it in two batches, otherwise your food processor might struggle. If you make two smaller pizzas you could do one with prawns for the adults and one with whatever the kids prefer.

When we fire up our pizza oven for a crowd, I make 3 double batches of this dough and end up with about eight medium-sized pizzas. For one pizza it’s not worth using the pizza oven, so I use the oven.

Dough:
250g plain flour (preferably “00”)
½ tsp salt
Half a packet of dried yeast (about one level teaspoon)
2 tsp sugar
2 Tbs olive oil
160 ml (about ¾ cup) lukewarm water
Topping:
About 6 Tbs pesto
16-20 raw, peeled prawns, depending on size
100-150g bocconcini balls
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
2-3 Tbs pine nuts

Place all ingredients for the dough in a food processor and process until it forms a ball. If the mixture is a too sticky to form a ball, stop the motor and add another tablespoonful of flour and mix again. Tip out into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap and leave for an hour or two, or until it has doubled in size.

Meanwhile make the pesto and assemble the topping ingredients. Preheat oven to 220°C or whatever is the hottest temperature your oven can reach. Knock down the dough and knead it for a minute or so, then press it out into a circle about 30-35 cm in diameter on a lightly oiled baking sheet or pizza stone. Spread with pesto, then arrange the prawns and bocconcini balls over the pizza. Top with grated mozzarella and pine nuts.

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until browned and bubbly. In a pizza oven it will take slightly less, probably 8-12 minutes.

Serve with a salad.

Makes one very large pizza

Savoury Cheese and Onion Bread Pudding

This savoury version of bread and butter pudding makes a tasty breakfast or brunch and is a good way to use up stale bread and odds and ends of cheese. You can also serve it with a salad for lunch. I made half the recipe for two.

2 Tbs olive oil
1 packet French Onion Soup mix
Freshly ground black pepper
6 eggs
2 cups milk
4 cups day old bread, cubed (crusts removed)
1/3 cup grated gruyere cheese (cheddar or other hard cheese)
To garnish:
Snipped chives
Extra virgin olive oil

Grease a 6 cup capacity baking dish. Place oil, onion soup mix, pepper, eggs and milk in a bowl and whisk to combine. Arrange the bread cubes in the dish to more or less fill it – add a few more if not enough.  Pour the egg mixture over the bread, then press down all over with a spoon to make sure all the bread is coated. Cover with the grated cheese.

Stand for an hour or two before baking, or refrigerate, covered overnight. Preheat oven to 180°C, then bake the bread pudding for about half an hour, or until golden and crispy on top.

Serve garnished with the chives and drizzled with a little olive oil.

Serves 4

Variatons: add some sliced, sautéed mushrooms and/or some diced bacon or ham.

Quick Bang Bang Chicken Salad

The name Bang Bang is derived from the way the chicken is tenderised before cooking this recipe. Not something you have to worry about in this version. No doubt the original recipe also had you chasing the chook around the backyard and catching it, before you got to the bang bang bit.

After catching and tenderising your chicken, a traditional Sichuan recipe for Bang Bang Chicken Salad starts with cooking it whole. This is the quick version where instead you head to the supermarket. Perfect for those days when you have limited time to organise something tasty for dinner.

Buy a cooked chicken at the supermarket – actually I bought a half – then grab some beansprouts, cucumber, baby spinach, coriander and a lime. Hopefully you have all the ingredients for the dressing in your pantry.

½ a roast chicken (more or less)
2-3 cups beansprouts
2 spring onions, finely sliced (optional)
Dressing:
2 Tbs sesame seeds, lightly toasted
2 Tbs Tahini paste
1 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs soy sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 Tbs vinegar (Chinese black if available, if not any will do)
4 Tbs vegetable oil
Pinch chilli flakes
To garnish:
3-4 handfuls baby spinach leaves
A handful of fresh coriander, coarsely chopped
1 small cucumber, thinly sliced
2 Tbs roasted peanuts or cashews, coarsely chopped
Good pinch chilli flakes or some fresh finely diced chilli

Shred the chicken and place in a bowl with the beansprouts and spring onions (if using). Whiz all the ingredients for the dressing in a food processor or blender. Add the dressing to the chicken – you may not need to use it all.

Line a serving dish with spinach leaves. Pile the chicken salad on top, then garnish with the coriander, cucumber, nuts, chilli and a piece of fresh lime. As you can see in the photo, I forgot the lime!

Serves 3 (more as part of a buffet)

 

Quick Pasties Using Roti Paratha

I bought a packed of 8 frozen roti paratha from an Indian grocery store and used them to make these meat pasties. They were amazing. The best meat pies I’ve ever made.

If you can’t find Indian roti paratha, buy puff pastry and cut out big circles about 15cm or 6 inches in diameter. I thawed the roti, filled them, pinched together the sides at the top, brushed them with beaten egg, then baked them at 200°C for just over half an hour.

As for the filling, you can use your imagination. I used some leftover roast lamb from a slow roasted shoulder, mixed with leftover gravy and leftover roast pumpkin, all cut into 2cm cubes. I served the pasties with hot English mustard and a mix of peas and asparagus.

You could look for a Cornish pasty filling online and use that, or use this beef casserole recipe, or this recipe which uses oxtails – just take all the meat off the bones.

For a seafood pasty use this recipe for Seafood Mornay, without the breadcrumb topping. It’s one of the most popular recipes on this blog.

Spinach and Feta Pastries

These little savoury pastries are a great addition to lunch boxes, picnics and buffet lunches. They are also great to serve with drinks. Most kids love them and it’s a good way to get them to eat some green veggies.

Once cooked and cooled, if not serving immediately, you can keep them in the fridge for a few days or freeze them. They will just need a few minutes in a hot oven or an air fryer to heat up.

1-2 sheets bought puff pastry
Filling:
About 225g frozen chopped spinach, thawed (I used half a 450g pkt of spinach nuggets)
100g feta cheese, crumbled
¾ cup thinly sliced spring onions
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 egg
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs chopped fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Extra:
1 beaten egg to brush

Preheat oven to 200°C. Squeeze any liquid from the spinach then mix it with remaining filling ingredients. Cut out 12 squares of puff pastry, approximately 8cm or 3 inches square. I got nine from one sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry.

Lightly but thoroughly (mine got a bit stuck) oil a 12 hole muffin pan and place a pastry square in each. Place a rounded tablespoonful of filling in each, then go back and use the rest to top them up. If you have too much you could use another muffin pan and make a couple more but I found the mixture made exactly 12.

Pull the four pastry points over the top of the filling and pinch lightly together. Brush with beaten egg, then bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Serve warm or at room temperature. Can be kept in the fridge for 2-3 days and reheated for a few minutes in a hot oven or frozen.

Makes 12

Best Beef Burgers

When we were a family of five, spaghetti bolognese and lasagne were regulars on the week-day menu. Now there’s just the two of us we don’t eat a lot of mince. Every now and then, however, I like to make burgers. Like everything else you make yourself, they are so much tastier than the ones you get in fast food outlets, especially if you use top quality, lean minced beef. And it’s the additions, such as mustard and grated Parmesan, which make all the difference to creating a great burger.

This mix is our favourite. If you end up with too many burgers, freeze them raw, or cook them and reheat the following day for lunch. Sometimes I have mine with just half a bun, or no bun at all and find I don’t miss the carbs. Feed a family by making some oven fries in the oven, or in an air fryer to go with the burgers.

500g top quality minced beef
1 small onion, or ½ a large onion, very finely chopped
½ tsp dried chilli flakes (optional)
1 egg
½ cup breadcrumbs (made from stale bread or use Panko crumbs)
1 tsp mustard (I use hot English)
2 Tbs grated parmesan cheese
Pinch grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1-2 Tbs olive oil, to fry the burgers
To serve: 
4 burger buns, split and toasted
Lettuce, rocket or baby spinach leaves
Sliced tomato
Sliced red onion (optional)
Sliced cucumber or avocado or both
Mayonnaise or aioli
Fruit chutney, tomato ketchup or barbecue sauce (optional)

Mix all ingredients except oil and use your hands to shape into 4 evenly-sized burgers, the diameter of your buns. Refrigerate until serving time.

Heat oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium to high heat and cook the burgers for 3-4 minutes each side, or until cooked to taste. Spread one side of the toasted buns with mayonnaise or aioli and the other with chutney, tomato ketchup or barbecue sauce. Serve the burgers in the buns with lettuce, rocket or spinach leaves, tomato and cucumber slices.

Makes 4 burgers

Kale with Quince

This healthy and delicious side dish from Australian cook Maggie Beer goes well with roast meats, particularly pork, turkey or chicken.

For lunch the following day I heated up the leftovers and served them on toasted sourdough, with a dollop of fresh ricotta cheese, a slice of crispy bacon, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic glaze.

Quinces are in season in winter, so they are in the shops in Australia now. At other times of the year you could substitute a sharp cooking apple.

Find more quince recipes here and here and here.

1 large quince, peeled, cored and cut into small cubes
1 bunch of kale
50g butter
2 Tbs olive oil
2 shallots or 1 small to medium onion
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-2 Tbs lemon juice

Wash kale and strip the leaves from the stalks. Discard the stalks. Cook in boiling salted water for 3-5 minutes or until tender. Drain, squeeze out excess water and chop.

Heat butter and oil in a large non-stick frying pan and cook the onion and quince over moderate heat, stirring often, until cooked and starting to turn golden. Add the kale and toss together over the heat for a couple of minutes. Season to taste and drizzle with lemon juice.

Serves 4-6 as a side dish