Category Archives: Sunday lunch

Lovely leek and broccoli fish pie

This is, hands down, the tastiest fish pie I’ve ever had. It is more of a work-day dinner than a dinner-party piece, but it is just tasty-gorgeous. It is from the Donna Hay magazine which is worth every penny of the £5.20 an issue I pay for it.

Ingredients

200g fresh sourdough crumbs (I keep a bag of left-over sourdough pre-grated in the freezer then you can use it when you want)

Half a bunch of tarragon (so about 12-15g)

150g unsalted butter, melted

salt and pepper

2 leeks, white part only, thinly sliced

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

300g broccoli florets, cut into smaller florets

800g of thereabouts of firm fish (fresh not frozen as in it can’t be cooked from frozen!). I have used all cod, or a combo of cod and salmon and smoked haddock. See what you like. Cut it into 3cm pieces – this is important as it gets only 10 mins in the oven.

1 tablespoon of plain flour

250g sour cream

2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard

125ml water

Method

Oven to 200C. Place the breadcrumbs, half the tarragon, half the butter, salt and pepper in a large bowl and mix to combine. Then place on a large oven tray and cook for ten minutes – until golden.

While the breadcrumbs are toasting, heat the rest of the butter in a large ovenproof pan over a high heat – the pan will eventually go in the oven with the whole fish pie in it. Add the leek, garlic and broccoli to this pan and cook, uncovered, for about five minutes or until the veg is softened.

In a separate bowl, place the fish, flour and more salt and pepper and toss to combine. Add this fish mixture, the remaining tarragon, the sour cream, mustard and water to the pan and stir to combine. Top with the breadcrumbs and cook in the oven for another ten minutes in the oven until golden brown and the fish is cooked through.

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I serve this with peas. It is so much tastier than you think it’s going to be.

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I want to say “my children lap this up.” But they pretty much hate it. But I still make it.

(Don’t forget how good leeks and garlic are for gut bacteria!)

 

 

 

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Pressure/Slow cooker

Earlier this year, just as we were emerging from the shuck of winter and blinking in the spring sunshine, with thoughts turning to light, easy lunches involving salads and grilled things, I decided to I needed to buy a slow cooker to cook stews in.

A slow cooker is actually a very good idea for someone like me, because I am a natural early riser and I am at my best, my most industrious, early in the morning. It’s all down hill from there. I am often too tired of an evening to cook, or think about cooking. In Italy, at least in my family, it is customary to largely prepare the main meal of the day (whether that be taken at mezzogiorno or a cena) in the morning. This is when people visit and the cook can chat, catch up with the latest gossip and prep a substantial meal. I would watch many such occasions as a child and marvel at how organised and easy it seemed.

(I would also marvel at just how much bitching would go on.)

But, I never managed this level of organisation and I thought the slow cooker would help. As these things go, I started looking at entry level slow cookers and before I knew what I was doing, I had ordered a top of the range slow cooker and pressure cooker combined – a huge hulk of a stainless steel beast, the Fast Slow Pro by Heston for Sage (before anyone thinks I am on a salary from them, I am not, this is literally only one of two Sage appliances I own, the other one being an insanely priced waffle maker which is brilliant but I don’t recommend anyone buy because no-one can like waffles that much.)

It is an electric model, so you can use it anywhere there is a plug (no need for a stove top).

Of course, the purchase of lots of books on slow cooking and pressure cooking followed and I realised that most people were either evangelical about one type of cooking, or another. But you can be a fan of both and this lets you be.

Slow cooking, in case you don’t know, is just like cooking something on a stove top or in an oven at a very low temperature for a very long time. The difference is, because the slow cooker is sealed, no moisture gets out so things stay very moist. I have done the best ‘roast’ chicken in this ever, you then reduce down the gravy, in the same slow cooker pot, using the reduce function which is the equivalent of a pan on the hob simmering away.

Moist is not a bad word.

Pressure cooking cooks things under, er, very high pressure so it cooks things very very fast. It is particularly good for cooking dried pulses etc.

The beauty with either is that you just put it in the pot, turn the lid and leave it. I can’t comment on other appliances but mine is all digital and you set a timer and it does it all for you.

I mostly use mine for making stock and bolognese, which is brilliant cos I chuck everything in and do it on a slow cooker 12 hour timer overnight. I use the pressure cooker for things like ribs (does them in an hour * they are literally falling off the bone when they come out which may not be to everyone’s liking) and pulses.  But you can cook loads and loads of things in it, I am only just starting.

*The pressure cooker takes time to come up to pressure and also to release the pressure so if it says it does it in an hour remember to factor in these things.

It’s also brilliant at reducing (you leave the lid up) as you can reduce, say, a stock on a timer and leave it whilst you do other stuff. Obvs you can do this with an ordinary sauce pan, on the hob, but you don’t have to worry about going back and switching it off.

It has a ‘keep warm’ function so once it has finished its main cooking, it will keep things warm for two hours. Great if you are a bit nebulous about a coming home time.

In short this is a brilliant bit of kit – huge so think about where you’re going to put it – and I’ve had it for several months now and I really rate it.

Roast sea bass, with lovely potatoes and vegetables, all done in one tray

This is a deceptive recipe, taken from the BBC Good Food magazine last year. Deceptive because, despite the relatively simplicity of ingredients, everything mixes together to produce something rather good, rather, as my friend Linda would hate me to say, lovely.

(She is not keen on the word lovely, and now, every time I use it, I think of her and the disdain she must hold me in for not thinking of something better, but, to me, when you need to say something is lovely there is no better word.)

Anyway. The price of seabass doesn’t make this a cheap dish*; nevertheless, what you get is something very tasty and that needs very little further accompaniment, save for some green vegtables. So it’s not the world’s most expensive dish, either, and, I would suggest, you can make this for an alternative to a ‘big roast’ for someone who doesn’t eat meat, or is gluten free, and they wouldn’t feel in any way cheated.

You can, and I have, substituted sea bass for cod – as you can see in my picture where there is a mix of the two – but the bass has the edge here in delicate flavour.

This recipe is for two, but you can double or treble it at will.

300g of red skinned potatoes. Important, the flavour of the potatoes is a valuable scaffold to this dish. Wash and dry the potatoes, you don’t peel them, and then slice them very thinly (don’t be a wuss, you don’t need a mandoline) into rounds.

1 red pepper cut into slices

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 rosemary sprig, you’re meant to remove the leaves and chop finely. I go into the garden, pick two or three sprigs and shove them in. This does, however, mean that when I made this recently, my youngest asked why I’d put the Christmas tree in the dinner.

2 sea bass fillets

25g pitted black olives, sliced or halved

half a lemon, thinly sliced

basil leaves to scatter (don’t fret if you don’t have them, the dish can survive without)

You need a large baking dish. Note that if you are making this for lots of people, you need lots of oven capacity, and more than one baking tray, as it’s important you space out the potatoes so they crisp up. This doesn’t mean each and every slice needs its own zone, but they shouldn’t be crammed together – gently overlapping is what you’re aiming for. The more crammed together they are, the less the moisture can evaporate and the soggier the potatoes will be. You want something that’s crisp on the outside, soft on the inside and for this to happen the potatoes need space, man.

Oven to 180C.

Lay the sliced potatoes onto the baking tray with the pepper slices. Drizzle over one tablespoon of the oil and scatter over the rosemary, add a pinch of salt and a good grinding (snigger) of pepper. Toss everything together, rearrange so that they take up the maximum amount of tray space and aren’t all bunched together and roast in the oven for 25 minutes. Turn over half way through. If the edges aren’t brown, give it a bit longer than 25 mins.

Then, arrange the fish fillets on top of the potatoes, scatter over the olives, and place lemon slices on each fillet. Drizzle the fish with the remaining oil.

Roast for a further 7-8 minutes and you’re done.

*Waitrose sells frozen farmed seabass fillets for £4.39 for two (at time of going to press).

My meatloaf

My mother’s meatloaf is the stuff of legend. In the past, whenever we had meatloaf at my house my children would look up, all eyelashes and downy cheeks and say “is this Nonna’s meatloaf?” and I would have to say that no, no it wasn’t, it was mummy’s. And they would look down and  eat it, making approving, encouraging noises but they would know, and I would know, that it wasn’t comparable. Every meatloaf I’ve tried, until this one, was just not right.

The thing about my mother’s meatloaf is that she minces her own meat, so it’s silky smooth and sublime. I like my meatloaf like I like my sausages: not coarse. I want it to be an easy transaction. And all the meatloaves I’d made before were too coarse, too dry, trying too hard.

Last year I bought Donna Hay’s Simple dinners, from whence this recipe comes.  It’s a great book. Her recipes are genuinely tasty, pretty healthy, made from a clever combination of not too many ingredients and easy to follow. She is, to my mind, just about the best cookery writer of the day (for meals ‘n’ stuff. Dan Lepard is still my man for bread). I’ve adapted it here because I’ve been making this meatloaf for over a year now and I’ve made it my own: I’ve adapted it slightly to suit our needs.

As such, this is now my meatloaf recipe, in that it’s the one I use as my go-to meatloaf recipe. I can’t imagine it will ever be made better by anyone else’s meatloaf recipe. Except, naturally, my mum’s.

(What I also love about it is, if you make this for a Sunday lunch, and it’s very good at Sunday lunch, you can make it in advance or the day before, keep it in the fridge and put it straight in the oven. Just give it 5-10 mins more in the oven at the lower temperature i.e. the first round of cooking.)

This is great served with the usual stuff, but I particularly like it with mash for a real comfort, fork-only meal.

You need:

a packet of thinly sliced pancetta, about 20 slices

110g breadcrumbs

60ml milk

400g rose-veal mince (all veal sold in Europe is non-crated, but I only buy higher welfare British veal, if you are not sure, substitute beef mince)

500g free range pork mince (I never, ever buy any other sort of pork)

1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard

1 large egg

a tablespoon of thyme leaves, stripped from the stem

salt and black pepper

2 tablespoons of maple syrup

What you do:

Oven on to 160C if you intend to cook it straight away. Get a loaf tin which is about 22cm by 8cm and line the bottom with the pancetta (line across the width, not length if you follow). If you imagine that the meatloaf will be turned upside down on serving, this will be the top of it. Don’t sweat it if you don’t have enough pancetta to cover the whole bottom/sides, and ditto if you have a bit too much, I also line the side/sides not just the bottom. If you have very long slices then don’t worry, you can just overlap them when the tin is full of the mince. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

Because I rarely have properly stale bread, and even if I did I hate grating bread (my mum always, always has properly stale bread which she grates), I put some day or so old bread into a food processor and whizz it up. Take it out then pour the milk over it and give it a little stir.

Now, what I do to make it all super smooth is this. I put the milky breadcrumbss back into the food processor with all the mince, the mustard,the thyme leaves and the egg. Add a bit of salt and black pepper. And then I whizz it all in the food processor. It comes out looking like awful meat slurry.

Don’t worry. You know it’s not.

Now, pack this into the loaf tin. It will seem like too much but keep the faith, pack it in, press it down, tuck over any overhanging pancetta slices if you have them. Then, either put in the oven or cover with cling film and put in the fridge for a day or so (obviously not over what the sell-by date of the meat is).

When you are ready to cook it put it in the preheated 160C oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until the meat is just cooked through. (If you’ve had it in the fridge then increase this time to 35-40 minutes maybe a tad longer, use your common sense.)

Now, take it out and onto a baking tray, invert the meatloaf. Obviously the tin will be hot so take care with oven gloves, etc. Onto the inverted meatloaf brush with the maple syrup. Turn oven up to 180C and now bake for 15-20 minutes.

Serve. It’s delicious.