Smoked Salmon and Prawn Fish Cakes with Tarragon Cream Sauce

fishcake with tarragon sauce and spinach

Forever a food legend in this house along with “Helen’s Super-Tangy Fish Pie®” (and man, it was tangy) was the disastrous “Fish-Splat”. It was a hastily assembled and surprisingly liquid concoction supposedly resembling a fishcake.

Things didn’t start well – as the cakes hit the pan, they immediately doubled in circumference. Things got worse as I tried to flip the gloop with a fish slice; the individual cakes became ‘one’ in a spectacular display of entropy. A mega-cake formed in the centre of the pan and the Fish-Splat was born.

As I despondently scooped a quarter of Fish-Splat onto our plates, filling the air with profanities that would cause Tarantino to blush, something changed. Like that hangover from your first bottle of booze after raiding your mate’s Dad’s drinks cabinet at their 17th birthday party (french brandy…shudder…), I couldn’t face the prospect of going through it again.

It’s a new year and a new me though – time to man-up and face the fear.

Well, I pleased to say things turned out a little better this time. I took the liberty of using some of the mustard flavoured with pieces of truffle shown below. I’m normally a little skeptical of anything infused with truffle, but this was potent stuff and had to be used carefully. Any mustard is fine of course though, pick your weapon of choice.

Truffle mustard

Joking aside, there is little secret to a good fishcake, jut ensure you let the mashed potato dry thoroughly and avoid introducing any extra liquid.  A quick chill before adding the breadcrumbs and frying goes a good way to avoiding Fish-Splat too, unless you’re into that sort of thing.

The tarragon cream sauce was basically a white sauce made with a little extra cream for richness. The tarragon was added once the heat was removed so as not to lose its delicate flavour. Finally, some steamed spinach –  the perfect partner to counter all that richness – and peashoots for a little freshness and flourish.

Makes 4

For the fish cakes:

  • 200g hot smoked salmon (broken up well)
  • 3 handfuls of good quality fresh (but cooked) or frozen prawns
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 medium sized potatoes, peeled
  • Grated parmesan (to taste)
  • 1 tsp of mustard or truffle mustard as I used – sparingly (to taste)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Flour to dust
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • A few handfuls of breadcrumbs to coat
  • Oil for frying

For the tarragon cream sauce:

  • 200ml whole milk
  • 100ml single cream
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp chopped tarragon
  • Salt
  • Steamed spinach and peashoots to serve

Cook the potato, mash and lay out thinly on a tray to steam dry until cool.

Mashed potato drying

Chop the parsley and capers and mix into a bowl with the smoked salmon, cooked prawns and potato.

Fishcake mix

Add the parmesan, truffle mustard and salt to taste. As all the ingredients are cooked, tasting the mixture is no problem. Make into cake shapes and chill for half an hour.

Fishcakes

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Once chilled, coat them in flour, then egg and finally breadcrumbs.

Fishcake floured

Fry on each side, until golden brown, in plenty of oil, keeping them well spaced in the pan.

Fried fishcake

Marvel at their firmness – wipe the tear from your eye.

Meanwhile, make a white sauce by blending the butter and flour. Fry it gently in a saucepan for a couple of minutes then gradually whisk in the whole milk. Once at a simmer add the cream and reduce until thickened a little, but still easily poured. Remove form the heat and stir in the tarragon. Season to taste.

Serve it with steamed spinach, some peashoots and a nice Sauvignon Blanc.

Merry Christmas

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No recipe tonight. I’m now sat with some stollen and a glass of ale after a long and busy day preparing for tomorrow’s dinner and assembling toys.

As has become traditional in our house it’s roast pork for Christmas Eve with mildly pickled red cabbage and mash made with 60/40% potato and butter. Yes, I know….

So, I’m looking forward to a couple of weeks rest after an extraordinary year. Plenty of time to cook too I hope.

Merry Christmas everybody.

Three Day Game Pie

Game Pie

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.

Very recently humans managed to land a satellite on a comet. An utterly incredible achievement. Yes, I know I’m a little out of date, like reading a dentists’ waiting room magazine, but it’s pertinent so bear with me.

It launched in 2004 and was sent around the sun to gather speed. It headed back to the Earth then was slung, using nothing but gravity, all the way to Mars, at which point it was flung back to the Earth again before heading off into outer space to meet with a city-sized ball of ice and rock. Both parties were, and still are, moving at tens of thousands of miles an hour. It really is truly remarkable. A tribute to the ingenuity and perseverance of humankind.

Much like my three-day game pie really. An epic voyage of culinary fortitude and grit, albeit moving a lot more slowly. Three long and tiring days passed before we could sample this gem.

I take no credit for this recipe, it’s (fairly) regularly on the menu at a favourite restaurant of mine, the Broad Chare near the river in Newcastle. Well worth a visit if you’re passing, but you probably need to book. We managed a night out a little while back and ordered it from the specials. “For 2/3″ it said. Presumably a week as it turned out,  but man it was good. Incredibly rich with superb crispy pastry.

Of course I had to try it and whilst, predictably not quite as good at the ‘original’, was pretty darn good all the same.

Game Pie (Courtesy of the Broad Chare)

Day one: marinade in an obscenely good bottle of red wine. I used Malbec. I didn’t marinade the vegetables though, maybe that was my downfall.

Game meat marinade

Day two: Fry the game meat, add the wine, vegtables and simmer for a few hours in the wine, cool and leave in the fridge overnight. Taste and season accordingly at this point.

Fried game meat

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Day three: Spoon into a generous pie dish, cover with puff pastry (I bought it, I’m not a masochist), brush with egg wash and bake until golden. Serve with some mashed carrot and swede.

Game Pie with Carrot and Swede Mash

Smoked Salmon, Celeriac Remoulade and Toasted Rye Bread

Smoked salmon and remoulade

Apologies for the tardiness in recent postings; it’s been an exciting and busy time both…..

“What you doing?”

Sorry all, one second….

“I’m writing a very mediocre intro for a post on my blog”

“A bog?”

“Yes, a blog”

“What’s a bog?”

“It’s where I write about food I’ve made and post the photos I’ve taken of it”

“Why?”

(In fairness, good question) “I enjoy it”

“Why?”

(An even better question) “I just…do”

“Can I push the buttons?”

htfTFTU…… mjfeokhkoegwp@@LPKIJ{P J.

Apologies again. *Urges little one to go and find Mummy as she may have an ice cream and shuts door*

I know this is another smoked salmon post, but it’s based on a dish we both thoroughly enjoyed a while back albeit with some roast beef. It’s a classic celeriac remoulade with some griddled rye bread and good smoked salmon. I’ve tweaked the remoulade a little but it works nicely.

Criminally under used, in the UK at least, celeriac is brilliantly versatile and this is a superb way of using it – just make sure you don’t drown the delicate flavour in a tidal wave of mayo. I actually added a bit of creme fraiche, courtesy of a tip from Nigel Slater that I liked. I think it worked.

As before, this borrows heavily from recent Scandinavian influences so even though the calorie count is moderately high, it darn well does feel like it. Besides, the festive season is round the corner and this feels just about right I think. Plus, it’s cold outside. The glass of Prosecco, whilst doing nothing for my sense of masculinity was nevertheless a great pairing too.

  • 4 slices of good smoked salmon.
  • 1 medium/small celeriac
  • Juice of a lemon
  • 4 heaped tbsp mayo – make your own if you can. Try to avoid ‘lighter’ versions
  • 1 heaped tbsp full fat creme fraiche
  • 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard (English mustard is too strong)
  • 4 tsp capers, chopped
  • Small handful of walnuts, chopped
  • 1 tsp chopped dill
  • 4 slice of rye toast
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Juice the lemon and place half of it in a bowl large enough to eventually hold the celeriac. Keep the rest for later if you feel it needs it.

Peel the celeriac well (remove all traces of the knobbly skin) and julienne into strips – don’t be too exact about it.

As you make the julienne celeriac, mix it into the lemon juice to stop it browning.

Julienne celeriac

When done, chop the capers and walnuts.

Celeriac capers walnuts

Throw them into the bowl with the two mustards, mayo and creme fraiche.

Celeriac remoulade

Mix thoroughly, season with a little salt and taste. Tweak the mixture to taste – add some more mustard if you like, or a little more lemon. Leave to rest for 20 minutes or so.

Lay out the salmon to bring to room temperature.

Smoked salmon

Heat a griddle on a high heat until smoking hot. Slice the rye bread and brush well on each side with olive oil. Season with sea salt and griddle until nicely charred on each side.

Layer the celeriac remoulade on the rye bread, followed by the salmon and sprinkling of the chopped dill.

Smoked salmon rye bread celeriac remoulade

Warm Smoked Salmon Salad

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Last week Helen and I lived the life of decadence. We dined out every night, sipped the finest wine in a chic Paris bar after a whimsical last-minute weekend getaway.

We went to the cinema, to the theatre to watch a comedy and then we hiked across through the English Lakes, stopping of at a warm pub for a pint of ale and Sunday Roast.

Except that of course we didn’t. We washed and cleaned and persuaded small mouths to accept “just one more mouthful” with using the currency of Peppa Pig yogurt.

Frankly (and generally of course I am) though, I wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s exhausting but so rewarding as any new parent knows. Damn, I’m turning in that party bore – I apologise.

I’ve been busy baking with the girls though. Well, I say baking with, more baking for. It was during this latest activity made the mistake of putting down the flour and then the unforgivable schoolboy error of TURNING AROUND FOR A COUPLE OF SECONDS.

This was the result my friends: Flour. A lot of flour.

How the hell does so much carnage happen in such a small space of time?

I arrived home from work the other night (having spent the day, unwittingly, with a paint print round the back of my shirt) to the normal rapturous welcome. With the little ones safely in bed, fully scrubbed, brushed and read to, I set about making this.

I don’t know why I’m posting this one as it’s embarrassingly easy to do but I guess it made me hanker after our trip to Copenhagen. A city I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved the simplicity of the Scandinavian food with its focus on ‘fresh’.

I much prefer hot smoked salmon for this as cured/cold smoked salmon would be too harsh for my taste. I’m also lucky to have a fishmonger down the road who hot smokes salmon daily.

  • 1 large or two small hot smoked salmon fillet(s)
  • 10 baby potatoes, skin on
  • 1/2 an onion, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • Peppery mixed leaves (rocket, watercress etc)
  • 1-2 tsp of chopped dill – depending on how much you like it.

For the dressing (approximately – tweak to suit of course):

  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1 tsp stronger mustard (dijon)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 or 2 pinches of salt
  • 3 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil

Halve the potatoes and boil them until just done (about 15 minutes).

Meanwhile, gently heat the salmon in a very low oven. You just want to warm it through not cooked it any more

Let the potatoes cool until they are just warm (blood temperature).

Toss the potatoes with the onion and capers and let them all come to the same temperature.

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Flake the salmon and stir it into the potatoes.

Mix the dressing ingredients in an old jam jar and shake well. Spoon it over the potatoes/salmon until ‘dressed’ but not ‘drenched’ Add the dill and mix well but gently so as not to break the fish or potatoes too much.

Serve it all up on the leaves and relax for another day….

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Pork Chop, Lentils and Pancetta

Pork chops, lentils and pancetta

Funny isn’t it, how things can change in an instant (or so it seems). My recent absence of updates/comments has been for good reason – we’re now the proud parent of two adopted girls.
I guess we’ve had long enough to get used to the idea but the first weeks were bizarre, fantastic and exhausting all in one go. They really are the most amazing little girls and have great appetites so whilst making them my chargrilled sardines with orange and fennel salad may be a little way off (say 30 years), I hold out hope that they won’t be quite as difficult with food as I was…

Still, bed comes early to them so I’ve been trying to rummage behind the whole milk, yogurt pots and “here’s some I made earlier” pasta sauces to find something for the adults.
The nights are drawing in fast, but I managed to get a last use of the gas grill recently to cook some great locally raised pork chops. They have some bone and a lovely thick layer of fat to keep the meat tender and create some good smoke, but care is still needed to stop it drying out. To accompany some lentils, cooked in good chicken stock with vegetables and smoked pancetta. Simple.

I got a big block the pancetta, inexplicably, just before we embarked on our new adventure and I’ve been trying to use it up ever since.

So in-between hiding vegetables by blitzing them and selling them to the girls as pasta sauce, and supplying an endless procession of Dora the Explorer and Peppa Pig, episodes, I’ll try and make the odd dish aimed more at us adults…

• Two good quality pork chops, with a layer of fat.
• 2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
• 100g pancetta, chopped into lardons
• 2 sticks of celery, chopped thinly
• 1 medium red onion
• 1 large carrot, diced
• 100-150g green lentils
• 750ml good quality chicken stock – homemade if possible.
• A little oil
• Salt and pepper.

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In a large pan with a lid, fry the garlic and pancetta gently in a little oil to release the fat. You could do the pancetta alone first to crisp it up, but you might burn the garlic and I want the garlic to make a nice flavoured ‘oil’.

Add the onion to soften, then the rest of the vegetables and finally the lentils.

lentils and vegetables

Pour in the stock, bring to a boil and simmer for 30-40 minutes until tender.

Meanwhile, get the grill on. I used some lava block on the gas Weber these days to get a better smoke flavour without having like the charcoal. Brush the pork oil and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on the grill use a thermometer after 15 minutes or so to ensure that the chops are just cooked – 65ºC/150ºF should do it if its good quality. A bit of charring from the grill adds a lot.

bbq pork chops

Simply serve it up, pull the toys and mobile phones from behind the cushions and relax for another evening…..

Pork chops and lentils

Croquetas de Pollo y Jamon

Croquetas

Well I can honestly say it’s nice to be back and typing about something I enjoy for a change; God knows it’s been a few weeks now.

Despite the sagging in-tray, I had to write about this one although I have a feeling I’m a little late to the party with this rather classic tapas. I would go on about it but feel I’d be coming across like someone who’s just starting watching Breaking Bad – ranting on about how good it was to all and sundry even though the entire Western world has watched it already. Actually….that was me. I don’t watch too many shows.

However, this recipe was given to me by Helen’s new colleague Elena who I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of weeks back and who hails from beautiful Valencia. Of course, I made it as soon as I could. I’m ashamed to say, after all this time I had no idea proper croquetas were made with a thick béchamel type filling. I always assumed quite wrongly, that it was mashed potato. I’m sorry Elena!

These did of course taste delicious. The original recipe given to me was for chicken, but she said I was free to add whatever I wanted, so I tried a little thyme and some ham as well. I would have instinctively added butter to make the béchamel, but it certainly doesn’t need it – the filing is wonderfully rich as it is….

Elena’s recipe:

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CROQUETAS DE POLLO

Ingredients:

  • 500 gr boneless chicken (I added a couple of handfuls of ham and 1 tbsp thyme too!)
  • 3 glasses of milk (glass=200 ml). 
  • 6 tablespoonful of flour
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • Sunflower oil
  • Breadcrumbs 
  • 2 or 3 Eggs

Cook the chicken and dice it in small bits (1 cm approx). I usually boil the chicken, instead of frying it. 

Dice the onion in small bits and add it to the heated pan with the sunflower oil. It´s important that the oil covers the base of the pan (4 or 5 ml deep).

Fried onion

Fry the onion over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes and before it is golden, add the flour. Stir the mixture and let it toast. The mixture needs to have a soft brown colour. Keep stirring and when you see it´s toasted, add the 3 glasses of warm milk and you can increase the heat to medium. Keep stirring to avoid too many lumps.

Me. Stirring.

Me. Stirring.

Now add the chicken and add the salt without keeping stirring. You´ll see how it thickens. Before removing from the hob, taste and rectify the salt if necessary.

Now, dump the mixture out into a big dish and let it cool. I usually prepare this the night before so I let it stand in the fridge overnight. 

croquetas

The following day, take it out from the fridge and shape the dough into small balls (I made oblongs, I don’t know why – Phil) . I usually get 20 croquetas for the amount of ingredients used above. 

Whisk two eggs in deep dish or a bowl. And pour the breadcrumbs in another dish or bowl. Now, you need to cover the balls first with the eggs and then with the breadcrumbs. If you feel you have got a lot of “croquetas” and you don´t think you you´ll use them all, you can freeze some of them.

Croquetas

Now, you need to prepare a pan with plenty of oil and fry them in over medium heat until they are golden. They should be ready now. BUEN PROVECHO!

NB: Instead of chicken, you can add any ingredient that you fancy. I´ve done them with bacon and mushrooms, just with mushrooms, spinach and small prawns. 

Croquetas