Chargrilled Sardines with Orange and Fennel Salad

Chargrilled sardines orange and fennel salad

I know many of you have been just dying to know what my favourite fish is. Well, thanks for asking and the answer is sardines.

And by sardines I mean the proper ones, caught fresh from the sea, filleted and cooked on a chargrill or over hot coals with nothing more than a sprinkle of salt. There is nothing better in my view, but then I do have a habit of changing my mind depending on how much I enjoyed the LAST fish dish I ate.

But no, I stand firm. It’s sardines and by extension (literally) pilchards*.

Sardine fillets

*Oh, and maybe mackerel.

I managed to get hold of some the other week and being such a lovely evening, we got the charcoal going and put this together. I’m determined to get my wife to enjoy fennel (I’ve given up with lamb and I’m onto the next project) so keep buying it and introducing it bit by bit to dinners.

I think I really did push the boat out here though by serving the sardines with and orange and fennel salad but thankfully it went down a storm.

Orange, fennel and oily fish is such a good combination and perfect for a summers evening with a chilled white wine, or even an ice cold beer straight from the fridge.  It’s what summer is all about for me. This, and despairing at sporting events of course.

Serves 2:

  • 4-6 Fresh-as-you-can-get sardines. Filleted or un-filleted, its up to you
  • Salt
  • Oil to brush

For the salad:

  • 1 Large orange
  • 1  fennel bulb
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1 sweet pointed red pepper, roasted or not.
  • 1/2 a large red onion
  • Handful of chopped parsley
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Good balsamic vinegar
  • Salt

Start by lighting your barbecue and getting the coals nice and ashy. I use one of those chimney starters – a Godsend.

Meanwhile, get the salad ready:

You can roast the red peppers, to make them even sweeter, but I left them as they were for a bit of extra crunch.

Slice all the ingredients horizontally so that they separate into rings.

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Slice the orange peel away, removing the white pith as you do so.

Arrange it neatly on a plate and do the fish…..

Brush the fish skin with oil but make sure the griddle of the barbecue is very hot – the sardines will be far less likely to stick. Grill skin side down directly over the coals. Sprinkle the top with sea salt.

Put the lid on the barbecue if you have one, to cook the fish through, it will take just a couple of minutes. Oily fish is a a bit more forgiving to being left on the heat a little too long but don’t push it. I don’t bother to flip them as it often ends in tears.

Grilled sardines

Gently lift them off the grill with a large spatula and keep warm; either on the cooler side of the barbecue or in a warm oven.

Dress the salad with the olive oil and balsamic and season with a little salt. Lay the fillets on top and sprinkle with parsley.

Now where’s that beer…..

Chargrilled sardines orange and fennel salad

Salmon, Roast Peppers, Spiced Chickpeas and Basil Oil

 Salmon, chickpeas, basil oil, roast peppers

We recently went over to Barcelona for a long weekend with friends and loved it, as does everyone that visits it seems. It’s really is a great city. I’ll be writing a little more about it later, but like most of you, I do tend to get that temporary post-holiday pining and food seems to most immediate and accessible ‘fix’.

So, dinner in the Food Frankly household started to develop a distinct Catalan accent last week. This dish started out as a typical fridge raiding midweek dinner but I actually realised that, once I’d finished, this one might be worth sharing. My camera was  sat in the office throughout so I only got a couple of ‘after’ shots, but still…

The salmon and prawns were fresh but the chickpeas were canned. I prefer cooking dried ones, but by roasting them in spices and seasoning for a few minutes, as I did here, they lose some of the water than makes them a little too soft. Anyway, normally I’m not nearly organised enough to have them soaking the day before so this is a good alternative. I baked them gently in some salt, pepper, smoked paprika (only a little) and ground chilli.

Roasting the peppers (another Spanish influence) apart from being delicious, is a great way to use up old produce that’s started to wrinkle a bit. I do however, apologise for the Chorizo, I know it’s an obvious one, but it’s always in the fridge. Anyway, the garlic/paprika oil it releases is a great way to flavour fish and seafood. So there… 😉

The basil oil finish was influenced by a dish we had in a great little tapas bar in the city. It worked really well with this.

Serves 2

  • 2 Salmon fillets
  • 8 prawns
  • 400g/14oz Chickpeas (canned), or half the amount if dried.
  • A red, yellow and green pepper.
  • Chorizo, about the length of your thumb, sliced into 6
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of chilli power (I ground dried chili)
  • Pinch of smoked paprika
  • Salt – make sure it’s very fine
  • Black pepper
  • A handful of basil leaves

If you’re cooking dried chickpeas, soak them overnight beforehand and boil for around 40 minutes in slightly salted water until just done. If canned, just crack on below…

Set the oven to 200°C/390°F.

Brush the peppers with oil and roast on a baking tray until burn marks appear and they start to wilt. The should be very soft when done. Dunk them straight into cold water to loosen the skins and peel them off. Bloody fiddly, but occasionally you get lucky and it comes off in one piece. Cut  them into finger-width slices and cover. You can warm them up later in the oven.

Drain the chickpeas and rinse well. Mix them with the paprika, chilli powder, salt and pepper in a bowl, then spread in a single layer on a baking tray. Turn the oven off (if the peppers are done) and bake them gently in the residual  heat. 10 minutes or so, but check often to make sure they don’t dry out. This won’t take long if they were cooked from dry. Add the finished peppers toward the end to heat through.

If using coarse sea salt, you might want to grind it to a fine powder.

In a pan, fry the chorizo until cooked through to release that lovely oil. Remove it and keep warm but leave the oil in the pan. Add a little more oil and fry the salmon (seasoned with salt & pepper) on a high heat skin side down (if it has skin) for most of the cooking time. Add the prawns for the last couple of minutes. The salmon is done when at 60-62°C/145°F, so use a thermometer to make sure you don’t over cook it. The prawns only take a minute or two,

Meanwhile quickly blitz the about 10 tbsp of good extra virgin oil with the basil leaves and season to taste with coarse salt.

Serve the dish on warmed plates and spoon over the basil oil.Salmon, chickpeas, basil oil roast peppers

Beef Thick Rib, Oxtail, Crispy Kale and Asparagus

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Well chaps, we’ve hit ‘peak beard’ apparently. I am one of the apparent bandwagon jumpers clinging to the coat-tails of the rich and famous by aping their facial fungus fad. Except, I didn’t as far as I was aware – maybe it was a subconscious thing having noticed all the hipsters knocking around the various new undecorated bars eating pigs ears and cauliflower fritters with their American hop ales. Or, I took the opportunity to pack in the daily ritual of shaving for the last 20-odd years and make it look intentional. Yeah, it must be that.

[Dubious link alert] It got me thinking though: have we hit the slow cook peak? The current trend for cheap and unusual cuts of meat and offal. I don’t think so yet, and I certainly hope we haven’t. Use more of the animals we choose to kill for our meat I say. 1 – because it seems the right thing to do and 2 – because it’s bloody delicious.

This recipe actually took a couple of days to prepare, but in the tradition of slow cooked foods, actually takes up very little of your time. Pot. Meat. Veg. Lid on. That’s it. There is a little bit to do at the end of course, but that’s the fun part.

Beef thick rib

Here I used a thick rib of beef on the bone and some oxtail. Both are slow cooked kings and cheap as chips. If you cook them in a casserole pot/dutch oven with some liquid you can leave it and forget about it. Again, as I always do nowadays, I switched off the oven and left the pot to rest. The best thing about these cuts is that they make their own stock as you go.

Made a nice combination, but you need a weekend to make this. The asparagus is the first of the new season for me and will be featuring heavily whilst it can. The kale is pretty much as you’d make kale chips – with the brine water evaporating to leave the leaves nicely seasoned. Onion puree adds a sweet element to compliment the otherwise very savoury ingredients.

Making the  oxtail and barley croquette is a bit of a job to do but was very good so I urge you to try it.

Serves 2:

For the beef/oxtail braising

  • 1x600g thick beef rib, on the bone.
  • About 300g oxtails
  • 1 carrot, halved
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 celery stick, halved
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 star anise
  • Water to cover
  • Salt and black pepper.

For the crispy kale:

  • 4 handfuls of kale
  • 2 good pinches of salt and a little water

For the onion puree:

  • 1 large onion
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • A little light cream (enough to loosen)
  • Salt

For the asparagus:

  • 6 pieces of asparagus
  • A little oil
  • Pinch of salt.

For the oxtail and barley croquettes:

  • Breadcrumbs
  • Flour
  • Egg
  • Barley (about 3 handfuls)
  • Salt and black pepper.

Fry the meat in batches until well browned in a hob proof casserole pot. Add all the other ingredients and bring to a simmer. Place in a low oven (130 degrees C) for 3 hours – then turn the oven off and leave overnight – it will be fine if you leave the oven shut and the lid on.

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The next morning, chill the pot in the fridge. This hardens any fat on the surface so you can scrape it off.

About 2 hours before, pick the meat from the oxtail. Cook the barley in a pan for about 20-30 minutes until soft but with bite. Drain, cool, mix with the oxtail, season and chill until cold and ‘mouldable’. Meanwhile, trim the beef rib of remaining fat, removing the bone, into neat oblongs.

Set aside. Heat the pan back up and pour the cooking liquor, which will have ‘jellified’ into a small pan for later (cover with film for now).

Chop and fry the onions and garlic in a pan with a little oil or butter until browned and caramelised. Blend well with enough cream to make a loose puree. Pour back into the pan and season to taste. Put the lit on and keep until needed.

Put the oven on for the kale and beef rib (moderate heat will do).

Heat a griddle pan and char the asparagus with a little oil and salt until nicely marked and softened. Delicious.

Flash fry the beef rib in a pan and transfer to the oven to heat through. Leave to rest somewhere wam. Heat the saved cooking liquor, reducing a little if necessary to make an intense sauce

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Roll the oxtail/barley mix with wet hands into golf ball sized rounds (one each) and dip first in the seasoned flour, then egg and finally the bread crumbs. Deep fry them gently until nicely golden.

Meanwhile, and lastly, mix the kale with the salt/water to produce a mild brine and bake in the oven until crisp. It takes only minutes.

Serve it up and enjoy with a nice big Shiraz as you’ll deserve it after doing all this.

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BBQ Leftovers Salad

Pulled pork salad

Well summer is here, Murray just won his first Wimbledon, the Lions won down-under and ‘al fresco’ food is irresistible during these long days.

I often think this would be a different nation with decent weather as at the first glimpse of sun and everyone is out and about. In town, any available outside seating, and there isn’t much, is taken and plumes of BBQ smoke are rising from the gardens. Great times…..except for the bad tan-lines but otherwise, yes, great times.

I ‘did’ a BBQ on Sunday and, as ever, prepared far too much. I got the Webber kettle grill out and slow roasted a piece of pork until falling apart, soaked wood-chips and all. It made the most amazing crackling too. Suffice to say it was such a shame to waste it and so in a vain attempt to do something healthier, I combined some of the leftovers into a salad.

BBQ Pork

(a stylised Twitter pic!)

No recipe as such here, but this was super-quick and hugely customisable. I used an asian style dressing but a simple cider-vinegar version would have worked nicely too. I also had some of Helen’s homemade coleslaw left which finished the dinner off nicely.

BBQ pork salad

Still ridiculously busy so I thought I’d re-blog some old posts in the meantime! Feel I should have a test card up or something….

Food, Frankly

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No wait, come back!

Mutton is rarely used or available but is great in a slow cooked curry. I got it at the Wallington food festival from a company called Greenbrae, http://www.greenbrae.co.uk/. If you can’t get it, lamb or beef will work as a substitute.

Being a work night, I’ve taken a slight shortcut with the spices, using a shop bought madras powder instead of roasting & grinding my own.

The result was very rich so I added spinach to lighten it up. I served it with plain basmati (that’s all it needs).

2 Tbsp oil
300g of diced mutton
3 garlic cloves and 1 large chilli, finely chopped.
1 Tbsp finely chopped ginger
1 large onion, chopped
2 tbsp madras curry power
1 tsp turmeric
500ml chicken or beef stock
1 Tbsp tomato purée
1 tsp sugar (if needed)
4 handfuls of spinach
Handful Chopped coriander leaves

In a…

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Char Siu Pork

Char Siu Pork and Rice NoodlesI’ve a bit of a fascination with Eastern/South Eastern Asian food. Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese. All immediately evoke memories of food that assaults the senses with checks and balances of flavours and textures. Theres something immediately satisfying about it all especially, for me, in South East Asian food which I’m particularly fond of with it’s wonderful combination of hot, sweet and sour. I’m going to save that for another day and another dish though.

Chinese food retains, in some of it’s dishes, this ‘holy trinity’ of flavours, but is generally much more savoury in my opinion with delicious oyster, black bean and yellow bean sauces delivering that knockout ‘umami’ taste. I’ll admit there is probably at lot of help at times from MSG but having visited a fair number of good Chinese restaurants over the years I’ve rarely left feeling less than satisfied. I’ve had more numerous takeaways, with generally speaking, considerably less good quality food but thats another matter 😉

Newcastle has a Chinatown and with it number of Chinese restaurants although some admittedly are the sort of free for all buffet we try and avoid. Not through any misplaced food snobbery, but because I think you can get better for the same price at regular eateries. We won’t go often, but when we do I always check out the menu in the window. If it’s written in English AND Chinese, that’s a good sign its frequented by people who’ll know much more about Chinese food than me…

Anyway, I digress. I was back in a Chinese supermarket the other day and, like a kid in a candy store, bought back all sorts of jars and dips and oils. It was here that I got all the ingredients I needed for char siu pork with its delicious sweet and savoury barbecue type marinade. I used pork fillet although I know pork with a bit more fat would be a lot tastier.

The marinading took an epic 48 hours and was much the better for it than my previous attempts. I’ll admit, I pinched this recipe from Nigel Slater’s piece in the Guardian as I remembered it was a rather more simple than other versions.

I served it with some rice noodles (for a change really, rather than regular steamed rice) and some steamed greens.

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For the char siu pork:

  • 500g pork fillet
  • 2 tbsp honey,
  • 100ml/about 6 tbsp hoisin sauce,
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce,
  • 1 tbsp yellow bean sauce,
  • 2 tbsp rice wine – but I used dry sherry, it’s quite similar and I had loads left from Christmas 😉
  • 1 tsp of sesame oil.

Simply combine the ingredients and marinade the meat for 24-48 hours. Like the recipe I linked to, I used a plastic food bag as it covers the meat much more effectively, using far less marinade. In fact, I do this for any marinading.

To cook it, get the oven on to about 180ºC/350ºF/ Gas 5.

Get a roasting tin with a rack and place the pork fillet on top (keeping the marinade for later). Fill the bottom of the tray with hot water and carefully place it in the oven for about 40 minutes. Basting and turning the meat avery 10 minutes. Once done and nicely dark on the outside. Cover and leave to rest. Put the remaining marinade in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer to reduce for a sauce.

To serve it I simply softened and stir fried some rice noodles (vermicelli) with sliced spring onion/scallions in a little sesame oil and chilli salt. I steamed some sliced greens and bok choi in the steamer for only a couple of minutes and stirred though some soy sauce and a little Oyster sauce for depth. Pour over the reduced marinade. Delicious.

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