Plaice with Sautéed Potatoes and Samphire

Plaice Sauteed Potatoes Samphire

I tend to do so many things accidentally as I’m so badly organised. It’s been snowing across the UK of late and with my wife’s car not being the most ‘snow friendly’ vehicle found myself driving her to work.

On the way, I passed our local fish deli which was open this time and I dropped in on the way back to the office. The store is called Latimer’s and they seem seriously dedicated to fresh fish, providing produce to a number of restaurants in the North East. Their website even has a page entitled ‘Today’s Catch’. I can vouch that the service is excellent and it’s a goldmine of advice.

I asked for a couple of plaice fillets (although in truth could have tried a bit of everything) and the guy serving asked if i minded hanging on while he cut the fillets as the fish had “only just come in”. Of course I didn’t – no vacuum packed week old fish sold here…

Plaice is a delicate fish and can be ruined by heavy or strongly flavoured sauces so I tried to keep it light, with a simple tried and tested caper butter. Samphire is now easily available, works brilliantly with fish and keeps a nice ‘bite’ even after cooking.

Helen made the sautéed potatoes and we went for some small new potatoes for a slight sweetness. She didn’t peel the potatoes and I think they’re all the better for it!

This is just my sort of thing and I thoroughly enjoyed it….

Ingredients:

  • 2 Plaice fillets, about 200g each
  • 1 tsp oil
  • A small knob of butter
  • About two tbsp capers, drained and chopped roughly
  • Sea salt
  • About 10 small new potatoes, thinly sliced
  • Oil for frying
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Some fine chopped parsley
  • (Optional) garlic infused oil to finish
  • Two large handfuls of samphire

Start the sauteed potatoes first by frying with a good pinch of salt on a moderate heat in a large pan for about 15-20 minutes. Some recipes call for par boiling them first, but it wasn’t necessary here.

The fish and the samphire cooking quickly, so start these only at the end of cooking the potatoes. The oven grill will be used so get that on if it takes a while to heat up (like mine). Heat the plates.

Bring a pan of water to the boil (or use a kettle) and blanch the samphire for a couple of minutes. Drain and return to the pan with a lid on to keep warm.

Heat a pan large enough for the fish with a small amount of oil until hot. Lay the fish onto the pan and hold them down to begin with to try and prevent them curling up too much.

They will take only minutes to cook from the bottom, but finish briefly in the same pan under a medium grill.

Once the potatoes are done, finish with a little garlic infused oil (if you want) and chopped parsley. Plate up the fish, potatoes and samphire.

To make the caper butter, simply return the fish pan to the hob and heat the butter and capers with a pinch of salt (and a squeeze of lemon if you want). Spoon it over the fish and you’re done.

Plaice Samphire Sauteed Potatoes Top View

Homemade Pasta

Homemade pasta

I can’t tell you the tantrums I’ve thrown making my own pasta over the years. I just could not get it to work. I used a pasta machine, but the strands always stuck back together in a clump, or when I did get them as far as the pan, it turned out blubbery and unappealing.

Then there is the mess of course. I’m not the tidiest cook I admit, but the kitchen looked a disaster zone and after getting such disappointing results, I wasn’t sure it was worth it. I’m also a fan of dry pasta, being much better for the types of dishes I prefer (tomato or oil based). I gave it another go though, being a little more experienced (read: older) these days.

In theory, it’s simple of course being a mixture of flour and water, or eggs. I went for a fresh egg pasta style based on Jamie Oliver’s recipe which basically comprises 600g ’00’ flour and 6 beaten eggs. I basically reduced the amounts down to 200g flour and 2 eggs for two servings. Very generous servings in fact.

The difference I found this time though was in kneading it thoroughly – at least 5 minutes before leaving to rest in the fridge. The result was drier, much easier to cut and more importantly, much better to eat with a definite bite. It was a bit paler than convention dictates but then this is down to the colour of the eggs themselves. Next time, I’m going to try using just yolks to improve this though.

Veggie January has relaxed a bit to include fish, I just couldn’t do without. So I made a quick (low fat) creme fraiche based sauce with smoked salmon to go with it and it actually worked very well! I confess to using a small knob of butter though, essentially adding the fat that was removed from the creme fraiche, but it was a little bit ‘sharp’ and was better for it. Unlike my waistline….

Ingredients:

Pasta

  • 200g (just under a cup) ’00’ grade flour
  • 2 eggs beaten

Smoked salmon and creme fraiche sauce.

  • 2 tsp rapeseed oil
  • 1 tbsp whole capers, then chopped.
  • 150g smoked salmon
  • splash of white wine
  • 3 heaped tbsp creme fraiche (I used low fat but…..)
  • 1 small knob of butter – very much optional!
  • Salt (if needed) and black pepper.

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Making the pasta

I used a small food processor for speed. Simplicity itself really, just blitz the eggs and flour together until you get ‘crumbs’. Then take it out and bind it together with your hands into a ball.

Then the hard bit – knead it! Five minutes minimum, but you do notice when it’s ready, becoming very smooth and pliable. Wrap it thoroughly in cling film and leave it in the fridge for 30 minutes at least.

Put a large pan of salted water on to boil now as it may take a while.

I used a pasta machine to roll it out, starting at the widest setting and finishing a number 2. To make it more manageable, I split the dough in two. Use a little flour to prevent the sheets sticking.

Rolling pasta

After the first roll, it’ll be a long oval shape, so just fold it up, like you would a tea towel and put it back through. It’s tricky but practise makes perfect I’m guessing.

Finally, I used the smaller cutter on the pasta machine to make spaghetti sized strands. Technically I believe its spaghetti alla chitarra (thank you Wiki), being square rather than round, but after cooking you can’t really tell.

Cutting pasta

At this point I recommend you make the sauce, as the pasta cooks in a couple of minutes:

Simply fry the smoked salmon and capers in the oil in a small sauce pan for a minute then add a splash of wine. Reduce it for a couple more minutes and stir in the creme fraiche. Heat through and season with black pepper and salt if it needs it – the smoked salmon was salty enough for me. Stir in the butter if you want to ;).

The water should be rapidly boiling so drop the pasta in, separating it with your fingers as you do. Stir well with a spaghetti spoon to ensure they stay separate. It’ll only take a couple of minutes to cook and slightly underdone is much better than well overdone so you need to keep attentive.

Once done, drain it and return to the pan. Stir in the sauce and mix well with the spaghetti spoon.

Sphaghetti with smoked salmon and creme fraiche

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