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

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Salmon with Red Pesto and Tomato Broth

Salmon with Red Pesto and Tomato Broth

It was a busy old weekend, hence the slight lack of attention, or indeed subject matter for Food Frankly, and by busy, I technically mean excessive.

Helen and I headed to a favourite restaurant on Friday for a delicious steak and just a couple of really good beers (well I did, somebody else got driving duties 😉 )Then, Saturday morning, I headed down to Manchester to catch up with old friends and plan a stag do, or bachelor party, depending which side of the pond you live on of course.

After a delicious beef sandwich and pork-pie lunch, we headed off to watch my mate’s mighty Oldham Athletic nick a home win. Then, it was off to watch England take on the French at rugby, in a local pub before heading off on the tram into Manchester for far more beer than we really ought to, or can cope with these days. Dinner comprised fried chicken and pork rinds. Now, I’m no nutritionist, but I’m pretty sure that was not a balanced meal, although I believe there was lettuce involved somewhere in fairness.

The planning wasn’t ‘comprehensive’ it’s fair to say. “Germany somewhere, probably Munich” was the outcome. I think.

And so today was about countering the excess and for dinner I made something light and delicate. Fish is the obvious choice for me and to avoid heavy sauces, I paired it with a quick red pesto and a light basil infused tomato broth. I used salmon simply because I had it, but this would work with a variety of white fish. Crushed new potatoes and steamed purple broccoli finished it off. I pan fried the fish using a non-stick pan to keep the oil and therefore calories down, but I could have grilled it to be even healthier. The broccoli was steamed but left with plenty of ‘bite’. It was all surprisingly good actually and packed with flavour, so much so I think this might be a ‘keeper’.

Serves 2, takes half an hour.

  • 400g salmon fillets (these were skinless)
  • 2 tsp olive oil

For the red pesto:

  • Large handful (50g) of pine nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Half a jar of sundried tomatoes (about 10 pieces), drained if in oil.
  • Half a red pepper
  • Handful of grated parmesan
  • 1 good lug of quality virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

For the tomato broth:

  • 3 large fresh tomatoes, quartered and de-seeded
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • 1 pinch of chilli flakes
  • 4 basil leaves, shredded
  • 200ml vegetable stock (I used good vegetable bouillon powder for speed, mixed with boiling water)
  • 10-12 twelve new potatoes, cleaned, skins on
  • 8 pieces of purple broccoli (or regular broccoli if not available)

Make the pesto by simply toasting the pine nuts in a dry pan until browned (but not burnt!) then combining all the ingredients in a food processor. Blitz to a rough paste, taste and season if needed and set aside.

Start the tomato broth by frying the garlic and chilli flakes in the oil. Add the tomatoes and balsamic and fry until the tomatoes give up a bit of juice. When they do, add the stock and leave to very gently simmer. Add the basil towards the end otherwise the flavour will be lost.

Tomato Broth

Whilst doing the broth, in the bottom of a steamer, bring the potatoes to a boil. They take about 15 minutes, so after half that time, add the broccoli in a steamer insert and place above the potatoes.

I started the salmon now too as they were quite thin pieces. I used a non-stick pan to keep the oil to a minimum. Season with a little salt and cook until well browned on a moderate heat – there was no skin on these so I had to be careful not to break them. Set aside in a warm oven once done.

Taste the tomato broth and season if needed. Strain into a warm jug using a fine seive.

Drain the potatoes and crush them roughly and add a pinch of salt if you like. Put them on a very warm plate with the salmon on top. Add the broccoli and pour around the tomato broth. Add about a tablespoon of the red pesto and you’re done!

Salmon with Red Pesto and Tomato Broth

Smoked Salmon and Leek Quiche

I thought I’d try out a quiche this afternoon. Not words I thought I’d be saying as a younger man, but then I suppose things change as one, err, ‘matures’.

Besides, quiche is a kind of Gallic pizza. Working from a base of shortcrust, and unsweetened custard you can go on to produce all manner of combinations to taste. I thought I’d try smoked salmon and leek, mainly as that was what I found rummaging through the fridge.

Sorry, salmon is featuring a lot on this blog I know, but I did have a fair bit left over from the party last week. That’s mainly because, I’d forgotten all about it and left it in the fridge. For the record, I do recognise that other fish species exist and are edible….

Ingredients:

  • 225-250g shortcrust pastry (the BBC do a recipe here that always delivers for me)
  • 200ml double cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g smoked salmon, chopped into small pieces.
  • 1 medium sized leek, finely sliced
  • Small knob of butter and 2 tsp oil for frying
  • Handful grated parmesan cheese
  • Handful of grated cheddar cheese
  • tsp of chopped dill (optional)
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

Start by softening the leek: add the oil and butter to a small frying pan and gently fry with a pinch of salt until softened. Turn off the heat and leave to cool whilst you get on with the next stages.

Very lightly butter or oil a smallish circular baking tin (if using a solid one). You won’t need to if using a loose base version, but I don’t have any.

Roll the pastry into a large circle so that it fits into the tin with plenty overhanging (4 or 5cm). This extra will help ward off shrinkage in the oven.

Gently press the pastry into the sides of the tin and use a fork create small holes to ensure the base doesn’t puff up. To be sure, I lined the top of the pastry with baking parchment and baking beads (courtesy of my friend Sarah). I used a tip flying around at the moment which is to screw up the paper first so it’s flexible and doesn’t need to be cut to fit.

Blind bake the pastry at 190ºC (Gas 5) for 25 minutes or until golden. I removed the parchment for the last 10 minutes to help it crisp up better.

Whilst that’s baking, you can make the filling:

Whisk the eggs in a bowl and simply combine all the remaining ingredients, including the now cooled leeks. Season with salt and pepper (I tasted the mixture at this point in case something was needed, but just to point out, there is raw egg in there….)

Once the pastry case is ready take out the oven and allow to cool for a little while on a stand. Leave the oven on though as it won’t be too long until it goes back in. When cooled enough to do so, neatly trim off the excess pastry from the edge with a sharp (but not your best) knife.

Pour in the mixture and return to the oven for around 30 minutes, or until the top has started to brown and the middle is ‘springy’.

Leave to cool, again, and serve it up still warm if you can. Just as nice cold though of course…..