Fish cakes

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Definitely, not my Mother’s pasteis de bacalhau [codfish pastries]… Still, a very good effort for half the calories and (almost) all the flavour.

On a side note – and because I don’t see myself doing codfish pastries Portuguese style anytime soon, I better say it now before I forget it for ever.  My Mother and I have kept having a surrealistic conversation every time I went back to visit my family. “So, is there anything special you want me to cook for you?”, she would ask. “Not really… unless maybe pasteis de bacalhau”, I would say. “No, no, no…. anything but that.. it is such a hassle”, would invariably be her reply, in a tone which didn’t allow any further witty remarks. If I remember well, the only time she has cooked them herself it was when I admitted I went for dinner with a friend whose Mother had graced with a batch of homemade pastries. “What!”, she said. “No no need to go out to have pastries!!! I’ll cook them for you tomorrow!!!!!!”. And she did, much to everybody’ surprise and delight. I almost feel tempted to send her this pic in case she decides to prove me wrong and cook this once again. I should probably by a roll-eyes moment, followed by some scorn over using paprika and forgetting the parsley.

Fish cakes (adapted from a Hairy Dieters’ recipe found on the GoodFoodChannel)

Ingredients 

  • 275 g potatoes  peeled and cut into rough 3cm chunks
  • 300 g cod, unskinned
  • 100 g smoked haddock, skin removed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ lemons, finely zested
  • 4 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
  • Enough olive oil for spraying
  • 1 large egg
  • 50 g fresh wholemeal breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon paprika

 Method

Put the potatoes in a pan of cold water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft but not falling apart. 

Drain the potatoes well in a colander, tip them back into the pan and mash them until smooth. Put the mash in a large bowl and season with salt and black pepper.

In the meanwhile, put the cod fish fillets in a large saucepan, placing the thicker fillets on the bottom. Cover with cold water and add the bay leaf. Put a tight-fitting lid on the pan and gently bring to a simmer. Immediately take the pan off the heat and leave the fish to stand for 5 minutes. Once the fish is poached, drain the fish really well in a colander and break it into large chunks. Be careful to discard the skin and any bones as you go.

Put the all the fish  – cod and haddock – in the same bowl as the mashed potato.  Stir in the lemon zest and spring onions with a large wooden spoon, trying not to break up the fish too much.

Divide the mixture into 4 balls and flatten each ball to about 3cm thick. If the mixture is too soft to shape into balls, cover and leave it to cool for a while.

Beat the egg in a shallow bowl. Mix the breadcrumbs with the paprika in a large bowl. Dip a fishcake into the egg, coating it on all sides. Allow any excess egg to drip off the fishcake and then place it in the breadcrumbs, turning it and pressing firmly to get an even coating of crumbs on all sides. Prepare the remaining cakes in the same way. Leave them to chill in the fridge until you’re ready to cook. Use them within 24 hours, though.

To cook the fishcakes, preheat the oven to 220C.  Cover a baking tray with parchment and slightly grease it with olive oil  Place the fish cakes on it and brush (or spray) them with the olive oil. Bake them for 15–20 minutes until crisp and golden brown. Serve with vegetables or a lightly dressed salad and some lemon wedges for squeezing

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Baked salmon with an orange chilli ginger sauce

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In one word: yum. And I am not even such a big fan of salmon… It was probably one of the most cooked dishes of this year, together with the fennel orange salad. It was quite hard to explain that indeed this is supposed to be diet food and that indeed there was no added fat in this dish

Baked salmon with an orange chilli ginger sauce (adapted from Dave Myers and Si King’s The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight)

Ingredients

  • 2 ball stem ginger in syrup, sliced into matchstick strips
  • 2 tablespoons of ginger syrup
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • freshly squeezed juice of 1 orange (about 150mL)
  • 1 fresh red chilli, thinly sliced (or flaked dried chillis)
  • 2 x salmon fillets, skin on (about 300g each)
  • freshly ground black pepper

Method

In a bowl large enough to hold both slices of salmon, mix the sliced ginger and garlic with the ginger syrup, the orange juice and the soy sauce. Add in the orange zest and the freshly ground the black pepper. In case you cannot source the ginger in syrup, fresh ginger can nicely replace it. In this case, add a couple of tablespoons of unrefined sugar.

Put the salmon in the bowl with the marinade. Turn a couple of times, ending with the fish skin side up. Cover and let it sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 220oC. Line a small baking tray with baking parchment. Take the salmon fillets out of the marinade, scraping off any bits and pieces, and place them on the tray, skin side down. Season with more ground black pepper. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the salmon.

Meanwhile prepare the sauce. Pour the marinade into a tiny non-stick pan and bring to the boil. Cook for 6 minutes or until the liquid has reduced to half and the garlic is softened.

Put the salmon fillets on warm plates and spoon over with the sauce. Be careful not to damp the fish with the sauce. Serve immediately.


Fish stew

fish stew

For a couple of days, I start to believe it was possible, after all, to feel the Spring. I even looked for my sun glasses and rush to the basement to a light coat… Well, much for my dismay, it seemed that Summer was last Tuesday, right on the very day I had a TC I could not reschedule. Wednesday was a bit iffy, Thursday, autumnal. Saturday, we all woke up to snowfall.

Not a single comment on Facebook or Twitter, but…. Fish stew it is. It could have been my mother’s caldeirada – it tastes as good as – but her recipe has a completely different method and a much briefer list of ingredients. In any case, it was delicious and warming. Comfort food doesn’t get much better than this… 

Fish stew (adapted from Dave Myers and Si King’s The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight)

Ingredients 

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 celery sticks, very finely diced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and finely diced
  • • 250g potatoes floury potatoes
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • Good pinch of saffron threads
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 150ml white wine
  • 400g can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 heaped tbsp tomato purée
  •  600ml cold water
  • ½ fish stock cube
  •  2 tsp superfine sugar
  • ½ tsp flaked sea salt, plus extra for seasoning
  •  400g thick white fish fillet
  • 200g cooked and peeled king prawns, thawed
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method

Heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole dish or wide, heavy-based saucepan and gently fry the onion and celery for 8 minutes until well softened, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Don’t let the garlic burn or it will give your stew a bitter flavour. If the onion starts to stick, add a splash of cold water to the pan. Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and cut them into rough 2cm chunks. Deseed the pepper and cut that into chunks too.

Stir the ground coriander, saffron and bay leaves into the casserole and cook for another couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Pour over the wine and let it all bubble for a few seconds before adding the yellow pepper, potatoes, chopped tomatoes, tomato purée, water, stock cube and sugar. Season with the ½ teaspoon of salt and plenty of ground black pepper.

Bring the stew to a gentle simmer and cook uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are softened but not breaking apart. Trim the green beans, cut them in half and add them to the pan, then return to a simmer. Cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with more salt and pepper to taste.

Remove the skin from the fish fillets and cut the fish into rough 2.5cm chunks. Drop the fish pieces on top of the bubbling liquid and cover the pan with a lid. Poach the fish over a medium heat for 3 minutes or until it is almost cooked. Remove the lid and very gently stir in the prawns, trying not to break up the fish too much. Cover again and simmer for 2 minutes more or until the fish i opaque and the prawns are hot. Don’t let the prawns overcook.


Roasted codfish with Serrano ham and peppers

roasted fresh codfish

I am Portuguese and of Catholic extraction. Therefore, my Christmas dinner must be  boiled dry codfish, eggs, potatoes and kale, with plenty of olive oil with garlic. There is no way around it, I am afraid. It is been like this for centuries and everybody just keeps up with the tradition.

When I was a kiddie my Mother once tried to a bacalhau conventual [convent style codfish], just to try something new. When the dinner came to the table, an outcry of biblical proportions followed and Christmas was almost cancelled.  Everyone survived the trauma, but my Mother never a tried it again. After 3 decades my Father still mentions the infamous year we had baked codfish for dinner. Outrageous – after that, only anarchy could have descended to the civilized world.

This year, I staid in Zurich for Christmas. And when not in Rome … I almost made a point of departing from the usual traditions. Well, sort of… It is still codfish, but fresh. Not boiled, but  baked with Serrano ham. And, for a complete departure from the tradition, the recipe was found on a book meant for british dieters. But, please, I beg you, don’t let my family know about it. It will be our little secret.

Roasted codfish with Serrano ham and peppers (adapted from Dave Myers and Si King’s The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight)

Ingredients 

  • 1 red pepper deseeded and cut into thin stripes
  • 1 yellow pepper deseed and cut into thin stripes
  • 2 courgettes cut into 2cm slices
  • 1 medium red onion cut into thin wedges
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 4 thick skinless fresh codfish fillets (about 150g each. A big chunk will also work)
  • 4 slices of Serrano ham or any thinly sliced cured ham
  • 10g dry white breadcrumbs
  • 10g of parmesan cheesed finely grated
  • A handfull of parley leafs, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method 

1. Preheat the oven to 220oC. Put the peppers, courgettes and onion in a large baking tray and drizzle them with olive oil. Season with a little salt and plenty of black pepper and toss everything until the vegetables are coated with olive oil. Roast for 20mun until softened and lightly charred.

2. Mix the bread crumbs with the cheese and parsley. Reserve.

3. Pat the codfish dry on kitchen paper and remove the bones with a pair of tweezers. Season with a generous amount of pepper. No need to add any salt – the Serrano ham has already plenty of salt on its own. Wrap the each fillet with a slice of ham, making sure they are closed.

4. Take the baking tray out of the oven and make space for the codfish and ham. A few gaps will be suffice. Place the fish on the tray and scatter the Parmesan mix all over the fish and vegetables. In case you worry about soaking the vegetables: the codfish will be sealed inside the Serrano ham and cook on its own juices.

5. Put the tray back in the over for another 12-15min or until the fish is cooked, the ham crisped and the breadcrumbs are lightly browned.

6. Serve immediately.


Fish wrapped in ham with crushed peas and warm tomato

Another MaMafalda Pinto Leite’s Cozinha Para Quem Não Tem Tempo [Cooking for those who have no time]. It is quick, easy and a spectacular combination of flavors. I was a bit too slow, but the author probably only set up the alarm clock once she got all the ingredients prepared. Still, it is worthwhile doing it.

Fish wrapped in ham with crushed peas and warm tomatoes

Ingredients 

  • 4 rosemary springs
  • 4 white fish firm fillets (I used fresh cod)
  • 4 prosciutto or jamón slices
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 leek cut in slices (only the white parts)
  • 2 tomatoes finely chopped
  • 2 cups of frozen peas
  • 1/2 of vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons chopped minth
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Put the rosemary springs on top of each fish fillet. Pepper it. Wrap each fillet with one ham slice.

Heat half the olive oil in a frying pan in medium-high heat. When it is hot, put the fish in, and cook for 4 minutes or until it is done. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm. Fold the tomato into the same frying pan and cook for about 1 minute or until it is warm.

In the meanwhile, heat the other half of the olive oil in a medium size sauce pan. When it is pipping hot, fold in the sliced leeks and sauté until they are soft. Poor in the stock and let it boil. Then, add the peas and bring to boil for about 6min. When ready, add the mint, salt and pepper to taste. Crush the peas.

Serve the fish together with the tomato and the crushed peas.


Savoury tuna parcels (empanadillas de atún)

Another Spanish classic… Very much like the tortilla de patatas [potato omelette], there are many versions and interpretations. And, as you might guess from previous posts, the best empanada is going to be the one cooked by  the proverbial Mother-in-Law… Actually, at some point, I had scribbled down a recipe that had been in someone’s family for generations. But hélas!, I lost it during one of my many moves. I ended up to use the one Carlos Horrillo and Patrick Morcas have on their Tapas: Simple Flavours, Striking Combinations book.

All in all, it is not exactly easy to get this dish right. The filling is relatively straightforward, but the pastry requires a certain level of skill and commitment. Although this might sound like scratching a chalkboard with nails to some, I ended up using pre made pastry, to avoid any culinary catastrophes…  In any case, it is an awesome combination of flavors and textures, which reminds me of home and many bohemian nights out.

Savory tuna parcels (empanadillas de atún)

For the filling

  • Olive oil
  • 2 medium onions finely sliced
  • 1 large red pepper, finely chopped
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 225g tomatoes coarsely chopped
  • 350g of good quality tuna (in olive oil), drained
  • 8-10 good quality black 0lives, stones removed
  • Small pinch of saffron strands. soaked in 2 tablespoon hot water

For the pastry

  • pack of ready rolled puff pastry
  • 1 beaten egg

Method

Place a large heavy base, non stock frying pan (or wok) on a low heat with 8 dashes of olive oil. Add the sliced onions and pepper, a pinch of salt and pepper then sauté gently until soft and tender.

Add the chopped tomatoes and give everything a good stir, then simmer gently until all the ingredients have reduced to a thick sauce.

Add the tuna, olives, saffron and another pinch of salt and pepper, Summer everything together, stirring regularly until you have a tick, rich sauce. Set aside to cool, and then refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat your oven to 200oC/400oC/gas mark 6

Lightly flour your work surface and place the rolled puff pastry on top. Using a sharp knife, cut the pastry into 12cm squares and arrange them on several greased baking sheets. You will need 8-12, depending on how many people you are going to serve. Gauge it so you have enough pastry to wrap the filling. If the pastry is too thin the parcel will burst and all the ingredients will spill out. Some spillage is fine. If the pastry is too thick, it will not allow the flavours of the filling to come through.

Put a dollop of the tuna mixture, a ball shape roughly 5-6cm, in the middle of the square, and then dab the edges of the suare with eaten egg, Bring up the corners of the pastry to the centre and press them together to form a peak at the top. Glaze the tops with beaten egg, and then in the oven for 20min, or until golden brown. Serve hot, warm or cold.

Alternatively, you can put the pastry in the a rectangular or square baking tray, allowing the wall to be coated about 5cm. Put the tuna mixture on it, and put another sheet of pastry on top. Close the edges, sealling with beaten egg. Glaze the top with beaten egg.


Anchovy, hard boiled egg and caper on toast (pintxo de anchoas)

In a literal manner, tapa means a cover or lid in Spanish. But, if you are talking about food, a tapa refers to a range of fine appetizers and nibbles that are served in bars and pubs to accompany a glass of wine or beer. Over the years, tapas have evolved into a completely new concept, being now a synonym  of miniature dishes – sometimes very sophisticated – which are put together to form a meal. In any case, tapas, or its closely related pintxos and raciones, are the center of informal meals and allow you to focus on chatting and socializing rather than scoffing a full blown dinner.

Even risking sounding a bit pedantic, the dish I am doing today is a pintxo. Traditionally, this combination with anchovies is ubiquitous in the Basque Country. And, you simply  are not not served tapas in the Basque Country. Up the there, the pieces of bread with something on top are called pintxos. Incidentally, unlike other parts of the country, you also have to pay for them. In case you wonder, about.com does a excellent job on explaining with great detail and accuracy what is one or the other, and the difference between them.

As of late, I have been kind of missing this sort of flavors from home… A poker night  presented itself like the perfect opportunity to give it a go. After googling a bit, I ended up finding this Spanish blogger from Bilbao, whom had a recipe that looked very much like the pintxos de anchoa you  can find all over the Basque Country.

Anchovy, hard boiled egg and caper on toast (pintxo de anchoas)

Ingredients

  • 150 grs. of cream cheese, like Philadelphia
  • 2 tins of salted anchovies
  • Sliced bread (I use the equivalent of a French bagette, cut diagonally).
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, chopped very finely.
  • Capers or sliced gurken
  • Olive oil

Method

Put the cheesed and the anchovies (plus its olive oil). Mix well with a blender until you obtain a homogenous mix. Reserve.

Cut the bread crust out, and cut each slice in half so you can obtain 2 rectangles. Fry in a generous quantity of olive oil. Be careful to not let the olive oil overheat to avoid the bread to burn. I was on a hurry this day, and simply toasted the bread until it was crunchy. This version is also less caloric.

Spread a generous quantity of anchovy mix so you obtain a thick layer on top of the bread. Cover with the egg and put a couple of cappers on top of it.