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


Beetroot, apple and walnuts salad with yoghurt and cumin seeds dressing

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Beetroots again! It has been while – but here they are again… #Beetrootgate proceeds with a lovely salad of contrasting flavours and different textures. Add a bit of feta cheese for a full meal, perfect for a lunch box.

Beetroot, apple and walnuts salad with yoghurt and cumin seeds dressing  (adapted from Dave Myers and Si King’s The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight)

Ingredients

  • 2 medium cooked beetroots (not pickled), cut into small cubes
  • 20g blanched hazelnuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 2 chicory heads, trimmed.
  • 2 red apples, like gala 
  • 1/2 small red onion
  • small handful of fresh mint leaves
  • small handful of fresh flat leaf parsley

Dressing

  • 150g of low fat yoghurt
  • the juice and the zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 teaspoon of runny honey

Method

Slip the beetroots out of their skins. Cut them into wedges and then into cubes

Roughly chop the hazelnuts on a board. Tip them into a colander and give it a good shake until get rid of all the small powdery bits. Reserve the big chunky ones.

Scatter the nuts into a non-stick frying pan and toast over a medium-high heat for about 5min or until lightly browned, turning them as they cook. Add the cumin seeds and toast together for about 1-2min. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Mix the ingredients for the dressing in a bowl.

Cut each head of chicory lengthways into 6 thin wedges and put them in a salad bowl; alternatively you can separate the some leaves. Cut the apple into quarters, remove the core and the slice the apple quarters fairly thinly. Peel and finely slice the onion. Roughly chop the mint and parsley leaves.

Lightly toss the chicory, apple, onion, hazelnuts, cumin seeds and herbs together. Scatter the beetroot on top of the salad and mix gently. Scatter around the dressing to taste


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.


Fennel orange salad with harissa dressing

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Every now and again, I find a dish that I like so much I do it over and over and over again. Like, for example, the Russian egg salad. Or, this cauliflower soup. And, let’s not even mention the whole #beetrootgate affair. This is one of those dishes, which has become one of the staples of last Winter (and Spring…  and even Summer). It is just divine with smoked trout, baked salmon, cold cuts… And all this for less than 250 calories for a reasonable sized portion. Really, what not to like this salad?

Fennel orange salad with harissa dressing  (adapted from Dave Myers and Si King’s The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight)

Ingredients 

  • 2 medium size fennel bulbs, trimmed,  woody central core part removed and thinly sliced
  • 2-3 oranges peeled (white parts out) and cut into 5cm chunks.
  • 1/2 radicchio washed and thinly sliced (escarole or endive also will also works well)
  • About 20 roasted salted almost slightly crushed with a mortar
  • Handfull of raisins or sultanas (or a mix of both).

For the harissa dressing

  • 1 tablespoon harissa
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1/2 white wine vinegar
  • 1 pinch ground coriander
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method

Place the sliced fennel in a salad bowl. Carefully remove the white bitter parts of the orange and slice the oranges to divide flesh sections. Add to the bowl Crush the roasted salted almonds with a mortar and tip in the bowl. Add the sliced radicchio In a small bowl whisk well the harissa, honey, coriander and white wine vinegar. Pour in the olive oil in a very thin stream (spoon by spoon),  beating all the while. The sauce is ready when it you obtain a glossy, slightly thick mixture. Drizzle the harissa dressing over the salad and gently toss to combine. Serve immediately.


Sweet and sour chicken

sweet and sour chicken

This has become one of my favourite dishes to take work for lunch. It is easy to make, healthy and very convenient to eat. It is also comforting…  It is probably miles away from the real thing, but it still tastes good enough to pass every foodie standard of deliciousness.

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

Ingredients

  • 1 x 425g/15oz can pineapple chunks in natural juice
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp soft light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • ½ tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 12 wedges
  • 2 peppers, red, green, orange or yellow, deseeded and cut into chunks of about 3cm/1¼in
  • 100g of Brazil nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 25g/1oz piece fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • freshly ground black pepper

Method

To make the sauce, drain the pineapple in a sieve over a bowl and keep all the juice – you should have about 150ml/5fl oz. Put the cornflour in a large bowl and stir in three tablespoons of the pineapple juice to make a smooth paste. Add the remaining juice and 150ml/5fl oz water, then stir in the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, ketchup and chilli flakes until thoroughly combined. Set aside.

Cut each chicken breast into eight or nine even pieces. Heat a tablespoon of the oil in a large non-stick frying pan or wok and stir-fry the onion and peppers for two minutes over a high heat. Drain the water chestnuts and cut them in half horizontally.

Add the remaining oil and the chicken to the pan and stir-fry for two minutes until coloured on all sides. Add the garlic, ginger, pineapple chunks and water chestnuts and stir-fry for 30–60 seconds.

Give the cornflour and pineapple mixture a good stir and add it to the pan with the chicken and vegetables. Stir well, season with some ground black pepper and bring to a simmer. Cook for 4–6 minutes until the sauce is thickened and glossy and the chicken is tender and cooked throughout, turning the chicken and vegetables a few times. Serve with a small portion of rice.


The pork and prawns balls in aromatic broth cook off: The Hairy Dieter’s take

pork and shrimp meatball with fragrant broth and mushrooms

And another cook off: pork and prawns balls in aromatic broth. It is a bit of a foreign taste to my Mediterranean roots, but still delicious enough to me go back to it over and over again. Nothing that I would cook for myself, though. Never having cooked them before, the broths seem too complex and the flavours seem to be quite hard to get in the right proportions.

But, this  Hairy Dieter’s version seemed achievable. A lot of work, but still, within my possibilities…  Halfway through the process, there was a lot of huffing, puffing and fiddling around. Indeed it soon become a full blown mess, which included the mixer to go on strike to never work again. To make matters worse, it wasn’t as delicious as one would expect after all process. Well, maybe I haven’t “followed the recipe to the letter”, as The Hairy Dieter’s strong recommend, but after all this effort, I was somehow expecting something a bit more elevated… It is very unlikely I will try it again.

Pork and prawns balls in vegetables and noodles aromatic broth (adapted from Dave Myers and Si King’s The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight)

Ingredients

For the broth

  • 2 liters chicken stock
  • 2 lemongrass stalks
  • 4 chillies (2 cut across, 2 deseed and thinly sliced)
  • 6 kaffir lime leaves, dried or fresh
  • 2 long shallots, thinly sliced
  • 50g fresh root ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved lengthways
  • 4 tablespoons of fresh lime juice (1 1/2 limes)
  • 3 tablespoons of Thai fish sauce
  • 2 medium carrots peeled and cut to thin ribbons with a vegetable peeler
  • 1 small red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 small yellow pepper, thinly sliced
  • 150 chestnut mushrooms
  • 150 mangetout
  • 50g fine vermicelli rice noodles
  • large handfull of fresh coriander

For the pork and shrimp balls

  • 250g lean minced pork
  • 100g cooked peeled prawns, thawed if frozen
  • 1/2 long shallot peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 chili, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoons of cornflour
  • fine salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh coriander leaves

Method

Start with the broth, pour the stock in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer and add the lemongrass stalks. Split w of the chillies lengthways almost  all the way through and pop them in the pan.

Add the lime leaves, half the sliced shallots and finally, all the ginger and garlic. Bring the broth to a low simmer and cook gently for 20min. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to stand for about 30min.

While waiting for the broth to cool down, start the balls. Put the minced pork and prawns in a large bowl. Add the chopped shallots, garlic, deseeded chilli, cornflour, salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper in food processor. Blend to make a tick, slightly textured purée. Add the coriander leaves and it another quick blitz until just combined. Take out the processor blade the roll the pork and prawn mixture into 20 small balls.

Strain the infused stock through a sieve into a clean pan. Stir in the remaining sliced shallot, lime juice and fish sauce. Stir in the remaining chillies, very finely chopped. Bring to a gentle simmer and add to the pork balls. Let it cook for 5 minutes, allowing the liquid to bubble gently.  In the meanwhile, cut the carrots into large ribbons using a vegetable peeler. Deseed the peppers and slice them thinly; clean and slice the mushrooms. Trim the mangetout and cut them in half diagonally. Still the carrot strips, mushrooms, mange tout, peppers and noodles into the broth and let it simmer for 3-4min more, or until the pork balls are cooked through and the vegetables and noodles are just tender, stirring occasionally.

Ladle the broth into deep bowls and scatter the coriander on the top.


Minted pea and feta scrambled eggs

scrambled eggs feta minted peas

The day cannot go wrong if you have this for brunch – this is a real feel good dish. Mint and peas are one of the finest flavour combinations, and so is eggs and feta… And it feels like spring is right here.

Minted pea and feta scrambled eggs (adapted from Dave Myers and Si King’s The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight)

Ingredients 

  • 30g frozen peas
  • 40g feta cheese, drained
  • ½ tablespoon of dried min
  • 3 medium eggs
  • Oil olive to coat the bottom of a frying pan
  • Salt and black pepper

 Method

Cook the peas following the instructions in the package.

Mix the eggs with a whisker and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Put enough olive oil to coat the bottom a medium size frying pan, and place it over medium heat until it is piping hot.

Lower the heat and pour the eggs in the frying pan. When they begin to set, use a wooden spoon to draw the cooked eggs to the center. Do this several times until all the uncooked egg is set.

Scatter the peas and feta over the set eggs and cook for another 3 minutes until the feta starts to melt.

Transfer the scrambled eggs to a plate.