Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd’s Pie)

Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd's Pie) | Selma's TableApulia is the southern Italian region which makes up the “heel” of the boot after which the country of Italy is likened. The area was once known as the Wine Cellar of Europe and today, their olive oils are much coveted by the cognoscenti . Their food espouses that wonderful Mediterranean diet of olive oil, fresh vegetables, fresh fish and shellfish, pasta and regional cheeses. The meat of choice is lamb or kid which is grilled, roasted or baked which brings me to this recipe for Agnello e Patate al Forno which translates to Lamb and Potatoes of the Oven or an Italian version of Shepherd’s Pie!

Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd's Pie) | Selma's TableIt’s from a wonderful book called Italian Country Cooking by Susanna Gelmetti which I have had for many more years than I care to remember.  Over those years, I have made many a recipe from it but this is the one that gets made time and time again. Italian cooking is cooking from the heart. It is all about excellent quality ingredients generally cooked simply and without fuss and this ethos completely appeals to me. This recipe depends on flavoursome lamb, tasty fresh tomatoes, good pecorino cheese, good wine and fresh herbs. I have made it with and without wine – it is better with, of course. I tend to use lamb neck fillet as despite being tender, it has a lot of flavour and cooks a little more quickly than other cuts. The dish comes together in about 15 minutes and cooks for 1 – 1.5 hours depending on the cut of meat used.

Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd's Pie) | Selma's TableI start by pre-heating the oven to 200C/400F and placing a couple slices of bread in it to toast for the bread crumbs. I set the timer for 5 minutes too so that I don’t forget about them! Then I place the garlic, the cheese and the herbs in a small processor and blitz until the mixture resembles green crumbs, which is set aside. Once the bread is out and has cooled, I tear this up and blitz it too and mix it into the cheese and herb mixture. I peel and cut up the potatoes, dice the tomatoes and chop the lamb. A little olive oil is judiciously poured into a baking dish, into which the lamb, potatoes and tomatoes are tumbled about, seasoned and covered with the herbed breadcrumb mixture. A little wine is poured in and a little water to come halfway up the potatoes. At this point I like to pull up bits of lamb to poke through so that the tops get nice and crispy while the underneath braises in the delicious wine and tomato juices and gets melting tender. A little olive oil is then lightly drizzled over the top and it goes into the oven to cook, undisturbed for an hour or so.  In the past, I have used stock for all the liquid if wine was not at hand and also added lemon zest to herb mixture and the juice to the liquid. It smells amazing as it cooks and benefits from resting for a few minutes after coming out of the oven. Served with a peppery rocket salad, it’s a lovely meal at this time of the year.

Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd's Pie) | Selma's Table

Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd's Pie)

  • Servings: serves 3 people or 2 generously, with left overs
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Adapted from  Italian Country Cooking by Susanna Gelmetti

INGREDIENTS

  • 35g pecorino cheese
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 sprigs of rosemary – about 5g of needles
  • 25g fresh parsley including the stalks
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • pepper
  • 25g fresh bread crumbs
  •  500g potatoes (floury or waxy – both types are fine here)
  • 400g – 500g lamb neck fillet or lean lamb
  • 5 ripe tomatoes
  • salt
  • 100ml approx of white or red wine
  • 100ml approx of water or stock
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh parsley and pecorino cheese to serve.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F. If you are making your own bread crumbs, which I recommend, then place the bread slices in the oven to dry out for 5 minutes while the oven is heating up. In my experience, it is best to set a timer so that you don’t forget about them!
  2. Chop the pecorino into cubes, peel the garlic and strip the needles off the rosemary. Place in a small processor and blitz until it’s crumbly. Add the parsley and oregano and blitz again. Scrape out and set aside. When the bread has been in the oven for 5 minutes, remove to cool, then tear up and blitz into crumbs. Stir into the herb and cheese mixture and grind over lots of freshly milled pepper. Mix well.
  3. Smear the bottom of an oven proof dish with a little olive oil. Mine is about 9″ x 5″.
  4. Peel and chop the potatoes into smaller chunks that you would for a roast. So the larger ones into about 8 equal sized pieces and smaller ones into 4 and place in the dish. Cut the lamb, across the grain in similar sizes to the potatoes. Dice the tomatoes keeping them chunky. Tumble the lot into the dish and season with a good sprinkle of salt. Arrange so that bits of lamb and potato are poking through.
  5. Carefully pour in the wine and water, tilting the dish so that the liquid is evenly distributed. It should come halfway up the potatoes.
  6. Shake over the breadcrumb mixture to cover the top evenly and drizzle over a little olive oil.
  7. Cook in the oven for 1 – 1½ hours or until the potatoes are cooked through. Let rest for 5 minutes then sprinkle over some fresh parsley and shaved pecorino before serving.
© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2015. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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Garlicky Tahini Chicken from ‘Slow Cooked’

Garlicky Tahini Chicken | Selma"s TableSlow cooking is like waving a culinary magic wand. Cheaper cuts of knife resistant, sinewy meat transform into something silky and tender as they gently burble away in an aromatic bath of your choice. Up until recently, I used my Le Creuset and a low oven to slow cook lamb shanks, stewing beef, brisket and the like. Then a couple of years ago, I spotted a slow cooker in the summer sales and thought how perfect it would be for making dishes overnight or during the day so that there was something gorgeous for dinner to come home to. But truth be told, I haven’t been too adventurous with it; my best thing is making chicken stock in it with the remains of a carcass but that is all set to change with the publication of a new book, “Slow Cooked” by fellow South Londoner and blogger, Miss South, which I was sent to review.

Garlicky Tahini Chicken | Selma"s TableMiss South has a passion for cooking good food on a very tight budget. She won the Young British Foodies Food Writing award in September 2013 for her blog North/South Food, which she writes with her brother Mister North. She has also written for Observer Food Monthly as well as appearing on The Food Programme on Radio 4. With these sort of credentials, you just know that you are in for a treat when it comes to her book. It is packed full of 200 delicious sounding recipes which cover meat, poultry and fish, soups, vegetables and legumes, cakes, puddings and preserves too, all made in the slow cooker.

Garlicky Tahini Chicken | Selma"s TableAfter her first few attempts to cook in the slow cooker, Miss South found that the results were watered down as liquid does not get a chance to evaporate so she set about cutting back on the liquid and amping up on the spicing to get the recipes to work.  Recipes like Carbonnade which have mustard croutons pressed into it for the last hour or so; Butter Beans with Chorizo where the dried beans are cooked without soaking. There are some lovely photos at the beginning of the book but none with the recipes themselves, however the recipes sound so good that I didn’t even register the lack of photos.

Garlicky Tahini Chicken | Selma"s TableHaving tried a few of the recipes in the book, I found that I needed to rev the up seasoning and spicing a little. I’m not sure if that’s a matter of personal taste or if perhaps my herbs and spices lost some of their potency during the extended cooking period but it is just a matter of tasting and adjusting as you go along.

Garlicky Tahini Chicken | Selma"s TableWe thoroughly enjoyed the results of slow cooking chicken thighs which had been marinated overnight in a mixture of tahini, lemon and garlic. I added a little sumac and paprika to the original recipe to boost it’s flavour and served the juicy shredded chicken in wraps with tzatziki, harissa oil, and shredded lettuce. There are lots of lovely recipes and brilliant ideas as well as some very useful information about the foundations of slow cooking that make this book a must have for anyone who already uses their crock frequently or for those who would like to start. My next stop is the pudding chapter….

Garlicky Tahini Chicken | Selma"s Table

Do take a look at what a few other bloggers had to say about the book and see what they cooked up too. The reviews are on the Happy Foodie site – http://thehappyfoodie.co.uk/articles/the-slow-cooked-challenge

Garlicky Tahini Chicken

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Adapted from Slow Cooked by Miss South who describes this as “a dinner party-friendly take on chicken kebab with garlic sauce.”

INGREDIENTS

  • 12 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
  • 6 chicken thighs on the bone
  • 4 Tbsp tahini
  • 3 – 6 Tbsp water
  • juice of one lemon
  • 2 tsp sumac
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • salt and pepper
  • chopped fresh coriander leaves
To serve
  • Wraps/tortillas
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Greek yoghurt or tzatziki
  • 1 tsp Harissa paste, loosened with some olive oil
  • sliced avocados, chopped tomatoes, sliced cucumber – optional but delicious

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Place the garlic in a small pan of boiling water and simmer for 15 minutes or until soft. Drain and when cool enough to handle, slip the skins off.
  2. In the meantime, remove the skin and any fat from the chicken thighs; slash the flesh a couple of times.
  3. The tahini should be the consistency of pouring cream so thin it out with as much of the water as you need to.
  4. Whizz or pound together the garlic, tahini, lemon juice, sumac, paprika and some salt and pepper. Taste it and adjust the seasoning if necessary then spread it over the chicken, getting into the slashes and leave it to marinate, covered, in the fridge for up to 24 hours. I did mine overnight.
  5. When you are ready to cook, place the chicken pieces and the marinade in the crock  and cook on low for 7 hours. The oil from the tahini bastes the chicken and keeps it really tender.
  6. Shred the tender chicken into a serving dish, discarding the bones. Taste the marinade, adjust the seasoning if necessary and pour this over the chicken and sprinkle with coriander leaves.

Note – if you don’t have a slow cooker then you can make this in the oven. Place the marinated chicken and the marinade in a roasting tin and cover tightly with foil and cook for 1.5 hours at 160C. Then remove the foil and cook for another 15 mins until tender and falling off the bone.

Serve hot with warm wraps/tortillas and all the fixings.

Any left-overs, re-heat beautifully.

Cook the Books – Demerara Lemon Cake

cook-the-books-demerara-lemon-cakeNigel Slater’s recipes seem to have a resonance that are simultaneously timeless and on trend. It was his ‘Real Fast Food’ to which I first turned when I would come home from a long day at work and it is his ‘Kitchen Diaries” today to which I will always flip through to get inspiration. The cake below is another syrup soaked affair, full of zingy lemon flavour and dense with almonds and eggs. It is perfect as a light pudding with a dollop of thick Greek yoghurt and some strawberries or raspberries.  I been making it since 2010, initially for Jake’s lunch box but now, to occasionally have for unexpected visitors as it also keeps extremely well.

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It’s not a difficult cake to make as long as you get everything measured out and ready to go. The first thing to do is to make the topping which is merely a matter of  slicing a lemon and simmering it for 5 or 6 minutes in a little water and sugar. This cools as you get on with the cake. Beat the butter and the sugar, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. If the batter starts to look curdled you can either add a spoonful of the flour mix with every egg or just ignore it as it all comes together in the end.  Fold in the flour mixture and scrape it into a lined loaf tin. Top with the lemon slices and bake. While it is baking, make the syrup which is just a little water and sugar and pour it over the spiked cake while it is still warm out of the oven. This is the first time I have made it in a conventional oven (as opposed to a fan oven) and the lemon slices sank – this has happened with other bakes too so the next time I try a topped cake, I will be turning the fan on to see if it makes a difference…

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Lemon slices after simmering

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Ready for the oven

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For those of you who have been asking about Demerara sugar, it is a golden, raw cane, large crystal sugar, similar to Turbinado sugar. This is what BBC Food have to say about it;

This pale-coloured and mild-tasting raw cane sugar is named after its place of origin – Demerara, in Guyana – but it is now imported from various other countries, such as Jamaica, Malawi and Mauritius. It has large sparkling golden crystals and a crunchy texture. Traditionally used to sweeten coffee, it’s perfect for sprinkling but can also be used for baking, particularly in things that need extra crunchiness such as crumbles, cheesecake bases, flapjacks and biscuits.

This is what Wikipedia has to say about brown sugar;

Brown sugar is a sucrose sugar product with a distinctive brown color due to the presence of molasses. It is either an unrefined or partially refined soft sugar consisting of sugar crystals with some residual molasses content, or it is produced by the addition of molasses to refined white sugar (so-called Molasses Sugar).

Brown sugar contains from 3.5% molasses (light brown sugar) to 6.5% molasses (dark brown sugar) based on total volume. Based on total weight, regular brown sugar contains up to 10% molasses. The product is naturally moist from the hygroscopic nature of the molasses and is often labelled as “soft.” The product may undergo processing to give a product that flows better for industrial handling. The addition of dyes and/or other chemicals may be permitted in some areas or for industrial products.

And finally, this is what Wikipedia has to say about white sugar;

White refined sugar is typically sold as granulated sugar, which has been dried to prevent clumping and comes in various crystal sizes for home and industrial use:

  • Coarse-grain, such as sanding sugar (also called “pearl sugar”, “decorating sugar”, nibbed sugar or sugar nibs) is a coarse grain sugar used to add sparkle and flavor atop baked goods and candies. Its large reflective crystals will not dissolve when subjected to heat.
  • Granulated, familiar as table sugar, with a grain size about 0.5 mm across.”Sugar cubes” are lumps for convenient consumption produced by mixing granulated sugar with sugar syrup.
  •  Caster (or castor) (0.35 mm), a very fine sugar in Britain, so-named because the grains are small enough to fit through a castor, a form of sieve. Commonly used in baking and mixed drinks, it is sold as “superfine” sugar in the United States. Because of its fineness it dissolves more quickly than regular white sugar and is thus especially useful in meringues and cold liquids. Castor sugar can be prepared at home by grinding granulated sugar for a couple of minutes in a food processor.
  • Powdered, 10X sugar, confectioner’s sugar (0.060 mm), or icing sugar (0.024 mm), produced by grinding sugar to a fine powder.

Demerara Lemon Cake

  • Servings: 8 slices
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS

For the topping

  • 1 large lemon
  • 4 Tbsp water
  • 2 Tbsp demerara sugar

For the cake

  • 200 g soft unsalted butter
  • 200 g demerara sugar (I use 100g caster/superfine and 100g soft light brown)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 90 g plain flour
  • 90 g ground almonds or almond meal
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 large lemon, zested

For the syrup

  • The juice from the lemon that has been zested
  • 2 Tbsp demerara sugar

INSTRUCTIONS

For the topping

  1. Place water and sugar in a small pan.  Slice lemon thinly and add to the pan. Bring to the boil and let simmer for about 5 minutes or until most of the water has evaporated.
  2. Set aside to cool while you get the cake ready.

For the cake

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160C/ 325F and line a loaf pan with paper.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. This will take longer with demerara sugar as it is a larger crystal.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The mixture may look curdled but it will be fine once the dry ingredients are added.
  4. Combine the rest of the (dry)  ingredients in a bowl and whisk to make sure that the mixture is well blended
  5. Fold the dry ingredients into the batter with a large metal spoon to preserve as much of the air as possible.
  6. Scrape into the lined loaf tin and overlap the reserved lemon slices down the middle of the batter.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes.
  8. In the mean time, make the syrup by combing the lemon juice and sugar in a pan (I use the one I have cooked the slices in) and leave to dissolve while the cake bakes.
  9. Check the cake, using a skewer or toothpick – if it comes out clean then it is done – if there is some batter clinging to the then it will need a little  extra time.
  10. Remove the cake from the oven and spike all over with a toothpick. Pour the syrup (not all of the sugar will have dissolved) over the cake slowly and evenly.
  11. Leave to cool in the pan.
  12. Serve with a thick dollop of  yoghurt, cream fraiche or double cream and possibly some fruit such as raspberries or strawberries to make it more of a pudding course.

This damp cake keeps very well for a few days if it lasts that long.

 

 

 

 

 

Cook the Books – Roasted Cauliflower and Hazelnut Salad

 

roasted_cauliflower_and_hazlenut_saladThis recipe caught my eye the other day and I have been desperate to try it – there are still lots of gleaming white cauliflowers around as well as large glossy, ruby pomegranates too so I determined to pick both up, sooner rather than later.  I was intrigued by the ‘spicing’. It’s almost Christmasy, warm, with maple syrup, allspice and cinnamon but with the fresh flavours of sweet, slightly tart pomegranate arils (seeds), crunchy celery and  grassy parsley, perfectly complemented by the roasted hazelnuts. I made it for an impromptu lunch yesterday and  two teenagers gave it a huge thumbs up. It’s a lovely way to eat cauliflower and would be a stunning addition to the Easter table.

roasted_cauliflower_and_hazlenut_saladThis really is a fabulous recipe book, full of gorgeous flavours and so much history too. Yotam Ottolenghi also writes for the Guardian at the weekend so you can catch up with his cooking there and be amazed at some of the vitriol in the comments section – I hope he doesn’t read them – from people who are sitting on their backsides contributing nothing at all to society…

roasted_cauliflower_and_hazlenut_saladPomegranates are an ancient fruit most likely originating from Persia – modern day Iran. Also mentioned in Babylonian texts, The Book of Exodus, The Q’ran and the Homeric Hymns, their history is quite amazing – do click on the link which will take you to the Wikipedia page, if you want to know more. Incredible that one was found in the tomb of the butler to Queen Hatsheput – makes one feel quite insignificant in the grand scheme of things!

roasted_cauliflower_and_hazlenut_saladNotoriously fiddly to extract, the arils can range from sweet to sour so do taste yours to see if you need to adjust the dressing. The best way to extract the arils is to cut a fruit in half then in half again. Bend backwards slightly, to loosen then, place skin side up in a high sided bowl and paddle (whack) the leathery skin with the back of a wooden spoon. The juice does get everywhere so don’t wear white like I did! Their pith is really bitter so do pick out any stray bits that may jettison with the arils.

roasted_cauliflower_and_hazlenut_saladStrip the leaves off the cauliflower, saving the best ones for the veggie-soup-making bag in your freezer – I know you have one! Insert the point of a sturdy knife into the edge of the core at the bottom and carefully tunnel out as much of the core as you can. The florets are easy to break off then. Cut any really large ones in half and spread onto a baking sheet. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and tumble them around to coat with the oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for about half an hour ’til golden and crispy in places – I turned them halfway through.

roasted_cauliflower_and_hazlenut_saladMake the dressing while the florets are roasting – I added a little pomegranate syrup for a sharper flavour. Extract the pomegranate seeds and chop the celery and parsley. If you soak the chopped celery in a little bowl of cold water they will become super crispy – a trick I learned from my mum! When the florets are done, turn the heat down and pop the nuts in to roast. Once the nuts are done and cool enough to handle, chop coarsely then assemble and dress the salad.

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I am taking this delicious, healthy salad over to the Savouring Saturdays Linky Party – hosted by

Raia from Raia’s Recipesfacebook twitter pinterest google plus rss
Eva from Whole Food Mom On A Budgetfacebook twitter pinterest google plus rss
Danielle from It’s A Love/Love Thingfacebook twitter pinterest google plus rss
Trish from Keep the Beetfacebook twitter pinterest rss youtube

Take a look to see the fabulous recipes on offer!

Roasted Cauliflower & Hazelnut Salad

  • Servings: 4 side servings
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted slightly from Jerusalem by Ottolenghi and Tamimi

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 head of cauliflower broken up into small florets about 660g (mine was about 800g)
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil (separated)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 sticks of celery cut on an an into ½ cm slices about 70g
  • 30g hazelnuts with skins (I also used a few walnuts)
  • 10g small flat-leaf parsley – leaves only
  • 50g pomegranate seeds (about half a medium pomegranate)

Dressing

  • ⅓ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ⅓ tsp allspice
  • 1 Tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp of pomegranate syrup)
  • 1 ½ tsp maple syrup

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F
  2. Slice any really large florets in half and place on a baking tray. Drizzle over 3 Tbsp of oil over them and season with salt and pepper. Toss them about to coat in the oil, then spread out in an even layer and roast for 25 – 35 minutes, until the cauliflower is crisp and golden brown. I turned them over after 15 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl or plate to cool down.
  3. While the florets are roasting, make the dressing by mixing the ingredients together in a small bowl. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Set aside.
  4. Chop the celery on the diagonal and very coarsely chop the parsley.
  5. Turn the heat down to 170C/325F . Spread the nuts onto a baking tray and roast for about 10 to 15 minutes.  When cool enough to handle, rub off any loose skins and chop coarsely.
  6. In a large bowl, gently mix together the cauliflower, celery,  parsley and nuts. Turn onto a serving plate, drizzle with the dressing and scatter over the pomegranate seeds.
  7. Serve at room temperature.

Cook the Books – Gratin au Poisson Fumé (Smoky Fish Bake)

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I was very pleased to receive Rachel Khoo’s The Little Paris Kitchen as a gift a couple of years ago. I haven’t seen any of the TV programmes on which this book is based but I have very much enjoyed reading the recipes, exclaiming over how pretty she is and coveting her vintage yet chic vibe. It’s probably a good thing that I haven’t seen her in action as I would probably be totally besotted. Her cooking is French classic with a modern twist; simple yet flavourful and I have bookmarked quite a few of her recipes to try.

Gratin_au_Poisson_Fumé_Smoky_Fish_BakeThis recipe for a Gratin au Poisson Fumé or Smoky Fish Bake came highly recommended by my friend C who gave me the book and rightly so. Rachel Khoo’s method of making béchamel is genius – taking the roux off the heat before adding the milk has resulted in a lump-free sauce every single time.

My only protest would be at the meagre quantity of fish – it is my opinion that 200g to feed up to 6 people is so stingy as to border on the penurious. At the weekend, we were 4 for lunch and I used 320g of smoked haddock fillets and 240g of lightly smoked salmon plus about 18og of raw prawns/shrimps (but these are full of water and cook down to nothing really) and there was perhaps a small serving spoonful left in the dish at the end of the meal. Normally, I buy a 320g Fish Pie Mix from Sainsbury’s  (my Local didn’t have any so I had to improvise with the fillets), but even then I tend to add an extra couple of salmon fillets and a packet of prawns to the mix. The thought of under-catering makes me feel quite anxious!

This is a lovely dish, comforting but not heavy in the way a fish pie can be and full of those deeply savoury, smoky fish flavours which marry so well with creamy sauces. A spoonful of grain mustard is also nice stirred into the béchamel while it cools as is a little chopped tarragon. You can also prepare it ahead so that all you have to do is pop it in the oven when your guests arrive. We had the gratin with roasted beetroot and a green salad using the delicious produce from my Sutton Community Farm veg box. Rachel suggests that leftover vegetables from a roast dinner can be added to the béchamel too, but I like to keep it simple with the fish and potatoes and usually serve it with a bowl of peas and a green salad.

I have to apologise for my rather uninspiring photo of the finished dish. I had two ravenous teenagers  as well as my friend J round and I don’t think any of them would have been able to contain themselves while I got arty with food styling.  I managed to get a quick shot of it when it came out of the oven and that’s it. There wasn’t even enough leftover for me to style a plate but rather than not post it at all, I had to share as this is such a delicious recipe!

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Put the potatoes on to boil

Gratin_au_Poisson_Fumé_Smoky_Fish_BakeMake the bechamel

Gratin_au_Poisson_Fumé_Smoky_Fish_BakeMix the fish, parsley and potatoes into the béchamel, then pour into an oven safe baking dish, scatter over the cheese and tomatoes and bake. Gratin_au_Poisson_Fumé_Smoky_Fish_Bake

Gratin au Poisson Fumé (Smoky Fish Bake)

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

from The Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 750g (8-10 medium ones) potatoes, peeled and already cooked – you can use left over roast potatoes (if such a thing exists!)
  • 200g smoked haddock, skin removed (I used 320g smoked haddock; 240g lightly smoked  salmon fillets; 180g raw prawns/shrimps) or use a pack of 320g fish pie mix and a couple of salmon fillets
  • a handful of chopped parsley
  • a handful of grated cheese – use up odds and ends of cheeses like Mature Cheddar, Comté, Gruyere or Parmesan
  • a small handful of halved cherry tomatoes – my addition to the recipe

Béchamel 

  • 30 g butter
  • 30g flour
  • 500 ml milk (lukewarm – 2 mins in the microwave worked for me)
  • bay leaf
  • ½ an onion (I used a shallot)
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 clove (didn’t use)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. If you don’t have any cooked potatoes, peel the appropriate amount and cut into thirds. Place in a saucepan of cold, salted water with a couple of bay leaves. Cover and set on the hob. Turn on the heat and set a timer for 20 minutes. They should be cooked enough by then – enough to get a knife through but not falling apart. They will continue to cook in the oven. When the pan comes to a boil, turn down the heat to low and set the lid askew. Drain in a colander and set aside.
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, you can start the béchamel. Melt the butter in a large saucepan (because you are going to add the fish and potatoes to the béchamel before turning it all out into a dish) over medium heat. Add the flour and beat well until you have a smooth paste. Take off the heat and leave to cool for a couple of minutes.
  3. Gradually add the warm milk, whisking constantly. Place the pan back on a medium heat and add the onion, clove and bay leaf. Simmer for 10 minutes whisking frequently. If sauce becomes too thick, whisk in a little more milk. Finish sauce by removing the onion, clove and bay leaf; stir in the nutmeg and season with a little salt and some white pepper (or black if you are not bothered by the dark specks) Leave to cool slightly.  (If you are making this ahead, let the béchamel cool completely)
  4. Pre-heat oven to 180 C/ 350 F, unless you are making this ahead.
  5. While the béchamel is cooking and cooling, I skin and slice up the fish fillets into 1 inch cubes; slice the potatoes into 1 cm rounds; grate the cheese; halve the cherry tomatoes and chop the parsley.
  6. Add the chunks of fish and the prawns to the béchamel and mix gently. Add the potatoes and most of the parsley (reserve a little to sprinkle on at the end) and mix again.
  7. Pour into an oven safe baking dish, scatter over the cherry tomatoes and the grated cheese. At this point, as long as the béchamel is cool/cold, you can loosely cover the dish with cling film and pop it in the fridge until you are ready to cook.
  8. This mix does bubble up as it cooks so if your dish is very full, place it on a baking tray to save having to clean the oven later.
  9. Cook for 25 minutes (35 minutes if fridge cold) or until the top is golden and sauce is bubbling.
  10. Scatter over the reserved parsley and serve after the dish has had 10 minutes or so to settle.
  11. Great with a bowl of peas and a green salad.

Cook the Books – Swiss Chard with Tahini, Yoghurt and Buttered Pine Nuts

Swiss_Chard_with_Tahini,_Yoghurt_and_Buttered_Pine_Nuts If you have read my profile  you may recall that I learned to bake in Canada by reading magazines and that I learned to cook in England by reading books. I started cooking with Margaret Costa’s Four Seasons Cookery Book and Marcella Hazan’s The Classic Italian Cookbook. Both taught me to shop and eat in season and I haven’t looked back. I now have a rather large collection of cookbooks which I have amassed over the years, some from joining a book club (a mistake) many from scouring second hand bookshops and others that I have received as gifts. I have many tried, tested and loved recipes from these books which I make over and over again. I also have some newer books from which I haven’t had the chance to make anything. I thought that it would be rather nice to start a regular post to  feature recipes which I have cooked from my embarrassingly extensive collection, noting any changes or suggestions along the way and this is the first of the Cook the Books series.

If you have a favourite cookbook or recipe from one, please do drop me a line in the comments box below. It’s always a pleasure to discover new recipes.

The other day, I noticed beautiful bunches of leafy dark green Swiss Chard at my local greengrocers which looked as though they belonged in a vase. Without knowing what I was going to do with them, I snatched up a bunch to bring home.  On my way back, I remembered that Ottolenghi had a few recipes for Swiss Chard in his book, Jerusalem and I was pleased to find that I had most of the ingredients in for this particular dish.

Swiss_Chard_with_Tahini,_Yoghurt_and_Buttered_Pine_Nuts

Swiss_Chard_with_Tahini,_Yoghurt_and_Buttered_Pine_Nuts

I have made this recipe for Swiss Chard with Tahini, Yoghurt and Buttered Pine Nuts three times now and it is absolutely delicious. The balance of sharp from the wine, green from the leaves, creamy, garlicky umami from the tahini  with the juicy stems and crunchy pine nuts is  simply divine. The last time I made it, I served the chard as a side to roasted salmon fillets which I had doused in a mixture of harissa, cumin seeds and lemon juice. It was the perfect girlie supper for me and my friend who gave me this book at Christmas!

Swiss chard is nature’s own two-for-one bargain. There are the dark green, deeply veined  leaves and the crisp, juicy white (or brightly coloured) stalks both of which need slightly different cooking times. They are easy to prepare – you start by filling the sink with water so that they can be easily cleaned of the grit and dirt that may have accumulated on them. Then, trim a little off the ends of the stalks and cut them out to separate them from the leaves. Swish both about in the water and then leave them in the sink for any grit or dirt to settle on the bottom. Then they are ready to be scooped out, sliced and used as needed with the stalks needing a couple of minutes more cooking time. The leaves can also be blanched and stuffed just like cabbage leaves and of course they are excellent in quiches and pies.

Swiss_Chard_with_Tahini,_Yoghurt_and_Buttered_Pine_Nuts

Tahini, yoghurt and garlic sauce

Swiss_Chard_with_Tahini,_Yoghurt_and_Buttered_Pine_Nuts

Swiss_Chard_with_Tahini,_Yoghurt_and_Buttered_Pine_Nuts

Swiss Chard with Tahini, Yoghurt and Buttered Pine Nuts

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

from Jerusalem by Ottolenghi and Tamimi

INGREDIENTS

  • 1.3 kg Swiss Chard
  • 40 g unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil plus extra to serve
  • 40 g pine nuts
  • 2 small garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 60ml dry white wine (I used stock the first time but it is much better with the wine reduction)
  • sweet paprika to garnish (I forgot this!)
  • salt and black pepper

Tahini and Yoghurt Sauce

  • 50g light tahini paste
  • 50g greek yoghurt (I used 0% fat)
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 garlic glove, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp water

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Trim 1 cm off the bottom of the stalks and discard. Fill the sink with cold water. Cut out the thick wide central stalks and place these and the green leaves in sink to remove any traces of grit.
  2. Fill the kettle and put it on to boil.
  3. Make up the sauce by combining all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisking until the sauce is smooth and semi stiff. Set aside.
  4. When the water boils, fill  deep saucepan with it, cover and set on the hob to come to a boil again.
  5. Remove the stalks from the sink and slice into 2 cm pieces.  Do the same with the green leaves. Keep them in separate piles.
  6. Place the stems in the boiling water and set the timer for two minutes. Then add the leaves, which you may have to force under the water, for one minute. Drain and rinse well under cold water. Drain and use your hands to squeeze the chard until it is quite dry.
  7. Heat 2 Tbsp of oil and half the butter in a large frying pan, over a medium heat. Add the pine nuts and toss in the pan until golden which should take about 2 minutes. They burn quickly so keep an eye on them. Remove using a slotted spoon and set aside.
  8. Now add the garlic to the pan and cook for about a minute until golden.
  9. Carefully pour in the wine – it will spit! Leave it to reduce to about ⅓ which should take a minute or so.
  10. Add the chard and the rest of the butter and toss to heat through and get coated in the the buttery, garlicky juices for  a two or three minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  11. Place in a serving bowl, top with a little sauce,  the pine nuts and a sprinkle of paprika. Drizzle with a little EVOO and serve with  additional sauce  in a separate bowl.