Sunday, 24 February 2008

Seared Pollack Fillet with Caramelised Onions

Yet another recipe from Andreas Viestad's, Kitchen of Light book.
Pollack is a fish that's in season at the moment so it proved a perfect time to use it in this delicious recipe. With cod being a threatened fish, the British public are being urged to try pollack as an alternative, and I can say that nobody would be disappointed with this fish. It's flesh is white and firm, yet flaky and has a clean taste of the sea, not too dissimilar to cod or haddock.
This recipe calls for fish that has its skin left on, but as I bought mine from the supermarket, it had been stripped of its natural covering by a well-meaning fishmonger – why do they do this? Often the skin is essential to imparting a full flavour and not only that, but it turns tantalisingly crispy when seared. Still, my rather naked fillets did manage to stand up well to the gorgeous caramelised onions – the sweetness is perfectly balanced with the clean fresh-tasting pollack.
The onions can be made in advance too and warmed through later.
I served the dish with some simply boiled new potatoes tossed in butter and some chopped flat-leaved parsley and young leaf spinach.

Serves 4

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 large yellow onions, cut into third inch slices
2 teaspoons sugar
2 whole cloves
one, 1 and a half pound pollack fillet, skin on, cut into 4 equal pieces
fine sea salt
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2 to 3 tablespoons bacon fat or butter
freshly ground black pepper

Heat the butter in a large skillet over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 10 minutes, tossing the onions around every one in a while. Add the sugar and cloves and cook for 15 more minutes over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, brown, and sweet. Keep warm over low heat.

Meanwhile, soak the fish in iced water  for 15 to 20 minutes, or place it in a colander in the sink under cold running water for 15 to 20 minutes. Pat the fish dry with paper towels.

Rub the fillets with salt and dredge them in the flour. Heat the bacon fat or butter in a large non-stick skillet. Add the fish, skin side up and cook for 1 minute, then turn and cook for 5 to 7 minutes more until flaky.

Remove the cloves from the onions and discard. Distribute the onions among four plates, place the fish on top, season with pepper and serve.
Photo taken from the book
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Saturday, 23 February 2008

Roast Dill-Scented Chicken with Leeks and Potatoes

As promised, I have made a recipe from the book, Kitchen of Light, by Andreas Viestad.
This is one of my latest additions to the kitchen library and contains some beautiful Scandinavian dishes, mainly from Norway. Nearly every page features stunning photography of the food and countryside, which proves to be very inspiring. In addition to the visual delights, the author shares some interesting insights from his homeland – memories of childhood, historical and geographical facts besides well written recipes.
This dish uses copious amounts of dill, a herb which grows prolifically in the wild, throughout Scandinavia. Don't be put off by the huge quantity, as the end result produces quite a subtle yet fragrant flavour and the use of butter keeps the chicken flesh succulent.

Serves 4

One 4-pound free-range chicken

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

½ cup (1dl) chopped dill, plus 1 large bunch fresh dill 

1 lemon, quartered

5 to 6 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, thoroughly washed and cut into 2-inch pieces

1½  pounds (3/4kg) russet potatoes, cut into 1-inch slices

8 garlic cloves, unpeeled

3 cups (7dl) chicken stock

Fresh dill for garnish
Lemon wedges and grated lemon zest for garnish

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Rub the chicken with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, combine the butter and chopped dill. Rub the chicken with about 2 tablespoons of the dill butter. Carefully lift up the skin from the chicken breasts at the cavity, using your fingers or a blunt knife to loosen the skin; be careful not to tear it. Insert about 1 tablespoon of the dill butter under the skin of the breast and make sure that the skin covers the meat when you are done. Refrigerate the remaining butter. Fill the cavity of the chicken with the lemon quarters and the bunch of dill.

Place the chicken breast side up on a V-shaped rack in a roasting pan. Place the roasting pan on the middle oven rack and roast the chicken for 25 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the oven and rub with about 1 tablespoon of the dill butter, holding the butter in your fingers. When most of the butter has melted and you are at risk of burning your fingers, place the remaining lump on the breast of the chicken.

Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Fill the pan with the leeks, potatoes, and garlic and add the chicken stock. Turn the chicken breast side down and place it in the roasting pan. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Return the roasting pan to the oven and roast for 50 to 60 more minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Test for doneness by piercing it with a sharp knife at the thickest part of the thigh; the juices should run clear. (If there is any trace of pink in the juices, return the chicken to the oven.) Transfer the chicken to a carving board and let it rest, uncovered, for 15 minutes.

Check the potatoes for doneness. If they are still firm, increase the oven temperature to 400°F and continue baking until the potatoes are nice and tender. Squeeze the garlic out of their skins. Leave the roasting pan in the oven with the heat turned off. 
Transfer the potatoes, leeks, and garlic to a serving platter. Carve the chicken at the table (discard the lemon and dill inside the cavity).

Garnish with dill and lemon wedges and sprinkle lemon zest on top.

DILL is one Scandinavia's favourite herbs, one that grows willingly in the cool Nordic climate. Historically, it has been important in traditional herbal medicine; dill water was used to soothe children. 
In fact, the name dill is of Nordic origin, dilla meaning "to lull" in Old Norse.

Photo taken from the book

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Sunday, 10 February 2008

Trout Fillets with Roasted Beetroot and Horseradish & Dill Sauce

More often than not, beetroot is presented in the worst possible way in our British shops. It's either incarcerated in a tight fitting plastic wrap, precooked, soggy and tasteless or floating around in a jar surrounded by a vicious, mouth-puckering acid purporting to be vinegar.
It's not surprising then, that most people loathe this much abused root vegetable.
Beetroot can be quite pleasant if treated with some respect in the kitchen, so naturally I was excited to see fresh bunched ones on sale.

Inspired by the Scandinavian approach to using beetroot, I conjured up a dish that has all the right Nordic elements to create something not only delicious, but a joy to look at as well. There's something wonderful about the gorgeous deep carmine coloured juice that almost bleeds from the roots and stains everything in its path.

Serves 2

For the beetroot
olive oil
500g fresh beetroot
1 teaspoon heather honey
half teaspoon caraway seeds
fews sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce
2 tablespoons plain greek yoghurt
1 tablespoon double cream
2 teaspoons horseradish sauce
2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped

For the trout
2 thick trout fillets, skin on
smoked sea salt, black pepper and lemon rub*
olive oil

Preheat the oven to Gas 5.
Wash, trim and quarter the beetroot and place in a baking dish with a drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle with caraway seeds, thyme and season with salt and pepper, then drizzle over the honey. Add a splash of water, cover the dish with tinfoil and put in the oven for about an hour until the beetroot is tender.

To make the sauce, mix all the the ingredients in a bowl until combined.

Take the trout and rub a small amount of oil on to the skin and then sprinkle on some of the rub and massage in.
Heat a large non-stick frying pan and add a small drop of olive oil, then place in the fish, skin side down and fry gently over a medium heat until the skin becomes crispy and the fish is cooked half way through. Now turn over the fillets and cook for a minute or so more.

Pile the hot beetroot on to plates, place the fish on top and spoon over the sauce.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Reunited with an Old Friend

For a while now, I have felt a sense of loss. The one and only cookery book that I owned, when we first moved into a flat of our very own, had for one reason or another been lost to either the charity shop, or worse, the rubbish bin.

The book in question was The Josceline Dimbleby Collection, a good selection of recipes from the Sainbury cookbooks. 

When I left home, my Mum gave it to me to start my personal kitchen library. Both she and I had cooked several recipes from it, testing them out on my Dad and my sister. It was a brilliant book for me as a young homemaker wanting to explore different types of cooking. In fact, one of the recipes featured from another book my Mum had in the kitchen cupboard, made a tempting birthday treat for my boyfriend's 18th. I gave him Persian Honey cakes, presented, probably slightly indelicately, squashed into a Tupperware box.
Although we suffered some teasing from our college mates, it must have been a good gift, because my boyfriend is now my husband!

As to the loss of my favourite recipes, I used to copy them on to a piece of paper, store them in a file and get rid of the book. Then, when I got my laptop I transferred them to it, but stupidly didn't backup my files, so when my computer decided to die, I lost them - very stupid, I know.

I had been searching everywhere to find the book, but as it's now out of print, it seems to go for a silly high price, then just by luck, my husband found it for 50 pence at our local second hand bookshop. It doesn't even look like it's been used, mine was dog-eared and food-stained.
I'm so happy now and I still can't believe that I've got it back!

With warm feelings of nostalgia I shall be revisiting those 80s recipes – Persian Honey Cakes, Golden Christmas Cake, Glazed Goose with Apples, Ginger & Green Chilies, Roast Pheasant with Apples & Fennel, Breast of Chicken Coriander, Honey Pork with Rosemary & Raisin Stuffing, Golden Duck with Lychee Sauce, Cinnamon Chicken with Sweet Onion Sauce, Cardamom Fish Curry, and Turkey Balls with Lemon & Cardamom.
I may even attempt some of the dishes that I overlooked or was too apprehensive to make, all those years ago!

Pan-roasted Venison with Creamy Baked Potato and Celeriac

Celeriac is something I'd always wanted to try, and as it's in season at the moment, one of the knobbly roots fell into my shopping basket, this week.
To be sure that I gave it the right treatment, I consulted my cookbooks for some professional advice, and Jamie Oliver's new book, Jamie at Home – Cook Your Way to the Good Life, offered something appealing. I already had some venison in the freezer, from a previous bargain buy, and it gave me the chance to use some fresh-picked rosemary and sage from the garden.

The recipe proved to be a success, was easy to follow and produced a fantastic meal.

Well that's enough of me . . . over to you, Jamie!

Venison is a fantastic lean dark meat. You can swap the celeriac for parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes or even fennel, but you must keep the ratio of potatoes in there so it tastes delish.

Serves 4

50g butter, melted, plus a couple of extra knobs
1kg potatoes peeled
1 small celeriac, peeled and halved
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
500ml double cream
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
half a small bunch of fresh sage, leaves picked and roughly chopped
100g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
10 juniper berries, crush with the side of a knife
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves picked
1kg venison loin in one fat piece, trimmed
olive oil
1 bulb garlic, unpeeled and smashed, papery skin removed
a wineglass of good-quality red wine, like Pinot Noir

Preheat your oven to 180C / 350F / Gas 4 and butter a large shallow baking dish. Slice the potatoes and celeriac into discs just under 0.5cm thick. Place the slices into a large pan, cover with cold water, season with salt and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, then drain in a colander and allow the veg to steam dry for a minute or so. Put back into the pan with the cream, chopped garlic, sage, half the Parmesan and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Mix together, then tip into the buttered baking dish and spread out evenly. Pour any mixture left in the pan over the top. Sprinkle over the remaining Parmesan, cover tightly with tinfoil and cook in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown.

Chop your juniper berries and rosemary, add a pinch of salt and pepper, then sprinkle over a board. Rub the venison all over with olive oil before rolling it across the board and pressing it into the flavourings. Heat an ovenproof frying pan over a high heat and add a glug of olive oil. Sear the venison for a couple of minutes on all sides. then remove the pan from the heat. Add the smashed garlic bulb and any left over flavourings from the chopping board. Shake everything together, pour in a splash of water to cool things down and place in the oven. Cook according to your liking.

When the potatoes are cooked, take them out of the oven, remove the tinfoil and sprinkle over the remaining Parmesan. Return the dish to the oven, uncovered and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes until bubbling and golden.

Take the venison out of the oven and let it rest on a plate, covered loosely with foil. Pour away any excess fat. Squash the garlic cloves with a form and discard the skins. Mix the garlic with the herbs in the pan and place on the heat. Pour in the red wine, simmer until it has reduced by half and then add the butter. Stir with a wooden spoon, scraping up all the sticky meaty goodness from the bottom. As soon as the sauce comes together, take the pan off the heat, correct the seasoning and stir in another knob of butter. Carve the venison into 1cm thick slices. Pour any resting juices from the plate back into the pan, then pour your gravy through a sieve over the meat and serve with the potato and celeriac bake.
Photos taken from the book

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