Spicy Sea Bass on a Basmati and Quinoa Bed

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A Perfect Summer Supper or lunch for two!

INGREDIENTS – for two

2 Sea bass fillets 

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

125 gm quinoa

125 gms brown basmati rice

6 baby plum tomatoes

1 clove garlic chopped

A small bunch of basil and stalks

1 level tsp each of thyme,rosemary and oregano

Pinch or two of dried crushed red chilli -up to you how much heat you like!

Handful of grated parmesan

Rock salt and black pepper

A splash of olive oil and a tbsp of  balsamic vinegar

METHOD

In a small pan add the garlic, dried herbs, the basil stalks chopped and the crushed red chilli… and then the olive oil. Heat gently. Once it just starts to fizz a little, take off the heat, let it cool a little and add the tomatoes, tinned and fresh. Bring to a gentle simmer, add the balsamic vinegar, stir and leave with a lid on for about 15 minutes.

Heat the oven to 160c. 

Then cook the quinoa and brown basmati rice as per the instructions. Drain and put to one side when cooked. (You might want to do this first before the sauce if the basmati takes a while.)

In a shallow oven proof dish, scatter some torn basil leaves

Pour over the sauce. Pop the fillets on top. Season the fish with a little rock salt and pepper, then sprinkle over the grated parmesan and a few more torn basil leaves. Cover loosely with a sheet of tin foil.

Then slide it into the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Gently, with a fish slice, remove the sea bass fillets and pop on a warm plate.

Mix the quinoa and basmati rice into the sauce, then replace the fish, skin removed.

Serve and enjoy!

It’s a cracker and very, very tasty.

 

 

 

 

 

A Stunning Balsamic to beat all Balsamics!

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If you have only ever bought balsamic vinegar from your supermarket and think you know what a good one tastes like – forget it! This balsamic comes from Modena and is made by agriturismo San Polo using only organic lambrusco grapes, then aged in ash casks for 5 years. If you want to know more go to emiliadelizia.com

Be adventurous with how you use your balsamic. This one is so beautiful on the palate that you could almost drink it! It has a fabulous taste almost a cross between honey and a velvety sherry. Stunning! The aroma has no sharpness or acid notes.

I have used it so far in a number of ways.

The first thing I made was an aubergine side dish that is an ideal accompaniment to all meats or fish dishes. Great too on its own cold.

Warm Aubergine Salad in Balsamic Vinegar

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Cube an aubergine and pan fry it lightly in olive oil. You may need to add a little more oil early on with the aubergines. As it browns add a finely chopped clove of garlic, a deseeded chopped fresh red chilli and a handful of san marzano tomatoes – or any good baby toms will do. Continue to stir and as the tomatoes begin to soften add a handful of any mushrooms of your choice, quartered – I used chestnut mushrooms this time. Add a little sea salt and a grind of black pepper.

After about 20 minutes on a low to medium heat add a good splash of the balsamic vinegar – about two tablespoons. Bring the heat up and once it begins to bubble,, turn the heat right down low and leave for about another 20 minutes. The resulting dish is a marvellous combination of flavours enriched by the balsamic vinegar and, served warm, it is one of the best vegetable dishes there can be! Crusty bread is essential to mop up any of the unctuous juices!

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I have also used this product to enliven one of my favourite greens – park choi. Once you have separated all the leaves, add to an oiled wok and after a couple of minutes add a tablespoon of the balsamic and toss gently. Magical!

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And it is simply divine with pan fried fruit! The other night I pan fried pears and nectaries, halved in butter and  little brown sugar. After 15 minutes I drizzled each one with balsamic and left it for half an hour to marinate over a warm heat. The vinegar lifts out all the flavours and intensifies them wonderfully. All you need to serve them is a little mascarpone or crème fraîche.

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IMG_5681 A perfect end to any meal, enhanced by blissful balsamic

RED PEPPERS WITH GORGONZOLA

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PERFECT PEPPERS 

FOR 6

3 large red peppers, halved and deseeded

1 tbsp olive oil

200 gm gorgonzola cut into cubes – roughly 2 per pepper half (if poss. get the dolce not the piccante gorgonzola..

To dress

Juice of 1 lemon

1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

Small bunch of flat leaf parsley chopped

3 tbsps olive oil

Balsamic to drizzle over – I use crema di balsamico – a balsamic glaze

Heat a large frying pan – brush the pepper halves with olive oil inside and out. Pop them in the hot pan cut side down for 5 minutes or so. Turn them over and add 2 pieces of cheese to each one. Leave to cook for a further 10 minutes. Pop the pan then under a hot grill to finish off melting the cheese for about 2 minutes – keep an eye on them!

For the dressing – combine all the ingredients well in a bowl. Arrange the peppers in bowls – drizzle over a little of the dressing and then finish off with a squiggle of the balsamic glaze.

This is a fabulously simple Italian starter from the pages of Gino D’acampo – only tinkered with slightly! You could also use taleggio cheese like Gino…though I have to say the walnuts in the dressing combine mellifluously with the gorgonzola.

It is a surprisingly filling dish too when served with a slice or two of a good rustic bread to mop up the juices. It would be a great lunch dish on its own.

Pollo all’aceto balsamico…

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Chicken with Lardons, Garlic, Thyme and Balsamic Vinegar

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I saw this being cooked on a fabulous t.v. programme by the Italian cook, Gino D’acampo and knew instantly that I had to give it a go. It is simple and the flavours are beyond mere words doing them any justice! I cooked it last Friday, starting at 6.30 pm and we sat down to eat at 8.15pm  – perfect. You could use pancetta instead of lardons. The original recipe calls for asparagus in the salad but it is out of season now, so I went for two greens that complimented each other harmoniously.

For 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
4 chicken drumsticks, bone in and skin on  I just went for the thighs but if you are hungry…do both!
200g smoked lardons, diced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
A few fresh thyme sprigs
150ml white wine
300ml chicken or vegetable stock
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

For the salad

100 gm of young purple sprouting broccoli
100 gm of sliced green beans

200g cherry tomatoes, quartered
A few fresh flat leaf parsley leaves – I used fresh basil leaves instead as I had no parsley!
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan with a lid or a casserole dish. Put the chicken pieces in the pan skin-side down and fry for 5–7 minutes until the skin is golden brown and really crispy. Season with salt and pepper. Turn the chicken over, season the skin and add the pancetta. Cook for a minute before adding the garlic and thyme. The lardons should be almost crispy when done.

Deglaze the pan with the white wine, scraping up all the caramelized bits from the bottom of the pan. Allow the alcohol to bubble for a minute, then add the stock. Cover the pan and simmer gently for 1 hour, adding more stock if the contents of the pan become dry.

While the chicken is cooking, par boil the beans for 6 minutes and remove from pan and drain – pop the broccoli into boiling water for just about 4 minutes until the stems are al dente – so you can just pierce them with a knife. Drain these too. Rinse beans and broc in cold water. Leave to one side – 20 minutes before the chicken is ready pop the broccoli, beans, tomatoes, basil leaves, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil into a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper then toss everything together. Leave to stand.

When the chicken is cooked, remove it from the heat – the sauce should have reduced and thickened. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, return the pan to the heat for 1 minute to warm the sauce, then serve the chicken and sauce with the scrumptious salad.

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This is simply….fantastico! A dish with a wow factor – the salad is such a marvellous change from usual chicken accompaniments and the delectability of the sauce in the chicken dish is remarkable.

Buon appetito!

Salmonchanted Sunday…!

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Salmonchanted Sunday...!

I think I may have used that gag before but hey…I’m only human. This is nothing special as such – in so far as it is ridiculously easy to compile but, my wordy word, it is stomach-fillingly marvellous and toothsome in the extreme. I was cognisant of the fact that we had not consumed much fish of late, so, today was the day to put that right in a very easy way. I already have two ham hocks simmering away for tonight’s supper – more of which later – I can smell them from where I sit in front of my log burner and goodness me do they smell fabulous. Anyway, back to lunch, I chopped up 4 freshly cooked and cooled beetroot and added two or three splashes of a French shop bought vinaigrette as I was desperate to eat! The French ones are always so much better than anything one can buy here. (I love making my own but I was on a mission to eat asap)

In a dish I broke up three hot smoked fillets of salmon and added my own mesclun – mizuna, rocket (arugula), endive. Then a swirl of lemon balsamic creme to round off. A poppy seed baguette from our bakers and a few baby plum toms and hey billy whizz…lunch!

Food need not be complicated or expensive – just good quality ingredients and an eye to keep it simple.

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Let there be light lunches!

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Just in case you missed this last time round…and I’m going to have this for lunch today I think!!

From Alfredo's With Love

Let there be light lunches!

The last few days as my stomach returns to normal and the gastric juices flow more calmly, the order of the day has been for light lunches – and yesterdays was a typical one in our household. A good buffalo mozzarella from a local farm – Laverstock, which has its own magnificent buffaloes and produces all sorts of amazing products, including buffalo ice cream! – sharing a plate with my favourite tomatoes – baby san manzarnos, a variety of salad leaves including chard, escarole, red oak leaf and baby beet greens with a drizzle of balsamic crema al limone, a little rock salt and a grind of black pepper. Then just a simple platter of porchetta from Modena in Italy and some more serrano ham. My kids also adore fennel so we try to always have slices of those on such a table with a little lemon juice and olive…

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The root of beauty…

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The root of beauty...

This wonderful rendition of the oft overlooked beetroot is by Bonnie Lalley and is the second in a series of joint ventures between us. I was brought up on pickled beetroot and it accompanied so many dishes in our house, from my mother’s succulent steak and mushroom pie to Lancashire Hot Pot to more frugal suppers of cheese or pork pie. It added an often much needed splash of colour to some otherwise overcast meals. Its deep scarlet hue always made me feel that here was something exotic in deepest, darkest Manchester – and yet it grew on all the allotments around without me then realising.

It is related to the splendidly named mangel-wurzel, used for animal feed, and the flavoursome veg, chard. And this root of joy has been around since the Greeks – Theophrastus referred to the cultivation of it 300 years before the birth of Christ in his botanical writings. It is descended from sea beet, a wild seashore plant, which grows around the shores of the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts of Europe and North Africa.

In the 16th century it was referred to as Beta Roman in cookery writing. In 1699, it was said that thin red slices of the boiled red beetroot were ‘ a grateful winter Sallet.’ In the same tome, by John Evelyn – ‘A Discourse on Sallets’, he noted that it was ‘by the French and Italians contriv’d into curious figures to adorn their Sallets.‘  Now there’s a challenge for you all!

The luxuriant deep purply red colour is due to the mixture of a purple pigment, betacyanin, and a yellow one, betaxanthin. And it stains incredibly well, as my mother used to remind me over and over again, lest I ever spilt any on her newly ironed tablecloth!

The leaves of this root – beetroot tops – are also now used more and more in salads and they are both a thing of beauty and also very, very tasty. They are also stuffed full of marvellous minerals and vitamins. Beetroot is a great source of fibre and folic acid. Olympians drink gallons of beetroot juice I am told.

This is truly one adorable vegetable. And Bonnie’s painting captures the royalty wrapped up in this remarkable root.

And so to finish – a recipe that shows it off to its best.

Roast Beetroot with Goat’s Cheese & Balsamic Vinegar

For 4

12 baby beetroots or 6 larger chaps
Sea salt and black pepper
Olive oil – the best you have
Balsamic vinegar
175 gm goat’s cheese
Handful of beetroot leaves – small ones
A good portion of rocket leaves

Bring your oven up to 230c. Wrap the beets in foil and roast for about 45 minutes to an hour for large ones – or 30 minutes for baby beets. In any case they need to be soft enough for a knife to go through them easily.

Once they have cooled rub the skins off and either keep whole if small or halve then or quarter the big ones if using. Toss in the olive oil.

Scatter your rocket and beetroot leaves on a serving plate.
Arrange the warmed beetroot on the leaves and drizzle with balsamic vinegar and a little more olive oil. Pop a slice of goat’s cheese by each piece of beetroot and grind over some sea salt and black pepper.

Serve with more balsamic vinegar to taste and warm crusty bread.

Nothing vulgar about beta vulgaris.

It is the Queen of the root world.

A fab fajitas for a wet Wednesday….

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A fab fajitas for a wet Wednesday....

The day began well…pink sun rise, apple soft clouds..then around 2pm the heavens opened and a gentle melancholia set in…could the summer really have fled? Is this the beginning of autumn? Chills ran down my spine for the first time since March…I have already begun dreaming about next summer and where to escape to. Enough! Time to make a culinary mental gear shift…stop with the salads and the ozone infused paellas…time to get the autumnal hard hat on and make with the dishes that will sustain us through until the time when we can emerge from the English winter and sally forth to heat laden lands. But for the time being – let’s start thinking end of summer fare. And this simple supper dish this evening was just right for the frame of mind I found myself in. Memories of the dying summer, coupled with the heat and smoke of the on coming solstice fires.

And it felt healthy too.

Ingredients

4 chicken fillets cut into strips
For the marinade – a tbsp of balsamic vinegar, a sprinkle of fennel seeds, cumin seeds, dried thyme and a dash of hot smoky paprika, a little rock salt

A quarter of an iceberg lettuce shredded finely
4 spring onions chopped finely
12 baby plum tomatoes halved
Quarter of a cucumber finely chopped
Red or green jalapeños
4 slices of parma ham
4 tortilla wraps
Olive oil

Pop all the marinade ingredients in a shallow bowl and then add the chicken pieces – coat in the wonderfully unctuous sauce and leave for around 30 minutes to an hour.
Mix the shredded lettuce in a bowl with the spring onions, cucumber and tomatoes.

Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a wok or large frying pan – add the chicken fillets once the oil is hot and sizzle for a good 10 minutes until cooked. 

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Add the slices of parma ham, whole to the pan, gently. Let them just start to crisp.

Warm the tortillas in a small frying pan and pop one on each plate. Share out the salad mic between each wrap – then add the chicken and top with the parma ham. I then added several slices of red jalapeños because I like the heat….serve open with a range of sauces and chutneys.

This is so simple and yet so mouth-fillingly sumptuous.

And as always, you can play with it how you will…adding other ingredients that are lolling around the fridge or cupboard – be creative!

Radish fetish….

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Radish fetish....

Catching up on myself here…been a silly busy week, so much so that i have barely been able to lift glass to lips before I have nodded off some nights. So…before tonight’s proper post – i.e. what I have just eaten..here is a look back at food I have prepared since my last post – though to be honest Monday and Tuesday slipped into the vortex of knackerdness so nothing was cooked – I think I had a takeaway on Monday night ..and last night I just nibbled as I got in so late. But I do remember Sunday and I do remember getting intimate with a delightful bowl of radishes. They simply glimmered and shone as I put them in a dish with a silky balsamic cream glaze and simply picked at them accompanied by an over friendly white wine. I then roasted an organic chicken stuffed with butter and greek basil and garlic. I served this with baby pak choi steamed lightly, very very lightly…and tomatoes pan fried in garlic and rosemary. I poured over a little of the jus too… and if the meal had been a woman and I was single I would have asked it to marry me, it was that fine.

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Then, just because it was one of those days, I pan fried some cheeky plums in butter and muscovado sugar and for the last two minutes I drizzled over more than a fair share of damson liqueur.

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It was this side of ambrosia…..a very delightful meal…..am just listening to Lady Gaga in the background and she is singing that heart-stoppingly beautiful song, Edge of Glory…sort of described how I felt during that meal.

Pollo Balsamico…

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Pollo Balsamico...

Sometimes, I think folk who write cookery magazines can be a little lazy. I have found several recipes, which. if you followed them to the letter would be either rather dull, or even quite tasteless. I like Jamie Oliver a lot, but I sometimes feel, probably like the great painters, many of the recipes have not had his ‘touch’, but one of his minions – someone who is probably trying to fill a space in the mag or beat a deadline.

Anyway – moan over. One of these recipes, I have ‘fiddled with’ and I think it now tastes better than when I originally tried it! In essence it is simple – but success hinges on the use of good ingredients – especially the tomatoes. Too many tasteless ones out there! Beware!

So, last night’s supper went something like this….

For this recipe you need:

500 gm really tasty toms – I used some baby plums and some organic vine wallahs.
2 courgettes – halved lengthways and then cut into threes.
150 gm sourdough or soda bread torn into chunks.
Small bunch fresh thyme leaves stripped off the stalk.
8 free range chicken thighs, skin on and bone in- fine for 4
Olive oil / 5 tablespoons of good balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 190C

Mix the courgettes, tomatoes, bread, thyme, some salt and black pepper in a large bowl. Leave to one side.

Pan fry the thighs skin down in olive oil on a highish heat until the skin browns and crisps a little. 2- 3 minutes should be dandy.

Add them to the bowl with the other ingredients plus the balsamic and a good drizzle of olive oil. Then tip into a large roasting tray. Ensure the thighs are skin side up. Drizzle a little more olive oil – ensure the courgettes get a good dowsing.

Put it in the oven for one hour. Check half way through – baste it a little and add a tad more oil if it looks a little too sticky. But that stickiness is half of what you want! Cook til the chicken is nice and crispy and the toms are squishy and the courgettes nicely roasted. Do not be tempted to put foil over it at any stage! It ends up steaming things and spoils the show!

I served it with a green salad. And a big shiraz….A good dish – and a simple one.
And one that balsamic was made for.