Pan fried sea bream with bacon and samphire crushed new potatoes

I absolutely adore sea bream- firm yet tender, meaty yet delicate, it ticks all the boxes for flavour in my book. Fish is almost always best treated simply to let it shine without being taken over by the accompanying ingredients. I have teamed the bream with marsh samphire, which is now readily available. Samphire needs little done with it to add a wonderful saltiness; it can be steamed, roasted or pan fried to perfection.

‘Bacon as well as samphire?!’ I hear you cry! ‘Absolutely’ says I! Don’t think that the bacon and samphire will create a thirst inducing meal, it simply isn’t so. I used a lightly smoked back bacon which is tossed in with the potatoes at the last minute. If you like, consider replacing the bacon with other sea vegetables. Another word: Jersey Royal potatoes are currently in season in the UK and are simply wonderful so do use them whilst you get the opportunity.

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Ingredients- serves 2
2 fillets of sea bream- skin on
Salt and pepper to season
60g butter
200g jersey royal potatoes
100g samphire- rinsed well
2 rashers of smoked back bacon- roughly cut

1. Before you get cracking on the fish itself, boil a kettle of water and cook the potatoes. Most average sized new potatoes take around 15-20 minutes but this will also depend on the size. Test if they are cooked with a knife, drain well and set aside.

2. Meanwhile take two pans; one that is suitable for the fish so this needs to be a non- stick frying pan ideally and one that can be used for frying the bacon. Sea bream fillets will take around 5-6 minutes so I simply pan fry with 20g of butter (and a glug of oil if you like as well). Season the skin side of the fish with salt and pepper before frying skin side down for 3 minutes until golden. Flip the fish onto the other side and season before cooking for a further 2-3 minutes until cooked through. I used a spoon to baste the fish with the melted butter in the pan throughout the cooking.

3. At the same time this is all going on, heat a knob of butter in the second pan. Pop in the bacon pieces and samphire. Take the drained potatoes and lightly crush them with a masher or spoon before adding to the pan. Keep as much butter as you want (or need) to work its way through the potatoes. Now is not the time to worry about the diet! That can wait! When the bacon is crisped, the samphire soft and the potatoes warm, divide between two plates. Carefully remove the bream from the pan and place on top of the bed of potatoes. Serve immediately.

Pan fried sea bream with bacon and samphire crushed potatoes- savour every bite of this wonderfully simple yet elegant dinner!

 

 

Ham hock, leek and mustard ‘macaroni’ bake

Now let’s start with the name of this dish- ham hock, leek and mustard macaroni bake. If you look at the photo you will see that, indeed, I have not used macaroni but instead riccioli (I used Rummo’s version which you can find at www.pastarummo.it) which lends itself to holding a creamy cheese or vegetable sauce however the name ‘macaroni bake’ was sure to grab your attention so now you are reading you may as well continue…

Ham hock is everywhere these days and ready cooked hocks are easy to get hold of so treat yourself to one for this recipe. Of course, if you fancy cooking your own you have so many options for the leftovers- think pea and ham hock soup on a chilly evening for example or (and more probable) make twice the amount of this pasta bake and indulge for dinner and lunch the following day!

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Ingredients- serves 2
250g riccioli
30g unsalted butter
30g plain flour
1 tbsp dijon mustard
300ml milk
300ml double cream
1 small to medium leek- washed and shredded
100g ham hock- shredded
Liberal amounts of parmesan
50g panko crumbs

1. Start off by preheating the oven to 200c/180fan. Boil a pan of water and cook the riccioli as per the packet instructions. Drain when it is al dente and set aside. Take a medium pan and heat the butter and flour together over a medium heat. Continue to stir whilst the butter combines with the flour and slowly pour in the milk and cream. I mix the milk and cream together before using to make this even easier. Gradually pour in the milk and keep on stirring to avoid lumps! When all the milk and cream has been added bring to the boil before lowering to a gentle simmer and cook until thickened.

2. Meanwhile you can prepare the leeks. Make sure the leek is washed well as grit can often be lurking! Soften the leek in a small pan with a small amount of butter and season with pepper. When the sauce has thickened add as much parmesan as you like to add an extra savouriness and stir through the leek, shredded ham hock and mustard. Taste and adjust the seasoning as required. Add the riccioli to the sauce and stir well to coat each pasta curl.

3. Place the pasta in either one larger ovenproof baking dish or two individual ones if you would like to present your guests with one each. Take the panko crumbs and grate some parmesan through so you have a cheesy, crunchy topping. Sprinkle over the pasta and bake for around 25-30 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the topping is golden. Serve with a simple dressed side salad and dig in!

Ham hock, leek and mustard bake- a great way to discover a new pasta shape and keep the family happy!