Springtime fricassee with pan fried sea bream

If you’re a regular reader of this blog then you’ll notice by now that, not only do I enjoy cooking with seasonal ingredients as far as possible, I also have a penchant for pan fried sea bream. I love how delicate it is whilst also being able to stand up to a range of flavours. If you can’t find sea bream then sea bass will also work well. When fish is fresh you really don’t need to do much to it to bring out the best in it so keep it simple. I have chosen to pair the fish with spring vegetable fricassee; asparagus, peas and broad beans are in plentiful supply at the moment so take advantage of them whilst they are at their best. I served the fish and fricassee with roasted garlic mashed potato to bring the dish together and indulge in my other love in life- garlic!

Ingredients- serves 4
Olive oil
Unsalted butter
4 sea bream fillets- pin boned and skin left on
1 shallot- finely chopped
200g asparagus
200g shelled broad beans
200g podded peas
150ml double cream
Salt and pepper to season

For the mashed potatoes
1 bulb of garlic
Olive oil
500g Maris Piper potatoes- peeled and quartered
100g butter

1. Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Take the bulb of garlic for the mash and remove some of the outer papery layers. Carefully use a sharp knife to cut the bulb across the top to expose a little of the cloves. Place the garlic on a sheet of foil, drizzle with some olive oil and gather the side of the foil to make a parcel; roast in the oven for around 30 minutes or until the garlic has softened. When tender, remove from the oven and allow to cool until you can handle the garlic. Squeeze all the garlic from the bulb and use the back of a fork to lightly mash it down; set aside.

2. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add a little salt. Cook the potatoes until tender; drain well and set aside before mashing with the butter added. Pop in most of the roasted garlic and combine well. Keep the mash warm.

3. Next up you need to make the fricassee and this could not be more straightforward. Bring a medium pan of water to a vigorous simmer but just below a boil. Take the asparagus and quarter each spear before then chopping each quarter to give thick sticks of asparagus. Add to the water and blanch for 1 minute before removing with a slotted spoon and refreshing in a bowl of ice cold water. Take the shelled broad beans and do the same for 3 minutes and then do the peas for 2 minutes.

4. In a medium pan add a glug of oil and soften the shallot. Pop in the remaining roasted garlic. Add the asparagus, broad beans and peas and pour over the double cream. Simmer gently for a few minutes until the vegetables are nice and tender. Taste and season well.

5. As the fricassee is finishing off get going with the fish. Heat a non- stick frying pan over a medium- high heat and add a good knob of butter and a glug of oil. Lightly season the skin of the fish and place skin side down into the hot pan; when the butter and oil starts to bubble then its ready to use. Fry the fish for around 4-5 minutes before gently flipping it over and cooking for a further minute or two. Serve the mash and fricassee and mash in deep bowls and top with the golden pan fried bream; serve immediately.

Springtime vegetable fricassee with pan fried sea bream- a celebration of seasonal ingredients!

 

Butternut squash, sweet potato and parmesan soup

Autumn days mean curling up with a roaring fire, rain beating against the window and plenty of comforting food. It also brings the squash season and this means that butternut squash soup is hard to resist. This soup combines squash with sweet potato and parmesan which brings the sweetness into balance with the umami edge that parmesan brings. The rind of parmesan is a secret weapon in cooking so I always keep them in the freezer so they are on hand to use in soups, stews, risottos and pasta dishes. My added extra is a delicate hint of spice and a hit of roasted garlic. I have also used the squash seeds to create a crunchy topping that can be sprinkled over the soup to serve so don’t delay- get cooking!

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Ingredients- serves 4-6
1 large butternut squash
2 sweet potatoes
Olive oil
2 bulbs of garlic
2 white onions- chopped
1.5 litres of hot vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
1-2 rinds of parmesan

For the seed topping
Sea salt
Chilli flakes

1. Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Use a sturdy knife to cut the butternut squash in half lengthways. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and set aside for later. Use a knife to score the flesh. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into inch chunks. Place the squash on a baking tray and the sweet potatoes in another one before drizzling both with olive oil and sprinkling with salt. Roast in the oven for approximately 40 minutes or until tender. The squash will start to caramelise at the edges and this adds to the flavour. Cut the tops of the garlic bulbs off and wrap in a foil parcel with some oil and roast until tender.

2. Meanwhile you can prepare the seeds. Simply wash them and pat them dry. Pop them on a baking tray with a drizzle of oil, the sea salt and chilli flakes. Roast with the vegetables until the seeds are golden and crunchy. When they are ready, set aside and allow to cool.

3. Take a large pan that will be able to hold all of the soup. Heat a glug of oil over a medium heat and cook the onions until softened but do not allow them to colour. When the vegetables are cooked add the sweet potato and roasted garlic to the pan whilst you scoop out the squash before adding the flesh to the pan too. I then used a potato mashed to slightly break the vegetables down to make blending even easier later. Add the hot stock to the pan. Take the pan off the heat and allow it to cool until you are able to blend it. Blend until you reach the consistency you like. Return the pan to the heat, drop in the parmesan rinds and simmer gently. Simmer for at least an hour if you can so the parmesan has time to infuse. Taste as you go and adjust the seasoning according to taste. Serve in warmed soup bowls with plenty of fresh bread to dip.

Butternut squash, sweet potato and parmesan soup- the perfect antidote to a blustery autumn day!

 

 

Roasted garlic, thyme and parmesan potato dauphinoise

If there is one dish that is a sure fire crowd pleaser and ultimate comfort food then it has to be this! Potato dauphinoise is classic and mainstay of French cuisine and here it has a revamp to add even more flavour to it. This can be enjoyed with a range of main dishes however steak does it for me every time! Taking inspiration from French cooking I have added roasted garlic and thyme to ramp up the flavour. Now this may not be considered health (far from it in fact!) but a little of what you fancy does you good so read on and indulge yourself…

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Ingredients- serves 4
Knob of unsalted butter
1 small garlic bulb
800g Maris Piper potatoes- peeled
Fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
300ml double cream
Freshly grated parmesan- optional

1. Preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan. Cut the top of the garlic bulb and wrap it in foil and drizzle with a little oil before baking for around 20 minutes until the garlic is soft. Allow to cool before squeezing the garlic from the bulb and mashing with the back of a fork. Take an ovenproof dish that will be large enough for you to fit the sliced potato in. Use a knob of butter and run it all over the inside of the dish to stop the potatoes from sticking when they cook.

2. Carefully use a knife or mandolin with the guard on to thinly slice the potatoes. Use any larger slices to create the first layer in the dish and make sure the slices slightly overlap; season with salt and pepper before adding some of the thyme leaves and a little of the roasted garlic. Repeat until the potatoes are used up and remember to season each layer well.

3. Press the layers down slightly and pour over the double cream. Allow it to soak through the potatoes and finish with some freshly grated parmesan, if you like. Bake in the oven for 45-60 minutes until the potatoes are tender and bubbling. I often cover the dish with foil for most of the cooking time before removing towards the end to brown in off but this will depend on your oven. When ready, remove from the oven and allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.

Roasted garlic, thyme and parmesan potato dauphinoise- a gratin to stand the test of time!

 

 

Butternut squash, sage and ricotta lasagne

The sweetness of the squash, fragrance of the sage and creaminess of ricotta are a divine match. The flavours need very little to bring the best out of them so keep the ingredients as simple as possible so you can taste each element. The secret twist to the creamy ricotta filling is a good helping of sweet roasted garlic which really takes it to another level. Ovenproof dishes come in such a range of shapes and size so, before you cook the lasagne sheets, try to work out how many sheets you need to fit yours. I always cook a couple of extra sheets in case they tear. The filling also works with cannelloni.

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Ingredients- serves 4
For the lasagne filling
1 butternut squash- cut into cubes
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
3-4 garlic cloves- kept whole and with the skin on
Handful of fresh sage
250g ricotta
Ground nutmeg
Lasagne sheets

For the béchamel sauce
500ml milk
1 onion- halved
2 bay leaves
2 cloves
50g butter
50g plain flour
Parmesan to top

1. Get going by preheating the oven to 180c/ 160fan. Place the cubes of squash on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Toss the cubes and add in the garlic cloves so each is coated in the oil and roast until tender. When it is ready, a knife will easily sink through the cubes. Place in a large bowl and set aside.

2. Whilst the squash is roasting you can get started on the béchamel sauce. Secure the bay leaves to the onion halves using the cloves- this way you don’t have to go fishing around the saucepan to find the cloves later on! Add the milk to a small pan and bring to a boil before removing from the heat and allowing the flavours from the bay and clove to infuse for around 20 minutes.

Take another pan and melt the butter and flour together until a paste, or roux, is formed. Remove the onion, clove and bay from the pan containing the milk and slowly add the milk to the pan with the roux. Keep stirring so lumps don’t form! Simmer and stir until it thickens before removing it from the heat ready to pour over the lasagne.

3. Stir the ricotta through the squash cubes so well combined. Finely chop the fresh sage and add to the bowl along with 1tsp of ground nutmeg; use fresh nutmeg if you can. Taste and adjust the seasoning to suit you. Set the mixture aside whilst you prepare the lasagne sheets. Don’t worry if the squash starts to break up; I sometimes mash down half of the squash and leave the other half in cubes to add a different texture and make smoother. Squeeze the tender roasted garlic from their skins and mix through well.

4. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add the lasagne sheets to cook, a few at a time so the pan does not become overcrowded. Cook the sheets until parboiled- you can cook them without parboiling but I think this really does make a difference. Nobody wants to find chewy pasta in their mouthful!

5. Now to assemble the lasagne. I spoon a little of the béchamel sauce in the bottom of the ovenproof dish to stop the pasta sticking when baked. Lay sheets of lasagne to cover the bottom before adding a layer of the butternut squash filling. Add another layer of pasta and repeat until the filling has been used up and finish with a layer of pasta.

6. Pour the béchamel sauce over the lasagne and top with freshly grated parmesan. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until bubbling and golden. I usually cover the lasagne for the first half of the cooking time and then remove the foil for the end but it will depend on your oven as to if you need to do this or not. Serve with a simple side salad and dig in!

Squash, sage and ricotta lasagne- a satisfying vegetarian pasta dish which is perfect for a midweek meal or special occasion!

Roasted garlic, shallot, potato and thyme soup

Autumn is here and that means that soup season has started too! This roasted garlic, shallot, potato and thyme soup makes the best of fresh ingredients to bring out the flavours from each. When garlic and shallots are roasted they lose their pungency and develop a wonderful sweetness which keeps you wanting more. This recipe feeds four happily but it can easily be doubled to make a larger batch. The soup is best stored in a sealed container in the fridge and you will find that the flavours get better and better the day after you make it so try not to scoff it all in one go! It calls for leftover Parmesan (or similar) rind which sits in the soup whilst it’s simmering away and gives an extra umami hit. I always freeze leftover rinds for such occasions!

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Ingredients- serves 4
2 whole bulbs of garlic
6 shallots
Olive oil
Knob of butter
450g peeled potatoes- I used Maris Piper
Sea salt and pepper
Fresh thyme sprigs
900ml vegetable stock
Parmesan rind (optional but delicious so advised!)
40ml milk or double cream

1. Start by preheating the oven to 200c/ 180 fan ready for the garlic and shallot. Cut the tops of the bulbs and shallots to expose the flesh and then place cut side up on a sheet of foil. Drizzle with a good helping of olive oil and roast for around half an hour until tender. Remove from the oven, unwrap the foil parcels and set aside to cool. When it is cool enough to handle squeeze out the flesh. Roughly chop the garlic and shallot ready for later and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, add a knob of butter to a large saucepan which will be big enough to fit the stock later on and heat over a medium heat. Take your peeled potatoes and cut into inch chunks. Sautee the potato chunks along with as much thyme sprigs, sea salt and pepper as you fancy for 15 minutes until they start to soften slightly. I used smoked sea salt which added an extra layer of flavour but normal sea salt will be work too. Add in the garlic and shallot and stir well to combine before cooking for a further few minutes.

3. Make up the stock and then add to the potatoes along with the parmesan rind (if using). Bring to the boil and then drop down to a simmer; cover and cook until the potatoes are softened. Add in the milk and simmer for a few more minutes until it thickens slightly. Taste the soup for seasoning and adjust as needed. Serve in deep soup bowls with some freshly grated parmesan, thyme leaves or crisped pancetta on top if you like and watch everyone tuck in!

Roasted garlic, shallot, potato and thyme soup- the only soup to make your house smell this good!

Sweet roasted garlic and spinach risotto with pancetta curls

Sweet roasted garlic and spinach risotto was born after being given a huge bag full of homegrown spinach which would be sacrilegious to waste! Don’t think that if you make this you’ll be walking around the next day sending people running and fending off vampires as roasting the garlic makes for a sweet finish. Use the freshest garlic you can for the best flavour.

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Ingredients- serves 2
Bulb of garlic- cut in half
Olive oil
1 small white onion- finely chopped
50g pancetta- cubed
200g arborio rice
600ml chicken or vegetable stock
100g spinach- washed, patted dry and shredded
2 tbsp creme fraiche or ricotta
Lemon juice
Pancetta slices
Salt and pepper
Fresh grated parmesan to serve

1. First thing’s first! Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180fan and place the halved garlic bulb cut side up on a baking try. Drizzle over some olive oil and roast for around 25-30 minutes until the garlic is sweet and tender. Remove from the oven and set aside.

2. When you’re ready to cook the risotto, take a large pan and add a knob of butter over a medium heat. Cook the chopped onion and pancetta cubes for a few minutes until softening and the pancetta is turning golden. Add in the arborio rice and make sure that the buter coats each grain. Take a ladle and add in the first lot of stock and lower the heat to a simmer. Squeeze out the garlic cloves, mash down lightly with the back of a fork and add to the rice.

3. As each ladle of stock is absorbed you need to add in another until all the stock has been used. When the last ladle has been added pop in in the shredded spinach and stir well to combine. Take the pan off the heat and add in the creme fraiche, a squeeze of lemon to taste and some parmesan cheese. Taste and adjust the seasoning as required.

Serve the risotto is warmed bowls with a final grate of parmesan and a pancetta curl or two (make more than you need in case one jumps into your mouth whilst cooking!). To make the curls take thin slices of pancetta and cut a slice into thirds. Wrap them loosely around a skewer, remove gently and place on a baking tray. Cook for a couple of minutes at 180c/ 160fan. Simple!

Sweet roasted garlic and spinach risotto with pancetta curls- treat yourself to a little luxury!