Mediterranean sea bass tray bake

Sea bass is a wonderful, readily available fish that deserves a place on all good dinner tables across the land. Cooking fish can be a daunting prospect if it is not something that you are used to and a tray bake is a brilliant introduction to it so read on and give it a try. I have taken inspiration from the Med and used sweet cherry tomatoes, olives, capers and peppers to ramp up the flavours. The ingredients are so fabulous that very little needs doing to them. I used Jersey Royal potatoes which are currently in season in the UK but new potatoes work well if you cannot find these.

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Ingredients- serves 2
2 boneless sea bass fillets
1 tbsp vegetable oil
200g Jersey Royal potatoes or new potatoes
1 red onion- cut into small wedges
150g cherry tomatoes- halved
50g pitted black olives- halved
1 tbsp capers
2 jarred roasted red peppers- sliced
Squeeze of lemon juice
Torn basil leaves to finish

1. Start by making sure that the sea bass fillets are boneless as nobody likes to find one of those. Preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan and think about what you are going to bake this in; a normal baking tray or roasting tray is perfect but I used a cast iron roasting pan. As the oven is heating, pop your tray of choice in there to heat too with a glug of vegetable oil.

2. Meanwhile slice the potatoes so they are 5mm thick. Remove the heated tray from the oven and place the potato slices in. Leave to bake for 20 minutes or until starting to turn golden and soften.

3. Remove the tray and add in the onion wedges, halved tomatoes, olives, capers and peppers and cook for a further 10 minutes. When the potatoes look like they are nearly ready and the onion is nicely softened pop on the sea bass fillets to finish off for 5-7 minutes depending on the size of the fillet. Use your judgement with your oven, if you think the fish skin won’t quite crisp up to how you like it then you can always cheat a bit and pan fry the fillet skin side down for a couple of minutes before finishing in the oven for another 2-3 minutes. When the sea bass is ready the fish will be translucent- do not overcook. Finish off with a squeeze of lemon juice to bring all the flavours together and a few torn basil leaves. Serve immediately.

Mediterranean inspired sea bass tray bake- a colourful addition to your culinary repertoire and a summertime winner!

 

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Baked melting mozzarella stuffed nduja meatballs

Like meatballs? Like melting cheese? Yes, of course you do! You’d be mad not to! Well this is your ticket to an easy, crowd pleasing dinner. I try to use the best quality mince I can as you really do taste the difference compared to cheaper ones on offer. This recipe calls for a mixture of beef and veal mince but you can use one variety if you prefer. Veal mince keeps the meatballs moist and it is worth a try if you have not tried it before. It has a more subtle flavour than beef and I also love using it in spaghetti bolognese.

Now this is not the first time I have used nduja in recipes on this blog and it certainly won’t be the last. This soft, spicy Calabrian beauty’s popularity has risen over the last few years and is now readily available in delis and supermarkets. The lovely people at Duchy Charcuterie very kindly sent me some of their award winning nduja to try and I was smitten. Compared to some other ndujas I have cooked with in the past, this one is more mellow but still packed with flavour. You can find out more about the nduja from Duchy Charcuterie from marc@duchycharcuterie.co.uk.

Red pepper and nduja are a match made in heaven so I have laced the tomato sauce with roasted pepper. The ready roasted jarred peppers are always in my cupboard on hand and are perfect for a quick fix. They soften into the sauce beautifully but of course can be substituted with fresh red peppers if you like.

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Ingredients- serves 4
200g beef mince
200g veal mince
Salt and pepper to season
2 mozzarella balls- cut into small chunks
2 tbsp nduja
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
3 jarred roasted red peppers- sliced
Handful of freshly torn basil to finish- optional

1. Kick off by choosing the correct pan that can be used to fry off the meatballs and that is suitable for popping in the oven- purely a washing up saving device! Get started by making the meatballs and this can be done in advance. Take the two types of mince and add the nduja into it; season well. Some nduja is more solid than others so I tend to pinch small pieces off and then distribute through the mince mixture. Squish together well to bring the mixture together- the meat will bind after a bit of working and that’s when it is ready to shape so it holds. I find that using egg to bind mince can result in a stodgy meatball but trust me that these will still keep their shape! You are after meatballs which are slightly larger than a golf ball. Take the mince, flatten it in the palm of your hand and then pop a cube of mozzarella in the middle before wrapping the mince around it. Repeat until all the mince has been used. Make sure the cheese is well wrapped as you don’t want it oozing out. Pop the balls on a tray and chill until you’re ready to cook.

2. Take the pan of choice and add a glug of olive oil. Heat to medium and take the meatballs in batches and fry until golden on the outside. Remove from the pan and set aside whilst you make the tomato and red pepper sauce. Preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan in preparation.

3. If there is a lot of fat from the mince then drain some off to leave about a tablespoon of it. Don’t throw it all away as it is full of flavour! Over a medium heat, add the onion and cook until softening. As garlic cooks more quickly, add this in a minute or two before the onion is done. Pour in the chopped tomatoes and sliced roasted red pepper and bring to a simmer. If using fresh peppers you may like to add the pepper in first and cook for a couple of minutes before adding the tomatoes.

4. Add the golden meatballs back to the pan and arrange so they are not all crammed in and they have space between. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the meatballs are cooked and the sauce is nicely reduced. Finish with some roughly torn basil if you like and serve. These meatballs are as delicious with pasta as they are with a hunk of bread so it’s up to you!

Baked melting middle nduja meatballs- pimp up your midweek dinner!

 

 

 

Spicy Middle Eastern chickpeas with feta

When the weekend comes around again, spend a little time preparing a delicious breakfast or brunch- after all, you’ve earned it following a busy week! This spicy chickpea dish was inspired by the flavours of the Middle East to give a hearty and satisfying start to the day but would also be perfect for a dinner. If you have any leftovers, these can be kept in a sealed container in the fridge for a couple of days and can be enjoyed at lunch the next day.

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Ingredients- serves 3-4
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 red onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- chopped or crushed
1 red or yellow bell pepper- chopped
1 tbsp each of ground cumin and ground coriander
1/2 tbsp harissa
400g soaked chickpeas- rinsed and drained
400g tinned chopped tomatoes
2 handfuls of baby spinach- washed, drained and roughly chopped
50g feta
1 tsp chilli flakes- optional

1. Kick off by heating the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Take a large frying pan, or similar, and heat the oil over a medium heat. Cook the onion, garlic and pepper together until softening nicely. Add in the ground cumin and coriander as well as the harissa. Stir well so the spices and harissa coat the onion mixture; cook for a further minute.

2. Add the drained chickpeas to the pan and combine well. In next goes the tinned tomatoes. Simmer the chickpeas for a few minutes until the sauce is starting to reduce and thicken slightly before adding the spinach. Cook until it wilts in the sauce and can be evenly distributed throughout it. Crumble over the feta and a sprinkling of chilli flakes if you want a but more spice and pop in the oven. Leave it until the feta warms through and starts to melt a little. Serve with crusty fresh bread and dive in!

Middle Eastern inspired chickpeas- spice up your day!

Italian sausage, chard and pine nut spaghetti

Italian sausages are not just your usual sausage! They are packed with fennel and seasoning and you can often find chilli versions which are equally delicious. They can be cooked whole or, as I have done in this recipe, the sausage meat can be removed and cooked separately. I have paired the sausage with chard which is in plentiful supply all year round. It can be substituted for spinach or cavolo nero if you like but I love the way the slight bitterness of the leaves balance with the rich sausage. When it comes to pasta, you really do get what you pay for. I absolutely love Garofalo’s long spaghetti which you can find here. Each strand is half a metre long so grab a fork and get twirling!

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Ingredients- serves 2
200g spaghetti
1 red onion- chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
4 Italian sausages- meat removed from the skin
400g passata
200g chard
Handful of pine nuts- lightly toasted in a dry pan

1. Start by bringing a pan of water to the boil. To prepare the chard you need to remove the stalks and keep the leaves separately as they both need slightly different cooking times. Roughly chop the stems and blanch for 1-2 minutes and blanch the leaves for 3-4 minutes; drain well and set aside. When the leaves are slightly cooled, roughly chop. Bring another pan of water to the boil and cook the spaghetti according to instructions.

2. Take a frying pan and add a glug of oil over a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic along with the chilli flakes (if using) and cook for a couple of minutes. Meanwhile, use the sausage meat which has been removed from the skins to form little balls. I make mine about the size of a hazelnut so you get lots of little bites throughout the pasta. Add the sausage balls into the frying pan with the onion and garlic and frying until golden.

3. Add the passata into the pan and bring to a simmer. The sauce is designed to give the spaghetti a light coating and by the time it has simmered it really does reduce down so don’t be alarmed if it seems a lot for two people. Add the drained chard stems and leaves and cook for a further 5 minutes. When ready, tip the cooked spaghetti into the pan and toss so each strand of pasta is coated in the sauce. Serve in warmed bowls with the toasted pine nuts sprinkled over and a good grating of parmesan to finish.

Italian sausage, chard and pine nut spaghetti- a celebration of Italian flavours!

Chickpea, squash and spinach curry


In our household we love a great vegetable curry- often so much fresher and more appealing than their meaty counterparts. This curry is quick, easy and low of faff so no excuses for not rustling up a midweek feast! The ingredients here really need to speak for themselves so keep it simple! Of course, if you are a chilli fiend then add a little more here and there to suit your tastes but not so it drowns the sweetness of the squash. I have used spinach which is one of my favourites but this would also work well with kale. Sometimes I like a drier curry and in this case I usually halve the quantity of tomatoes and roast the squash a little beforehand to cut down on the cooking time. Squash which is roasted with some curry spices is delicious!

I served the curry with homemade brussel sprout bhajis which are a great twist on the traditional onion version. They are quick to make and they also freeze well (if there are any left of course!). See here for the recipe: http://wp.me/p4O5jd-px. Why not make it part of a vegetarian curry feast and also make a side of paneer shashlik which I absolutely love. Check out the recipe here, it’s so simple: http://wp.me/p4O5jd-j9.

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Ingredients- serves 2-3
Half a butternut squash
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
1 fresh red chilli- roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves- chopped
1 red onion- chopped
400g chopped tinned tomatoes
200g chickpeas- drained and rinsed
100g baby spinach- washed and dried

1. Start off by prepping the butternut squash. I will happily admit it, I hate cutting squash but fear not, I have a trick up my sleeve to take the work out of this task! Simply place the squash in the microwave for a couple of minutes, remove and place on a sturdy board ready for chopping The heat will slightly soften the squash and it makes it much easier to remove the skin so give it a try! Remove the skin and cut into bite sized chunks before setting aside.

2. Next, you need to make the curry paste. Add the cumin, coriander, turmeric, garam masala, chilli and garlic to a pestle and mortar with a splash of water and work it until if forms a paste.

3. Heat a small glug of oil in a large pan over a medium heat and fry the red onion for a couple of minutes until softening. Add in curry paste and cook for a couple of minutes until fragrant- keep it moving so it doesn’t catch. In goes the cubes of squash next! Stir well to ensure the paste coats each cube of squash before adding the chickpeas, again, making sure they are well covered. Pour in the tinned tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook until the squash is tender and the sauce is thickened. Towards the end of cooking add in the baby spinach and cook until wilted.

Serve with your choice of side such as chapatti or simply enjoy it as it is with a final flourish of freshly chopped coriander.

Chickpea, squash and spinach curry- a spicy offering to keep you warm this winter!

Pomegranate molasses and honey glazed duck breasts with spiced pilaf

Treat yourself to taste of the Middle East with this pomegranate molasses and honey glazed duck. It gives the perfect balance of sweet and sour which is matched with a lightly spiced bulgur wheat pilaf style side. Pomegranate molasses are punchy and should be used with care but it is well worth a try if you have not used them before; they can be found in any good supermarket.

I paired the duck with a delicate pilaf with aubergine, onion and tomato with spices and herbs but get creative. A sprinkle of pomegranate seeds through the bulgur would also be great. I sourced the duck breasts from http://www.ixhillfarm.co.uk which were plump and packed with flavour. This is the perfect time of year to add duck to your menu!

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Ingredients- serves 2
For the duck breasts
2 duck breasts
1/2 tsp pomegranate molasses
1 tbsp. runny honey
Pinch of ground cumin (optional)

For the pilaf
80g bulgur wheat- rinsed and drained
1 red onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- finely chopped or crushed
1 small aubergine- finely chopped
3 plum tomatoes- deseeded and finely chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp pepper paste
Handful of fresh coriander and parsley- chopped

1. Start off by removing the duck from the fridge and let them sit at room temperature for around half an hour. Take a sharp knife and slash the skin of the breast a few times. Combine the pomegranate molasses, honey and cumin and rub into the skin side of the duck. Preheat the oven to 220c/ 200 fan ready for later. Take a large non-stick frying pan and heat to high; add the duck breasts skin side down in the pan and sear for 2-3 minutes before turning and searing for a further minute- the skin will caramelise and start going a gorgeous golden colour. Remove from the pan and cook in the oven for 10 minutes for rare and around 15 minutes for medium. When it is cooked to your tastes, allow to rest for around 10-15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, get started on the bulgur wheat. This can also be done in advance whilst the duck is warming up to room temperature. Place the rinsed wheat in a pan and add 600ml of cold water; bring to the boil before covering and simmering for 15 minutes until tender. You often need to drain a small amount of excess water after cooking.

3. Take a frying pan and add a small splash of oil. Cook the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes over a medium heat until starting to soften before adding the aubergine. Cook for a further few minutes before adding the tomatoes, cumin, coriander, pepper paste and season well. Remove from the heat and add to the cooked bulgur wheat. Add the chopped fresh herbs and taste- adjust the seasoning to taste. You may need to add a little more spice if you like as the water content in the wheat can absorb a lot of the flavour. Keep warm until the duck is has rested and is ready to slice.

Serve the bulgur wheat in a bowl with the duck slices arranged over the top- sprinkle with some herbs if you like.

Pomegranate molasses and honey glazed duck with pilaf style bulgur wheat salad- a flavoursome taste of the Middle East! Who could resist this?…

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Garithes youvetsi- Greek baked prawns with tomato and feta

Garithes youvetsi is a typical Greek dish which is quick, easy and is perfect for entertaining or for a quiet night in. I can hear you thinking that the salty feta surely doesn’t go with delicate, sweet prawns but think again! With the careful balance of prawn to feta you can’t go wrong! I have used raw peeled king prawns for ease and to avoid having to cover myself in tomato sauce when trying to remove the shell but it’s up to you. Find a good quality feta that is both sharp and salty; avoid so called salad cheese at all costs! Feel free to pop in a couple of extra ingredients such as some baby spinach leaves or roasted red pepper for an added twist.

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Ingredients- serves 2
350g raw king prawns- deveined
Olive oil
1 onion- finely chopped
1 garlic clove- finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
6 fresh vine tomatoes or a tin of chopped tomatoes
Fresh oregano and parsley
100ml dry white wine
100g feta

1. Preheat the oven to 180c/ 160fan ready to receive the prawns later on. Meanwhile, heat a glug of olive oil in a saucepan and warm over a low heat. Cook the onion and garlic for a few minutes until they soften and release their flavour. Stir through the cumin and cook for a further minute.

2. Next up goes the tomatoes. If you’re using fresh tomatoes then dice them; you can remove the seeds and skin if you like. Add the wine and away it goes! Most recipes that call for wine put it in the base of the recipe but many Greek dishes add it into the sauce directly; of course, if you’re feeling daring then you can add a splash of ouzo! Turn the heat up to medium and simmer until most of the liquid has reduced. Add in the oregano and half of the parsley and season to taste. If you wanted to add in a little spinach or red pepper then this would be the time to add it in.

3. Take two ovenproof baking dishes to each person has their own to dig into. Place the prawns at the bottom of the dishes before dividing the tomato sauce between the dishes and placing over the prawns. Crumble the feta over the top and bake for around 10-13 minutes until the prawns are cooked through. Sprinkle the remaining parsley to serve and you may also like to serve with a side salad or some hunks of bread.

Garithes youvetsi- a taste of Greece in the comfort of your own home!