“Scallop, Leek & Chorizo Gratin” from “The Quick Roasting Tin”

Fish Friday! (Well, technically, not “fish” as previous reported here because it’s scallops, but it’s the right idea.)

I need to honestly report that this dish divided opinion at our house. I loved it. So did Nicholas. We thought it was utterly delicious. I would definitely eat this again and again.

Unfortunately, Tim did not agree. He thought all of the cream, and leeks and chorizo drowned out the taste of the scallops. I understand what he’s saying, but I have to say there’s no time when double cream is a bad idea. We had to agree to disagree.

I also need to mention that this recipe— and others in the book– include this genius hack when using leeks in a dish that you roast. Rather than having to fry them first, just soak them in boiling water for one minute, and they’re cooked enough that they can go in the bottom of the roasting pan and be finished off in the oven. Absolutely genius.

If you haven’t already figured it out, this book has been a massive hit. Of *course* will will wait until 31 January to make our final determination, but we’ve eaten very well for the last few weeks.

“Scallop, Leek & Chorizo Gratin” from “The Quick Roasting Tin”

“Salmon with Soy and Citrusy Charred Spring Onion” from “Nothing Fancy”

Fish Friday!

We have a major divide in this house on Fish Friday: those who love salmon (me), those who like it fine (the boys), and those who merely tolerate it, which sometimes can descend into hostility toward it (Tim). This can be problematic for the cook (me) who loves it, but wants to please everyone (read: my husband). So when I do make it, I want to make sure it’s very good. I’m hoping to convince him eventually that salmon can be pretty delicious.

In the introduction, Alison Roman admits to the same feelings of ambivalence toward salmon as my husband. But then she tried the slow roasting technique described in this recipe. “That is the salmon that has mad me a person who not only tolerates the fish, but craves and makes it for herself. What a world!” she writes.

I thought this recipe might do the trick to convince Tim that salmon can be excellent. It’s very simple, but I’ve found the best fish dishes don’t over-complicate things. Once you slow roast the salmon, it sits on a delightful bed of charred spring onions in a mixture of soy sauce, orange juice, lemon juice and zest.

Great, right? Well, the reaction was once again slightly underwhelming. It looks like there’s more work to be done on the salmon front.

My only criticism is I thought the salmon was slightly underdone. (I say this with trepidation and also with the caveat that I love sushi, so uncooked fish does not trouble me.) I just thought it could have gone in the oven for a bit longer than she prescribed, and indeed I did add a bit of time to the 10-12 minutes she suggested and it was still a little too underdone for my taste.

However, I liked the rest of it so much that I will try this again. My quest to convince Tim of the wonders of salmon continues.

“Salmon with Soy and Citrusy Charred Spring Onion” from “Nothing Fancy”

“One Pan Lemon Salmon, Roasted Potatoes and Parmesan Asparagus” from “Half Baked Harvest”

In honour of Fish Friday, here’s another fish recipe from Half Baked Harvest. While Kirstin has had good luck with her salmon recipes, I can’t say we had the same experience with this one.

I always love a tray baked dinner. Nigella excels at them. There’s minimal intervention needed once everything gets on the tray, and there’s minimal cleanup once it’s all cooked too. All in all, a win-win for a weeknight dinner.

This one starts out perfectly– you start by roasting the new potatoes, which have been tossed in olive oil. Once they’ve had their head start, you add the asparagus (now in season! huzzah!), toss them in olive oil and then scatter grated parmesan over the top, which truly is a genius move and one that I’ll be doing again.

Where things go terribly wrong is with the salmon. For this recipe, she has you make a spice mixture with honey and an array of spices (everything from basil to smoked paprika) to smother on top of the salmon when you put it in the oven to roast. I’m here to tell you that if you’re roasting fresh salmon, you honestly don’t need any of that stuff on top to begin with, but also, this particular mixture just doesn’t work and is, frankly, not tasty. Nicholas (15) really hated it and ended up scraping it off his salmon, which he then happily ate. It was just a bit yuck and unfortunately made what would have been a delicious dinner a not-particularly-appetizing one.

So while I will be roasting new potatoes and asparagus tossed in parmesan along with some fish again, there’s no way I’ll ruin it by doing this spice mixture again. Lesson learned.

I’d recommend this recipe but without the spice mixture on top of the fish. Click through this paragraph to see it for yourself on Half Baked Harvest.

“One Pan Lemon Salmon, Roasted Potatoes and Parmesan Asparagus” from “Half Baked Harvest”

“Seared Tuna with Tomato, Bean and Avocado Relish” from “Sight, Smell, Touch, Taste, Sound”

This dish comes from the “Appearance” section of the book, where she suggests how something looks influences how people taste. This theory held out when I brought this dish to the table, when all assembled gasped and said, “Wow– that looks delicious.”

I’m happy to report that this tasted as good as it looked.

There were lots of things to like about this dish, too. It was good for you (loads of vegetables), it was relatively easy to make (I’ll get to that in a minute) and it was super yummy (pretty sure that’s a technical term). I will definitely be making this again.

I’ve got a few notes, though. Sybil Kapoor wants you to peel all of the cherry tomatoes– all 1 pound of them. I’m not really sure it was worth the time, because that was definitely the most time-consuming part of the whole dish. Did all the effort make the dish substantially better? I’d say no. I would deseed the tomatoes, though, because it helped my tomato-hating husband like the dish even more.

One of the good things about this dish was that you don’t need a lot of tuna, since you slice the tuna steak and put it over the whole platter. I didn’t think I had enough tuna, but it turned out there was plenty for everyone. It’s a classic trip of making a little go a long way.

Finally, I think this relish would work with a lot of other fish too (like salmon or trout), so I can see this being a repeat guest star for our Fish Fridays.

This dish definitely was For The Win (FTW).

“Seared Tuna with Tomato, Bean and Avocado Relish” from “Sight, Smell, Touch, Taste, Sound”

“Baked Fish with Tahini & Pomegranate” from “Together: Our Community Cookbook”

Fish Friday!

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: the best thing about cooking fish for dinner– on Friday or any other night of the week– is how quickly it cooks. Remember the disaster that was Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals? Actually, let’s not. We’ll get indigestion. But my point is that most fish truly is a 15 minute meal. Anyone who’s ever been hangry after a full day of working can appreciate how that’s such a good thing to know.

This is a very, very simple dish. The author, Leila Hejem, says in the introduction, “This is a recipe from my Algerian Dad– and it’s so easy I’m almost embarrassed to call it a recipe!” And that’s true– I could easily distill it down to three sentences– but it’s also delicious.

[For those wondering, those three sentences would be:

  1. Bake four fillets of fish (cod or anything else) that have been drizzled with oil and seasonings at 180C for 10-12 minutes.
  2. Make a tahini sauce
  3. Take out of oven, drizzle sauce over the fish and then sprinkle over parsley, pomegranate seeds and pine needs to garnish.

See? Easy.]

This would be a decent recipe to keep in mind on those nights, maybe even Fish Friday nights, when you’re not sure what you want to make and you don’t have much time or energy. This also applies many times to dinner made when on holiday, it has to be said. When I make this again, I might add some sumac and perhaps not use the pomegranate seeds, but that’s down to personal preference. But I’ll definitely cook this again.

“Baked Fish with Tahini & Pomegranate” from “Together: Our Community Cookbook”

“Golden Breaded Tuna with Aeolian Spaghetti” from “Jamie Cooks Italy”

Despite our love for all things breaded and fried, it would have never occurred to me in a million years to give tuna the treatment. But, by god, what a winner.

I suppose it makes sense. ANYTHING deep fried is bound to be better, though I admit that I approached this with a fair amount of trepidation. Given how much tuna steaks cost, the last thing I’d like to do is overcook them and ruin them by frying them. The key is to flash fry them, like Jamie says in the instructions. I found by just making the breaded crust golden, they were perfectly done– not too overdone, not too underdone. A Goldilocks tuna, if you will.

The Aeolian spaghetti that goes with it was also delicious. (The eagle-eyed among you will note that I used linguine instead of spaghetti. I don’t think it made much difference.) Nicholas (15) found it overly spicy– I suppose the red chilli would do that– but the adults loved it. The next day, I took some of the leftovers and added them to chicken stock for a lunchtime soup, which was all kinds of yum and highly recommended.

All in all, another good dinner with Jamie. Will this cookbook– dare I say it– be his best in recent memory? Time will tell, but we’re off to a strong start.

“Golden Breaded Tuna with Aeolian Spaghetti” from “Jamie Cooks Italy”

“Mom’s Trout with Herby Breadcrumbs” from “Dining In”

This post could also be called: “The Perennial Favourite of Fish Friday.”

When I first paged through this cookbook, I knew right away this dish was not only going to get made, but would be universally loved at the table. There’s so few times in life that you’re dead certain that you’ll be right, but this was one of the times. The reason I knew this was because I make a variation of this all the time.

The roots of this Fish Friday Favourite come from Gwyneth Paltrow’s second book, “It’s All Good,” which [GASP] I now know was FIVE years ago. Time flies. Anyhow, at the time, I sold the recipe to the boys by telling them it was from Pepper Potts, the character she plays in the Iron Man and Avengers films. This was so long ago that stating that fact was enough to sway them to try it. These days, I can tell you, citing Pepper Potts wouldn’t work, because as savvy teenage boys/young men (apply where appropriate), subterfuge with food is now nearly impossible to pull off.

This version from Alison Roman, in fact, is slightly better. It was easier to do, it was tastier and most of all, I didn’t have to feel guilty for using regular bread crumbs rather than the gluten free ones called for in Gwyneth’s original recipe. Trout is also a great fish as not only is it very tasty, but it’s also much more affordable [read: cheap] and sustainable than some other types of fish, which is why I like to buy it so much.

Will I make this again? Yes. Again and again and again. Because I already do.

Note: Unlike the previous post, I didn’t have a problem with the American spelling of Mom, since I use that all the time, still. Lifetime habits are hard to break.

“Mom’s Trout with Herby Breadcrumbs” from “Dining In”

“Beer-Battered Fish” from “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat”

What could be more appropriate on Fish Friday but fish and chips?

Nothing, I tell you.

So when I saw the recipe for beer-battered fish in this cookbook, I dove straight in. Fish and chips will always be a winner in this house.

Like the fried chicken, I did this properly by using my candy thermometer to get the oil to exactly the right temperature. This truly is no-fooling-around-with-the-frying for the average home cook. So this was great, but unfortunately, I won’t be recommending this recipe for anyone who wants to make fish and chips at home.

The problem, in a nutshell, was the inclusion of 275ml of vodka in the batter. The recipe is a variation of this one by Heston Blumenthal, where you use equal amounts of vodka and beer for the batter. The “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” recipe uses 275ml of vodka to about 350ml of beer. I struggled with this though, not because the results were delicious (which they were) but the cost of putting that much vodka into the recipe. I could have gotten the super-cheap own-brand supermarket vodka that was available, but what was I going to do with the rest of the bottle? Better to have some decent vodka on hand and then you can use the rest to make cocktails or whatnot, rather than the bottle gathering dust.

So while this was good, and again, like all the recipes in this cookbook, the instructions were clear and helpful, I won’t be making it again. If I want to make beer-battered fish and chips, I’ll probably find a recipe that just uses beer, which will make the batter perhaps slightly less airy, but just as good.



“Beer-Battered Fish” from “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat”

“Crab & Sriracha Mac ‘n’ Cheese” from “Comfort”

It’s always a dangerous thing in this family to try to find a better mac ‘n’ cheese than the one we already know and fiercely love. I’ve written about this before, and you would think I would have learned my lesson by now, but I guess I like to live life on the edge.

Thus, this new mac ‘n’ cheese with crab and sriracha.

I’m not going to bury the lede. We didn’t like this more than our Desert Island Mac ‘n’ Cheese from the New York Times. But it was a nice change from the usual.

Though I need to add a few caveats. First, Andrew (18) didn’t like the first few bites but ended up eating the lot. “I didn’t like it at first, but I guess I do now,” he said, which is hardly a ringing endorsement, but at least he had something to eat.

Another caveat: rather than taking out a second mortgage to buy all the fresh crab necessary for this (300 g, which would run us about £15 if it was all fresh), I used a mixture of fresh and canned. Given that the dish is smothered in sauce and cheese, I didn’t think we would notice the difference. We didn’t.

Would I make this again? Probably not. Don’t get me wrong, it was good. It just wasn’t better than our usual, so we’ll stick with that.

“Crab & Sriracha Mac ‘n’ Cheese” from “Comfort”

“Rose Pesto Prawn Pasta” from “5 Ingredients”

We had high hopes for this. After all, we’re huge fans of prawns in this house and this looked like a new way to serve them up with pasta.

But in what is fast becoming a theme to this book, this was a bit bland. It was bland even with me including far more red pesto than Jamie had recommended. Hard to believe that’s how it played out, but it’s true. I’m not sure what more it needed, or maybe the whole recipe was just a bit boring. I don’t know.

Maybe the problem was that it pales in comparison to our very favourite pasta with prawns, shrimp scampi. This is what the Americans call this dish, by the way. British scampi is much different– that’s deep-fried prawns. That’s also delicious, but it’s also very different.  American shrimp scampi is made by sauteeing garlic in butter and olive oil, adding white wine to make the sauce, tossing in some red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, adding the shrimps (or prawns, depending on whether you speak British or American), then finishing it off with parsley and lemon juice before putting over the pasta. See? Easy. Not to mention fast.

It’s not that this Jamie Oliver version was bad, mind you. It just wasn’t that good. But if you can stretch to 7 ingredients instead of five, I highly recommend making this shrimp scampi (from the always wonderful Melissa Clark) instead.

Jamie hasn’t posted this recipe online yet, so I can’t provide a link. You’re not missing much. 

“Rose Pesto Prawn Pasta” from “5 Ingredients”