“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”

“Fish Tacos” from “Home Cook”

We could retitle this post: “This is where things begin to go badly for this cook book.”

In the second chapter of a novel I was reading last year, the author made such an elementary factual error I found that I couldn’t trust anything she wrote for the rest of the book. The error, if you’re wondering, was that she references an American couple who arrive on holiday in Spain one morning who need to make a telephone call back to the U.S. She writes that the couple rushes off to make the call before the office closes for the day. That would be impossible, of course, because it would be THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT there. My point is didn’t anyone who edited the book notice this? I know I’ve got transatlantic kids, but even they knew what time it’d be in the U.S. versus Europe when they were 4 years old. (It’s easy: the U.S. is always one meal behind Europe.) It annoyed me so much that it ruined the rest of the novel for me.

I know that’s quite a long digression for a blog that’s supposed to be full of cookbook reviews, but it provides a salient point: if a book proves to be unreliable or even wrong early on, I can’t trust it very much going forward.

Unfortunately, this was true of “Home Cook.” I went to make the fish tacos because I knew everyone would love some for Fish Friday. The method for preparing the fish was good and the guacamole recipe was excellent. In fact, I’ve used it many times since. Both were delicious.

Where things went amiss was for the tomato salsa recipe: the page it referenced was wrong. Being a forgiving sort, I thought I could find the right location in the index, but there was no joy either, as the tomato listing didn’t reference salsa at all. Then I looked up salsa in the index. That took me somewhere else. So for the first Fish Friday tacos, I went to the Internet to find Thomasina’s salsa recipe and used that. More than a week later, I stumbled over the salsa recipe under the Huevos Rancheros recipe. To say I was surprised to find it there was an understatement.

My point holds, though. I know it’s a difficult business getting a book written, edited, proofread and published. I know indexing is an art form and difficult to do (I have said this before). But what I can’t abide is when a cookbook puts me on a wild goose chase to find a recipe. Things should be where they say they will be.

Don’t get me wrong, the fish tacos were delicious. The guacamole was divine. But the quest to find the salsa recipe left me with a sour taste in my mouth that I didn’t want, and I fear that will colour my opinion on this book for the rest of the month.

“Fish Tacos” from “Home Cook”

“Red Coconut Curry Shrimp” from “Dinner: Changing the Game”

Fish Friday!

Although, for the record, someone (read: my husband) once told me that prawns/shrimp do not count as fish. I think it’s high time I finally learn if he’s right. [Editor’s Note: Pause to do a quick Google search.] It turns out he’s right. According to Quora and FunTrivia.com, shrimp are crustaceans with the group of arthropods, though they are classified as seafood. You can learn something new every day. If you try.

Despite the above fact finding, I’m still making prawns on Fish Friday. Maybe I just need to call it Seafood Friday on the days we have shrimp/prawns.

This was a good meal. Although it did take a special trip to the supermarket to get some of the ingredients– I don’t usually have Thai red curry paste on hand– it was easy and quick to make. Everyone liked it.

There was only one small problem, and this is something we run into from time to time when we use a cookbook from a different country, in this case, America. The recipe called for daikon radish, which I guess must be relatively easy to source over there but is impossible to find over here. (Believe me, I tried.) Subbing in regular radishes was not an option, because they are completely different. So in the end I just ended up dropping the daikon radish from the recipe. It’s impossible to know if its absence made a difference. The curry was still good, though.

Needless to say, it was another winner from “Dinner.”

 

 

“Red Coconut Curry Shrimp” from “Dinner: Changing the Game”

“All-in-one Basil Cod with Potatoes and Green Lentils” from “Flavour: Eat What You Love”

Fish Friday!

This dish reminds me so much of a great Nigella Lawson dish. She loves a tray bake, and I have to agree. You bung everything together in a tray, bake it for the prescribed amount of time, and then eat. It’s the perfect weeknight dish for when you want something delicious, but nothing something that’s going to use three bowls, two pots and multiple spoons.

I always knew there was a risk in making this for the teenagers, because they are not fans of lentils, whereas the adults in the family are. In any case, they found a workaround: they ate the fish and the potatoes (happily, as it happens) and ate around the lentils. Problem solved. The adults loved everything.

Highly recommended, both for the ease of making it and the delicious taste. I would definitely make this again.

“All-in-one Basil Cod with Potatoes and Green Lentils” from “Flavour: Eat What You Love”

“Fish and Lobster Cakes” from “Cooking for Jeffrey”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Fish Friday!

We love a fish cake in this house. Who doesn’t? It’s deep-fried goodness. We’ve tried countless, but I can never remember which one I like best. Maybe because the recipes are all pretty similar.

This one is different, though, because it uses lobster (and cod). Yes, lobster. When I went to the fishmonger to see if I could get a cheap cooked lobster, they laughed at me. They laughed not because I wanted lobster, but because I wanted one cheap (Um.. No.. Not really possible) and also because I told them I planned to use them in fish cakes.

“Fish cakes? Really?” they asked, incredulously. “Why in the world would you put lobster in fish cakes? It’s so good on its own.”

I agreed, but told them the idea of the blog was to test these recipes as they were written, so I went away, dejected, thinking I’d never know if lobster really would make fish cakes better. But then I checked Ocado, and found a semi-budget solution: a full frozen pre-cooked lobster!

So I now can tell you definitely that there’s absolutely no point in putting lobster in fish cakes. Lobster is so good all on its own. While I could taste it in these, it was a waste.

The fish cakes were delicious, though. I most definitely would make these again (Andrew, 17, absolutely hoovered his down and then asked for more). I’d just make them with all cod the next time. Not lobster.

I’ll eat lobster as God intended next time: Straight out of the shell.

 

“Fish and Lobster Cakes” from “Cooking for Jeffrey”