Baked Gigot of Monkfish with a Warm Tomato Vinaigrette

It’s Good Friday today and traditionally in our household, and no doubt many others, we eat fish.  Unfortunately, lots of people I know get put off fish by the prospect of fiddling about with bones.  This is where monkfish comes into its own. The gigot (or tail) of monkfish only has a large central bone which makes serving easy!  But this is a dish that keeps on giving, because there is no last minute frying or poaching- it bakes in the oven.

Monkfish has a dense, white meaty flesh, and in this recipe it is spiked with anchovies to season (please don’t be put off if you aren’t sure about them, the anchovies melt into the monkfish), then marinated in lemon and olive oil, and nestled on a bed of Rosemary so that it is perfumed with its flavour as it bakes.  The warm tomato vinaigrette that is poured over just before serving is the perfect sauce and also goes well with whatever green vegetable you serve with it.  Today we had it with asparagus as it is growing like mad in the garden right now.

This is a real winner of a recipe for anytime, not just Good Friday, as it is a bit unusual so is great for entertaining as well. It serves 6.

Ingredients

  • 1kg tail of monkfish
  • tin of anchovy fillets
  • 8 tbsp olive oil
  • juice of a lemon
  • a large bunch of fresh Rosemary
  • pepper
  • For Tomato Vinaigrette 
  • 10 tbsp olive oil
  • 3tbsp white wine vinegar
  • pinch of sugar
  • salt and pepper
  • 250g deseeded, chopped vine tomatoes

Method

  1. With a sharp knife make slits in the flesh of the monkfish and put in pieces of anchovy
  2. Take a roasting tin that singly fits the monkfish and cover the bottom with the branches of Rosemary.  Place monkfish on top
  3. Pour over the olive oil (and oil from anchovy tin) and lemon juice.  Grind over pepper.  Leave to infuse for at least 2 hours
  4. Heat your oven to 180c or 160c fan
  5. Place fish in the preheated oven for 40-45 mins
  6. To make vinegrette place all the ingredients in a small pan and warm through
  7. Put fish on a serving dish and pour over warm vinaigrette. Serve with a green vegetable such as asparagus, beans or mangetout. If you prefer serve with salad

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Pineapple and Star Anise Tarte Tatin

I love tarte tatin   it’s quick, easy,  totally delicious and looks impressive.  I make it with apples (preferably cox or Braeburn) I make it with plums, apricots, greengages and now  I make it with pineapple

On Sunday I couldn’t think what I was going to make for pudding  Then my eye fell upon a lone pineapple sitting in the fruit bowl. I had ready made butter puff pastry in the fridge and I had star anise in the spice rack. I even had stem ginger ice cream in the freezer – things were looking good.

There are many different ways of making Tarte Tatin. My top priority is based on the fact I like crisp pastry and the fruit to be caramelised  This is why I make the caramel on its own in the pan before adding the fruit and allowing the whole thing to cool and then add the pastry   This way there is no steam to make pastry soggy

I like the flavour of star anise with the caramel for pineapple but for plums I would add some cinnamon and for apricots maybe some lime zest    Ginger icecream goes well with pineapple – or maybe some custard or cream flavoured with stem ginger syrup   For apples, plums or apricots try some rum (mind you that goes well with the pineapple too instead of ginger)!!

Ingredients

  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 50g butter (I like to use salted)
  • 1 ripe pineapple (peeled, cored and sliced)
  • 5 star anise
  • 320g (packet size) of all butter puff pastry, ready rolled

Method

  1. Place sugar, along with 50ml water in oven proof 20cm heavy pan. Allow water to totally absorb into sugar
  2. Put over moderate heat on hob and allow to caramelise to an amber colour (see pic) remembering it will still darken a little from residual heat when removed from hob
  3. Add butter and stir till blended.
  4. Arrange pineapple rings and star anise on caramel and allow to cool
  5. Heat oven to 180c
  6. Take puff pastry and roll a little to fit the pan.  Place on top of fruit tucking the edges under fruit to eventually for a saucer like base.  Make a few slots in pastry to allow steam to escape
  7. Bake in oven for 25-30 mins till pastry is brown and crisp
  8. Allow to cool for 10 mins and then run knife round edge before turning out onto rimmed plate

TIP:  As this tarte is best served warm, if you wish to serve it later on leave tarte in tin and very gently warm through before turning out   This way the pastry will remain crisp

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Snowdrops – February’s Flower of the Month

It’s difficult to find flowers from the garden to decorate the house at this time of year.  But if you look they are there.  Close to the ground, their heads hanging down almost shyly.  Snowdrops.  “February’s Fair Maids” or “Candlemas Bells” – with Candlemas being the 2nd February – link snowdrops to this month.  My mood always lightens at the first sight of them because it means spring is well and truly on its way.  There are also yellow aconites and early hellebores.  Then there are the first catkins (which is what my French family mistakenly used to  think the English called kittens!!)

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Now I agree small flowers aren’t easy to arrange.  Particularly if, like me, you aren’t the best arranger,  but armed with little bud vases and/or those little mini milk bottles you can be really effective.  I often put a little collection of these vases filled with snowdrops etc on a mirror (it needn’t be a fancy one) so you get to see their reflection.  It makes an advantage of their drooping heads.

 

Obviously  if if you want a big display you are better off just using branches adorned with catkins grouped together in a large vase. They looked wonderful on the counter of the welcome area at the Leaping Hare Restaurant near Bury St Edmunds when I ate a wonderful meal there yesterday.    It also, incidentally has a lovely shop attached that stays open for diners so you can nip out between main course and pudding should you want a bit of retail therapy. Which is a rather long way round of introducing the subject of funny signs.  The shop there has the best I have ever seen

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Overnight Porridge

Spoiler Alert!!!  This makes the best, smoothest and creamiest porridge ever even without milk!  BUT this recipe is really only practical if you have an Aga or a Rayburn   You can do it in an ordinary oven turned to the lowest setting and left on overnight, but it would mean leaving the power on specially – whereas an old fashioned Aga or Rayburn is on anyway.

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The porridge is very simple to make with no need for the long, laborious stirring required to make porridge this silky.   Set it up for two minutes the night before, leave overnight, and then two minutes in the morning and it’s ready.  If possible use steel-cut pinhead oats for the best results although you can make it with rolled if that’s all you have.  You can customise the porridge anyway you like.  At the moment we are eating it with blueberries and local honey but it’s great with whatever fruit is in season – stewed apple, rhubarb, berries etc. You can add seeds, tropical fruit or whatever you fancy.  Those of you who suffer from hay fever might like to know that if you top this with honey which is from a local bee-keeper,  there is evidence to suggest it will help reduce hayfever symptoms as it increases immunity to the local pollens etc

This is a wonderfully healthy breakfast. This porridge is gluten free, lactose free if you don’t use dairy milk and is a wonderful source of slow release energy due to its low GI rating so you don’t get hungry quickly

My top tip would be that in the morning when you have taken the pan of porridge out of the oven, hook the oven glove over the pan handle to avoid getting burnt as it’s easy to forget as you stir that handle will be hot!!!

Ingredients (makes 2 large portions)

  • 1 pint water
  • pinch of salt
  • 70g pinhead oats

Options- Any milk (dairy or otherwise), double cream, fruit, honey etc

Method

  1. Put water and salt in a heavy pan which has a tight fitting lid
  2. Bring to the boil and add the oats.  Simmer for a minute
  3. Cover with lid and put on rack on floor of coolest Aga oven with cool shelf directly above
  4. Leave overnight
  5. In the morning remove pan from oven.
  6. Take off lid and add milk, cream or more water to achieve the consistency you like. Bring to a simmer, stirring until combined
  7. Put in bowls and top with fruit etc

 

Sri Lankan Veg Curry

Well Chloe, the wait is finally over!  You’ve been asking me for ages to put this on the blog and finally I have got round to it!  This is a lightly spiced vegan curry that makes Chloe feel happy after a long, hard day at work – ok this and a large glass of wine, but she does have an extremely stressful job!  It’s great just served in a bowl curled up on the sofa.   It isn’t too heavy and yet is warming and somehow the colours and smells make you feel as though you are somewhere sunny and warm.  Dare I say it, this meal actually feels as though it’s doing your body good!   All it needs to go with it is either some couscous or brown basmati rice

If you are feeling really organised you can roast the veggies in advance and stash them in the fridge.  You can make the sauce in advance too so this meal, particularly when served with couscous, becomes an assembly job on the night and ready in minutes.  Any leftovers of the rice/curry make a great packed lunch the next day – microwaved or at room temperature.

Ingredients (serves 2-3) 

  • Small butternut squash
  • Small cauliflower
  • 2 large carrots
  • Large red pepper
  • 1 red chilli
  • 6 tbsp Vegetable or coconut oil
  • 1 onion
  • 2.5 cm piece of root ginger, grated
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 400g tin coconut milk
  • juice half lemon
  • 1tsp honey
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 large handfuls of baby spinach

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Method

  1. Peel and de-seed the squash and chop into bite sized pieces
  2. Separate the cauliflower into small florets
  3. Peel and chop the carrot into the same sized pieces as the squash
  4. De-seed the red pepper and cut into bite sized strips
  5. Put the squash, cauliflower, carrots and red pepper onto a baking tray and toss in 3tbsp of your chosen oil.  Season with salt and pepper and roast for 30-40 mins in 200c oven until veg is lightly tinged and soft
  6. Whilst veg is roasting make the sauce. Finely chop the onion and soften for 6-8 mins in remaining oil in a large pan
  7. Add all the spices and continue to cook for a further three minutes stirring regularly so it doesn’t catch.
  8. Add tomatoes, coconut milk, lemon and honey.  Season, stir to combine, and bring to boil before reducing heat so sauce can simmer and thicken for 20 mins
  9. When roast veg are ready, and sauce has thickened bring the curry together by adding spinach to the sauce, cooking until wilted, and then gently folding in the remaining vegetables.
  10. Simmer for a couple more minutes before serving on couscous or brown rice

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Flapjacks

Going for a walk on a Sunday with the dogs on a crisp January morning is one of life’s old fashioned pleasures   With luck there are blue skies, a bit of sparkling frost and the first few snowdrops peeking their noses above the ground.  Bliss.

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Flapjacks. Something that’s classed as being old fashioned but doesn’t seem to be held in the same favourable nostalgic light as Sunday walks.  In fact, flapjacks seem generally out of favour in the biscuit tin (itself not often present in modern life).  Maybe it’s because flapjacks are seen as being worthily oaty and difficult to eat and, let’s be honest we often think that if you are going to blow the calories that chocolate Italian biscuit is much more appealing and trendy!   Flapjacks are something that your granny made – and often overbaked -making them so claggy and hard when you bit into them you were afraid that you would need to visit the dentist from a lost tooth or filling.

I urge you to think again and give them a try   These flapjacks are much lighter because as well as oats they have cornflakes in making them crisp, lightly chewy and very delicious.  The smell when they come out the oven is all toasty and golden syrupy.  They keep well in the biscuit tin and there is nothing like them for when you come back in after a brisk walk with the dogs and fancy a big mug of tea and a biscuit. Nostalgia without any drawbacks!

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They are ridiculously easy and quick to make. I have cut down on the sugar in this recipe  I often add 50g of nuts to this recipe (pecans being a real favourite) or dried ready-to-eat fruit such as apricots or prunes   One friend of mine loves drizzling melted dark chocolate in thin dark lines over the baked cooled flapjacks but whatever you decide to add to them they are worth making and reintroducing to your biscuit tin!

Ingredients (makes 12)

  • 125g butter
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 50g self raising flour
  • 50g rolled oats
  • 75g cornflakes

Method

  1. Heat oven to 200c
  2. Line a baking tray (20×20 cm or equivalent) with baking parchment
  3. Take a largish saucepan and melt together the butter and syrup stirring until combined
  4. Remove pan from heat and add all the remaining ingredients.  Stir well to combine, crushing the cornflakes slightly in the process
  5. Press into the lined baking tin making sure mix goes into corners.  It should be about a couple of centimetres thick
  6. Bake for 15 mins till lightly golden.  Overbaking is not recommended!! (Thats where granny went wrong!)
  7. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before turning out and cutting into pieces.  Leave on cooling rack until completely cold and store in an airtight tin.  If they last, once family and friends have discovered how delicious they are, the flapjacks keep well.

 

Breakfast Martini

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I promised a couple of weeks ago when I shared my marmade recipe that I would write some that used it.  At the time I had in mind a pudding or maybe a baked ham but instead I came across this cocktail which is essentially a marmalade martini.  Salvatore Calabrese is a mixologist and a recent President of The United Kingdom Bartenders’ Guild and the man who has this as his signature cocktail – and jolly nice it is too!!!

Ingredients

  • 50ml gin
  • 15ml cointreau
  • 15ml lemon juice
  • 1 heaped tsp marmalade

Method

  1. Place all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice
  2. Shake well and strain into a chilled martini glass
  3. Garnish with some peel from the marmalade.