Baked Fish with spicy Tahini and onion sauce

This is my take on a traditional Lebanese sauce to go with baked fish. It’s simple to make and the cholesterol free Tahini(sesame paste) sauce I use makes it a much healthier option than cream. The lemony, garlic flavours combine with the nutty flavour of the Tahini and sweet, slightly caramelised onion and spicy chilli into a delicious creamy topping to go with the baked fish. We had it here with a mixed salad including  artichokes which complimented the middle Eastern flavours well.

Prep time:  5 minutes. Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:
500g firm fish fillets like  flathead or snapper
1 lemon finely sliced into rings
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup Tahini sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic crushed
1 medium onion thinly sliced in half moons
1 large red chilli finely chopped
1/3 cup cold water
1/ 2 teaspoon cummin powder
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped parsley or coriander

Method:
Heat oven to 200 degrees celcius (400 Farenheit)
Line an ovenproof dish with baking paper and place lemon slices on base
Season fish with salt and pepper, cummin and chilli flakes if using

 

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Seasoned fish on bed of lemon slices

Pour over 1/3 cup lemon juice and reserve the rest for sauce
Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil
Place fish in oven to bake for 15-20 minutes until starting to become golden but do not overcook

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cook onions with chilli and half the garlic

Meanwhile heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in pan, add onions and cook until transparent, then add half the crushed garlic and the fresh red chilli and cook slowly for about 10 minutes until onion starts to caramelise slightly. Remove from heat.

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Ingredients for spicy tahini sauce

In a mini food processor, place tahini sauce, rest of garlic, 1/3 cup lemon juice,some salt, pepper, cold water and whizz until thickened and pale.
Place pan with onions back on heat, add tahini sauce mixture and heat through. When warm add parsley or coriander, mix through and remove from heat.

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Tahini sauce thickens and goes pale when processed with other ingredients

Remove fish from oven and place fillets on serving dish or individual plates, spoon over sauce and serve with salad. Crispy Lebanese bread or plain rice would go well with this too.
Serves 2

Crispy Asian Roast Pork Belly Salad

This is a delicious way to eat pork belly with crunchy crackling and moist roast pork tinged with the flavours of Asia – soy sauce, coriander, chilli, and hints of black vinegar. All it really needs is some steamed greens and jasmine rice on the side for a complete meal. It would also be a very good pre-prepared dish made for sharing or as part of a buffet.

i have read many very different techniques for getting crunchy crackling but I just stick to the simple method of keeping the pork uncovered in the fridge for an hour or two and then drying with a cloth and rubbing the scored skin with generous amounts of salt before putting into oven. (Seems to work every time for me.)

And, as most of the prep and cooking time is just drying out the pork in the fridge and then roasting in the oven, you can get on and do other things without too much fuss.

Prep time: 2.5 hours  Cooking time:2 hours
Ingredients:

750g boneless pork belly, with skin scored both ways into cross-hatch
2 tablespoons soy sauce for marinade
2 tablespoons salt

Salad
half a bunch coriander chopped
1 red chilli finely chopped
1 eschallot or half a red onion very finely sliced
2 tablespoons Chiangkiang black vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Method
Dry out pork belly uncovered in fridge for at least 1 hour or even overnight
Put soy sauce on a plate or in a flat dish and carefully place pork, flesh-side down on top of sauce, taking care not to get any soy sauce on the skin – leave to marinate for an hour

Heat oven to 200 degrees celcius

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Pork marinating in soy sauce

Remove from marinade and carefully place on baking paper lined baking dish/oven tray.

Wipe skin once more then rub salt thoroughly into skin and in between scoring

Place pork in oven, and cook at 200 degrees celcius for 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 170 degrees and cook for a further 1 hour 15 minutes. Turn heat to maximum using the top grilling element to grill the pork until crackling starts to crisp up, about 10-15 minutes. Keep a close eye on the pork at this point as the skin can burn easily.

Meanwhile, chop coriander and chillies and slice onion finely,and set aside.

Remove from oven and rest about 25 minutes until medium warm, then cut into cubes, trying to keep crackling and meat connected where possible.

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Crispy roasted pork belly

Mix herbs, onions and chillies with black vinegar, soy sauce and sesame oil.

Cut pork into cubes along the scored “lines”

Layer the pork with the herbs mixture, drizzling the dressing over the pork.

Serve with steamed greens and jasmine rice. I also like steamed pumpkin with salted black bean sauce with it and I promise to post that recipe soon.

Serves 2-3 with other accompaniments.

image Crispy Asian Pork Belly Salad with steamed greens and pumpkin[/caption

Homemade Borlotti Baked Beans

My six year old neighbour Martin is coming over for lunch today. A few months ago Martin popped in to say hi and I had just taken my homemade baked beans out of the oven. Martin was astounded to find out that baked beans don’t just come out of a can. He was even more intrigued when I showed him the actual raw beans. “They are like nuts”, he said. I gave Martin a small taste of the freshly cooked beans and he loved them. Since then whenever I see him he talks about the baked beans,so I thought it only appropriate that I should make a batch for lunch.

Whilst they take time to make, due to having to soak the beans, then twice cook them, the results are so much better than using beans out of a can and the cooking process gives you the opportunity to use herbs and spices to your taste in the sauce.

I use Borlotti beans for this recipe, but you can also use white beans or cannellini beans. Cooking the beans with a ham hock adds a smoky sweetness, but is not essential.

Prep time: 8 hours soaking + 10 minutes  Cooking time: 3-4 hours

Ingredients

Soaking:
2 cups dried Borlotti beans
water to cover

Boiling
soaked Borlotti beans
water to cover
1 small ham hock
1 onion studded with 4-6 cloves

Baking
1 onion finely diced
3 cloves garlic finely diced
Shredded ham from hock
2 bay leaves
1 can diced tomatoes
2 tbspns tomato paste
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves stripped from stalks
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tabLespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tspoon salt (or to taste)
2 tspns crushed black pepper

Method
Soak beans overnight or for at least 8 hours covered in plenty of cold water
Drain beans and place in large soup or casserole pot
Cover with water, at least 10cm above beans
Add ham hock and onion studded with cloves
Bring to a boil then cook on a slow bubbling boil for 1-1.5hours or until beans are just tender (length of time depends on freshness of beans so check to see if they are cooked earlier or need longer. Mine cooked really quickly this time so broke up a bit, but were still fine in end dish)
Beans should be tender but still holding their shape, a few might break up
Remove ham hock and shred meat, removing skin and gelatinous bits
Drain in a colander and set aside

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Boiled and drained Borlotti beans

Preheat oven to 150 degrees celcius
In a large casserole pot that has a tight fitting lid, heat oil, then add onions and cook slowly until transparent
Add garlic and shredded ham bits and cook until garlic looks golden
Add beans, diced tomatoes, bay leaves, tomato paste, worcestshire sauce, sugar, salt, pepper and and thyme and bring to a boil
Cover with lid, then carefully place in oven
Check after half an hour and remove lid if it is looking too watery
Bake in oven for 2-2.5 hours until sauce has thickened

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Boiled and drained Borlotti beans

Serve on toast for breakfast, lunch or dinner – delicious with avocado slices and a squeeze of lemon

Salmon En Croute with fennel, dill and chilli butter

This recipe is inspired by Rick Stein and Jamie Oliver who both have very different versions of the classic Salmon en Croute. According to my google search the term “en Croute” refers to food cooked in pastry in the oven, most commonly salmon or beef. For the Salmon En Croute, Rick Stein in his recipe book Seafood Cookbook uses a butter with currants and mace spiced butter filling, whereas Jamie Oliver uses a spinach and watercress creme fraiche filling. As I decided to make this after I had already done the grocery shopping, I thought I’d try a filling with ingredients I had which I knew would go well with salmon.

The resulting pastry parcel with a homemade fennel, dill and chilli butter was absolutely delicious seved with a homemade kale,carrot and red cabbage coleslaw with avocado and tomatoes.

It was easy to make using store bought frozen pastry and you could just experiment with the type of flavoured butter filling you’d like. I would recommend using some substantial ingredients, like the thin fennel slices I added, to introduce some additional texture to the filling.

These parcels would be excellent with a crisp green salad and/some roast potatoes. Be aware of the size of the salmon fillets you use, as this quickly becomes a very filling meal. In fact we couldn’t finish our serves so next time I would probably just cut one large salmon fillet in half and make individual portions to serve 2, or use 2 large salmon fillets to make 4 individual parcels.

It’s advisable to let the parcels rest for at least 10 minutes after taking out of the oven – this lets the juices stay in the fish. This is a dish that would be just as impressive for a formal dinner, as it would be as a delicious buffet item or just lukewarm at a picnic!

Prep time: 15 minutes  Chilling time: 1/2 hour  Cooking time: 25-35 minutes
Ingredients:

2 medium size boneless salmon fillets, skin removed
2 square sheets of stone bought (Pampas) puff pastry
1 small bulb fennel, tips and fronds removed, and very thinly sliced
1 medium size red chilli chopped (optional)
handful of dill leaves finely chopped
50g of unsalted butter softened but not melted
salt and pepper
1 egg beaten to use as egg wash
1 sprig continental parsley leaves roughly chopped

Method

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Stuff salmon pockets with herbed butter
  1. Take 2 square sheets of puff pastry out of the freezer and packaging to defrost for about 10 minutes
  2. Blend 2/3 of the fennel with the chopped chilli in a spice grinder or blender until a rough, textured paste forms (not too fine)
  3. Mix paste well with softened butter, add chopped dill and ground pepper to your taste
  4. Pat salmon fillets dry with paper towel and make a deep slit in the thickest part of each fillet trying to make each “pocket” as deep as possible without cutting through to the other end
  5. Lay rest of thinly sliced fennel, fill pocket with herbed butter, and add a few parsley leaves before pressing salmon closed.
  6. Place each salmon topside down in centre of puff pastry, brush edges with egg wash then turn over long edges and gently seal creating a long “seam”.
  7. Turn over with “seam” on the bottom, trim short edges close to edge of filletand press with a fork to seal.image
  8. Make decorative topping with leftover pastry and use a teaspoon to create a fish scale pattern across the parcel.
  9. Place parcels in freezer for 1/2 hour or fridge for an hour
  10. Put a large baking tray in oven and pre-heat oven to 200 degrees celcius
  11. Remove parcels from freezer/fridge and brush with beaten egg all over

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12. Carefully remove hot baking tray from oven and cover with greaseproof paper, place parcels on top, Bake in oven for 25 -35 minutes, if pastry is browning too quickly cover with a tent of foil.

13. Remove from oven, allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving with salads and sauces of your choice

Fish Briyani with Tomato Chutney & Turmeric Rice

This Fish Briyani is based on a recipe from my Aunty Vimala who inspired my interest in cooking when I was young. I can still vividly recall the enticing smells of spices cooking and the delicious flavour combinations that came from her kitchen. I wrote this recipe down, taking notes as she made it, when I last visited South Africa in 1997.

The spicy tomato chutney, fresh herbs, sweet caramelised onions and lightly fried fish combine to create a more-ish, layered fish dish that is delicious on its own or with youghurt, mango or mint chutney and pickles to the side.

This is a lovely dish to serve as part of a buffet lunch or dinner as it is actually nicer warm, rather than piping hot, and even better the next day.

Don’t put off by the number of steps and spices, it really is a matter of making each of the components seperately and then combining into the completed layered dish. Once you’ve done the prep it’s just a matter of putting it in the oven and because it can be prepared even a day ahead and reheated in the microwave it is excellent for entertaining.

Preparation time: 30-35 minutes Cooking time: 60 minutes
Ingredients:

700g firm white boneless fish fillets like snapper or flathead, cut into medium size pieces (I used small flathead fillets in this recipe)
1 1/4 cups basmati rice par-boiled with 1/4 tspn turmeric to make it golden in colour

2 medium size brown onions sliced thinly
3 medium size ripe tomatoes chopped
5 cloves garlic chopped roughly
Large Knob (equal to amount of garlic)of ginger peeled
2 sprigs of curry leaves
2-4 small green chillies chopped finely
4 tablespoons coriander leaves and same amount of mint leaves chopped
1.5 cups chicken stock
5 tablespoons or so vegetable oil
1 tablespoon of butter

Dry Spices – (see quantities in method below)
Chilli powder, cummin powder, turmeric, fennel powder, cinnamon sticks, cummin seeds, fennel seeds, salt, sugar

Method:

1. Crush ginger and garlic together in a mortar and pestle.

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Marinating fish fillets for briyani

2. Marinate fish fillets, for half an hour, at least with 1/2 tspn chilli powder, 1/2 tspn turmeric, 1/2 tspn cummin powder, 1/4 tspn fennel powder, 1/2 tspn crushed ginger and garlic, pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.

3. Par boil basmati rice with 1/4 tspn turmeric, strain and set aside. Make sure rice is only half cooked or it will turn gluggy when cooked in oven.

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Par boiled basmati rice cooked with turmeric

4. Make tomato chutney: Heat oil over medium heat in heavy based pot, add 1-2 cinnamon sticks, 1 tspn cummin seeds, 1 tspn fennel seeds, curry leaves from both sprigs and fry until fragrant; add 3/4 of the sliced onions and fry gently until translucent, add 1/2 tspn chilli powder, 1/2 tspoon fennel powder, 1/2 tspn turmeric powder, 1/2 tspn salt, 1 tsp. sugar, add green chillies and rest of the ginger and garlic and sautée gently for 1 minute being careful not to burn spices, add tomatoes and 1 cup of chicken stock and simmer for 20-25 minutes until tomatoes degenerate and stock evaporates and oil starts to reappear. The resulting chutneys should be moist but not watery. Taste to see if extra salt is needed.

5. Pre-heat oven to 150 degrees Celsius

5. Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in pan and fry fish fillets for 1 minute on each side to “seal” – remove from oil and drain on paper towel.

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Lightly fried “sealed” fish fillets

6. Chop coriander and mint roughly

7. Assembly: coat medium size ovenproof dish with 1 tablespoon of oil, put a thin layer of rice on the bottom, put a thin layer of tomato chutney over rice(remove cinnamon sticks from chutney), sprinkle 1/2 of fresh herbs over the tomato chutney, place all the fish gently on top of the chutney, put remaining chutney over fish trying to spread evenly across dish, sprinkle remaining mint and coriander on fish, add remaining rice to cover fish. Using a spoon sprinkle 1/4 cup of stock over rice. Cover dish with foil or lid and place in oven for 35-40 minutes. Check on dish to add more stock if rice is drying out too much. Ten minutes before the end, add little “dollops” of butter across surface of rice, cover again before placing in oven for last ten minutes.

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Layer rice, chutney, fresh herbs and fish

8. Fry remaining sliced onion in oil or butter until golden brown and lightly caramelised, drain on paper towel.

9. Remove dish from oven, sprinkle with onion and herbs for coriander and mint for garnish. Allow to rest for 10-30 minutes.

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Fish Briyani garnished with fried onions and fresh coriander and mint

10. Serve as a feature dish in a buffet with yoghurt raita, salads, pickles and chutneys of your choice.

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Fish Briyani with tomato chutney and turmeric rice

Serves 3-4 depending on size of serves

Mussels in Thai Broth

An easy, healthy and delicious main courses or starter – can be served with crispy bread rolls or jasmine rice. Make sure you use fresh mussels. It’s all the better made using homemade Thai prawn stock(see recipe below) but bought fish or chicken stock will do if you are short on time.

Prep time: 10 minutes  Cooking time: 10 minutes
Ingredients:
1 kg of mussels, beards removed (do not use any broken mussels)
1 small brown onion finely diced
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
2 pieces ginger/fresh galangal finely chopped
1-2 hot red chillies chopped
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
6 coriander stalks and roots cleaned and chopped, leaves reserved for garnish
thai basil for garnish
750 ml prawn or fish stock
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Method:
Heat oil in large pot that has a tight fitting lid
Add onions, garlic, ginger and chillies and sautéed over medium heat until onions are translucent
Add coriander, stock, fish sauce and sugar
Add mussels, fit on lid and bring stock to boil.
Shake pan and check after 3-4 minutes, once mussels are open, garnish with coriander and basil leaves, and serve in deep bowls with soupy stock. (Throw out any mussels that don’t open)

Homemade Thai Prawn Stock
Ingredients
Heads and shells of 12 prawns
4-5 small pieces of galangal
2 pieces about 1 finger length of ginger
1 stalk lemongrass chopped
1 brown onion cut into quarters
4-5 coriander roots cleaned of any soil
3 cloves garlic
3 litres water

Method
Put all ingredients into stock pot and bring to a rolling boil
Simmer for an hour-1.5 hours
Strain to remove solids
freeze unused portions for use as a base in Thai soups and Curries