Boston Legal Clam Chowder

Monday brought a snow storm to Boston and with it the perfect weather for soups and comfort food. We had enjoyed the milder weather over the weekend, making hay while the sun shined and walking the Freedom Trail learning about Paul Revere’s heroic ride to warn the Patriots of the approaching British troops and all about Boston’s contribution to American Independence.

But by Monday we were ready to hole up and take advantage of the weather to try out Legal Seafood down at the revitalised Seafront district for their renowned Clam Chowder. We had been assured by locals that despite being an ever expanding chain,the quality of food and service had remained and that this was the best spot to sample Boston’s acclaimed seafood.

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Located next to the fishermen’s pier and overlooking the harbour, Legal Seafood at the Seafront certainly puts one in the mood for fine dining, although more casual dining is also offered downstairs. This is by no means a cheap eats restaurant but at the same time prices for food and wine are excellent value for the quality and style.

We chose a Deloach Sonoma Pinot Noir, which little did we know at the time of ordering, was developed especially for Legal Seafood to go with their seafood centric menu.

Dinner started on a high note with the complimentary amuse Bouche sent by the chef.

The Clam Chowder certainly lived up to it’s reputation and was deliciously creamy – you can taste the sea in the freshness of the seafood ingredients. As a starter it is certainly filling but not heavy. Beautiful free breads were served at the beginning.

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For mains we tried halibut (rarely found in Australia), and of course lobster. The halibut was served with couscous,roasted fennel and aioli. And the lobster came with a parsnip puree, steamed kale, and one slow cooked beef brisket rib. Both entrees(mains) demonstrated a sophisticated approach to balancing flavours and tastes that “legitimised” for us Legal Seafood’s word of mouth referrals and food critic approvals.

The dessert menu was very tempting but we couldn’t fit it in so we settled for chocolates instead.

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A must try on you next trip to Boston.

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

Pan-fried Scallops on pea purée with crispy proscuitto

Red, white and green. These sweet scallops just pan-fried with a golden brown crust on the bright green pea purée topped with salty, red crispy proscuitto bits are a great Christmas starter or entree. The pea purée can be made ahead of time so it’s easy to assemble just before serving.

Prep time: 30 minutes cooking time: 20 minutes
Ingredients:

Pea purée
2 small eschallots finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic finely sliced
2 cups frozen peas defrosted
1/2 cup chicken stock
50g butter or 2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and finely crushed black pepper

Scallops
16-24 scallops (4-6 per person)
Olive oil spray

Proscuitto
4-6 slices very thin slices of proscuitto

Method
Pea purée
Heat butter or oil over medium heat
Add eschallots and garlic and sauté gently until soft and transparent
Add defrosted peas and chicken stock, bring to gentle simmer
Cook for maximum 5-7 minutes until peas are tender but still bright green
Add salt and pepper to taste
Process with stick blender or in food processor until purée forms
Pass through a sieve to remove husks, leaving smooth creamy and bright green purée

Proscuitto
Put proscuitto in non-stick frying pan and bring up to medium heat to allow fat to render slowly
Fry for 10 minutes or so until proscuitto is really crispy turning up heat slightly if needed but keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn

Scallops
Pat dry each scallop with paper towel
Heat a non-stick pan on high heat, then turn down heat slightly, spray very lightly with olive oil if necessary to ensure non-stick
Add scallops to pan in 2-3 batches
Pan fry for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden crust forms and scallops are cooked. If too much liquid comes out of scallops, remove scallops from pan, clean pan and then add scallops back to achieve golden colour

Assembly
Spoon 2 tablespoons pea purée on individual plates
Spread purée with a spoon to form a “strip” on which to place scallops
Place 4-6 scallops on purée
Scatter with crispy proscuitto bits
Serve with a crisp white wine

Snapper in Indian “Crazy Water” Broth

This dish is based on the Italian inspired recipes by Marcella Hazan and Neil Perry for “fish in crazy water”. Having previously made and enjoyed Neil Perry’s recipe, I had found the original light broth reminiscent of the texture of the South Indian soup known as Rasam that often accompanies meals. This version is of my own creation and includes the distinct aniseed flavour of star anise and the fruity sweet-sour flavour of tamarind. You can also easily play around with the combination of herbs and spices to suit your palette. This dish is perfect to serve with blanched spinach for a light and healthy dinner.

Prep time: 15 minutes  Cooking time: 55 minutes

Ingredients:
2 large snapper fillets with skin on
3 large, very ripe tomatoes
3 cloves garlic
3 red chillies
1/2 tspn sea salt
small handful coriander leaves
small handful mint leaves
1.5 tsp tamarind concentrate or 2 tspns tamarind juice
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 star anise
60ml olive oil
900ml water

Method
Place tomatoes in bowl of boiling water, then peel off skin, remove seeds and chop

 Soaking tomatoes in hot water makes it easier to peel the skin off
Soaking tomatoes in hot water makes it easier to peel the skin off

Finely chop coriander and mint (save half for garnish)
Finely slice garlic cloves

Sliced garlic, coriander and mint for crazy water
Sliced garlic, coriander and mint for crazy water

Deseed chillies and dice finely
Put all ingredients, except the fish fillets, into large heavy based saucepan and bring to a boil.

All the ingredients except the fish go into making the crazy water
All the ingredients except the fish go into making the crazy water

Lower heat and simmer for 45 minutes with lid on
Remove lid, return mixture to a boil and reduce sauce to half again, but ensuring some of the light broth remains
Add snapper fillets skin side down for 2 minutes, simmering over medium heat
Carefully turn fillets over and cook for a further 5-8 minutes until fish is just cooked through
Serve with finely chopped and blanched spinach or bok choy

Snapper in Indian Crazy Water served with blanched spinach
Snapper in Indian Crazy Water served with blanched spinach