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Archive for the ‘Shellfish’ Category

Mouclade

Not our first mouclade, as we’ve made many variations over the years, but we particularly liked this one by Diana Henry as the saffron gives the sauce a fantastic colour. A very popular summer lunch dish. You will need some bread for mopping up the sauce.

Wine Suggestion: we went Spanish today and paired this with a wine made predominantly of Treixadura but with small amounts of Godello, Albariño and Loureiro too. Made by Pazo Casanova in the DO Ribeiro which is on the Spanish section of the Minho River this is fresh and citrussy with hints of white flowers and stone fruit on the nose and a mid-weight, textured finish. While we don’t drink much Treixadura we were tempted by the addition of the other grapes which we knew would work with the dish and we can now add this rarer, indigenous Spanish variety to our repetoire of seafood loving wines.

Mouclade – serves 4

  • a good pinch of saffron threads
  • 2kg mussels
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • ¾ tsp medium curry powder
  • 4 tbsp brandy
  • 2 tsp plain flour
  • 200ml dry white wine
  • 200ml double cream
  • generous handful of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

Put the saffron in a cup with 5 tbsp of boiling water, then leave aside for 30 minutes.

Wash the mussels, remove any beards and crusty bits and throw away open mussels that don’t closed when given a sharp tap on the side of the sink.

Melt the butter in a pan and gently sauté the onion until soft but not coloured. Add the garlic and curry powder and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the brandy and boil until reduced to a couple of tablespoons. Reduce the heat, then stir in the flour and mix well until smooth. Cook for  a minute, then take the pan off the heat and gradually stir in the saffron water. Set aside.

Put the wine and mussels into a large sauce and cover. Bring the boil and cook over a med-high heat for about 4 minutes, shaking now and then, until the mussels have opened. Strain the mussels in a colander, over a bowl to collect the cooking liquid. Cover the mussels to keep warm while you finish the sauce.

Strain the mussel cooking liquid through a J-cloth, then gently reheat the saffron sauce. Gradually stir in the mussel liquid, then bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes. Add the cream and simmer for 4 minutes or until reduced and a little thicker. Season to taste and stir through the parsley.

Put the mussels into a large serving bowl, pour over the sauce and serve.

(Original recipe from How to Eat a Peach by Diana Henry, Mitchell Beazley, 2018.)

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Lobster Thermidor

We’re pretty sure this isn’t the classic recipe but it was a lovely meal to end our holiday at home. Tomorrow we both go back to work, but tonight it was deliciousness all the way. We served this with a classic green salad, home-made chips and a fabulous wine that we bought on summer holidays in France last year.

Wine suggestion: a decadent dish requires a similar wine. Vintage Champagne is often suggested for lobster and works well, so does a good Premier Cru white Burgundy. On the same level though is good Jura Chardonnay and so we opened our last bottle of Domaine Labet’s “en Billat” 2016. Crunchy ripe apples, stony limestone and almond kernals, pears, quince, nuts and hints of buttery toast; quite extraordinary. We wish we had the will power to cellar these wines for longer … but keep on getting tempted.

Lobster with Thermidor butter – serves 2

  • 150ml white wine
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • a handful of chopped tarragon
  • a handful of chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • ½ a lemon, juiced
  • a pinch of paprika
  • a dash of Tabasco sauce
  • 5 tbsp grated Parmesan
  • 140g softened butter
  • 2 cooked lobsters

Put the wine and the shallot into a small pan and bring to the boil. Reduce until almost dry, then cool.

Mix together the tarragon, parsley, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, paprika, Tabasco, Parmesan, the shallot mixture and the butter. Roll into a log, wrap in clingfilm and chill to harden.

Snap the claws off the lobsters. Cut the lobsters in half with a heavy knife then wash the head cavity under cold water and dry with kitchen towels.

Put the lobsters, cut side up, on a baking tray. Crack the claws and pick out all the meat, then stuff it into the head cavities.

Heat the grill to high. Slice the butter into thin rounds and lay along the lobsters to cover the meat. Grill for about 5 minutes or until the butter is bubbling and starting to brown. Pour any butter on the tray over the lobster before serving.

(Original recipe from BBC Olive Magazine, August 2011.)

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Barbecued Prawns with Chilli, Lime & Coriander Butter

Messy but oh so good! Treat your friends to a pile of these at your next barbecue and you will be very popular. Napkins, finger bowls, baby wipes etc., essential!

Wine Suggestion:  we think this needs an uncomplicated and fun white like a Picpoul de Pinet, Muscadet or Albariño, or going up a gear we chose the Bodegas Katxina Txakoli from near San Sebastien in Spain … tapas, sun, seafood and socialising. Happy days.

Barbecued prawns with chilli, lime & coriander butter – serves 4

  • 1kg large raw tiger prawns with the shell on, remove the heads before cooking

FOR THE BUTTER:

  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • a small bunch of coriander, roughly chopped
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped
  • juice of 1 lime, plus wedges to serve
  • 200g butter, softened

Make the butter by putting the garlic, coriander, chilli and lime juice into a food processor and pulse until chopped.

Toss 1 tbsp of the flavoured butter with prawns and leave in the fridge until ready to cook.

Put the rest onto a piece of tin foil and roll into a sausage shape. Put into the freezer to harden.

Preheat the barbecue, then cook the prawns for a few minutes on each side until pink. Serve on a platter and melt thin slices of the butter over the top. You can also melt some extra butter and serve on the side if you want. Serve with lime wedges to squeeze over.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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Paella Mixta

This is not an authentic paella recipe but we guarantee it will remind you of days in the sun. It’s made in the oven from start to finish and all you have to do is add the ingredients in the correct order.

Wine Suggestion: Spanish influenced wine it has to be. If it’s baking hot try a dry, Garnacha Rosé, though for us tonight it had to be red as it was cool and wet. The choice was a little left-field as it was from Teruel, an old, abandoned wine region (caused by the de-population of country areas during their civil war) being rehabilitated by a couple of young winemakers making their own way. The Bodegas Jesus Romero Quercus is garnacha, tempranillo, syrah and a little cabernet franc planted in poor, stony soils with excellent drainage and elevation near Valencia. We are really impressed each time we taste this, and a good match for the dish too!

Paella Mixta – serves 4

  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 600ml chicken stock
  • 1 heaped tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 pinches of saffron
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 300g paella rice
  • 4 chicken thigh fillets, trimmed and cut in half
  • 200g chorizo, sliced
  • 85g frozen peas
  • 150g raw king prawns
  • 250g mussels, cleaned and throw away those that won’t close when tapped
  • lemon wedges, to serve
  • a small handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley, to serve

Heat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7.

Put the onion and garlic into the base of a large, shallow, ovenproof pan. Drizzle with the olive oil, then toss to coat. Put into the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the onion has started to brown. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t overdo.

Meanwhile, put the tin of tomatoes, the chicken stock, the smoked paprika and saffron into a saucepan and heat until piping hot.

Remove the onions from the oven and stir in the rice, chicken, chorizo and hot stock mixture. Season and return to the oven for 20 minutes (uncovered).

Gently stir through the peas and arrange the mussels and prawns on the top. The mussel hinges should be facing downwards. Arrange the lemon wedges around the edge and return to the oven for 5-10 minutes or until the mussels have opened and everything else is cooked. Throw away any mussels that haven’t opened. Scatter over the parsley and serve. Finger bowls and napkins essential!

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

 

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Creamy tomato, courgette & prawn pasta

There was lots of panic buying in Dublin when we went into lockdown but actually we were able to get pretty much everything, except orecchiette! After four orecchiette-free months we’ve finally got our hands on some. To celebrate we really enjoyed this simple pasta dish with locally grown courgettes.

Wine Suggestion: our choice tonight was a southern Italian white from Fiano made by Michele Biancardi in Puglia. Hints of honey, white flowers and a salty tang this wine speaks of the southern sun, and fresh breezes off the Adriatic seas. Travelling in a glass, when we can’t do it yet physically.

Creamy tomato, courgette & prawn pasta – serves 4

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 fat garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 large or 400g baby courgettes, sliced
  • 400g orecchiette pasta, or any other small pasta shape
  • 2 x 400g cans cherry tomatoes
  • good pinch of sugar
  • 200g raw prawns, peeled
  • 100g crème fraîche
  • small pack basil, leaves only, torn

Heat the oil in a large pan, add the garlic and cook gently for a few minutes, then add the courgettes and cook until starting to soften.

Meanwhile, cook the orecchiette according to the timing on the pack.

Add the tomatoes, sugar and some salt and pepper to the pan, then simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes.

Add the prawns to the sauce and stir until they turn pink. Drain the pasta and add to the sauce along with the crème fraîche. Simmer for another couple of minutes to warm through, then add the basil before serving.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

 

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Classic Prawn Cocktail

Some might say retro, but make this and you’ll have to admit it is a classic! This is not the authentic recipe, but it makes the best version we’ve come across so far by using Heinz salad cream and pink peppercorns.  You can make the prawn mix up a few hours in advance and leave it in the fridge.

Wine Suggestion: pink with pink … you just have to! Tonight something different, the Les Prunes Blanc des Mandó from near Valencia. Quite possibly Spain’s best answer to a dry, savoury, Provençal rosé … and a useful 11.5% abv.

Prawn cocktail – serves 6

  • 450g small cooked prawns (frozen ones work well but defrost thoroughly, drain well,  and pat dry with kitchen paper)
  • 200g salad cream
  • 3 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • a few drops of Tabasco
  • little gem lettuces
  • 1 tbsp pink peppercorns, crushed (or 2 tsp paprika if you don’t have the peppercorns)

Mix the salad cream, ketchup, lemon juice and Tabasco in a large bowl, then fold in the prawns.

Finely shred the lettuce and use to line individual bowls or a platter. Spoon the prawns over the top and scatter with the crushed peppercorns or paprika.

(Original recipe from Feast by Nigella Lawson, Chatto & Windus, 2004.)

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Indian Summer Salad

Try this on the side next time you make a curry. It’s fresh, crunchy, delicious and also slaw-like, so would be good in a naan bread with some spicy chicken or lamb.

Indian Summer Salad – serves 6 (easily halved but the leftovers are ok for a day in the fridge too)

  • 3 carrots, grated
  • a bunch of radishes, very finely sliced
  • 2 courgettes, very finely sliced
  • half a small red onion, finely chopped
  • a small handful of mint leaves, roughly torn

FOR THE DRESSING:

  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Put the carrots, radishes, courgettes, onion and mint into a large bowl.

Mix the white wine vinegar, Dijon and mayonnaise and salt & pepper together, then gradually whisk in the olive oil.

Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine.

(Original recipe by BBC Good Food)

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Barbecued Prawn Kebabs with Harissa & Couscous

A healthy, weeknight dish with lovely flavours. Another recipe for using up bits and bobs you may already have which is our primary motivation for cooking mid-week.

Wine Suggestion: a fresh white or a crisp, dry rosé would be our choice for this dish. We had a glass of the Chateau Pesquie Terrasses Rosé from Ventoux (and quite Provençal in style) and enjoyed it thoroughly.

Barbecued prawn kebabs with harissa & couscous – serves 4

  • 2 ½ tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, halved lengthways, then each half quartered into 4 chunks
  • 1 ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 3 carrots, coarsely grated
  • 200g couscous
  • 400g raw prawns
  • 16 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp harissa
  • 2 tsp tahini paste
  • 2 tbsp low-fat natural yoghurt
  • 1 small garlic clove, crushed
  • juice ½ lemon, plus wedges, to serve
  • handful mint leaves, roughly chopped

Put 1 ½ tbsp of olive oil into a large sauté pan over a medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes, until softened but not coloured, they’ll fall apart and that’s fine. Scoop them out of the pan and set aside.

Heat the remaining tbsp of oil in the same pan, add the cumin seeds and toast for a few minutes until they smell good. Tip the carrots into the pan and season, then cook for a few minutes or until tender. Transfer to a bowl, then pour over the couscous and 400ml hot water. Cover with cling film and leave for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, get your barbecue going. Put the prawns, cherry tomatoes and softened onions in another bowl, season, then stir in the harissa. Thread the prawns, tomatoes and onions onto metal skewers (you can use wooden ones either but you need to soak in water for 20 minutes first). Barbecue the kebabs for a couple of minutes on each side, or until the prawns are cooked through.

Mix the tahini, yoghurt, garlic, lemon juice and seasoning to make a sauce. Fork the mint though the couscous, transfer to a platter and place the skewers on top. Serve with the sauce and lemon wedges.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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Mussels with Ditalini & Tomatoes

We love mussels on a Friday, so cheap and quick to cook, but still so special and luxurious. We halved the pasta to serve 2 but kept everything else the same – a feast!

Wine Suggestion: Digging into the lockdown cellar again and the Sugrue, Trouble with Dreams 2014 came to hand. A beautifully precise and focussed sparkling from the South Downs in England. If this isn’t to hand a good traditional method, double fermented sparkling would be a good choice too.

Mussels with Ditalini & Tomatoes – serves 4

  • 1kg mussels, scrubbed, remove any beards and throw away any that are open and don’t close when tapped
  • 250g ditalini pasta
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 200g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • ¼ tsp dried chilli flakes
  • ½ tsp sea salt flakes
  • 80ml red vermouth, we used Martini Rosso
  • 4 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

Cook the pasta according to the time on the pack in lots of very salty water.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a wide pan that has a lid. Add the tomatoes and cook for a couple of minutes to soften, over a medium-high heat.

Add the garlic, chilli and sea salt, then keep stirring until the tomatoes start to melt and make a juice. Add the vermouth and bubble up to get rid of the alcohol, then stir.

Add mussels and cover with the lid. Cook for 2 to 4 minutes or until the mussels have opened, give the pan a good shake now and then. Throw away any mussels that haven’t opened.

Drain the pasta and reserve a little cooking water. Add the pasta to the mussel pan with 2 tbsp of the pasta water. Stir everything together, put the lid back on and leave for a minute or two off the heat. Stir in most of the parsley, then scatter the rest on top.

(Original recipe from At My Table by Nigella Lawson, Chatto & Windus, 2017.)

Mussels with ditalini & tomatoes

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Garlic, Chilli & Coriander Prawns

You will need lots of crusty bread for these to mop up all the delicious butter. What a treat.

Wine Suggestion: Light, white, youthful and with a salty tang. Our pick today, the Allo from Quinta Soalheiro from Northern Portugal, an Alvarinho-Loureiro blend which was in the firdge. We could have easily had a Muscadet, Picpoul or Verdicchio either.

Garlic, chilli & coriander prawns – serves 4

  • 5 garlic cloves, grated
  • ½ red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • large bunch of coriander, leaves and stalks finely chopped
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • ½ tsp nigella seeds
  • 600g raw tiger prawns, shells off but you can leave the tails on if you like
  • 1 lemon

Mash the garlic, chilli and coriander into the butter.

Heat a large frying pan, add the butter and let if melt. Add the prawns, nigella seeds and some seasoning.

Stir-fry for a couple of minutes to cook through. Squeeze over some lemon juice and serve with loads of crusty bread.

(Original recipe by Anjum Anand in BBC Good Food Magazine, April, 2014)

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Tagliatelle with Prawns and a Creamy Brandy Sauce

We bought a pasta machine when we were on honeymoon in Italy … quite a while ago now. We had a delicious lunch in a tiny Tuscan village, probably with a bit more wine than we needed, and bought a pasta machine from the window of a little shop that sold hardware, cookware and everything else. We have used it only a few times since then, but we took it out of the box this evening and made fresh pasta, and very satisfying it was too. So, if you’ve got a pasta machine we suggest you dust it off and give this a go. We haven’t given the recipe and instructions for making the tagliatelle – widely available online or in any Italian cookbook you might have on your shelves; though roughly 1 egg for 100g flour plus a little salt and olive oil.

Wine Suggestion: Tonight a bottle from our holidays last year in the Loire, the Charles Joguet Chinon Rosé. Delightfully dry, mid-weight and with light flavours of red fruits; a good match and a good memory of summer holidays in a tent in France.

Tagliatelle with prawns and a creamy brandy sauce (Tagliatelle con Gamberi e Brandy) – serves 4

  • 30g salted butter
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 60g walnuts, chopped
  • 300g uncooked prawns, peeled
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 60ml brandy
  • 250ml double cream
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 400g fresh egg tagliatelle (look it up online, it’s easy)
  • 2 tbsp flat leaf parsley

Melt the butter and oil in a large frying pan over a gentle heat. Add the shallots and walnuts and cook gently for 2 minutes.

Increase the heat to medium and add the prawns and tomatoes, season with salt and pepper. Cook for 30 seconds.

Add the brandy and cook for a minute to allow the alcohol to evaporate, then add the cream and balsamic vinegar and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Set aside.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a loads of very salty water until al dente – a minute or two. Drain and tip back into the pasta pan.

Pour in the creamy sauce, add the parsley, and toss gently for 30 seconds to combine.

(Original recipe from Gino’s Pasta by Gino D’Acampo, Kyle Books, 2010)

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Pan-fried Salmon with Curried Mussels

How disappointed we were when we left it too late to get mussels from our local fish shop last Saturday. So this ended up being dinner on Thursday – a bit fancier than what we usually serve on a weeknight but to be honest we’ve lost track of what day it is anyway! Plenty of pans needed for this dish but it’s worth it.

Wine Suggestion: this needs a white to match that can stand up to a rich, creamy base. Sometimes it also necessary to choose not only a type of wine but also a producer … we suggest cultivating a good wine shop to help with this. Tonight we had a Txakoli, a local wine from near San Sebastion in Spain made from Hondarrabi Zuri. Normally very light and with a spritz-freshness and great with lighter seafood dishes and other tapas. The Astobiza Txakoli we had was fuller bodied while still maintaining the texture, saltiness and freshness of a more typical wine of the region and thus able to step up to the rich creaminess of the food.

As Txakoli isn’t as easy to find we’d also suggest a fuller, textural Albarino as an option.

Pan-fried salmon with curried mussels – serves 4

  • 4 salmon fillets with the skin on, about 120g each
  • vegetable oil

FOR THE MUSSELS:

  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • a handful of parsley, chopped
  • 1kg mussels, scrub them clean, rip off any beards and chuck any that don’t close when you tap them
  • 225ml white wine

FOR THE SAUCE:

  • 50g butter
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 celery stick, diced
  • 1 tsp medium curry powder
  • 150ml double cream
  • 100g potatoes, peeled and cut into small dice
  • 1 tbsp chopped chives
  • lemon

Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4.

Start with the mussels. Heat a tbsp of olive oil in a large, heavy pan, with a lid. Add the onions and parsley and cook gently until soft. Add the mussels, salt and pepper and wine. Bring to the boil, then cover and give the pan a shake. Cook for a few minutes or until the mussels have opened (throw away any that don’t open).

Strain the mussels but keep the cooking liquid. Pour the liquid through a fine sieve to get rid of any grit. Remove the mussels from the shells and set aside.

To make the sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan, add the onion, carrot and celery and sweat over a low heat, with the lid on, until softened, about 10-15 minutes. Stir in the curry powder and cook for another few minutes. Stir in 150ml of the mussel cooking liquid and cook for another minute. You can turn the heat off now and leave the sauce aside while you cook the salmon.

Dry the salmon well with kitchen paper, then slash the skin diagonally a few times with a sharp knife. Season well.

Heat a non-stick, oven-proof frying pan over a medium heat, the add 2 tbsp of vegetable oil. Cook the salmon, skin-side down for 4-5 minutes or until the skin is crispy. Don’t be tempted to move it around. Turn the salmon fillets over and put the pan in the oven for another few minutes to finish cooking.

Stir the double cream into the sauce and bring back to the boil, add the potato and cook until softened, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the mussels to the sauce and warm through briefly. Add the chives and a squeeze of lemon to the sauce and taste for seasoning. Serve the sauce with the salmon on top.

(Original recipe by Bryn Williams in Olive Magazine, April 2011.)

 

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Spicy fish soup

We often have fish on Fridays. It’s quick to cook and light enough that we’ve room for cheese afterwards. Mussels are a favourite too and they’re fantastic value. This soup by Nigel Slater is crammed with them, and full of flavour.

Wine suggestion:  an old favourite white wine, the always versatile ALLO by Quinta Soalheiro. Light bodied so it doesn’t overwhelm the delicate play of flavours in the dish, but textured and concentrated at the same time. A wine that is the sommeliers’ secret weapon for matching.

Spiced fish soup – serves 2

  • 1kg mussels, scrubbed, de-bearded, chuck any with broken shells or that don’t close when you give them a sharp tap
  • 2 large banana shallots, peeled and separated into layers
  • a splash of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 250g white fish fillet – we used hake – cut into 4 pieces
  • a handful of chopped coriander

Put the cleaned mussels into a large pan and add 500ml of water. Cover with a lid, bring to the boil and cook until the mussels have opened (a couple of minutes).

Remove the mussels from the liquid but keep the cooking water, you need to strain this through a fine sieve. Remove the mussels from the shells and set aside.

Heat a splash of oil in a deep frying pan, then fry the shallots over a gentle heat until softened. Add the mustard seeds, chilli powder and turmeric, and continue cooking for another few minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes.

Pour in the reserved mussel stock, bring to the boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Lay the pieces of fish in the liquid and cook briefly until opaque (just a couple of minutes should do it). Return the mussels to the pan, season to taste with salt, and stir in the coriander.

(Original recipe from Eat by Nigel Slater, Fourth Estate, 2013.)

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Hot Crab Pots

This is such a simple starter but really delicious. Couldn’t recommend it highly enough. We made with some fresh crab leftover from another dish and waiting in the freezer.

Wine Suggestion: this is quite rich and we’d suggest pairing it with a fuller, more complex and concentrated sparkling. A good vintage Champagne works, or alternately find a top-quality sparkling made in the same method; tonight it was Dermot Sugrue’s The Trouble with Dreams, one of our favourite English sparkling wines.

Hot Crab Pots – serves 4 as a starter

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 200ml double cream
  • 100g mixed white and brown crabmeat
  • 50g gruyère, grated
  • butter
  • 1 tsp chopped chives

Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4.

Mix the eggs, cream, crabmeat and gruyère together in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Grease 4 ramekins with butter, then divide the mixture between them.

Cook the pots in the oven for about 15 minutes or until just set – we had to cook for a couple of minutes longer.

Sprinkle with the chives to serve. Some sourdough toast on the side would be nice but not essential.

(Original recipe by Victoria Moore in BBC Olive Magazine, March 2013.)

 

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Spicy Dalboka Mussels

We cooked these mussels on Friday night form Caroline Eden’s ‘Black Sea’. A book that is as good to read as to look at. The recipe is Bulgarian with the mussels cooked in a spicy tomato soup. You will need lots of crusty white bread to go with.

Wine Suggestion: This pairs superbly with a good new world Pinot Noir, ideally from a producer that values freshness. If you can push the boat out a bit we’d suggest a Felton Road from Central Otago or a Tyler from Santa Barbera but tonight it was Newton Johnson’s Felicite from Hermanus to equally good effect.

Spicy Dalboka Mussels – serves 2 as a main or 4 as a starter

  • 500g mussels, scrubbed and beards and barnacles removed (chuck any that don’t close tightly when tapped)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, finely sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp chilli powder/pul biber (Turkish pepper flakes)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 10 pink peppercorns, crushed
  • 300ml vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • a decent handful of spinach (or lovage when it’s around)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • small bunch of dill, chopped
  • small bunch of parsley, chopped

Warm the olive oil in a large heavy-based casserole, then sauté the onion until translucent. Add the garlic, chilli, paprika and peppercorns, then the stock, vinegar and tomatoes – simmer for 15 minutes.

Turn the heat up to hight and add the mussels, spinach and salt. Cover and steam for a few minutes or until the mussels have opened (don’t eat any that haven’t opened).

Take the pan off the heat and add the lemon juice and herbs. Serve in bowls with lots of crusty white bread.

(Original recipe from Black Sea by Caroline Eden, Quadrille, 2018.)

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Mussels & cockles with garlic breadcrumbs

This is a great starter from Polpo that tastes similar to stuffed mussels but is nowhere near as fiddly to prepare. We used cockles instead of clams as that is what we could get the day we cooked this.

Wine Suggestion: we’d suggest a white from central or sourther Italy for this dish. Tonight it was a Verdicchio from the Marches, the Tralivio by the Sartarelli family which combines citrus, apricots and wild herbs with texture, body and hints of a bitter almond on the finish. Very attractive, refreshing and a perfect food wine.

Mussels & Clams with Garlic Breadcrumbs – serves 4 – 6 as a starter

  • 100g old bread
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • a small handful of flat parsley leaves, chopped
  • a large pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 1 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • flaky sea salt and black pepper
  • 1 kg mussels
  • 1kg clams
  • 100ml white wine
  • bread, to serve

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/Gas 4.

Tear the old bread into pieces, then scatter over a baking tray and pour over plenty of olive oil over them. Put the tray into the oven for 5 minutes or until the bread is crisp and golden, then set aside.

When the bread has cooled blitz it in food processor with the chopped parsley, half the dried chilli, half the garlic and some seasoning. When the bread has turned to fine crumbs, taste some and adjust the seasoning and add some more oil if they are too dry.

Clean the mussels and clams in cold running water and discard any that are damaged or that stay open when tapped.

Heat a large pan and add some olive oil. Throw in the mussels and clams with the rest of the chilli and garlic and stir until the shells start to open. As they do, pour in the white wine and cover the pan with a lid. The shells should all have opened after a couple of minutes, throw away any that haven’t opened.

Add a handful of breadcrumbs to the pan to thicken the sauce. Spoon the mussels and clams into shallow bowls and sprinkle with the rest of the crumbs. Serve immediately with crusty bread if you like.

(Original recipe from Polpo by Russel Norman, Bloomsbury, 2012.)

 

 

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Scallop & prawn risotto

We brought in the new decade with this fabulous scallop and prawn risotto. Couldn’t be simpler to make but tastes really special. Scallops aren’t cheap but you only need a few for this and they are totally worth it.

Wine Suggestion: A special occasion with a special person requires a special wine. Made by the brilliant Dermot Sugrue, his Cuvée Dr Brendan O’Regan is multilayered, multidimensional and complex. To be honest this is the best English Sparkling we’ve tasted and it has a great roundness and weight alongside it’s natural freshness which allowed us to start with seaside, fresh oysters and then segue to a much richer risotto without breaking a sweat.

Scallop & Prawn Risotto – serves 4

  • 100g butter, plus a bit extra
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 450g risotto rice
  • 750ml-1 litre, hot fish or light chicken stock
  • 350-400g raw peeled prawns
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 3 tbsp mascarpone
  • 12 scallops, orange roe and side muscles removed
  • a bunch of chives, finely chopped
  • a small bunch of basil, chopped

Melt the butter in a large heavy-based pan and gently cook the shallot until soft but not coloured. Add the rice and stir until the grains are coated in butter.

Gradually add the hot stock, stirring all the time, until the rice is just tender – about 20 minutes. Add the prawns when the rice is cooked but al dente, then season and add the lemon zest and juice. Turn the prawns until they have turned pink all over, then add the mascarpone and gently fold in.

Allow the risotto to rest for 5 minutes while you fry the scallops for a minute on each side in a knob of butter in a frying pan. Add these to the risotto and sprinkle with the herbs.

(Original recipe by Lulu Grimes in Olive Magazine, December 2015.)

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Cockles with Tomato, Pastis & Parsley

A Gill Meller recipe for clams or he also suggests mussels. It was cockles on Friday in our local fish shop and they work just as well too. These are boozy and they taste strongly of pastis which we enjoyed immensely and gave the whole dish a real clarity of flavour.

Wine Suggestion: Quite often we’d suggest white wine with seafood, and you’d be right here too. However, this doesn’t mean red can’t work just as well, you need to make sure it isn’t too heavy and has a natural freshness of acidity … like from a cooler vineyard region. Tonight we opened the Dezat Sancerre Rouge which is made from Pinot Noir and is joyful and deliciously ripe while remaining pure and fresh. A good complement to the tomatoes and sea flavours and a match to the anise of the pastis.

Cockles with tomato, pastis & parsley – serves 2

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
  • finely grated zest of ½ a lemon
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 100ml pastis or Pernod
  • 1kg cockles (or clams or mussels), washed and throw away any with broken or open shells
  • 2 to 3 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

Heat a large, heavy-based pan over a medium-high heat. Heat the olive oil, then add the onion and garlic. Season with a little salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for 6-8 minutes or until soft but not coloured.

Add the lemon zest, fennel seeds, bay leaves and rosemary and cook for another few minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, then half fill the empty tin with water and pour this in too. Add the sugar, season again, and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring, often, until rich and thick.

Add the pastis and turn the heat up. When the liquid is boiling, add the cockles, stir once, give the pan a good shake, then cover with a tight lid.

Cook for 3-4 minutes (shaking occasionally), or until all the shells have opened. Throw away any that remain closed. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the chopped parsley.

(Original recipe from Time by Gill Meller, Quadrille, 2018.)

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Mussels with red onions, cider and creme fraiche

We associate mussels with cold weather and cook them often in the darker months. Makes no sense really when we’ve no issue eating buckets of them in the sunshine on holidays. We loved the creamy sauce on these – crusty bread essential!

Wine Suggestion: it feels natural to use the cider you cook with as the accompaniment. Our choice was the artisanale and organic Cidrerie le Maitre, a very new, young producer in Brittany we stumbled upon by following little signs off the main roads into a winding, forgotten lane in the middle of the French countryside. Daniel le Maitre uses 12 ancient local varieties of apples and the result is dry, very fruity and appley but with a wonderful texture of apple skins and a great depth of flavour which makes it a great food match. A happy discovery, and their Cider Vinegar is also a good addition to our cupboard too.

Mussels with Red Onion, Cider & Crème Fraîche – serves 2

  • 1kg mussels
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 2 small red onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 150ml dry cider
  • 2 tsp finely chopped sage
  • 150ml crème fraîche

Scrub the mussels, and discard if open and they won’t close when you give them a sharp tap.

Melt the butter in a large pan, cook the onions for a few minutes, then add the garlic. Pour the cider over and add the sage, then bring to the boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook until reduced by half.

Add the mussels, then cover and cook over a medium heat (shaking the pan occasionally) for 3-4 mins or until they have opened. Lift the mussels into a bowl and keep warm.

Bubble the cooking liquid in the pan for a couple of minutes, then gradually blend in the crème fraîche. Heat the sauce through and pour over the mussels to serve.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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Lobster & Pasta

This is inspired by a Rick Stein recipe in his Mediterranean Escapes book called Lobster & Pasta Chez Jen Jen from Corsica. We cooked this on a weeknight and cheated a bit with the lobster by using frozen lobster tails. We thought you could use raw prawns to good effect too.

Wine Suggestion: We made this on a celebratory evening so pushed the boat out with the wine and had the best English Sparkling we’ve tasted to date: the Dermot Sugrue “The Trouble with Dreams” from Sussex. It had a driving purity and vibrancy that makes it feel alive. For years we often compared English sparkling to Champagne without recognising it to have a unique character and with this wine we fully realised this.

Lobster & Spaghetti – serves 2

  • 2 x frozen lobster tails
  • 200g spaghetti
  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil
  • a garlic clove, finely chopped
  • ¼ tsp curry powder
  • 20ml Cognac
  • 50ml dry white wine
  • 200ml passata
  • 1 tsp dried herbes de Provence
  • salt and cayenne pepper

Defrost the lobster tails by putting them into a deep bowl of cold water and leaving for 30 minutes. You’ll know they are defrosted when they feel a bit flexible.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and gently lower in the lobster tails. Cook for 3½ minutes, then scoop out with a spoon. Leave to cool slightly, then slice into the soft side to check that the meat is white and therefore cooked through. If it looks grey you need to return to the water again until cooked.

Carefully cut down the soft side of the lobster tails and remove flesh from the shell in one piece, it should come away very easily.

Cook the spaghetti in a large pan of very salty water according to the timings on the pack.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan with the curry powder and garlic. When the garlic starts to sizzle, add the lobster, flesh-side down. Pour over the Cognac and flambé to burn off the alcohol. Add the white wine, passata, and herbes de Provence, then cover and simmer for 5 minutes or until the lobster is heated through.

Drain the spaghetti. Lift the lobster tails out of the pan and onto warm plates. Season the sauce to taste with salt and cayenne pepper, add the spaghetti and toss well with the sauce. Spoon alongside the lobster and serve.

(Original recipe from Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes, BBC Books, 2007.)

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