Archive for the ‘Fish’ Category

The other night I made paella for Edward and Sarah after being inspired in Spain. Having said that I pretty much did what I always do but with more confidence after being inspired in Spain.

Mixed paella in non-paella pan

Mixed paella in non-paella pan

I shopped in Borough Market for the ingredients and managed to get:

Calasparra rice

Calasparra rice

  • calasparra rice (use this or bomba rice for paella as the first choice if you can find it. If you cannot find a paella rice use a risotto one. Note that paella rice will absorb about 4 times its own weight in liquid.)
  • a small free-range pork fillet
  • large prawns
  • a swordfish steak
  • fresh chorizo
  • some veges including peppers, red onions and flat leaf parsley.

Sarah is pregnant so I stayed away from shellfish. The great thing about paella is that you don’t need to be too precious about the star ingredients. Whatever is around and looks fresh and good. And feel safe mixing meat and seafood (also known as a mixed paella). The trick is to get the base right.

Caroline’s paella

200-300g firm fleshed fish such as monkfish or swordfish [less if you are adding some pork or other meat]
200-300g pork fillet [optional: if you don’t want fish get a couple of fillets of pork
2 T olive oil
3-4 T olive oil
2 red onions, very very finely chopped
2 green pepperrs (capsicum), seeded and very, very finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds
100-150g fresh chorizo (a couple of sausages)
250g calasparra rice
3T oloroso sherry (or other dry sherry. Or dry white wine if you are stuck)
900ml fish stock (or chicken stock if you are doing a meat based paella)
a very good pinch of saffron
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
sea salt and cracked pepper
bunch of Italian flat leafed parsley
some other seafood, for example 6-9 large prawns (depends on size); and/or shellfish in the shell such as 6-12 mussells, a dozen cockles etc. [optional, depends on how much meat/seafood is in there already]

In your paella pan (or the widest frying pan you have if stuck), heat 2T of olive oil. Cut the fish into large chunks and lightly fry on all sides. Do not cook through. Tip fish and juices into separate container and set aside. If you are also cooking some meat (e.g. pork), reserve some of the oil and juices and then lightly sautee the meat. Do not cook through. Tip into bowl and set aside.

If you have prawns, either shell them, or de-head them now. It depends on your preference. Add them to the stock (fish or chicken) and bring to the boil and simmer for 5  minutes or so. Remove from heat. Strain and discard prawn shells and debris and return the stock to the pot. Add the saffron to the hot stock and leave to steep.

Add the remaining olive oil to the pan and heat. Add the onion and peppers and sautee gently on a medium to low heat for around 20 minutes until softened and partially caramelised. Add the garlic, fennel seeds and chorizo (if you are using it). Cook on low for another 10 minutes or so, stirring every now and then until the garlic is well softened.

If you aren’t adding prawns, bring the stock up to boil now then add the saffron and remove from the heat.

Turn up the heat under the paella pan to medium high and add the rice. Stir briefly to coat with the oniony mixture and cook for a minute or so. Add the sherry or wine and stir through. Cook for another minute. At this stage you can pause the process and restart around 20 minutes before you want to eat. Or keep going.

Add the stock and stir through the chopped parsley and the smoked paprika. In theory you can season at this stage but it is a very flavoursome dish so if in doubt leave the seasoning and offer people salt and pepper at the end. Add the fish and/or pork at this stage evenly around the paella, press under the rice. At this stage stop stirring! A paella is not like a risotto and does not require stirring to reach perfection. Ideally the stock creates steam channels through the rice and bubbles up to cook to perfection. This gets us to the challenging part of cooking a paella on a home stove. Ideally the entire paella pan is heated evenly (from edge to edge) underneath by hot coals, or another even heat source. In practice you end up straddling your 30cm paella pan over two elements and rotating it around to try and enable all bits of it to cook. Without stirring. So what I usually end up having to do is to rotate it periodically for about 15 minutes. And then finish it in the oven which should be preset to around 160C.

If you have prawns and/or shellfish – add these about 5 minutes before you deem the rice to be cooked i.e. at the point you are likely to stick it in the oven. Having had paella in Spain it should not be served uber soft. I would say that perfectly cooked is just a fraction more al dente than a risotto.So the point to add the additional seafood is where it still has a bit of bite to it and feels undercooked but kind of getting there (if that makes sense).The shellfish are cooked when they open up.

Remove from the oven or the stove top and serve direct from the pan. Offer people seasoning at this stage.


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Kate G complained that I need more recipes in my blog about cooking.

Given that I am travelling at the moment, I am doing more eating out than cooking at home. This is the inverse of the ratio for back at the ranch in NZ.

One of my current favourite things to cook are tagines. A tagine is both a form of Morrocan stew; and the type of earthenware dish it is cooked in. Typically these are surprisingly simple dishes to knock up with very little prep work. A lamb or meat tagine usually involves cubing the meat, chopping and dicing things like onions, raw. Tossing the lot in a mixing bowl with a little oil and the spices. Then chucking it into a tagine, covering with water, and simmering for an hour or so till done. No browning. Nothing. The meat is super tender and delicious and I would usually serve with cous cous. You can use a deep, covered fry pan as I did last night.

However using a real tagine dish to cook this in does actually make a difference. The whole point is that the meat is braising and steaming. The high conical lid traps the steam in with the food and both locks in moisture and flavour, and speeds up the cooking. You do use the earthenware tagine on the stovetop although I confess I was a little nervous the first time I tried mine on my gas stove (see banner of the blog – that’s my stove!) I was convinced it would crack. What I do now is to start it direct over the gas and then put a simmer mat underneath to spread the heat more evenly.

So last night I whipped up a monkfish tagine last night for Edward and Sarah which was delicious. It was a bit more elaborate in process than my standard lamb one. And I had to compromise and do it in a large pan not a tagine.

So just for Lady G, a recipe: here it is.

Monkfish tagine

Chermoula ingredients (kind of a herby, spicy paste which gives the Moroccan flavour).
2 garlic cloves
tsp course salt
2 tsp of ground cumin OR toast your own seeds and grind your own (what I’d do at home)
1tsp smoked Spanish paprika
juice of a lemon
small bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
1T olive oil
The rest of the ingredients
900g monkfish, cut into good sized chunks [if you cannot get monkfish ask your fishmonger for something solid that will hold its texture and shape in a stew or curry]
15-20 small new pototoes, scrubbed or peeled (I imagine you could use 3-5 larger ones in winter and slice)
3-4T olive oil
4-5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
20 cherry tomatoes
2 green capsicum, grilled until black, skinned, seeded and cut into strips
large handful of black olives
about 100ml water (I used boiling water and added a pinch of saffron)
salt and pepper

The chermoula:  using a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic with the salt to a smooth paste. Add the cumin, smoked paprika, lemon juice and coriander and grind some more. Don’t fuss if it is still a bit leafy. Mix in the olive oil to emulsify slightly. [If you don’t have a mortar and pestle – don’t panic. I didn’t realise Sarah had one till too late last night so had a crack at seriously tiny chopping of the garlic etc by hand which seemed to work fine. I then just mixed it all together.]

Toss the monkfish chunks in a bowl with about 3/4 of the chermoul and reserve the rest. Leave the fish for about an hour to marinade.

Par boil the potatoes in salted water for about 10 minutes, until slightly softened. Time it! Drain, refresh under cold water to cool, drain again. Cut in half lengthways and lay on the base of your tagine or heavy based shallow pan.

Meanwhile heat the olive oil in (another) small heavyish pan and add remaining garlic until just starting to colour. Throw in the cherry tomatoes and toss around a bit till starting to soften. Add the remaining chermoula and the peppers and toss some more for about a minute. You can season this mixture with salt at this stage – or leave people to season their own one it is served. It is pretty flavoursome anyway.

Now assemble the tagine: layer 3/4 of the tomato mix onto the potatoes. I add cracked pepper at this point. Layer the fish onto the tomato mix. Then add the remaining tomato mix to the top plus the olives. Add the 100ml of water. Finally drizzle the tagine with a little extra olive oil. Cover the mixture and simmer on low to medium depending on your stove for 15 minutes or until the fish is tender and cooked through.

Serve with fresh crusty bread to mop up the juices.

A photo is coming. My camera was flat so Edward used his and will forward it to me. He got a bit carried away with the posing of the food so Sarah and I just dug in and got on with it.

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