Tag Archives: peppers

Roasted Spanish style haddock with red peppers

As students up and down the country prepare themselves to move into their Freshmen’s halls or flat-shares, this is a cheap and very tasty recipe to warm up an autumn evening in a new city! A fast and healthy recipe, all cupboard based, to save time and money. The flavours are inspired by a couple of recent Spanish week-ends and the endless and delicious tapas tasted, where only a few but excellent ingredients help produce food that sing in the soul!

Haddock is a firm fleshed fish with no bones and a great source of omegas, lean protein and important minerals to nurture hungry young brains. It is very nice frozen so no need to look for fresh one unless you are near the sea. This dish is all cupboard or frozen ingredients so easy and cheap to source and it only boasts 3 to 4 ingredients (plus some seasoning) so it is real quick to put together. Hardware wise, all you need is an oven proof dish and the oven that goes with it.

Spanish red

Spanish red

Ingredients list

  • Frozen haddock, 1 filet per person
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • ½ red pepper, chopped

Seasoning:

  • Sweet paprika, 1 tsp
  • salt and pepper
  • A little olive oil
  • Quarter of  a lemon to serve

Lay the fillet (still frozen) in a dish and pour all the ingredients on top.

Swing it into the oven at 180° and bake for 30min or until the fish is tender and totally defrosted. Cooking frozen fish without defrosting is key to getting a tender but firm and tasty end dish rather than soggy and unappetising flesh… Unlike meat, fish should always be cooked frozen!

Summer evening on a beach somewhere...

Summer evening on a beach somewhere last month…

Steamed ratatouille with Pastis

A lovely but short week-end in Paris yielded a bunch of photos, some nice encounters and a few recipes. Travelling is such a creative pursuit: you come back refreshed, full of new flavours, new images and new ideas. There is nothing like breaking the routine to give you a renewed zest for life!

I had experimented lately with a few low fat recipes in my steamer and Cecile’s suggestion of using Pastis to finish off a ratatouille sounded too tempting to resist, so here is my take on it. A lovely, fluffy and light summer dish with a strong hint of aniseed to conjure up some sunshine.

Ingredients list:

  • Aubergines, 2
  • Red pepper,1
  • Green pepper, 1
  • Courgettes, 2
  • Large tomatoes, 4
  • Onions, 3
  • Garlic cloves, 3
  • Thyme, sprigs
  • Rosemary, sprigs
  • Olive oil, 4 Tbsp
  • Tomato paste, 2 Tbsp
  • Dash of Pastis (Pernod or Ricard, no bias)
All the colours of summer

All the colours of summer

Wash the vegetables and cut them up in cubes of equal size. Take the seeds out of the peppers and peel and chop the onions and garlic. To get rid of tomato skin, plunge them into a bowl of boiling water and peel with a sharp knife: most of it will come off easily!

Steam the vegetables on the hob or in an electric steamer for 15 minutes, adding the courgettes and tomatoes towards the end (about 5 minutes before). Do reserve the sliced onions and garlic which you are going to fry in a little olive oil until they are soft.

Drain the vegetables and add them to the frying pan over low heat now for another 10 minutes.

Add a spoonful of tomato paste, season with salt, pepper and herbs. Adjust the amount of liquid by adding water if necessary and simmer for 30 minutes. Towards the end, raise the heat and drop a dash of pastis into the mix!

You can use fresh tarragon to decorate and add to the flavours. But either way, this recipe will  produce an intensely flavoured ratatouille that is neither oily nor watery, will melt in you mouth and be good for you inside out…

Nutrition notes:

Gentle steaming is the best way to keep the good vitamins inside your veggies and avoid using too much fat in cooking. It is recommended in a macrobiotic diet because it allows to keep the nutrients and the energy of the plants alive.

IMG_3731

Walking around in the 5th

Spring in Paris

Spring in Paris

IMG_3753

The lovely Hotel de l’Abbaye, rue Princesse

Coquetas de ma grand-mère – A family heritage

This recipe has a long story: It has been in the family’s luggage for over one and a half century… It most certainly originated in the small Spanish village of Altea, crossed the water to Oran in Algeria at the end of the 19th century, hopped to Casablanca for my grand-mother’s bridal journey, recrossed the Med back to the south of France in the 70s and finally came with me over the channel, as I now make it in London. This is a gem and I feel very altruistic giving it to the world! But then secrets in the kitchen are best shared with other cooks! That is how the best recipes live on…

It is really a small coca or empanada but stuffed with a “frita” consisting of fried sweet peppers, fried tomatoes, garlic and anchovies. It is made as a starter or as an nibble to enjoy over a glass of dry sherry.

Our picnic in Richmond park - dainty treats...

Our picnic in Richmond park – dainty treats…

IMG_9155Ingredients for the “frita”:

  •  Sweet red and green peppers, 2/3
  • Big tomatoes, 2/3
  • Garlic cloves, 2
  • anchovy fillets

Plunge the tomatoes into a bol of boiling water then remove them and peel them with a sharp knife. The blistered skin will come off easily.

Core and cut them up and squeeze some of the seeds out but do not worry if there are some left.

Clean the peppers and put them under the grill to blacken the skin. Once cooled, most of the skin will peel easily.

Fry the cubed tomatoes and the chopped garlic.  Add strips of peppers. Cook until soft and mushy. Then add some bits of anchovy into the cooled mix. This means no extra salt is needed!

Add a little black pepper. Reserve in the fridge until you need it. This filling can be done ahead of time and even frozen if necessary.

Ingredients for the pastry:

  • Fine flour, 250g
  • Boiling water, 500ml
  • Salt, pinch
  • Olive oil, 2 Tbsp
  • Sugar, 2 tsp

The trick for this dough is to throw the whole lot of the measured flour into the salted and boiling water in ONE go!  Add the sugar and olive oil. Turn speedily with a wooden spoon and turn the heat off when the dough comes away from the sides of the pan into a glossy ball. Let it to cool aside. Again, this dough can be made the day before or kept in the fridge for a few days. This amount will make a good baker dozen of coquetas.

When you are ready to assemble, spread the dough on a cool clean surface with a floured rolling pin. Keep it as thin as you can but not to breaking point. Keep it floured so it does not stick to the surface or the pin.

Cut up circles with a large scone cutter or a sharp knife around a small saucer. Place a small amount of filling in the middle and join the two sides like a Cornish pasty, pressing the edges down with a fork.

Prepare a thick bottom frying pan with a good glass of oil in it. When the oil sizzles around a pea of dough, lower each coquetas and fry until both sides are nice and brown. Drain on kitchen paper and serve warm or at room temperature with the aforementioned glass of sherry! Some black olives are good with it too.

When I was a child, we had this in the sun filled lounge at the aperitif, just before lunch during the week ends and sometime mid week. In France, in many families, you will also get an aperitif before lunch, not just before dinner. As we grew up, we were even allowed the odd sip of wine with our coquets so for us this is was a festive and grown-up treat. Children tend not to like the bitter taste of green pepper but in coquetas it was enhanced by the saltiness of the anchovies and the sweetness of the tomatoes. The pastry must be light and puffed up with a chewiness that I am still very fond of. This is not a quick family recipe but it has its place here despite that because of its archive quality ! Be aware that it will take the best part of a day to achieve… This is love’s labour…

Some recipes are heritage. I confess that I am excessively thrilled to be now making coquetas at home  and teaching my children how to do them. And even though they not as good as Manille’s, they are pretty close!

Paëlla “comme à la maison”

Gambas and paella for four

This is not a dish, it’s an event- and be prepared to take time over it even though this is a ‘quick’ version of mine and I have made it all under an hour several times. But some dishes taste better when they take longer… Choose your day.
PAELLA

Ingredients list: This will serve 6 to 8 people

  • Red and green peppers, 4
  • Green beans, 100g
  • 3 or 4 artichoke hearts
  • a handful of garden peas
  • Garlic cloves, 3
  • Olive oil, 100ml max
  • Diced pork or chicken, 1 kg (mix of drumsticks, oyster thighs…)
  • Mussels and shrimps, one bowl – add a few squid rings if you can
  • Rice, 500g
  • Spicy chorizo, to decorate

For the tomato sauce:

  • Garlic cloves, 6
  • Chilli paste or Harissa, 1 Tsp
  • Tomato paste, 4 Tbsp
  • Big tomatoes,8
  • Saffron, a pinch
  • Water 1L 500ml maximum
  • olive oil 100ml
    salt and pepper to taste

  • Lemons, quartered to decorate the dish

First cut up the peppers in large strips and fry in olive oil until soft. Remove the skin when cool.

Fry the green beans in oil and reserve.

Prepare the artichokes and fry the hearts. You can use canned hearts if easier.

 Tomato sauce:

Fry the chopped garlic in the same frying pan, with the chilli paste and a generous part of the olive oil; add the tomato paste and the chopped fresh tomatoes. I remove their skin first by dipping them in boiling water but you can skip that. Add the saffron strands by crushing them in between your fingers and let it simmer for about 10 minutes until the sauce thickens. Reserve.

 Now, using a large, flat, paella dish or similar, fry some garlic and the meat in a generous amount of oil until brown. Add the tomato sauce and half the water and when the liquid is bubbling up, throw the rice in as a scatter, making sure you cover all of the dish with it but never with too thick a layer.   You have to have one part rice to 3 parts water eventually, so keep track of how much you are using!

Throw in the garden peas, fresh or frozen and add some oil- if there is any left. Let it simmer for 1/2hour. Try not to stir the rice at this point but just keep shaking the pan and move the rice up with a wooden spatula if you need to, to get the stock moving around. Add water or oil if necessary. Season with salt and pepper- to taste. It will need about 30 minutes to cook through but keep checking so the bottom does not burn and the rice is kept moist. The proper paella stand will have several rings of flames so the dish is cooked evenly but you might have to cheat and move the rice about to achieve the same result on the stove…

10 minutes before the end of the cooking, add the seafood, the chorizo and the fried vegetables on the top of the cooked rice. If using large gambas (but not shrimps!), I pre cook them on a “plancha” or cast iron pan before putting them in. Finish the cooking by raising the heat for the remaining 10 minutes and cover with some foil to let it steep for another 10 minutes before you serve. Check the seasoning and serve with chunks of lemon to squeeze over each plate.

This for me is comfort food: a wonderful party dish for sharing with family and friends. When I am making it I feel incredibly joyous, as if I was connecting with a long line of women from the family, passing on the knowledge…

There is never enough and there is always enough paella for however big the party is – this dish is pure magic. These proportions will serve 6 to 10 people of varying appetites.

The version in the photo is a smaller version and just with gambas. More chic dinner than family party but just as good.

>Roasted Frigitelli peppers

>Last year, coming back from Mallorca, I did this recipe with Padron peppers but today for some reason I keep getting those sharp Frigitelli peppers and can’t find the Padrones, so never mind! The Frigitelli are sharper and the Padrones slightly bitter but both equally delicious.

Just clean the peppers in running water. Then chop the end bit and shake the seeds out. Don’t worry if some are unwilling. Lay them in a roasting pan, sprinkle with olive oil and sea salt and roast at high temperature until the skin blisters and the pepper is tender. Serve cold like a tapas, or before a meal, with a glass of wine equally sharp and flavoured. As soon as the heat draws in I am very fond of tapas and find it the best way to have a light evening meal.