Posts Tagged “fish”

Provençal Fish Soup When I mention fish soup to my friends they typically turn up their noses. I think the first thing that comes to their minds is some kind of unappetising greyish slop, but this one is about as far from that image as you could get! This recipe has its roots in Provence, in the south of France. It's a two-day affair; first you have to diligently clean the fish and rinse them under running water before marinating overnight in olive oil, a selection of herbs and spices, and a _mire poix_ of vegetables. This marinating really makes a difference to the depth of flavour - I recommend you don't omit this step. The spices (saffron and paprika) give the soup an inviting golden colour. In the restaurant we would order _fish soup mix_ from our fishmonger and they would provide us with a nice range of small fish such as gurnard, mullet, hake or john dory. They were too small to be worth selling on their own as there would be hardly any meat on them, but they were perfect for soup. Luckily I live only a ten minute walk from the harbour, and there is a fishmonger right there on the waterfront. Unfortunately they didn't have any fish-soup-sized fish in stock, so I took one small sea bream and one small sea bass instead. For extra savoury punch I begin the soup by frying anchovies to create a sticky, salty base. While the fish are roasting in the oven I add the vegetables to the pan and cook them down until soft and sweet. I also add a tin of cooked sardines. The oily fish gives an extra richness. The amazing thing about this soup is everything is pureed, bones included, to create quite a thick, substantial meal. It's perfect served with black olive tapenade on toast. It really is an amazing dish and I promise that you'll see fish soup in a different light after eating this! --- * 1kg small white fish, such as John Dory, hake, bream * 1 small tin anchovies, drained but reserve the oil * 1 tin sardines * 2 medium carrots, roughly chopped * 2 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped * 1 bulb fennel, roughly chopped * 1 small leek, roughly chopped * 1 medium onion, roughly chopped * 8 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed * 1 bunch thyme * 2 teaspoons paprika * 1 large pinch saffron * crusty bread, for toasting * 6 tablespoons black olive tapenade * extra virgin olive oil * sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper 1. Using a pair of kitchen scissors, cut off all the fins and sharp bits from the fish and discard them. Remove the innards, gills and eyeballs and discard those also. Wash the fish thoroughly under running cold water, then drain in a colander. If you didn't manage to source any small fish (about the size of your palm or smaller), cut the fish into chunks then place in a deep-sized tray or large bowl. Pick some thyme leaves and reserve them to use as garnish at the end. Add the carrots, tomatoes, fennel, leek, onion, garlic, thyme, paprika, saffron, about 6 tablespoons of olive oil and a generous pinch of sea salt to the fish and mix thoroughly. Cover and leave in the fridge for 12 hours, mixing it occasionally. 2. Heat the oven to 200C. Carefully separate the vegetables from the fish. Place the fish in a roasting tray and roast in the oven for 30-40 minute, or until golden. Meanwhile, place a large, heavy-based pot or casserole dish over a medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Wait 1 minute for the oil to heat up, then add the anchovies plus about a tablespoon of the oil from the tin. Stir-and-fry until the anchovies have broken down into a nice sticky paste, then add the rest of the vegetables. Add another pinch of salt, then cook over a medium heat for about 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft and sweet and starting to caramelise. 3. At this point, the fish should be ready. Add the roasted pieces to the pot with the vegetables, and drain the tin of sardines and add that too. Mix well, then cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, skimming and froth that rises to the surface. Once boiling, turn down to a gentle simmer and cook like this for 1.5 hours, topping up with water to keep the ingredients _just_ covered. The bones of the fish should be very soft and almost mushy. 4. Blend the soup, in batches if need be, and pass through a fine sieve. It's very important to use a _fine mesh_ sieve here as you don't want any of the coarse stuff in the soup. 5. Get the bread toasted and spread it with the tapenade. To garnish the soup, sprinkle over some paprika and the reserved thyme leaves, and drizzle some olive oil.

Cod With Cockles a la Creme In my mind, the main reason cockles are so great is not because of the excellent flavour of the actual cockle meat itself (which _is_ excellent), but the strong flavoured liquid that results from cooking them. Just like it's more glamorous relative the mussel, the cockle contains an abundance of naturally salty juices which are released into your saucepan when cooked. Enhanced with a little white wine, shallots and some aromatics like thyme or bay, the result is fantastically flavoursome, and served with some chips to dunk in the sauce, is a fine meal in itself. Cockles are also a lovey accompaniment to fish. For this meal, I've reduced the _liquor_ from the cockles by half, then added an equal quantity of double cream before reducing further to a fairly light but richly flavoured sauce. I've finished it with a nice _chiffonade_ of parsley. The rest of the meal is pretty straight forward; crisp pan-fried cod fillets, and some crushed potatoes with spinach. Wonderful. --- * 250g fillet of cod, scaled and pin-boned * 500g fresh cockles * 50g baby shallots (about 2) finely chopped * 80g spinach, washed * 200g new potatoes * 125ml (1 glassful) dry white wine * 2 tbsp olive oil * vegetable oil, for cooking * sea salt * freshly cracked black pepper * 1 bay leaf * 2 sprigs thyme * 1 bunch of parsley, leaves picked and finely chopped * 100g double cream * 10g butter * 1 wedge of lemon 1. Cut the cod fillet into equal sized portions. Remove any bones, and carefully dry the skin with some kitchen paper. Leave it on a board skin side up, allowing it to dry out further. Thoroughly rinse the cockles in cold water. 2. Place the new potatoes in a medium pot and cover with cold water. Add a generous pinch of salt, and bring to the boil over a high heat. Turn down to a barely trembling simmer and cook for approximately 15 minutes, or until tender. You can check this easily by inserting a small knife into a potato; it should pass through with barely any resistance. 3. Meanwhile, to cook the cockles, place a medium sized pan over a medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Allow the oil to get hot, then add the shallots, thyme, bay, a pinch of salt and a generous pinch of cracked black pepper. Turn the heat to low and sweat the shallots slowly, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes until soft and sweet. Now turn the heat to high. Drain the water off the cockles, then add to the pan. Stir once, then add the white wine. Cover with either a lid or some kitchen foil, and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the cockles have all opened up. Strain the cockles through a fine sieve over a bowl, reserving the liquid. When the cockles have cooled, remove the cockle meat from the shells, and place in a bowl along with 10 shells, and most of the diced shallots. Discard the remainder of the shells. 4. To make the sauce, transfer the cockle liquid to a saucepan and bring to the boil. Boil until it’s reduced by about half. Now add the cream, and continue to reduce until you have a nice sauce consistency. When ready, cover the pan tightly with cling film to avoid getting a skin, and set aside. 5. When the potatoes are done, drain and chop into chunks or crush with the pack of a spoon. Take another pan and place over a medium heat. Add a little vegetable oil and sauté the spinach, along with a small pinch of salt, until wilted. Drain of any excess liquid, mix through the potatoes and set aside. 6. To cook the cod, take a large heavy based frying pan and get it smoking hot over a high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and wait 10 seconds for it to get hot. Season the cod fillets all over with salt, and place in the pan, skin side down. Press the fillets gently for about 10 seconds to make the skin is lying flat. Turn the heat down to medium, and cook for around 3 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets. When the fillets are about two-thirds cooked, add the butter and allow it to foam, then squeeze in the lemon juice. Baste the fillets for about 1 minute until almost cooked, then flip them over, being careful not to break the skin. By this time the butter should have turned a nutty brown colour. Turn the heat off and leave in the pan for 30 seconds. 7. While the cod is cooking, get the other components of the dish nice and hot. Add the parsley and cockles (including shells) to the sauce. Put a pile of spinach and potatoes in the center of each plate, and 5 shells around. Pour the sauce and cockles over, and place the cod in the center.

Cullen Skink A perfect combination of smoked haddock, potatoes, leeks and cream make up this classic Scottish soup. I have written already about my love for smoked haddock, in particular Arbroath Smokies, and this soup is further evidence for why smoked haddock is basically awesome. Some recipes for Cullen Skink will instruct to keep a rustic broth-like consistency, with pieces of potato and haddock giving a nice chunky texture, but I prefer to make a super smooth soup, like a veloute, and then garnish the soup with diced potatoes, flaked smoked haddock and herbs. This gives a nice texture contrast, but also looks fantastic too. --- * 2 Arbroath Smokies * 700ml of whole milk * 2 leeks * 1 onion * 3 cloves of garlic * 2 potatoes, about 300g in total * 30 g of unsalted butter * 1 sprig of thyme * 1 bay leaf * 1 bunch of dill * 30ml of double cream * 3 spring onions * olive oil 1. Place the Arbroath smokies, thyme and bay in a large shallow pan and cover with the milk. Bring to the boil, cover and leave to infuse for 30 minutes. In the meantime thinly slice the onion, garlic, and the white part of the leeks. Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium pan and slowly fry the vegetables for about 20 minutes, until soft. Peel and thinly slice ¾ of the potato and add to the pan. Dice the rest of the potato into 5mm cubes and set aside to be sautéed for the garnish. 2. Remove the smokies from the milk and carefully pick the meat away from the bone, discarding the skin. Set the flaked fish aside. Pass the milk through a sieve into the pan of vegetables. Add the cream, and simmer gently for 10 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked. Pour everything into a blender, add ¾ of the flaked smokies and the butter and blend on full power for 5 minutes, until the soup is very smooth and silky. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. 3. Heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan, and fry the potato dice on a medium heat for 5-10 minutes, or until they are tender and a light golden colour. Drain on some kitchen paper and set aside. 4. Garnish the soup with thinly sliced spring onions, the remainder of the flaked smokies, and the sautéed potato dice.