Sunday, 28 August 2011

Pan fried salmon with crushed new potatoes, broad beans and hollandaise sauce

I was up keen and early yesterday morning to get the best of the produce at Swansea market. I returned home with salmon, lovely new potatoes, sausages, bacon, welsh cakes, great brie de maux and other bits and bobs. I am going to start my very own campaign to promote this tresure trove of wonderful suppliers and their great produce. I have no connections with any of the suppliers or any ulterior motive to support the market. All I know is we are very lucky indeed and I had a recent conversation with someone from France who wishes they had a market like ours out where she lived. I am going to write a separate piece about the market but for now this is what we had for lunch today. I promise it is stunning although it is easy to do and you can make it look cheffy!

Pan fried salmon with crushed new potatoes, broad beans and hollandaise sauce


If you are going to make this you will find that it is far more economical to buy a whole salmon and have the fishmonger fillet it for you. A whole salmon will yield 8 - 10 portions and mine cost around £10 so you can see that it is cheaper to buy than pre portioned fillets. Just pop what you don't use in the freezer. The key to making this great salmon to eat is to make sure you get the skin nice and crisp. All you do is pat the fillets dry with kitchen towel and season the skin. Get a non stick frying pan on a medium to high heat, add a drizzle of oil and when it is ready place the salmon in skin side down and leave for 3 minutes, make sure it doesn't burn but don't be tempted to move it until that skin is crisp. Then turn over and depending on how thick the fillets are cook for around 4 - 6 minutes. You are aiming for moist juicy fillets with a crisp skin so don't overcook it as dry salmon isn't great.

Crushed new potatoes with broad beans

Nice and easy but full of flavour. All you do is cook some nice late new potatoes in boiling salted water - mine were the charlotte variety - and when they are done lift them out into a bowl and pop some broad beans into the potato water and cook for 3 minutes. While they are cooking gently crush the potatoes then add the broad beans. Season with salt, pepper, a drizzle of nice olive oil and a squeeze of lemon and gently mix through.

Hollandaise sauce

To be honest this can be a little tricky. But once you know how to rescue a curdled or split attempt then you'll be fine. Take a finely chopped shallot and 6 crushed peppercorns and cook in 2 tbsp of white wine vinegar and juice of 1/2 a lemon until reduced to about 2 tspn of liquid. Pop the strained liquid into a food processor and add 2 egg yolks and whizz up. Add 125g of melted butter a little at a time until you have a shiney thick yellow sauce. This has to be warmed through by placing the bowl of hollandaise over simmering water (making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water) and heat it through whilst you stir it. If it curdles or splits add a teaspoon of boiling water and stir vigorously until it goes back to being a nice shiney yellow sauce.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Sloe Vodka

What better way to spend a sunny afternoon in the garden than make some sloe vodka? Once you have picked and pricked the sloes you must wait at least 6 months to enjoy it but I love the idea of sipping something you made in the summer next to an open fire on a cold february night. Make hay while the sun shines has never felt more apt!

slave labour

First of all you need to find a local supply of sloe berries and although I only have 20 followers I am fiercly protective over the identity of my sloe bushes. You need to pick about 1.5 kg or in my case 2 hatfuls and then prick them all over with a pin. If you are a bit lazy like me then you can get your family involved - ahh my sweet innocent children blissfully unaware of their role in their dad's illicit hooch making scheme (Mrs F utterly complicit).

Once pricked, pop them into a demi john or large kilner jar and for 1.5kg of sloes add 750g caster sugar and 1.4ltr of vodka. I personally prefer vodka to gin as it has a cleaner taste when made and you can appreciate the flavour of the sloes better.

Turn it every day for a week or so and then turn them every week for six months. Needless to say it will taste better if you leave it for a year or so but life is too short so enjoy in February 2012.

When it comes to bottling the precious liquid then all you need to do is line a sieve with a double piece of muslin and strain into a jug. Then pour into a bottle using a funnel.


Sunday, 21 August 2011

Swimming in the sea and homemade fishfingers for tea

A perfect day

Some days are just perfect and I love where I live today. Swansea is a funny old place, a former industrial port city that is situated in one of the most beautiful parts of the country. The Gower peninsular has about 30 miles of beaches and today we went to Pwll du. This beautiful bay has the added bonus of being a little tricky to get to which means its nearly always deserted and we all took to the water for a swim and afterwards we picked sloeberries for me to use tomorrow. Swimming and fresh air alway makes me hungry and I had already planned what we were having to eat today. Fishfingers and chips - homemade of course!

Homemade fishfingers with Tartare sauce

No need to write a recipe for this. All I did was cut a skinned coley fillet into finger sized strips and coat in flour, egg and breadcrumbs and shallow fry for about 5 minutes on each side until golden. I also made some tartare sauce and to do this you roughly chop some gherkins, capers, dill and parsley and mix it through with some mayonnaise. Serve with chips and peas if you like.

Homemade Lemonade

Seren wanted to make some lemonade which is perfect for a sunny Sunday. Again no recipe just a few pointers. Grate the zest and squeeze the juice of 6 lemons into a saucepan and add 150g of caster sugar. Bring to the boil to dissolve the sugar and strain into a jug. When cool add a little to a tall glass, add ice and soda water to serve.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Beef Carbonnade with leek and mustard dumplings

 I started to learn how to cook professionally as a catering college student over 20 years ago and this dish is one of the first things I made for my family. My auntie Susie and uncle Chris were great to try out new dishes with as they always loved what I made which is a great boost for any young wannabe chef. My dishes then became a bit more 'cheffy' as my confidence grew and I remember making pan fried duck breast with a blueberry sauce which was all the rage in the early 90's. However, my cooking style has matured and I find myself obsessed by simplicity. Slow cooked meat dishes are a particular favourite and I am revelling in the beauty of cuts like brisket, shin and shoulder which to my mind are much more satisfying than their flashier and more expensive butchers slab brethren.

Beef carbonnade with leek and mustard dumplings

The Belgians are little known in the world of gastronomy, overlooked as they are by the French, and this dish is a Low country classic which requires little effort however good quality ingredients and plenty of time are essential. Perfect for a summer in Swansea!

I made this in my slow cooker with a whole piece of brisket but you can use other braising cuts diced up into large chunks and cook it on the hob or in the oven. Low heat and about 6 hours cooking are essential though. By the way if you can make this a day or two in advance then it will even more lovely, in fact it is almost essential, you just have to learn how to cope with delayed gratification.

2kg rolled brisket or shin
2 onions, sliced or diced
2 carrots, cut into chunks
1 clove garlic, crushed
330ml Belgian beer (leffe is good)
15g dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 1/2 pint of hot water
herbs such as thyme and rosemary
2 tbspns cornflour mixed with cold water

For the dumplings:
Mix together in a large bowl 150g self raising flour, 150g suet, 1 finely sliced leek, 1 heaped tsp Coleman's English mustard powder, salt and 1 egg. As long as it resembles a dough that is fine and then divide into small balls ready to go in the stew about 15 minutes before the end.

1) In a large frying pan brown the brisket all over and pop it in the slow cooker, add the onions and carrots to the frying pan and brown then chuck them in with the brisket. Pour the beer into the pan and bring to the boil. Now add that to the slow cooker along with the herbs and garlic. Also pour in the porcini mushrooms and its water. Leave on a low heat for about 6 - 7 hours. Cool and refrigerate.
2) Take the whole brisket out of the cold stew and cut up into large chunks and gently heat it all through. Thicken if you like (I like) and season if necessary. Add the dumplings and cook for about 15 minutes.

mmm...Carbonnade of beef

Thursday, 18 August 2011

South Wales Evening Post article

I haven't updated my blog for a while but in as we have been to London for a holiday, and more of which later...My recent 'Storecupboard Challenge' has been in the media lately read the articles here...

I have also been making brisket of beef carbonnade today, yes I know its not winter but this is summer in Swansea. I will post the recipe and what I got up to in London ASAP

Tuesday, 9 August 2011


Because I like to express my love for my family through cooking I made 2 separate breakfasts this morning. Drop scones for Seren and full English for Ruby and so I popped down to Swansea market early this morning to buy our groceries. I keep saying it but Swansea market truly is a wonderful place. Its got a great atmosphere along with expert and friendly producers selling a stunning variety of foods that the supermarkets, try as they might, cannot compete with. I had my bacon, sausage, eggs and black pudding from Abraham's and fantastic goose rillete and mature parmesan from Paul at Goodies deli. Paul sells cheese, ham and other deli items that you cannot get in the supermarkets. Sure you can get similar stuff, read inferior quality, but not the real deal. I always feel however that I am one of the youngest market shoppers and worry that no new customers are using such a great place. The city will be a poorer place without the largest indoor market in Wales so I urge you to try it!

Drop scones with apple and nutella

Seren loves these and she is unaware of the addition of finely grated apple into the batter mixture that makes them slightly healthier. You can put lots of different toppings on but she loves Nutella and i only put a small teaspoon on each one so its not too bad!
 Love these Dad!!

The batter looks like pancake batter but its slightly thicker, which helps, hold the shape. The grated apple in it is a sneaky way of getting a bit of fruit in them without them noticing. This is also a great way to get young kids started in the kitchen, as it is so simple to make. They can easily make the batter and as confidence grows they can cook them as well. You could substitute some of the flour for wholemeal or use a different fruit such as pear.

120g self-raising flour
25g caster sugar
1 egg
Pinch of salt
120ml milk
1 apple, peeled and grated
Drop of oil to grease pan

1)    Sift the flour into a bowl, add the sugar and salt and mix.
2)      Make a well in the centre and add the egg then the milk. Whisk until you have a smooth batter. Add the grated apple and mix in.
3)      Grease your frying pan and place on a medium heat. Using a tablespoon of mixture per scone, drop into the pan, keeping each one well apart so they don’t stick together. Cook for 2 minutes on each side - you will know when to turn them as holes will appear (see pic). Add nutella while the other side is cooking as it warms it up and is easy to spread.

Full English
No recipe here just a few pointers on breakfast items. Sausages shouldn't be too meaty, I recently had some of Sainsbury's 'Taste the difference' pork chipolatas but they were far too meaty for breakfast. I think the ones I buy are locally known as 'hipkin's' sausage and they are thin and pink and perfect for a full English.
Buy the best bacon you can afford as the cheaper stuff is full of water which will leak out into your frying pan and take for ever to fry. I like to use streaky bacon as i'm a fat lover - not healthy but fine now and again.
Last point but an important one - if you don't wan't to feel overfull and bloated after a full English then lay off the carbs. I have found over the years that eating too many carbohydrates lead to feeling bloated and tired, not to mention contributing to carrying a bit too much weight. just leave the toast / fried bread and fried potatoes out!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The end of my storecupboard challenge

The supermarkets and the media recently discussed whether you could feed a family of 4 for £50. Sainsbury's launched a campaign recently saying it could be done (by shopping in one of their stores obviously) and an article in the Times a few months back had a balanced view on the matter. We had a yes no and a maybe. One contributer said that it was possible if you shopped around and another said it took all the joy out of eating.

Well my own challenge is officially at an end and my conclusion? It can be done for around £30 and you can eat a variety of lovely simple meals. The main problem is that you have to plan in advance and not veer away from your shopping list. Fancy some lamb chops? forget it and also you end up eating lots of carbohydrates as they are cheap and filling. I got all my groceries from one place in any given week. I used Sainsbury's and Asda and found the latter to be cheaper, but I preferred some of the lines in the former. You could probably do it cheaper if you used your local market.

The purpose of this challenge for me was to be more disciplined when shopping as my food budget is now pretty strict. I've come away from a supermarket over £100 pounds worse off with not much to show for it and needing to go shopping a few days later. The other reason is that I don't agree with the economic argument that people are becoming obese because they cannot afford to eat healthily. My weekly food contained oily fish, chicken, salads and vegetables and were simple to cook. Although my challenge is over for the purpose of this blog, I will continue to let it be a guiding principle and also if you have these basics in your cupboard you will always have something to eat.

I think 3 weeks of blogging on one subject is enough for now and I am going to let the blog return, for a while, to it's original purpose, as a means to give my daughter's all the recipes I've cooked them. Which is, of course, how I express my love for them.

Chicken and chorizo casserole

I made this in my slow cooker - brown the chicken off and literally chuck the rest of the ingredients in the slow cooker and relax.

1 whole chicken, jointed into 8 pieces
1 onion chopped
3 cloves of garlic
200g diced chorizo sausage
 2 tins chickpeas or canellini beans, drained
1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1/4 pint of water
2 tspn smoked paprika (opt)

As I said, brown the chicken pieces in a frying pan and add all the other ingredients. You can bring them to the boil (if you wish) then add it all to the slow cooker or a casserole dish / large saucepan and cook for hours.