Archive for the 'Fish and seafood' Category

The best tuna meatballs

April 12, 2010


I love it when you buy a book second-hand and it still bears the imprint of previous ownership: train tickets used as bookmarks, notes in the margins, cooking stains, sentimental notes. In the case of ‘Jamie’s Italy’, it’s a nice piece of cream coloured card with the message ‘Malcolm and Carol – with very much love from Barney and Diana, 25th November 2005’. In pencil at the bottom someone has added ‘This can be exchanged!’

Well, judging by the flawless condition of the pages, I’d say Malcolm and Barbara didn’t get much use out of this gift. Still, I salute them for doing the charitable thing and giving it away instead of taking up the offer of a more suitable present (or maybe they just didn’t want to have to ask for the receipt?)

Either way, Barney and Diana – this one’s for you. I hope you like meatballs.

The best tuna meatballs  Serves 2

The name is Jamie’s, not mine, although I’m prepared to believe him – they were pretty great. I think I may have even improved them slightly by using some leftover rabbit stew topping from the freezer instead of the breadcrumbs; the main difference was the inclusion of fennel seeds, so I can recommend that as a nice addition.

The other major change I made was to increase the amount of tuna and decrease the amount of breadcrumbs, purely because Waitrose sells tuna in handy 250g packets.

For the tomato sauce:
olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
salt and pepper
red wine vinegar (optional)
small bunch parsley, chopped

For the meatballs:
250g tuna, diced
olive oil
25g pinenuts
1/2 tsp cinnamon
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
small handful parsley, chopped
50g breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp fennel seeds (optional)
25g parmesan, grated
1 egg
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon

150g spaghetti, tagliatelle etc. to serve

Start by making the sauce: heat a tablespoon or so of oil in a pan, add the onion and garlic, and fry over a low heat for about 10 minutes, until soft. Add the oregano, chopped tomatoes, some salt and pepper, and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and blend until smooth. Taste for seasoning – you may need to add a little red wine vinegar at this stage.

For the meatballs, heat another tbsp of oil in a frying pan and fry the tuna with the pinenuts, cinnamon and some seasoning for a couple of minutes, or until the tuna is cooked on all sides. Remove from the heat and tip into a mixing bowl. Allow to cool down for 5 minutes. Add the oregano, parsley, breadcrumbs, fennel seeds (if using), parmesan, egg, lemon zest and juice and mix well with your hands. Squeeze the mixture into balls about the size of a golf ball – I got 10 balls from this amount. It may help the shaping to have wet hands. Place the meatballs on a lightly oiled tray in the fridge for an hour or so.

When you’re ready to eat, put your pasta on to cook. Put the pan you cooked the tuna in back on the heat, adding a little more oil. Cook the meatballs until golden brown on all sides, which should take about 10 minutes. Reheat the tomato sauce if necessary.

Add the cooked pasta to the tomato sauce, mix, and serve with the meatballs and a sprinkle of chopped parsley.

Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s ‘Jamie’s Italy’.


Asian-style crab omelette

February 27, 2010

So far, if this week could have a theme I think it would be ‘Asian quick and easy’. It makes sense, really, to pick several recipes invlolving, say, coriander, chillies and lime so that you can use them up throughout the week, rather than buying a big bunch of herbs for one recipe and leaving them to mulch in the fridge. That way you only need buy a couple of extra forms of protein to combine with the store cupboard into a different meal each night.

I may just be trying to justify the very expensive pot of hand-picked white crab meat I bought for an omelette, but in fairness nothing else in the recipe costs much. And you could equally make it with prawns, marinated tofu, even just stir-fried vegetables. I like the crab though, it adds a touch of luxury. I think omelettes need a little luxury to become a worthwhile supper dish, even if it’s just a glass of wine on the side.

Asian-style crab omelette  Serves 2

4 eggs
2 tbsp milk
100-150g crab (I only used 100g as that’s what size the tubs came in)
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
3cm piece of ginger, peeled and grated
2 spring onions, finely sliced
small handful coriander
sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds
1 tbsp oyster sauce (I used a bit of fish sauce and a bit of soy sauce)

Beat the eggs with the milk and season.

Heat the sesame oil in a frying pan and fry the spring onion, chilli, garlic and ginger for 3 minutes. Add the crab and heat through. Remove from the heat and stir through the coriander.

Heat 1 tbsp of the vegetable oil in a pan over a medium-low heat (you can use the same one, crab removed), and pour in half the egg mixture. Tilt the pan, allowing the uncooked mixture to fill the spaces, until you have a firm but just set omelette. Slide onto a plate and keep warm while you make the other omelette in the same way.

Fill each omelette with half of the crab mixture, fold and serve, sprinkled with the sesame seeds. Drizzle over oyster sauce, fish sauce and/or soy sauce to taste.

Adapted from Sophie Michell’s ‘Fabulous Food: Sexy Recipes for Healthy Living’.

Nasi goreng

February 23, 2010

What with busyness meaning I failed to really do the Leon book justice, we’re moving right along to ‘Fabulous Food’ by Sophie Michell. I picked this one up while at a photogrammetry conference in Leicester. Yes, if I say that my job involves travel, that makes it sound interesting and glamorous, but the reality is a little different. I have been to some fantastic places, true, but all too often I’m alone in a Holiday Inn in Leicester. It can get lonely. Generally, my main weapon against loneliness is consumption: i.e., I eat or I go shopping, preferably both. To my mind, the two most comforting places to head for in any strange city are 1) the second hand shops and 2) the art galleries. Some strange nesting instinct causes me to feel more at home in a hotel room if I can surround myself with unnecessary new purchases, like 15-piece tea-sets (socio-legal studies, Canterbury). You can’t buy much in an art gallery, but they make me feel calm, and they usually have a cafe.

Where am I going with this? Fabulous Food is probably not the sort of book I might have otherwise bought. It’s full of the sort of hyper-girliness that I find quite grating, all fitting into little black dresses, not drinking beer because it’s not ladylike and not cooking for a man until the third date. The food though, appealed to me. This week I feel like eating simple, quick food that makes me feel a bit healthier, and this nasi goreng really fit the bill – a doddle to make while famished, with enough crunch and chew and freshness to still feel rewarding.

Nasi goreng  Serves 1

Note: portion sizes in this book are small. When I made this for dinner last night I almost wept at its meagreness, but then I actually felt oddly full afterwards, so I’ve left it as is. However, I would suggest doubling the amount of rice if you’re hungry.

100g cooked rice (about 35g raw rice)
100g prawns (you could use tofu to make it veggie)
small handful salted peanuts
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 egg
lime quarters, for serving

Heat the sesame oil in a frying pan or wok and stir fry the garlic, spring onions and chilli for a couple of minutes. Add half of the vegetable oil and the prawns and cook for 3 minutes. Add in the rice, soy sauce and chilli sauce, stirring and heating the rice through.

Meanwhile, fry the egg in the rest of the vegetable oil, making sure that the yolk stays runny.

To serve, mound up the rice, scatter with peanuts and top with the fried egg. Lime quarters on the side.

Adapted from Sophie Michell’s ‘Fabulous Food: Sexy Recipes for Healthy Living’.

Salmon superfood salad

February 17, 2010


You know things are bad when your boyfriend asks you,, “what kind of birthday cake do you want?” and you say, not, “carrot cake please, not too fluffy, heavy on the cinnamon and sultanas” but, “do I have to have a birthday cake?”

Yes, I have a bad case of food fatigue. All of this eating and drinking has left me struggling to muster interest even for one of my most favourite things, cake, in its birthday and pan forms (we decided to have a late pancake day, you see, having missed the official Shrove Tuesday celebrating a friend’s birthday. Happy birthday, Lindsey). After another slightly too late night and weary morning, I got home from work this afternoon and made the most overtly healthy of healthy salads. This is like rubbing virtue directly into your pores. Oily fish, dark green leaves, seeds, sprouts, broccoli, omega 3s, vitamins, minerals, goodness. After this you almost feel obliged to have a pancake.

Samon superfood salad  Serves 2-3

You can buy sprouted seeds in health food shops, or order them from some veg box companies. I sprout my own mung beans (of course I do, I’m a yoga teacher) – you can buy whole mung beans in most Indian grocers. Just soak a handful over night, and the next day drain and rinse them in warm water. Put them in a glass jar and cover the top with a piece of cloth – cheesecloth, muslin, clean bit of tights – secured with an elastic band. Continue to rinse them in a sieve with warm water each morning and evening until they sprout little tails, which will take a couple of days. They never grow quite as long as the ones in shops, but the longer you leave them the more they should grow.

For the dressing here, I used tahini (see this post) to save making the aioli used in the book, but you could use any sort of dressing you like best.

100g quinoa
1/2 large or 1 small head broccoli
2 small salmon fillets
3 big handfuls rocket
2 big handfuls spinach
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
120g frozen peas (I used frozen baby broad beans)
1/2 lemon
a scattering of sprouted seeds
2 tbsp toasted seeds (I used pumpkin)
3 tbsp each chopped parsley and mint
3 tbsp dressing of your choice
salt and pepper

Bring 200ml water to the boil, add the quinoa and boil hard for 5 minutes, then simmer for a further 5. Leave with the lid on to absorb the water, then fluff up the grains.

Put your griddle pan on to heat, or turn on the grill.

Chop the broccoli into small florets and slice the stalk thinly. Cut the stalk pieces in half if the stalk is particularly thick. Cook the broccoli in boiling salted water for about 3 minutes, dropping in the frozen vegetables at the last minute to thaw, then take the pan off the heat and run cold water over the veg to stop them cooking any further.

Season the salmon and griddle for about 4 minutes on each side, depending on how thick the pieces are.

Toss the leaves, tomatoes, broccoli and peas/beans in the lemon juice and pile into bowls. Scatter over the quinoa and sprouts. Top with salmon, then dressing, seeds and herbs.

Adapted from Allegra McEvedy’s ‘Leon’.

Salmon with sweet potato bubble and roast chilli guacamole

February 15, 2010

Lately, I’ve been well-fed. That is to say, I’ve been eating a lot: sometimes I’ve eaten well, other times it’s more debatable. The past week’s meals have segued from the rich and bitter deliciousness of semolina gnocchi with braised chicory to Chinese takeaway, from after-dinner sherry to beer and burritos, to banana cake and pancakes. I wish I could tell you about more of it. In particular, I wish I could tell you about the amazing dinner we had last night, in honour of a maligned and scoffed at day that some people say is a commercial swindle. I say why not use love as your excuse to celebrate, to sit down and eat dinner with your favourite person or people? Isn’t love as valid a reason as the baby jesus’ birthday, or his death, or a day randomly assigned to mothers, or any of those other, also commercialised things? Especially if it means you can eat the roasted butternut squash with the smoky aubergine dip from Ottolenghi, and a rabbit and chorizo hotpot, and a large helping of sherry cream pudding with berries and sugary toasted almonds. Oh, and we went to see A Single Man, which is so absolutely incredible it more than made up for Breakfast At Tiffany’s being sold out.

So, my only problem is that none of these things I’ve been eating have been made by me. My sole contribution to the ongoing project of tackling my cookbooks was this salmon dish, which I think needs a bit of work; I think it’s good enough to write about as is, but with a bit of tweaking it could be fantastic.

In fact it should have been a red snapper dish, which might have been more interesting, but I always seem to have packs of special-offered salmon lurking in my freezer. If you’re interested, red snapper is on the MSC’s list of fish that’s OK to eat and I often see it frozen in whole and filleted form in the local Oriental shops or Indian grocers.

The idea of turning the recipe’s accompanying roast chilli drizzle into a roast chilli guacamole came about, rather uninspiringly, from the avocado ripening at speed in the fruit bowl.

Salmon with sweet potato bubble and roast chilli guacamole  Serves 2

2 salmon fillets (or use red snapper)
2 large sweet potatoes
1/4 small green or Savoy cabbage, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic
2 red chillies (I would use the regular large-ish ones, you’ll need to skin them later and mine were too small to do this easily)
1 ripe avocado
1 lime
3 tbsp chopped coriander (small bunch)
1 spring onion
1 tbsp plain flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tbsp olive oil, plus a bit extra for oiling
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180c. Put the sweet potatoes in a small baking tray and drizzle with a tbsp of the olive oil, season, and roll around to coat. Bake for about 50 minutes, until thoroughly soft all the way through.

Meanwhile, wrap the whole chillies and one of the garlic cloves in foil with a touch of salt, making a tight, flat package. Now, the recipe instructs you to chop the garlic first, but this gave me slightly burned garlic bits. I think it would be better to roast the clove whole in its skin and squeeze it out later. You might even roast a whole bulb or half a bulb, sliced through the middle, this way, so you can have extra roasted garlic around for squeezing onto bread.

Put the chilli/garlic package into the oven and cook for 20 minutes, then remove it and leave to cool.

Once slightly cooled, peel the chillies. Apparently this is easiest if you cut them in half lengthways, lay them skin-side down and scrape the flesh off with the back of a knife. You can discard the seeds or leave them, depending on how fiery you want your guacamole. Mash the garlic flesh and chilli flesh together in a bowl with a fork. Peel and destone your avocado and mash that in too. Stir in half of the chopped coriander, cut the lime in half and squeeze half into the bowl. Season well.

When the potatoes are done, take them out and leave to cool slightly so you can peel them (you’ll need the oven to stay at 180c for later, so leave it on or remember to turn it back on ahead of time). The skin should come away easily if you pull it. Roughly mash the flesh with a fork, then stir in the spring onion, cabbage, the rest of the coriander, the other clove of garlic, chopped, and the flour. Season and cool in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

When the time is up, heat the other tbsp of oil in an ovenproof frying pan. Shape the sweet potato mix into two round, flat discs, dusting each side with flour. When the oil is hot, fry the bubble for a few minutes on one side until browned and easy to turn. Flip them over and put them in the oven for 10 minutes while you cook the fish.

Heat a griddle pan, or the grill if you don’t have one. Lightly oil the salmon skin and season the fish on both sides, then press them skin-side down into the hot griddle pan. They should take 3-4 minutes on the first side – when they’re done, the skin will lift away from the pan without tearing. Turn and cook for a further 2 minutes on the other side.

Pile a fillet on top of each bubble cake, top with guacamole and serve with a quarter of lime.

Adapted from Allegra McEvedy’s ‘Colour Cookbook’.

Almond and prawn risotto

February 6, 2010

This is another of those cross-cultural reinterpretations of a dish; in this case, a Lebanese pilaf with toasted almonds, crumbled vermicelli and sweet spices, mish-mashed into a traditionally made Italian risotto. It works, I think – the almonds add a bit of crunch to the creamy rice, the cinnamon and pasta emphasise the comforting qualities of a big plate of oozing starch.

I added the prawns for a bit of contrast and extra protein, but I wished I had used scallops because I think the combination of scallops and almonds is so suited. (It would have been a bit beige, though.)

Anyway, the scope here is broad, since you could add almost anything that you’d put into either a risotto or a pilaf, that is almost anything at all. Chorizo, or merguez sausage. Chicken, chickpeas, broad beans, artichoke hearts, you get the idea.

Almond and prawn risotto  Serves 2

Because I put prawns in my risotto, I omitted the parmesan. You might want to add cheese for a non-fishy variation (stir it in towards the end).

50g flaked almonds
1-2 tbsp olive oil
25g vermicelli nest, crumbled into short strands
1/2 small onion
150g risotto rice (I used Arborio)
500ml chicken stock
1 tbsp celery leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
salt and pepper
1 packet prawns, about 140g, peeled
1 clove garlic
1 dried bird’s eye chilli, crumbled, or 1/4 tsp chilli flakes

Finely chop the garlic and crush it into a paste with a sprinkle of salt and the flat of your knife. Smear this over the prawns with the chilli, mixing with your hands, and set aside while you make the risotto.

Toast the almonds in a large dry frying pan until golden brown and then tip out and set aside. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in the pan. Halve the onion and stir the onion quarters in the oil for a few minutes to flavour it, then take out the onion and discard. Add the crumbled vermicelli to the pan and fry until it turns brown and crunchy. Add the rice to the pan and stir to coat with oil – add  the extra tbsp if necessary. Have the chicken stock at a simmer in a separate pan.

Add a ladleful of stock to the rice and stir constantly until the stock has been absorbed. Continue adding stock a ladleful at a time, stirring, until the rice is tender and creamy. Stop just before it’s done to the consistency you want. (You may need to add more stock, or just boiling water, if you run out). This should take around 20 minutes, but I won’t be too prescriptive as everyone has their own way of making risotto: I like it soft, not al dente, with a gentle ooze but not runny.

Stir through the celery leaves, almonds and spices with the last ladle of stock and cook for a few minutes. Add the prawns in right at the end – if they’re cooked, you just need to warm them through. If your prawns are raw, cook until they turn pink all over.

Adapted from Greg and Lucy Malouf’s ‘Arabesque’.

Slow cooked salmon with Arabic spices

February 3, 2010

It might seem a bit odd to deliberately cook for a long time something that can be done in a couple of minutes, but really I often prefer a long build up. Things like stir fries, where everything has to come together right on time, make me nervous. I like the sort of food that is non-attention seeking, that will sit on a back hob and simmer away to itself while I wander off and make a salad dressing or chop some greens (though somehow, I never ever make time to tidy as I go – did I learn nothing in Home Economics?)

If you ever come to mine for dinner, you’re likely to get a stew or a tart or something roasted, in other words, something I can pull out of the oven ready prepared, all “here’s one I made earlier”. I could pretend that that’s because I want to spend more time with you and less in the kitchen, but given the size of our flat, spending time in the kitchen is the same thing as spending time with you. It’s actually because co-ordinating cooking times AND having to make conversation AND people watching me stresses me out. Given that I harbour dreams of cooking professionally, this may be something I have to get over.

So, maybe you’re a far less neurotic cook than me and you’ll happily carry on grilling or griddling your salmon and have done with it. I could try and convince you by telling you that this way, the salmon ends up softer and juicier, almost poached in texture, which it does, but it’s not better than grilled salmon, just different. Maybe it’s just nice to have options sometimes.

Slow-cooked salmon with Arabic spices  Serves 2

A quick note on ingredients: this recipe calls for za’atar, which is a Middle Eastern spice mixture. I always understood it as a mix of dried thyme, sumac and sesame seeds, though I’ve read that varieties can differ. It’s quite easy to get hold of now – Bart’s do a version, which I got from Waitrose. Otherwise, of course, if you have dried thyme, sumac and sesame seeds you can just blend your own. Use a couple of tablespoons of thyme and sesame, a couple of teaspoons of sumac. I usually add salt, too.

1 tbsp za’atar
1 tsp sumac
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 salmon fillets
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to its lowest possible heat (probably about 100c). Brush the salmon generously with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Mix the sumac, za’atar and thyme together and smear it over the fish, covering the surface (you may not need all of it, but I’ve given full quantities as the half measures I used were a bit sparse). Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and place the salmon on top.

Cook the salmon in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes, then check to see that it’s not cooking too fast – the telltale sign is milky liquid oozing out of the fillets. In this case, leave the oven door open for the remainder of the cooking time. Otherwise, close the door and continue cooking for a further 20 minutes. The salmon flesh should be opaque when it’s done.

Serve with your choice of accompaniment. I made a broad bean pilaf with fried onions, basmati rice and frozen baby broad beans cooked in vegetable stock, garlic and lemon juice stirred in at the end.

Adapted from Greg and Lucy Malouf’s ‘Arabesque’.

Smoked mackerel, broccoli and spinach bake

January 13, 2010

Restorative, I think, is the best word for this. It almost didn’t get made because, yesterday, I’d had the sort of day where I wanted to just give up and have toast for dinner. The sort of day where you feel like inanimate objects are forming malicious plots against you. You know the ones? I found myself shedding a little tear or two of self-pity on my way home because a car honked at me at the traffic lights, and not because I’m a wuss, but because it was the last straw. And, OK, because I’m a wuss.

Thank goodness I felt sorry for the broccoli looking so neglected and yellowing in the fridge drawer. I thought I’d better just at least boil it in a little water. And then I might as well cook the other vegetables too, and then all it needed was for a quick white sauce to come together, some parmesan to mix with the breadcrumbs that were already waiting in the breadbin, and suddenly we were sitting down to a big, steaming savoury comfort blanket of a dinner.

The title may make it sound a little earnest, but that’s the great thing about this dish: you can feel, with the dark green vegetables and the oily fish, that you’re doing something good and sensible for yourself, but it’s also rich and velvety enough to be satisfying and to not feel wrong, on a bleak January day. It’s a winner, all round.

Smoked mackerel, broccoli and spinach bake  Serves 3 generously, or 4 with bread/potatoes on the side

I should admit that the original title, smoked mackerel and chard bake with a crunchy top, is much more appealing than mine. But I didn’t have any chard, so I couldn’t exactly call it that. Instead of half broccoli and half chard, I used broccoli and spinach with a leek for good measure; it’s nice to have the greens, but I imagine this recipe would be quite forgiving of any vegetables you want to throw at it. The addition of lemon, mustard and nutmeg to the white sauce adds a lift of interest and stops this being too retro-bland.

400g chard or spinach (I used frozen leaf spinach)
400g broccoli (one average sized head)
1 leek (optional)
350-400ml chicken or vegetable stock
50g butter
60g plain flour
100ml semi-skimmed milk
juice of 1/2 lemon (1 tbsp)
1 dsp wholegrain mustard
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
black pepper
200g smoked mackerel (about 2 fillets)
100g breadcrumbs
100g mature manchego, parmesan or any strong, hard cheese (I actually used 75g because I balked at using so much of my parmesan in one dish)

Wash and chop the vegetables. If using the leek, slice it thickly and rinse thoroughly in a colander to get rid of any dirt lurking between the layers. If using chard or fresh spinach, wash and slice into ribbons. Separate the broccoli into small florets, chopping the stalk separately into 2cm chunks (you might need to peel the outer layer of stalk if it’s particularly big and thick).

Boil water to a depth of about 2cm in a large pan and cook the broccoli, leek and frozen spinach for 5-7 minutes with the lid on. If using chard or non-frozen spinach, add after the first few minutes of cooking the broccoli. The vegetables should be tender, but not too soft as they’re going into the oven later. Remove them with tongs (you want to keep the cooking water) and pile into a baking dish or casserole.

Preheat the oven to 150c. Have the stock ready for the white sauce. Melt the butter in a medium-sized pan over a medium heat. Whsen it has melted, add the flour and whisk together, stirring frequently for a few minutes to cook out the flour. At this point it should smell toasty and delicious, and also a bit like chicken nuggets (though that might just be me). Add the leftover vegetable cooking liquid and the stock, whisking to remove any lumps. Gradually add the milk, whisking, and continue to cook for 5 minutes. It should be creamy and thick enough to coat the vegetables but not stodgy. Add the lemon juice, mustard, nutmeg and pepper and check the balance of flavour. You shouldn’t need salt as the fish and cheese are pretty salty already, and even I thought that was enough.

Peel the skin off the mackerel and tear it into chunks over the vegetables. Pour over the white sauce and mix well. Grate the cheese and mix with the breadcrumbs. Scatter this over the top of the dish and bake in the oven for 35 minutes, or until the topping has darkened and crisped.

Adapted from Rosie Lovell’s ‘Spooning With Rosie’.

Sugar-spiced salmon with wasabi

January 5, 2010

This week we leave the broccoli forest behind and dive into the weighty tome that is Nigella’s ‘How To Eat’. I couldn’t possibly hope to make a dent on the recipes contained therein in one week (although I made a bit of a head start by serving her Greek lamb stew and lebanase moussaka for New Year’s Eve), so I’m afraid I’m going to be wearyingly predictable and dally in the low-fat section. Not a lady you’d generally turn to for such things, I know, but in fact the little blue-coded bit of the book is full of exactly the sort of thing you crave after a period of over-indulgence: soba noodles, miso, thai basil, salmon. Some of her diet advice may be a little scary (150 calories for breakfast and 250 calories for lunch? Wouldn’t you faint?) but who else would include lacquered quail and M&S steak and kidney pudding in their diet plan? Also, almost everything is super-quick to prepare so you don’t pass out from malnourishment.

This is so quick that it’s almost more of an anecdote than a recipe, but it’s worth knowing about because it is delicious. Eat with steamed and soy-dressed greens, and/or noodles or rice, depending on how austere you’re feeling.

Sugar-spiced salmon with wasabi  Serves 1 
Thick piece of salmon fillet
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp wasabi powder (or use English mustard powder)

for the wasabi sauce:
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp wasabi powder
1-2 tsp warm water

Dredge the piece of salmon in the spice mixture. Heat a griddle pan until hot and griddle the salmon for 2-3 minutes per side. Remove and rest. Mix the sauce ingredients together and pour over.

Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s ‘How To Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food’.

Crab spring rolls

December 4, 2009

I urge you to make these – they are far tastier than the little beansprouty things you get with takeaway and, appropriately enough as December is upon us, I reckon they’d make a great little festive canape. Yes, they are a wee bit fiddly – we didn’t eat until 9 last night, but probably only because I insisted on making a vegetable accompaniment that involved peeling and grating coconut. And it was OK, I had a glass of wine and I could watch the debacle that is this year’s The Restaurant contestants out of the corner of my eye, and you sort of get into a rhythm and it’s all very satisfying.

Strictly speaking there should have been pork in these too, which I’m sure would be delicious, but I like to keep my meat consumption low and didn’t want to buy a lot of mince for the small amount required. I swapped the white crab meat asked for for the stronger tasting (and cheaper!) brown meat and swapped the pork for small cubes of tofu. I think the ingredients are really very open to interpretation.

And yes, I know mine aren’t the prettiest spring rolls around, but I don’t think anyone’s going to complain. Especially not if they have a glass of something refreshing in the other hand.

Crab spring rolls   Makes approx. 16

I used filo pastry here, which is not very authentic, but does allow you to bake them in the oven rather than deep frying for a lighter, crispier result. If you want to use spring roll wrappers, you should first make a caramel water (warm 3 tbsp sugar until starting to caramelise, then pour in 150ml warm water, mix, and add 150ml boiling water off the heat). Brush each rice paper with this until pliable before filling the rolls, then deep fry them in one layer.

2 tbsp dried black fungus (Jaffrey says if you cannot obtain this, up the number of Chinese mushrooms to 14)
8 dried Chinese mushrooms
15g cellophane noodles
1 spring onion
40g (about half a medium sized) onion
100g tofu, chopped
100g brown crab meat (Waitrose stocks the ‘seafood and eat it’ brand, which is hand-picked sustainable crabmeat in pots)
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 head of lettuce
1 large bunch of mint leaves
1 packet of filo pastry (6 large sheets, or 270g), or rice paper spring roll wrappers

For the dipping sauce (to serve 4):
1 clove garlic
4 tbsp fish sauce
4 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp soft brown sugar
3-4 fresh red or green chillies

Soak the black fungus and/or dried mushrooms in warm water for 30 minutes, then lift out and chop finely, cutting off any hard bits. Soak the noodles for 15-30 minutes in hot water and then chop into 1 cm lengths.

Finely chop the spring onion. Peel the onion and chop it finely. In a mixing bowl combine the tofu, crab, black fungus, mushrooms, noodles, spring onion, onion, salt, pepper and egg, and mix well.

Wash the lettuce and separate the leaves. Wash the mint and separate into small sprigs.

To make the dipping sauce, peel and crush the garlic and combine it with all of the other ingredients except for the chillies. Cut the chillies crossways into very thin rounds and add to the sauce.

If using filo, preheat the oven to 200c. To assemble the spring rolls, have 2 large damp cloths handy. Lay one on your worksurface and unwrap the filo pastry, laying it onto the cloth. Carefully separate the top 2 sheets and put them aside. Cover the rest of the sheets with the other damp cloth, and lay the first separated sheet on top of that. Brush it with oil, being fairly liberal, but there’s no need to cover it completely. Lay the second separated sheet on top of that and brush with more oil. Now, take a sharp knife and divide the pastry into squares about 10cm x 10cm (if you’re using the 6 sheet 270g pack that’s 9 squares). Scoop out a heaped teaspoon of the filling mixture and place it in the first square, near the centre but closer to the corner nearest you. Spread the filling out slightly into a sausage shape. Fold that corner nearest you over the filling, then draw the two vertical sides one on top of the other over the folded over corner (is this making sense?) You should now be able to roll it away from you into a cylindrical shape, securing the far end with a little more oil. Place on a lightly oiled baking tray and proceed with the rest of the sheets until you run out of filling or pastry.

Bake the spring rolls for about 20 minutes, until golden and crisp. To serve, arrange the lettuce and mint leaves on a plate and set out a bowl of dipping sauce (or more, depending on how many of you there are). The idea is that you pick up a spring roll, wrap it in a lettuce leaf with a few mint leaves and dip it into the sauce.

Adapted from ‘Madhur Jaffrey’s Far Eastern Cookery’.