Roasted cod, minted pea mash and crispy pancetta

Cod is not a fish I’ve cooked with much before. I generally think of it as quite boring, mild-flavoured and let’s face it, often better battered at your local chippy with a side of mushy peas. However, I’ve come to discover it’s actually quite versatile. Firmer and not quite as delicately flavoured as some of his fishy friends, cod was a perfect centrepiece for a quick, colourful and healthy dinner.

The minted pea mash is a great way to reinvent a staple side-vegetable. Cooked in chicken stock and combined with creme fraiche, mint and dill, it was unbelievably fresh and tasty. Balsamic roasted tomatoes add a bit of acidity and an injection of colour. And bacon. Bacon makes everything better right?

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Serves 2 

2 Cod fillets
6 Rashers of pancetta
1 lemon
Handful mint
Enough frozen peas
Chicken stock
2 tbsp creme fraiche
Few sprigs of dill
Handful of cherry tomatoes
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

– Preheat the oven to  190°C

– Make a little boat with tin foil (or if you’re normal use an oven tray) to accommodate the cherry tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil, balsamic and season. Place in the oven 15 minutes before you put the cod in.

– Drizzle the cod fillets with olive oil, squeeze over the juice of a small lemon and season.

– Place on a roasting tray and layer the pancetta over each fillet. Roast for 12 minutes’ish until just cooked (keep the tomatoes in the oven). Don’t overdo the fish for the sake of crispy pancetta godammit. I took mine off and crisped it up under a hot grill for a minute. 

– Meanwhile cook your frozen peas in chicken stock. Drain.

– Place 3/4 of the peas in a food processor with the mint, dill, creme fraiche and season. Pulse. Add back to the whole peas for a bit of texture variation.

– Serve. I served mine with a bit of mash because I like mash.

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Mushroom, spinach, artichoke and pancetta puy lentil salad

This is a delicious, earthy salad. A perfect winter salad. A hearty salad that can be eaten warm for supper, the leftovers going to make an impressive packed lunch ( well that’s my plan anyway!)

(Apologies for the lack of posts as of late – I got a job, packed my bags and moved to London! It’s been pretty manic and annoyingly cooking has taken a bit of a back seat. I’m hoping to find a good balance soon and bring to you more super-easy, quick yet scrummy recipes.)

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Serves 2 

250g puy lentils – I used precooked because it’s soooooooo much easier
2 shallots, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
Pancetta, chopped – I had to use bacon (kill me now)
Mushrooms – I used ‘Portobellini’ muchrooms… how cute…
Artichoke hearts from a jar, quartered
Couple of handfuls of baby spinach
Fresh thyme
Few cherry tomatoes, quartered
Olive oil
Balsamic Vinegar

– Saute the shallots in olive oil adding the pancetta, thyme and garlic after a couple of minutes

– Once nice and golden add the mushrooms and cook until tender

– Stir in the lentils and artichokes and, when warmed, wilt in the spinach

– Season, drizzle with good quality olive oil and balsamic, add a few chopped cherry tomatoes to brighten up the plate and serve!

– So easy it hurts.

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Oh and I sauteed a few whole mushrooms – purely presentation purposes only 🙂

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Sea bream with anchovy, tomato, capers and olives

Anchovies, capers and olives.

I think of these as ‘grown up’ ingredients, ingredients that we learn to love with age. I’ve only recently admitted to myself, and family, that anchovies and capers are not in fact the food of the devil and are actually a match made in heaven –  perfect with fish, on pizza, or in salads. Who better to join them than some juicy and flavoursome kalamata olives? This trio will guarantee to instantly capture the taste of the Mediterranean in any dish. I decided to combine these classic flavours with Sea Bream fillets, making for an intense, flavoursome and refreshingly simple dish.

Basically, it really is delicious. Please try it! (Use Sea Bass instead of Bream if it’s easier to get hold of).

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Serves 2

2 Sea Bream fillets
Handful cherry tomatoes, halved and deseeded
2 large anchovy fillets
2 tbsps capers
Splash white wine
Small handful of kalamata olives
1 clove garlic, chopped
Juice of half a lemon
Fresh oregano
Olive oil, salt and pepper

–          Preheat the oven to 190°C/370F

–          Heat a couple of table spoons of olive oil in a pan, add the garlic, capers and anchovies and cook until the anchovies have dissolved and the garlic is soft.

–          Add about 3/4 of a glass of white wine and the lemon juice and allow to reduce by half.

–          Add the tomatoes, olives and some fresh oregano. Allow tomatoes to soften at a simmer for another 5 minutes, season.

–          Place the seabass fillets in an oven-proof dish and pour over the sauce. Add another splash of white wine and olive oil, cover in foil.

–          Cook for about 20 minutes or until fish is just cooked, removing the foil when the fish has about 10 minutes to go.

–          Remove from the oven, sprinkle dish with more fresh oregano. I served mine with some crushed new potatoes (add some olive oil, crème fraiche and red onion) and green beans.

–          Eat and enjoy!

 

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Chicken, tomato and tarragon

When I say tarragon, you say……?

…With chicken, rice and a creamy sauce? Yeah?

Well that’s my go to recipe anyway, and probably the same for you lot. But don’t underestimate the old ‘erb! As I found out last night – he’s more versatile than you may think! I grabbed a big bunch and teamed it with some chicken thighs, fresh cherry tomatoes, onions and peppers – simple. A good squeeze of lemon juice gave the dish the most fresh, Mediterranean kind of vibe. Not that I’ve ever heard of tarragon being used in Mediterranean food… Anyway, just cook it. It’s mega easy and delicious. Serve with spring greens and mashed potatoes to soak up the lovely gravy.

(Sorry about the photos… again! I’m always cooking at night so no natural light and taking with a camera phone. Big no-no.)

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Serves 2

4/5 chicken thighs
1 onion, chopped chunk-ay
1 yellow pepper, chopped
Big handful of good cherry tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
½ glass of white wine
Juice of half a lemon
Big handful of fresh tarragon, roughly chopped
Olive oil, salt and pepper

–          Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F

–          Season the chicken thighs and brown in a heavy bottomed pan, set aside in a roasting tray.

–          In the same pan, sauté the onions and pepper in olive oil until softened, add the garlic and fry until soft too.

–          Add the white wine and reduce by half, ensuring all the caramelised chickeny goodness gets lifted from the bottom of the pan. Add half of the tomatoes, simmer until just soft and pop a few to form more a more saucy sauce (?!)

–          Pour over the chicken. Scatter the remaining tomatoes around the chicken in the roasting tray. Season liberally. Add a splash of water to loosen everything up.

–          Bake for about 25 mins until the chicken is just cooked – try not to use breasts unless you are a master chicken baker. Use bone-in or boneless thighs (I used the latter) – cheaper and tastier too!

–          Add the tarragon, combine, smush (yes, smush) the tomatoes and let the lovely juices flow. Rest, letting it infuse for a bit (… I doubt any infusing actually goes on but it gives you chance to cook your greens baby!)

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Leek and gorgonzola pasta with balsamic roasted tomatoes and crispy chorizo

Like most of my cooking, this meal was a ‘chuck whatever I have in the fridge together’ kind of affair. However I’ve chosen to blog about it because it was particularly scrumptious and, as always, quick and easy to make. We always have cherry tomatoes in the fridge. Fresh or turning slightly wrinkly – chuck some in a tin foil boat, add a splash of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, season – put them in the oven and forget about them whilst you cook. Plonk on top of any cream/egg based pasta dish to cut through the rich creaminess and to give a lovely, deep sweetness to your dish.

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Serves 2

Spirali pasta (or penne)
1 medium leek, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
Gorgonzola cheese, a good chunk
2 tbsp of crème fraiche
Few slices of chorizo (I used the cheapo wafer thin stuff but a good quality chorizo would be much better!)
Handful cherry tomatoes
Balsamic vinegar, splash
Olive oil
Basil leaves
Salt and pepper

–     Make a small boat out of tin foil. Add the cherry tomatoes, balsamic, a glug of olive oil and balsamic, and season. Place in the oven (I put it on at 180°C/350°F for about 15 minutes whilst I cooked the rest of the dish, but if you’re going to take longer – put the oven on lower).

–     Put a pan of salted water onto boil. Cook pasta according to packet instructions.

–     Meanwhile, add a good glug of olive oil to a heavy based frying pan. Add the red onion and leeks and saute for about 5 mins. Add the garlic and saute until all is nice and tender.

–     In a hot pan, fry the chorizo until crispy (this took me about 40 secs with the thin stuff).

–    Add the gorgonzola and crème fraiche to the leeks and onion. Drain pasta ensuring you reserve some of the pasta water, and combine with the leek mixture. Stir and add a little pasta water to loosen everything up as required. Season.

–     Plate up! Pop your tomatoes on top of the lovely pasta and drizzle the lovely sweet juice that should have accumulated in the boat around the plate. Scatter with crispy chorizo pieces and a few basil leaves.

–    Devour.

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Courgette, watercress, feta and pomegranate salad

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Isn’t this pretty?!

I can assure you it tastes pretty darn good too. I served this up on Saturday night while hosting my first ever ‘grown-up’ (it wasn’t…) dinner party hosted at the boyfriend’s house. Anyway, I was so excited to cook for a group of 9 friends,  some that I hadn’t seen in months. I chose easy (relatively), summery food that both looked and tasted amazing. To start, a selection of bruschetta (avocado tomato and basil; grilled red onion and goats cheese; and prosciutto, parmesan, rocket and balsamic). To follow I roasted two chickens ‘Greek-style’ with loads of lemon, garlic and oregano, and served them with herb and olive roasted new potatoes, tzatziki and the above salad. And to finish, good old choccy mousse!

I don’t want to bore you with everything I did but will just give you the recipe for the salad. If you want to know how I made anything else just leave me a comment and I’d be more than happy to share.

For the salad: 

Courgettes, thinly sliced with a knife
Watercress
Pomegranate seeds (use a prepared packet if you like)
Feta, crumbled

For the dressing (more than enough for my salad which served 9, as a side):

Juice of a lemon
1 tbsp cumin seeds, toasted
8 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

– Grill the courgette slices on a griddle/skillet/grill/whateveryoucallit pan, so you get nice charred lines.

– Place on a bed of watercress, sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds and crumbled feta.

– Toast cumin seeds in a dry pan until aromatic and grind in pestle and mortar to further release their flavour. Add to the lemon juice and olive oil, season and whisk until combined.

– Pour over salad. Eat.

Here are some photos of the rest of the dinner party if you’d like a gander! It’s come to my attention that taking photos on my phone is a blogger no-no. BUT I have no choice – apologies! When I am employed I will save for a decent camera, promise.

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Idiot-proof lunch ideas

These are a few things things I’ve made recently which I feel don’t quite deserve their own post but nonetheless deserve a little bit of recognition (aww…). Lunchtimes tend to be a quick and easy affair in our house – soup, sandwiches, salads and leftovers. So here are a few quick and easy lunch ideas, not full recipes, designed to get your creative juices flowing.

Smoked mackerel, spring onion and crème fraîche jacket potato 

Bake potato. Cut in half, scoop innards into a bowl being careful not to break the skin. To the bowl add a dollop of crème fraîche, chopped spring onion and flaked smoked mackerel. Season, mix and fill the empty skins. Spinkle with cheese and grill! Serve with salad.

Bacon, avocado and blue cheese salad

This is one of my favourites. I absolutely LOVE cheese, it means everything to me. I like ALL cheese, but am particularly partial to a good, ripe, stinking blue. I also adore avocado in all shapes and form (avocado on toast is a bloody delish brekky), and who doesn’t like bacon. Don’t ruin with a crappy ready-made dressing, please.

Anyway; cut bacon, fry until crispy. Add bacon, avocado, spring onions and tomatoes to green salad leaves. Add a few chunks of your favourite blue cheese. Dress (my go-to dressing is made by whisking the juice of 1/2 lemon with 4 tbsp olive oil, tsp honey and tsp Dijon mustard).

Rare roast beef, pomegranate and parmesan salad

This is a man salad if ever I made one. It was an awesome way to make use of some left over roast beef fillet that had been beautifully cooked the night before. The addition of pomegranate was a risky one but I definitely pulled it off, adding a nice sweetness that combined awesomely with the nuttiness of the parmesan. Add some spring onion and tomatoes too if ya fancy. Dress with good olive oil and balsamic and season.

Just to reiterate how much I love cheese, here was my lunch for today. It required adding all of the wonderful cheeses I had in my fridge (cheddar, brie, St Agur and tallegio) to lettuce, fresh mint and basil, tomato, onion and dressing. Taxing hey?

Nom, nom, cheese, nom.

I will keep snapping my lunches and will probably do another one of these posts soon!

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