Fish cakes

This is a useful recipe to have up your sleeve. Fish cakes are a versatile dish: they can be made with leftovers but also from scratch, and can be seasoned with whatever herbs you have. They can also be padded out with spring onions or vegetables (peas or leeks, for example). Salmon looks pretty but any flaky white fish will work. With appropriate substitutions for the butter, flour and breadcrumbs, the recipe can easily be turned into something gluten- and/or dairy-free. Serve with tartare sauce and green vegetables or a salad to make a complete, balanced meal.

Makes 6 large fish cakes

Ingredients

500g salmon
Splash of white wine or 1 tbsp lemon juice
30g butter
2 large baking potatoes
1-2 tbsp chopped parsley + some whole sprigs
1-2 tbsp chopped dill + some whole sprigs
1 tsp lemon zest
Salt, pepper, nutmeg
50g seasoned flour
2 eggs, beaten.
150g breadcrumbs
100ml vegetable / sunflower / groundnut oil

Method

Preheat the oven to 200 / 180 fan. Lay the salmon on a sheet of foil large enough to enclose it. Sprinkle on some white wine or lemon juice, dot with half the butter, lay some sprigs of parsley and dill on top, and season with salt and pepper. Wrap the foil around the fish, then bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove and leave to cool for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and cut into small chunks – no larger than 2cm square. Put in a saucepan, cover with cold water and add 1 tsp salt. Bring to the boil and, once boiling, cook for 15-18 minutes, until the potatoes are soft when pierced with a fork. Drain, return to the pan and then put back over the heat for 30 seconds, so as much water as possible evaporates – you want quite a dry mash for this. Add the rest of the butter, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and mash. (I follow Delia’s method here, using a hand whisk; it seems like a travesty but does actually work very well.) Leave to cool.

In a large bowl, mix together the mashed potatoes, the flaked salmon (try to keep some decent-sized chunks), lemon zest, herbs and seasoning. Get your breadcrumbing station ready: flour, beaten egg, breadcrumbs in a line with a platter at the end to receive the breaded fishcakes. Once the mixture is not too hot to handle (you may need to chill it for a bit first), shape it, a handful at a time, into large fishcakes and coat in flour, egg and breadcrumbs in turn. You might run out of breadcrumbs – the quantities specified here are a guess. Chill the fishcakes until you’re ready to cook them. (You can also freeze them at this stage.)

Heat the oven again to 180/160 fan. To cook the fishcakes, heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the fishcakes, then lower the heat and cook for 3 minutes on each side. Once golden brown on both sides, transfer to kitchen paper and then to an oven tray. Bake in the oven for a further 10 minutes until piping hot all the way through. 

Lemon Chicken

A cornerstone of the weekly menu, this dish is based on a recipe in Nigel Slater’s book Real Food, published in 1998. It has undergone a number of modifications over the years – we use only the leg pieces, for example, rather than a whole chicken cut into portions. Allow at least two pieces of chicken per person, more if you’re hungry, and don’t hold back on the garlic, which makes a lovely soft mush when roasted in this way. 

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

12 chicken leg pieces – thighs and drumsticks
Olive oil
1 head of garlic, separated into approx 12 fat cloves, slightly squashed
2 lemons
A large handful of basil – 20g or most of a supermarket pack
Small bottle (187ml) white wine
Salt and pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 (fan) / 200C

Trim the excess skin off the chicken thighs. Cover the bottom of a roasting tin with olive oil, salt and pepper. Lay the chicken pieces on top and tuck the squashed garlic cloves in around them. Squeeze the lemons over the chicken and drop the empty shells in too. Slosh on some more olive oil and season again with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 40 minutes, then tear / roughly slice the basil leaves and toss them about a bit with the chicken, spooning the juices over the meat. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, pour the wine over the chicken, then put the roasting tin over a hot flame and let the wine bubble for a couple of minutes. Serve with rice (50g per person) to soak up the juices, and steamed broccoli.

Blackberry & apple crumble ice cream

Even without an ice cream maker, you can (quite literally) whip up an ice cream in a few hours. All it takes is a freezer, some elbow grease and the patience to cool your custard base. This is beautiful to look at and tastes of early autumn. The recipe comes originally from an old issue of Waitrose magazine but I’ve adapted the crumble topping a little, in homage to the combination we like in ‘real’ crumble. It makes a great finale to a Sunday lunch.

Blackberry & Apple ice cream with crumble topping

Serves 6

Ingredients

600ml single cream
200g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
4 eggs, yolks only, at room temperature
1 bramley apple, peeled, cored and sliced finely
150g blackberries – ideally foraged

For the crumble
100g plain flour
50g ground almonds
75g unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
40g light brown soft sugar
a pinch of salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon

Method

1. Put the cream, 100g sugar and the vanilla pod in a saucepan and heat, whisking gently until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, then slowly pour over the egg yolks, still whisking, until combined. Set aside to cool.

2. Put the apple in a saucepan with the blackberries, remaining sugar, and 1 tbsp water. Cover and cook over a medium heat for 10-12 minutes until the apple is soft. Place in a blender and blitz until smooth, then pass through a sieve. Leave this mixture to cool a bit too. Removing the vanilla pod first, mix the custard with the fruit pulp. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate until well chilled.

3. Churn the mixture in an ice-cream machine following the manufacturer’s instructions, then freeze. Alternatively, freeze in a lidded freezer-proof container. After 2 hours, transfer to a food processor or blender and blitz until smooth, or you can whisk it vigorously by hand, then return to the freezer. Repeat after 2 hours, then freeze until set.

4. For the crumble topping, preheat the oven to 200°C, gas mark 6. Place the flour and almonds in a bowl with a pinch of salt and rub in the butter with your fingers – or whizz in a food processor – until it resembles breadcrumbs.  Stir in the sugar and cinnamon, tip onto a baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes until crisp and golden. Leave to cool. Serve the ice cream with a generous sprinkling of crumble. Store your leftover ice cream in the freezer (obvs) and keep the crumble in an airtight container: it will be fine for up to a week.

Sweet & Sour Okra

Here is another one from Madhur Jaffrey, doyenne of Indian cookery . Okra (also called bhindi or ladies’ fingers) is in plentiful, cheap supply in local greengrocers during the summer months and this is a wonderful way to cook it. In colour and texture it complements Lake Palace Aubergines very well. Serve with raitha and rice (ideally wholegrain) for a balanced vegetarian meal.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

400g okra
7 medium-sized cloves garlic, peeled
1 dried, hot red chilli
7 tbsp water
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp cumin seeds
c. 1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
c. 4 tsp lemon juice

Method

Rinse off the okra and pat dry. Trim the pods by cutting off the two ends (you’ll find that a glutinous liquid oozes from the base) and cut each pod into 2cm lengths.

Put the garlic and chilli into the container of an electric blender with 3 tbsp water. Blend to a smooth paste. Empty this paste into a small bowl. Add the ground cumin, coriander and turmeric. Mix.

Put the oil in a large frying pan or wok and set over a medium heat. When hot, put in the cumin seeds. As soon as they begin to sizzle – it will take just a few seconds – turn the heat down a bit and pour in the spice mixture. Stir and fry for about a minute. Now add the okra, salt, sugar, lemon juice and 4 tbsp water. Stir to mix and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover tightly and cook on a low heat for about 10 minutes or until the okra is tender. If it takes longer to cook, you might need to add a little more water.

Crab linguine

Crab linguine may be Italian in origin but it will always evoke for me the memory of the British seaside. Two great cooks inspired me to learn to make it: Charlie Taylor whipped it up in Dorset in 2010, and Granny has served it up more than once at Garde. (On one painful occasion your father cracked a tooth in half on a piece of crab shell.) The first time I cooked it myself was in 2013, in Cornwall, where we found crab meat surprisingly difficult to source but tracked some down in a warehouse outside Helston. Since then, the meal has featured three or four times a year on the weekly menu at home, alongside a mixed green salad to make a quick and easy supper.  

Serves 4

Ingredients

400g linguine
50ml extra virgin olive oil
1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped
a few scrapings of lemon zest
2 garlic cloves, sliced
100g brown crab meat
100g white crab meat (more if you can afford it)
60ml white wine
small squeeze of lemon
large handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper

Method

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the linguine. Give it a good stir and boil until the pasta is al dente – the lower end of the cooking time recommended on the pack. Stir well occasionally so it doesn’t stick.

While the pasta cooks, gently heat the olive oil with the chilli, garlic and lemon zest in a saucepan. Cook very gently until the mixture starts to sizzle, then turn up the heat and add the white wine. Simmer everything until the wine and olive oil come together, then take off the heat and add the brown crabmeat, mashing it into the olive oil to make a thick sauce. 

When the pasta is ready, remove a cupful of the cooking water and drain the rest out through a colander. Return the pasta to the pan and add the oil, garlic & chilli crab mixture, along with the white crabmeat, parsley, salt and pepper. Stir everything together really well, adding a drop of the reserved pasta water if it’s starting to get claggy. Taste for seasoning: it will almost certainly benefit from a squeeze of lemon to give it a lift.

Mayonnaise & more

There’s nothing wrong with a good ready-made mayonnaise from a jar but there’s also something special and satisfying about making your own: any self-respecting domestic cook should know how to whip one up. Mayonnaise is also the base for countless flavoured sauces, three of which are included here as a riff on the ‘mother sauce’. 

Mayonnaise (top) and Tartare Sauce

Basic mayonnaise recipe

You can make this with just a bowl, a whisk and a lot of patience but an electric hand whisk makes the process much easier and quicker. The recipe below, borrowed from Sophie Grigson’s Fish, makes about 300ml.

Ingredients

2 egg yolks
1 tbsp lemon juice or white wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
300 ml oil (avoid anything too strongly flavoured: a mixture of sunflower / groundnut with normal (‘deflowered’) olive oil in a 2:1 proportion is ideal)
Salt

Method

Before you begin, make sure that all the ingredients are at room temperature. Whisk the egg yolks with the lemon juice or vinegar, mustard and a little salt. Pour the oil(s) into a jug. Whisking continuously, add the oils drip by drip, at a slow, even pace. If your bowl starts jiggling about, put a damp cloth under it to hold it steady. When about ⅓ of the oil is incorporated, you can increase the flow of oil to a slow, steady trickle, still whisking all the time. Once it is all incorporated, taste and adjust the seasonings, adding a splash more lemon or vinegar if it needs it.

Help! If the worst comes to the worst and your sauce splits and curdles, all is not lost. Get a new egg yolk, put it in a clean bowl and start adding the curdled mayonnaise, again drop by drop, whisking constantly. Carry on as if making uncurdled mayonnaise. A magic fix.


Variations

Aïoli (French) / Alioli (Spanish)

To make a garlicky version, add 4 large crushed garlic cloves to the egg yolks, salt and lemon juice at the start, and omit the mustard. Ground pepper can join the mix too.

Sauce Marie Rose / Thousand Island sauce

The prawn cocktail sauce! Mix 300 ml mayonnaise with 2 tbsp tomato ketchup, a few drops of Tabasco, 1-2 tsp Worcestershire sauce and a dash more lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning.


Tartare Sauce

When made freshly, with good mayonnaise (shop-bought is absolutely fine) this is a fabulous sauce. Mix all the ingredients below together, taste and adjust seasoning. It’s pretty much identical to what we stir into boiled, cooled new potatoes to make a classic potato salad. 

Serves 4

200 ml mayonnaise
1 shallot, very finely chopped
½ tbsp chopped fresh chives
½ tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1½ tbsp capers, rinsed and roughly chopped
1½ tbsp chopped pickled gherkins or cornichons
Salt and pepper

Salade Niçoise

Like ratatouille, and as you can tell from its name, Salade Niçoise comes from Nice. The version we eat has several inauthentic elements (lettuce? cucumber?), or so Antonia was told by the French teacher who assessed her at 11+. It is a firm family favourite, and the reason you all learned to make a vinaigrette at a young age. A quirkier reason for this salad’s special place in family history is that it provided a vehicle for learning about world religions: there was a heady period when Dom and Zita, inspired by a poster taped to the fridge, would make a Salade Niçoise weekly for Saturday lunch, arranging it each time into a distinctive religious symbol. The Om was a triumph.

Serves 6 

Ingredients

1 romaine lettuce, cut or torn into chunks
½ cucumber, halved lengthwise and sliced into chunks
3 tomatoes, halved lengthwise and sliced into chunks
12 new potatoes
100g fine green beans, trimmed
40g pitted black olives
3 large eggs
2 tins tuna steak (in water or brine)
1 tin anchovies (optional)
1 tbsp capers (optional)
Handful of basil leaves, torn into pieces if large (optional)

Dressing

100ml extra virgin olive oil
2tbsp white wine vinegar
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 heaped tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
Salt & pepper

Method

A good hour before you plan to eat, put the potatoes and eggs in the base of a steamer pan. Cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Once the water is boiling, put the green beans (salted) on to steam above and set your timer for four minutes. Remove the beans after this time, refresh under cold water – this keeps them green – and set aside to cool. Set your timer for another four minutes. When the buzzer goes next, your eggs will be cooked: fish them out, crack slightly to halt their cooking and plunge into a bowl of cold water. Leave the potatoes to cook for a further 7-8 minutes, then drain and leave to cool before slicing them in half.

Put all the dressing ingredients in a jar, shake to combine, taste and adjust seasoning.

To assemble the salad, start with lettuce, then layer on the cucumber, tomato, halved potatoes, olives and capers (if using). Drain the tuna and place in the centre of the salad; peel and quarter the eggs, and arrange artistically around the bowl. Top with the green beans, anchovies (if using) and a scattering of basil leaves. Pour over about ⅔ of the dressing but don’t bother tossing it in: that happens when people dig in with the salad servers. Eat with plenty of crusty bread.

Koulibiac

In her introduction to this recipe, Sophie Grigson describes koulibiac as ‘about as sophisticated as a fish pie can get’. It’s certainly a show-stopping party piece, and really not very hard to make. It can be served hot or cold, accompanied by hollandaise sauce or mayonnaise – it does need some kind of sauce in spite of the addition of melted butter at the end. To cook the salmon, wrap in foil, moistened with a splash of white wine or lemon juice and a couple of knobs of butter; season, pile in some sprigs of parsley and dill, then bake at 180 (fan) for 20-25 minutes. To hard-boil the eggs, place in cold water, bring up to a boil and cook for 8 minutes from the point when the water begins to roll.

Serves 6-8 

Ingredients

500 puff pastry
1 egg yolk, mixed with a dash of milk
30g butter

For the filling
15g porcini mushrooms
60g basmati rice
¼ tsp ground turmeric
1 onion, chopped
60g butter
175g button or chestnut mushrooms, chopped
600g cooked salmon, flaked
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tbsp chopped dill
2 hard-boiled eggs, shelled and chopped
salt and pepper

Method

Start with the filling. Soak the porcini in hot water for 30 minutes. Pick out the pieces and chop finely. Strain the soaking liquid through a very fine sieve to remove the grit and save it for future use. (Stick it in the freezer, in a jar, to use in a sauce / stew / risotto.)
Cook the rice with the turmeric in lightly salted water until al dente (approx 11 minutes), then drain thoroughly. Soften the onion in the butter without browning, add the mushrooms and the porcini and continue cooking until all the water released by the mushrooms has evaporated. Mix with the rice, salmon, herbs and hard-boiled eggs. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to form a rectangle slightly bigger than 30 x 40cm. Trim the edges to even them up and give you some strips for decoration. Transfer the pastry to a lightly greased baking sheet (line with baking parchment too if you have some). Mound the filling down the centre of the pastry, shaping and squeezing it to form a fat sausage. Brush round the edge with egg wash. Lift the sides of the pastry up round the filling and press together to join. Seal the ends too, using more egg wash and folding the joints towards the long, central seam. Gingerly roll the koulibiac over, so that the joins are tucked away underneath. Decorate with pretty pastry shapes (try to control your baser urges, boys, at this juncture). Rest for half an hour before baking. Preheat the oven to 200C / 180 fan.

Brush the pastry with egg wash and make four slashes across the top, so that steam can escape. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and pour the melted butter into the koulibiac, through the slits in the top.

Greek walnut cake

Back in the 80s, Sainsbury’s published a series of paperback recipe books. Granny would invariably bring one back from a trip to the supermarket and over time she built up a large collection, which somehow included two copies of Rena Salaman’s ‘The Cooking of Greece and Turkey’. One of those copies became ours and the source of several family favourites: Greek bean stew, tzatziki, lamb koftas, and this wonderful walnut cake (καρυδόπιτα). Moist and nutty, it is best made the day before. (Try to avoid polishing off the cooking brandy with a cough mixture chaser the day after.) As a pudding at the end of a Greek meal I like to serve this with thick yoghurt, honey and fresh figs.

Serves 10-12

Ingredients

150g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
125g caster sugar
4 eggs, separated
3-4 tbsp brandy
½ tsp ground cinnamon
300g walnuts, chopped coarsely
150g self-raising flour, sifted
a pinch of salt

For the syrup
250g caster sugar
300ml water
2 tbsp brandy
2 cinnamon sticks

You will also need a baking tin at least 5cm deep and approximately 22 x 22 cm square.

Method

Preheat the oven to 190C / 170 fan. 

Cream the butter, add the sugar and cream them together; add the egg yolks, one by one, beating between additions. Add the brandy, ground cinnamon and chopped walnuts and mix well.

Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff and fold them in, with a metal spoon, alternating them with the sifted flour, until they have both been incorporated into the mixture. Spread it evenly in the greased baking tin. The mixture should be about 4cm thick, once spread. Bake for 35 minutes, until nicely risen and golden-topped. Remove from the oven but leave in the dish while you cut it in squares (approx 5 cm – my tin divides up neatly into 16 pieces). 

While the cake is cooking, make the syrup: dissolve the sugar in the water, add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 8-10 minutes, until lightly thickened. Discard the cinnamon, and pour the hot syrup slowly over the hot cake. Let it stand for 10 minutes in order to absorb the syrup before serving it – or leave in the tin overnight until you’re ready to serve it: lift the pieces out and arrange on a platter. The cake will stay moist for 2-3 days if kept covered.

Final Cake Tuesday with (most of) Year 11 Greek, summer 2014

Tabouleh

Another Levantine dish with disputed spelling (see hummus) and fluid composition, tabouleh is a quick, cheap vegetarian salad or mezze that makes a great accompaniment to a summer barbecue. It often includes tomatoes, although our version doesn’t. Don’t be alarmed by the large quantity of herbs – they’re what give the salad its distinctive colour. It can be made several hours in advance, but hold off on adding the lemon juice until shortly before serving: the acid can dull the vibrant green of the herbs.

Serves 6 generously as a side

Ingredients

200g bulgur wheat (also called cracked wheat)
200g fresh parsley and mint – or any combination of herbs you like
4 fat spring onions, roughly chopped
60ml extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1-2 lemons
Salt and pepper

Method

Put the bulgur wheat in a bowl and pour in enough boiling water to cover it by about 1cm. Leave to soak for 30 minutes. Drain and squeeze out any excess water.

Finely chop the herbs and the spring onions (I use a food processor for this), then stir into the bulgur wheat, along with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Add the lemon juice just before serving. Check seasoning and add more salt and / or lemon juice to taste.