An Early Christmas Lunch

I know it is only November, but thought I would have the girls to lunch, just 18 of them! Little did they realise that they would form the basis of my next blog.angels-and-santas

So himself, decided that the house had to be ready to receive everyone, and scurried down to the vaults to find Christmas decor, tree ( artificial I am afraid) and not forgetting the wreath for the front door, along with angels and santas and other such things.So whilst I pottered in the kitchen, he chilled wine, set tables, polished glasses and silver ware. His middle name is Jeeves ! He would have stayed and performed the butler roll, but was sent packing to the golf course.

I made an assortment of foods for the main course and just two desserts.

There was a chicken salad, made with chopped chicken, celery, asparagus, green onions, chopped walnuts and some chopped coriander, all  mixed with a sauce made with a mixture of 50/50 sour cream and mayonnaise, some lemon juice and a dash of Worcestershire sauce.

Then, I made a modern twist on Blini with smoked salmon. I made several crêpes and sandwiched them together with smoked salmon that had been blitzed together with cream cheese and dill. This then looks like a cake and is served in wedges, along with a slice of lemon.

The next was with apologies to Yotem Ottolenghi, for the inspiration. A very healthy salad, it consisted of the following, and quantities are irrelevant. Cooked brown rice ( could be red rice) cooked quinoa, a mango – chopped, two avocados – chopped,  green onions -chopped,  pomegranate seeds, two grapefruits segmented and cut into bits, an orange zested and juiced, a couple of cloves of garlic – crushed , a cup of pistachio nuts – chopped , a can of chick peas , drained and a bag of rocket, mixed together with some olive oil. It is a very pretty salad and I thought about adding some cooked chopped beetroot as well, to give added colour, also chopped green celery would be good. Do not chop into tiny pieces, a bit of a pain to eat. I had such a healthy salad in Fischers the other day, it was fine in taste, but I gave up on eating it as the tiny pieces kept falling of the fork and apart from using my fork like a shovel, it was impossible to eat. My girl friend in Texas also cuts all of her salad ingredients into tiny pieces, again, too difficult to eat

Finally I made Kedgeree, this Anglo-Indian fish dish, which not only tastes just great, a  hint of curry, creamy and smooth but is so easy and can be made ahead of time and frozen.

Again I use anything fishy with no care to quantities, but to be little more helpful I will try to quantify here. The dish is basically in three parts. The rice, the fish and the curry sauce.kedgeree

Cook your rice ( long grain ) the way you prefer, I usually make it more of a Pilau rice, by sauteing some onions, adding some  dried but ready to eat apricots, maybe some sultanas, and some cumin seeds, salt and pepper of course.

Then you will need about 1 Kilo of fish,gently poached in either milk or white wine, flaked when cooled and any skin and bones removed. I used a mixture of smoked haddock, salmon, cod and some shrimp, but really anything will do. It is a good way to use some of the fish that has been lingering in the back of the freezer!  250 grams mushrooms sliced and gently fried, 6 hardboiled eggs, mashed gently with a fork

For the curry sauce, you will need 100 grams butter (unsalted is what I use,) or Ghee as it will not splutter on melting, 1 onion finely chopped, some garlic and ginger paste, 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp ground cumin, 2-3 tablespoons curry powder ( depends on your love of curry ) 1 tsp tomato paste, 100 ml fish or vegetable stock, salt and pepper,250 mls cream.

Melt the butter, fry the onion, add the garlic/ginger paste add all of the spices fry for a moment to release all of the flavour. Add the tomato puree and the sock and simmer to reduce and thicken. Add the cream.

Then,  just simply combine all of the above, taste adjust seasoning, put into an oven proof dish and bake for about 15 mins on a fairly hot oven to heat through, you can garnish it with some slices of tomato. If you wish to make ahead of time, put it into the dish, cover with cling film and freeze until ready to use. Defrost and when defrosted reheat for a little while in a fairly hot oven until heated through.


Oh, we’re going to Barbados!

Oh, we’re going to Barbados!

Do you remember this song? It was sung by a group called Typically Tropical in 1975 and was their only number one hit. However, this last week saw us flying off to Barbados, ( not on Coconut Airways and not to see our girl/boyfriend) but to play some golf.

I had not been to Barbados for many years, long before it became fashionable, ( BA only had 2 flights a week), long before there was a Daphne’s, or the Lone Star had been bought by Derek Whelen and made into a Must go to restaurant.

Mid November is still technically in hurricane season, we did not experience any hurricanes, (unlike my last visit) but a fair amount of rain. It did not deter us from playing golf though, despite my summer golf shoes ending up mud coloured rather than white. We ate out at lunch and a few times in the evening, otherwise Vivien ( male) came and cooked us dinner. He was competent enough, though one look at him cooking was enough to remind me not to look again, messy a cook to say the least.

Vivien our cook for the week
Vivien our cook for the week

The one food item that I enjoyed the most was the prawns ( shrimp to Americans), and not what an English man would normally call prawns either. Large shrimp, meaty and juicy. Here, in London I tend to buy them frozen from either the Chinese supermarket or from Billingsgate, the wholesale fish market in London.

The shrimp we ate at lunch were grilled and served with caesar salad, whereas in  a beach cafe they cooked “coconut shrimp” and these were also available at a Restaurant called Lone Star.

Our meal at Lone Star was marred by a very clumsy waitress, to be fair it was not really her fault, but hot water ( for tea) was poured down the back of one of us,  and although the restaurant itself apologised, the cause of the accident ( a bunch of American women) did not. lonestar-2 lone-star grilled-tuna

On returning to the UK, it became a question of “what to eat for dinner” not wishing to go out, to shop or to dine, it then became an “Invention test”

I had frozen shrimp, frozen Chinese noodles, frozen chilis already chopped along with some herbs and spices. I grilled the shrimp, cooked the noodles, added the spices, some sesame oil,some ginger and garlic paste ( which I always keep in the freezer) and a 1/4 of a packet of Cream of coconut. And there it was an instant dinner, with memories of Barbados, thrown in.

My Instant Shrimp Dinner
My Instant Shrimp Dinner

And so to Coconut Shrimp. It is as its name suggests, Shrimp with coconut. The version we had at the beach cafe, was cooked in a batter, and they were fine a little on the greasy side, and the oil used to cook them did smell a bit old. However, the version cooked at the Lone Star were cooked in shredded coconut and panko breadcrumbs. And this is how to do it at home!

Easy Coconut Shrimp
Easy Coconut Shrimp

It is an easy recipe,  a  4 step process: the shrimp  should be butterflied or de-veined, but this step is not 100% necessary , dredge them in some plain flour, then a dip in beaten egg, and then into shredded coconut/Panko mix.

The use of flour  when using egg and breadcrumb technique allows the egg to stick and the egg allows the coating to stick. Panko Breadcrumbs can nowadays be bought from most grocery stores, but if you visit a Chinese store, you will find them in larger and cheaper packets. They are light and airy and give a really crisp finish. Sometimes I find them a little too large, so I put some in a small polythene bag and give them a quick thump with a rolling pin.

Then, a quick deep fry, serve with a dipping sauce, such as a Thai sweet chili sauce.

Of course if you are being really lazy, I think you can buy them ready done in Asian Supermarkets !! But which ever way you go, they are lovely, if  you love Shrimp!

Easy mid week dinner!

I was asked the other day, what was my favourite thing to cook for a dinner party. Actually, I was taken back as I do not have a favourite at all. I experiment, try new foods, try new recipes and ideas. I never know what we are going o have for dinner on any given night until I open the refrigerator or freezer and get inspiration.
During the summer, in France I resolved to use as much as possible from my freezer, so when Himself, said I fancy ?? For dinner, it was a NO unless the basis for the meal was there, in the freezer. And so now it is , back here in London. I am trying very hard to reduce the contents of my freezer, to make way for something new and exciting. Like venison filet! Umm had that last year and it was just wonderful!
So currently in my freezer, there is some white fish, ( some Hake, some cod and some Pangasius ( an Asian white fish available frozen), some salmon, some tuna, some prawns, some oysters ( they freeze really well and no shucking !) some calamari, some squid tentacles and some crab.) 

So for my fish pie, I used a mixture of fish, some white and some salmon, some prawns and eggs. Then you need some white sauce and cheese and tomatoes for decoration.

Quantities are a rough guide only, these amounts will make enough to fill a rectangular dish 30 cms x20 (11 ” x8″).
About a kilo in total of fish any mix is fine.

4-8 oz of shrimps or prawns or even crawfish 

3 eggs hard boiled and roughly mashed

About 700 grams cooked potatoes 
Then I always make my sauce by the One Stage method, Stork Margarine came up with this idea in 1969 whilst I was teaching cooking in a dilapidated school in central London. I embraced this method as did my pupils! Here was something they could do, chuck it in and hey it works! Not quiet that simple but pretty much! So this is my 2106 version as Microwave ovens were not around in 1969.
50 grams butter

50 grams cornflour

1/2 litre milk

120 grams grated cheese, ( I do not like cheddar but use Emmental or you could use goats cheese for something different.i actuality used Abondance, just because I had a surplus of it in the freezer. Did you know that cheese freezes really well)!

Pinch of salt to taste

A teaspoon of dry mustard.

To make this sauce,mix all of the ingredients in a Microwave proof bowl or jug, heat on high at one minute intervals, stir well and heat again. Repeat until the sauce is thick. IF it should go lumpy, just whisk to remove them! You might think it a bit of a paff hearing at one minute intervals, but in the meantime, you could be doing something else,( read your emails, until the Microwave pings)
Cook the fish in some water, wine or milk until cooked and flakes well, but do not over cook ! Flake the fish, mix with the shellfish, the eggs and the potatoes . Mix all into the thickened sauce.pour into the greased dish, top with some grated cheese and some sliced tomatoes. Can be made a day or two ahead and refrigerated until needed. Bake in a hot oven for about 15 mins until golden brown, serve with green Vegetables or a salad!
Easy Peasy and not much washing up either !