Sunday, May 31, 2009

Tried and Tasted: Susan's Lite Goddess Dressing

Susan's Lite Goddess Dressing

Tried and Tasted is a popular event started by Zuzana of Zlamushka's Spicy Kitchen. It is an event that celebrates fellow bloggers by re-creating their recipes and writing about them. This month, it is hosted by Vaishali of Holy Cow!, and the blog to be scoured for recipes is the fabulous FatFree Vegan Kitchen.

You would have thought I could have found something more challenging than a sauce from the vast array of recipes on Susan's site, but - I came across it, it appealed instantly, I had most of the ingredients, so there you are!

Susan's Lite Goddess Dressing (click to see the recipe) is a low-fat version of Annie's Goddess Dressing.

Not being
au fait with Vegan alternatives to sauces and dressings which normally contain animal products such as eggs and cream, this did not actually mean anything to me. But judging from the many comments to Susan's recipe, the original condiment is divinely tasty but also very fattening. This is where this light version really comes into its own. 2 tbsp of the dressing only have 19 calories!!! And judging from the rave reviews, Susan nailed the taste, too. Now, I can't comment on how close it is to the original, and to some extent, I can't even comment that much on the proper taste of this recipe (see below), but I know that this will feature in my household from now on. The combination of silken tofu, tahini, sesame oil, garlic and herbs was thick and smooth, supremely tasty, and also extremely versatile.

I first tried it out on a salad:

The thick sesame sauce on the buttery taste of the lambs' lettuce made this combination feel wickedly naughty. And did I mention that 2 tbsps only amount to 19 calories?

Then I used
the goddess hot on the King of Vegetables, asparagus:

The effect was like a hybrid between a Hollandaise and a Béarnaise sauce, which I attribute to the use of dill and lemon thyme, which together worked like a milder version of tarragon. Better, in fact, than tarragon, which I find too overpowering for asparagus. And while both the above classic sauces contain butter and eggs, and are therefore not only unsuitable for Vegans but also a big no-no for anyone concerned about their cholesterol and/or their weight, one serving of 2 tablespoons only comes to 19 calories, as opposed to about 130 - at least.

It also worked a treat as a lo-cal, no-egg mayonnaise substitute in a potato salad:

I have mentioned that 2 tablespoons only come to 19 calories, haven't I?

I also made a coleslaw with it - which worked up to a point. It was great when I tasted it, but I put it in the fridge and by the next day, the cabbage and carrot had soaked up all the liquid and it seemed far too dry. So, if you are going to use it for this purpose: only mix it together just before serving. (Which I did for the potato salad - just in case!)

Now for the 'changes'. If you had a look at Susan's recipe, you'll find that her sauce looks almost white, whereas mine looks yellow. Well, when I came to add the tahini, I found that my rather large container was hopelessly out of date. Nothing particularly unusual in this household..., where such recommendations are considered only rough guidelines, mainly designed to encourage you to discard perfectly acceptable foods and support large supermarkets with outrageous profit margins. My tahini was a very dense paste and it was probably darker than it normally is. My soy sauce was also the dark variety, and so was my sesame oil. That's my explanation for the more buttery rather than creamy appearance of my dressing.
Incidentally, there was someone else reporting that they had used almond butter as a substitute for the tahini, so that's something else to try, and made me think that maybe peanut butter would also produce an interesting variant. And that's before you've started experimenting by adding other ingredients, such as different herbs, or mustard, or capers and gherkins for a sauce tartare.

This turned out a perfect recipe for me to try out, so thank you Zuzana for organising this event, and thank you Susan for inventing the divinely dressing!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Waiter, there's something in my... The Bistro Edition

Salade Provençale

Red choice tomatoes*, crispy Cos lettuce, crunchy French beans, slivers of garlic, shallots and black olives are complemented by sea salt capers, cucumber chunks and slices of marinated artichoke hearts. The salad is tossed in our very own Vinaigrette Niçoise and topped with pan-seared, line-caught tuna, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, surrounded by Old Cotswold Legbar eggs durci à point** and served with crusty baguette bread.

If you thought that was a rather OTT and pretentious description of that old staple, Salade Niçoise, you'd be absolutely spot on. It is my first contribution to a blogging event called

"Waiter, there's something in my..."

This time, it was hosted by Johanna, the passionate cook, and the theme was "bistro food".

Jean Béraud, Au Bistro

According to Wikipedia (where I also got the above image), a bistro is a small, unpretentious restaurant, serving moderately priced simple meals, with an emphasis on foods that could be prepared in quantity and would keep over time: slow-cooked foods like stews.
Hmm, doesn't sound like the dishes you've seen on bistro menus lately? Thought not. This could easily change in the current economic climate (cf here), but up to now, I'd say one of the defining features of current bistro food is its emphasis on being " innovative"... or being clever with words... strong on the marketing side of things: the verbal and visual appeal.
The cuisine is 'eclectic' and 'fusion': baby vegetables may be glazed, caramelised or candied; there is nothing that can't be pureed and spiced with a hint of Asia, or laced with Wasabi for that Japanese touch; meat and fish is braised, roasted or pan-seared, or better still, served as a confit; it's de rigueur that salads are tossed and drizzled, and let's not forget that everything must be plated on white porcelain and feature citrus zest, a dipping sauce (preferably sweet chilli or gingered), or something that can be "frenched up". More often than not, they get it wrong, either in terms of spelling or the dish it self. When you order Chips & Aioli you're probably going to be served chips with a garlic flavoured mayonnaise. It's highly unlikely that German is ever going to be perceived as a sexy language (for food or otherwise), but should it ever happen: Pommes Rot-Weiss are just chips with both mayonnaise and ketchup. Don't say I didn't tell you.

In short, bistro menus read as if written by frustrated English graduates. It's a little known fact that this practice was first used at Essen University's mensa, where the epitome of the eternal student, a middle-aged, bearded man in Birkenstock, Germanistik im 15. Semester, spruced up even the most modest canteen offering to such an extent that you weren't just hivering and hovering as to which option to go for, you were positively drooling over all three 'menus'. Just thinking about their Westfälischer Sauerbraten mit Rosinen makes me quite peckish, and they certainly did do the best chips ever.
Ah, "There is
no seasoning quite so tasty as nostalgia"! Nigel Slater wrote this, and he did so, supremely fittingly, in a feature on Salade Niçoise.

Before I started to research it, I had no idea how much the 'true' ingredients are debated. Lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, green beans, tuna, hard-boiled eggs, anchovies, no? Apparently not.

First, there is the shocking assertion, " salade niçoise ne contient pas de légumes cuits" from a Nice site. What, no green beans??!!
Then there is
Heyraud's 1903 recipe in La Cuisine à Nice, which stipulates " ...quartered artichoke hearts, raw peppers and tomatoes, black olives and anchovy fillets (...) parsley, chives, chervil and tarragon" (quoted from Slater, op cit), but not a single lettuce leaf or tuna flake!
On the other end of the scale, you find numerous recipes which even include potatoes!

I certainly didn't want to add those. After all, I had opted for a salad so that I could avoid "Event Fat Gain" (that's when you cook/bake something for a blogging event that contains far too many calories; EFG for short; I appropriated this term for my specific use from Rob Poulos). I also wanted to incorporate fresh tuna, even if, according to some, all Niçoise salads are made with canned tuna (cf here).

And let's face it, at the end of the day, whatever the arguments for or against ingredients and their treatment - the Niçoise site is wonderfully poetic about the dead colours of cooked vegetables versus the vivid colours of Southern France, which ispired Cezanne, Renoir and Matisse - they're often simply a reflection of individual taste. Nigel Slater leaves out green peppers because they don't agree with him. Ditto. Other people might omit black olives, or even, shock, horror, anchovies.

For the latter, I may have stumbled across the ideal solution. I agree with Slater: "To be true to its name this salad must be true to its geography - it must reek of olives, garlic, anchovy and tomatoes", but I found myself near enough out of anchovies. That is to say that my little jar contained only crumbly remains which would not have graced the salad. So I minced them into the vinaigrette. This method of incorporating the anchovies (anchovy paste would be an alternative) might work for people who do not like to bite into the fillets as such. It is one of the reasons why I called my dish Salade Provençale, and the Vinaigrette Niçoise.



tomatoes*, quarters

Cos lettuce




garlic, slivers

black olives

boiled eggs**

marinated artichoke hearts, sliced

green beans

olive oil
Dijon mustard
red wine vinegar
salt, pepper
parsley, chives
minced anchovies


1 fillet of fresh tuna, pan-seared and cut into thin slices.

Mix the salad ingredients with the vinaigrette, pile on to a plate, arrange the tuna slices so that they lean against the salad mound, garnish with the egg halves, black olives and chives, drizzle with some more olive oil.


Red Choice Tomatoes, exclusively for Waitrose, from the Isle of Wight, with the leaf emblem (Leaf = linking environment and farming)


Clarence Court Old Cotswold Legbar free range eggs, beautiful eggs with a touch of blue, available at Waitrose; cooked to a medium point (lit.: hardened)

The eggs provide proteins and vitamins, the tuna and anchovies contain omega-3 fat, and the olives and olive oil supply mono-unsaturated fat. All this plus fibre and antioxidants from the vegetables.

Thank you Johanna, for organising this event! I can't wait to see everyone else's take on this topic!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Heart-of-the-Matter #26: The Locavore - Pink Green

Heart-of-the-Matter is a monthly healthy heart food event hosted by Ilva at Lucullian Delights and Michelle at The accidental scientist, and this month was dedicated to the LOCAVORE. See the round-up here.

When I first saw the word, I thought it was an Italian term, and in my mind, I still pronounce it that way - to rhyme with
amore - whereas here in Britain, it would rhyme with carnivore or omnivore. Which, in turn, gives you a clue as to its meaning, too: eat locally. Ah, don't you just love the unifying traits of the old lingua franca?

But let's see what the actual definition is. According to Wikipedia:

Those who are interested in eating food that is locally produced, not moved long distances to market, are called "locavores," and the word "locavore" is the word of the year for 2007 for the Oxford American Dictionary.

Some people consider food grown within a 100-mile radius of their location local, while others have other definitions.

Sustainability and eco-consciousness have become increasingly important, not just in the United States, but elsewhere, too. In the UK, the 100 mile radius is often seen as too vast in a small country. Consider the central position of Birmingham, right in the heart of England, in the West Midlands:

Can't find it? In the mid-west, just before Shropshire (Shrops) and Herefordshire (Here's) border Wales, there is a blank patch nestling between Worcestershire (Worcs) and Warwickshire (Wars) in the south, and Staffordshire (Staffs) in the north. The only area not being named, that's the West Midlands. (1) West Midlands, as in county, not region, that is. As a region, the West Midlands cover Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton, and all of the above mentioned rural shire counties. So, that's already quite a few counties to choose from. If you apply the 100 mile radius (which you can do for your own area here, by the way), I could buy virtually anything that is produced in England, from southern parts of Yorkshire to northern parts of Hampshire, plus most of Wales.

This would not really constitute 'locally sourced' for a lot of people on this small island. For instance, my son works for the Kitchen Garden Cafe, featured on the Big British Food Map, and I think their definition is very narrow indeed, something like 10 miles. Then again, come to think of it, how does 'locally sourced' differ from 'locally produced'? Could be two different things...

Anyway, even though I bought quite a few food items from Warwickshire and even picked some of my own in Warwickshire, all in all, the dish which emerged for this HotM, does only comply with the 100 mile radius, as the strawberries came from Berkshire. It is called Pink Green because of the pre-dominant colours, and because I noticed a sign for it on the way back from my excursion to Coughton Court. It leads to a cul-de-sac, that much I could tell; there is nothing on the net about it, but I imagine that it might be a nice picnic site. I immediately knew that those would have to be the colours of my creation, as I had already earmarked rhubarb and asparagus, both of which display beautiful hues of the pinks and greens of spring.

  • Asparagus is low in calories (20 per 100g), contains no fat or cholesterol, and is very low in sodium. It is a good source of folic acid, potassium, and dietary fibre. So, very healthy indeed - unless you suffer from gout, that is, because it has a high level of purins. Due to its short season, it often features highly on restaurant menus and kitchen tables alike. In Germany, it is absolutely ubiquitous in May, in a way hard to imagine here (2). Having said that, there are Asparagus Festivals in this country, for instance in Worcestershire’s Vale of Evesham (3). For even more information on the green spears, see here and here.
  • Rhubarb also has virtually no calories (21 per 100g), and is also extremely low in fat, cholesterol (none), salt, and sugar, but provides you with a surprising 7% of your daily fibre requirement per 100g (cf here for more stats).
There are loads of opinions as to how best to cook your asparagus but I have found the English variety pretty resilient, so I don't take any sort of precautions. Ever since Jamie Oliver showed this on one of his programmes, I find the easiest way is to simply bend the asparagus spear at the bottom end, upon which the inedible end snaps off. The rest can go straight into salted boiling water, or a steamer, if you have one - no peeling required.

For this particular meal, I have paired the asparagus with dipping sauces in three shades of 'pink' and drizzled it with an Elderberry Vinaigrette.

Dipping sauces in three shades of 'pink'

(1) Strawberry Béchamel

Puree half a punnet of strawberries.
Make a roux with 1 tbsp of rapeseed oil (4) and 1 tbsp of flour.
Add milk and strawberry puree, whisk.
Add seasonings, e.g. salt, pepper, celery salt...

(2) Savoury Rhubarb and Strawberry Sauce

This was going to be a straight forward rhubarb sauce but the one I did just wasn't the right shade of pink, in fact, not pink at all, rather yellow. As I was also making a rhubarb and strawberry vinaigrette at the time, I saved the purée as a replacement.

Rhubarb and strawberry vinaigrette

1 C chopped fresh rhubarb
1 1/4 C chopped fresh strawberries
3 large shallots, coarsely chopped
1 T local honey (5)
1/3 C red wine vinegar

Simmer in small non-reactive saucepan until tender, about 10 minutes.
ée, strain into large bowl, and cool. Reserve the liquid for a vinaigrette (just add your favourite
oil and a bit of mustard). Retain the pur
ée as your dipping sauce.

(recipe from:; I used honey instead of sugar)

(3) Balsamic Strawberry Reduction

Sauté 2 shallots.
Add 2 tbsp of white balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp of local honey, and 2 - 3 tbsp of strawberry purée.
Bring to the boil and reduce.
Add salt, plenty of black pepper and some chopped basil.

This reduction results in a very jammy texture, and like chilli jam or red pepper jelly, goes terrifically well on a bit of goat's cheese.

Elderberry Vinaigrette

I bought a small bottle of sparkling Elderberry pressé at Coughton Court and was thinking of an elderberry foam, but then I saw the vinaigrette in the Waitrose magazine, and adapted that one instead because a vinaigrette is such a classic with asparagus.

3 tbsp Elderberry pressé 1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp rape seed opil
salt & pepper
parsley & mint

Parsley, mint and chervil are in season in England, but as usual, I couldn't find any chervil. I think I'll have to plant my own!!

Now for the verdict:

All of the tastes and textures brought together in this dish worked for me. The emphasis here is on brought together.
Strawberry Béchamel, on its own, tasted too much like a strawberry milkshake for my liking. I deliberately didn't go to town in terms of seasoning because I wanted to retain the delicate fruity flavour, but mixing the purée into a milk-based sauce took away too much of the tartness. I shall try it again as a velouté (using broth/stock/asparagus liquid) next time (which would also make it Vegan friendly).
Rhubarb and Strawberry Purée was perfectly balanced on the tart to sweet scale to complement the fresh grassy taste of the asparagus, but minus the vinegar (which had been syphoned off), somewhat lacking in base notes. That's where the reduction came into its own: after a surprisingly strong top note of sweet berry, it mellowed into a rich savoury concentrate of gutsy baked fruit, with a satisfying spicy finish of black pepper.
The vinaigrette could have been zestier, and chervil or even lemon thyme would have provided more interest to an otherwise possibly too delicate taste. None of the sauces, on their own, would have been sufficed as a worthy partner to the green spears, but in combination, they worked a treat.

That strawberries and asparagus are a great combo, I've known since I first encountered food blogging when I stumbled across
Tarte Asperge et Fraise on Chocolate and Zucchini.

Now I need to work a bit more on the rhubarb front. The sauce I originally made is now waiting to pair up with an oily fish, most likely mackerel. So, watch this space!

This locavore edition of HotM has been great fun, so thank you Michelle for the idea and for organising it.
I'm looking forward to the round-up!

(1) It's even more complicated than this, and in the past, this part of Birmingham where we live, being South-East, has, from what I recall, been part of Worcestershire and Warwickshire at different times. And don't get me started on rugby or cricket... Warwickshire's cricket ground, is, after all, in Edgbaston, a very short bus ride from here, on the No 1 bus!
(2) If I go over next year for the half term, I must write a feature about the pre-dominantly white 'variety' (which is quite different, in my opinion) and the asparagus madness that goes along with it!
(3) Based at the historic Fleece Inn (NT), in the tiny village of Bretforton, the Festival has grown out of the historic asparagus auctions, apparently. You can even take a guided ‘Asparabus Tour’ - the next (and last one this year) will be running on 3rd June. But the festival stretches into June to includehe Vale Morris, Ale and Cider Weekend on the 20th-21st June.
(4) Farrington’s MELLOW YELLOW®, available at Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, from Bottom Farm in the Northamptonshire village of Hargrave. I already had this in store, and it is gorgeous. It makes a nice change from olive oil which has a very strong own taste. Rapeseed oil has less of a taste and is therefore ideal for substituting butter, particularly in non-savoury dishes. I found at Coughton Court that there is also a Shropshire brand available.
(5) Mine came from the Solihull Apiaries. I don't know whether there is any evidence for it, but there are claims that local honey helps hayfever sufferers in their annual spring and summer battle.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Dinner and A Movie: Shirley Valentine

Moschári Stifado

This time, Susan had chosen Shirley Valentine for

See here for the brilliant round-up.

It's hard to imagine anyone who hasn't yet seen this film; we certainly had seen it at least twice when they showed it on ITV in February. Not being one for watching films ad nauseam, I wasn't going to, I only wanted to relish the beginning again, when Shirley shares her woes with us - and the kitchen wall:

“I’ve been a wife and Mum for so long, I’ve forgotten what I wanna do. Isn’t that right, wall?”

Of course, this beginning is only a taster of what this quirky comedy about a middle-aged woman's journey to self-discovery has in store. Willy Russell's brilliant script kept me glued - not all that surprising, when it contains unforgettable dialogue nuggets such as this one,

“Yes, Milandra, I’m going to Greece for the sex. Sex for breakfast, sex for dinner, sex for tea and sex for supper!”

“Sounds like a good diet to me”

“Haven’t you heard of it? It’s called the F-plan!”

The acting is a treat, too, from Shirley's husband Joe (Bernard Hill), whose dinner is literally in the dog, to her friend Jane, played with the usual fervour by Alison Steadman, and Tom Conti's portrayal as smooth talking Greek restaurateur Costas. Pauline Collins, however, following on from her success in the stage version, surpasses them all in the lead role.

What sort of recipe would they inspire?

Midlife Crisis. Former Selves. New
Mykonos. A mountain piled high with brilliant white houses. Flecks of intensely blue and turquoise woodwork. Splashes of Mediterranean sky and sea.
The table, only a couple of steps from the beach, set for one. The sunset. The infamous boat journey.

It probably should have been something symbolic of transformation and renewal, but all I could think was: Greek Food! Stifado!! We had discovered it either in Crete or Corfu, brought back a cookery book from there, and cooked this dish frequently for a while. And then we forgot about it again. Strange, how that happens. Slipping into routines, getting stuck in a rut. Forgetting all the other things you used to love. A little bit like Shirley.

So, out came the book - Greek Cooking, Editions Dimitri Haïtalis - and off we went. -- I say "we", because I did the shopping and invited the rest of the family, but my BH did the cooking. I thought that was only fitting. After all, if Shirley's husband had been able (and willing) to cook, then maybe, just maybe, she would have had more me-time to stay in touch with her real self.

Here's the recipe as it appears in the book. Note the italics! It goes without saying that we used a lot less than a teacup of oil. The gloriously unspecific "an amount of water" also needs interpreting!! As you can see above, we used rather a lot. Of course, my BH isn't happy unless the pot, however large, is nearly full. One of the reasons why I had to invite additional eaters!!

Moschári Stifado

Beef Ragout with Onions, Vinegar and Tomato Sauce

Serves 6

1 1/2 kg of beef
1 kilo small onions (pickling onions)
1 teacup vinegar
1 teacup olive oil
2-3 ripe tomatoes, finely diced
1 bay leaf
2 cloves of garlic
pepper corns

Cut the beef into bite-sized pieces, peel the onions. Heat the olive oil in a pan, and brown the meat, add the onions (you probably have to do this in batches) and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the vinegar, the tomatoes, garlic, rosemary, bay leaf, salt and pepper, and an amount of water. Simmer for about 2 hours, either on the stove or in the oven.

We had the stifado with new potatoes and lots of vegetables,

and the infamous Greek wine, Retsina - the only table wine made from real tables, as the saying goes.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Cheddar Gorge*

1050g of Mature Cheddar

Yep, this is what I'm up against. I'm on a diet, and he should be, and he should not eat cheese anyway on account of his heart and the diabetes! And this is what he does. There's still half the cheese in the first pack, i.e. 250g, and he buys 2 more large packs because they came as a 2 for the price of 1 offer. Of course, I also can't resist a special offer, that goes without saying, but a kilo of the stuff???
I have before frozen pieces of cheese, the more unusual ones especially. When served at book group or other gatherings, at least there are plenty of people helping you to demolish them. And there is always frozen Stilton in the freezer, slivers of which are immensely successful in the broccoli soup I make from the stems which would otherwise be discarded. (You can't escape German frugality...)

But our default cheese? Our staple? If it disappeared, he'd just go out and buy more, even when nobody eats it. The Boy, who insists he wants to be fully identified as Ben now, doesn't like his cheese extra mature, for instance. He always acts as if there is nothing to eat in the fridge, if there isn't any salami or other cold cut equivalent. He'll probably tolerate it in the form of cheese on toast, but that's it. And I'm not going to eat it now, and my BH shouldn't. So this time, I feel like taking it down to the Mission. Would he learn then? Would he heck! Is it possible to be addicted to cheese? Or come to think of it, to dairy products? Or fatty substances in general? The other day I nearly fainted when I saw him spread butter AND peanut butter on his toast. Who does THAT? The kids have been known to come back into the kitchen and scrape off excess amount of butter from their sandwiches if he had made them. Is it possible to be a fat junkie? Is it another variant of the slow suicide syndrome? (I just made that up - but I have seen arguments that smoking can be seen like this, an essentially suicidal tendency, a suicide in instalments, so-to-speak.)

Anyway, if you were looking for Britain's second largest natural wonder, see here:

According to Wikipedia, the gorge in the Mendips in Somerset attracts about 500,000 visitors per year. Most of them come for the geology, I should think, the caves with their gorgeous stalagtites and stalagmites, not necessarily for the cheese. Although, cave and cheese can be combined, for instance at the caves with the great name Wookey Hole:

Cheddar cheese maturing in the caves at Wookey Hole

It's a beautiful and interesting place, almost illustrious, I'd say, after just finding out that some scenes in the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and the TV shows Robin of Sherwood and Dr. Who were filmed here. (Cf here.)
If you ever venture here, or get lost on your way to Glastonbury, there's a great little camp site in Wookey Hole. But only if you don't have small children (or any, I suppose) - apparently too dangerous because of the river that runs past (the Axe, I presume). This is why we ended up camping in a field, the only illuminations being provided by the car's headlights..., not the best pre-conditions in the rain, with a borrowed tent we hadn't bothered to try out before. Just one of those stories which are only funny in retrospect.
The camp site hadn't always banned children, after all, this was the site where we didn't get much sleep at all, because a certain very young baby couldn't cope with the walls apparently caving in, and we all ended up on a car park in Wells. Ah, happy days!

*gorge, n, means, a narrow passage through land
gorge, v, means: to consume greedily or to repletion, to stuff to capacity, to fill completely or to the point of distension
I could have called this entry Cheddar Man, too - this is what the pre-historic (appr. 7150 BC) male skeleton found in one of the caves is commonly referred to. Pre-historic, eh? It's all starting to make sense.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hake - impaled at last!

Hake & Tuna Kebabs with Tomatoes on the Vine and Grilled Hampshire Asparagus

Tuesday is 'white fish night' because the bin men come on Wednesday morning. I was going to bake monkfish parcels wrapped in parma ham, but Waitrose didn't have any yesterday, so I grabbed the chance to Deal with Hake.
The rather drastic way of expressing myself faced with this fish has a specific reason. Many years ago, a person of not dissimilar a name, wreaked havoc in our family's life, and that of many others. I came close to plotting semi-criminal revenge on him at the time. Reason prevailed, but the wish
to inflict unspeakable deeds in a sinister ritual manner upon hake remained. Alas, there always seems to be a more alluring alternative to hake. Fast forward to the Bank holiday weekend, when, by sheer chance (1), the man was talked about twice within 48 hours. My anger resurfaced with the kind of bile and venom normally reserved for a certain Mrs. T. So I impaled him, err, it. He, err, it, was too weak to withstand the grilling though. No surprise there. Wrapping it in parma ham could have prevented its predictable flakiness (2) but that would have been too good for him.

I devoured fish and vegetables with a salad, and The Boy had pasta with gorgonzola sauce - the
superquick one that comes straight from the freezer (Lidl, excellent value). Very useful when you haven't got ANY time to get the food on the table. Again, super easy and super quick, and definitely heart-healthy as most of the chilli and garlic oil I brushed everything with remained on the foil.
(1) Or is it? My friend B. and I used to maintain that there is no such thing as a coincidence.
(2) 'flaky'- bei Fisch so etwas wie flockig, locker; also wenn er zwar noch bissfest ist, aber in Stücke zerfällt; bei Menschen, vor allem AE = merkwürdig, verdreht, skuril, exzentrisch, leicht verrückt, nicht ganz da, launenhaft, unberechenbar, wankelmütig, labil

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Marinated in Smugness?

Grilled Salmon on a Bed of Spinach and Black Beluga Lentils

This is my first instalment of How I cheat on my husband, and this recipe was inspired by what I had l had to use up in the fridge and what I found in the cupboard when searching for something else. You know how it is...

Serves 2

bag of spinach (250g?)
small onion or 2 spring onions
olive oil, garlic, freshly grated nutmeg, salt & pepper

2 salmon steaks
dash of lemon juice
coarse black pepper

1/2 pepper, orange
1 spring onion
100g of black Beluga lentils (1/2 cup)

(I don't know the calorie count or points; it's at the higher end as far as diet meals go because salmon is an oily fish, of course. The lentils add 150 calories for each person.)

As you can see, the lentils are tiny in comparison to green ones, and in their dried state certainly do make you think of Beluga caviar.

There's no need to pre-soak, you simply rinse them in water, then bring to the boil and simmer for 15 - 20 minutes or so. For a few more vegetables and colour, I added the spring onion and the pepper during the last 5 - 7 minutes (add them earlier if you don't like them crunchy). In the meantime, salt the fish, then give it a squeeze of lemon juice and add plenty of pepper. Put under a pre-heated grill.

Wash the spinach and remove as much water as possible. Heat the oil and fry the onion and garlic, add the spinach in batches. Once wilted, add more. Season with plenty of nutmeg and some salt and pepper. Assemble when the salmon is ready. Wait for the response.

This is so tasty! This is the nicest piece of salmon I have eaten for ages!

I kid you not.
Of course, I hadn't done much to the salmon at all. In fact, I had simply treated it in the heart-healthy fashion. I told him that it was probably the quality of the fish: line-caught, from Waitrose.

"Ah," he said, "marinated in smugness for a few weeks!"

But so was I...
Sure, he felt he needed a couple of mandarins straight after, he also ate an apple and a banana later - but that's what we want: more fruit and veg. If he hadn't then made himself a sandwich after midnight, we would have been winning.