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Sea bass with Swiss chard and potato

6 Aug

imageI think this has to be one of the tastiest fish meals I have ever eaten.  It is also the first time I have cooked, or eaten, Swiss chard but it most certainly will not be the last.

Chard is a seasonal leafy green primarily cultivated between June and October, but is available year round. Its leaves and stalk are both edible. It comes in three main varieties: Green (a.k.a. Swiss), Red and Rainbow.  Chard is a great source of vitamin K, A and C, and is a wonderful cauldron of potassium, magnesium, iron and fibre. It is high in antioxidants, making it another great super food. Oh, and it’s low in calories. A single serving is merely 35 calories, yet contains more than 300% of your daily vitamin K needs. It is also rich in a multitude of B-complex vitamins, including a lot of ones I cannot pronounce.  It gets the name Swiss Chard (a.k.a. Green Chard) because of its extensive cultivation in Switzerland. The botanist who discovered and then named it hailed from Switzerland. However, its origin is farther south, in the Mediterranean region, specifically Sicily.  (By courtesy of Full Circle).

Here is the link to the recipe followed by my slideshow.  It is really easy and quick to cook so I hope you give it a try.

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Sweet and sour prawns

17 Jul

 I love Chinese food.  Come to think of it, I love most food, which is why I will never be anorexic!  Still, Chinese food is one of my favourites, and Sweet and Sour dishes are usually my choice off the menu when we eat out.  Last night I made an old favourite, Sweet and Sour Prawns.  Terry, my husband, always insists that he hates sweet and sour dishes. The fact that he did not leave even one grain of rice on his plate says everything about this recipe.  Another thing that amazes me is that it didn’t make my husband sneeze!! He always sneezes when we go out for a Chinese meal.  I wonder if it is the monosodium glutamate? 

Sweet and Sour sauce originated in China, particularly in the North-east of China.  It is cheap to make and, because of this, it is sometimes known in China as the people’s sauce.  This local name probably reflects the fact that it was once, distributed by the Chinese Communist Party during the Cultural Revolution.  Often, in China, this is a dipping sauce rather than one added to the wok to produce a dish we are familiar with in the UK.  Perhaps one of the most famous exceptions to this is Cantonese Sweet and Sour Pork.

I love this recipe.  I think it’s the fact it includes chillies.  They give the dish a heat that enhances the flavour in a spectacular way.  It is quick and easy, and only contains 161 calories! I served it with plain boiled rice but I think it would be good with noodles as well.  Give it a try, but be warned, you may find you will be disappointed afterwards if you choose this at the local Chinese restaurant!  The recipe is from the Delicious Website.  I have included my own photographs to demonstrate each step.  My advice would be to prepare everything before starting to cook as the cooking time is less than 10 minutes altogether, so there is very little time to waste if you don’t want to overcook the ingredients.

Sweet and Sour prawns

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Thai fish curry – fragrant and not too hot

5 Jul

DSCI0637I love the flavours of Thai food. The freshness of the limes and lemongrass and the warmth of the chillies. This curry is slightly different as it has added depth by the addition of curry powder. The end result is a fragrant curry that is not too hot. It is really easy to make and, as the sauce is made first, you can make this in advance and either finish it off when you are ready to eat or freeze for another day then thaw and continue by adding the fish when the sauce has heated up. This flexibility makes it a great dish to come home to after work or for a dinner party when you can use the free time to socialise with your guests.

Fish curry                  Serves 4

  • 1 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 heaped tsp ginger paste
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste
  • 1 red chilli, sliced (omit the seeds if you don’t like it hot)
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, outer leaves removed and bruised
  • 1 heaped tbsp medium curry powder
  • 1 tbsp light brown sugar
  • small bunch coriander, stems finely chopped
  • 400g can coconut milk
  • 4 fillets of firm white fish, skinless. I used cod but you could use hake. Cut into 3 inch pieces
  • 200g raw king prawns
  • Juice of a lime
  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan or skillet and fry the onion until softened, about 5 minutes, over a medium heat. Stir in the ginger, garlic and shrimp pastes and the chilli and lemongrass. Cook over a low heat for 1 minute, stirring so it doesn’t burn.
  2. Add the curry powder and sugar. When the sugar is melted add the coriander stems, coconut milk and 2 tbsp water then bring to a simmer.  You can freeze at this stage if you want to.
  3. Add the fish and the prawns to the sauce then squeeze over half the lime juice. Cover and simmer for 7 minutes until the fish is cooked through and the prawns are pink. Taste for seasoning and add a little more lime juice if you like. Scatter with the coriander leaves and serve hot with boiled rice.

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Mussels in a creamy curry sauce – divine!

30 May

They say every cloud has a silver lining.  For me, when summer is over, it means that for 8 months there is a ‘R’ in the month and I can get fresh mussels.  It never fails to amaze me how many people have never tried mussels because they are put off by the look of them.  For me, they are the most delicious of all the sea foods.  I know they come bottled in vinegar and you can buy them ready cooked in the supermarket.  You can even get them vacuum packed and ready to cook, but there is absolutely no comparison to the wonderful, soft, melt-in-your-mouth morsels that are cooked from raw.

I have been making this mussel recipe for years and yet, every time I make it, the fantastic flavours still surprise me.  This time was no exception.  I could almost hear myself purring as I dipped my crusty french stick into the delicious sauce.  Wonderful!

So lets take a look at why I can’t buy mussels in months without an ‘R’.   Mussels are often regarded as poor man’s shellfish because they are cheap and plentiful. In the wild, they grow on coastline rocks and stones but the majority of mussels available in the UK are farmed in suitable coastal waters. Mussels are one of the most environmentally sound types of fish or shellfish available. There’s no hefty price tag and, what’s more, these little creatures are in abundance.  They have two shells (bivalves) through which they filter water and feed on the algae and plankton they find in it. Plankton in the water for a shellfish is like grass in a field for a cow. In this way, the shellfish are grazing upon the sea. What they’re grazing on are tiny (as small as 1/50th of a millimeter) aquatic life forms called flagellates.  One reason for this old saying is that during the summer months the flagellates bloom and become more prolific.  At this time they can create ‘red tides’ and it is these that have been associated with poisoning from shellfish.  If the mussels are farmed it is unlikely this is the cause of not being available.  More likely it is because the mussels themselves are reproducing along with the fact that it is much easier for mussels to go bad during high temperatures.

There are a few golden rules when cooking mussels.  Firstly, always wash them well and remove any ‘beard’ you see poking out between the shells.  Only ever cook mussels that are closed when raw but do not discard them until you have tried tapping them sharply with a knife.  If the mussel is still alive the shells will close as it will think this is the beak of a bird trying to eat it.  If it remains open throw it away, its dead and may well be toxic.  Once cooked, only eat the mussels that have opened sufficiently for you to see them nestled between the shells.  This last point has not really been proved but I am not going to argue with the experts.

Anyway, I really hope you give this recipe a try, it is absolutely wonderful!

Mussels in a creamy curry sauce                     Serves 2 (easily doubled)

  • 1 kg/ 2lbs 4 ozs fresh mussels
  • 150 ml/1/4 pt dry white wine
  • 2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 25 g/1 oz butter
  • 1tsp plain flour
  • 2 tsp madras curry paste (I use Pataks)
  • 100 g/4 oz creme fraiche (you can use low-fat if you are watching your weight but the sauce will be slightly thinner
  • a small handful of parsley
  1. Prepare the mussels as discussed above.  Put them in a large pan with the wine.  Cover, bring to the boil then cook over a high heat for 3-4 minutes or until all the mussels have opened.  Shake the pan a few times during this process and be careful not to overcook them.
  2. Strain the mussels over a bowl so you capture the cooking liquor.  You will need this for the sauce so don’t throw it away.  Cover the mussels with a cloth to keep them warm while you make the sauce.
  3. Fry the shallots in the butter in a frying pan until it is soft and not browned.  This will only take a couple of minutes.  Stir in the flour and curry paste and mix well.  Cook for about 1 minute.  Add the cooking liquor carefully so as not to disturb any gritty bits which will have sunk to the bottom.  Discard the last of the liquor to avoid this going into your sauce.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Reduce the heat slightly and stir in the creme fraiche until the sauce is thick and glossy.  Check the sauce is hot then add the parsley.  Divide the mussels between two large bowls and pour the sauce over.  Serve with large chunks of crusty bread to mop up the sauce.

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Prawn and salami with spaghetti

19 Mar

DSCI0567I cannot begin to tell you how delicious this recipe is.  Normally I struggle to eat all the food on my plate but this was an exception. In fact, it was so lovely, I could happily have gone back for seconds if there were any.

I would never have imagined salami would be a match for prawns but they work so well together.

Salami is cured sausage, fermented and air-dried meat, originating from one or a variety of animals. Historically, salami was popular among Southern European peasants because it can be stored at room temperature for periods of up to 30–40 days once cut, supplementing a possibly meager or inconsistent supply of fresh meat. Varieties of salami are traditionally made across Europe.

Varieties of salami include:

  • Cacciatore (Cacciatora, Cacciatorini) “Hunter” salami. Italy.
  • Chorizo, also spicy Iberian variant
  • Ciauscolo, typical of Marche
  • Fegatelli
  • Felino, Province of Parma
  • Finocchiona, typical of southern Tuscany
  • Genovese
  • German salami
  • Kulen spicy salami characteristic for Slavonia, Vojvodina and parts of Baranya
  • Milanese
  • Pepperoni
  • Saucisson sec (French “dry sausage”)
  • Soppressata, typical of Calabria
  • Spegepølse (Danish, means salted and dried sausage)
  • Winter salami (Hungarian Téliszalámi)

Here is the recipe. Hope you enjoy it.

Prawns and salami with spaghetti                          Serves 2 – 3

  • 1 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
  • 1 small red chilli, seeds removed then thinly sliced
  • 1 fat clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 5 slices of Italian Salami, thinly sliced into strips
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 pack (240g) raw prawns
  • small handful parsley, roughly chopped
  • 200g spaghetti
  1. Heat the oil in a wok and bring a saucepan of salted water to the boil
  2. Turn down the heat under the wok to low and fry the chilli and garlic for 2 minutes. Make sure they don’t burn.
  3. add the salami and fry for a couple of minutes then add the tomatoes.  Cook for 5 – 10 minutes until the tomatoes have broken down and formed a sauce.
  4. In the meantime add the spaghetti to the boiling water and cook as per packet.
  5. Add a couple of spoons of the pasta cooking water to the tomato sauce and then add the prawns.  Mix well and cook for 5 minute or until the prawns have turned pink and cooked through, stirring occasionally and adding a little more pasta water if it becomes too dry.  Add the chopped parsley and mix together.
  6. Drain the spaghetti and add to the prawn mix.  Toss together to coat the spaghetti in the sauce then serve immediately.


Prawn salad, nicoise style – delicious!

26 Jan

  It is so difficult to eat salads in winter even though I love them.  Not only are they healthy but they help me to lose weight, providing the dressing isn’t too high in calories.  The challenge for me is to find interesting salads that taste good even when it is wet and cold outside.   The other night I found myself in a position where my husband wanted curry and I wanted salad.  It was easy to divide the prawns for two separate dishes and I just happened to have a few cooked Jersey Royal potatoes left over and a handful of Dwarf beans in the fridge that I hadn’t used.  The latter two are essential components of a Salad Nicoise, one of my favourites, so it is no wonder I decided to do a variation on this theme.  The outcome was absolutely delicious and I will definitely be making this again!

Nicoise is the French word for “in the style of Nice.” So any dish that is labeled Nicoise would be in the cooking style of Nice in Provence, France. Usually these are recipes that have ripe olives, tomatoes and anchovies. The predominant flavoring is often garlic.

The prototypical dish is Salad Nicoise and includes olives, tomatoes, anchovies and vinaigrette, along with fava beans, tuna and hard-boiled eggs. (Even though potatoes are found in recipes outside of France, this is not typical of Nice.)

Compared to many, this is a relatively low-calorie recipe for this style of salad.  I hope you give it a try.

Prawn Salad Nicoise                                        Serves 2

  • 125g raw king prawns
  • 1 egg (free-range and organic if possible)
  • 1 little gem lettuce
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 8 Kalamata black olives
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 6-8 New Potatoes, peeled, cooked and sliced
  • 100g Dwarf beans, topped and tailed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • Juice 1/2 lemon
  • 3 tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 tbsp chopped dill
  1. Bring a small pan of water to the boil and add the egg and prawns.  Boil for 4 minutes then remove the prawns with a slotted spoon and dry on kitchen paper.  Continue to cook the egg for a further 4 minutes, remove and run under cold water.  Peel off the shell and quarter.
  2. Using the same pan but with fresh boiling water, add the beans and blanche for 4 minutes until they are just tender.  Drain and reserve.
  3. Separate the leaves of the lettuce and tear into pieces.  Put into a large bowl.  Add the tomatoes, olives, onions, potatoes, cooled beans, prawns and egg.
  4. Mix together the lemon juice, olive oil and dill in a small bowl.  When combined pour over the salad and gently toss to coat all ingredients.  Season if you like (I didn’t think it was necessary).  Serve immediately.

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Asian Fish Soup

5 Dec

DSCI0445I have become a lover of fish soup over the past year.  Before this I didn’t like the sound of it which just proves that we should try food out before we discount it as I have had some amazing fish soups since.  Most of the ones I have tried use tomato as a base but this one is completely different. It uses fish stock as the base but explodes with flavours from the ginger, garlic and chilli. Absolutely amazing and incredibly low in calories too.  The soup contains lemongrass which gives it a lovely lemony backdrop to the flavours. Here are a few interesting facts on Lemongrass.

  • Lemongrass is a tall perennial grass with a sweet tropical citrus aroma. The older the plant, the more fibrous and less flavorful.
  • Lemongrass has numerous health benefits. The primary chemical component in lemongrass is citral or lemonal, an aldehyde responsible for its unique lemon odor. Citral also has strong anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties.
  • In addition, its herb parts contain other compounds that are known to have insecticidal, anti-fungal and anti-septic properties.
  • The herb is very low in calories; contains 99 calories per 100 g but contains no cholesterol and are rich in folic acid.
  • Lemongrass is also rich in many essential vitamins such as vitamin B-5, vitamin B-6 and thiamin. It also contains vitamin-C and vitamin-A.
  • Lemongrass is also a rich source of minerals like potassium, zinc, calcium, iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium.


I found the recipe in a Woman & Home ‘Feel Good Food’ magazine but it is not on their website so I have copied it out below.

Asian Fish Soup                                       Serves 4

  • 1.5 pts (850ml) fish stock using 1.5 fish stock cubes
  • 3cm piece of root ginger, thinly sliced
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, bruised
  • 4 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 birds eye red chilli, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 100g/4 oz rice vermicelli noodles
  • 200g / 7oz raw tiger prawns
  • 200g / 7oz cod loin, cut into small chunks
  • 200g / 7 oz mussel meat
  • small handful of coriander leaves
  • juice 2 limes
  1. Heat the stock in a pan and add the ginger, fish sauce, garlic and chillies. Bring to the boil then simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Soak the noodles for 3 minutes or as per packet instructions.  Drain and set aside.
  3. Add the fish and shellfish to the stock and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the lemongrass stalks and add the noodles, herbs, and lime juice. Serve immediately.


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