Fish Medley Chowder

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Pick up a paper or food magazine and the big topic for January always tends to be how to detox and various diets to go on to help shift the excesses of the Christmas season. We all start with good intentions but as the weeks of January roll into February the new exercise class or diet doesn’t seem to hold the same appeal in quite the same way.

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I tend to follow the old adage ‘everything in moderation’ and in January and February I do try to eat less meat, eat a lot of vegetables – especially greens, have a few vegetarian days per week and eat lots of fish. Exercise is important all year around and whilst I have been a little slack on this of late, other than great long walks over the Christmas hols most days, I will gradually get into it again once my daughters go back to school.

As I am still without a fridge  – the process of replacing my old (10 month old) one with AEG is painful to say the least, I have had to be well organised when it comes to feeding the troops. Thankfully my freezer – which is separate to the fridge – is working well and has been keeping us going with frozen fish.

For todays blog post I am going to share my fish medley chowder which is healthy, filling and a one pot meal to feed the family. They all love it and give it a big thumbs up.  I picked up a fresh fish mix – which is perfect for fish pie – in waitrose, which included Atlantic cod, smoked haddock and Atlantic salmon. It’s been sitting in the freezer ready for when I need to thaw it and cook. The fish was already cut to size so there really was minimum effort on my part. Give it a whirl. It is hassle free and whilst it is effectively a soup is substantial enough to be a whole meal.

Happy New Year to you all. I hope to put up lots of inspiring recipes over the course of this year for you all. Here is to happy, healthy eating.

Fish Medley Chowder

1 good slice of butter

1 leek

1 onion

small bunch of fresh thyme kept whole

2 bay leaves

1 large potato/2 medium size, cut into bite sized cubes

salt and pepper to taste

800ml milk

1 vegetable/fish stock cube

100ml boiling water

sweetcorn from one corn on the cob (frozen sweetcorn is also fine)

500g cubed smoked haddock, salmon, cod

handful of fresh flat leaf parsley

  1. Place the butter in the pan – I find my Le Creuset casserole pan works well – and when it is melted add the leeks, onions, thyme and bay leaves.
  2. After 4 minutes or so the leeks and onions will have softened and become more transparent. Add the cubed potato and a little salt and pepper to the pan.
  3. After a further couple of minutes add 500ml of milk along with the vegetable/fish stock cube and the boiling water.
  4. Cut the sweetcorn off the cob and add to the pan – frozen is fine, in which case throw in a couple of handfuls.
  5. Allow to simmer gently on a low heat for 10 minutes or until the potato has softened. Add the extra milk gradually over this time.
  6. Add the fish cubes to the pan. Do not move around the pan too much as you do not want them to break. Simmer gently for 8-10 minutes by which time the fish will be nicely cooked. Taste and season further if necessary.
  7. Remove the bay leaves and fresh thyme bunch from the pan before serving.
  8. Serve in deep bowls with fresh parsley scattered on top.

 

 

 


Vietnamese Beef Stew – Bo Kho

As those who have been following my blog for some time will know, I ADORE Vietnamese food. It is fragrant, spiced but not hot spicy like Thai food. It is also very versatile and is equally loved by young and old alike. As such, my Bo Kho – Vietnamese Beef Stew – is a great meal to serve the whole family.

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It reminds me of the stew my grandmother made the whole time when I was a child, albeit without the spices and fresh herbs, although she may have added fresh thyme. The potatoes and carrots in the stew make it satisfyingly filling and I love the taste of the fresh herbs and crunchy beansprouts. Texture, taste and zing.

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It’s comforting and equally enjoyable on a hot summers eve or a chilly autumn day or, in the case of us Brits, a rather chilly June day (come on sunshine you can come back now!). My girls love it as well as adult guests. I often choose to eat mine with flat rice noodles – medium or thick, but it would work equally well with steamed rice.

Vietnamese Beef Stew – Bo Kho

serves 4-6

2 tbsp ground nut oil

1 large white onion, finely chopped

1 tsp salt

1.2kg stewing/braising beef, cut into 1.5 inch cubes

1 can of chopped tomatoes/400g fresh tomatoes chopped

1.5 tsp Chinese five spice powder

3 tbsp fish sauce

1.5 tsp brown sugar

3 star anise

1/2 tsp paprika

2 tbsp ginger paste/minced fresh ginger

1 tbsp garlic paste

1 bay leaf

2 lemongrass, halved and stalks removed, gently bashed

300ml coconut water (not cream or milk)

100ml beef stock

2 large carrots, cut into into 1 inch pieces on the diagonal

2 medium/large sized potatoes, cut into 4/6 pieces

300g medium or thick rice noodles

large handful of fresh mint leaves

large handful of fresh coriander leaves

large handful of fresh Thai basil leaves

100g beansprouts

2 fresh limes, quartered

 large handful of fried shallots

1 fresh red chilli, finely sliced – optional

  1. In a large cast-iron pan gently heat the oil and when it is hot, but on a low heat, add the onion and salt and allow the onion to soften for 5 minutes.
  2. In batches, brown the beef and then add the tinned or fresh tomatoes and gently simmer for a further 5 minutes.
  3. Add star anise, Chinese five spice, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, paprika, fish sauce, bay leaf, brown sugar and move around the pan before adding the coconut water and beef stock. Gently simmer for 45 minutes on a low heat.
  4. Add the carrots and potatoes and cook gently for a further 30-45 minutes, until soft but not falling apart.
  5. In a separate pan heat some water and when boiling add the rice noodles and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Drain and then run under cold water until ready to use.
  6. If you are making the fried shallots, thinly slice a couple of banana shallots and allow to crisp up in vegetable oil. They take a few minutes and will burn easily so do not walk away from the pan when crisping them.

To serve:

In deep bowls add a handful of rice noodles to each bowl. If the noodles are stuck together run them under some water to loosen them up. Add the beef and a couple of ladles of the gravy to each bowl. Add the fresh herbs, beansprouts, quartered lime, crispy shallots, fresh chilli (if using) and serve immediately. Equally you could let guests add their own fresh herbs, beansprouts and shallots by placing them in the centre of the table to help themselves.

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Bagel Mania

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As far as blog posts are concerned this post is definitely up there on the memorable stakes. Yes, it’s a labour of love, but I can assure you the wait and effort is more than worth it. In fact we all agreed that we had never tasted bagels so fresh and tasty, this was, of course, because they had just come out of the oven and we had toiled hard to make them ourselves.

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We’d headed out of London for the weekend to dog sit for my parents who live in the rolling Sussex countryside. I thought that bagel making would provide the perfect morning’s entertainment, with the results making a truly satisfying lunch.

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Big A and Little Z had their own bowls to make the dough and whilst a little flour, salt and yeast found itself out of the bowl, the majority made its way into the dough itself!

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Honey is added to the vegetable oil then poured into the dough mixture.

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Really getting involved in the dough-making is so rewarding, as Little Z found out.


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Big A had a natural ability at kneading the dough for ten whole minutes.

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Once the dough had been given a good work out we combined Little Z and Big A’s dough and created one large ball. Rub a little vegetable oil around a large bowl and all over the dough, and place inside the bowl. You need to cover the bowl tightly with cling film and leave it somewhere warm – but not hot for 2 hours. The airing cupboard  provided the perfect place.

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By the time we returned the cling film had created a huge dome like structure over the bowl and the dough had doubled in size.

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We decided to cover our bagels with either chilli flakes, black poppy seeds or sesame seeds, but you could also cover them in black onion seeds, grated cheese, cinnamon sugar or whatever takes your fancy.

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The best way to shape your bagel is to roll it into a ball and then to use the end of a wooden spoon and push through the centre. Once it has reached through the dough, keep the handle on the surface and wriggle it around until a hole is created to the size that you want the hole to be. You can also shape it further with your hands. When the desired shape is reached place to one side for ten minutes so as to let the dough relax into shape.

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Now this part is really unusual, but doing it will allow your bagel to have that wonderful soft sponginess in the dough, once it is baked. Don’t skip it, even if you think you’ve read the instructions wrongly…..because you haven’t, you do actually need to BOIL the bagels briefly for one and a half minutes each side by placing them in a saucepan of boiling water and black treacle, (I know sounds crazy right?) that is simmering away.

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After the brief dunk in boiling treacle water and a thorough drain, place the bagels on lightly oiled baking trays that are sprinkled lightly with polenta – this is to stop the bagels sticking to the tray. Brush a beaten egg gently over all the bagels and then decide on your choice of topping and sprinkle over the bagels, pressing down gently so that the toppings stay in place.

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Freshly baked straight out of the oven. At this point, our stomachs were rumbling and we were ready to dive into our lunch.

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More choices…..what filling to place in our bagels. We opted mainly for either:

* Grilled bacon, soft cows cheese or cream cheese, rocket and a spoonful of my chipotles sauce.

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* Smoked salmon, cream cheese, avocado and rocket with a splash of lemon juice.

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Other than Little Z we all had two (a little piggy I know but oooh they were soooo good!) and the remainder we ate the following day for breakfast.

After such a good feast we decided to don our country coats and wellies and head out with Tessie the dog for a good old long walk across the fields and through the woods. A perfect day to spend a Saturday.

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Tessie loves to dive into hollow trees!!

Homemade Bagels

makes 14

adapted from Rachel Allen:Bake!

675g strong white bread flour

3 tsp salt

10.5g fast-acting yeast

375ml warm water

3 tbsp honey

2 tbsp vegetable oil

3 tbsp black treacle/molasses

polenta, for sprinkling

1 egg, beaten

toppings of your choice (chilli flakes, sesame seeds, black poppy seeds)

1. Sift the four, salt and yeast into a large bowl and create a well in the centre.

2. Place the warm water, honey and oil into a measuring jug and pour the liquid in in stages, using your hands to begin to make the dough. This stage is rather messy and sticky so take your time not too add too much liquid at once.

3. Once all the flour has come together to form a dough, transfer to a flat surface and sprinkle a little extra flour and then knead the dough for a good ten minutes. I tend to push the dough away with one hand and then fold the dough towards me and then turn it slightly before repeating the process. You’ll be able to pick up a good pace.

4. Lightly oil a large bowl and pour a little oil in your hands and smooth it on the dough, which you have made into a ball. Place the dough in the bowl and cover tightly with cling film. Place in a warm (but not hot hot) place for around 2 hours – the airing cupboard worked perfectly – when the dough will have doubled in size.

5. Place 6 pints of water into a large deep pan and bring to the boil. Add the black treacle and stir in throughly. Once it has come to the boil, let the treacle water simmer gently on a low heat.

6. Preheat an oven to 220 degrees centigrade (425F).

7. Meanwhile, once the treacle water is heating up, take the dough out of the bowl and place on a surface sprinkled with a little flour and knead it briefly before breaking it off into small balls for you to then make into individual bagels. The best way I found to make the bagel is to place the end of a wooden spoon into the centre of the ball, which you have flattened slightly. When it pierces through the bottom of the dough, give the wooden spoon a good twist around so that a larger hole is formed. You can then reshape slightly with your hands. Place to one side until you have used up all the dough. More hands make light work at this stage!! You will need to leave the bagels to stand for 10 minutes before moving onto the next stage, however, by the time you have finished shaping your last bagel the first few you made will be ready to be boiled.

8. Place no more than 4 bagels into the boiled simmering black treacle water and turn over after 90 seconds and leave for another 90 seconds. Then drain thoroughly and place on lightly oiled baking trays that have a sprinkling of polenta on them.

9. Brush each bagel lightly with whisked egg and then cover with your choice of topping.

10. Place in the oven for 15 minutes, by which stage they will be bronzed and ready to eat. If you would like a more bronzed bagel then turn the bagel over for a few more minutes extra cooking, although I don’t think that you’ll need it.

Eat whilst still warm for the perfect bagel.

Filling ideas:

* smoked salmon and cream cheese *goats cheese and red onion *salt beef, mustard and gherkin *bacon, soft cows milk cheese, chipotle sauce and rocket * cheddar and chutney *tuna, tomatoes and capers

What’s your favourite topping and filling? Would love to hear.