Fish Balls in a Sweet Smoked Paprika and Tomato Sauce

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After spending the whole of the Easter holidays in Asia, both Hong Kong and Vietnam, it is great to finally come home to London;  as the saying goes: ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’. Whilst I loved ever minute of our travels from exploring new environs, cultural sites, the beach (of course) and experiencing the amazing cuisine that both countries have to offer, there is something wonderfully homely and satisfying about preparing your own meals and sourcing your own ingredients. Mark Bittman from ‘The New York Times’ has written a fascinating article on why home cooked food is the way to go. Check it out here.  Crazy as this may sound, I kind of missed not getting stuck into some serious cooking, that said I was very lucky to get a place at ‘The Green Bamboo Cooking School’ in Hoi An, which gave me a wealth of new exciting Vietnamese recipes to cook and share with you all.

Hong Kong is pork crazy and whilst I love my pork, I decided that fish and vegetarian meals were going to be on the menu, certainly for the first week or two once I returned. The very first meal I cooked when I got back were these lovely fish balls, which are so easy to put together. Big A loved getting involved and helping me to prepare them. I made a large batch and then had the leftovers for lunch the following day.

Serve with couscous, rice or pasta and you have yourself a simple and deliciously healthy meal. I did not put any fresh chilli in either the sauce or fish balls, but you could easily pop in a finely chopped one if you are in need of that extra spicy kick!

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Fish Balls in a Sweet Smoked Paprika and Tomato Sauce

adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s recipe ‘Cod Cakes in Tomato Sauce’ in their book Jerusalem.

Serves 4

sauce

glug of olive oil

2 small/medium sized white onions, finely chopped

1/2 (half) tsp of sweet smoked paprika – I use and totally rate this one

1 heaped tsp cumin powder

1 tsp salt

125ml white wine

1 tin of chopped tomatoes, blended

1 tsp caster sugar

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

150ml water

fish balls

600g cod (or any white fish that has been sustainably caught), boned and skin removed

100g white breadcrumbs

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp salt

2 eggs

1 large handful of flat leaf parsley

1 large handful of fresh coriander

1. First you need to start making the sauce. Place a glug (a little) olive oil into a large frying pan and when it is hot add the onions. Stir and turn the heat down slightly to make sure that they do not burn. As they begin to soften after a few minutes add the sweet paprika, cumin powder and salt and then after a couple more minutes add the garlic and stir together. Leave to cook steadily for a few minutes.

2. Next add the white wine and stir into the spiced onions and let simmer for a couple of minutes before adding the blended tinned tomatoes (it is not essential to blend, but I like having the sauce slightly smoother for this recipe) and caster sugar. Stir together and simmer gently for 20 minutes on a low heat so that the flavours can mature and work together.

3. Meanwhile in a large mixing bowl use your hands to blend all the fish ball ingredients together and then roll in the palm of your hands small, bite sized, round fish balls. I made around 30 with these proportions.

4. In a large frying pan heat a glug of olive oil. When it is hot gently place the fish balls in the pan so that they are lightly bronze. I suggest doing this in stages as it takes no more than a few minutes cooking time – remember to turn them over so that they are bronzed all over.

5. After you have bronzed your first batch place them gently in the sweet smoked paprika and tomato sauce and continue to add the rest of the fish balls until they are all sitting in the sauce. Add a little water – around 150ml, or a little more if needed, so that the fish balls are just covered and then let simmer on a low heat for a further 15 minutes. Add more seasoning if necessary.

6. Serve hot with couscous, rice or pasta.

Good old comfort food. Enjoy. It’s good to be home.


Chickpea Curry with Tomatoes, Spinach, Fresh Mint and Coriander

After a full on Monday there is nothing more exhausting than having to cook a long and complicated recipe for supper. So I always try to cook something healthy, tasty and speedy in equal measure. I have always loved the taste of chickpeas and find they compliment so many dishes, but for this dish they feature as the main ingredient. There are so many good chickpea curries I was in a quandary on which to show you first, but settled with this one as it can be prepared and cooked within 15 minutes. Seriously it is so fast you’ll impress even yourself. The fresh mint and coriander, whilst not usually paired together, compliment each other well in this dish as the mint gives a sweet undertone that balances really well with the bold coriander and all the other Indian spices.

I cook this curry using canned chickpeas (shock horror), which will save you having to soak them overnight and boil them for an hour or two. Whilst the curry is perfect to eat on it’s own, if you want to make more of a feast you could cook this delicious salmon curry, which also takes no time at all. I will be eating mine with some wholemeal pitta bread, a dollop of natural yoghurt and squeeze of lemon. Simple and yet satisfying, I hope you agree.

Chickpea Curry with Tomatoes, Spinach, Fresh Mint and Coriander

Serves 2 (as a main meal or up to 4 if having other dishes)

1 tin of drained chickpeas

2 tbsp ghee (or ground nut/mustard oil)

2 green chillies, chopped

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

2 large tomatoes, chopped

1 handful chopped fresh mint

1 handful chopped fresh coriander

2 handfuls of fresh spinach

1 tsp salt

50ml boiled water

1. Heat the ghee/oil and when it is nicely hot add the chopped onion, garlic and chillies. After a few  minutes, when the onions are beginning to brown slightly, add the ground turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander, paprika (I use this hot paprika one I mentioned in this blog post) and garam masala and stir into the onions, garlic and chillies. Leave to simmer gently for another minute.

2. Add the chopped tomatoes, mint and coriander and again stir into the other ingredients. The smells coming from your pan will be heavenly!

3. After draining the chickpeas add them to the curry and stir in thoroughly. As the curry will seem a little dry at this stage, add the boiled water and stir into the ingredients. Leave to simmer for a few minutes.

4. Add a couple of handfuls of fresh spinach and stir into the curry. Once it is wilted (this will only take a minute) leave the curry to simmer for a couple more minutes. If you think it is still a little dry just add a little more water. Add the salt and stir into the curry before letting it rest for a short while before eating. Equally you can cook it earlier in the day and simply reheat it when you are ready to eat in the evening, although you will have to add a little boiled water when you re-warm it.


Baked Sweet Potato Paprika Chips with a Creme Fraiche, Chive and Lemon Dip

It’s been half term and after thinking that we had all managed to get through the winter months with no illnesses, Little Z and Big A both come down with a bug, which is then passed on to my fit and healthy mother. I’m just waiting to be knocked for six myself but am trying not to dwell on the possibility. So instead of being out and about  this week we have been hibernating inside and keeping cosy. With everyone on the mend and appetites returned I made a batch of these delicious morsels to cheer up my loved ones. They were gone in a blink of an eye, so I felt that I must share this simple recipe with you.

Baked sweet potatoes are a delicious addition to any dish, whether it be accompanying, fish, meat or other vegetables. They are also great as pre dinner nibbles if you have guests coming over or if you just simply fancy spoiling yourself or your family. With very little effort you can create these baked paprika chips with a creme fraiche dip and I assure you they are totally addictive.

I am a huge fan of  Santo Domingo Hot Spanish Smoked Paprika which you can buy here, as it has a real kick. As the girls adore them, I bake a batch without paprika or the less hot variety, so they can devour them as well. As an alternative way to serve them as nibbles, I make little paper cones and line each cone with baking parchment, so that the chips do not get stained with newspaper ink. The velvety creme fraiche is a great accompaniment and I like to add chives, as Big A is a big fan, a good splash of lemon juice and a sprinkling of rock salt. Simple and delicious.

Baked Paprika Chips 

Serves 4 -6

900g sweet potatoes, chopped into wedges

1 heaped tsp paprika

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp of rock salt

Creme Fraiche, Chive and Lemon Dip

200g creme fraiche,

1 tbsp of fresh chives, chopped finely

1/4 lemon, juice only

pinch of rock salt

1. Wash the sweet potatoes, but do not bother to peal them as the skins taste great when cooked. Chop them into chip/wedge size chunks and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the olive oil, rock salt and hot paprika and mix thoroughly with your hands so that all the pieces are completely covered.

2. In a preheated oven – 180 degree fan oven – place the sweet potatoes on baking/greaseproof paper on top of a baking tray and bake for 30-40 minutes or until they are soft.

3. When the sweet potatoes are baking prepare the dip by mixing all the ingredients together and taste and add more seasoning if necessary.

4. Serve immediately with the dip on the side.