Sunday, 22 May 2016

Chicken Breast Steaks and Spicy Cabbage

Breaded chicken breast steaks with spicy cabbage and garlic mushrooms

It is very unlike me to buy something like these ready for the oven breaded chicken steaks. I usually only buy basic ingredients which I then craft in to a finished meal. In this instance, I happened to notice the steaks on offer for just a few pence in my local supermarket as they had reached their sell by date so I decided to give them a try and see what I could come up with in the form of simple but tasty accompaniments.

Chicken breast steaks ready for baking

Ingredients (Serves 1)

2 breaded chicken breast steaks
2 or 3 Savoy cabbage leaves
1 medium red chilli
1/2 small onion
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
8 to 10 small button muchrooms
1 large garlic clove
Generous pinch dried sage

Savoy cabbage leaves, onion and red chilli

Directions

The pack in which these breaded chicken steaks came instructed that they had to be baked in the oven, preheated to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6, for 16 to 18 minutes. Getting the steaks on is therefore the first task.

Starting to saute cabbage, onion and chilli

Cut the tough central core from each cabbage leaf before rolling and slicing. Peel and slice the onion half. The chilli was sliced across the way with the seeds intact but they can be removed if you wish.

A few minutes before the chicken steaks are due to come out of the oven, pour around a tablespoon of olive oil in to a small non-stick frying pan and bring up to a medium to high heat. Add the cabbage, onion and chilli and season with salt and pepper. Saute for a few minutes, stirring extremely frequently with a wooden spoon.

Preparing easy garlic mushrooms

Pour a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in to a small saucepan and put it on to a medium heat. Rinse or brush the mushrooms and add them to the pan. Peel and grate the garlic clove in with the mushrooms and add the dried sage. Season with a little salt and pepper and saute for a couple of minutes, again stirring frequently.

Baked breaded chicken steaks

Take the chicken breast steaks from the oven and lift them to your serving plate. Spoon the cabbage combination and the garlic mushrooms alongside to serve.

Tucking in to breaded chicken steaks with spicy cabbage

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Sea Bass with Roasted Vegetables Pasta

Pan fried sea bass fillet served on a bed of pasta and mixed roasted veg

Sea bass is a naturally delicious eating fish so I always like to cook and serve it in a way that ensures those natural flavours are preserved and not masked. This simple creation not only sees sea bass served and enjoyed in precisely such a fashion, it is also an extremely nourishing and healthy meal.

Ingredients (Serves 1)

12 ounce foil tray of mixed roasting vegetables
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Pinch of dried oregano
Pinch of dried basil
1 coffee mug of dried fusilli pasta spirals
6 ounce sea bass fillet (skin on)
2 tablespoons plain (all purpose) flour
Vegetable oil for frying
1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley plus extra to garnish

Seasoning and oiling vegetables for roasting

Directions

Start your oven preheating to 220C/450F/Gas Mark 8.

Season the roasting vegetables in their tray with salt and pepper as well as the dried basil and oregano. Drizzle with olive oil and mix carefully with a wooden spoon. Cook in the hot oven for thirty minutes.

Measuring out fusilli pasta for boiling

When the vegetables have been in the oven for about fifteen minutes, put a large pot of heavily salted water on to reach a rolling bowl. Measure out the pasta. I find that using a coffee mug gives me the perfect portion for one person but you can use more or less if you wish.

Cooking pasta in boiling salted water

When the water is boiling, carefully add the pasta and adjust the heat under the pot to maintain a moderate simmer for eight to ten minutes.

Fresh sea bass fillet

If your sea bass fillet has been in the fridge, take it out to let it come part of the way up to room temperature.

Pasta is drained through a colander

Drain the pasta and leave it for a few minutes to steam off and dry out.

Sea bass fillet is floured for frying

Scatter the flour on a large plate and season with plenty of salt and pepper. Pat the sea bass fillet in the flour on its skin side only. Gently shake to remove any excess.

Sea bass is fried firstly on its floured skin side

Pour a little vegetable oil in to a non-stick frying pan and bring it up to a medium to high heat. Lay the fish fillet in skin side down. Season the flesh side with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat slightly and fry for around three minutes until you can see the flesh colour changing to show the fillet is cooked almost all the way through.

Sea bass fillet completes frying on its flesh side

Reduce the heat to minimum and turn the sea bass on to its flesh side for one minute to complete cooking.

Combining pasta with roasted vegetables

Return the pasta to the empty cooking pot. Add the roasted vegetables and the tablespoon of parsley. Stir to combine with a wooden spoon.

Pasta and veg bed for sea bass

Spoon the pasta and vegetable combination in to a suitably shaped deep dish.

Sea bass fillet is laid on pasta and vegetables bed

Lift the sea bass fillet from the pan on to the bed of pasta and vegetables. Garnish with the last of the parsley.

Skin is peeled from sea bass fillet

The skin should be beautifully crisp on the sea bass fillet and should easily pull away from the flesh in one clean piece.

Tucking in to fried sea bass fillet

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Grilled Tuna with Stuffed Baked Potato

Sliced tuna fillet with creamy stuffed baked potatoes and chickpeas

I love fresh tuna but tend perhaps to serve it most often with the likes of spicy salsa or a simple salad. On this occasion, I not only fancied a more substantial meal, I wanted to try out this new idea I had for making stuffed baked potatoes. The potato idea worked even better than I had expected and the combination equally proved a winner.

Potato is pierced and skewered prior to being baked

Ingredients (Serves 1)

1 large baking suitable potato
1 small egg
1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley for potato stuffing and 1 teaspoon for chickpeas
Salt and white pepper
Small 6 ounce can chickpeas in water
6 ounce fresh tuna loin fillet
Vegetable oil
Black pepper

Potato is wrapped in foil for baking

Directions

Start your oven preheating to 450F/220C/Gas Mark 8.

Take a metal skewer and force it through the centre of the potato, length ways. Pierce the potato a few times with the tines of a fork to allow steam to escape during baking. Wrap the potato loosely in some tinfoil to protect the skin from the heat and lay the package on a roasting tray. Place it in to your oven for one and a quarter hours.

Baked potato is unwrapped

Take the tray containing the baked potato from the oven and with your oven gloves, lift the potato parcel to a chopping board. Continuing to wear your oven gloves, carefully unwrap the foil, being aware that a lot of hot steam is likely to escape.

Skewer is removed from baked potato

The skewer should easily be able to be pulled cleanly free.

Baked potato is cut in half

You can either continue to use your gloves to hold the potato with one hand or do what I did and use several sheets of kitchen paper folded over several times while you cut the potato in half lengthways.

Flesh is scooped from potato halves with spoon

Sit the halves one at a time in the palm of your (still protected!) hand. Take a teaspoon and carefully spoon most of the flesh out and in to a bowl, leaving a core shell around half an inch (just over a centimetre) thick.

Potato flesh is added to mixing bowl with egg and parsley

Break the egg in to the bowl with the potato flesh and add the tablespoon of chopped parsley. Season with some salt and white pepper. You can use black pepper here if you wish but you may find some black specks spoiling the presentation of your served dish.

Potato stuffing ingredients are combined with a fork

A fork is best used to carefully combine all the filling ingredients together as you essentially have to mash the potato flesh.

Potatoes are carefully stuffed for further baking

Divide the filling between the two potato shell casings with a spoon. Lift them carefully back on to your roasting tray and put the tray back in to the oven for fifteen to twenty more minutes.

Chickpeas are gently heated

I drained the chickpeas through a colander at my sink and rinsed them under running cold water. This gets rid of all the chemical preservatives and impurities. I then added them to a pot of cold, slightly salted water and brought the water to a simmer for two or three minutes just to heat them through.

Starting to fry tuna loin

Bring your cast iron grill or griddle pan up to a smoking hot heat. This will take a few minutes. Oil the tuna fillet all over using a pastry brush and lightly season with salt and pepper. Lay the fillet carefully in to the hot pan and cook for two minutes.

Tuna fillet is turned in pan

Turn the tuna fillet with cooking tongs and cook for two minutes on the second side. Note that the tuna fillet should be left pink in the middle to avoid it drying out and becoming unpalatable.

Parsley is added to drained chickpeas

Drain the chickpeas through a colander at your sink and return them to the empty pot. Stir through the teaspoon of parsley.

Grilled tuna fillet is rested

Lift the tuna steak to a small plate or flat bottomed bowl and let it rest for a couple of minutes.

Stuffed and baked potato halves are plated

Take the potato halves from the oven and lift them to your serving plate with a spatula.

Tuna is sliced and added to serving plate

Slice the tuna fairly thickly across the grain on a chopping board with a very sharp knife. Arrange the slices between the potato halves.

Cutting in to soft and fluffy stuffed potato

Spoon the chickpeas around the tuna and potato halves and serve immediately.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Smoked Cod en Croute with Mashed Veg

Smoked cod in pastry is served on mixed mashed root vegetables

I love smoked fish of many different types, from mackerel, to salmon, to white fish such as cod or haddock. One rule I normally have, however, when buying smoked white fish is that I will never buy the artificially dyed stuff with its awful, yellow tinge. Quite why fishmongers/supermarkets do this is totally beyond me as far from making the fish look more attractive, I honestly believe it makes it look artificial and almost radioactive. In this instance, however, I made an exception for the simple reason that I had already decided to prepare this dish and I couldn't actually get hold of any un-dyed smoked cod or haddock. If you do choose to make this dish at home, I recommend you get smoked fish without the dye from your supplier.

Smoked cod fillet

Ingredients (Serves 2)

1 smoked cod fillet piece of around 8 ounces
4 ounces premade puff pastry
Flour for dusting pastry rolling surface
1 small beaten egg for glazing pastry
1 medium baking potato
1 medium carrot
1/4 medium Swede turnip (rutabaga)
Salt and white pepper
1 ounce (1/4 stick) butter
White pepper

Pastry is rolled out on a floured board

Directions

Put your oven on to preheat to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6.

Lightly dust a clean dry surface with flour and roll out the pastry to a rectangle large enough that you will be able to wrap the piece of fish.



Cod fillet is laid in centre of egg brushed pastry

Brush the pastry with a little beaten egg and lay the cod fillet in the centre.

Smoked cod is folded in pastry

Carefully lift the pastry sides one at a time to snugly wrap the cod fillet, sealing it on top, Cut away any excess pastry to prevent an overly bulky seam. Sit the package seal side down on an oiled baking sheet and egg wash all exposed surfaces. Carefully cut three small air vent slits on what is now the top of the pastry. Bake in the oven for fifteen to twenty minutes or until the pastry is risen and golden.

Potato, Swede turnip and carrot

Peel the turnip and potato. Top, tail and scrape the carrot.

Peeled and chopped vegetables ready for boiling

Cut all the vegetables in to approximately one inch chunks and add to a large pot of cold, salted water. Bring the water to a simmer for about twenty minutes until the pieces are just softened.

Smoked cod en croute is rested

When the cod pastry parcel is taken from the oven, it should be lifted to a chopping board with a fish slice and left to rest for a few minutes.

Drain the vegetables, return them to the pot and let them steam off for a few minutes. If you don't let the excess moisture escape in this way, you will have soggy and unappetising mash.

Cod en croute is halved for serving

Cut the cod en croute in half at a forty-five degree angle as shown to form two serving portions.

Vegetables are mashed with white pepper and butter

Add the butter to the steamed off vegetables and season with a little white pepper. Mash with a hand masher.

Mashed mixed vegetables are plated

Divide the mashed vegetables between two deep serving plates to serve as beds for the cod en croute.

Cod should separate easily in to large and succulent flakes

Lift a piece of the cod on to each vegetable bed and serve immediately.