Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Spicy Mackerel and Roasted Mixed Veg

Pan fried mackerel fillets are served on a bed of spiced roast vegetables

On Monday, a couple of my friends were away on a sea fishing trip out of Oban in Argyll, on the West Coast of Scotland. I was disappointed not to be able to go on the trip but at least they dropped me off a couple of fresh mackerel on the way home. I absolutely love mackerel, especially as fresh as this, and after a quick think and trip to the supermarket, this was the simple, tasty and nutritious dish I came up with for a late dinner.

Roasting vegetable ingredients


12 ounce tray of mixed Mediterranean roasting vegetables
1 medium red chilli pepper
1 large clove of garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 fresh mackerel
2 tablespoons plain/all purpose flour
Generous shake of medium chilli powder
Vegetable or sunflower oil for frying
2 or 3 basil leaves, rolled and thinly sliced, to garnish

Vegetables prepared for roasting


Start by getting your oven on to preheat to 220C/450F/Gas Mark 8.
Deseed and slice the chilli and peel and slice the garlic clove. Add them to the tray of vegetables along with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and stir carefully but well. Cook in the oven for half an hour.

Fillets removed from freshly caught mackerel

When the vegetables were in the oven, I filleted my mackerel. I simply sliced off the two side fillets before carefully using a v-shaped double cut to remove the central ridge of bones. The dark skin and side bones can carefully be scraped away with your filleting knife.

Boning mackerel fillet

It's not essential but I like to remove the vegetables from the oven half way through cooking and give them a bit of a stir with a wooden spoon.

Vegetables are stirred half way through roasting

The mackerel fillets take literally only two or three minutes to cook in this way, so around five minutes before the veg are due to be ready, scatter the flour on a plate and season with salt, pepper and chilli powder.

Seasoned flour for dusting mackerel fillets

Pour a little oil in to a small, non-stick frying pan and bring it up to a fairly high heat. Pat the mackerel fillets on their skin sides only in the seasoned flour and lay them skin sides down in the pan. Season the flesh sides with more salt, pepper and chilli powder.

Starting to pan fry mackerel fillets

Keep the heat under the pan moderately high. The skin will protect the flesh and ideally crisp up that it is easier to remove. When you can see the mackerel flesh is cooked almost all the way to the top, turn the heat off under the pan, turn the fillets and leave them to complete cooking in the residual heat while you attend to the vegetables.

Mackerel fillets are turned

Take the tray of vegetables from the oven and use a slotted spoon to arrange them in a serving dish.

Roasted vegetables form bed for mackerel fillets

Lift the mackerel fillets on to the vegetables and garnish with the basil to serve. The crispy skins are edible but can be easily lifted off and discarded if preferred.

Mackerel fillets are laid on vegetable bed

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Roast Chicken and Fingerling Potatoes

Roast whole chicken legs and fingerling potatoes with chantenay carrots

Fingerling potatoes are perhaps most often boiled and served with a salad rather than roasted in the oven in this way. This idea did, however, work extremely well and I will definitely cook them again in this way. They took on the full flavour of the chicken and crisped up really nicely.

Fingerling potatoes are firstly halved and boiled

Ingredients per Person

3 medium sized fingerling potatoes
2 whole chicken legs
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
3 chantenay carrots
Little bit of butter
Little bit of freshly chopped coriander/cilantro

Whole chicken legs ready for roasting


Wash or if necessary scrub the pottoes but don't peel them and cut them in half lengthways. Add them to a pot of cold, salted water and bring the water to a simmer. Continue to simmer for about ten minutes or until the skin is just beginning to separate from the flesh at the edges. Drain, allow to steam off for five minutes then cover and allow to cool while you cook the chicken legs.

Put your oven on to preheat to 400F/200C/Gas Mark 6. Season the chicken legs on the flesh side with a little salt and pepper. Rub the skin sides of the legs with olive oil and wipe a roasting tray with a little more oil. Lay the legs skin sides up on the tray and season with a little more salt to help the skin crisp up.

Roasted whole chicken legs

Cook the chicken legs in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until the juices run clear. Lift to a plate, cover and leave to rest.

Fingerling potatoes are roasted in chicken juices

Turn the oven up to 450F/220C/Gas Mark 8. Turn the fingerling potatoes carefully in the hot chicken juices in the tray with cooking tongs and cook for fifteen to twenty minutes until nicely crisped.

When the potatoes are in the oven, add the washed chantenay carrots to a pot of cold, salted water. Bring to a simmer for about ten minutes or until just softening. Drain and return to the pot. Add a little butter and chopped coriander, swirl to coat and plate up the various components of your meal.

Fingerling potatoes removed from the oven

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Spicy Beef Pasty and Curry Sauce

Half a spicy beef pasty is served on a bed of thick, homemade curry sauce

If you think about it, the pasty is every bit as variable a concept as the pie. This is my latest pasty recipe, following on from my dedicated pasty recipes page and the previous suggestions I have featured on this blog. It came about simply because I had half a pound of minced/ground beef in my fridge which needed to be used up before it spoiled. All the other ingredients I already had in the house, bar the pastry which I quickly obtained from my small local supermarket.

Flavouring herb and spices are added to beef

Ingredients (Serves Two)

1/2 pound minced/ground beef
1 small red chilli pepper, finely diced (seeding is optional)
1 large garlic clove, peeled and finely diced
1 tablespoon freshly chopped coriander/cilantro (half for pasty and half for sauce), plus extra to garnish
Salt and pepper
1/2 pound premade puff pastry
Flour for dusting pastry rolling surface and rolling pin
1 small beaten egg
Small (8 ounce) can chopped tomatoes in tomato juice
1 teaspoon medium curry powder

Large dinner plate is used to cut a pastry circle to form pasty


Add half the tablespoon of coriander, the chilli pepper and the garlic to the beef. Season with salt and pepper. Use your hands to mash it all up and mix it thoroughly together.

Spiced beef is added to half pastry circle

Roll the pastry out on a clean, dry, floured surface to a square just large enough that you can use a 13-inch dinner plate to cut a circle from it. Carefully arrange the beef filling on half the circle, leaving a one inch or so border. Glaze the border, fold the empty half of pastry over and crimp all the way around.

Glazed spicy beef pasty is ready for the oven

Preheat your oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6. Lay the pasty on a lightly oiled baking sheet and glaze all over with beaten egg. Cut a steam vent in the centre and place in to the oven for half an hour.

Curry sauce is stirred frequently as it simmers

Just before the pasty is due to come out of the oven, empty the tomatoes in to a saucepan. Season with the curry powder and add the second portion of coriander. Stir well and bring to a gentle simmer.

Baked and rested spicy beef pasty

Take the pasty from the oven and transfer to a wire rack. Leave it to rest for ten to fifteen minutes. While the pasty is resting, continue to simmer the sauce as gently as possible, stirring frequently.

Spicy beef pasty half is laid on bed of curry sauce

Divide the curry sauce between two deep plates. Cut the pasty in half and lay one half on each curry sauce bed. Garnish with the last of the coriander.

Tucking in to spicy beef pasty with curry sauce

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Homemade Chicken Fajitas Spiced Soup

Mexican fajitas spiced homemade chicken and bell pepper soup

I know this idea may sound a little bit strange and I can't even remember what led to me coming up with it but it was something I deliberately set out to make and was not just a spur of the moment idea for using up leftovers. What I decided to do in order to make this soup was to poach a small chicken, use half of it one night for a separate purpose and use the other half together with the broth and additional ingredients to prepare the soup on the second evening. This quantity of soup should serve four to six people.

Raw chicken and accompaniments ready for poaching

Ingredients (Day One)

1 small chicken (about 3 pounds)
1 medium carrot, washed, topped and roughly chopped
Half a large white onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium strength red chilli pepper, topped and roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
Half teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt

Ingredients (Day Two)

3 pints fresh chicken stock
Meat from one chicken leg, one thigh and one breast fillet
2 small (4 ounce) packs of mixed sliced bell peppers
8 ounce can chopped tomatoes in tomato juice
2 teaspoons fajitas spice
1 tablespoon freshly chopped coriander

Freshly poached chicken


Put the chicken in to a large soup or stock pot. Add the carrot, red chilli, onion, bay leaves, peppercorns and salt. Pour in enough cold water to completely cover the chicken. Make sure to use at least five pints as you will need three pints of the reduced liquid content for the soup. Put the pot on to a high heat until the liquid reaches a simmer. Reduce the heat, cover and continue to simmer for one hour.

Straining chicken stock for making soup

Use a carving fork and a large spatula to carefully lift the chicken from the poaching solution to a large deep plate. Cover and leave for at least half an hour to part cool. Use half the chicken for any desired purpose. Remove the meat from the second leg, thigh and breast side, put in to a suitable dish and refrigerate overnight.

Allow the stock at least an hour to partly cool. Carefully strain through a fine sieve lined with kitchen paper. Measure out three pints, add to a large dish and refrigerate overnight.

Mixed bell pepper slice packets

On the second day, pour the stock in to your clean soup or stock pot.

Leftover chicken pieces for making soup

Take a little time to make sure the chicken meat is all broken/chopped in to fairly small pieces.

Mexican fajitas spice

It's worth pointing out that I bought this fajitas spice in a small pack. I opened the pack and transferred the spice to a small plastic tub where it keeps in perfect condition for a couple of months or more.

Solid ingredients are added to strained stock

Add the chicken, bell peppers, tomatoes and fajitas spice to the stock. Stir very well and bring to a gentle simmer for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

Chopped coriander is added to soup

At the last minute, stir in the freshly chopped coriander and serve immediately.

Chicken fajitas soup is ready to serve

Monday, 3 August 2015

Easy Homemade Chilli with Poached Egg

Quick and easy beef chilli served with a lightly poached egg

Normally when I make chilli these days, just like a lot of other people, I will use some form of stewing steak as my meat ingredient, with shin being my particular favourite. The drawback if there can be one of using these tasty cuts is that they do take at least two to three hours to cook. In this instance, I wanted to show how to make a chilli that can pretty much be on the table around half an hour after you start cooking, making it the perfect choice for a tasty, nourishing meal at the end of a busy working day.

Beef is gently browned in a dry frying pan

Ingredients for One Large Portion

1/2 pound minced/ground beef
Small handful of mixed sliced bell peppers (bought in 4 ounce bag from supermarket)
1 medium strength red chiili pepper, sliced in to discs
1/2 medium white onion, peeled and sliced
1 large garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
8 ounce can chopped tomatoes in tomato juice
8 ounce can red kidney beans in water
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
Salt and pepper
1 egg
2 tablespoons vinegar for poaching egg
2 or 3 sliced basil leaves to garnish

Peppers, onion and garlic are added to browned beef


Take the egg from the fridge before you start cooking and set it aside to reach room temperature.

Add the beef to a dry pot and place on a gentle heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon to evenly brown and seal. This should take a couple of minutes or so.

Add the peppers, onion and garlic to the pot and continue to cook in the same way for another minute or so until the onion strands are just softened and starting to glisten.

Tomatoes and seasonings are added to beef and vegetables

Pour the tomtoes in to the pot and season with salt, pepper and the cumin.

Chilli is brought to a gentle simmer

Stir very well and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook for fifteen minutes.

Red kidney beans are added to chilli

Put the red kidney beans in to a colander and wash the canning impurities away under running cold water. Allow to sit for a few minutes to drain before adding to the fifteen minute simmered chilli. Stir and bring back to a simmer for five more minutes.

There is nothing in actual fact difficult about poaching an egg but equally there are many things which can go wrong if you're not aware of the correct procedures. The video below shows exactly how I poach an egg in gently simmering water containing vinegar.

Spoon the chilli in to a deep serving plate and carefully lift the poached egg on top with a slotted spoon. Garnish with the sliced basil.

Chilli and poached egg are garnished with a little finely sliced basil

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Duck Breast, Pak Choi and Cashew Nuts

Duck breast, pak choi and cashew nut stir fry with boiled rice

Duck breast is a very popular ingredient in Chinese cooking and is actually very easy to stir fry. It doesn't require the pre-cooking velveting that is required by chicken and can be made to very effectively accompany a wide variety of other ingredients. In this instance, I've chosen to pair it with pak choi (sometimes called Chinese cabbage) and cashew nuts.

Duck breast fillet is diced for stir frying


1 duck breast fillet
3 or 4 medium pak choi leaves and stalks
1 tablespoon cashew nuts
1/2 white onion
3 ounces basmati rice or as desired
Vegetable or sunflower oil for stir frying
Salt and pepper

Cashew nuts, pak choi and onion


Wash the rice through a fine sieve under running cold water. Add it to a deep pot of salted, boiling water. Stir once but well and simmer gently for ten minutes.

Onion and pak choi prepared for stir frying

Chop the onion half in half again. Separate the pak choi stalks and leaves and roughly chop both, keeping them separate.

Stir frying duck breast

Chop the duck breast fillet in to approximately one inch chunks. Bring a couple of tablespoons of oil up to a very high heat in your wok. Stir fry the duck for a couple of minutes until cooked. Remove to a holding plate with a slotted spoon.

Stir frying pak choi stalks and onion

Stir fry the pak choi stalk pieces and the onion for about a minute, before re-adding the duck pieces and the cashew nuts just to be heated through.

Pak choi leaves are added to stir fry at the last minute

Add the pak choi leaves at the very last minute. Season with salt and pepper and stir well, one final time.

Drain the rice thoroughly through a sieve and arrange on a serving plate as a bed for the stir fry before spooning the duck combination on top.

Rice bed is prepared for stir fry