Category Archives: Seafood recipes

Scallop risotto with marsala

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I have this trace memory that harks back to my days as a psychologist. I travelled around a fair bit in my job and often found myself spending the night in various hotels around the UK.

If I stayed more than a couple of nights I made it my mission to find at least one good place to eat and one good bar or cafe to hang out in the evening. I didn’t always succeed but I tried my hardest. One of the projects I worked on took me to Oxford, a city i’d visited several times for conferences and one that I love. This time I stayed in a hotel on the edge of the Jericho, one of the suburbs of the city. Once run down, it is now all arty and bohemian so looking for a place to eat was extremely easy.

As I was staying a few nights (and was earning a decent crust in those days) I had to give Raymond Blancs Brasserie Blanc (it was Petit Blanc back then) a try. It was good, as expected, but it was Branca, an Italian almost opposite that left me salivating and for ever trying to recreate the dish I ate three times in one week (it really was that good).

When i’m doing demo’s or teaching sesssions people often ask me what my favourite food is and are surprised that I have such simple tastes. Give me a perfect seafood risotto followed by proper panacotta any day and am happy. The risotto I had that day at Branca was the best I’d ever eaten. So simple, risotto with garlic and topped with scallops, yet so effective. The re-creation of which has eluded me for years. but I think I finally did it!

Scallop Risotto

1 small onion finely chopped

2 small cloves of garlic, finely chopped

25g butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

Approx 100g Arborio rice (generous)

splash of dry Vermouth

1 pint of fish stock

salt and pepper

To finish:

4 nice fat scallops, corals removed

25g butter

drizzle of olive oil

a good splash of marsala wine

one lemon

fresh parsley

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Heat the oil and butter for the risotto in a shallow frying pan. Add the onion and soften until turning golden but not brown. Add the garlic and stir for a minute then add the risotto rice. Stir for a couple of minutes in the hot oil until it begins to turn transluscent (i.e. not chalky any more) then add a splash of Vermouth. Let the pan bubble until its evaporated then add enough stock to cover the rice. Try to avoid stirring, but give the pan a shake every now and again to prevent the rice sticking. As the stock is absorbed add a little more stock keeping the rice covered until you have used the full pint. You may need a little more but just check the consistency of the rice. Once it is al dente, or almost soft. Turn off the pan and allow the risotto to rest. It should absorb the last of the liquid.

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While the risotto is resting heat a small heavy bottomed frying pan ( cast iron is best) add a little olive oil to coat the base and wait until it’s really hot (almost smoking). Add scallops to the pan, they shouldn’t stick if the pan is hot, just sizzle and start to shrink in the heat. Cook for a couple of minutes until nicely browned then turn over.

At the end of cooking add a good splash of marsala (stand back as the pan may spit) then add the remaining 25g butter. Serve the risotto and finish with the scallops, spoon over the buttery juices, squeeze some lemon juice and sprinkle with parsley.

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I’m back! …with two recipes from the Menai Seafood Festival: Scallops tartare and French Eel stew

Its been a long and busy summer. I know this because I haven’t written a thing on here since 9th June. Such a long time for me! So what have you been doing with yourself?I hear you ask. I’m sure some of you have followed my exploits through Twitter or Facebook so already know I’ve barely kept still, or stayed in one place for long.

I have fed crews at three festivals, cooked for five brides and grooms, been a private chef for a couple of dinners, and helped co-ordinate one food festival. I’ve also been busy fitting a new business premises ( I now have my very own kitchen and hopefully soon cookery school) and visited schools running seafood demo’s across Anglesey as part of the Menai Seafood Festival.

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In between all of that I’ve tried to have a life and spend time with my kids! It all sounds like hard work, but I can’t complain. Its fun work. Work I adore and I consider myself fortunate (if not rich) to be working at something I love and have a passion for.

Now that Autumn approaches and the whirlwind of activity is calming a little its back to those other things I love. Writing, food festivals and teaching. My mission for the winter is to find, beg, borrow, the finances I need to refit the cookery school and get it up and running. I will return to this in another post as it deserves a full explanation.

I also made a promise at the Menai Seafood Festival that I would post my two French themed seafood festival demo recipes. I stood in at the last-minute due to another chef dropping out. I said I wouldn’t because I was coordinating the two tents, but actually on the day it wasn’t that stressful and I’m so glad I did because it was such good fun!

 

So here to get you going and mark my return to writing are the two recipes of the day, sadly I have no pictures but all the testers gave the thumbs up! As you can see there were plenty in attendence.

Scallop tartare and French conger eel stew

I wanted to introduce visitors to a different way to prepare scallops and a new fish. In the case of the latter, conger eel is a little used fish which people often overlook. Daunted by the way it looks, full of preconceived ideas about how it will taste they don’t even consider it as an option. Many immediately think of jellied eels when you say eel and I could see plenty of the crowd watching my demo cringe when I said I was cooking eel. Several said they tried it and hated it. I’m always up for a challenge so my aim was to change their mind. Eel is not overfished, it is sustainable and it is cheap. Yes it has a large central bone, but its easy to remove the meat in neat chunks for a simple stew.

Scallops tartare with blue poppy seeds

Ingredients:
Dozen scallops
1 teaspoon blue poppy seeds
Juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons olive oil
Drop of soy sauce
Sea salt

2 white plates to serve
Remove the coral from the scallops, we only want to use the white part. Slice and arrange in a rosette pattern on a plate. Zest the lime and make a dressing mixing the olive oil, soy sauce, lime zest, a teaspoon of lime juice and salt.
Baste scallops with the dressing and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Leave to stand for 5 minutes and then serve.

French eel stew (for two people)

Ingredients:

Eel (2k) killed, skinned cleaned and cut into chunks.
3 large shallots
12 baby onions
200g chestnut mushrooms
Bouquet garni
30g plain flour
30g butter
300ml fish stock
300ml red wine
12 small new potatoes
Seasoning

Flat leaf parsley to serve

Get your fish monger to skin and clean the eel. At home you can run a sharp knife along the central bone which is thick and gently cut the flesh away making sure you remove any of the remaining bones as you go. They are easy to find as eel bones are pretty big.

Melt the butter and brown sliced shallots. Add flour, then fish stock followed by the red wine. Add bouquet garni, onions, mushrooms and halved potatoes. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until the potatoes begin to cook through. Add the chunks of eel and simmer for a further 10 minutes until the potatoes are tender and the eel cooked through. Season well and serve sprinkled with plenty of chopped flat leaf parsley.

A big thank you to Wayne at Mermaid Seafoods for supplying produce for the demo tents and indulging my demand for conger eel

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Filed under festival food, Food festival, French food, home cooking, local produce, Recipes, Seafood recipes, sustainable fish, Uncategorized, Welsh produce

Burmese spiced fish, Conwy Feast and writers block

Writers block is a terrible thing. I want to write. I have lots to say and many stories to write-up of events I’ve attended and people I’ve spoken to in recent weeks. But as soon as it comes to sitting down and transferring my thoughts to paper its like the shutters come down in my head and the words wont flow. This is the reason for my recent silence. Writing, even food writing, needs a bit of mental space and freedom so my thoughts can roam and explore ideas. If I feel stressed, upset, preoccupied with problems or constrained my thoughts are otherwise engaged….no mental space, no writing. Its frustrating. So rather than spend weeks on a full essay, here are some pictures from my Conwy Feast demo and the recipe for the Burmese inspired spiced fish I cooked at the Feast.

Bear with me…I will be back with a vengeance soon….once some of the chaos going on in my life has subsided.

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Burmese spiced fish with coconut milk (to serve 2 people): Takes 20 mins to cook

The prominent flavours that you find in Burmese dishes are heavily influenced by the countries that border it. With Thailand on one side and Bangladesh on the other, both Asian and Indian flavours fuse to create a distinctive and colourful cuisine. This is a favourite dish that I’ve cooked for years and although of course I’ve added to or tinkered with the original ingredients it remains true to the original recipe I found in an old cookbook. These days I often use Thai / sweet basil to enhance the Asian flavours, while of course the vivid yellow colouring created by the turmeric is specifically Indian in origin.

2 thick white fish fillets (monkfish, cod or haddock)

Sunflower oil

1 small onion

1 clove of garlic

Half a thumb sized piece of ginger

Teaspoon turmeric

A small red chilli (home-grown)

Salt to taste

Half a can coconut milk

A small handful of Thai sweet basil (home-grown)

1 juicy lime

Finely chop the onion. Mince garlic, ginger and chilli (seeds removed).

Heat 2 tablespoons sunflower oil in a pan until hot. Add onions and fry quickly over the heat moving continuously for about 5 to 10 minutes, it doesn’t matter if they brown a little. Add garlic, ginger, chilli and turmeric and stir for one minute. Move the onion and garlic mixture to the side of the pan and add the fish fillets skin side down. Fry for 5 minutes or so until the skin starts to turn a golden crispy brown. While its cooking coat the top of the fish with the onion and garlic mixture.  Turn the fish briefly and add the coconut milk and salt to taste. Allow to bubble for about 10 to 15 minutes without covering. Check seasoning and then finish with the juice of a lime and a sprinkling of Thai basi. Serve with plain white rice and perhaps a minty cucumber and tomato salad.

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This fragrant plateful was divided up and between all the avid tasters at the demo!

Photographs courtesy of Kate Withstandley …photographer and art blogger at Exploring Art in the City

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One day in Menai Bridge: The Seafood Festival in pictures

Today is the fourth anniversary of my blog. My very first post was a recipe for courgette chutney, (quite apt considering I currently have a glut in my fridge) but today I will mostly be writing about my amazing weekend.

What can I say? I keep finding myself smiling at random moments as I think back over Saturdays first ever Menai Seafood Festival. We thought people would come, we hoped it would be worth all the effort and hard work. We expected maybe three, four thousand but in the first hour we clocked 1,500 and stopped counting when numbers reached 8,500. We were gobsmacked (for want of a better phrase, but this perfectly describes our open-mouthed observations of the crowd that streamed into Menai Bridge). It didn’t just catch us, the organisers, off guard. Stall holders sold out in two hours, car parks overflowed and my demo tent had queues of people waiting to get in!

The total number of visitors was undoubtedly closer to 10,000. I’d call that a success, don’t know about you!

Sadly I didn’t get out to see much as I was so busy stage managing the demo tent, but here is small selection of the pictures I managed to snap on the day (between rounding up chefs, ingredients and getting the washing up done in-between demo’s)…I think the pictures speak volumes about how good our day was and how professional the event was.

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Demo tent at 10.30am packed already

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Rob Alexander from The Black Lion, cooking razor clams

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Aled Williams, Cennin….and his beautiful crab risotto served in a stunning Welsh slate bowl

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Neil Davies, Dylan’s Restaurant cooking clam chowder and drunken mussels

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The boatyard

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Rowan Clark, Coleg Menai tutor overseeing their demo

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Backstage discussions

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Young chefs Jake and Ioan do a double act as they cook up two mussel dishes….they had the audience in stitches. It was their first ever demo and they loved it (both are third year Coleg Menai students training as they work…one with the Bulkeley Hotel in Beaumaris and the other at the Hayloft Restaurant, Ye Olde Bulls Head in Beaumaris.

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Visitors enjoying the event

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The air sea rescue helicopter and boat do a quick fly past…

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Crowds in the boatyard give them a wave as they pass over head

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Bryan Webb from Tyddyn Llan, made four stunning dishes in just three-quarters of an hour!!

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Our wonderful compere Elliw Williams from ATOM PR…dropped in it by me, she did a truly wonderful job especially as it was her first time compering

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Matt White and I also did a double act…Matt is one of very few local fishmongers (he runs MJWhite Fishmongers) . He demonstrated how to fillet seabass and turbot

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…while I demonstrated how to hot smoke at home, then pan fry turbot and make a simple white wine and cream sauce to go with it. 

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mum watches on enthralled

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smoked seabass with beetroot slaw and a lime and ginger cream…the healthy option!

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….while Elliw enjoys the turbot dish

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Menai Seafood Festival: this Saturday August 31st!

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So, moving on very swiftly from the Green Man I’ve barely had time to draw breath before its full steam ahead with preparation for Saturdays Menai Seafood Festival, a day of FREE activities and entertainment for adults and children.

I’m booked to help team lead the chef demonstration tent where I will be introducing a host of talented chefs including Michelin star chef Bryan Webb (Tyddyn Llan), Aled Williams (Cennin), Rob Alexander (The Black Lion), Neil Davies (Dylan’s) and Rowan Clark with her team from Coleg Menai. They will be sharing tips on how to cook and prepare a variety of local seafood dishes. To conclude proceedings I will be doing a joint demo with local fish monger Matt White who will show you how to fillet fish while cook up two quick fish dishes. Recipe cards will be available to take home and lots of tasters handed out to try.

The demonstrations will be swiftly followed by live music performances by The Gentle Good, Gwyneth Glyn and Trwbador

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and this ain’t all folks…on Saturday night there will be a very special charity supper club hosted by Jess Leah-Wilson at Shop Cwtch with celebrated local chef Eamon Fullalove (previously head chef at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen and now at The Oyster Catcher, Anglesey) cooking up a superb seafood menu…

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…and finally to finish the weekend and wind up this inaugural Seafood Festival there will be one last night of live music on Sunday 1st September. Six local bands will close the festival with an eclectic mix of music. The Victoria Hotel, Menai Bridge are hosting this FREE event, although donations will be collected during the night which will go to supporting local community projects. What a great way to end a fab weekend….Hopefully see you there!!

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Japanese fish two ways: sticky sesame and deep fried with panko

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I love fish, but I don’t eat enough of it for my liking. The main reason being that the teen hates it (in the same way she hates most things that are good for her; with a passion) and so I always end up cooking family friendly meals that everyone will eat and enjoy (while saving myself extra work cooking several different things). Fish is, as you can imagine, generally off the menu!

This weekend was different. No teen. Lots of fish.

I made both of these dishes to go with the noodles in smoky broth I made a few weeks ago (see post here). The first was inspired by a group of Korean families I met crabbing at the beach. They’d travelled over from Birmingham for the day bringing calor gas stoves, pots pans and lots of ingredients, hoards of kids and crab catching apparatus made from bread baskets and old kitchen sink drainers. Our kids looked on fascinated, not quite believing they were going to cook up shore crabs to eat! My kids friend, who knows stuff about the seashore because her parents are ecologists, stated categorically and rather disparagingly that “you can only eat EDIBLE crabs you know” . She had to eat her words later.

As the family cooked up the spoils of their fishing trip they tucked in to kimchi, rice and tiny sweet, salty and slightly sticky fried whitebait. They invited us to join them and taste the crab stock with noodles giving us handfuls of these tiny fish while we waited. The kid (who likes fish) couldn’t get enough of them, and I also found the sweet-salty sesame flavour totally addictive, and so decided to recreate them.

I had a little search around and found a recipe that looked promising on Meemalee’s Burmese food blog. She used scallops and something called Shichimi togarashi. Off I went in search of said Japanese spice in my local Asian supermarket. I wandered aimlessly looking at incomprehensible letters, pots and jars. I found the Japanese section but nothing labelled Shichimi, eventually I gave up and asked the shop keeper. He wasn’t sure either so searched on his computer. Together we discovered it has several names, but is commonly known as Japanese seven spice.

For my fish dish I used Cornish Sardines which I meticulously filleted with a very sharp knife leaving small thin pieces and not whitebait which is currently off the sustainable list. Sardines are a good alternative as are anchovies, herrings or sprats.

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Sticky sesame Sardines:

250g small fish, either eaten whole or filleted to make small strips

A knob of butter

dessertspoonful  of sunflower oil

a handful of black sesame seeds

a sprinkle of Japanese seven spice

a drop of soy sauce

a teaspoon sugar

Heat the butter, oil and soy sauce in a large non-stick pan. When hot and bubbling add the fish giving the pan a good shake after a couple of minutes. Be careful not to break the fish when turning and moving about. Add the sesame seeds, seven spice and sugar and keep moving about the pan until cooked, slightly crispy and a lovely brown colour.

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My other dish was an immediate kid favourite. Monkfish tail (another sustainable option), dipped in Japanese seven spice seasoned flour, beaten egg and panko  breadcrumbs, then deep-fried in sunflower oil until golden and crispy. What could be simpler?

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My favourite smoked mackerel pate recipe

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Smoked mackerel pate must be at the top of my list of favourite things to spread on toast. Just imagine with me if you will, ….warm chunky toast, thickly spread with creamy, smokey pate, pure comfort. But don’t get me wrong,  it’s so good for you as well; packed with Omega-3 oils (great for brain function and health) and the antioxidant selenium..which is said to help prevent heart disease.

It’s a shame to see that it has now turned up on the ever-growing list of overfished species, but as long as you buy from as sustainable a source as possible (fish caught locally using traditional methods, including handlines, ringnets and drift nets) there is less threat. According to Bertie Armstrong of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation UK stock is still well above ‘precautionary’ levels. It seems much of the problem revolves around Icelandic fisherman and those around the Faroes, who are catching over their quotas as Mackerel stock moves further North. An argument over fishing rights rages and until settled overfishing in Icelandic waters continues to impact on Mackerel reserves.

…and now I’ve put you all off buying mackerel I’m going to share my favourite recipe. There is as much debate about what makes the perfect mackerel pate and what you should add to it as there is what to do about controlling fishing!…. Should you add cream? What kind of cheese is best? Is butter a yes or no? What herbs work best? And then once you’ve chosen your ingredients there is the question of quantities.

I’ve made mackerel pate for years, tinkering on and off with a classic recipe made by my mum. I’ve tried adding different ingredients, varying quantities but I still come back to this one…I’ve made it for dinners, parties and weddings and it’s almost universally loved by all. My rules are….

*Don’t be stingy with the fish. Use plenty.

*DO NOT blitz it all to a pulp in the blender…hand flaking the fish is best, removing small bones by hand. If you must give it a quick pulse in the blender do it before you add the other ingredients and only pulse a couple of times, you want to keep a good texture…its not a dip.

*I use single cream as its slightly lighter.

*I also use sieved cottage cheese instead of cream cheese. Its less creamy and has a grainier texture which I like.

*Unlike many recipes I use butter. Unconventional maybe, but I like the rich artery clogging effect. It may seem perverse after I have used a lighter single cream and cottage cheese, but I love the decadence. For those wanting a lighter pate you could just leave it out.

*Like to add a teaspoon of fresh horseradish for a fiery hit as it marries well with the creamy smokiness, a good squeeze of lemon juice to cut through the creaminess and finally topped with a sprinkling of smoked paprika and a pinch of fresh dill.

Smoked mackerel pate:

150ml single cream

400g smoked mackerel fillets, skin removed and hand flaked

125g plain cottage cheese

100g melted butter

juice of a small lemon (3 good tablespoons full)

1 teaspoon fresh grated horseradish

black pepper

Sprinkle with a little smoked paprika, a lemon wedge and a sprinkle of fresh dill.

Put the flaked mackerel in a large bowl and pick over it to remove any bones. Sieve the cottage cheese into the bowl then add the lemon juice, horseradish, cream and melted butter. Mix well checking the seasoning as you do. It may not need more salt but a good sprinkle of black pepper is essential.

Spoon the pate into individual dishes….or just serve a dollop with some salad. I do think it goes best with a wholemeal or spelt toast but its up to you, either way it is a such a simple recipe you have to give it a go!

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Smoked mackerel pate with a seasonal salad of grated kohlrabi, cut-and-come-again leaves from Moelyci, cucumber and oak smoked tomatoes from the Isle of Wight, Tomato Stall and home made spelt toast

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Sustainable fish at Llangollen food festival -Scandinavian style fish cakes recipe

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Hugh’s fish fight is a campaign I started following a long time ago, even before I got to know local fisherman and fishmongers or got involved with the Menai Seafood Festival.  My love of all seafood is no secret, and I regularly tell people about it from the stage at various food festivals. But I do think very carefully about what I buy and eat and I would certainly think twice about eating in a restaurant that serves endangered species. A couple of years back I visited Nobu with a friend. The menu horrified me. That visit was definitely my last, even if their black cod is to die for!

I used to keep a close eye on websites such as FishOnline which gives great advice on what to eat and fish2fork which suggests sustainable alternatives to the those under threat. These days though I am more knowledgeable, usually go for local alternatives and if in doubt follow the advice of my fish monger (I highly recommend Wayne or Malcolm at Mermaid Seafood, Llandudno).

I eat a lot more fish at home now; the teen is rarely here these days but has started eating fish again and fish cakes are big on the OK-to-eat list. I’d based the previous incarnation of this dish on a recipe from Jamie’s 30 minute meals . His recipe called for fresh tuna, salmon and haddock. I replaced the haddock with pouting; a member of the cod family which is much cheaper and more sustainable, my salmon was organic farmed atlantic salmon (wild caught atlantic salmon are now not sustainable) but you could use MSC certified pacific salmon. The tuna I replaced with a tin. Pole & line caught skipjack tuna is sustainable and considerably cheaper.

This new and updated recipe uses grey mullet (a native fish) and farmed salmon again. In this version I omitted the tuna entirely, replaced the gluten part with porridge oats and gluten-free flour and instead of serving with a dollop of horseradish cream, baby potatoes roasted with herbs and a big lemon dressed salad, I made a fresh chilli salsa and used a garlic aioli to top.

Scandinavian style fish cakes: makes six medium-sized cakes..or quite a few little ones!

2 tablespoons porridge oats

1 dessertspoonful gluten-free flour

250g skinned and boned salmon fillet

250g Pouting / grey mullet

zest of 1 lemon (and a squeeze of the juice)

1 finely grated carrot

1 egg white

a small bunch of flat leaf parsley

salt and pepper

Put the fish into a food processor and blitz with the parsley and lemon zest. Add oats, flour, egg white salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon and  pulse a few times until coarsely mixed. Add the carrot and pulse again until roughly mixed.

Dust hands with gluten-free flour and form the mixture into 6 patties or lots of small cakes. Put a griddle pan on to heat with a drizzle of olive, rapeseed or sunflower oil to coat lightly. Slice a small clove of garlic and throw in to the pan. When it begins to sizzle place your fish cakes on the pan and leave to cook for about six or seven minutes. Turn over with a flat spatula and cook for the same amount of time on the second side.

Baby roast potatoes:

750g British baby potatoes (Charlotte, Jersey Royal)

Glug of Rapeseed oil ( I use Blodyn Aur Welsh rapeseed oil as its close to me but Cotswold Gold is also very good and Charlie the maker of it is lovely!)

a sprig of fresh rosemary leaves removed from the stalk and roughly chopped and a few small sprigs of thyme

Salt and pepper

Wash potatoes and put in a small roasting tin. Pour over a glug of oil, the herbs and a good sprinkle of sea salt (Halen Mon of course) and pepper

Roast in a preheated oven, 190 degrees for about 50 minutes, or until golden and crispy on the outside and soft when pierced with a skewer.

Salsa:

1 red chilli finely chopped

4 spring onions

4 yellow tomatoes (look for heritage varieties especially Sun Belle)

half a cucumber

1 red pepper

1 ripe avocado (optional)

flat leaf parsley and mint finely chopped

pinch of sea salt

splash of red wine vinegar

Finely chop the chilli (removing the seeds) and put in a mixing bowl. Take care to wash your hands well afterwards. Finely chop the spring onions, parsley and herbs and add to the bowl. Scoop the seeds out of the tomatoes and discard. Dice the flesh and add to the bowl. Remove the seeds from the cucumber and dice and do the same with the red pepper. Dice the avocado if using. Add a splash of red wine vinegar and season with sea salt. Taste and serve on the side with the fish cakes.

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