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Anchovies with skordalia

Anchovies with skordalia
For the skordalia (serves 4):
  • ½ kg (1 lb) floury potatoes
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped;
  • 1-2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • good Greek olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

For the anchovies:
  • Frozen anchovies, about 3-4" in length (about 12-18 per person, depending on size)
    DO NOT use the salted anchovies in oil that are sold in glasses or tins!
  • some flour
  • oil suitable for deep frying (rapeseed or similar)
  • lemon juice

A few hours before cooking, defrost the frozen anchovies.

Boil the potatoes for about 20 minutes, then skin them, season to taste with salt and pepper, add the finely chopped garlic cloves and mash well.

Stir in the vinegar and olive oil with a wooden spoon. Keep adding olive oil until the skordalia has become smooth and creamy, but not greasy. Put in fridge and let cool down for a few hours. The taste will change and intensify.

If you bought whole anchovies, remove the heads and gut them. To do do, pull back and tear off the head, then insert your index finger where the head used to be and move it quickly towards the tail, thus ripping out guts (you may want to wear vinyl or latex gloves to do this). Rinse well.

You can also buy kitchen-ready anchovies that are already headless and gutted. These can be used as they are once they have been defrosted.

Dry the anchovies with a paper towel and roll them once in flour, so that they are very thinly coated. No additional seasoning is required, not even salt.

Heat the oil well and deep fry the anchovies at high temperature. You don't need a deep fryer or even a large frying pan, you can do it in a small pot, 6-8 anchovies at a time. Just make sure they are well submerged in the oil.

Once the anchovies have a hint of a golden colour, remove them from the oil. 1-2 minutes will do. If you fry them too long, they will become too dry.

Put anchovies on a kitchen towel so that the extra fat is absorbed. Then arrange on a plate together with a serving of the skordalia. Season the anchovies with lemon juice. You can serve this with salad and a dry white wine.

Fish with okra

Fish with okra

A tasty Indian recipe with a creamy, slightly spicy coconut sauce.

Serves two.

For the fish:

  • 2 pike-perch fillets (or other mild white fish), about 250g each
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2 teaspoons wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

For the okra sauce:

  • 200g fresh green okra (ladyfingers)*
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 small(!) piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped (should be less than half the amount of garlic)
  • ½ teaspoon hot red chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 tablespoon coriander powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder
  • 200ml coconut milk
  • 220ml water
  • salt

*) The 200g are actually a guess. I have no idea how many okras I actually used. Pick what seems to be a generous amount for one person or a good side portion for two persons.

Season the fish fillets with lemon juice, salt and pepper and apply a thin(!) layer of the flour.

Rinse the okra well and remove the hard stems, but not the caps.

In a large wok or pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil and add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds. As soon as they begin to pop, add the onion slices. Fry until the onions are soft and transparent. Then add the garlic slices and ginger pieces. Fry for 2-3 minutes. The onions should become yellowy, but not brown.

Add the turmeric, coriander powder, chili powder and cumin powder and fry briefly, stirring well. Then add coconut milk, water, salt and the okra. Put the lid on and bring to boil; then let simmer over low heat for 10-15 minutes until the okra are soft, stirring occasionally.

While the okra are simmering, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large pan and fry the fish fillets over low to medium heat on both sides until golden brown.

To serve, put each fish fillet on a plate and cover with the okra and the sauce. Serve with rice.

Moules nature (Mussels)

Moules nature (Mussels)

This is really simple, so up to now I didn't think it would warrant an entry on this weblog, but since many people seem to think it's a lot more difficult, I decided to publish it nevertheless.

Make sure you get good quality live mussels. Usually you'll get the best mussels between September and March. Frozen mussels only have a fraction of the taste and a somewhat rubbery consistency, so avoid them unless you have no other choice. Also prepare them as soon as possible after buying them. They'll keep one or two days in the fridge if put in an open(!) bowl without(!) any water in it, but they're best when freshest.

Fresh mussels should not really smell of anything other than sea water. Stay clear of them if they have a fishy or even ammonia-like smell.

Unless served as a starter, the ingredients are per person:

  • 1kg live mussels
  • 1 celery stick, sliced
  • 3-4 shallots (depending on size), sliced
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 1 small bunch fresh green parsley, chopped

If you bought uncleaned mussels, clean the shells with a stiff kitchen brush. Pull out the hairy beard (byssus).

Better still, buy pre-cleaned mussels. They're more expensive, but it'll save you an hour of pretty tedious work.

Rinse under water and throw away all mussels with broken shells, open mussels and half-open mussels that don't close within a minute when you tap on the shell. Also check for beards and remove if necessary.

Put some water into a large pot. How much water is a matter of taste and testing, but you'll need a lot less water than you'd think at first. I usually use a 3-litre pot and fill in 1.5 cm (approx. 400-500ml) water. The mussels will lose a lot of water during the cooking process, so you really don't need more, and it doesn't taste nice if it becomes too watery.

Add the shallots, celery, parsley, salt, pepper and cleaned mussels. Stir, so that the ingredients are well mixed in the pot. Put the lid on and bring to the boil.

Once the water is boiling you'll notice immediately if you have enough water, as the pot will be on the brim of overboiling. Reduce the heat so that it doesn't, and cook for 3-4 minutes.

Remove from the heat and serve immediately, in the pot. As a side dish, serve French bread or French fries. Do NOT eat any mussels that have not opened.

Variations (all variations are based on the ingredients above):

  • for moules au vin blanc, use 200ml water and 250ml white wine and add a twig of rosemary.
  • for moules à l'ail, add 3 finely chopped cloves garlic.
  • for moules provençales, leave away the celery, use 150ml water and 250ml white wine and add 2 chopped skinned tomatoes, 2 chopped cloves garlic, half a small diced fennel bulb, 1 twig thyme and 1 twig rosemary.
  • for moules crème, use 300ml water and 125ml crème fraîche.

Spicy fish with chili and coriander

Spicy fish with chili and coriander

This is a delicious and very hot recipe. To serve 3, you need

  • 3 fish fillets, cod or haddock (about 200-250g each)
  • 4 onions, chopped
  • 3 bunches fresh green coriander, leaves and thin stalks, chopped
  • 6 green chilies, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.

Put all ingredients except the fish in a blender and whizz until smooth.

Put each piece of fish on a piece of thin foil and cover completely with the paste from the blender. Then wrap the fish in the foil.

Put the fish in the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes.

To serve, carefully remove the fish from the foil. The green paste should stick to the fish. Serve with rice.

Japanese vegetable soup with salmon

Japanese vegetable soup with salmon

Sorry for posting so irregularly on this recipe blog, but not only did I just have a stomach infection that kept me from cooking, I also have very little time to post here on a more-than-incidental basis. Subscribe to my RSS feed to be informed about updates as soon as they come in.

  • 1 sachet dashi powder
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • ½ Chinese cabbage, cut in 1x1-inch pieces
  • 4-5 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in water for 1 hour, then rinsed
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 cup bamboo sprouts
  • 150g salmon fillet
  • 150g tofu, cut in small cubes
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

In a pot, bring 1-2 cups of water to boil. Place the salmon fillet on an inset and cook it in the steam for 10 minutes with the lid on. Remove the inset and carefully cut the steamed salmon in 1x1 inch pieces. Put aside.

In a wok, heat 2-3 tablespoons oil and fry the onions until transparent. Add the carrots and bamboo sprouts, then, after 2-3 minutes, the Chinese cabbage. Stir fry for another 2-3 minutes, then add 1 litre water and bring to boil.

Add the dashi powder, shiitake mushrooms and tofu cubes. Stir well, then let simmer for 5 minutes. Add the rice wine and soy sauce, stir, then very carefully add the salmon cubes. Let simmer for one more minute, then serve immediately.

Pizza all' alice e fiori de zucca

Pizza all' alice e fiori de zucca

Although the first pumpkins are already in the shops, some of those in the garden are still in bloom, and it would be a real shame only to harvest the pumpkins and let the blooms go to waste. You can harvest the blooms once you think they've been pollinated, or when, after a few days, the outer edges of the blooms get wrinkly.

We're preparing this pizza alla Romana, meaning with a thin, slightly crispy base (unlike the Neapolitan thicker or the American very thick dough).

For a one-person pizza, you need:

  • ½ cup (100ml) tepid water
  • 12g fresh yeast
  • 150-200g flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 fresh tomatoes
  • 2 pumpkin blooms or courgette blooms
  • 4-5 anchovies
  • 125g mozzarella cheese

Dissolve the yeast in the tepid water, then add the olive oil. In a bowl, mix the salt and flour, then pour in the water, mix well until you have a dough. Remove from the bowl and knead well, adding more flour if necessary, until you have a smooth dough that does not stick to the fingers. The longer you knead, the better.

Put the dough back into the bowl, cover and let stand in a warm corner of the room for at least 15 minutes.

In the meantime briefly boil, then skin the tomatoes. Whizz them in a blender, then pour into a pot, add a bit of salt and olive oil and let simmer for some 10 minutes, the longer, the better.

Careflully pluck the pumpkin blooms apart, removing the hard bits, so that only the soft petals remain. Then carefully tear each bloom into 4-6 longish vertical stripes, depending on the size.

Cut the mozzarella cheese into smallish stripes or cubes. Pre-heat the oven to 250°C.

Remove the dough from the bowl and roll it out with a rolling pin until it is fairly thin. It should have something like a 12" diameter or slightly more. You can also pull the dough with your hands, but be careful that it doesn't tear.

Put the dough on a slightly-oiled baking tray. With a spoon, put a thin layer of the tomato sauce on top of it (if you didn't let it simmer very long, you may have too much tomato sauce - don't use all of it, or the pizza will not become crispy, but watery and yukky!). Next comes the mozzarella cheese, then the pumpkin petals and the anchovies. As the pumpkin blooms have a very subtle, delicate flavour, don't use too many anchovies, nor a different kind of cheese, or it will spoil the flavour.

Put in the oven and bake for about 5-10 minutes, until the cheese has melted, but not browned. Serve with a glass of red or white wine.

Fish stifado

Fish stifado

Stifado is a Greek dish (a kind of stew) that involves a lot of onions. The usual stifado is prepared with beef or rabbit; here's a variant with fish. It's a pretty easy, straightforward recipe. Serves four.

  • 1kg sea bass slices or similar fish
  • 5 medium-sized onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ cup (125ml) good olive oil
  • 500g puréed tomatoes (or passata)
  • 4 tablespoons red wine
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon bark
  • salt
  • pepper

Heat the oil to moderate temperature and brown the chopped onions and garlic. Add all the other ingredients except the fish plus 1 cups of water and let cook for 15 minutes. Then add the fish and let simmer for another 20 minutes.

Asparagus with shrimps

Asparagus with shrimps

A refreshing dish for a hot day like today. Serves 2.

  • 500g asparagus spears
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon fresh thyme or 1 teasponn dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped onion
  • 1 finely chopped clove garlic
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • pepper
  • 25ml red wine vinegar
  • 25ml olive oil
  • 50ml sunflower oil
  • 3 teaspoons finely chopped chives
  • 150g shrimps without shells

Cut the base of the asparagus stalks and peel them until about half way up the stalks. Tie them together with string and cook them for about 15 minutes in salted water. Get them out of the pan, rinse under cold water, then put them in the fridge to let them cool down.

In a bowl, mix the mustard, thyme, onion, garlic, salt, pepper and vinegar. Slowly pour the two oils over the mixture, whisking vigorously all the time to produce a smooth vinaigrette.

Mix the shrimps and the chopped chives.

Arrange half the asparagus stalks on a plate, pour half the vinaigrette over it, then put the half the shrimps on top of it. Serve with some bread and a fresh white wine.

As the asparagus season is almost over, this dish can also be prepared with leeks instead of asparagus. Simply remove the dark green leaves from the leeks, boil them for 20 minutes, season with lemon juice and let them cool down in the fridge. Then proceed as with the asparagus recipe.

Asparagus with gravad lax

Asparagus with gravad lax

I had this recently, and it's a feast, although it's almost too simple to prepare to warrant a recipe of its own. Still, as it's asparagus season, here we go (serves two):

  • 500g asparagus
  • sugar
  • salt
  • balsamic vinegar
  • 200g thinly sliced gravad lax (Swedish marinated salmon with dill)
  • 1 piece horseradish

Cut the base ends off the asparagus, then peel about two thirds up the stalks. Tie about half the stalks together with string, so that you have two bunches of asparagus (this is important so you can get them out of the pot later).

In a large pot, bring salted, sugared water to the boil, then put in the asparagus and let simmer until very tender, up to 20 minutes. Remove asparagus from the pot, cut the strings and let them dry and cool a bit.

Arrange the gravad lax (salmon) on one half of a plate and grate the horseradish over it. Put the asparagus on the other half; gently pour a little balsamic vinegar over the asparagus stalks, but make sure it doesn't mingle with the fish.

Serve with white bread and a glass of dry, fresh white wine like a young Austrian Grüner Veltliner.

(If you don't have gravad lax, smoked salmon will do, although this has a less subtle taste. If you don't have balsamic vinegar, you can use other kinds of vinegar, but again this might taste too intense. Also avoid wines that are too fruity or too sweet.)

Fish curry in coconut milk sauce

Fish curry in coconut milk sauce

This is another one of my favourites. Not only is it the simplest curry recipe that I know of, it's also extremely tasty.

  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • ½ teaspoon ginger powder
  • 3 fresh red chilies or 1 teaspoon ground dried chilies
  • 1 teaspoon tumeric
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander powder
  • 1 tablespoon wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup (250 ml) coconut milk
  • 500 g sole fillets (also tastes great with shark)
  • salt

Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok, add the onion and fry until brown. Add ginger, chilies, tumeric, coriander and mustard seeds and fry for a few minutes more over low heat, making sure the spices do not burn.

In a bowl, mix coconut milk, lemon juice, flour and salt, then pour the mixture into the frying pan. As soon as the sauce thickens, put in the fish fillets. Squeeze the garlic through a garlic press and put it on top of the fish fillets.

Cover the pan with a lid and let everything simmer over low heat until the fish is well done (about 15 minutes, depending on the size of the fish). Do not stir while it's cooking, just shake the pan from time to time so that nothing sticks to it. Serve with rice and/or chapatis.

Shrimps with string beans and chilies

Shrimps with string beans and chilies

A simple, yet delicious no-frills Thai-style recipe. Serves two to three, as usual.

  • 300 grams shrimps without shells, cooked
  • 300 grams string beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 medium-sized onions, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 pieces lemongrass, the white part very thinly sliced
  • 3 fresh red chilies, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt

Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok, then fry the onions until transparent. Add the lemongrass and chilies and squeeze in the 5 garlic cloves with a garlic press. Fry until the onion turns yellowish.

Add the string beans and fry for about five minutes (they should become very green in the process). Then add the rice vinegar, fish sauce, sugar and salt (if needed). Add the shrimps and let cook for one or two more minutes. Finally, add the chopped garlic cloves, stir briefly and serve immediately.