Sunday, 29 March 2009

Use a Sprat to Catch a Mackerel

Or a sprout...

If you are wondering what on earth I am talking about, I am not surprised! It is an old saying that to catch a mackerel, you need to use a small fish as bait. The moral being that:

"If you use a sprat to catch a mackerel, you make a small expenditure or take a small risk in the hope of a much greater gain."
Right, back to the point of this post - sprats! Or sprattus sprattus to give them their full name. They were on special offer in Tesco fish counter this week for £3 a kilo! There are not many fish available as cheaply as that, so I snapped up 300 g for under £1.

To cook them, no gutting or filleting is needed as they can be eaten whole. Rinse under cold water, pat dry then coat them with seasoned flour.

Heat some oil in a large frying pan or if you have a chip pan, that would be ideal. I used light olive oil to fry them in.

Fry the sprats in batches for about 2-3 minutes each maximum until golden brown.

Remove from the oil carefully using a slotted spoon and then place on some kitchen towel to remove some more of the oil. Keep them warm in the oven whilst you cook the remaining batches, then serve with salad and lemon to squeeze over them.

As my fiancee seemed to baulk at none too happy at the idea of eating fishes with eyes and bones, I ended up eating the whole 300 g myself! I was rather full afterwards, but a very tasty meal nonetheless.

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Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Salmon and Spinach Fish Cakes

  • 450 g salmon, no skin, cut into chunks
  • 300 g potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed with butter
  • 100 g spinach - blanched and drained well
  • Salt and pepper
  • Grated rind of 1 lemon
  • Cottage cheese or creme fraiche to serve
I found some cheap salmon in Tesco the other day, they are fillets but small scraps and ends. Not particularly attractive to look at, but nice and cheap, and perfect for fishcakes.

Blanche the spinach, either in hot water or very quickly in the microwave. Squeeze well to remove any water (too much water will make the cakes soggy).

Place the mash, spinach, lemon rind, salmon and salt and pepper into a food processor (like my Magimix 4200). Pulse the mixer to blend it all together. Do NOT over-blend as you will end up with mush. It is better to have chunky bits of fish still visible.

Shape into fish cakes - the mixture should be enough for 4-6 cakes. Dust lightly with flour.

Heat a large heavy frying pan to medium heat, then add a little oil. Fry the fish cakes for 4-5 minutes each side, turning once only. Don't fiddle about with them too much otherwise you will end up breaking them before they are cooked.

That's it! Serve with some mushy peas for a chip-shop style meal, and a nice dollop of creme fraiche or smooth cottage cheese.

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Sunday, 8 March 2009

Cauliflower Cheese

The perfect accompaniment to many a roast dinner, this is a hearty and comforting dish (possibly because of all the cheese!). The cheese sauce has been described before, in this recipe for broccoli and blue cheese pasta.

1 cauliflower
100 g cheddar
Salt and pepper
25 g butter
25 g flour
~1 pint milk
1 tsp English mustard powder

Have an admiring look at your cauliflower. It is not a sickly looking piece of broccoli, but a flowering member of the cabbage family in its own right. According to the "ever-reliable" Wikipedia...
Cauliflower is low in fat, high in dietary fiber, folate, water and vitamin C, possessing a very high nutritional density. As a member of the brassica family, cauliflower shares with broccoli and cabbage several phytochemicals which are beneficial to human health, including sulforaphane, an anti-cancer compound released when cauliflower is chopped or chewed.

Remove the leafy part. These are actually edible, but I haven't eaten them before and I expect they are a bit tough.
Chop into florets and steam/ par boil in a pan. I usually steam vegetables if possible, as there is less water involved, so less chance of losing the vitamins from the veg into the water. About 5-7 minutes steaming is enough for a cauliflower, depending on how big you chop it.
Now prepare a cheese sauce, not forgetting the secrets to making a good cheese sauce. Melt the butter in a pan on a low heat.

Add the flour and stir well.

Add a little bit of the milk, then mix well until the consistency as smooth. Keep doing this, adding a little bit of milk and mixing until all the milk is added.

Still using a very low heat, bring the sauce just up to the boil and remove from the heat.

Now it is time to liven up the sauce a little with the addition of cheese, salt and pepper and some English mustard powder (I love the iconic design of the Colman's mustard tin - I am sure it has remained unchanged since it was established in 1814!). Add half of the grated cheese to the sauce, a teaspoon of mustard powder and salt and pepper to taste.

Place the cooked cauliflower in a baking dish, cover with the cheese sauce and then the remaining grated cheese. Sprinkle on a bit more salt and pepper.

Bake in the oven at 180C for about 20-30 minutes, until you get a nice golden crust on the top.

Serve at once.

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Sunday, 1 March 2009

Lemon Chicken Drumsticks

This is a very simple and tasty recipe concocted from various similar sounding things around the web.


  • 8-9 chicken drumsticks
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 red onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
Slice the onions finely, peel the garlic gloves and keep them whole. Mix it up a bit and place in a roasting dish. Zest the lemon over the top of it, then squeeze the juice of the lemon into the dish. Place the two lemon halves under the chicken. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil over the top.

Roast in the oven at 170C for 30 minutes, then turn the drumsticks over. Return to the oven for another 20-30 minutes. Once the legs are golden they should be just about ready.

Munch on them as they are from your hands, or go fancy and serve them on a plate with some vegetables.

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