Tag Archives: olive oil

Moussaka (Greek aubergine and potato bake)

Moussaka is one of Pete’s most favourite dishes. When we went to Crete last year, practically every time we went out for dinner, whether at an upscale restaurant or a village cafe, he would order moussaka. (And I would just as obsessively order dolmades, not just because I love them but also because they were vegetarian and there were not enough vegetarian options barring salads or pizza. But vegetarian problems are not relevant to this blog, really.)

The moussakas (and dolmades too, come to think of it) weren’t always what he had hoped for, but when he came across one that hit the spot, his delight was boundless. And, of course, that particular cafe was the one we went back to thereafter, because as he kept saying “I know it’s good here, so why go anywhere else where it might not be as good?” He never did answer my question which was “What if it’s BETTER?”. Or rather, he said “What if it’s NOT?” Well, fair enough, because the dolmades at that cafe were pretty good, so I didn’t mind not going anywhere else. 
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Anyway, moussaka’s been on my “must try one day” list – just to make, not to eat, because I am a rabid anti-auberginarian and I don’t care who knows it! It’s a good thing that discrimination against aubergines is not a crime because I’d be jailed before you could say “aubergine”. or “eggplant”. Or “brinjal”. Or “kathirikkai”. Or “baingan”. Or in any of the other languages in which aubergines exist.

So, as I was saying, this weekend I decided would be my time to make moussaka. I thought it would be a painfully protracted process (ha, try saying that three times when you’re drunk!), but it wasn’t as bad as I’d expected – mainly, I suppose, because I scaled down the original recipe to make two generous (or three medium) portions. That meant that the aubergines and potatoes didn’t take too long to fry. However, I guess if you have a book in hand for this part of the cooking process, you won’t really notice the time it takes. 

Recipe for: Moussaka (Greek aubergine and potato bake)
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Linguini with squid in tomato-garlic sauce

So, squid.

Today, peoples, we will be cooking squid. If, like me, you don’t like the smell of seafood, I should warn you that squid will probably make a temporary mouth-breather of you. The important word here is “temporary”. It only lasts for as long as you’re around the squid. Once it’s cooked and served up, you will find your nose taking over that breathing thing once again, leaving your mouth free for talking or eating something that isn’t squid.

Ok, I’m being mean – truthful, but mean. I mean, I don’t want to put anybody off calamari (that’s squid in American, I believe) – neither the eating, nor the cooking. Then again, I guess anybody who loves this stuff isn’t going to be bothered by anything I say here.

The good thing about squid is that it’s quick to cook, like most of the seafood I’ve posted about on this blog so far. It also doesn’t make your whole house smell of seafood (unlike, say, sardines). I used pre-prepared frozen squid. (I’ve not tried cooking fresh squid, and I’m certainly not about to prepare the squid personally.) All I did was defrost it (place in warm water for 5  minutes, then give it 2 minutes defrosting in the microwave). Wash again and pat dry as much as possible, using paper towels. Then cut it up into rings about 1 cm wide. Leave the tentacles as they are, or you can cut them up smaller if you like.
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Once that’s done, cooking the squid is a doddle. You can make the pasta sauce with fresh tomatoes if that’s how you like it, But If you use jarred ready made pasta sauce (like I did this time), this recipe comes together quicker than quick.
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Rainbow trout with creamy chopped egg sauce

It’s been quite a while since my last post here.

I know, I’ve probably used that same intro for other posts too, probably word for word – on this blog, and on my vegetarian food blog too. Suffice it to say that I’m still looking for my mojo when it comes to posting something new. I’m trying, though.

Rainbow trout fillets

Anyway, I came across a recipe a couple of days back in The Guardian newspaper that kind of intrigued me, because it involved eggs and fish, a combination I had never come across on any food blog that I’d seen so far. As an added bonus, the ingredient list was pleasingly simple, so I went out that same evening and bought the required fish fillets.

Ok, the fish I bought (rainbow trout) was not the fish specified in the recipe (sea trout). Sea trout? What the heck is THAT? And where do you even get it? I was too shy to ask the fishmonger at Sainsbury’s, so I decided that one reddish fish was much the same as any other reddish fish. (Please don’t fillet me for that blasphemous statement, o fish purists!)

They weren’t whole fish, by the way. They were rainbow trout fillets, de-boned and blissfully unfussy to cook (and eat).

I also wasn’t going to buy double cream just for this recipe when I had creme fraiche at home, so creme fraiche was what I used. If you have/want double cream, by all means go with it. 
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Hake steak bake

You could be forgiven for wondering if I bought the hake just so I could make a play with words in the title! But it wasn’t like that – honest! I was looking for fish to try for Pete at Sainsbury’s. It was about 6.45 p.m, and the fish counter was just beginning to close. I was wondering what to get, staring at some swordfish, when the fishmonger pointed out that there were some fish that were being sold at a discount because they were closing. I didn’t want to get salmon – they’re not Pete’s most favourite fish – so when I saw the hake steaks, I knew what he was going to have for dinner.

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Not that knew for certain that the hake steaks would withstand baking without falling apart, but  I was fairly sure that as they were steaks, the fish was probably less delicate than others and would stand up to being baked. I was right. 

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Baked salmon fillets

This recipe for cooking salmon fillets comes from my good friend Prema, and it is all thanks to her status message on Facebook which mentioned that she had cooked salmon for her family’s dinner. But there was no recipe. Naturally I had to ask her for it, and she provided me with some simple instructions. I followed her fishy (just kidding, Prema! *wink*) advice to use plenty of freshly ground coriander seeds, but changed the spice rub mix somewhat because of wanting to try out the Za’atar (a Middle Eastern spice mix of sumac, thyme, sesame seeds, marjoram and oregano) that had arrived from Amazon. I was slightly worried that the sesame seeds would just fall off the salmon, so I pounded the Za’atar (not the whole bottle, just the amount I was going to use) and coriander seeds in a mortar and pestle. I have to say it worked fine.

When I bought the salmon fillets, I hadn’t noticed that the fishmonger had put two free pats of some kind of herb butter (I assumed herb as it was greenish in colour!) in the pouch. I guess the idea was to bake the salmon in the bag and let the butter flavour the fillets. But I didn’t notice this until I had cut the pouch open. For a moment it was disconcerting because, you know, there’s no un-cutting a cut bake-in-the-bag bag.

Then I remembered that I was not going to cook it that way anyway, I was going to follow Prema’s advice! I felt pretty sheepish at this point, but luckily there was nobody around to see my expression, even if my initial dismay and subsequent relief was all in my head!

I used the butter too – I didn’t want to throw the pats away, and I couldn’t use them for cooking anything else because they had had a very intimate relationship with the raw fish fillets. So in the end I just placed them on the fillets just before putting them in the oven. I figured that the butter would melt and leave behind the herb flavouring, and I was right. When the fillets were cooked, I simply removed them from the baking tray, leaving the melted butter behind.
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Oh, and another thing – I used a really fancy salt (Hawaiian red clay sea salt) that I’d bought from an organic supermarket called PCC, when I was in Seattle last month visiting my family. I used it in this recipe because I suddenly remembered that I had not yet tried this salt. It’s a reddish colour (hence the name, duh) but basically it tastes just like salt. There were lots of other gourmet salts to buy there but I restricted myself to just three types because PCC, while being a fabulous place for great food and grocery, all organic and preservative-free, is FREAKING expensive!

I deliberately didn’t use all the marinade for the fish because I wanted to do as Prema had suggested, and use the marinade to roast some potatoes to serve with the fish. Softer vegetables (like peppers or tomatoes) can be put in the oven to roast along with the fish fillets, but if you’d like to use potatoes or parsnips, given them a 10-minute head start in the hot oven before putting the fish in.

Anyway… I’m definitely liking cooking fish, because it’s simple, quick or simple AND quick. I’m beginning to realise that cooking small portions of fish is not really a problem. The time to worry is when I’m faced with having to cook an entire salmon, but I think that will not be taking place this side of never.
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Smoked haddock and fennel pie

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I’m always on the lookout for fish dishes for Pete that seem easy to make, and The Guardian and The Telegraph are my favourite places to scout for them. I adore Wednesdays and Thursdays in The Guardian (because of Angela Hartnett on Wednesdays and Felicity Cloake on Thursdays), and Stevie Parle in The Telegraph (although I’m not as certain about when the recipes appear in the newspaper). I read all the recipes, doable and otherwise, and print off a good few of them. However, my record with making them isn’t as good as my record with printing them, and definitely nowhere near as good as my record at reading them. I suppose I consider myself up on the deal if I manage to make one recipe for every dozen printed off. This was one of those that made it from newspaper to printout to plate.
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Sausage and bell pepper rice

This recipe came about because there were four Morrisons best sausages that had been sitting in the fridge for a few days. Every evening I would ask Pete if he wanted the sausages for his supper, and every evening, without fail, he would end up eating something else. I was getting daymares (as opposed to nightmares) about Pete getting food poisoning because I cooked and served him sausages that had expired. He kept assuring me that they were okay, but I’m extremely suspicious of any non-vegetarian items. They just seem too prone to making people ill – undercooked chicken, stale fish, meat past its eat-by date… all of these can give one severe food poisoning. And I’m extra wary of them because they look innocent enough even if they’re teeming with deadly bacteria – they smell and look the same to me. On the other hand, undercooked vegetables won’t make you severely ill – they just won’t taste good…

But no, I’m here to get over my fear of non-vegetarian cooking, so I’ll continue with the saga of the sausages. I looked up some jambalaya recipes on the internet, but they mostly required shrimp and chicken and something called Andouille sausages (which I know nothing about), so I didn’t bother with them. Then I came across a recipe by Gordon Ramsay, and that turned out to be JUST the ticket – I had almost everything on the ingredient list, bar a 1/2 cup of white wine. What you don’t have, you gotta do without – so I did.

Squeezing the sausagemeat out of the skin was possibly one of the most unpleasant feelings ever – at least it was to me. It just didn’t feel right… however, I persevered and crumbled it into small pieces. I say “crumbled”, but what I really mean is “pinched off bits”. If you can get over that, this is a very simple one-pot dish. Smells pretty good, and apparently the smell didn’t lie.

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