Sunday, 22 August 2010

Arctic Char with Roasted Fennel and Grated Tricolour Carrots

When Cowie was last over in Sweden we had a cracking dinner at a small restaurant and bar called Stearin, in Gothenburg’s trendy Linne district. My beef was delicious, but it was Cowie’s fillet of crispy skinned and soft fleshed röding that really caught our attention. We couldn’t work out what the mystery fish was. We left the restaurant convinced we had eaten trout but then found out via the magic of the interweb that röding is actually arctic char.

Fish Church 2

So when I saw a fillet of röding in the Feskekôrka I snapped it up and made it my mission to recreate the dish. I decided to make good use of an abundance of mulitcoloured carrots which seemed to be behaving like a chameleon as they changed colour to match the pink and purple speckled fish skin. And a stray fennel bulb seemed like a good idea too. As did an orange and a lemon.


Fillet of Arctic Char
Half a fennel bulb
3 grated carrots
1 orange
1 lemon
1 tablespoon of honey
2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
Some chopped parsley
Glug of olive oil
Half a red chilli
Salt and pepper


Roast the fennel in a hot oven with a wedge or two of orange for 30 minutes, or until soft and slightly coloured.

Grate your carrots. I used my MagiMix which took a mere 4 seconds and made me feel like a WI superhero! Dress the carrots with a mixture of olive oil, honey, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, orange zest and finely sliced red chilli. As well as some salt and pepper.

Grated carrots

Season the fish and sear skin side down until the skin is crisp. Then turn over and barely cook. You want the fish to be mooing.

Arrange the plate with the fennel as the foundation and balance the fish on top with the carrots looking like an upturned birds nest on the edge of the plate.

Artic char with grated carrots

It’s a delicious, light summer dish that would work just as well with salmon or trout. The carrots, with their citrus, honey and chilli notes and the sweet, aromatic fennel more than played their part too.

Further reading:

More information about Arctic Char on Chow
Swedish recipe for röding and an interesting Scandinavian food blog

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Seared Salmon with Cauliflower Puree and Redcurrant Sauce


I came home from the market with a bag full of treats and a brain that was racing with ideas about what to do with all my lovingly purchased ingredients. Bargainous oxtail and short ribs went straight into the freezer taking with them a meaty portion of my “what to cook” conundrum. I stood looking at my haul playing a mental game of word association, but with food. Then, with a shard of crimson inspiration, things clicked into place.

Redcurrants close

Super fresh redcurrants glowed like rubies, begging to be matched with a fillet of salmon that was so fresh I imagine there’s a fish swimming around with an oblong hole in its side. And with an absence of potatoes, a cauliflower raised a hand and volunteered to fill in. Seared salmon with cauliflower mash and redcurrant sauce may sound like something Alan Partridge may pitch as the name of his new TV show, but I can assure you it is delicious.

Ingredients to serve one (sob sob):

1 salmon fillet with the skin very much still on
Handful of redcurrants
5 cardamom pods
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
Half a head of cauliflower
250ml of milk
2 table spoons of crème fraiche
1 tablespoon of grated horseradish
1 tablespoon of honey
Salt and pepper


Start by making your cauliflower mash. Saute the onion and garlic gently until soft. Don’t let them colour. Cut the cauliflower into small pieces and simmer in the milk. Be careful not to burn the milk. When soft blitz in a blender and then add the crème fraiche. The consistency should be smooth and soft. Season with alacrity and add the grated horseradish if you fancy a bit of warmth.

Add the redcurrants and cardamom to a pan and just cover with water. Boil until the currants of soft and the liquid is red. Pass through a sieve and return to the pan. Add the honey and reduce until it is syrupy. (If you carry on reducing it and then let it cool it will become jelly).

Then season your salmon and sear skin side down to crisp up the skin. Turn it over and barely cook until it is rare. Spoon the cauliflower puree onto a plate and place the salmon on top. Dress with redcurrant sauce and serve.

Salmon with cauliflower puree and redcurrant sauce

I was rather pleased with how it turned out. The earthy flavour of cauliflower was a good foil for the salmon whilst the sweet, sour and aromatic redcurrant sauce added a powerful counterpoint. The blood coloured moat made it look like it had been cooked by Dexter. My favourite part of the dish was the way that everything was so soft except for the lusciously crispy salmon skin which snapped, cracked and crunched in equal measure.

Further reading:

Redcurrant sauce
Cauliflower puree

Monday, 16 August 2010

Tricolour Carrot Tagliatelle with Orange Zest, Coriander Seeds and Scallops


This started out as a healthy experiment that worked well in principle but wasn’t quite right taste wise and evolved into a dish I’m really proud of. Inspired by the success of making salsify tagliatelle I thought it would be fun to do something similar with carrots. But whereas the creamy seafood sauce worked wonders with the salsify thanks to the white root vegetable’s oystery taste, my horseradish carbonara was best consigned to the compost bin.

Carrot tagliatelle 3

Carrot tagliatelle

But rather than give up I mulled things over, invested in some multi-coloured carrots and had a look in my Flavour Thesaurus. Prior to peeking inside, I had wondered whether orange and a Middle Eastern spice might work well and was delighted when I stumbled across the fact that Niki Segnit recommends both orange and coriander seeds as two great flavour combinations to throw at carrots. So I thought, what the hell, let’s try both. And then threw some scallops in as well to turn it into a proper meal.

Heritage carrots


A bunch of peeled, long, multi-coloured carrots
Coriander seeds
2 oranges
4 scallops
Red chilli


Using a vegetable peeler, cheese slicer or mandolin, shave your carrots into thin strips. Then cut all these carrot strips into tagliatelle width slithers. You’ll be left with a bowl of raw carrot tagliatelle.

Multicoloured carrot

Squeeze the two oranges into a pan and reduce the juice with a tea spoon of honey and some crushed coriander seeds. Add the zest of half an orange and check to see it all taste vibrant. I added a touch of chopped red chilli as well for good measure, but you needn’t if you don’t fancy it.

Then boil the carrots briefly in salted water. And sear your scallops having seasoned them first.

Add the carrots to the sauce and combine. Serve in a bowl. Season. And then add the scallops on top. Then gasp at how beautiful, healthy and delicious this is. It may not be a traditional bowl of pasta. But it’s certainly strikingly different.

Tricolour carrot tagliatelle with scallops

If you've got any thoughts about flavours and sauces that could accompany carrot tagliatelle please let me know...

Further reading (beware it's all a bit health foody):

Griddled salmon with carrot spaghetti

Carrot spaghetti with green pesto
Carrot tagliatelle with almond garlic and brocoli

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Langoustine Fregola

Fregula sarda

One of our favourite meals in Sardinia was a bowlful of comforting fregola, strewn with mussels and fire licked vegetables, laced with mullet stock and lifted by a kick of chilli and a blast of lemon zest. It was our take on a Sardinian classic. Just without the pricey clams, saffron or tomatoes! After we’d devoured what was in our tangerine coloured bowls, I couldn’t help myself from scooping out the residual grains of moistened fregola from the discarded mussel shells.

Fresh from having our fregola virginity stripped away from us, my curiosity took over and lead me into the darkened corners of the information super-highway, where people discuss how to hand roll semolina so it turns into perfectly irregular nuggets of pasta-cum-couscous. It seems that fregola is a culinary palimpsest, showing the influence that Arabic culture has imparted on Italy. All of which is fairly ironic considering some of the nationalistic rumblings that occasionally get expelled from the mouths of officious Italian politicians about evil foreign food.

The main differences between the two are that fregola is toasted, giving it a nutty quality and that couscous tends to be much more granular. Meanwhile, to confuse matter, Israeli couscous is normally the size of a small pea and untoasted.

The fregola we encountered in Sardinia was gnarly and unevenly coloured which gives it a characteristic, hand made charm and could well be the basis for its name. As SFGate says, “The name fregola probably derives from Italian fregare, meaning to rub, an apt description of how moistened semolina is transformed into fregola's coarse crumbs.”

So back in Sweden I decided to revisit our Sardinian adventures by creating a bowl of langoustine loaded fregola as a sort of Sarda-Scandi fusion.


Langousitine mass

I blitzed the Fishchurch and left carrying a bagful of langoustines and a hake carcass which I had wangled for free. Brilliantly, the fishmonger had been more careless than frugal so there was still plenty of meat on the bones, especially around the head, so it made for excellent stock.


1 hake carcass plus accompanying stock vegetables in order to make a litre of fish stock
200 grams of fregola
4 raw langoustines
2 handfuls of spinach
2 cloves of garlic
1 onion - finely chopped
Orange zest
Half a finely chopped red chilli
Olive oil
Chilli sauce


Boil the fish carcass along with a carrot, a stick of celery and an onion for 30 minutes. Strain the liquid and discard the bone and keep any meat that falls off. Reduce the stock, but don’t go too crazy because it can go gluey.

Meanwhile sauté the onion until softened and add the minced garlic. Then add the fregola and enough stock to cover. Cook until the fregola is soft and season. Grate the zest of an orange into the fregola and stir through half a red chilli. Then add the langoustines and cook them until they change colour followed by the spinach which you just want to wilt and add colour.

Check the seasoning and serve with the claws hanging over the edge of the bowl. I added a splash of chilli sauce at the end just to give it a lift as well, but that’s optional.

Langoustine with fregula

It’s very moreish. Luckily I didn’t eat both portions and managed to save some fregola for my next meal, which found its way into a roasted red pepper.

Further reading:

Chocolate and Zucchini recipe for fregola sarda
SFGate on fregola
Fregola with leeks and sausage
Fregola with goats curd, tomatoes and asparagus on Eat Like a Girl
Fregola sarda with vegetables and wild garlic pesto
Artisan pastas
How to make fregola by hand

Monday, 9 August 2010

Cooking in Sardinia

Costa del Sud plus boat

View from our flat

We spent an indecently brilliant week in South West Sardinia, staying in an utterly perfect apartment, soaking up sunshine like a roll of Bounty and gorging on food that was so fresh and irregularly shaped that it would have given a supermarket buyer an aneurism. We whiled away our days on sensational beaches and the evenings cooking the best food Sardinia’s lader had to offer on our patio.

You’d expect Sardinia to be obsessed with fish, but curiously it isn’t. Historically Sardinia is a land of hunters who stayed away from the coastline to avoid marauders and malaria whilst spearing wild boar and roasting a variety of animals over juniper wood fires. They are famous for their pork, lamb and goat rather than fancy fish dishes.

Arriving at Calleforte

Isola di San Pietro, marooned off the industrial zone of Portovesme is a notable exception, given that it is often touted as being the home to the world’s best tuna. The island was named, apparently, after Saint Peter who landed there around AD46 to avoid some vicious baddies. He chose a good place to drop into because it is a stunning island that reminded us of a mini Monaco crossed with Havanna.


If you are fortunate enough to get stranded here, you must try their local specialties of tuna such as intestine and a type of ham like salt cured tuna fillet called mosciame which was a revelation. I had to erect a mini barrier to stop Cowie’s fork from infiltrating my plate! All of this tuna-mania is based on the ancient island ritual for catching the fish in enormous nets which bring the tuna into an a small harbour in Carloforte where the sea turns red as they club the tuna to death. It’s all pretty grim, but the tuna tastes amazing. The videos below show the complex series of nets that are placed meticulously to trap the fish… and then the second video shows the catch being landed and the sea turning red. It’s quite dramatic. Look out for a tuna that is the size of a small London flat. But if you’ve feeling squeamish, be warned…

Other Sardinian specialities include fregula – which is a sort of pasta version of couscous, bottarga – which is salted and dried mullet roe with a flavour that is reminiscent of anchovies and a very flat crisp bread called Pane Carasau – which is, bizarrely quite Scandinavian.

We only ate out once, so had the luxury of cooking with each other for the first time in months. We came back from Teulada’s well stocked market with our fingers almost bleeding from carrying bags full of ripe produce such as gorgeous peaches, melons that smelled indecently fresh and some pecorino that had to be taken away from me because I was nibbling it all the way home.

I’ve got a few recipes set aside for further posts including a cauliflower salad, fun with fregula and spaghetti with bottarga, so in the meantime, here’s a taste of some of the most pleasurable and simple meals of our year so far…


Peaches wrapped in ham

We quickly singed peaches, figs and apricots over the coals and provocatively draped them with hand carved local ham and were in awe of how good they were. It’s a sickening cliché, but when food is this fresh all treating it simply works best.

Fish stew

An amazing fish stew made by charring a range of Mediterranean vegetables over some very hot coals with grey mullet and a garlic tomato concoction.

Tomato mozzarela salad 2

A super fresh tomato, mozzarella and basil salad.

Fregula sarda

Fregula with charred Mediterranean vegetables and mussels.

Smokey aubergine dip with tapenade

Smokey aubergine dip with tapenade

Cauliflower salad

Cauliflower salad with olives, sun dried tomatoes and chilli

Spaghetti alla bottarga 2

Spaghetti alla bottarga

Further reading:

The Sardinian Cookbook
Pane Carasau
The tuna rap of Carloforte
Casa Teulada

Sunday, 1 August 2010

The Felin Fach Griffin

Felin Fach Griffin sign

Last summer we had one of our most memorable meals at The Gurnard’s Head in Zennor, which is the other side of St Ives. As ever we had found it in Diana Henry’s Gastro Pub Cookbook and it had lived up to her glowing recommendation. My grey mullet and fish soup will stay with me for a long time. And the moment we reluctantly left we set our eyes and hearts on a trip to their other inn, The Felin Fach Griffin near the Brecon Beacons.

We took advantage of their special deal which treated us to dinner, bed and breakfast for only a fraction more than dinner would have been on its own and enjoyed our experience from rainy start to dog cuddling end. Given that they implore you to “Eat. Drink. Sleep” it made even more sense.

The bar and restaurant areas are as snug as a tea cosy and the art and photographs adorning the walls tell a story that appeals to wondering imaginations. In particular we loved a series of photographs of enormous vegetables and the undersides of some rather well uddered cows. After our spectacular drive through the Brecon Beacons where we had admired some stunning waterfalls we collapsed into their timeworn leather sofas and felt as if we had become part of the family and not customers.


The dinner menu was blissfully brief – avoiding the habbit many pubs have fallen into of throwing every dish they can think of at the menu in the hope that a few will stick. Ingredients are genuinely local as are many of the customers although some are more exotic. The group on the next table included one of the photographers whose work was on the walls and a charming lady who runs Brecon Holiday Cottages. On the far side of the room sat an Canadian girl, eagerly reading her book. We later found out she was a jorunalist reporting on the Hay Festival.

With no car to worry about and only a flight of stairs to negotiate we tucked into a couple of generous gin and tonics before testing out their wines by the carafe. Some piercing Sauvingon Blanc tickled our lips whilst we enjoyed our starers. Cowie enjoyed her jamon persile which was deeply piggy, with jelly that was unctuous rather than icky. Whilst my goats’ curd with tapenade and explosively flavourful olives was delicious. Both were elegantly presented without looking like a tart who has spent 3 hours preening herself before tottering down her front steps.

Cowie had some pink duck for her main course that had been cooked sous vide. Sadly this meant the skin was a bit flabby and the flavour of the duck was somewhat lost. It was a shame because the meat was clearly very high quality and came from a few farms away. I read once that sous vide works best with fish and lean meat and for some reason doesn’t do well with large seams of fat. I’m not an expert, but with a sample of one dish, this piece of pseudo-scientific folklore seems to hold true.

I adored my main course of local pig cooked four ways. Belly was moist, piggy and crisp on top. I teased it apart and considered regurgitating it so I could enjoy it all over again. The blood pudding, cheek and fillet were just as good and had me groaning in greedy approval. I imagine it was this sort of firm handshake cooking that Jay Rayner approved of when he visited.

After such a rich main couse I have no idea how I came to order a slice of chocolate nemesis. It was, no doubt, delicious, but I couldn’t cope with its intensity. And opted instead to use my powers of disraction to devour most of Cowie’s dessert instead!

Her pudding was the best we’ve had in ages. Intensely flavoured rhubarb compote hid under a layer of creamy vanilla panacotta. I know it’s hardly original, but when you encounter a pudding as perfect as this, and served so unetentiosuly in an tall glass tumbler, it reveals the whole restaurant’s approach in one dish. The flavours are left to speak for themselves without recourse to foams and slicks of sauce. Ingredients are seasonal (this was in May). And presentation is unpretentious and designed to let you enjoy the food rather than add a mediating layer of fuss and cheffery. In short our rhubarb pannacotta was the perfect distillation of what a true “gastro pub” should be like. It was so good I decided to draw it, although the image does it barely any justice.

Rhubarb pannacotta

We retired to the bar for coffee where we whiled away the next hour or so talking about photography and the local area with the photographer and the lady who runs the holiday cottage business – who pointed us in the direction of a cracking farm shop and their Facebook page which are well worth a look if you are planning a trip to the area.


We arose to copies of the Guardian and an exceptional breakfast that was served in the Aga room. It’s almost worth going for the breakfast alone which was super local, but more importantly cooked by someone who likes to eat a cooked breakfast themselves on a regular basis.

We set off back for England, through undulating countryside with smiles on our faces and fingers crossed that Charles Inkin might consider opening up either near Gotheburg or in Somerset. His two inns are near perfect in everything they do. If you happen to be planning a trip to Cornwall or Wales, take the time to make a diversion to either The Gurnard’s Head or the Felin Fach Grifin.

Felin Fach Griffin fireplace


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