Sunday, 22 September 2013

Panamanian Fish with Rice & Peas

This, I believe, is a Panamanian recipe of a kind of “escabeche de Pescado” (I’ll get to that) served with Arroz con guandú - or rice with (pigeon) peas.

Panamanian cuisine is uniquely and richly mixed - as a land bridge between two continents, there are an unusual variety of ingredients and the cuisine itself reflects its diverse population: African,Spanish, Native American, Asian with foods tending to be less pungently spiced that its Latin American and Caribbean neighbors.

The pigeon pea itself has many names: Gandule bean, Congo pea, gungo pea, gunga pea, and so on. The rice with pigeon peas is obviously very similar to “Rice & Peas” which in the UK tends to be made with kidney beans. A little word of warning regarding the Scotch Bonnet - don’t chop it up whatever you do - you want it to infuse the rice with a warm aroma rather than (blow the back of your head off) spice!

The fish in tomato & pepper sauce reminds me of a fish escabeche - an Afro / Antillean meal apparently brought to Panama during the construction of the Canal. Escabeche refers to a dish of either poached or fried fish marinated in an acidic mixture (usually vinegar) before serving.

I came across the recipe here and I can’t really remember what impelled me to cook it but I am very glad I did - very tasty, very comforting. By the way, I don't usually write cup measures in my recipes as it is a very specific thing; in this case it just seemed easier to do so where I have. If you don't have a culinary cup set (but they are pretty handy), 1 cup is equivalent to about 250ml.

Panamanian Fish with Rice & Pigeon Peas
Serves 2

For the rice
150g long grain rice
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup boiling water
½ tsp caster sugar
150g tinned pigeon peas, drained
small handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped
1 scotch bonnet chilli, left whole

Put the rice in a heavy bottomed saucepan that has a lid and mix in the pigeon peas, sugar, coconut milk and water. Bring to a boil.

Give the rice a good stir, turn down the heat to low, place the chilli on top and then cover the pan with a lid.

Cook for 15 minutes but give it a stir halfway through cooking time.

Once done take off the heat, stir through the coriander and leave to one side, covered until you are ready to serve.

For the fish
2 sea bass filets
1 ½ cups soy sauce
grind of fresh nutmeg
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
plain flour
1 onion finely chopped
4 garlic cloves
1 vegetable stock cube
1 ½ cups water
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp dry Mexican oregano (or normal if that is what you have)
2 big tomatoes finely chopped
½ red pepper finely chopped
½ green pepper finely chopped
2 tbsp of the soy marinade (or to taste), from the fish
2 tbsp olive oil + a little extra

Marinate the fish in the soy sauce, nutmeg and salt and pepper for at least half an hour.

Remove from the marinade, shaking off the excess and dredge the fillets in flour.

Fry in a little olive oil for about 3 minutes per side until golden brown.

Remove the fish from the frying pan and wipe it out with kitchen towel.

Put 2 tbsp of oil in the frying pan over a medium-low heat and add the onion, garlic and crumbled stock cube. Let the onions soften for about 5 minutes.

Add the vinegar, peppers, water, oregano and tomatoes with a couple of tablespoons of the soy marinade from the fish and let the sauce simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes or so.

Lay the fried fish fillets on top of the sauce and gently cook for a further 5 minutes.

Divide the rice between two plates, place the fish on top and spoon over the vegetable sauce.

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Sunday, 15 September 2013

Lamb Meatballs with Broad Beans, Herbs & Lemon

A lamb recipe swiftly followed by another if only to prove myself a liar.. In the last post I mentioned that I couldn’t get hold of any broad beans anywhere near me - well, only the next day, on the way back from lunch at Mum’s we made a slight detour to the Waitrose in the City and hurrah! There they were. Big smiles. I should point out that I tend to have a 4-6 week lag between cooking things and blogging them so at the time they were of course in season.

This recipe is one of the reasons I had been on the hunt for them (just to be clear however, out of season feel free to use frozen). One from Ottolenghi featured in his recipe book “Jerusalem” I had seen it mentioned on a few forums & posted comments on blogs but the only link was to an expired copyright page (and therefore non-existent) on the Food section of the Guardian online*.

I’m nothing if not an expert googler (in my world) so did eventually find a few other blogs that had cooked it themselves and had kindly provided the recipe (here and here are two of them).

Minor changes: the original recipe had ⅓ lamb to ⅔ beef - I love the depth of flavour and sweetness to lamb mince and this sort of ratio is kind of inconvenient so I just used lamb. On this occasion I was unable to get hold of dill so I left this out but very slightly increased the quantity of the parsley, mint & coriander.

This was utterly delicious: richly flavoured succulent meatballs in a lovely fresh & fragrant lemony herby broth. With of course one of my favourite vegetables: a definite keeper.

* Edit - as it turns out the recipe on the Guardian website is now, weirdly back up and can be seen here (maybe I imagined it had been removed...)

Lamb Meatballs with Broad Beans, Herbs & Lemon
serves 2

2 ¼ tbsp olive oil
175g fresh broad beans 
2 sprigs thyme 
3 garlic cloves, sliced
4 spring onions cut on the diagonal into 2cm pieces
2 tbsp lemon juice
250ml of chicken stock
Salt & black pepper
For the meatballs
225g minced lamb
½ red onion, finely chopped
60g fresh breadcrumbs (or those handy ready made ones from Waitrose!)
1 ⅓ tbsp (i.e 1 tbsp + 1 tsp) flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 ⅓ tbsp mint, chopped
1 ⅓ tbsp coriander, chopped
½ tbsp of each of the herbs to finish 
1 large garlic clove, crushed
½ tbsp baharat spice mix 
½ tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp chopped capers 
1 egg, beaten (but only use half)

Place all the meatballs ingredients into a large bowl with about ½ tsp sea salt flakes and a hefty grind of black pepper and mix well with your hands.

Shape into pingpong sized meatballs - you should get somewhere between 10 and 14.

Sear the meatballs in a ½ tbsp of olive oil in a sauté pan (for which you will need a lid) over a medium heat until browned.

Remove from pan, set aside and wipe the pan clean with a paper towel.

Meanwhile blanch the broad beans in boiling salted water for 2 minutes then run under cold water.

Remove the skins from about half the beans, discarding the skins and setting the skinned beans aside.

Heat the remaining oil in the sauté pan used previously and add the thyme, garlic and spring onions. Cook over a low-medium heat for about 3 minutes.

Add the unshelled broad beans, 1 tbsp of lemon juice, 100ml or so of stock (the beans need to be almost covered), a pinch of salt and again, plenty of black pepper. Cover the pan and cook on a low heat for about 10 minutes.

Now return the meatballs to the pan and add the remaining stock, cover and continue to simmer for about 25 minutes.

Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. Add the extra reserved herbs, remaining lemon juice and the shelled beans.

Stir everything together well, but gently and serve immediately.

This can be served with rice but we had it with some nice bread.

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Friday, 13 September 2013

Lamb Cutlets with Warm Bean + Pea Salad & Roasted Tomatoes

The bf wanted lamb, and I had seen this recipe earlier in the week so, as far as I was concerned, job done.

It was a Gordon Ramsay recipe on the BBC Good Food site I had seen. Or at least I found out that it was later, I actually saw it on another site first that had made no reference at all to Gordon Ramsay and it was only after further research that I found it, word for word, on BBC Good Food. I’m sure that happens quite a lot in fact so to make it clear - you can find the original recipe here!

As usual, a few changes were made - for a start, I chose to use individual cutlets rather than a rack mainly because the last remaining rack in the shop was tiny (less than 200g I think - i.e. barely enough for one greedy person) but also as I thought I would “simplify” matters in doing so. If I had engaged brain for a moment it would have been pretty apparent that this was balderdash - browning the fat side of a rack of lamb is actually pretty quick & easy. Six Individual cutlets? Not so much.

A couple of other changes were made with the vegetables: I hadn't been able to get my hands on broad beans, for love nor money (and in season!) in any of the supermarkets near us and our freezer is similarly lacking in stock so I used frozen edamame (soy beans), frozen petis pois and fine green beans. And I can’t remember the last time I saw a plum tomato in the veg section which means common or garden (although very ripe) tomatoes were used instead. Taste-wise I am sure it made little difference but plum tomatoes do have that nice barrel quality that holds its shape rather well.

Lamb Cutlets with warm bean & pea salad & roasted tomatoes

serves 2

For the roast tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
3 ripe tomatoes, halved
a few sprigs of thyme 
3 cloves of garlic 
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
a small handful of basil leaves
For the lamb
6 lamb cutlets 
1 tbsp olive oil
15g butter
4 garlic cloves, bashed, skin left on
a few sprigs of thyme 
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
For the warm bean & pea salad
150g frozen edamame 
150g fine beans, trimmed
50g frozen petis pois 
1 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, halved lengthways and finely sliced 
small handful flaked almonds, dry toasted 
For the dressing
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Heat the oven to 200C.

Heat the oil in an ovenproof frying pan or skillet and fry the tomatoes cut-side down.

Add the thyme and garlic and continue to cook until softened and slightly coloured.

Turn them over, drizzle with balsamic, then roast in the oven for 20 mins until soft and caramelised. Once cooked, take out and leave aside to rest.

While the tomatoes are roasting, cook the lamb. Season the cutlets generously and heat the oil and butter in another ovenproof frying pan (if you don’t have another, as I don’t, fry in a normal pan and then transfer to a roasting dish).

Place the lamb cutlets (I did this in 2 batches as unless you are actually cooking a rack of lamb it can all get a little unwieldly), fat-side down, in the pan and scatter round the garlic and thyme. Brown the lamb fat really well, then give each of the sides a little colour.

Baste the lamb with the pan juices, then transfer to the oven alongside the tomatoes for 10 mins then remove from the oven and leave aside somewhere warm to rest.

While the lamb is cooking, prepare the bean & pea salad.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the edamame (or broad beans!) for a few mins. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon straight into a bowl of iced, cold water.

Boil the fine beans in the same water for 2 mins, then add the peas and cook both for a minute longer. Drain, plunge into iced water, leave for a minute or so then drain again.

Meanwhile heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the shallots for a couple of minutes until they start to soften and just colour, then add the fine beans and peas. Cook for a minute or 2 (you are just heating them through), then throw in the almonds followed by the edamame.

Scatter the basil over the tomatoes and make the dressing by whisking the oil and vinegar together.

Arrange 3 chops per plate on top of the bean salad on one side of the plate, with 3 tomatoes halves each down the other side. Drizzle the dressing around and serve.

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