Week Thirty Nine

Now that we are out of lockdown and can travel around the UK, I am looking forward to a few escapades. Like many of you, we’ve decided not to book a holiday abroad this year, due to all the uncertainty around Covid and the various rules and regulations. The advantage of this is that we get to discover corners of the UK which we have never had the opportunity to see plus appreciate the great food that our restaurants offer. We are so lucky these days, as when I was growing up in the seventies the UK had, deservedly, a terrible reputation for its food; the choice of restaurants was very limited and the quality of their cooking left a lot to be desired. Thankfully, these days the UK is a great destination for a foodie – from gastro pubs to Michelin starred restaurants, there is something for everyone.

In fact, right now I’m in Wales for a short break, as always, I have done my research and I am hoping that I will be able to share some good ‘foodie’ experiences with you on my return. We will be staying near the Pembrokeshire coast, so no doubt there will be a lot of fish on the menu, I didn’t want you to feel left out, so this week the menus on Menu Mistress are mostly fish related!…

Menu One is Cod with Mussels, I am hoping to try the famous Cowey Welsh Mussels on my travels and so this recipe came to mind. It’s one of those recipes which looks good enough to serve to guests yet is easy enough to serve to the family midweek – what a treat! The broth is light and delicious – perhaps some bread might be good on the side to mop it up! Menu Two is ‘Pan Fried Plaice with Shrimps and Lemon Butter Sauce’, as you can see from the photo, I have served it with samphire which grows abundantly on the Welsh marshes along Carmarthen Bay. Although the samphire in this recipe is optional, if you can get hold of it, it really adds a lovely subtle salty flavour which beautifully complements the buttery lemon sauce. Either way, this is a wonderful dish for a quick midweek meal. Finally, a vegetarian dish, ‘Peas & Mushrooms with a Green Curry Sauce’, admittedly this has very little to do with Wales, I suppose I should have opted for a leek recipe(!), but I’ve cooked this a couple of times lately and wanted to share it. It is a simple recipe from Madhur Jaffrey, it’s great for those days when you are running out of steam; you just need to throw the spices in a blender to create a sauce, then it literally needs 10 minutes to cook – what a great meal to kick start your week!…

Menu One

Poached Fillet of Cod with Mussels, Peas and Parsley (Serves 4)

This is one of those recipes which looks good enough to serve to guests yet is easy and quick enough to serve to the family for a midweek treat! The broth is light and delicious – perhaps some bread might be good on the side to mop it up! Simply serve with steamed new potatoes.

4 fillets of cod, skinless

20g unsalted butter

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 shallot, finely sliced

½ tablespoon plain flour (gluten free if required)

100ml white wine

300ml fish stock

24 mussels, beards removed

Dash of double cream

100g peas

½ tablespoon parsley, chopped

Sea salt

  1. To begin cook the peas in a little boiling water for about 4 minutes (longer if fresh) until just tender. Drain and put to one side.
  2. Place the butter in a frying pan (with a lid), melt over a medium heat. Once foaming, add the garlic and shallot and fry until soft but without colour.
  3. Sprinkle over the flour, then add the white wine, stirring constantly so that there are no lumps. Reduce the liquid to a glaze consistency.
  4. Add the fish stock and bring to the boil.
  5. Season the fish with salt and add to the pan with the fish stock. Cover with a lid, lower the heat to a gently simmer, cook for 3 minutes.
  6. Carefully turn over the cod and add the mussels to the pan. Replace the lid and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  7. Carefully remove the cod to a plate, keep warm. Remove the mussels, discarding any that haven’t opened and place on the plate with the fish.
  8. To finish the sauce, pass it through a sieve into a clean saucepan and place over a high heat. Bring to the boil and reduce by half then add a splash of cream.
  9. Finally stir through the cooked peas and chopped parsley.
  10. To serve arrange the cod and mussels on a plate and spoon over the sauce. Serve with steamed new potatoes on the side.

Menu Two

Pan Fried Plaice with Shrimp & Lemon Butter Sauce (Served with Samphire) (Serves 4)

This is one of my favourite simple fish recipes. The samphire is optional, I very often serve it without as I can’t always get hold of it, however if you can get it, do try it as it adds a subtle salty flavour which complements the lemon butter sauce.

100g unsalted butter

2 lemons, juiced and zest finely grated

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 large plaice fillets, skinned

180g brown shrimps

1 tablespoon chives, chopped

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

80g Samphire (optional)

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. First prepare the sauce. Place the butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat, then cook until the butter starts to turn to a nutty brown colour. Remove from the heat and add the lemon zest and juice, then season with salt and pepper. Keep warm whilst you cook the fish.
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Season the plaice fillets with salt only and add to the pan, cook for 1½-2 minutes on each side. (You will probably have to cook the fish in batches, adding a little more oil to the pan, keeping the fish warm whilst you cook the second batch).
  3. Meanwhile place the samphire in a pan of boiling water and simmer for 2-3 minutes, drain and set aside.
  4. At the same time add the shrimps to the lemon butter sauce and reheat gently until the sauce is boiling, boil for 1 minute, remove from the heat and add the parsley.
  5. Place the plaice fillets on plates, sprinkle over the cooked samphire and spoon over the shrimp and lemon butter sauce. Serve simply with some steamed new potatoes.

Menu Three

Peas & Mushrooms with Green Curry Sauce

(Serves 4)

This is a great, easy vegetarian curry and extremely quick to cook once you have blended the ingredients for the spice mixture. I like to serve it with rice and chutneys.

1 fresh green chilli, coarsely chopped

30g fresh coriander leaves

2 cloves garlic, peeled

2.5cm cube fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped

¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

425g peas, defrosted if frozen

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

250g chestnut mushrooms, sliced

1¼ teaspoons salt

4 tablespoons whipping cream

  1. Put the green chilli, coriander, garlic, ginger and turmeric into a blender. Add 4 tablespoons of water and blend to a purée, pushing down the mixture with a rubber spatula when necessary. Set the green spice mixture aside in a bowl.
  2. Toss 140g of the peas into the blender. Add 4 tablespoons water and blend to a purée. Set the purée aside.
  3. Put the oil in a large frying pan and set over a medium-high heat. Put in the cumin seeds, sizzle for 10 seconds, then add the mushrooms, saute for a few minutes then remove with a slotted spoon.
  4. Now add the green spice mixture, cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add the remaining peas, pea purée, mushrooms, salt and cream plus 4 tablespoons of water. Stir gently, cover with a lid and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  5. Serve the curry with rice and some chutneys on the side.

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