Week Forty One

Happy 1st Birthday to Menu Mistress!!…yes, unbelievably, it’s a year since I posted my first blog and recipes! When I first started Menu Mistress, it was a decision I made almost overnight, on a whim, and out of lockdown boredom. I was, like all of us, cooking far more than ever at home due to the Covid situation, so I decided I would make my daily cooking routine more interesting by making use of my extensive ‘library’ of cookbooks. I have always loved whiling away hours skimming through cookbooks and Covid gave me a really good reason to try all the recipes I had earmarked over the years. Talking with friends in those first few weeks of lockdown, I soon realised that not everyone shared my enthusiasm for studying cookbooks, searching out new recipes and cooking different dishes. On the contrary, many of them were fed up with the thought of deciding what to prepare for yet another dinner at home. Often the easy option was to cook what they cooked last week, but by keeping it simple they were in a rut. So, I decided that it would be fun to share, online, the simple recipes, that I had tried and tested from my large collection of cookbooks. I surprised even myself by becoming a ‘blogger’!… On a personal level, the best thing about Menu Mistress is that it is something that I do for myself, I enjoy it more than I ever expected to. I actually didn’t think I would still be ‘blogging’ a year later, but it has been strangely addictive. It has also been great for my cooking skills because, in my search for new recipes to share, it has encouraged me to try those which perhaps I would never have cooked before!

Anyway, enough of Menu Mistress nostalgia and on to this week’s recipes!…As I have been sharing recipes for a year now, I thought it might be an idea to introduce ‘Blast from the Past’. I am sure that you have forgotten some of the earlier recipes I shared, so for this reason I have decided to repost one old recipe every month – one which I really don’t think you should overlook! So, for my first ‘Blast from the Past’, I’m sharing ‘Crab Chowder with Oat Bread’ which featured on my very first blog. It is a substantial soup, incredibly tasty and perfect for midweek as it is very quick to prepare. The bread is a personal favourite of mine. I am gluten free so I always make sure I have a loaf of this sliced up in the freezer ready to toast, but I must admit that it is particularly delicious fresh from the oven (with a slice of butter!). Even if you’re not gluten free, do try it with this chowder, it’s so easy to make; literally, it’s a question of mixing the ingredients, putting them in a loaf tin and baking for just under 1 hour… you will want to make it again and again!

Moving onto new recipes, this week’s Menu One is ‘Salmon Teriyaki with Cucumber Pickle’, to be honest, I can’t believe I haven’t shared this before now, as it is one of our family favourites. It is a recipe from the food editor of House & Garden magazine, Blanche Vaughan. There are many recipes for Salmon Teriyaki, but this is the best that I have come across, it’s not overly sweet, it has just the right balance of flavours, I like to think that it is quite authentic. The ‘Cucumber Pickle’ and the ‘Rocket & Radish Salad with Japanese Dressing’ complete this meal; together with some Japanese rice, they make a healthy, comforting dish. Menu Two is ‘Fillet Steak with Tarragon,’ as you may know, I do love meat, so can never say no to a piece of steak. I also adore tarragon, so the combination of the two is, in my opinion, heaven – what a great recipe to share on Menu Mistress’s 1st birthday! Menu Three, is a lovely, fresh ‘Vegetarian Summer Paella’. The flavours of this dish are perfect right now, rain or shine! Finally, as I’m celebrating my 1st birthday (!), it gives me the perfect excuse to share a cocktail. What better way to celebrate than with my new favourite champagne cocktail, which uses St Germain liquor, an elderflower liquor available at most supermarkets (or online). I would recommend you invest in a bottle as I am planning to share some other cocktails that use it!

Have a great week and don’t forget to pop by next week for my Tuesday Treat!…

Menu One

Salmon Teriyaki, Cucumber Pickle and Rocket & Radish Salad with Japanese Dressing (Serves 4)

This is a recipe from the food editor of House & Garden magazine, Blanche Vaughan. There are many recipes  for Salmon Teriyaki, but this is definitely the best that I have come across, it’s not overly sweet, it has just the right balance of flavours, I like to think that it is quite authentic. The ‘Cucumber Pickle’ and the ‘Rocket & Radish Salad with Japanese Dressing’, complete this meal – together with some Japanese rice they make a healthy, comforting meal. All the ingredients for the sauce can be kept for ages in your cupboard, so it makes a great last minute supper (I use the small bottles of cooking sake).

Salmon Teriyaki

4 salmon fillets

1 tablespoon grapeseed oil

10g caster sugar

100ml sake

50ml mirin

50ml soy sauce (gluten free if required)

Sea salt

  1. Put the caster sugar, mirin, sake and soy sauce in a small frying pan and bring to the boil. Let the sauce bubble gently and reduce by almost half, until it becomes syrupy. You can do this ahead of time and it will keep, covered, in the fridge for a week or so.
  2. To cook the salmon, heat the oil in a frying pan. Sprinkle the salmon with salt and fry for a minute on each side to brown the skin and flesh, then add the teriyaki sauce and continue to cook until the salmon fillets are no longer translucent, basting them with the sauce.
  3. Remove the salmon to a plate and pour over the sauce. Serve with Japanese rice, Cucumber Pickle and Rocket & Radish Salad (recipes below).

Cucumber Pickle

1 cucumber, peeled, halved and seeds scraped out

2 tablespoons soy sauce (gluten free if required)

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1-2 teaspoons sugar

3cm knob ginger, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks

Sea salt

  1. Slice the cucumber into half-moon slices, toss together with a large pinch of salt.
  2. Mix the other ingredients together and add the cucumber. Leave to marinate for half an hour before serving.

Rocket & Radish Salad with Japanese Dressing

100g rocket

150g radishes, halved

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon soy sauce (gluten free if required)

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

  1. Place the rocket and radishes in a serving bowl.
  2. Whisk the rice vinegar, soy sauce and toasted sesame oil together and, just before serving, pour over the salad and toss to combine.

Menu Two

Fillet Steak with Tarragon (Serves 4)

I do love meat, so can never say no to a piece of steak, I also adore tarragon, so the combination of the two in this recipe is, in my opinion, heaven!…This recipe is delicious served with steamed asparagus and homemade oven chips (recipe below.

25g butter

4 large open flat mushrooms

Olive oil

3 shallots, diced

120ml white wine

60ml double cream

1 tablespoon grainy mustard

1 clove garlic, crushed

A bunch of tarragon, leaves chopped

Sea salt and black pepper

4 fillet steaks (about 150g each)

  1. Melt the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat and cook the mushrooms on both sides until golden. Keep warm until needed.
  2. Heat a little olive oil in a small saucepan over a medium heat and fry the shallots until soft and golden. Add the wine and simmer for 3 minutes, then reduce the heat and add the cream, mustard, garlic, tarragon and seasoning – do not allow to boil. Remove to one side and keep warm whilst you cook the steaks.
  3. Lightly brush the steaks with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and a little black pepper. Heat a frying pan until very hot. Place the steaks in the pan and cook for about 1½ minutes of each side for rare or a little longer depending on your taste.
  4. Serve the steaks on the cooked mushrooms topped with the sauce. They are delicious served with steamed asparagus and some homemade oven chips (recipe below).

Staple Side Dish’ Homemade Oven Chips (Serves 4)

I always serve these when we have steak; they are easy to prepare, proving that there is no need for a stinking chip pan in order to have good chips! It is important to use baking potatoes for this recipe as they crisp up better.

3-4 baking potatoes, depending on the size and how hungry you are

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Preheat the oven 200’c fan.
  2. Cut the potatoes into thick chips, there is no need to peel them.
  3. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, add the chips, boil for 4 minutes then drain well.
  4. Coat the chips with the olive oil and lay them out in single layer on a baking tray.
  5. Place in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, turning a few times during cooking.
  6. Serve immediately.

Menu Three

Summer Vegetable Paella (Serves 4)

This is a wonderful vegetarian take on the classic Spanish dish paella, it is from Ross Dobson’s cookbook ‘Market Vegetarian’.

A large pinch of saffron threads

6 tablespoons olive oil

200g cherry tomatoes

100g green beans, trimmed and halved

4 baby courgettes, halved diagonally

80g peas (fresh or frozen)

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 fresh rosemary sprigs

320g Arborio rice

800ml vegetable stock (I use Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon)

30g flaked almonds, lightly toasted in a dry frying pan

  1. Put the saffron in a bowl with 65ml of hot water and set aside to infuse.
  2. Heat half the olive oil in a frying pan set over a high heat and add the tomatoes. Cook for 2 minutes, shaking the pan so that the tomatoes start to soften and split. Use a slotted spoon to remove the tomatoes from the pan and set aside.
  3. Add the beans, courgettes and peas to the pan and stir fry over a high heat for 2-3 minutes. Set aside with the tomatoes until needed.
  4. Add the remaining oil to the frying pan with the garlic and rosemary, and cook gently for 1 minute to flavour the oil.
  5. Add the rice to the pan and cook, stirring continuously, for about 2 minutes until the rice is shiny and opaque. Add the stock and the saffron with its water to the pan, increase the heat and bring to the boil, stirring to combine.
  6. When the stock is boiling rapidly, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 20 minutes until almost all the stock has been absorbed.
  7. Scatter the tomatoes, beans, courgettes and peas over the rice, cover lightly with a lid or some foil and cook over a low heat for a further 5 minutes so that the vegetables are just heated through.
  8. Sprinkle with the almonds and serve.

And A Little Treat…

St Germain Champagne Cocktail

As I’m celebrating Menu Mistress’s 1st birthday, I have the perfect excuse to share a cocktail! What better way to celebrate than with my new favourite champagne cocktail, which uses St Germain, an elderflower liquor available at most supermarkets (or online). I would recommend you invest in a bottle as I am planning to share some other cocktails that use it!…

Tip: Put your champagne flute in the freezer before using it as it really does keep the champagne nicely chilled!

2 tablespoons St. Germain Liquor

2 tablespoons gin

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon sugar syrup 

Champagne to top up (about 1/2 glass)

  1. Place the St. Germain, gin, lemon juice, and syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake 15 seconds until cold. Strain the liquid into a champagne flute.
  2. Simply top off the glass with champagne and serve!

Blast From The Past’ Recipe

Crab Chowder served with Oatmeal Bread (Serves 4)

This is a recipe that featured on my very first blog. It is a substantial soup, incredibly tasty and perfect for midweek as it is very quick. The gluten free Oatmeal Bread is a personal favourite of mine, I always make sure I have a loaf of this sliced up in the freezer ready to toast, but I must admit that it is particularly delicious fresh from the oven (with a slice of butter!). Even if you’re not gluten free, do try it with this chowder, it is so easy to make – literally, it’s a question of mixing the ingredients together and putting them in a loaf tin and baking for just under 1 hour… you will want to make it again and again!…

Both recipes are Rachel Allen’s cookbook ‘Recipes from My Mother’ – as the name suggests, this is a book with lots of comforting recipes.

I used to buy the fresh crabmeat from my fishmonger but I have since discovered a fresh brand available in supermarkets called ‘Seafood & Eat it’ (great name!), which is very good, they sell it in 100g packs, one is pure white crab meat and the other is ‘fifty-fifty’ – half white, half brown, I find mixing these two packs gives the soup a fuller flavour. I actually use tinned, unsweetened corn for this recipe as opposed to frozen corn kernels, as I find that they have a softer texture and are sweeter, which I think works well with this particular recipe.

30g butter

200g onions, diced

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

300g potatoes, diced

600ml chicken stock (see note above)

200ml milk

200g sweetcorn kernels (see note above)

200g fresh crabmeat (I usually use 150g white/ 50g brown – see note above)

pinch of cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

2 tablespoons of chopped parsley

2 teaspoons of chopped tarragon

50ml of double cream

sea salt and black pepper

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a gentle heat, add the onions and garlic with the salt and pepper. Cover and allow to sweat until soft but not coloured.
  2. Add the potatoes and cook for a further 5-10 minutes stirring occasionally so that they don’t brown.
  3. Add the stock, sweetcorn and milk, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through and are just beginning to thicken the soup.
  4. Finally, add the crabmeat, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, chopped herbs and cream. Check the seasoning and bring back to a gentle simmer, to heat through.
  5. Serve with lots of bread or the oatmeal bread (recipe below)

Oatmeal Bread (Gluten Free!)

425g rolled oats

A scant teaspoon of sea salt

2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda

2 tablespoons of mixed seeds

1 egg

500g natural yogurt

  1. Preheat oven to 200’c fan. Line a 900g/1Ib loaf tin with baking parchment.
  2. Mix together the oats, salt, bicarbonate of soda and mixed seeds.
  3. Whisk the egg into the yogurt. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well.
  4. Scoop the dough into the tin and bake for 50 minutes.
  5. Turn out of the tin and bake the loaf for a further 10 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Tuesday Treat

Strawberry Meringues (Serves 4)

It’s June, so that definitely calls for a treat with strawberries!…and what better way to serve them than combined with meringues?…No, on this occasion I’m not suggesting the classic Eton Mess (you can find that recipe here!)…Instead, in this recipe, the strawberries are actually cooked inside the meringues. By cooking them inside the meringues, the taste of the strawberries becomes more intense – you ‘ripen’ the flavour, so it’s a good recipe for those strawberries which are slightly disappointing. For that reason, it’s worth remembering over the long months after the summer season – when you can only get strawberries that have been flown in from abroad and consequently taste a little bland.

These meringues are best eaten the same day – which I’m sure won’t be a hardship! However, if there are one or two left over they will keep for 24 hrs in the fridge, but no longer. In cooking, you will find that the strawberries will leak out a gooey mixture this just adds to the flavour!

I found this recipe in James Martin’s book ‘Slow Cooking’. The recipes in this book are all simple to prepare yet are cooked or marinated slowly for at least an hour to create show-stopping dishes with little fuss – and this recipe for meringues is definitely one of those!

*You could also make this with raspberries

550g strawberries

4 egg whites

110g caster sugar

110g icing sugar, plus 20g for the sauce

250ml double cream

  1. Hull the strawberries and cut them in half.
  2. Beat the egg whites with the caster sugar in a grease-free bowl until stiff peaks form.
  3. Add 110g of the icing sugar and continue to beat for 4-6minutes until the mixture is smooth and shiny.
  4. Using a large metal spoon, lightly fold just under half of the strawberries into the meringue mixture.
  5. Carefully place 8 evenly sized spoonfuls on the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper.
  6. Place in a preheated oven, 100’c fan, and bake for 2 hours.
  7. Whilst the meringues are cooking make the strawberry purée. Place the remaining strawberries in a blender with 3 tablespoons water and the 20g icing sugar, process to a purée, then pass through a sieve to remove the seeds. Set aside.
  8. Place the cream in bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Set aside.
  9. When the meringues are cooked, remove from the baking sheet using a palette knife to transfer to a wire cooking rack, allow to cool before serving.
  10. Serve the meringues with the cream and purée on the side.

Week Forty

I have been taking quite a lot of time out of my kitchen recently. In my last blog, I mentioned that I was having a short break in Wales, after months under ‘lockdown’, it certainly was a ‘breath of fresh air’, and gave us the perfect excuse to eat out! We visited the Pembrokeshire coast, an area which I had never been to before. Being forced by Covid to holiday in the UK was perhaps a blessing in disguise as it allowed us to appreciate this corner of the UK; I was blown away by the beauty of this coast – almost literally, as the awful May weather ensured we had our fair share of wind and rain! We stayed in a wonderful hotel in Narberth, The Grove (read the review here!).

In addition to our Pembrokeshire break, last weekend Nick and I visited Felix in York, so once again, I was away from my kitchen and eating out in restaurants – we are definitely embracing the reopening of the hospitality industry!

Not only is eating out again in restaurants enjoyable but also inspiring, and so I have returned to my kitchen this week refreshed and raring to go, although, admittedly, it does take me a few days to get back into the swing of things. For this reason, this week I thought I would share some particularly easy recipes which aren’t too demanding, to give you and me some kitchen respite, but naturally without losing out on the flavour front.

Menu One is a store cupboard fish cake recipe, it’s always good to have a can of sardines in your cupboard for this recipe!  Menu Two is ‘Pork Collar Steak with Gherkins’, this is a recipe that often shows up in my kitchen on those nights when I want something quick and comforting. I love this underrated, tasty cut of pork and in this recipe, it only needs 15 minutes from start to finish! Finally, Menu Three is a wonderfully simple recipe, ‘Spaghetti with Asparagus and Prosecco’, from Skye McAlpine’s cookbook ‘A Table in Venice’. As she herself says, cooking with prosecco always seems rather extravagant, but the delicacy and sweetness of Prosecco lends something extra special to the sauce. Mini bottles of Prosecco are perfect for this recipe, or of course, you could get a full bottle and enjoy the leftovers with your meal…perfect on a summer evening!

I’m also sharing a new ‘Music to Cook To’ playlist (here)…in comparison to my last playlist, it is rather retro, there’s even a Bee Gee’s track on it(!), but it is without doubt uplifting – perfect to cook-a-long to!…

Menu One

Pork Steak with Mustard & Gherkin Sauce (Serves 4)

Pork collar steak is a cut of meat which is often overlooked, it’s a shame as not only is it one of the cheaper cuts of meat but it is also very tasty. This recipe shows just how special it can be. I found the recipe in Daniel Galmiche’s ‘French Brasserie Cookbook’, it really is an inspiration; the sharpness of the gherkin and mustard in the sauce beautifully cuts the richness of the cream and pork. It is super quick to cook, all it needs is a good crisp salad and perhaps some ‘homemade chips’, or on a cold night, some creamy mash potato is great for mopping up the sauce! (recipes here).

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 pork collar steaks, about 150g each

30g butter

160ml double cream

2 teaspoons wholegrain mustard

4 tarragon sprigs, leaves roughly chopped

8 small gherkins (cornichons), halved and sliced into strips

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Warm the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the steaks and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown, adding the butter when you turn them over. Remove from the pan and keep warm.
  2. Add 4 tablespoons of water to the pan, stirring to deglaze it. Bring this liquid to a simmer over a low heat and slowly stir in the cream and mustard, then add the gherkins and tarragon and season with salt and pepper.
  3. When the sauce is heated through, pour over the steaks and serve.

Menu Two

Store Cupboard Fishcakes (Serves 4)

These fishcakes are really tasty and all the better for using ingredients which most of have to hand. I particularly love them as they are totally gluten free – they are crumbed in cornmeal rather than breadcrumbs. They make the perfect supper with a leafy salad and perhaps an couple of cherry tomatoes. This recipe is from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s book ‘Light and Easy’ – which totally sums up this recipe!

500g cold, cooked potato

250g tinned sardine (or mackerel) fillets in oil, drained

250g spring onions, finely sliced (or 2 onions, finely chopped)

2 tablespoons capers, roughly chopped

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Rapeseed or sunflower oil

8 tablespoons fine cornmeal

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Mash the potatoes roughly.
  2. Put the tinned fish into a bowl and mash with a fork to break up a little. Add the onions, capers, mashed potato and season with black pepper.
  3. Stir in the beaten eggs, mixing well.
  4. Divide the mixture into 8. Roll each portion into a ball and then squash into a cake.
  5. Heat a thin film of oil over the base of a frying pan over a medium heat.
  6. Put the cornmeal in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Carefully put a fishcake into the bowl and coat it with cornmeal then gently place in the frying pan. Cook for about 10 minutes turning once or twice until the cornmeal is crisp and golden and the cakes are piping hot through the middle. Repeat with the rest of the fishcakes – you will have to cook them in batches, adding more oil to the pan as needed.
  7. Serve straightaway with a good salad.

Menu Three

Linguine with Asparagus and Prosecco (Serves 4)

This is a wonderfully simple recipe from Skye McAlpine’s cookbook ‘A Table in Venice’. As she herself says, cooking with Prosecco always seems rather extravagant, but the delicacy of Prosecco definitely lends something extra special to the sauce. I also use Prosecco when I cook ‘Spaghetti Vongole’ (recipe here), as it gives the sauce a lightness (from the bubbles) and a subtle sweetness. You could, of course, use white wine instead of Prosecco, but do try it with Prosecco at some point. The mini bottles of Prosecco are perfect for this recipe, or of course you could get a full bottle and enjoy the remainder of the bottle with your meal!

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

400g asparagus, trimmed and cut into 3 cm lengths

100ml Prosecco

Handful of parsley, chopped

400g linguine (gluten free if required)

30g butter

30g parmesan cheese, grated

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat, then add the onion and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring over a low-medium heat for 5-10 minutes until softened but not coloured.
  2. Add the asparagus and Prosecco, and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the Prosecco has evaporated and the asparagus is tender (if it is not quite cooked by the time that the liquid has evaporated add a splash of water and cook for a little longer). Finally stir in the parsley.
  4. Meanwhile cook the linguine according to the packet instructions, until al dente. Just before draining the pasta, scoop out about half a cup of cooking water and set to one side.
  5. Drain the pasta, toss it back into the pan and add a good splash of the reserved cooking water to ‘loosen’ it. Little by little stir in the butter. Finally add the asparagus mixture, give everything a good stir and serve topped with grated Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday Treat

Banana Bread with Toasted Coconut

One of the best banana cakes that I have tasted was when I was holidaying in Antigua many years ago. Every morning, the little hotel where we were staying would serve up an incredible banana bread for breakfast – I was truly in paradise! Since then I have tried to emulate the recipe for this banana bread, which was deliciously dense and not too sweet – hence not only great for breakfast but also perfect for afternoon tea. However, the recipes which I made, although admittedly very tasty and moreish, never quite matched that one I had in ‘paradise’. I always blamed it on the lack of Caribbean sunshine – perhaps my London kitchen just didn’t have the ambience required?…But just recently, I found this recipe for banana bread in Meera Sodha’s cookbook ‘East’, Sohda uses both coconut and ground almonds in her recipe, I think that they are the secret to the elusive density that I had been searching for. Don’t be put off if you’re not keen on coconut, as the flavour of the banana overshadows it. It is great toasted and, for a really indulgent snack, unbelievably good spread with peanut butter…!! If you are gluten free, you will be pleased to know that it can be made perfectly well using gluten free flour (I use Doves).

100g coconut oil

100ml maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

150g plain flour (gluten free if required)

100g ground almonds

150g desiccated coconut

2 teaspoons baking powder

1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

450g ripe banana flesh (about 4-5 bananas), cut into chunks

40g untoasted coconut chips

(450g loaf tin, lined)

  1. In a small pan, heat the coconut oil until just melted then remove from the heat and stir in the maple syrup and vanilla, then set aside.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, ground almonds, desiccated coconut, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  3. Put the banana chunks in a food processor and blitz to a smooth puree. Add the flour mixture and the oil and process until just combined, scraping down the sides to ensure all the mixture is incorporated.
  4. Pour the mixture into the lined bread tin and spread out evenly, then sprinkle over enough coconut flakes to cover the top completely – pressing them lightly into the batter.
  5. Bake in a preheated oven, 180’c fan, for 1 hour, then turn the cake around and bake for a further 20 minutes.
  6. Take out of the oven and cool completely in the tin, brushing off any overly scorched coconut flakes.
  7. Serve in generous slices – it is delicious simply as it is, but do try it spread with peanut butter, or even toasted!

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.