Fish Florentine

Mondays in our household normally mean fish or seafood for dinner. I have to confess I’m much more comfortable cooking a carnivore’s feast rather than a fish dish. I’ve been lately getting more experimental with fish however, and here’s today’s recipe for Fish Florentine. I was a little bit nervous with this recipe, as I would never have put fish and cheese together, but it actually worked really well!

serves 2

2 fillets of white fish (I think cod is best for this kind of dish)
150g spinach
3 large chestnut mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
splash of olive oil
25g butter
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2dl milk
1 tsp ground paprika
pinch of ground nutmeg
pinch of ground cayenne pepper
2tsp potato flour or cornflour
1dl grated gruyere cheese
1tbsp grated parmesan cheese
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250ml dry white wine (I usually use Sauvignon Blanc in cooking)
2tbsp chopped parsley
1tsp dried tarragon

1. Heat oil and butter, cook onion until soft. Add thinly sliced mushrooms and garlic. Fry, stirring occasionally, for few minutes and add spinach. mix together until spinach is wilted.

2. Heat milk in a pan, and add all ground spices. when the milk is starting to simmer mix the potato flour / cornflour with a splash of water, and pour into the milk. Stir until the mixture thickens. Add both cheeses.

3. Poach the fish in a frying pan with the white wine and herbs for 4-6 minutes.

4. Put the onion, mushroom and spinach mixture at the bottom of an oven proof dish. Lay the fish on top, and pour the sauce over everything. sprinkle parmesan cheese on top, and grill under preheated grill until starting to brown and bubble over.

Slow cooked lamb shanks

This is my husband’s favourite Sunday roast. I must admit that lamb has never been my favourite meat, however when I cooked these lamb shanks for the first time I was completely sold. The meat literally falls off the bone. This is also one of the dishes I would cook when I want to impress guests. With this kind of dish, I would say the main challenge is timing of all the elements. The lamb itself will take a long time in the oven, but once they are cooked, they can be covered and put aside to wait. You can also see the links to the perfect accompaniments of roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding below.

Perfect roast potatoes
Yorkshire pudding
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4 lamb shanks
100g plain flour, seasoned with salt / black pepper
2 tbsp vegetable oil
500ml red wine
500ml chicken stock
1 onion, sliced
3 fresh rosemary sprigs
3 fresh bay leaves

1. Heat the oven to 160°C / 320°F.

2. Coat the lamb with the flour.

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3. Heat the oil in a casserole dish, and fry the lamb for about 5 minutes, turning until browned all over.

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4. Add all the other ingredients. Liquid should pretty much cover the meat. Because of the size of the dish I use, I have to use double the amount of wine and stock than in the recipe, to cover the meat.

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5. Place in the oven, and cook for 3 hours.

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6. Remove the shanks. You need to be careful when handling them, as they are now so soft that the meat will fall off very easily.

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7. Sieve the liquid into a pan.

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8. Reduce the cooking liquid by boiling, uncovered, to about half, to get wonderful gravy that’s full of flavour.

Kesäkeitto (Summer soup)

Since I started writing my blog, I’ve really been enjoying going back to my past, all the way to childhood, to make foods I’ve not had in a long time. There are so many lovely things I’ve almost forgotten exist, but luckily I now have an excuse to really look into them. This tasty soup’s key elements are milk, and fresh vegetables, and it’s also suitable to vegetarians. I tend to prepare most of the ingredients before starting the cooking, as the soup actually cooks pretty quickly. This recipe makes a big soup, enough for about 8 people.

2 carrots
200g green beans
2 dl peas
1/2 broccoli, cut into small florets
1/2 cauliflower, cut into small florets
500g new potatoes
150g spinach, chopped
4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 litre water
1.2 litres milk
4 tbsp plain flour

1. Cut the vegetables.

2. Boil the water with the salt and sugar added, then add the carrots, green beans and peas, and boil for 3 minutes.

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3. Add the potatoes, cauliflower and broccoli, and boil for about 10 minutes, until almost cooked.

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4. Mix the flour with 2 dl of the milk, until there are no lumps. Pour the remaining 1 litre of milk into the soup, followed by the flour- milk mixture. Add the chopped spinach, and cook for a few minutes. It’s good to stir the soup during the cooking after the milk has been added, to prevent it from burning at the bottom.

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Butternut squash risotto

I didn’t used to like risotto in the past, and only started liking it when I started making my own. These days I have a couple of ones I keep going back to in my kitchen, a butternut squash one and a beetroot one (click here for recipe). They are also both good vegetarian recipes (apart from these risottos and a couple of other recipes I don’t cook much vegetarian), however make a great meal even for a carnivore like me.

serves 3-4
1 butternut squash
700 ml vegetable stock (I use water mixed with Bouillon powder)
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
1 celery stick
1 bay leaf
4-5 sprigs thyme, leaves only
250g Arborio risotto rice
4 tbsp olive oil
50g butter
200ml white wine (Sauvignon Blanc is good)
80g grated parmesan cheese

1. Heat oven to 180°C / 355°F. Cut, peel and deseed the squash. Place half of the prepared squash in an oven dish. Drizzle with half the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Place the other half of the squash in a pan together with the vegetable stock, bring to simmer.

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2. Finely chop the onion, and place in a pan with the remaining olive oil, and half the butter. Whilst the onion is frying for few minutes, finely chop the garlic and celery. Together with the herbs, add to the onions, and cook for couple of minutes.

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3. Add the rice, and stir together. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, then add the white wine. Simmer until the wine is reduced.

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4. Start adding the stock, one ladle at a time. Let the liquid absorb before adding more. Keep stirring the mixture.

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5. When there is only a little bit of stock left, mash until pureed, and add to the rice. If the rice isn’t yet cooked enough, you can also add the puree little by little.

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6. Add most of the roasted squash pieces, remaining butter and most of the cheese. Mix together, and let stand for couple of minutes. Season if required, and give another stir. Serve with the remaining roasted pieces and parmesan cheese.

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Pineapple and almond cake

I had added a whole pineapple on our food shopping delivery, thinking I would use it for a fruit salad. My husband, however, set me on a different kind of challenge when he asked if I could make a pineapple cake, pineapple granita and a pineapple ice-cream (yes, all from the one fruit!). The juicy pineapple makes this cake very moist and wonderful, and it’s very fluffy and light. I added some Amaretto for a super moist result. The amount I’ve used only gives a slight taste, if you want to make a boozy cake add more.

250g butter
2 dl caster sugar
4 eggs
4 1/2 dl plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 dl chopped almond
1/2 pineapple (about 3-4 dl once chopped to small pieces)
3 tbsp Amaretto (optional)

1. Prepare the pineapple, and chop to small pieces. Measure the dry ingredients together.

2. Whisk the butter and sugar together on high speed, until fluffy.

3. Add the eggs, one by one, whisking thoroughly on high speed.

4. Add the dry ingredients, followed by the pineapple pieces.

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5. Pour the mixture into your baking tin. I use a silicone one, so I don’t need to butter it, however if you use a non-silicone one you may want to butter and coat it with flour first.

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6. Bake in a preheated oven 170°C / 340°F for 1 hour.

7. If using the Amaretto, once out of the oven let cool for 10 minutes. Prick the cake all over with a needle, and pour the liquid all over the cake. Wait for about 30-60 minutes before serving.

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Gazpacho

This summer soup is one of my all time favourite chilled soups. All ingredients are served raw, so you can be sure that all the flavours and nutrients are still present for sure. You can serve it on it’s own, or perhaps with finely chopped cucumber / red pepper pieces, or perhaps with some goat cheese mousse. I use quite a lot of cucumber in my recipe, as I love it, however it dilutes the redness of the soup a little bit. The soup is very liquid, as it’s drained through a sieve, but it is really flavoursome. You can serve it as a very light lunch or dinner, in which case you’ll probably get two servings from this recipe, or you could serve it as a little appetizer or starter on a garden party, in which case you’ll get many servings.

400g large tomatoes
1 cucumber
1 garlic glove
2  handfulls of basil leaves
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp lemon juice (1 lemon)
3 dl water
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp tabasco
salt
black pepper

1. To get the skin off the tomatoes more easily, place them in boiling water for 20 seconds. Remove and let cool. With a sharp knife, make a slit on the skin going around the whole tomato, this will make it easier to peel them. Then chop the tomatoes, discarding the hard core part.

2. Peel and chop the cucumber while the tomatoes are cooling. Place in the liquidizer, together with the peeled garlic clove. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, basil leaves and water, and blend until smooth.

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3. Strain through a sieve, and push as much through as you can. This step will take a while.

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4. Stir in the lemon juice, oil, tabasco and seasoning. Chill in the fridge for at least couple of hours. Before serving, check the taste, and add seasoning if required, as chilling may reduce the strength of flavours.

Restaurant Review: Stem, London

My husband and I have been waiting for this restaurant to open. We’ve been tracking Mark Jarvis’ journey for years now, and every time he opens a new restaurant we’re there. We had high hopes for Stem, based on what we know of Mark and his food in the past. This restaurant is good for those wanting to take that step into fine dining world, but are not yet used to the formal setting. The atmosphere and setting is casual, but neat. On flavour, however, we were sad to conclude that the restaurant did not deliver, leaving us somewhat underwhelmed.

I’m hoping that this more due to being the first week of opening, and once things get to full swing this improves.

The appetizer was nice enough, flavour was like minted peas, with nice mousse on top. It might have been potato mousse, but don’t quote me on that. The pastry shell was thin and worked well, the peas seemed a little bit too hard for me.

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The sourdough bread was excellent, and I would even say one of the best things of the whole meal. The butter tests was passed, the butter being soft and easy to spread.

I enjoyed the asparagus with lemon oil and tarragon cream. The dish did leave you wanting more of it however. My husband felt there should’ve been more of the cream, as you were left eating the last bits of asparagus without any sauce. The flavours worked well for me, and the asparagus was cooked well, with still crunchy bite to it. The dish was paired with 2016 Ciu Ciu ‘Falerio’, Trebbiano / Pecorino / Passerina, Marche, Italy. White wine, with a lovely floral note.

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The next dish of fermented radicchio and blood orange was a bit of a weird one. On the drinks pairing, this was served with Wild Beer, ‘Ninkasi’, Somerset, UK, which actually complemented the food extremely well. We felt that without the drink the food wouldn’t have been as enjoyable. The fermented leaves and blood orange flavor actually went well together, however without the beer wouldn’t perhaps had been very nice.

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At this stage we were feeling somewhat disappointed, and were really looking forward to the smoked chicken tortellini with leek hearts cooked in truffle oil. Unfortunately, the general trend of being underwhelming in terms of flavour continued. We were in fact getting very frustrated, because Mark is so much better than this! The tortellini itself was nicely thin, however too al dente for me. The chicken filling seemed quite dry, and not delivering much on flavor. I thought the leek hearts were very nice, the best thing on the dish, however I didn’t get the truffle flavor coming through at any point on this plate of food. For me, the jus was a little bit salty, however my husband didn’t agree with me on this aspect. Wine pairing for this dish was 2016 Pierre Frick, Riesling, Alsace, France. Slightly floral with a little bit of sweetness, but not from the sweet end of the Riesling spectrum. Very enjoyable.

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Before the cod baked in lemon verbena, grelot onion, nasturtium and pear came, we thought that was going to be the ‘make or break’ plate of food, whether the restaurant could redeem themselves. The fish itself was cooked very well, being translucent and not overcooked, still quite firm. On flavor, we thought the plate was lacking again. The pear brought nice flavor and sweetness to the fish, and I thought the mini onions were the best thing on the plate. I tend to find cod quite a tasteless fish in general. I felt something on the plate was a bit too salty for me. As a drink pairing we had 2015 Sokol Blosser, Pinot Gris, Williamette Valley, California.

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The next main dish of beef was nice and pink. We were looking forward to cutting into a succulent, melt-in-the-mouth piece of meat. Unfortunately, we both found the piece of meat somewhat tougher and chewier that we were expecting. The dish also came with beef tartare, which unfortunately was very bland. I think it’s very important to have great flavours going on when serving raw beef, and I have in my time had some excellent tartares. This dish was served with 2016 Vigneureuse, ‘CroiZADe’, Syrah / Duras, Gaillac, Rhone, France.

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Cheese course came with thin, crispy crackers that I thoroughly liked. I’m not usually a fan of crackers, end up eating my cheese on it’s own, however I did like these ones. My husband thought completely opposite to me about this. The cheese was served with tomato chutney, which in our mind didn’t work, and was quite unpleasant. Of, course, we had this this with some Fonseca, 20 YearTawny Port, Portugal.

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The best part of the dessert of strawberry, tomato and rosemary, was the red strawberries, which were excellent with full of  flavour and sweetness. The white strawberries left me thinking they were just raw strawberries, I didn’t enjoy them very much. There was a subtle flavour of rosenmary coming through, which worked quite well. Dessert wine pairing was 2017 Landon Chartier, ‘Naturlich’, Folle Blanche / Gamay, Loire, France. Slightly sparkling, in between white and rose wine, it was very pleasant with a hint of strawberry.

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Our main feeling was that the drinks stole the show. We would go back to Stem for drinks more than the food, at this stage. I wish them all the best, and hopefully they will develop and grow as time goes by.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆