Roasted Sea Bass in Hot, Sweet and Sour Sauce

After the excesses of the festive season often we crave something simple, healthy and light. Yet with the cold and blustery weather we yearn for comfort too. In the Comida y Vida household this means we often head east for some asian spice.

The most used and “abused” cookbook from my Bookshelf that features recipes for this region is Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey. This book was published back in 2009 to accompany one of this chef’s many tv series’. I purchased the book some time ago but have never written about it here on CYV, but it’s going to be the first post in my series of posts called My Cookbook Collection where I will share a few recipes and reviews of the cookbooks from my collection.

Rick Stein's Far Eastern OdysseyI love food from the east and where time and access to ingredients permit will happily spend hours toasting and grinding spices, pounding garlic and ginger into a paste and all the other detailed preparation that many asian recipes require. The time invested into making your own curry pastes is something I definitely consider to be worth it when you taste the final dish – such depth of flavour. That’s not to say that ready prepared pastes don’t feature in my store cupboard for when time is limited – we all  need a little convenience in our lives.

That is kind of how this book feels too, if you have time to leisurely prepare the dishes and access to the wealth of ingredients needed you will be rewarded with some fabulous food. For me, whilst it is possible to stock up on the dried spices and condiments from trips into Birmingham to Wing Yip, getting hold of the fresh ingredients like galangal, kaffir lime leaves and pea aubergines in local supermarkets is nigh on impossible, so creating dishes from this book takes a bit more planning.

The recipes give you the ability to reproduce the true taste of dishes from this region and travel through SE Asia from the comfort of your kitchen. There are 7 chapters, each one devoted to a different country: Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Bali, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Every dish cooked so far has not disappointed, the Beef Kofta Curry is simply delicious and very moreish, the Babi Kecap is devine to name a couple of my favourites. Now I share with you the latest recipe I’ve tried.

Roasted Seabass with Hot, Sweet Sour Sauce

Roasted Sea Bass with Hot, Sour and Sweet Sauce

2 seabass – gutted, scaled and trimmed
37ml of fish sauce
25g shallots, finely sliced
15g garlic, thinly sliced
1 bird’s eye chilli, thinly sliced
25g palm sugar
15g tamarind pulp

Preheat the oven to 220C. Make 3 slashes on each side of the fish and place in a shallow dish. Pour over the fish sauce and rub into the slashes.. Pour the excess into a small pan – should be about 25ml. 

Heat 1cm oil in a frying pan and once hot, fry the sliced onions/shallots until crisp and golden. Lift out with slotted spoon and leave to drain. Add the garlic to the oil and repeat the same process. Finely do the same with the chilli. 

Add the sugar, tamarind and 2 tablespoons of water to the pan of fish sauce. Bring to the boil and simmer for 1 minute till thickened. 

Place the fish in a roasting dish and cook in the oven for 12 minutes until it is done – when the flesh flakes away. Reheat the sauce and stir in the fried shallots, garlic and chilli. Place the fish onto the plate, spoon over the sauce and scatter over the fried elements. Serve with rice and bok choi. 

 

I used onions due to not having shallots, only 30ml of fish sauce and tamarind paste which I find a useful time-saver ingredient. If using tamarind pulp you will need to sieve the sauce before serving.

The delicate fish against the flavoursome sauce is just sublime. The sauce delivers all the usual hits to the tastebuds from this corner of the world – sweet, salty, sour and hot. It was the perfect dish to feel healthy and yet comforting too.

If you want a cookbook to give you a a true taste of SE Asia then I think this is the one. I’d advise it is not for a novice though and you would definitely need to invest into a few key store cupboard ingredients.

Hasta la proxima / until next time

Project 366 – Day 7/366

Well I’ve made it to the end of the first week of my Project 366 – you can see all my photo’s here, and I’m quite enjoying the experience. The only challenge at the moment is that as I tend to do all my blogging etc in the evening when the light isn’t great for photography. My aim this week is to do some outside daytime shots where work commitments allow.

This is today’s photo.

Seabass close upIt’s a close up of the sea bass we cooked for dinner this evening. We went for thai cusine with a hot, sour and sweet sauce. Recipe to come soon.

Hasta la proxima / until next time

Food and Family – Part 3

Following the growing up of Baby G has really taught me to appreciate the here and now. There is so much development and change in each month of a baby’s first year that miss a bit and it’s like missing a whole decade! Thinking about her relationship with food and how that has developed is just one thing that makes me realise how quickly time passes.

In the few weeks since I last posted about Food and Family, so much has changed. During early December I completely gave up breastfeeding as her demand got less, my supply reduced and it became a pointless exercise, leading to frustration for both of us. Whilst I do miss that special bond we have had for 10 months I love the freedom it gives me, and the opportunity to drink a glass or two of wine might have been slightly abused over the festive period!

She still refuses formula (apart from one evening where she drank a cupful) but after several further attempts I have now given up completely on the milk front. I hope that her diet gives her all the calcium and nutrients she needs and will try again at the age of 1 with cows milk. Whilst this did cause me much stress and worry during her early months as my fellow mummy tweeters will know, I have now come to accept the fact that some babies do just fine without milk. Now it’s nice to be able to pass on advice and support to other mum’s who go through the same thing.

The worry of dehydration faded as slowly but surely she has come to love her cup and now will happily drink water from it all day, not only when offered to her, but crawling over to it and helping herself.

Here she is having a well earned drink after wolfing down her ratatouille for tea. Apologies for the quality of the photo but whilst I continue with my Project 366, many photographs will be taken on the quick with my IPhone. I won’t be posting all my photo’s here for fear of boring you to death with my project, but you can pop over to see my complete project here.

Salud! / Cheers!

Project 366 – Day 2/366

With her insatiable efforts of crawling and exploring, Baby G needs her naptime. Here she is having her only nap of the day. Usual pose of index finger in the mouth – no dummy required!

I love naptime, not only the perfect chance to gaze upon my sleeping beauty but a bit of “me” time to. Only wish it didn’t have to be filled with chores like ironing!

Project 366 – Day 1/366

I’ve been aware of 365 Project for a wee while now. For those who don’t know it’s a picture a day for a year of your life. This year with a leap involved I’m going to try and do a 366 Project. I kept thinking do I have time to photograph and blog each day – but with 3 blogs to look after I though what’s one more, right?!

I think the idea of taking a picture everyday is a fabulous way of recording your life in a snapshot, and with a desire to improve my photography skills it seems like a good way.

Not only that,  but when Baby G was first born I was very snap happy and have lots of photos of her early months, but with the return to work and trying to cram as much into the limited family time we have each day, the moments to photo become less and less.

This project is a way for me to ensure I don’t miss a moment of my beautiful baby’s girl life as she becomes more and more independent with each passing day.

It will also give me a chance to share some of my cooking and crafting creations, travels and anything else that might take my fancy!

Day One

Baby G out at lunch posing in Aunty Lisa’s hat!

Hello 2012!

So how was your Christmas and New Year celebrations? Here at Comida y Vida it has all been about some family time – both spending time with the parents and close family members and some quality “just us” chilling out time for me, Baby G and Mr CYV.

We have enjoyed some lovely food and New Years eve was spent feasting on a tapas selection of homemade delights including smoked salmon, duck prosciutto,(blog posts to follow as soon as we have perfected the curing and smoking), whisky onion marmalade and bread together with a great cheeseboard and some chorizo in red wine!

New Years inevitably evokes a desire to review the past year and plan for the next. At the beginning of 2011 I set a list of things I wanted to achieve and well to be honest …. it’s been a bit hit and miss.

I started out well with a few Spanish inspired posts and even did a week long tapas feast. Of late my spanish cooking has focused on these same dishes and so no new ones to blog – something to remedy for 2012!

The visit to Purnells is still on the list to do and as soon as finances allow I’ll be there!

I did attend the bread course at Loaf Online and you can see how I got on here.

I have done some new dishes from my cookbooks and have some waiting in the wings ready to blog when I get chance.

The garden has been sadly neglected but as soon as the weather shows a sign of spring I’ll be in the garden and getting it sorted. I want Baby G to learn how food is grown and that’s the best way.

So whilst my failings in 2011 leave me with a ready-made list of plans for this coming year I thought I’d add a couple more (not one not to challenge myself!) :

  • Do more seasonal cooking
  • Reduce my food bill by using up leftovers, reducing my food waste and cooking more frugally with cheaper cuts of meat etc.

I may have been less active than I’d like blogging here at CYV but I have been busy in the blogosphere! You can see what I’ve been up to in the crafty world at Stampin’ Delight and of course I’ve been busy single-handedly looking after Midlands Food Bloggers community blog whilst Jo has been on maternity leave.

So that’s me and just left to say thank you to all my readers, especially those who take time to comment – I love to hear your thoughts.

What do you have planned for the coming days, weeks, months and year?

Broccoli and Stilton Soup

Broccoli has never featured very highly in our cooking at CYV as hubs has a strong dislike to the “green trees”. Occasionally they might make a small guest appearance in a stir fry disguised by lots of spices, or I would add them to my Sunday roast, whilst hubs would scowl at them from afar.That has been the way of the broccoli here since we moved into together.

However, times change and when discussing weaning Baby G we both agreed to try more of the foods we dislike so that she would not miss out on trying any important flavours. We had bought some broccoli to steam for Baby G (which incidentally, didn’t go down well – like father, like daughter it would seem!)  and after the success of hubs eating some of it in our Indian feast, I thought I’d make a soup with the leftovers. We also had some stilton to use up so I went for the classic combination of Broccoli and stilton.

Broccoli and Stilton Soup

300g broccoli florets, roughly chopped
1 large potato, peeled and cubed
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 ltr vegetable stock
80g stilton
knob of butter
olive oil

Gently saute the onion off in the butter and a drop of oil until soft and translucent. Add the potato and stock and simmer for 10 minutes, until the potato is tender.

Add the broccoli and cook for a further 4-5 minutes until tender but it has still retained it’s colour. Add half the cheese and then process in a blender till smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with a sprinkling of the remainder of the cheese on top.

 

I loved the iron rich broccoli with the creamy blue cheese and was quite happy to eat the lot. Turns out hubs doesn’t mind broccoli in this form either and was quite happy to devour a bowl.

The soup was made to make the most out of leftovers so it is perfect for Fuss Free Flavours new event.

Click on the image for further details of this fabulous challenge and do join in.

 

Me in a Magazine!!

Whilst becoming a published food writer may be but a pipe dream, I am so pleased to have been featured in the BBC Good Food magazine as a recipe tester.

BBC Good Food Magazine

A couple of months ago I got a call asking if I wanted to be part of the reader taste panel for an upcoming issue. Er …. yes, yes, yes I replied! It was only when they said I had just a few days to test several recipes as part of an Indian feast for 10 people that made me have second thoughts.

Never one to turn down a challenge though I accepted and was sent a pack with all my recipes and ingredients. Heres what was involved and my initial thoughts:

  • Tamarind chicken curry – sounded lovely and recipe looked straightforward.
  • Pumpkin biryani – would take time but sounded great.
  • Spicy paneer skewers – where can I buy paneer in Staffordshire?
  • Stir-fried broccoli with coconut – getting hubby to eat broccoli would be a challenge.
  • Roasted chilli-garlic sauce – might help hubby eat the broccoli?
  • Cardamom meringue nests – never done meringue so looking forward to it.

So after heading out to get all the ingredients (Waitrose is the only place in my area where I can get paneer by the way!) we made a start on the recipes. We cooked the dishes over 2 weekday nights, but I could definitely see how easy it would be to prepare all dishes for a dinner party at the weekend.

BBC Good Food Magazine

I thoroughly enjoyed cooking these recipes and the majority of the dishes will be cooked again. I loved the flavour of the curry, but then I am a fan of Indian sweet and sour dishes like pathias, and was amazed at the depth of flavour from just a few spices. The verdict from the other tasters was good too – using chicken thighs and cooking them in this way, leaves the meat full of flavour and moisture. The Pumpkin Biryani, would definitely wow guests with it’s presentation, but for me it was a little too sweet in flavour. I was also a little put off by the texture of the pumpkin once it had been cooked. If I cooked it again I would add a touch of cumin and chilli to give some earthy undertones.

The paneer skewers were a bit of a revelation in the CYV household as we had never eaten it before, but it was a surefire hit. We loved the texture of the cheese against the crunchy vegetables and how the paneer absorbs the flavours. What was especially appreciated is that is light and not greasy due to being grilled, which makes a difference from many Indian starters we cook.

The broccoli was a great side dish, even hubby enjoyed it and we liked how the addition of the chilli sauce meant for those who like their spice, could increase the chilli kick of any of the dishes by adding this sauce. It’s definitely not one for the faint hearted though ….hot, hot, hot!

To finish off the Indian feast with these meringues is a genius idea. Light and sweet, chewy with a lovely hint of cardamom. We made the chestnut and chocolate filling which was lovely.

If you fancy having a go at any of these recipes or seeing me in my published glory, then pop along to the newsagents for your copy of the January issue of BBC Good Food.

Thanks to BBC Good Food magazine for selecting me as a recipe tester.

BBC Good Food Show 2011

It’s a day of enjoying lots of tastings, a day of wishing I had more money to spend on kitchen gadgets and appliances and a day of spotting a few celebrity chefs … it’s one of my favourite days of the year.

For the last 4 years I have made a visit to the BBC Winter Good Food Show and this year was no exception. I had booked my ticket at last years show so after 365 days of waiting my mum, Baby G and I all headed off to the NEC.

I went to enjoy it as a family day out and not as a “food blogger”. But then when Belling invited me along to their stand to get a front row seat to watch a few cookery demonstrations well I couldn’t resist. As the official appliance sponsor of the show they had a fab stand full of lots of their fab ovens including this one which I am hankering after.

On the day we visited (Friday) Brian Turner, renowned for his appearances on Ready Steady Cook, was the celebrity chef cooking on the stand. Other days saw top inidian chef Cyrus Todiwala and Ruth Clemens of Great British Bake off fame demonstrating and sharing some top tips.

Brian Turner at Belling Stand BBC Good Food

In the first cookery demonstration Brian demonstrated a gourmet BLT which looked fab and set off our taste buds, so afterwards we wondered off to grab a few tastings from the wealth of producers at the show.

BLT from Brian Turner

After lunch we popped back to the stand to watch Brian attempt a Get, Set, Cook challenge with a bag of mystery ingredients sourced from the show’s exhibitors. In 20 minutes Brian produced no less than 4 dishes.

He also did a demonstration (which we sadly missed) using recipes from a cookery book that Belling produced containing recipes sourced from the public on twitter with just 140 characters. All proceeds of this book are being donated to FoodCycle, a social enterprise which is tackling food waste and poverty in communities across the UK and you can get your hands on a copy here for £4.99.

Sorry for the lack of pictures and information about everything else at the show, as I say it was a non-blogger day. I did enjoy the day and couldn’t miss picking up some of my favourite brownies from Gower Cottage, or some eggs from the Handmade Scotch Egg co (though I wasn’t convinced that adding chocolate to a scotch egg was a good choice – I’ll stick to the favourites of beer and black pudding in future!) . New favourite find for the day was the pate at Findlaters – sublime!

I also bumped into a few other Midlands foodies including Jo of Jo’s Kitchen, Louise and J of Good Food, Great Fun and Gluten Free, Jules from Butcher, Baker  and James from Eat the Midlands who was with the lovely Suree from the King and Thai, which made the day even better.

There was also a bit of celeb chef spotting – Paul Hollywood, Galton Blackstock, and the Masterchef duo to name a few. The best bit was getting an autograph from my favourite yummy brummie after watching him in the Supertheatre.

Glynn Purnell

It was a great day out and I can’t wait till next years.

Thanks to Belling for the invite to their stand and a copy of Tweet Pie.

Bite ‘N’ Write

An event for food bloggers right on my doorstop, a chance to learn to some information and get tips to improve my blog, and an opportunity to meet some of my fellow bloggers with whom I have tweeted with for a long time … well I couldn’t resist. Bite 'N' Write badge

I booked the ticket for Bite ‘n’ Write so long ago, that by the time November 19th arrived I was too excited for words, if a little nervous at leaving Baby G with Daddy for the longest time yet …. 14 hours!!

So bright and breezy I jumped on a train to Birmingham and once in the lobby of New Street searched out a few of my fellow attendee’s. How to spot a blogger in a busy public place is perhaps a discussion for another day but I wouldn’t recommend walking up to a stranger and asking them if they are a blogger …. you will most certainly get a strange look!

Once the troops had gathered, including the my fellow MFB members Jules of Butcher, Baker, Julia of Wannabefoodie and Kath the Ordinary Cook, together with the very lovely Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog and Charlotte of Go Free foods, we set off for the venue. The event was held in the Old Library room at the Custard Factory.

I won’t go into detail regarding all the workshops that were held during the day as many other blogs have put it far better than I could including Louise at the Vegetarian Experience. I haven’t any decent photo’s to share with you either as was too busy taking in all the information, but here’s my highlights:

* The photography workshop by Craig Fraser of Frasershot was the best start to the day. An interesting look into how professional food photography is carried out and some simple tips to create stunning pictures at home. Who knew silver card and a tampon could be such useful tools?

* Judith Lewis of Mostly about Chocolate and SEO specialist gave an insight into optimising your blog which I found interesting but which was a tad too technical or not of interest for some of my fellow attendee’s.

* The tasting by Artisan du Chocolat was a particular high, a chocolate high that is! We got to learn all about chocolate and taste a wide range of their products. I particularly liked the mint one and the Masala Chai. I loved the look of the O’s too.

* Jeanne of Cook Sister gave a really interesting talk about writing and how to make your blog attractive to readers with tips on the design and content of the blog.

So those were my highlights, but for a fair review I must mention my disappointment with some aspects of the day. The main issue for me was the the lack of time and setting to mingle with the other food bloggers. Whilst I got to know the people on my table it was difficult to find time to meet everyone else. Also the venue was not the greatest with a serious heating problem leaving me drinking cups of coffee just to stop from turning blue, and the meaty non-indian lunch was a bit of a let-down.

I applaud Annie Ko for having the intrepidity to get up and organise something like this event, especially after such a short time blogging, and considering it was her first event it was good. However, there are many things to be improved upon and I would hope that these are put into place to make sure this can become an annual event.

I finished off the day with a get together with some of my tweeties for some delicious food and wine at Jamie’s Italian.