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

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.

Mad about Baking

I have always been a keen cook but tend to stick to savoury dishes and until recently my baking skills have been limited to my trusty carrot cake and a few cupcakes, or a couple of loaves of bread. However, with a date with the Derby Clandestine Cake Club looming I need to up the anti with my baking skills, and adding fuel to the fire is my weekly addiction to The Great British Bake Off so I have decided in the next few weeks to practice lots of new baking treats …… but where to start?

I do have a decent collection of cookbooks but quite often when I want to get creative in the kitchen and not sure what to cook I get out my trusty aid …… google! With a quick look at the BBC Good Food page and a search on UKTV food I was still at a loss at what to cook and went on the hunt for more recipe ideas.

I found this recipe at Baking Mad and decided to give it a whirl.

Chocolate Gingerbread

200g Molasses Sugar
4 eggs
50g Chocolate (Plain 65% cocoa solids)
75g butter unsalted
4 tbsp Yoghurt
pinch salt
225g plain white flour
25g cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
3 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp mixed spice
1/4 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
pinch black pepper

Whisk the eggs and sugar until combined. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of simmering water or in a microwave oven. Stir in the yoghurt. Gently stir into the egg mixture.

Sift the dry ingredients together and gently fold into the chocolate mixture until well combined. Pour the mixture into a 23cm/9 inch greased square tin and bake for about 45 minutes Gas mark 4/180ºC/350ºF until cooked through.

Leave in the tin for 15 minutes, and then turn out onto a wire rack to become cold. Store in an airtight tin.

I really enjoyed making this and it was a simple start to my new baking adventures. Baking Mad has lots of fabulous recipes for me to venture on to and has a handy search function so you can search by word, ingredient, preparation time or by type of cake with categories such as Posh Puds, Celebration cakes or even Cake Stall Bakes. I shall definitely be seeking inspiration for my Clandestine Cake Club bake from there.

What are your favourite baking treats to make?

Watching the weight comfort food

A few weeks ago Vanessa Kimbell of Prepped! fame, tweeted about the idea of a gourmands diet and within a few hours she had gathered together a team of foodies all with a want to lose a few pounds. I so wanted to join in, a delicious diet no less, and would have done so, but dieting and breastfeeding do not go together and I couldn’t compromise Baby’s G growth for the sakes of a few pounds.

I did decide however to try and introduce some healthier meals into our eating regime, not only to benefit my waistline but also to increase my intake of fruit and vegetables. July had been a month of foodie extravagance with lots of dining out for birthdays and a post baby treat of a meal at Loves with fellow foodie Jo of Jo’s Kitchen (we will review soon on the Midlands Food Bloggers community blog!) so we decided that August would be a “eat healthy” month in the aim to kickstart a better lifestyle change before winter comes along and all I crave is comfort food. I also had in mind that as Baby G is about to embark upon her own eating regime I need to lead by example right?

The changes me and hubs agreed to are:

  • no takeaways
  • eat more vegetables and fruit – try for the 5-a-day at least.
  • eat less sweet treats, including resisting the co-op Truly irresistible Chocolate cookies, something I got addicted to .
  • no fast food restaurants.
  • no drinking during the week, and only a glass of wine or two at

Now the first 2 weeks of August we began with good intentions but with more birthdays and Baby G’s naming day and a lot of party food left over we have admitted defeat. This week we set to start again on our Delicious Diet.

So I dug out my Weightwatchers Pure Points Cookbook – not something I would normally buy but it was picked up from a charity shop for a £1 – and tried to find something that would satisfy my urge for a homely comforting dish without all the calories. I spotted a recipe for a cottage pie and decided to give it a go.

Cottage Pie

Cottage Pie350g extra-lean minced beef
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed,
1 red pepper, de-seeded and diced
250g mushrooms, diced
1 tsp ground cumin
425ml beef stock
1 tbsp tomato puree
225g carrots, peeled and diced
450g potatoes, peeled and diced
3 tbsp half fat crème fraîche
salt and pepper

Dry fry the mince in a non-stick pan until browned and crumbly. Add the onion, garlic, red pepper, mushrooms and cumin, stir and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring from time to time. Add the stock and the tomato puree. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring pan of slightly salted water to the boil and cook the potatoes and carrots until tender. Drain and mash well with the crème fraîche and seasoning.
Spoon the mince misture into an ovenproof dish, spread the mashed vegetables over the top and back for 25 minutes.

Cottage Pie

I understand the need to reduce the meat to make it less calorific but not sure I am fully on board with the addition of red pepper, I think next time I will be adding more mushroom and onion and omit the pepper. I liked the gentle spicing and flavour of tomato, and was quite happy with the mash topping, but hubs said it wasn’t a proper cottage pie as the beef mix did not taste meaty enough.

It was good for an alternative to a family favourite though and I’m sure we will continue to use this recipe where we want comfort but without the calories.

Hasta la proxima / until next time

Welcome aboard

Now hopefully you might have arrived here from my old blog at Blogger so welcome to the new home of Comida y Vida.

The move and new website coincide with a slight change in direction. It has always been called Comida y Vida / Food and Life and the majority of writing has covered my foodie adventures with a little sprinkling of my life.

With the arrival of Grace, aka Baby G, my time and focus has obviously changed. Gone are the days of whiling away hours in the kitchen cooking up a feast, or dining out on a regular basis. So this blog is changing to reflect that, there will more of a balance between Food and Life, with a sharing of my experiences as a first time mum.

It could not come at a more appropriate time as Baby G approaches the age where she will begin her foodie adventures, so it will be a true tale of Food and Life, and I hope you’ll join me along the way.

So as a little housewarming present to myself I have baked these muffins.

Raspberry MuffinsRaspberry Muffins

120g self raising flour
120g wholemeal self-raising flour
3 tbsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
200ml milk
2oz butter, melted
170g raspberries

Preheat the oven 190C. Lightly grease the muffin tins. Sift the dry ingredients together, tip in the wholewheat flakes from the sieve. Beat the eggs, milk and butter with the dry ingredients to create a thick batter. Add the raspberries and stir them in gently. Spoon the mixture into the tins and bake for 30 minutes

So make yourself a cuppa, grab a muffin, put your feet up and have a look around.

If you’re only interested in the food related posts then click Comida on the link on the menu bar, for all parenting related posts click on Vida.

Hasta la proxima / Until next time

Gambas al ajillo

Well it’s the final day of the tapas tour and it’s another tapas favourite and another simple dish. Gambas al ajillo are garlic shrimps and no spanish feast is complete without some sort of seafood. The spanish eat all types of seafood with shrimps or gambas being one of the most common.

Gambas al ajillo

This should ideally be prepared on the hob in earthenware dishes but I have yet to add those to my kitchen equipment (I need a bigger kitchen!!) so i used a frying pan and transferred to these ramekins to serve.

300g shrimps (I used raw tiger prawns which are found in most supermarkets)
125ml olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, finely sliced.
1 red chilli pepper, cored and finely sliced
salt

Heat the olive oil in the pan, add the garlic and chilli. Add the prawns as soon as the garlic has coloured slightly, sprinkle with salt and fry. Serve immediately in the garlic and oil, with hunks of bread to mop up all those fab juices after the prawns have been devoured. The chilli should be just enough to leave a tingle but not overpower the dish.

That brings us to the end of the tapas spread and I hope you’ve enjoyed it and it has inspired you to bring a bit of the spanish tapas flavour into your kitchen.

June’s Spanish recipes will be something sweet for you to try, but pop back tomorrow for a blog giveaway!