Monday, January 28, 2013

Herby lemon fish cakes

It’s not very useful when you are writing one post and another one barges ahead on its taste factor alone.  I wasn’t ready for the interruption but I was ready for the bite into a golden crispy coating and the herb and lemony fish mash inside. 

I don’t think I’ve tasted fish cakes as good as these.  What’s more, it was pleasing for a Scot, keen on getting value by using every item purchased, that this recipe emerged from leftovers.  (Years ago, my partner picked a tiny portion of cooked chicken on a small saucer out of the fridge, about to have it in his sandwich.  I stopped him and said it was for dinner. He looked curiously at the mini ration and back at me, waiting for my own version of the loaves and fish miracle.  I made risotto.)

So, leftovers - cue one small snapper fillet, which we thought we’d manage to finish off the night before but caved in after consuming a sizeable serve each. 

The rest of the ingredients were assembled from one lonely kumara, two freshly dug potatoes, the last of the spring onions (supermarket variety) and an opportunity to use the preserved lemons I’d made. 

Luckily there were fresh herbs.  If not, I would not have even started.   Fritters and fish cakes really need herby extras.  Okay, that’s my opinion but it’s served me well, otherwise all you get is bland. Not good.

The sides - a crisp salad and spicy harissa cream - came by way of remnants too. 

All that virtuous reward and a supreme taste.  Thanks to Den who caught the fish and made sure I got some.

Herby lemon fish cakes

Recipe serves 2

1 medium kumara (sweet potato)
2 medium sized potatoes
1 small cooked fish fillet e.g. snapper
2 or 3 spring onions
½ preserved lemon
a small handful of fresh herbs – I used Italian parsley and thyme (dill, chives or coriander would be nice too)
rock salt and pepper
I also used a flavoured salt – lemon & dill
1 egg, lightly beaten
about ½ cup Panko breadcrumbs

To serve

Lemon wedges
Spicy harissa sour cream (see below) or chutney or chilli sauce

Leaving the skins on, cut the potatoes and kumara into large chunks.  Place in a saucepan of lightly salted water.  Bring the water to the boil and cook kumara and potatoes until tender.  The kumara will cook before the potato so remove tender kumara with a slotted spoon as they are ready.   Leave cooked kumara and potatoes to cool in the bowl.

Once cool, use a knife to remove the skins from the kumara and potatoes and mash well. 

Warm a heavy bottomed frypan and toast the Panko breadcrumbs until golden.  Keep moving them in the pan over a low heat and don’t let them burn.  Should only take a few minutes. Remove to a plate to cool.

With a fork, flake the cooked fish into the kumara and potatoes (I used my fingers as the fish had some bones and I could detect them before someone else did!).

Rinse the preserved lemon half under a cold tap, removing the flesh as you go, so you are left with just the yellow skin.

Pick the leaves from the fresh thyme, discarding the stalks.  You can leave the Italian parsley stalks intact as they are tender and slim so can be chopped with the herbs.

Slice the preserved lemon and the spring onions.  Add both to the herbs and using a knife or a mezza luna, chop them all together finely, then season with rock salt and ground pepper.  I added some lemon and dill flavoured salt. Add to the fish cake mix and combine all the ingredients evenly.

Shape the mix into balls (I used an ice cream scoop to make six even sized ones) and flatten slightly.  Dip each side into the beaten egg and then coat all over with the Panko breadcrumbs. 

Heat some oil in a frying pan and cook over a medium heat for a few minutes each side until the fish cakes are golden crispy on the outside and heated through.  Remove to a paper towel then transfer to a heated serving dish.

Dish up the fish cakes with lemon wedges, a light salad (I used baby greens, matchstick apple and cucumber, and papery slices of red onion, dressed simply with local olive oil and lemon juice) and the spicy harissa cream.

The fish cakes would also be good with a chili sauce or chutney.

Spicy harissa cream

This was simply leftover sour cream (about a third - 50g - of a small tub), a ¼ tsp harissa paste (taste as you go, some are more spicy than others, I used my favourite, Malouf ‘s Spice Mezza) and a splash of lemon juice, whipped smoothly together with a teaspoon. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Creamy Orange Ice Blocks

They say never work with children or animals.  Well, I’m adding ice cream sticks to that. While they might not cause as much destruction as tiny tots or pets, it's only a matter of time before it all turns to custard (literally).   

So, with an eensy weensy frame of opportunity to photograph on a hot day, I quickly took 10 consecutive snaps before the ice blocks melted.  Setting up the styling in advance without the star attraction did help, but even so it sure didn't take too long for those little blocks to start disintegrating.

I then had a few messy minutes attempting to squeeze custardy melts into some resemblance of their original shape and back snugly in their moulds.  Don’t suppose there’s any takers for them now?

Although they were fiddly in a photographic sense, they are oh so  simple to make. Despite having cut out this recipe donkey’s years ago, I'd never really given much thought to making ice blocks but, after a few hot and humid days here, I thought I’d give them a go.

These are creamy and custardy with a hint of orange (I'd add more orange zest next time). Not quite as refreshing as a fruity ice block but nevertheless they'd be a cool alternative to dessert on a hot day or simply as a ‘rescue me’ package after a long, hot drive.

I was unable to source sophisticated, classy moulds for these so, apart from one grown-up wooden stick, children’s popsicle moulds it is! 

In the end, I had more mix than I had ice block moulds, so I poured the remainder (after adding a shot of Malibu coconut liqueur to it!) in a small oval container (similar to a mini-loaf tin), lined with cling wrap and popped it in the freezer.   That may do as a dessert one evening.

Creamy Orange Ice Blocks 

400g carton chilled custard (I used Vanilla Custard)
grated zest and juice of 3 small oranges (use more zest if you like)
250g mascarpone cheese
175g icing sugar

In a food processor, mix all the ingredients until smooth. Pour into the moulds and tap gently on the work surface to release any air bubbles.  Insert the sticks and freeze until required.  Yes, it is that simple.

This is the difficult part.  To remove, dip the moulds briefly in hot water and gently ease the blocks out. 

Serve individually as required, or arrange on a bowl of ice and decorate with some extra orange zest grated on top for a summer dessert.  Quick, before it melts!

I can’t think of a more summery, sweet New Zealand than this, so it’s my entry for this month’s Sweet New Zealand, hosted by someone who lives not too far from me but who I haven’t yet met, Arfi at HomeMadeS.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Strawberry and Vanilla Syrup Jam

Any time I’ve considered making strawberry jam, the strawberries have disappeared before the thought has been put into action.  Last week, with the absence of the strawberry thief, I was finally able to take the fruit from punnet to jar.

I was so pleased I did.  The aroma from the strawberries bubbling away in the pot was, in itself, enough to send me into raptures but a spoonful or two straight from the jar has made me think I’d better bottle up some more of summer before it has gone.  Maybe some apricot jam too?

I like to make preserves in small amounts – less waste if it all goes wrong and easy and quick to do at short notice rather than spending the whole morning, afternoon or, god forbid, day in the kitchen surrounded by jars and jam-making equipment.  Increase the quantities if you are this kind of person (I admire you, really I do).

Strawberry and vanilla syrup jam 

500g (2 punnets) strawberries, hulled
1 tablespoon Equagold Tahitian vanilla syrup or 1 whole vanilla pod*
375g sugar
juice of half a lemon
1 teaspoon of butter

Makes 2 small jars

Have the jam jars ready and sterilized.  I normally wash mine in hot soapy water, rinse the jars and, still wet, pop them (jars only, no lids!) in the microwave for one minute.  Once washed, I rinse the lids with boiling water from a kettle.  I am not an expert on preserving and sterilization so check out one of the many websites available on the subject, such as this one

For a chunky, whole fruit experience, keep smaller strawberries whole and cut larger ones to the same size.  Place the fruit in a stainless steel or glass bowl and mix with the vanilla syrup and sugar.  Leave overnight in the fridge.  If using a vanilla pod, split the pod along the length with a sharp knife and scrape the seeds into the mix, along with the whole pod (remove pod after cooking).

The next day, remove the fruit and sugar mix from the fridge (I normally leave it at room temperature for about an hour before cooking).  Add the lemon juice and stir to combine. 

Place a small saucer in the freezer (for testing jam at setting stage). 

Transfer the fruit mix into a large saucepan and over a gentle simmer, heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. 

Turn the heat up and slowly bring to a rolling boil.  Take care the jam does not catch on the sides or bottom of the saucepan.  Cook until the jam reaches setting point. 

While it’s boiling a scum sometimes rises to the surface and can spoil the appearance of the jam.  To remove this, you can either:

  • use a metal spoon to skim off the scum (now there’s a nice phrase); 

or, (like me because I am lazy):

  • skip the skimming and stir in a small knob of butter.

After about 10 minutes of boiling, start testing to see if jam is set (you may need to do this a few times).  Put a small amount of jam on the saucer you have ready in the freezer.  Wait until it cools slightly then push the jam with your finger.  If it wrinkles as you push, it is ready.  Mine took about 15-20 minutes to reach this stage.

Once ready, pour into the hot sterilized jars.  If you have waxed discs, place these on top and cover with a lid.  Leave to cool.

And there you have it, summer in a jar.