Sunday, January 03, 2016

artichoke bruschetta

I've been making this topping a lot this summer. 

Take a jar* of artichoke hearts, drain well. In a small food processor, chop the artichokes with a couple of cloves of crushed garlic, the juice of half to one lemon (to taste), a tablespoon or two of some good olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. Whiz til blended but before it gets too smooth. You want a bit of texture.

If there's some fresh parsley at hand, finely chop and stir that through or any other herb you take a fancy to.

Dollop on freshly toasted bread. Sure you can first rub it while hot with some olive oil and a clove of garlic, it smells great but it's not entirely necessary.

* A jar or a can? I've made it with both. The more expensive ones in a jar have a better texture than canned artichokes, which tend to be softer/over cooked. However, any port in a storm. Do the best with what you have. It still tastes good as a puree.

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Saturday, January 02, 2016

Baked fish with potatoes and asparagus

I’ve always been a tad contrary.

As blogging is in its final hour, I’ve got the urge to write again. Each day it seems another blogger from way back when is pulling up stumps. It gets tiring, that nagging voice in the back of your mind, to blog. We all run out of steam eventually. 

I have no desire to share my life story, publish a cookbook or be a photography wizard in this space, I’m just going back to my roots which are simply a food blog as a cook’s journal, my digital scribble of recipes created (and the occasional culinary failure) so I can remember them in future.  No pressure to post on schedule, or at all. I'm only popping back when something is worth reproducing. And bugger the grammar!

On holiday I stumbled upon a simple fish recipe that kept my diminutive New Zealand family happy. I adapted the original source that features salmon (though I eat it when I have no other choice, farmed and flabby Australasian salmon is a disappointing experience) and tweaked cooking times accordingly. It needed some jazzing up so I added olives, garlic and seasoning. Next time I’ll skip the balsamic (as I have done below) and top the finished dish with a capery-salsa verde, which I reckon will give the meal the added zip it needs.

Be my guest and use salmon if that’s the only fish you feel competent cooking, it will hold its shape well and is unlikely to offend. As I was in New Zealand I couldn’t go past the local fresh snapper but most fillets will work. If thin check at 7-8 minutes to see if cooked, otherwise thicker ones may require the full 15.

The original recipe calls for successive ingredients to be tossed together in the pan but I got all Virgo and kept them in neat layers.

Baked snapper with asparagus and potatoes

(Serves 3)

600g small new potatoes, scrubbed (I used Jersey Bennies but if you only have big old spuds, slice into 3 cm chunks)
3 cloves of garlic (skin on)
2 tabs olive oil
1 – 2 bunches of asparagus, woody parts removed
1 punnet cherry (or similar small) tomatoes
3 medium sized fish fillets (I used NZ snapper, which are quite thin but Blue Eye would also work well)
Sea salt
½ cup Kalamata olives (omit if serving with salsa verde)

To serve – lemon wedges or salsa verde (optional) 

Fire up the oven to 220c (fan) and find an oven dish (ceramic or metal) that will fit the potatoes in a single layer. If you don’t like washing up, line it with foil or parchment.

Tip a tablespoon of oil into a plastic bag or bowl and toss the spuds and garlic with a sprinkle of salt. Arrange in a single layer in the dish and bake for 20 minutes. Don’t chuck out the oil or bag just yet – add the asparagus to gently coat.

Remove from oven and give the spuds a good shake to loosen. Add the asparagus in a layer on top. If your tomatoes are a little on the large size, add them now as well. Just scatter around the pan. Cook for a further 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and give the pan another shake. Season the fish and lie on top of the asparagus, throw in some olives (and add the tomatoes now if tiny). Sprinkle the fish with the remaining tablespoon of oil. Bake 10 – 15 minutes until the fish is cooked.

Assemble equal quantities of vegetables and fish on each plate.

Serve as is, or with a wedge of lemon. If you’re in the mood, a spoonful of salsa verde on the fish would give it a gentle kick.

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