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Category: Soups and Starters

Smoked Mackerel Pate

You will need:

The easiest dish in the world. Take your best-ever smoked mackerel as described here, and remove all bones and skin. Mix with cream cheese (Philadelphia or supermarket equivalent) in a ratio of twice as much fish as cream cheese. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, but go easy on the salt and pepper until you have tasted it – your brine may have made the fish spicy enough already. Serve with toast fingers, or, if you really want to impress, make canapés with little circles of toast topped with smoked mackerel, a sliver of gherkin, and a sprinkle of fresh chopped parsley. Very posh.

Fritto Misto Di Mare

Or Italian for “what on earth can I do with only one plaice and some leftover bait?” Obviously this traditional recipe was invented by Mediterranean anglers long ago who came home with a load of odds and ends, just  like us on a less than average day. Quantities are highly variable depending on what is available, but to give you a guide, the following fed two comfortably: one plaice of about a pound, 6 squid, 12 small frozen scallops, 8 raw frozen prawns.

For four (or more, or less, depending on how much fish you have) you will need:

  • white fish, filleted, skinned and cut into bite sized slices (plaice, whiting, bream, pouting, pollack etc)
  • squid (you did keep some?)
  • raw prawns, thawed if frozen
  • mussels, scallops
  • a handful of plain flour
  • a teaspoon of salt
  • lemons
  • oil for deep frying
  • Kitchen paper towels

Heat the oil in a deep pan until a cube of bread goes brown in 20 seconds. Mix the salt and flour together. Dry the fish etc. on the paper towels, because hot oil and wet fish creates an interesting eruption and you don’t want that unless you are tired of your old kitchen. Toss the fishy bits in the seasoned flour.

Drop the floured pieces in the oil, a handful at a time, don’t crowd the pan. They will cook very quickly as they are so small, probably 30 seconds only. Scoop them out when turning brown at the edges and drain them on more kitchen towels. Keep them warm in the oven while you do the next batch. And so on. That’s all there is to it.

Serve with lemon squeezed over and more salt. Ours made a meal with a side salad and lots of good fresh crusty bread, washed down with a Peroni if you are cheap like me or a very cold bottle of Italian white if you are not.


Five Thousand Fish

Have you ever wondered how to serve a fish meal to a hungry family when you only have one or two? Jesus managed to feed five thousand followers by the Sea of Galilee with two fish and five buns, but He used miracles. This is a recipe that does not involve cheating. It doesn’t exactly feed people either, but it makes a nice starter and leaves them happy. Use plaice, dabs, flounder, small pollack, bass, whiting, cod or similar.

Make an Indian batter by measuring about 50g of gram (chickpea) flour, which you can buy in the better supermarkets these days. Add a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of garam masala. Mix with enough cold water to make a batter the consistency of thick cream. Heat a pan of oil to frying temperature, which you can measure by dropping a small cube of bread in and if it goes nicely brown in 30 seconds its fine. The oil only needs to be a couple of cms deep.

Take your fish, skin and fillet it and cut into strips. Coat in the batter mix and drop in the hot oil one by one. Don’t over-do the quantity as they will stick together and cool the oil. Take them out when golden, and drain on kitchen paper. Wait a minute for the oil to get hot again then repeat the performance until you have a basket of Indian fish strips in a spicy batter. Serve with a scattering of chopped coriander leaf for a posh touch, and a bowl of mango chutney to dip. Scrummy. If you have made too much batter, you can make vegetable fritters and onion bhagees – its the same batter. (My own recipe)

Eat Your Bait…or Salt and Pepper Squid

Often on the menu in a Chinese restaurant, this is easy to make. First obtain your squid. This could be fresh caught, shop-bought, or if you have kept your squid bait cool and clean you could cook up any leftovers as soon as you get home (seriously – I do). Most squid sold for bait is the same as boxes of squid sold to restaurants. Go to a Wing Yip cash and carry, you will see what I mean. The amount of squid you have will determine whether you are about to make an appetizer, snack or meal.

You need:

  • Squid
  • 4 tablespoons plain flour
  • 4 tablespoons cornflour
  • 1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns (or normal black ones if you don’t have any)
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • Oil for deep frying
  • Lemons to serve

Prepare your squid by pulling off the head, cutting off the tentacles in a bunch just under the eyes (discard the eyes and guts), slit open the tube and scrape both sides clean with a knife. Cut into 2cm squares, rinse and pat dry on kitchen paper.

Grind up the salt, pepper and chilli in a pestle and mortar. If you want a slightly less authentic version just use half the quantity of ground black pepper, table salt and a good pinch of chilli powder. Mix in with the flours. Put a 2cm depth of oil in a pan and heat until a cube of bread turns brown in 30 seconds. Toss a small handful of sqiddy bits in the flour to coat, shake off any excess and drop in to the oil for one to two minutes, don’t overdo it. Light brown is fine. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Give the oil time to reheat and repeat the process until the squid is used up. Nice served as a snack with lemon juice squeezed over, and speared with a cocktail stick. I like extra salt too. It may not be a great idea to tell your posh guests where the squid was earlier. (Good Food recipe)

P.S. Alternatively make a beer batter by pouring lager onto a handful of flour until it is the consistency of double cream, then dip your prepared squid into it before frying as above. It makes the lightest, crispiest batter!

Cured Salmon

Cured of what? Cured of being boring. OK this is not something you will catch in the Solent but you could buy some from Tescos on the way home. This is from James Martin and so easy it almost isn’t a recipe! All you do is take a skinned fillet of salmon – whole, half or quarter side, and cure it for 12 hours. Then you can slice it and use like smoked salmon in salads, as a starter, an hors d’oeuve or whatever. Here is what you do.

Take your slab of salmon. Mix sugar and sea salt in equal quantities (half a cup of each will do half a side of salmon). Tear off a large sheet of cling film. Make a bed of cure mix using half the cure. Lay the salmon down on top and sprinkle booze on it – James uses good whisky but you could experiment. Half a cup for half a salmon side again. Cover with the rest of the cure and wrap it up in the cling film to make a parcel. Refrigerate for 12 hours, preferably on a deep plate as it will probably leak juices. Then rinse thoroughly in water and you will find it now looks cured – very firm and not at all raw. It will have shrunk too. Simply slice and enjoy!

We tried this with a salad of rocket, beetroot, gherkins, hard boiled eggs, radishes and home-made blinis with sour cream, pretending to be Russians. It was good!

Blanker’s Broth…

…or Prawn and Pepper Chowder!

It happens to all of us – we have great plans for a fish supper but catch nothing. It would be just too much to pay for stale fish of the species we catch, so the only thing to do is to buy something we don’t usually catch – in this case prawns, and possibly a tin of anchovies. For four people you will need:

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 rashers of bacon, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 large (or 2 small) red peppers, seeded and finely chopped
  • 225g tomatoes, skinned and chopped (or cheat and use a tin)
  • 900ml chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 40g long-grain rice
  • 1 tablespoon wine vinegar
  • 50g peeled prawns, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • handful of whole peeled and cooked prawns
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Fry the onion, bacon and garlic gently in oil until soft. Add almost all of the minced peppers and continue frying for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, stock, rice, vinegar, bay leaf, salt and pepper, and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes until it is all soft and mingled. Discard the bay leaf, and add the chopped prawns and parsley. Simmer for another 6 minutes. Serve in warm bowls, garnished with whole prawns and the remaining chopped red pepper.

Where did those anchovies come in you may ask? If you like the salty flavour, try anchovy bread with it. Take a French baton loaf, and make an anchovy butter by mashing a tin of anchovies with 100g of unsalted butter. Cut slits in the bread and stuff the slits with anchovy butter, as you would for garlic bread. Wrap in foil, and bake in an oven at 180deg C for 15 minutes.

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