Oven Baked Cod & Prosciutto with Balsamic Glazed Vegetables & Garlic Ciabatta

I really must spend more Sunday afternoons like this, writing blog posts whilst drinking tea (from a cup with the words ‘His Lordship’ on) and listening to Rod Stewart. Utter bliss. Don’t anybody call me or knock on my door. Today is mine to enjoy.
So, on Friday evening I cooked for the ladies, which meant a delicious Italian feast was in order. Well, I say I cooked; it was more of a team effort. But, boy were we rewarded for our efforts. Now, I don’t mind blowing my own proverbial trumpet every now and again… I don’t confess to knowing best when it comes to food, far from it, but this meal was amazing, it just worked so well. Each element of the dish came together to create a simple yet impressive meal, and it will definitely become a regular in my repertoire of go-to recipes. Just look at those colours, who wouldn’t want to eat that? Ok, I think that’s probably enough revelling in my own self praise for now.
You can use any white fish for this recipe, but I found cod was as good as any, and slightly cheaper than monkfish. And when it comes to the vegetables, just go with your own preference, I went for maximum colour. The best part is that there really is minimal prep work; everything is baked on a tray in the oven, so there’s no tiresome stirring or simmering, or sweating over the stove so to speak. Yes, I can be a very lazy cook at times, but who isn’t.

If you’re not keen on fish I think chicken would work equally well in this recipe. 
The vegetables take slightly longer than the fish and garlic ciabatta, we found about 35 minutes for the vegetables was fine, then 20 minutes in we popped in the fish and bread. Naturally we washed it down with a good crisp Pinot.

2 large pieces of cod, each cut into three even sized pieces

6 slices of prosciutto
1 large courgette, roughly chopped
1 red pepper, roughly chopped
1 yellow pepper, roughly chopped
2 red onions, chopped into wedges
Large bunch of tomatoes on the vine
50g pine nuts
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar/glaze
1 bunch of freshly chopped basil
Ciabatta bread
3 tbsp butter
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
1 tbsp garlic infused oil
Place the chopped vegetables in a baking tray, cover with the oil, balsamic vinegar and pine nuts. Using your hands give it all a good mix up ensuring the vegetables are evenly coated with oil. Scatter over the chopped basil, season well and place in the oven at 200⁰C.

Meanwhile cut each fillet of cod into thirds (as evenly as possible) and wrap each piece in a slice of prosciutto, place on another baking tray and set aside.
Take the ciabatta loaf and using a bread knife slice at 1 inch intervals, ensuring you don’t slice all the way through the bread. Hold open the slots and drizzle with garlic infused oil. In a bowl mix the butter, garlic and parsley until completely combined, it helps if the butter is fairly soft. Using a knife smear the butter into each of the slices in the bread, then using the left over butter rub it across the top of the bread with your hands.
Once the vegetables have cooked for 20 minutes, place the bread and fish in the oven, cook for 15 minutes, then serve with a drizzle of balsamic glaze or vinegar to garnish.


My Love of Marinating Meats

There’s something about the process of marinating meat and fish that appeals to me, although I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. It certainly isn’t the waiting. I’m a very impatient person, especially when it comes to food. But, its like this, chicken breast is great, but it’s even greater when it’s been sat in an bath of salty soy and nutty sesame oil, with a few chillies, some garlic and ginger thrown in. Oh, and a dash of fish sauce, and maybe some coriander. You get the point. Perhaps it’s the sheer simplicity of it. Yes, it takes time to sit, but it’s as simple as throwing everything together in a bowl and letting it hang out in the fridge for an hour or so, and you end up with this amazing depth of flavour that is impossible to create without letting the flavours mingle together. Take lamb for instance, delicious with mint sauce. Even more delicious marinated in red wine with garlic, rosemary and thyme then threaded onto skewers with thick wedges of red onion and barbecued to perfection. Yes I did just say barbecue in February!

The point I’m trying to make is simple, if you marinate your meat it will taste better. There is nothing quite like smothering a decent cut of meat in butter infused with garlic and herbs and layering lemon slices over the top. It’s like an explosion of harmonious tastes in your mouth. And, when you really start to think about marinating your food you’ll realise the flavour combinations are endless. 

Don’t know where to start? Here’s a little piece of advice, if you think it will work, it most probably will. Remember these basic foundations and you can’t go wrong:
  • Oil
  • Acid
  • Seasoning

Basically, it’s about taking great flavours that compliment each other and having some fun creating new recipes. Remember to season your marinade well, and taste it (before you put the raw meat in it). The consistency should be fairly thin in order to coat all of the meat, here’s a few of my ideas:

  • Garlic, white wine (or olive oil), lemon and thyme – perfect for chicken
  • Soy, garlic, ginger and lime – great with fish
  • Garlic, red wine, rosemary and thyme –delicious with lamb or beef
  • Extra virgin olive oil, chilli, garlic and basil – for perfect spicy prawns

Butter marinades are also fantastic and easy to rustle up. Place a large dollop of softened butter in a bowl, add chopped herbs, garlic, lemon zest and maybe even some chopped anchovies, season with salt and pepper and rub over your meat, cook as normal. Butter marinades work best when pushed under the skin of meats, they make the meat so tender and moist you won’t believe it.

Time – Marinating times vary depending upon the size and cut of meat, or indeed fish. For diced meats an hour is fine, for larger cuts of meat you may find 3-4 hours best. Fish will take slightly less time than diced meats. But, if you don’t have an hour to wait, make sure marinating is the first job you do, even if the meat gets half an hour in a pool of flavour it’s going to taste better than before.

Safety – Always leave meats to marinate in the fridge. When the temperature rises bacteria can develop. And, do not reuse marinade that has been in contact with raw meat; if you need extra marinade to serve retain some before marinating your meat.
Storage – Using a re-sealable plastic bag is a great way of marinating to ensure all of the meat is covered, plastic containers also work well. Avoid using metal bowls as the acid can react with the metal. 

Got an amazing marinade recipe? Comment below and share it with us…


Guest Post – Maui Onion & Sesame Seed Crusted Ahi Tuna

Howdy folks, today I have a little treat in store for you. I had a email a few weeks back from a lovely lady called Kendra Thornton who is a travel expert with a longing to seek out great food whilst on her travels, she has been travelling the world since she was 3 months old. That’s a whole lot of travels.

Kendra noted my love of authentic Asian food and sent me this amazing recipe to share with my readers. You lucky people you! She discovered this recipe whilst in Hawaii and i can’t wait to give it a go.

Guest Post by Kendra Thornton – Maui Onion & Sesame Seed Crusted Ahi Tuna

When my husband and I were vacationing in Hawaii, there was one restaurant that really sticks in my mind. It was the Lahaina Grill and one dish in particular was so delicious that I refused to walk away from the restaurant without getting the recipe! I’m talking about the Maui Onion & Sesame Seed Crusted Seared Ahi.

Just thinking about it now, I wish I could go back and have it again, but luckily for me, I discovered how it’s made and am able to replicate this meal back in my home in Chicago. It serves as a fabulous exotic Asian meal that is always a hit at dinner parties. I’ve done it once for some friends here on the east coast, and I’ll be doing it again soon and wanted to share with you how it’s made.

2 Ahi tuna steaks, about 5 cm thick
350ml of dehydrated crushed onions
475ml chopped onions
45ml of olive oil divided
15ml raw sesame seeds

240ml jasmine rice
15ml minced shallots
15ml unsalted butter
480ml fish stock
1 vanilla bean

240ml white vinegar
480ml apple juice
480ml apple cider vinegar
168g unsalted butter
4 leaves of chives finely chopped

1. Caramelize the 480ml of onions over medium high heat with 2 tablespoons of oil. Set aside.

2. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large skillet. Roll the fish in the dehydrated onions and sesame seeds. Brown all over.

3. Combine the rice, minced shallots, unsalted butter, fish stock and vanilla bean; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, and cover. Simmer until the rice absorbs the stock. Remove from heat and fluff the rice.

4. Mix the vinegars and apple juice over medium heat. Stir until reduced to 1/2 cup. Just before serving, cube the 168g of cold butter. Add it in small quantities, and continue to mix over medium heat. Pour mixture into blender and pulse.

5. To serve put a bed of rice down with a fillet on top. Top with caramelized onions. Drizzle the vinaigrette over it all and place some fresh chives over that. Goes best with steamed vegetables; you can’t go wrong with baby carrots.

Although you don’t have to stay in some of the top hotels in Maui or go to Hawaii to in general to get the taste of the island. Try it out, it serves two in case you want to go the romantic route!


South West Indian Fish Curry

This Friday brings with it the start of a new month, a better one than the last, I hope. I don’t know about you, but I’m glad January is over; I’m itching to move on with the year and February is always filled with so much more promise, the evenings are becoming lighter and spring is just around the corner. So, to mark the start of a new month, why not try a new recipe? Something you wouldn’t normally cook, like a South West Indian Fish Curry.

It was by spending a good few hours researching various different recipes that I was able to create this one, essentially it’s an authentic South West Indian Fish Curry with a few tweaks here and there for personal preference. I know the thought of fish curry makes some people turn their noses up, but to those people I say don’t knock it ‘till you’ve tried it. This dish makes for a wonderful aromatic light meal that doesn’t compromise on flavour. Now, you might be fairly surprised to learn that coconut milk is the base of this curry, but coconut is native to South West India, so it’s a key flavour in many dishes that originate there. It can be in the form of milk, cream or flesh, depending upon the dish. As well as coconut milk being in abundance, rice is the staple diet for all South West Indians so there’s no need for chapattis or naan breads, just plain boiled rice works a treat, simple.

This particular recipe is typical of Goa, where coconut and fish dominate the regional cuisine, and because of the 101 km coastline, fresh fish is often more commonly used than meat. If you look into different recipes you will often find that kingfish, cod and pollock are used in this curry. But, you can use whatever white fish you like, although it’s a good idea to choose one that is robust so that it doesn’t end up falling apart.  I opted for monkfish because of the delicate flavour and meaty texture.

Don’t stress too much if you can’t get a certain type of fish, fresh and local is best, so just go for whatever looks good on the day. Pollock is a good choice as it’s cheaper and more environmentally friendly than its over-fished counterparts (cod and haddock).

How to bone a monkfish tail

If you’re using a monkfish tail you’ll need to remove the bone. Place the knife into the fish at the thickest end, flat against the bone, run the knife length ways down the bone. Once one fillet is removed repeat on the other side. Remove the thin purple membrane skin from the fish and throw away. Cut the fillets into chunks, ensuring they are all roughly the same size.

South West Indian Fish Curry

Serves 2-3 people

1 monkfish tail, boned and cut into chunks
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 white onion, diced
1 tbsp ground coriander
½ tbsp ground cumin
½ tbsp turmeric
½ tbsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp tamarind paste
1 tsp sugar
5 cloves garlic, minced
3cm piece of ginger, minced
2 star anise
2 green chillies (or 1 if you prefer it milder)
1 can of coconut milk
Plain boiled rice to serve
It’s a good idea to do your prep first, and then put your rice on to boil; by the time it’s cooked the curry will be done.
Heat the oil in a pan over a medium-low heat; add the spices and onion and cook for 5 minutes or until the onion has softened. Be careful that the spices don’t burn or they will add a bitter flavour to the curry.
After the 5 minutes add the garlic, ginger and chilli, cook for a further 3 minutes before adding the tamarind, star anise, sugar and coconut milk. Allow to simmer gently for 5 minutes.
Add the fish and cook for 4-5 minutes, serve with rice.