Pan-fried Bream & Chickpeas with Thyme, Chilli and Garlic

Or…. nom nom, nom, nom nom nomm

Taken and adapted somewhat from the occasionally useful Nigella Bites from the brilliant TV series of the same name (from some time ago, actually, I still have the original episodes recorded onto VHS, not available to watch on 4od, dammit) This IS a 20 minute dinner, a quick and easy dinner; a dinner made entirely while I was on the phone gossiping. The quality of the ingredients and the recipe elevates it above purely fast food, I hope, however it is still cooking with your eyes closed. When you set it down in front of your intended though, it becomes seduction food. Firstly because it is light but very tasty and secondly it goes in a sort of pile. Which looks more like restaurant food than anything else you do.

I can hear you telling me that the one you wish to seduce doesn’t like fish, or chickpeas or thyme or something. Just ditch them. Because food fussiness isn’t very sexy and this is delicious. Now you’re telling me that you don’t like the chickpeas, or the anchovy in the sauce (you’ll never be able to taste the anchovy – I swear) or whatever. Well, there’s nothing I can do about that except try and persuade you to at least give it a go, after all, there is no accounting for taste…

For the chickpeas:

  • 1 can of cooked chickpeas – approximately one third of the liquid reserved
  • half a red chilli,roughly chopped
  • leaves from 4 or 5 sprigs of thyme
  • half an onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 30ml olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Drain the chickpeas and put them in a small saucepan. Put the reserved liquid, and the remaining ingredients in a hand blender and swish into a paste. Tip the paste into the saucepan with the chickpeas and cook over a low heat for about 20 minutes with the lid on.

For the fish:

  • 2 fillets of sea bream
  • 1 anchovy fillet and a couple of tsp of oil from the jar you bought them in
  • leaves from 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 clove garlic
  • splosh of white wine
  • 5g butter
  • approx 30 ml olive oli
  • salt and pepper

Okies, now. Take your anchovy fillet, your clove of garlic and your thyme leaves and some salt. Sit them on top of eachother on a chopping board and with a sharp knife, chop them down until you get a sort of anchovy, garlic, thyme paste. Chop them past the point you have merely very very fine dice, chop them past the point you think you have chopped enough, keep chopping until you no longer have individual parts. The sharper and larger the knife the better for this job.

Take your fish fillets and cut three small diagonal lines in the skin side of the flesh by pinching both lengths toward eachother with your thumbs and just slashing them with a sharp knife. Over a medium flame, heat the oil until sizzling and put your fish in, skin side down. Cutting into the flesh will encourage to lie flat and crisp up, so leave them until they do crisp. You do not need to turn the fish until the skin has crisped. This should take 4 or 5 minutes and depending on the thickness of the fillet, may be enough to cook them almost through, so bear this in mind when you turn it and maybe only cook for a moment on the other side.

When the fish is done, remove to a warm plate and add your anchovy paste and the oil from the anchovies to the pan, still over the heat. There should be a sizzling noise, but keep your eye on the pan because your garlic may start to brown. Before it does this, put in your slosh of wine and stir, to combine the wine, oil and garlic/anchovy. When the sauce starts to reduce down and bubble, put in your butter and with a magiwhisk, or even a fork frankly, whisk the butter in. A dash of pepper and you’re done. Serve the fish on the chickpeas and put some green veg with it, then pour the sauce over the fish.

Slow Cooked Lamb Shoulder in Thyme, Ginger and Garlic Marinade

I think plain roasted meat is all very well, but at this time of year when memories of overeating rich festive meals are not a totally dim and distant memory, I think it pays to flavour up your meals a touch, and ring the changes. I also know I’m going to have my leftovers for lunch tomorrow, so I want something that is going to taste good in a salad. When I found myself chopping the garlic and thyme, I just wanted another dimension, so I decided to add fresh ginger. Do ginger and thyme get on? They get on like a house on fire!

For the marinade:
Juice of one lemon
2 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
Tsp thyme leaves
Glop of Olive Oil
1 square inch piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
salt and pepper

Either, put all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smoothish. OR, put all the dry ingredients into a pestle and mortar until you have a sort of paste and then mix in the lemon juice and olive oil.

Preheat the oven, gas 2 or so, and take your lamb shoulder. Stab it several times all over and then pour over your marinade, massaging in all over with your hands. Leave to sit in a non metallic dish for a while. Put the lamb in a large casserole or roasting tin big enough to hold it. If you don’t have a lid that fits, covering completely with foil is ok. Depending on the size of your shoulder, you will want to cook it slowly for between 2 and 4 hours. About halfway through your estimated cooking time, uncover, and baste with the juices and cook for the remainder of the time without a lid. When its cooked, by which I mean by falling off the bone, leave it covered in a warm place for 20 – 30 mins. I’m having mine with quinoa, grilled halloumi and sautéed courgettes, but roasties, broccoli and a gravy made from the juices would be just as perfect. Apologies for the blurry pics, steamy kitchen and camera still not fixed!

I Need a Little Thyme – Boulangere Potatoes

Farmers Market day today. I picked up some steak and needed something to do with it that wasn’t chips. Don’t get me wrong, I love chips and I adore chips with my steak but I’ve had a lot of fast food and meals out over the past week for various reasons and I needed something a bit more homely and a bit healthier.In my view this is nicest with a tiny little bit of thyme scattered through it, but my usually reliable herbage supplier at the market had everything but today. If making this to go with lamb, I’d suggest a teaspoon of very finely chopped rosemary instead.

This is an easy dish, and apart from chopping, isn’t a great deal of work. If you have a food processor with a slicing blade then this is obviously a non issue. If you have a sharp knife then it’s ten minutes work and if you have money to burn, you can buy presliced Maris Pipers in Marks and Sparks these days. Just a thought.

  • 750g floury white potatoes such as King Edward or Maris Pipers, thinly sliced
  • one large onion, finely sliced
  • 150 ml hot stock. Chicken or veg is best. Lamb or beef is alright.
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to Gas 4/ In a frying pan over a medium heat, slowly sweat off your onion in a tablespoon or so of olive oil. When it is softened and golden, turn off the heat. In a shallow baking dish, maybe like a lasagne dish, put a layer of sliced potato. Season with a little salt and pepper, a little of the herbs if you are using them, and a third of the onions. Keep layering the ingredients in turn until you have used up all of the onions and potatoes. Pour the stock over the potatoes and dot some butter over the potatoes. I have probably used about 20g of butter.

Cover the dish with foil and put in the oven for 60 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for another 20- 30 minutes.Scoff.