French classic cod with olives

This French classic is one of those instantly look healthy, and it is incredible easy to prepare. It is very hard to get cod fish in South East Asia, however any white fish can replicate this dish easily.

  • 20g butter
  • 2 rashers of bacon cut into strips
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 250g cod fillet, skinned and cut into chunks (or any white fish will do)
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 8 pitted black olives
  • 1 ball of mozzarella, torn into chunks
  • 20g pine nuts
  • parsley, roughly chopped
  1. Melt the butter in a large frying pan over a medium to high heat. Add the bacon and onion and fry for 2 minutes or until the onion is starting to soften and bacon is cooked. Add the garlic and cook for a further 30 second or so.
  2. Drop in the chunks of cod (or any fish of your choice) and fry, turning the chunks every now and then, for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes an bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add the olives and mozzarella, then take the pan off the heat and let the mozzarella melt in the residual heat.
  4. Serve the cod topped with the pine nuts and the parsley.

This dish could make ahead if you short of time, by that mean you could cook the sauce and fish separately and keep them in the fridge until you needed.

Breadcrumbs

breadcrumbsNever ever throw away a stale bread, otherwise you may throw away the most delicious thing. I used a whole stale bread including the crust, cut them into small pieces then put them in the food processor or blender, blitz it until the consistency that you wanted to achieve. Preheat the oven to 160°C. Spread the processed breadcrumbs on the Swiss roll tin, let it dry for 20 minutes (to drying it further) while waiting for the oven to heat up.

There is several type of breadcrumbs you could make it yourself.

  • White breadcrumbs – Remove the crust from some stale bread and rub it through a fine wire sieve, using the palm of the hand.
  • Brown breadcrumbs – Put the crusts or any pieces of the stale bread there may be into a moderate oven, and bake them brown. Then crush them with a rolling pin or pound them in a mortar, pass them through a fine sieve, and keep them in an air-tight tin.
  • Mollica (Italian) breadcrumbs  – Soft breadcrumbs: the inside of a loaf or roll, as distinct from the crust. Mollica is used principally as a binder in Polpette and Polettoni, in fillings for Ravioli and other pasta shapes and in stuffing for vegetables, fish etc. In Calabria and Sicily fried breadcrumbs are the main ingredient in many pasta sauces as a substitute for the more expensive Parmesan. The taste is, of course, different, though not necessarily less good, but the appearance is similar. There is one dish in southern Italy, in the poor regions used this breadcrumbs, even still serving today.

The French breadcrumbs (panure in French) are made from fresh bread and are soft and large-crumbed. Dried breadcrumbs (chapelure in French) are finer, made from bread that has been dried in oven or slightly stale, or by drying fresh breadcrumbs and crushing them. Browned breadcrumbs are dried crumbs that are lightly toasted. (Alternatively, the bread may be baked until browned before it is crumbed.) Breadcrumbs are used in cooking for coating food or as a topping for dishes. They are also used for binding mixtures or thickening soups or sauces.

  • Coating with breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs are used to coat delicate foods before frying, typically fish or seafood, chicken breast fillets, croquettes or fritters. Dry white crumbs do not absorb as much fat as fresh crumbs; they produce a fine, crisp coating and turn golden on cooking. The food is first dusted with flour, then dipped in beaten egg and finally coated with breadcrumbs. This gives a secure coating, ideal for soft mixtures which may melt during frying. Less delicate items can be moistened with melted butter or milk before a fine layer of crumbs is pressed on – this is useful when baking or grilling (broiling) the food. Dishes coated with fresh breadcrumbs must be cooked slowly so that the crumbs do not brown before the foods are properly cooked. The French are prefer their fresh breadcrumbs, making that misnomer!

If you had a very tired or lazy day, you could even ignore the step of drying the bread in the oven. You can cut the crust off and cut the bread into chunks and lacerate  into crumbs in the food processor, and then leave the crumbs in a shallow bowl or spread them out on a plate to dry and get staler naturally. You can keep breadcrumbs in a freezer bag in the freezer and use them straight from the frozen. An average slice of good bread without crusts, should be weights 25g; this in turn yields approximately 6 tablespoons of breadcrumbs.

Meat ball pasta

P1170019ASome bits and bobs in the fridge and freezer that will really become a wonderful meal, do you know most people tend to throw away some leftover that maybe just few days old in the fridge. Something got to change this habit, the leftover ingredient over here is three pork sausage, one very wrinkle lemon, (very doubtful if it still have lots of juice, I only need its zest, I save the ever last bit of lemon for washing up later) three slices staled bread about two days old, (tip the staled bread in food processor or tear it by hand and crumble it since it is dry and staled) semolina flour around about 50 gram. The rest is are store cupboard standby such as tomato purée and canned plum tomato. You will be surprise this could feed three greedy people. But right now is only me eating, so I make extra meat ball with bolognese sauce to keep in the freezer for a standby or emergency meal.

I am too lazy to break down the detail of the recipe but I will just write how I do with these ingredient and the cooking step in paragraph, I still got the washing up to finish off.

Ready to get your hands dirty. First, cut the sausage and tear off the skin of the sausage, put them into a glass bowl use your hand to mash the sausage up until it breaks like a mince meat, then season it with pinch of sea salt, black pepper. I do feel like to have extra heat in the sausage; I added about half teaspoon of cayenne pepper. That’s what I want. Grated some lemon zest just to give a fresh citrus taste to the meat, sprinkle the bread crumbs, semolina flour. Finally to crack one egg to bind them together by hand, although is a mess; I do enjoy it! Once is all mix up, pinch it about the size of your thumb and start roll it into a little meat ball shape and place it on a flat surface tray. If you have children to help you on this you could make 40 meat ball easily, because they got small hands. I had made mine slightly larger.

Pour two cans of plum tomato into a pot. Half fill each empty can with water and swirl and clean the can then pour it into the same pot on the high heat. Slightly mash the tomatoes and stir it occasionally with a wooden spoon to avoid it stick at the bottom of the pot. Season it with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile the sausage is cooking, in a sautee pan, fry the bacon without any oil because the fat of the bacon will release during cooking. I like my bacon golden brown and crispy then I place the cooked crispy bacon on plate line kitchen towel to absorb any exceed grease. Use the same pan that still hot with bacon fat, mince two cloves of garlic into the hot fat. Now you can tip in the meat balls to fry them until brown at the outside around 6 to 8 minutes on medium heat, it depends on the size of the meat ball that you had rolled. P1170022ABy the time meat ball is nearly finish its cooking time. Check the pot of tomato the liquid should be reduced to thicker consistency, turn the heat up. Add a splosh of sherry and give it a stir, shortly in about least than a minutes you will smell the alcohol is evaporating then is the time you add the meat balls into the pot and turn the heat to medium and cook them gently and stir it ever now and then and make sure the sauce is covering the meat balls.

Bring another pot of water to boil, at the boiling water point add sea salt then give it a stir and tip in the pasta of your choice, whatever pasta you got in the cupboard. Cook it until al denta. Roughly 8 to 10 minutes for the dried pasta; fresh one should be 2 minutes. Drain the pasta and coat the pasta with olive oil and tip the pasta onto serving plates. Spoon the bolognese sauce and meat ball on the pasta, then crush the cooled crispy bacon on top. Voilà!

P1170026AI made extra bolognese and I let it cool in the pot and spoon it into a freezer bag, and I keep it in the fridge for maximum 2 days, in the freezer for 1 week. Thaw it overnight if you stored them in the freezer then pour it in a pot and reheat it. That will be another meal. Saving your cost as well, hope you enjoy it.

Echalions AKA Banana Shallot

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I was very exciting when I found this shallots in local supermarket and it is rare! It also known as Echalions, Shallot Figaro, or scientific name Allium cepa of Aggregatum Group. Commonly know as Banana Shallot.

Echalion taking Britain’s kitchens by storm.  This versatile British vegetable, which is a cross between an onion and a shallot, has become the darling of professional kitchens, celebrities chef all over the country because it is so easy to prepare.  And now the secret is out and echalions have found their way onto our supermarket shelves.

They are easier to peel than a traditional shallot. Echalion is the result of a subtle mixture of the intrinsic qualities of the onion and the shallot. From each one, the Echalion has retained only best qualities. These large, oval bulbs have amber-coloured skin that can be peeled back to reveal juicy, white meat that combines the ease of an onion with the sweet, subtle flavour of a shallot.

Top Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens, chef/patron of Restaurant Tom Aikens in London explains: “The versatile Echalion can add a subtle hint of flavour or be the main ingredient for any recipe calling for shallots. They are perfect for braising with meats, roasting with vegetables or with soups. Finely chop and add to broths and sauces, or sauté with mushrooms”, says Tom

British grown echalions are usually available from September to Mid-May.  They are grown in the Eastern counties of Britain (Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk) where the sandy soil and warmer temperatures provide the ideal growing conditions.

There is no particular reason why you can’t use the banana shallots instead of onions, though they are not a substitute for red onions. You may also find that you need 2 banana shallots instead of a regular onion due to the size difference and milder taste. However they are more expensive than onions and if a strong allium taste is required then you may prefer to use regular onions. You can also substitute banana shallots with regular shallots – just use 2 regular shallots for 1 banana shallot, and do cook slightly more quickly than regular white or yellow onions.

To make it easy to peel, you could cut the root end off and blanche in boiling water for 3 minutes then grip firmly from the ‘leaf-end’ and squeeze the shallot out of its skin – holding with a cloth helps.

Flour Subsitutes

Flours

Flour, is one of ingredient should be stocked in all the time but in the market got many kind of flour even the recipe did calling for different flour. Think again, back to the period of Victorian and Edwardian, the household during that time  only have basic flour; therefore they could bake, cook, literally everything.

All-purpose flour is the most versatile flour ever. Indeed it is a basic flour you will need.

If your recipe calling for cake flour, self-raising flour, etc

Cake flour

For 125g / 1 cup of cake flour:

Substitute 15g (2 tbsps) of cornstarch/cornflour + 109g (¾ cup + 2tbsps) of all purpose flour

The Substitution: 1 part cornstarch + 7 parts of all-purpose flour

Self-raising flour

For 150g/1 cup/6oz of  self flour:

Self-raising flour contains baking powder but as baking powder will expire after a period of time you need to use up self-raising flour more quickly than plain flour.

In US self-raising flour contains around ½ teaspoon of salt per cup which can lead to some of the recipe tasting a little too salty in the flour.

Substitute with 150g/6oz/1 cup of plain flour and add in 2 teaspoons of baking powder then sift the flour and baking powder together into a bowl before using, to make sure the baking powder is thoroughly distributed. If your recipe call for buttermilk, cocoa or yogurt then add in ¼ teaspoon of bircabonate of soda (baking soda) as well as baking powder.