Sunday, 20 March 2011

Cod with clams, blood oranges with whipped yoghurt

I started writing this blog with the sole intention of recording my experiences eating out. I didn't want to write about my own cooking because I didn't think I had anything much to say. I think I've changed my mind. I'm a passable home cook and recording my regular weeknight dinners would probably be very dull, but once in a while I come up with something that I really, really enjoy. Last night's supper was one of these occasions, so I thought I'd share.

I bought most of the food for this meal in Chorlton. This is worth mentioning as there are several great food shops in this area. The seafood came from Out of the Blue, which is quite probably the best fishmonger in the North. The vegetables and lemons came from the Unicorn Grocery which stocks a wonderful array of fruit and veg at reasonable prices. They have beautiful, huge fat sicilian lemons at the moment, for the same price as ones a quarter of the size in Morrison's down the road.

Cod with clams

For the main course, a piece of cod with clams in a light broth and a few greens. The key to this dish is cooking every component for the minimum time possible, until only just on the verge of doneness. The fish should just flake into big white slivers, if it flakes into little bits it's overdone. The greens should retain their colour and texture, and the clams should be soft rather than chewy. The end result is light, but packed with briney flavour, as the clams give up a huge amount of liquid when cooked. You will have plenty of this broth left over, which is perfect mopped up with some crusty bread.

You will need (for 1):
a large piece of cod (or other chunky white fish. Hake would be good)
a big handful of clams
a large glass of white wine
some greens (I used spinach and purple sprouting broccoli, samphire would be good)
olive oil
a lemon
salt & pepper
crusty bread

1. Set a frying pan over a moderate heat and add a little olive oil and butter. Salt the fish on the skin side. Place the fish in the pan skin side down and keep an eye on it. You can see the heat progress up the side of the fillet as the flesh changes from translucent to opaque.

2. Whilst the fish is cooking prepare your clams and greens. The clams will probably need a rinse under cold water. For the veg I used spinach and purple sprouting broccoli. Samphire is even better, enhancing the briney flavour of the dish, but I couldn't get hold of any yesterday.

3. When the cod is about two thirds done (about 6-7 minutes for my piece) turn it over and fry flesh side down. Get two more pans on the heat, one to steam the greens and another the clams.

4. Pour a large glass of white wine (I used sauvignon blanc) into the clam pot and allow it to bubble for a minute or two to burn off the alcohol. As soon as the alcohol has burned off throw the clams in and put the lid on.

5. Check the fish. You want it just cooked through so that it flakes beautifully. If it's done transfer it to a warmed plate. If not turn it back over to finish off cooking skin side down. The total cooking time will depend on the thickness, mine took about 12 minutes.

6. Steam the greens, adding the broccoli first then the spinach a minute or two later. The broccoli should take around 2-3 minutes, the spinach no more than a minute or so.

7. By this time, the clams should be ready. They should only take 2-3 minutes or so. Remove the lid and have a look. If they have nearly all opened they are done so remove them from the heat.

8. Place the cod on top of your greens, pour on the clams and their delicious cooking liquor, season to taste (squeeze of lemon, pepper, salt probably won't be needed) and you're done.

Blood oranges with whipped yoghurt

For pudding, blood oranges with whipped yoghurt and honey. Another beautifully light, fresh, fragrant dish this. You can tell I was feeling healthy after the previous night's beer festival and curry (we went to Sheesh Mahal after the festival - review to follow) exploits. The deep, tart flavour of the oranges is offset by creamy, airy yoghurt and the sweet fragrance of honey.

You will need (for 1):
About 150ml greek yoghurt (full fat)
1-2 blood oranges
icing sugar
runny honey

1. First prepare the yoghurt. The purpose of whipping it is for the texture. As with whipped cream the yoghurt becomes aerated making it seem somehow lighter and fresher. Whip the yoghurt with a scant teaspoon of icing sugar and set aside.

2. Peel and segment one or two ripe blood oranges, removing as much pith as you can be bothered.

3. Place the segments in a bowl, keeping a couple to one side, then add the yoghurt and a drizzle of honey.

4. Squeeze over the juice from the remaining segments, and eat at once.

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