Mediterranean Hake

 

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If you live by the sea you will know what I am talking about. It’s a sound every child that grew up with the scent of sea salt in the nostrils can identify. It is a faint, almost fading eerie sound of bells that come from the sea at down. Some days are clear but where I come from, fog is generally the background setting for the fishermen that return to shore. It grows in intensity as the waves rock the small boats and the engines buzz their way into the port. It means fresh fish. It means tired men. Fishing is done at night, is then when hakes are catch. They live fifty meters under the surface of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and they are closely related to cods. They are long, thin, slippery predators that feed on lanternfish on the continental shelf. They eat, and they are eaten, the circle of life.

They have a subtle flavour, soft and flaky that makes is a commercially important species and the star of a myriad of traditional dishes in the old continent. Modern fishing techniques, on those giant boats that carry no bells, have polluted the water with anisakis making a parasite that was seldom found in the fish an everyday problem. You see, I recently discovered why, apparently fish are processed as they are caught and the byproduct of the cleaning of the fish, it’s thrown back to the sea, where other fish feed on it. Sounds as an intrinsically good idea, until you realise that we are spreading a disease that was naturally contained before in the fish and that actually causes severe allergic reactions on human beings, well done us. Again.

If you buy your fish at a decent fishmonger, they will be able to spot the parasite if it’s there and remove it, and it is totally safe to eat. It is a highly nutritious fish, low in fat and very good for children. It doesn’t have too many bones and it’s not too “fishy” (if you know what I mean).

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I have paired my hake today with fresh tomato relish with herbs (and no sugar) and some wholegrain couscous. The fish has been cooked in the microwave (steamed) and has a lemon rind, fresh basil and olive oil dressing. All those flavours are very Mediterranean and pair perfectly with one another. It can be made in advance and just heated up in the oven so it’s great if you have people over, pretty easy and fuss free. This recipe is gluten free and low GI which makes it appropriate for low carb diets and diabetic patients. Should you be vegan and not eat fish, tempeh is a great alternative for this recipe.

Ingredients (serves 2):

2 large ripe tomatoes

2 fillets of hake

60 gr. of gluten free couscous

1 bush fresh basil

Fresh Oregano (or dried if you cannot get hold of it)

1 lemon

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt & Pepper

How to…

Chop the tomatoes in small square pieces and cook them in 1/2 tsp. of olive oil with a pinch of salt and pepper and the fresh herbs also chopped. Let the water evaporate until the it acquires the consistency of a sauce, tomatoes are very high in water and it could ruin your dish later on.

Prepare the couscous according to the packaging instructions, usually is twice the volume of water that the one of couscous, pinch of salt and a dollop of butter, you can use olive oil too instead. You can add some sultanas and some toasted pine nuts to the couscous to make it more a more substancial meal (for lunch instead of dinner for example).

Clean the hake fillets and wash them. To cook them in the microwave set them in a tray with 3 tbsp of water per fillet and cover them with transparent film. Cook at 800w for 2 minutes and check if they are ready. Be careful and don’t put them for too long the first time around because it is very easy to overcook fish in the microwave. You can always put more time on them if needed.

For the fish sauce: grate the lemon rind and put it in a mortar, add the fresh basil and mash with pestle. Add a pinch of salt, dash of lemon juice and then carefully mix in 2 tbsp. of good extra virgin olive oil. serve the dish as per the picture if you wish or get creative.

Bon appetit!

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Easy & Light Comfort food Beer Chicken Casserole

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As we slowly but surely approach winter, the days are getting colder and the coats thicker. Covering ourselves a bit more is a tempting occasion to overindulge and let the kilos pile up until next May, when we will peel off the layers and cry. Cry for help! A personal trainer, a fad diet, a electro stimulation machine… ANYTHING will do when the bikini is coming back.

Well this might sound revolutionary to you, but what about instead of pigging out on pumpkin spice lattes and cheese all the way to xmas only to pig out on sweets & treats all the way into new year, we practice a bit of mindful eating? This is as simple as moderating your food on a constant basis. Choose good foods as soon as possible, and have the odd treat when you really feel like it. If 80% of your diet is clean and nutritious the 20% that you let yourself enjoy a few sugary and fatty foods, will have little to none effect on your body!

Of course you want to enjoy delicious food not once or twice a week but all the time! So do I, and so does everybody else! Being nice to yourself and nice to your body means making the right choices but not torturing yourself by denying yourself pleasures and living in misery, but learning to enjoy what healthy food has to offer. I can promise you that there is very little difference in you cook things right.

Today I wanted to share with you a recipe for a casserole, which normally has a questionable reputation as healthy, since traditionally it was cooked with too much oil and came accompanied by potatoes. This recipe is low fat and low carb, with only some veggies to accompany it, and a sauce made of beer.

Don’t be afraid of cooking with alcoholic beverages, once they boil most of their alcohol has evaporated and they have little to no impact on the caloric content on a meal.

Enjoy this lovely pot of comfort food in good company this weekend.

Ingredients (serves 4)

1 onion

1 clove of garlic

1 carrot

1 chicken in pieces

1 beer (33 cl)

1 lemon

Salt & pepper

How to do it…

In a non sticky cooking pot (I keep using my Le Creuset like there is no tomorrow) fry the chicken pieces in no oil at all. Chicken is very high in protein and its meat is very lean, but it does contain a fair amount of fat in the skin. you can remove part or all of the skin before cooking or leave it on. Turn the chicken around so it doesn’t burn too much, basically allowing it toast a bit for 5 to 7 minutes. Take out of the pot and reserve. Bear in mind the chicken will probably have to be done in batches.

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On the same pot, cook the onions, carrot and garlic in medium heat and let them caramelize and become brown. I like to put the salt on them at this point too so they loose the water and cook better. Once this is done, incorporate the chicken back into the pot and mix well. Let it all heat up and then squeeze the juice of one lemon in the pot to deglaze (this means melt the burnt food at the bottom of the pot to incorporate back into the sauce). Stir a couple of times, add a beer and cover with the lid. Let cook for about 15 to 20 minutes on low heat. Open the lid and let cook for another 5 to 10 to reduce the sauce and give it consistency.

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I always recommend this dish the day after it has been prepared, since the flavours will be stronger and better integrated… this is if you can wait of course!

I have served mine here with some Brussels sprouts but any green leafy veggie will do, best with anything within the cabbage family (cauliflower, broccoli…)

Enjoy!

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Easy Healthy Dinners: Lemony sea bass with mushroom cups and onion

Another easy way to get slimmer while you sleep!

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Ingredients (serves 2):

1 sea bass (500 gr or so)

1/2 an onion

1/2 a lemon

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt

2 cloves of garlic

12 mushroom cups

Roast the whole Sea bass in the over for about 12 minutes with some sliced onion, clean the fish to get 2 more o less clean fillets and split the onion in two dishes.

This is done with nothing added to the fish (not even salt) since you remove the skin after cooking. While it cooks, clean the mushrooms and peel the garlic and mash it with some olive oil and water. Fill the mushrooms with the mixture and a bit of salt and put in the oven for 10 minutes.

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Then dress the fish by grating the zest of half a lemon on top of the filets, sprinkle with salt and a dash of extra virgin olive oil (Picual or Arbequina variety).

Then take the mushrooms out and serve together.

Easy Healthy Dinners: Salmon with creamed leek & broccoli

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This week I wont be sharing specific recipes, more a collection of dinner recipes that have something in common. They are all dead easy, drop dead delicious and perfect for bikini season. All of them are low in fat, carb free and gluten free, but most of all, they will keep you happy and satisfied and you wont have that awful feeling of empty stomach of feel like you are eating something similar to cardboard.

Making butter and bread taste good is easy, but mastering the art of healthy eating, that is what will keep you slim and happy in the long term.

So without further ado…

You have seen the picture, nothing more to it.

Ingredients (serves 2):

2 salmon fillets of 125 gr

2 leeks thinly sliced

1 tablespoon of butter

100 mil of milk (or soya milk)

salt

Optional ( a couple of stems of broccoli)

Fresh dill to garnish

Pan fry the salmon in no oil at all. It doesn’t need it, the fish is oily enough as it is. Remove the skin and fry on that side too, that will melt away a great deal of fat.

On a separate pan, melt the butter and add the sliced leek. Let cook for a few minutes, add salt (that makes the vegetable lose its water and cook faster) then add a bit of hot water (that makes the leek cook without having to add any more oil, and without the pan burning!) and when the water has evaporated, add the milk and let it evaporate too. Try and correct the salt.

Sprinkle the salmon with fresh chopped dill and serve.

You will be surprised at the great combination of these two ingredients.

Takes about 15 minutes to prepare too..

Enjoy!

Calamari & Prawns Black rice

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As promised, a very simple, truly delightful lunch option made with Riz Venere, Forbidden rice, or simply… black rice!

Ingredients:

50 gr. Black rice (per each person)

50 gr. raw peeled prawns

50 gr. clean calamari rings

1/4 fish stock cube

Extra Virgin Olive oil

1/2 an onion finely chopped

1 clove of garlic

To prepare the rice, put it in water the night before if you remember, if not, you can put it in a bowl and add really hot water (out of the kettle for example) for about an hour before cooking, this will reduce the amount of cooking time later on.

In a medium size pot at medium high temperature cook the onion in a teaspoon of olive oil. After a couple of minutes add the garlic to avoid it from burning since it cooks quicker than the onion. Add the seafood and cook for a couple of minutes.

Remove the water from the rice and wash. Remove the excess of water and add to the pan. Dry it off for a couple of minutes to ensure the raw rice gets all the flavor and then add twice as much cold water as the volume occupied by the rice. Add the fish stock cube.

Set the heat to low maintaining in a low boiling mode for about 30 minutes and check every 10 to make sure everything is ok.

This rice will not absorb the water in the same way white rice does, so at the end of the concoction you might need to boost the heat and let it evaporate.

All rices are better eaten 5 to 10 minutes after being cooked, this allows the to SET. You might think it is just a silly detail, but it makes all the difference.

Enjoy!!

By the way, I would love to hear your opinions and comments if you try any of the recipes! 🙂

Spanish Fish Stew

 

 

 

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Happy Monday, so to speak!

Today I would like to share with you a typical Spanish dish, that I have adapted slightly to be just a little bit healthier. It’s origin is in the north of the country, which being on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, it has one of the most stunning cooking styles (and ingredients) in the world.

This is a dish that can be prepared in advanced, making it very handy when you have people over, but also very good to have a warm delicious dinner waiting for you at home during the week. It is a bit time consuming, and has one step that even if it’s difficult, it can be intimidating for beginners…

Ingredients (serves 5):

100 gr of prawns (uncooked)

250 gr clams (with shell)

100 gr calamari rings

100 gr. mussels

250 gr monkfish (or hake if you can’t find it or as a cheaper alternative)

2 leeks

2 onions

1 carrot

A pinch of tarragon

1/2 a small glass of Brandy

1 cup fresh chopped tomato

2 cubes of fish stock

1 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Kitchen equipment: a blender and a match

First prepare the fish stock. Traditional recipes can be found to do this the old fashion way, I personally don’t have the time and I always find it impossible to make it taste strong enough, so I cheat and use fish stock cubes. 2 dissolved in 1 liter of hot water. Be my guest if you want to create your own fumee… you have all my respect!

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Once the stock is ready and waiting to be used, we need to peel, clean and chop roughly our onions, leeks and carrot and cook them on medium heat until they are soft, then add salt and a pinch of tarragon. Bring up the temperature to the max and after 1 minute, add the brandy liquor and be prepared with the match. Light it up and let the alcohol burn until the flame dies for itself, it wont take more than a few seconds, don’t worry.

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Then add the tomato and mix and immediately after, the fish stock. Bring back to medium heat and let boil for another 20 minutes.

In the meantime, wash and chop the fish and the seafood except the clams, that should remain in water until it’s time to use them. Add salt and pepper to the fish and reserve.

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When the soup is ready, blend it all together until smooth and then add the clams, and then the seafood and fish. Then try the it and correct the salt only if necessary. Let cook for 3 more minutes and leave it to rest until cool. You can serve immediately, but I recommend waiting until the next meal time or even next day. You can also freeze it in portions.

Normally the recipe has bread to thicken the sauce, I have added one more onion for this purpose to avoid unnecessary carbs.

This is an absolutely delicious treat for those in a diet, and simply for anyone looking to impress dinner invitees!