Sicilian-style fish stew

Winter continues its icy grip. The bitter wind cuts like a knife. There is still snow on the ground, continued flurries falling from the sky. Yet our hearts and minds tell us spring should now be in full swing, we’d had a godamn heatwave by this time last year! So when it comes to that all-important topic of food, we are still looking for something warm and comforting yet with hints of sunshine on the horizon… this is where this recipe comes in and ticks all the boxes.

This is a recipe I found on BBC Good Food quite a while ago and it has become a firm favourite of ours. I don’t know whether this is particularly authentically “Sicilian” or not, but it sure tastes good!

The chilli flakes bring a lovely warmth while the zesty lemon and parsely pick it up to make it zippy and moreish, a perfect warming cold-weather dish which evokes hints of sunshine and the Mediterranean!

To make this for two people, you will need;

  • Around 250g of sustainable white fish. I use different fish depending on what I can get, pollack is a good option
  • 50g couscous
  • 1 medium/large white onion
  • 2 decent stalks of celery
  • Tin of plum tomatoes
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Small glass of white wine
  • Large pinch of chilli flakes
  • 400ml veg stock
  • The juice and zest of half a lemon
  • A decent handful of fresh parsely

Heat some olive oil in a large pan and add the crushed garlic, chopped onion and celery and chilli flakes. Season with some salt and pepper and cook for around 10 minutes until the onion has softened. Add the tomatoes and their juice, crushing them up a little in the pan. Pour in the stock and wine, bring to the boil and cook for a few more minutes before adding the couscous. Turn down low to a simmer before adding the fish, flaking it into big chunks. Cover and leave for 5-10 minutes until the fish is cooked. Serve with the  lemon juice and zest and chopped parsley on top.

I love the combination of the rich tomatoyness of this dish combined with the warming chilli and zesty lemon, it’s very comforting and flavoursome! And is great with a large glass of the white stuff!!

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Birthday at the Tea Hive

So it was my birthday on Monday and I did as any sensible girl would do – took the day off in order to eat cake and drink tea. Where better to do this than in my all-time favourite Chorlton spot, the Tea Hive. Tea Hive is a small quirky cafe serving delicious home made cakes, lots of lovely and interesting loose leaf tea blends, and a select few dishes which are focused on fresh ingredients, locally sourced. It is decked out in mismatched vintage style furniture and furnishings with tea sets to match. Very cute. They also have a tranquil little garden out the back which is great in summer, if we ever get one again!!

I have previously blogged about a parsnip, pecan and maple cheesecake I delighted in here. Main courses include stonkingly good sandwiches served on doorstop granary bread from local Chorlton baker Richardsons and meat, I think, from local butcher Frosts. The problem I have experienced in the past is that both the sandwiches and cake portions are MASSIVE! So you finish your sandwich, groaning ever so slightly in pain, and lament the fact that there is no way you can fit in the cake! Luckily, Tea Hive has an answer to this! The so-called “light lunch”. It’s anything but light, really, but damn is it good! You get a smaller version of the sandwich, the soup or salad of the day and a slice of cake. Winning all round!

This is what I went for on Monday. I selected the mature cheddar, homemade chutney of the day and rocket sandwich on granary bread. This doesn’t sound all that exciting compared to some of the exotic creations you get these days, but the beauty is in the simpleness which allows the true deliciousness of the quality ingredients to shine though. Bread; gorgeous, cheese; delicious  chutney; oh so moreish. As a whole, the most perfect cheese sandwich you could ever ask for. The soup of the day was leek and spring greens, and it was light, fresh and lovely.

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To wash it down, I ventured beyond my two favourite tea blends (Earl Grey and Tea Hive Black Tea Blend) to try something new, Russian Caravan. Having an interest in many things Russian, the name intrigued me and I was very glad it reeled me in! This is an intense, smoky, robust tea which actually went perfectly with the mature cheddar.

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It was then time to linger at the cake counter as we tried to choose just one cake to eat for afters! Aside from the parsnip and pecan cheesecake, other previous favourites of mine have included honey and ginger, and orange and almond cakes – the selection is different everytime you go in. On this day however, despite sorely tempting me with a lemon, blueberry and yoghut sponge, there was a tasty looking carrot cake calling to me from behind the glass. Sometimes you just can’t beat the classics and carrot cake is one of my all-time favourites!

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This was incredibly flavoursome and moist, and also nice and coarse, just as it should be in my opinion – lots of big chunks of nuts, yummy! The icing was also spot on! The other half went for the salted caramel chocolate cake, which was demolished before I had a chance to take a picture! He assures me that it was also delicious, however!


Navarin of Lamb – the perfect bridge between winter and spring…

So the cold wintery weather continues to hang on in the UK with biting cold frosty mornings and impressively persistent flurries of “wintery showers”. However, the clocks are soon to change and the mornings are getting lighter, meaning we are no longer waking bleary eyed in the dark looking around in confusion as the alarm clock blasts into our dreams (thank gawd!) and there are lots of little green shoots pushing their expectant way out of the ground in our garden. In other words, Spring, if not quite fully here, is definitely in the air. If you’re anything like me though, the cold weather is still making you feel like hibernating in your cosiest jumper with a nice warming stew most evenings after work…

Getting a little bored of even the tastiest most comforting of Winter Food however, I decided it was time for something, while still warm and comforting, that was a little more spring-like. Enter the classic French Navarin of Lamb – perfect for this time of year!

It is still hearty and meaty, still warming and comforting, still a lovely one pot, but has an added freshness and uses young spring vegetables. Spot on.

To make this for two, you will need –

  • Around 500g of lamb, a cut that is good for slow cooking – we trotted off to the butcher who gave us some tasty neck.
  • Butter. Quite a decent amount. (Well, it is French)
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 small onion
  • Handful of chantenay carrots
  • Handful of small new potatoes
  • Handful baby turnips
  • Handful French beans (or mange tout if that’s all you happen to have, like us!)
  • around 300ml lamb stock (not sure exactly how much we used)
  • 1 bouquet garni
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree

Chop your lamb into nice big juicy chunks, melt a large knob of butter with some oil in a pan and add the lamb, frying until brown.

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Mmmm juicy.

Add the chopped onion and continue to fry for a few minutes then sprinkle the flour over evenly coating all the lamb and fry for another minute or two. Stir in the lamb stock, tomato puree and bouquet garni, season well with salt and pepper then leave to simmer for around 45 mins.

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Mid-cooking deliciousness.

Add the turnips, carrots and potatoes and cook covered for another 15 mins before adding the beans/mange tout for the last 10 mins.

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Serve with a glass of red and some crusty bread, the perfect compromise for an early spring onepot!