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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There’s been a murrdur!

Last weekend we held a murder mystery party, I’d never done one before and wasn’t exactly sure how it would turn out, but it was great fun! The 1950s Hollywood themed game was given to my by a friend for a birthday a few years ago and I had actually completely forgotten about it until finding it lurking in the back of our very large very cluttered dining room cupboard (one of my favourite features of Victorian terraces! Especially when they have some retro wallpaper on the shelves!) a few months ago. So the friends were invited, the costumes were planned and the food was prepared. The Red Rose Murders included such characters as Marilyn Mansfield – the blonde bombshell whose flamboyant life both on and off screen has delighted the gossip columnists for years, Madame Velda -clairvoyant to the stars and Rock Houston – rugged, rough and rowdy, the biggest male film star of them all who is now talking about running for Presidency. My character was Mae Vest – author, actress and activist, Miss Vest is seldom seen without a devoted young man on her arm, a quip on her lips and a glass of champagne in hand! I like the sound of that!

We donned our various outfits and props including strings of pearls, massive (fake!) diamond rings, faux fur stoles, silk gloves, feathered fans and crystal balls and I delegated tasks to some of my friends. My friend Marilyn Mansfield was put in charge of cocktails and plumped for a French Martini

Somehow, we failed to take a picture of these once there was actually anything in the glasses…. After three of these (hey, the glasses are small!) before we’d even served the starter (woops!) we were all fully in character and ready to go!

To make these you will need;

  • Vodka
  • Raspberry liqueur (we used Chambord, darling) (around a quarter of the amount of vodka you’re using)
  • Pineapple juice
  • Fresh blackberries

Shake together the vodka, raspberry liqueur, pineapple juice and ice, strain and serve. Pop a blackberry into each glass before serving. Yummy!

My friends Madame Velda and Marlon Mean were tasked with the starter, and served us a delicious Italian platter made up of tomato and mozzarella salad, rocket and parmesan salad, parma ham, delicious tomato and onion and rosemary focaccias and balsamic syrup. We were spoiled! 🙂

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For mains, Wayne Fonda and myself prepared a large vat of spicy, tomatoey beef chilli, left to simmer and develop for several hours, a smoky shredded chicken stew in a tomato and paprika based sauce and all the usual sides including rice, toasted pittas, guacamole, sour cream, salsa, salad and cheese.

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It was a lot of food and we were all rather full by the end! However, a little rest and accusation of murder later, we were ready for Princess Kelly of Ruritainia’s desert! My friend is rather a star baker having delighted us over the years with tasty cakes whenever the occasion calls and this was no exception. She had made margaritas cupcakes (with homemade lime curd, natch!) and coffee cupcakes (coffee cake is one of my all time favourites! mmmm!) both were scrumptious!

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It was a great night, really fun to get dressed up and do something different and I would highly recommend a murder mystery night for you and your friends if you ever get the chance


Sticky Vietnamese Pork

I’m currently nearing the end of a long, busy, ridiculously hectic and all round fairly crappy week and my brain seems to have turned to mulch. I can’t string any sentences together to say anything particularly coherent but I can still share a very tasty recipe 🙂 We made this on Sunday which I later found out was Vietnamese Independence Day, how apt!

This serves two;

  • thinly sliced pork tenderloin
  • 2 tbsps fish sauce
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • 2 stalks chopped lemongrass
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 200ml rice wine vinegar
  • 2 red chillis
  • 3 tbsps roasted salted peanuts
  • flat rice noodles
  • small bunch chopped coriander
  • small bunch chopped mint

I also added some pak choi and red pepper to get some veggies in!

Make a marinade for the pork by mixing the fish sauce, tumeric, lemongrass, crushed garlic, 20g of sugar, sesame oil and most of the coriander together. Leave the pork to marinade for around an hour.

Heat the vinegar and remaining sugar in a pan and boil until thickened, this creates the sticky sauce. Allow to cool then add the chilli and peanuts.

Stir fry the pork until browned and  the pak choi and pepper if using. Serve on a bed of noodles and pour over the sticky sauce. Garnish with the remaining coriander and some chopped mint. Delicious!