Red prawns flambéed with Cognac – Pescetarian Pleasures

Delicious little Red Prawns

Whilst chatting to my lovely friend Jimena about this recipe, she was saying it was not really an everyday dish. She wouldn´t make it because she doesn´t have Cognac at home, and certainly not caviar. If you don´t have Cognac, you can flambé with other spirits, such as rum. And if the idea of flambéing puts you off altogether, you don´t have to do it (it just adds something to the flavour). It´s true that we don´t eat caviar everyday at home (far from it), but the small jar that I found was pretty cheap, and I think it adds a nice finish to the dish (feel free to omit the caviar too)!

This quick, easy starter always goes down well with our guests, and doesn´t take much time or effort to cook. These small red prawns are quite common here in Cataluña but they actually come from Andalusia. They are full of fantastic flavour and we found that around 75g per person was enough as an appetizer.

Why make this dish?

As well as prawns being full of nutrients, they are a great source of protein. They contain high levels of vitamin D, vitamin B3 and zinc. They also contain high levels of the antioxidant Selenium (which boosts the immune system amongst other things).

Spicy lime sauce ingredients: 120g yoghurt, 2 tsp hot sauce and juice & zest of 1 lime

Method:

Heat a little oil in a frying pan and sauté the prawns with chopped garlic (for a few minutes).

Red prawns cooking over a medium heat

Add a shot of Cognac to the pan to flambé them. BE CAREFUL! When you add the spirits there is a sudden burst of flames, and I don´t want any of you good people to burn yourselves! After 30 seconds, sprinkle with parsley and serve straight away.

I served them with some spicy lime sauce, caviar and some sprouts for decoration and a little crunch.

Red prawns flambéed with Cognac

Sweet chili tomato sauce – Pescetarian Pleasures

WARNING! This sauce packs some serious heat! I´ve mentioned my love of hot sauces before, in my Chipotle Salsa recipe post. I needed a spicy dipping sauce, and for once the Chipotle Salsa wasn´t going to do the job! This sauce is great for dipping spring rolls, crab cakes, or being diluted in a vinaigrette style dressing for salads. I thought using dried chili may be less potent than using fresh ones, but boy was I wrong!

You can use fresh chilies like these, I used chilies oven dried for 5 hours at 80 degrees

Char´s tip: Remove the stem ends of the chilies, half them and scrape out some of the seeds (if you want to reduce the heat). Also, use gloves when handling them. It´s not fun when you get it in the eyes or around the mouth!

Why make this sauce?

As well as adding a fiery kick and zing to food, there are also health benefits associated with chilies. They contain a wide range of vitamins, even though we never usually eat them in large quantities. Chilies can help to lower your blood sugar levels, which can be great news for people suffering with diabetes. They do have anti inflammatory properties, and have been credited with helping to reduce cholesterol.

Ingredients for the recipe

Ingredients:

10-12 Chilies, chopped

60g sugar

150ml water

70ml white wine vinegar

10-12 cherry tomatoes, quartered

2 tsp corn flour

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

chives, a small bunch chopped

Method:

Some people like to purée the garlic and chilli with a blender, but I prefer the rough texture when you chop them by hand.

Finely chop the chilli and garlic and add to a small saucepan with the cherry tomatoes. Add the water, sugar and vinegar and bring the mixture to boil. Reduce to a simmer for around 20 minutes.

Reduce the heat to a simmer

Add the cornflour to thicken the sauce (sift it to remove any lumps) and stir thoroughly. Remove from the heat. As soon as it has cooled, add the chives, and pour into a small jar.

The quantity in this recipe filled 2 of these cute 100ml jar

Sweet Tuna Melt – Communal bread making in Sarnac

Sourdough bread baked in the small community of Sarnac

Bread doesn´t occur to many people when they think of fermentation, but it´s one of the most commonly eaten fermented foods. Bread is a very important food across many cultures; traditionally before people had their own ovens, the baker played a crucial role in the community. The first records which mention bread, suggest it was considered a miracle food. Yeast being added to flour and water, converting sugars into carbon dioxide, causing it to bubble, rise and grow….thus making more food from less. Genius!

As well as the fact that this food seemed to swell as if by magic, consuming bread is so much more nutritious than eating the same amount of grain and water. The process of fermentation makes the nutrients more available for the body to ingest.

Historically making bread was always a cooperative venture, from growing and harvesting the grain, to milling it, to kneading it with yeast and water to make dough, allowing it to rise, forming and finally baking it. The process required from growing grain, to eating it in bread form is quite labour intensive and involved.

The original house of the Sarnac hamlet

I was invited back to Sarnac, this time to see the residents of the small community come together to make bread (which happens every 3 weeks). It was a lot more wintery than my last visit, and there is talk of the temperatures plummeting to -14º in the next couple of days. Some residents assessed if they had stockpiled enough firewood, to keep them going through the cold spell.

Taking the flour down to the baking room

The cutting wind and blustery rain bite, as we walk down to the main house. Bread making is an all day affair, with today´s participants gathering in the morning to set the dough rising.

Rayen and Charlotte discuss the consistency of the starter

Rayen, Charlotte, Laure and Jimmy (as well as some of the youngest residents of Sarnac) don their aprons and team together to get this bread a-rising!

The mixture is kneaded to for a dough ball

There are 3 big dough batches being made, 2 with whole wheat organic flour, one of ancient variety (heavier loaf, less gluten). Each person adds flour and water to the starter, which has been lovingly prepared and fed in the days leading up to the session. It´s mixed thoroughly and kneaded, until a dough ball is formed.

Oiling the loaf tins

Whilst 3 adults knead, one is brushing the loaf tins with oil, and dusting flour onto the cheesecloths in baskets for later. Everyone knows what they need to do, and there is a busy flurry of activity. The dough is then set aside to rise for 2 hours, covered with a cheese cloth.

The dough is placed near the heater to encourage the rise

Baptiste sets a fire ablaze in the 150 year old stone oven and diligently tends it for the next few hours.

Everyone is mesmerised and warmed by the fire.

This oven kicks out some real heat and becomes a focal point for the day, attracting residents who are trying to escape the cold outside. There is nothing quite like fire making and food to bring people together!

Sarnaquois enjoy a Sunday lunch together

Meanwhile the bread team are joined in an adjoining room, by the rest of the community for a big lunch. Everyone brings a dish and people chat happily, catching up.

Surplus bread from the last session

Sliced, frozen bread from the last session is thawed and warmed on top of the heater.

Sarnac´s youngest resident tries bread for the first time, EVER!

After 2 hours the team rush next door to inspect the rise on the dough and begin dividing it into the baking vessels.

The dough is kneaded a second time

There is a quick second knead, then the dough is then placed in the loaf tins or baskets. All the loaves are brushed with water, to stop them drying out too much and prevent the top crust from becoming too hard. Again the loaves are covered with cheesecloth and left for a second rise.

The loaves line up for their second rise

We re-adjourn 2 hours later, but the numbers have dropped off. I´m roped in to get the loaves into the oven quickly, so as to not loose too much heat, and to make sure they all get the same baking time.

The loaves are scored on top with a razor to facilitate the rise. Baptiste skilfully loads the oven chamber up, with loaf tins around the edge, then the round loaves are shunted into the middle of the oven. Then the oven door is bolted closed and we must wait 50 minutes until they are baked. You can feel the anticipation rising as the homely smells of baking bread start to fill the room.

The loaves are lined up as they are taken out of the oven

When the bread is baked, the smallish room which houses the oven is suddenly filled to the brim with the community folk. There is one last industrious phase of removing the loaves from the oven and they are set on the table to be weighed and divided.

The serious business of bread weighing!

The weight of bread is noted down in a ledger with a great feeling of satisfaction for everyone who took part. People then slowly return to their respective houses clutching warm loaves of bread under each arm. Anyone fancy some toast?!

The chosen one!

I was lucky enough to be given a sourdough loaf, so I took it home and decided to make a sweet tuna melt….

Sweet tuna melt ingredients

Ingredients:

2 slices of sourdough bread

2 slices of tuna belly

1/2 red pepper, sliced

a few slices of cheese

parsley, chopped

red peppercorns, crushed

olive oil

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180º. Onto a baking tray cut the red pepper into strips, drizzle with olive oil and season. Bake in the oven for around 25 minutes, until its softened and the edges are starting to brown.

Place some slices of cheese onto the bread and melt the cheese in the oven.

Heat a dash of oil in a frying pan and sear the edges of the tuna. When the cheese is melted, lay the pepper strips onto the bread. Put the tuna on top and garnish with parsley and red pepper. Voilà, sweet tuna melt, ready to eat.

Colourful sweet tuna melt, just screams ´bite me´!

Tangy Seasonal Fruit Salad – Kiwi Tangerine & Pomegranate

I´ve been in a bit of a dilemma people! Since starting this blog, several people have given me advice on the best way to move forward. Many said you have to ´niche down´, to choose one type of food and stick to it. So, I reluctantly decided to focus on fish and seafood dishes, keeping health in mind (but not compromising on flavour). But there is so much more to me than that! I don´t only eat fish, all day long. Just like living off a diet of bread alone. I do love bread (ohh yes I do) but I don´t want it all day, every single day! Fresh fruit and vegetables really make me tick, and I´m always aware of getting enough in my diet.

So anyway, this fruit salad recipe is a bit of a curveball, but a welcome one that I hope you will enjoy. I was looking for a light dessert a while ago (after the heavy meals Raclette and Tartiflette). I wanted something tangy and refreshing; I hit the nail on the head! After seeing what was in season, I settled on this great combination. It is easy, healthy and really cleanses the palette.

Why make this dish?

We all know fruit is good for us, but many people talk of struggling to eat their 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day (as advised by the British government). As well as fruit generally being full of fiber and vitamins, Pomegranate is a great source of iron and antioxidants. Some research suggests it can help to prevent heart disease too! Did you know that kiwi fruit officially have 5 times the amount of vitamin C as you find in an orange (as well as being an antioxidant). And Mint is a great palate cleanser and helps with digestion. This combination of fruit should give your immune system a great boost during this cold spell. So basically, if you eat this fruit salad, you will live forever. He he, that was a JOKE, but seriously, it might make you live 5 minutes longer, so give it a try!

There are no quantities given in this recipe, but I used roughly the same weight of kiwi as tangerine. The amount in this photo made a big bowl, enough for about 6 people. Sadly, there were no leftovers for breakfast the next day.

Ingredients….oops, the fresh mint is missing from this shot!

Ingredients:

kiwi, sliced

tangerine, segments halved

pomegranate seeds

lime, juice only

mint, finely chopped

fresh ginger, peeled and grated

Method:

Cut the pomegranate in half, and release the seeds into a big bowl. Remove any bits of pith. Slice the tangerine segments in half, lengthways. Thinly slice the kiwi and half each slice. Mix all this together in a bowl and squeeze over the lime juice. Sprinkle with the chopped mint and grate a small amount of ginger on top and it´s ready to serve. I served some on small plates…

Beautiful, vibrant colours, made it look really appetizing Ohh, these crunchy little seeds look so good!

and some in these delightful little Le Creuset dishes (best ever Christmas pressie from my brother-in-law, big up Jules).

Either way, I think they look pretty inviting…someone pass me a spoon!

What a great end to a meal!

Steamed Mussels in Cream & Cider Sauce – delicious easy seafood

Delicious, plump mussels coked in cider and cream

As some of you may know, my other half hails from Normandy, in the North Western corner of France. Their biggest exports are seafood (mussels and oysters), apples (therefore cider and calvados) and dairy products (including milk, cheese, butter and cream). The cream is thick, rich, calorific and lovely, similar to Clotted cream for those British readers out there. This recipe combines 3 of their prized products, all in one delightful dish. What a Pescetarian´s pleasure! Well, you don´t have to be pescetarian to enjoy this recipe, you just need to love food. Let me tempt you…

The plump, succulent mussels are steamed with onions, garlic, then cider and cream are added. A generous handful of chopped, fresh parsley is stirred in when they are cooked. The mussels are plucked from their shell using an empty shell…

Use an empty shell to remove the mussel from it´s shell

…then the delicious, creamy sauce is mopped up with as much crusty bread as you have room for.

Sound good? We enjoyed this as a light lunch, but you could also serve this wonderful seafood dish as a starter. 1kg of mussels is a good portion for 2 people for lunch, or for 3 people as a starter.

They say the season for fresh mussels are all the months containing a letter ´R´…so September through till April. We are halfway through this season now so, it´s the perfect time to enjoy them.

Why make this dish?

Mussels are relatively cheap. They dont´t cost the earth (mine were less than 2€ for 1kg) AND they´re sustainable! They´re also really good for you (packed full of protein, and a great source of vitamins and minerals, especially zinc which helps boost immunity). According to this article in the Guardian they also have levels of folic acid and iron to rival red meat. Amazing, who knew mussels were such a wonder-food? Time to go out and buy some! If you enjoy this recipe, please like and share it with friends on Facebook, help me to spread the word about Pescetarian Pleasures! Thanks.

What you will need to make this dish

Ingredients:

1kg fresh mussels, cleaned

1 onion, diced

150ml double cream

150ml cider

2 garlic cloves, crushed

parsley, small bunch chopped

10g butter

olive oil

Method:

When you buy seafood you need to try and eat it within a day really, it doesn´t keep for very long. Mussels take a bit of effort, but are well worth it. You need to rinse them in cold water and scrape any barnacles off the shell, as well as removing their ´beards´. The beard is the stringy bit that the mussels use to cling onto rocks and ropes (but it´s not nice to eat)! Once clean, rinse again, to flush out any grit and discard any shells that are broken. If any are open, give them a firm tap on the worktop, if they don´t close discard them too (it means they are not alive). Once they´re clean you can cook them.

Mussels need to be cleaned and have their beards removed

Add the butter and a big glug of olive oil to a pan, and heat it over a low flame. When it´s hot, sauté the onion and garlic, until the onion starts to go translucent.

Sauté the garlic and onion in oil and butter Garlic and onion being cooked over a low heat

Add the mussels and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon.

Add the mussels to the onion

Pour in the cider, turn up the heat and cover with a lid. We used cider we bought from Normandy, but use any good quality cider that you can find.

Add the cider

Cook them for a couple of minutes, until the mussels start to open.

Add the cream

We don´t have access to Norman cream here in Barcelona, and for a (slightly) lighter version, we used double cream!! Pour in the cream, and cook for a further minute or 2.

Nearly ready

When most of the shells are open, they are ready. Sprinkle over the parsley and give them one last stir.

Add the parsley

Put the mussels into bowls and pour or spoon over the remaining sauce and onions from the pan. This is the lovely, creamy juice that you will want to mop up with your crusty bread. READY!

The colours are so vibrant and the sea-fresh steam that rises off this bowl is tantalisingly tempting! A meal for all the senses! We enjoyed this, washed down with a small glass of the remaining cider. Delicious!

Tasty, light lunch for 2

Baby Octopus, with Rocket & Cherry Tomatoes

Variety is the spice of life they say, and I´m always looking for something a bit different to feed my friends. I found the answer here….my recipe for Baby Octopus, with Rocket & Cherry Tomatoes. An easy, healthy seafood dish, packed full of flavour; just the kind of meal I love!

Since the flesh of octopus is mainly muscle, it´s texture changes from chewy, to tough, to tender, depending on how long you cook it for. An interesting fact: they are best enjoyed after being frozen, then thawed (cooking from frozen it tenderizes faster than if it is cooked fresh). This is because they are 80-90% water, so as you thaw them water enters the flesh, making it softer.

You often see these ´pulpito´ or baby octopus on menus, here in Cataluña. They´re usually cooked in a tomato and onion stew, spiced with smokey paprika. I decided to keep tomato as a key ingredient, but used sautéed, sweet, cherry tomatoes, with some wilted rocket. I served a small bowl as a starter, but it could easily be spooned over some rice or quinoa and turned into a more substantial main dish.

Char´s tip: I recommend you cook the octopus on their own for a while, before adding the other ingredients (to soften them up and to expel extra water after being thawed). I had a sad, failed attempt at this recipe without this stage, and the result was a bit too wet!

What you will need for this dish

Ingredients:

800g baby octopus, drained

onion, diced

500g cherry tomatoes, quartered lengthways

100g rocket

wild garlic, chopped

parsley, small bunch, chopped

2 limes, juiced

1 tsp black sesame seeds

1 tsp sesame seeds

olive oil

2 tsp chilli paste

2 dried chilies, chopped

Method:

Sauté the octopus in a pan with a little oil, and cook them for about 15-20 minutes, stirring regularly. Tip the octopus into a colander (to drain off the juices) and leave them standing in the sink.

take out some of the water after thawing the octopus

Meanwhile, add some more oil to the pan and sauté the onion and wild garlic, until the onions start to turn translucent.

Onions and wild garlic being sautéed

Add the octopus back into the onion mix, and fry with the chilli paste and dried chillies and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Add the octopus again

Add the cherry tomatoes and cook lightly for a further 2 minutes. Add the rocket and cook for the final 30 seconds. You just want to wilt the rocket, not properly cook it. Remove from the heat, squeeze over the lime juice, add the parsley and stir one last time.

Don´t cook the rocket for very long

Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and serve straight away.

The Joys of Fish! Why become Pescetarian?

The ugly but tasty Monkfish is rising in popularity

With the rise of allergies, intolerances and dietary preferences, the food industry is having to cater for a broad spectrum of food regimes these days. I don´t preach to people about their dietary choices, but I´m often asked why I´m pescetarian. I’ve been a pescetarian for a long time. Aged 11 I told my mum I didn’t want to eat meat and she agreed, with one condition, that I still ate fish. No one thought it would last, but here we are, 25 years later and I’m loving being pescetarian.

With lots of people cutting red meat from their diets for environmental and ethical reasons, Pescetarianism seems like it is becoming a lot more popular in today´s society.

Why eat fish?

As well as being incredibly tasty, eating fish is an easy, quick option for a mid-week meal. We are often short of time in today´s world, fish doesn´t take long to prepare and can be ready within minutes depending on how you cook it. It can be sautéed, grilled, barbecued, baked, poached, cured and in some dishes eaten raw. It is so versatile, there are many ways to include fish into your diet. As well as convenience, fish is also really good for you….

Fish (and seafood) are full of protein, nutrients, vitamins and minerals. It is also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids (especially fatty fish like tuna, sardines, mackerel and salmon). Omega-3 is essential for optimal brain and body function as well as reducing the risk of some diseases. So, it´s no surprise that Japan, Iceland, Norway and Spain have a higher life expectancy than other nations. This directly correlates with the highest incidence of eating fish in their diets.

Boquerones (anchovies in English) are eaten a lot in Cataluña & contain good Omega-3

Preparation

Fresh fish has a short shelf life so it should be cleaned and filleted, then eaten as soon as possible. If you want to save it for another time freeze it as soon as you can. One way to preserve fish for a longer time is to cure it (see my recipe for Gravlax).

In Japan fish are handled with much love and respect. This means cleaning it and cutting it well, using a sharp knife. In case you missed it before Sim from El Casal Café shows you how to clean and scale a fish.

How much fish should I eat?

The message is simple, try to eat fatty fish twice a week. This should be done as part of a balanced diet, using whole fish to minimise wastage.

Char´s tip: Wherever possible, it´s advised to buy line caught fish, as opposed to farmed and GMO fish. The traditional method of fishing with a hook and line has less environmental impact and ensures the fish are all alive when caught (so better quality). This method also means that no unwanted bycatch get wasted in the process. More about this later.

Avoiding waste

The cheapest, best way to buy fish, is to buy it whole and fillet it yourself. On average 40% of the fish is thrown away, including the guts, head and bones….but lots can be done with this! Many people are uncomfortable dealing with a whole fish, but there are many online resources showing you how to best do this. Buying a whole fish, encourages using the head, tail, bones and skin to harvest the full flavour. These can be used to make seafood sauces, stocks, bisques and broths. For example, I often use prawn heads and shells to make prawn powder.

Sustainability

There is a general lack of awareness about which fish are sustainable and ok to eat, which leads to stocks being depleted. Check www.goodfishguide.org which will give details on sustainability and seasonality. See The Marine Conservation Society´s easy to follow Pocket good fish guide.pdf document.

One major factor in terms of sustainability is that people tend to stick to what they know; we need to diversify the type of fish we eat and therefore buy. This will help stop certain species being over fished. So mix it up, in terms of choice. As a bonus you often find that cheaper, tasty options are available outside of the common favourites. I´ve recently started buying Sole which is a lovely white fish, with it´s own unique flavour. It´s delicious, you should try it out!

Seabream stocks are in a healthy state

A recent article in The Guardian showed how Bluefin tuna has been fished to the verge of extinction.

Buying local

…this makes a lot of sense with fish as well as other fresh produce. It means the fish will be fresher, and won´t have been shipped for miles to reach your plate. I have struck up a good relationship with my local fishmonger. She´s a real talker so I find out much more about the fish I am eating then I ever did at the supermarket counter. I ask lots of questions, and get many satisfying answers. Asking questions shows that you care when your seafood comes from, and we all have a responsibility to make sure we are not eating endangered species. Making that personal connection will increase awareness and education, and is very rewarding, if you can find the time. As I mentioned before, 2017 is all about health for me, we need to be more aware of what we are putting in our bodies.

Eat fish, live longer!

…just choose sustainably to make sure the next generation have as many options as we do.

Red Snapper, once in danger of over fishing, now populations are rebuilding

HAPPY NEW YEAR! From Char @ Pescetarian Pleasures

2016 was an interesting year, to say the least! On a personal note it was great, because I finally started Pescetarian Pleasures, which I´ve wanted to do for years. But looking at the bigger picture, it wasn´t quite so fantastic. I´m not going to talk politics here (it´s a food blog!) but we all know there have been some shocking things happening out there in the world. So all I can say is….Goodbye 2016.

We welcome 2017

…with the warm, fuzzy feelings of optimism, that often come with a new year. I want to share with you guys 3 goals for Pescetarian Pleasures in 2017….

  1. Post regularly on Saturday (in case you need some weekend cooking inspiration) and occasionally on Wednesday (as a mid-week pick me up).
  2. I´m really interested in the amazing health benefits of fermented foods, so I´m going to find out more about them, how to make them and create dishes using them.
  3. Focus more on produce that´s in season, right now. As well as fruit and veg being seasonal, fish and seafood is too. Because supermarkets stock several types of fish all year round (due to customer demand) people have lost sight of the fact that fish are seasonal things. Buying and cooking fish when it´s in abundance is much cheaper and much better for fish stocks.

There is also another really exciting project in the pipeline, but I will keep that under wraps until it´s been tried and tested. I don´t want to overload you good people on the first day of the year (otherwise the rest of 2017 might be a little anti climatic, and no one wants that)!

We´re only 3 months into the blog and I´m already dizzy with excitement about what is to come. For you guys following me from the beginning, it´s as much about what you want to see, as what I want to do. Which leads me to question time…

  • Is there anything you´d like to see more of from Pescetarian Pleasures?
  • What are your food aspirations or resolutions for 2017?

Get in touch, I´d love to hear from you! For me, I want to eat at more of the many Michelin star restaurants here in Cataluña. I hope to learn lots of new dishes. And I aim to focus more on the health aspect of what I feed my body…

¨You are what you eat, so don´t be fast, cheap, easy or fake¨

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy 2017, filled with great meals and fine foods!

Peace and love,

From Char x