Classic Kiwi – Blue Cod with Chardonnay Lemon Butter Sauce

We have pretty much finished touring around the South Island (Mainland?!) of New Zealand – a spectacular experience. New Zealand never fails to delight me in so much as you can drive for a couple of hours and find yourself in somewhere very different from where you just left – and you can do it repeatedly.

Whilst driving through the ‘Catlins’ the most southerly part of the South Island between Dunedin and Invercargill) it was getting near lunchtime and we happened across a fantastic café – the Niagara Falls café. Although the middle of summer, it was freezing and blowing a hoolie of a gale. The menu was brilliant, and I picked the Blue Cod for which the area of the cold southern oceans are famous for. The fish was cooked perfectly and was served quite simply so that you could taste the delicate flavours.

A couple of weeks later when we were in Wellington, I saw Blue Cod at a market and still hankering for the flavours of the Catlins, thought I would recreate what I had been served. The recipe is really easy and even people that (say that they) don’t really like fish will eat it. If you are scared of cooking fish as some people seem to be, then give this one a go…

Serves 4

4 x 150g very fresh fillets of Blue Cod (You could use any other delicately flavoured firm white fish, just make sure it is super fresh – always talk to the person serving you the fish and be nice to them!)
50g butter for frying
Zest and juice from 1 large or 2 small lemons
1glass of unoaked Chardonnay
30 – 50g butter (I know, a second lot…)
Salt and pepper

Accompany with buttery mashed potatoes and wilted spinach

Method

In a large, heavy pan melt 50g butter on a medium heat
As butter starts to foam, add your fish fillets.
Leave to fry gently for around 2-3 minutes until flesh is going opaque on top.
Turn fillets over with a palette knife to avoid them breaking up
Fry for a further minute or two
Add lemon zest and juice to pan, then remove fish and place on top of plated spinach and mash
Add glass of wine to pan and reduce down until you have around 100-150ml of fluid.
Add butter to pan and season to taste
Pour sauce over fish and serve immediately

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Magret de Canard –

I’ve been spending the past few weeks in the south-west of France between Bordeaux and Bergerac with my wife and daughter.  We are staying in a great house in the town of Duras which we got for a bargain price as we booked for a good stretch of time during the low season month of November.

I used to work for a French company and lived for a time in Paris in the early part of the Millennium.  Due to my job, I spent the best part of the past 11 years to-ing and fro-ing between Paris and wherever else I was in the world.

Despite being English by birth, I guess you could say that I have become a bit of a francophile.  Although I have had some of the most frustrating (and amusing!) experience during my many visits to France, I am constantly delighted by something new that I always seem to find in France, french people, the culture or the cuisine.

The South West of France always makes me think of delicious duck, from the salty confit legs, to the buttery fois gras to the duck fat that seems to find it’s way into everything that is cooked in the region.  In my opinion, the finest duck in the world comes from this area along with some of the best ways to cook it.

I have eaten Magret du Canard many times throughout France, but staying in this region, with a well equipped kitchen gives me the chance to try my hand at cooking it.

Duck is a very rich meat, so needs something fruity and sour to accompany it, classically this has been orange or cherries, but I like to use what is available locally and paired my version with a pear and shallot sauce which had enough of the sweet and sourness to cut through the oily, rich duck.

I served this accompanied with some braised red cabbage sautéed in (dairy free – sacrilege I know!) butter, pepper and balsamic vinegar and some potatoes cubed and put in the oven with a twist of salt & pepper, thyme and some of the duck fat from the breasts as they were beginning to cook (a LOT comes out!).

Serves: 2 (and a 1/2  as a hungry toddler snaffled some of this!).

Ingredients

2 x 300g duck breasts – if you can, get the ones from the fois gras ducks.

salt and pepper

1 pear, chopped into slices

1 shallot, finely diced and previously softened in 25g butter (dairy free for us, but the naughty stuff works oh so well…)

1 glass of nice red wine

a little chicken stock

To serve:

3 medium potatoes cubed into 1cm chunks

3 sprigs of thyme

salt and pepper

1/2 head small red cabbage

balsamic vinegar

30g butter (dairy free once again if you have toddlers or other difficult type allergy people!)

Method

1) First for the cabbage, shred the cabbage finely and place in some boiling, salted water for 3 minutes.

2) Drain the cabbage and run the colander under cold water to stop the cooking.

3) Preheat oven to 200c and place cubed potatoes and thyme in a baking tray.  Season with salt and pepper and have ready near hob.

4) Place a medium frying pan on hob on a medium heat.

5) Season duck breasts with salt and pepper both sides and score the skin of the duck deeply into the fat in a diamond pattern, but avoid cutting the meat.

6) Place the duck into the pan, skin side down.  It will begin to release it’s fat, as soon as there is around 5 good tablespoons full, place this into the potatoes tray and give them a good swirl around in the fat.

7) Place the tray of potatoes and duck fat in the hot oven on the top shelf.

8) Keep the duck cooking skin side down for around a further 7-8 minutes.  Check that the skin is not burning every now and then, it should be going a delicious golden as more and more fat renders from it.

9) Turn the duck breast to go meat side down in the hot fat for 1 minute.  Take the duck from the frying pan and place in  a second baking tray and  in the hot oven for 5 or6 minutes if you like nice pink duck.  Longer if you prefer it grey(!).

10) Pour off the hot duck fat into a cup (save it as it is so good to cook other stuff in) and deglaze the pan with the glass of red wine.  Scrape around to blend in any crusty bits of duck.

11) add the previously softened shallots and pears and gently bubble.  Add enough chicken stock to form a good consistency sauce

12) In a separate pan, melt butter and add balsamic vinegar.  Sautee the cabbage in this until hot and add a good shake of black pepper.

13) Take duck from oven and let rest for 5 minutes.  Take potatoes out of oven and keep warm.

14) Slice duck at a diagonal angle and place slices on warm plate with potatoes and cabbage.

15) Spoon pear sauce over duck in a nice thick line and serve immediately with a hearty Bon Apetit!

Hearty Lamb with Butter Beans & Thyme

Even I can’t continue to kid myself the weather is anything other than cold now in the UK. The arrival of bonfire night (November 5th) calls for plenty of comfort food, the type of thing that sticks to your ribs. Big flavours, slowcooked meat that is soft enough to be cut with a spoon, side dishes like mustard mashed potatoes and braised red cabbage rather than salads are now the order of the day.

This dish just makes me smile thinking about it. The flavours with the lamb all just marry together so well as they get to know each other for a few hours in nice warm oven.

This can be made a good few days in advance and reheated in around 30 minutes in a hot oven. It could even be frozen and warmed up without defrosting.

Serve with mustard mash and a steamed vegetable. Light the fire, draw the curtains and put your feet up…

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

2 neck fillets of lamb or other boneless stewing cut in large pices (3cm chunks)

2 Tbsp oil

25g butter (or dairy free alternative)

1 Tbsp plain flour (or gluten free flour mix)

1 finely diced large shallot

500ml good quality stock

125ml glass of red wine

2 Tbsp redcurrant jelly

4 large sprigs of fresh thyme

1 drained and rinsed can butter beans

Additional wine for deglazing

Method:

1. Preheat oved to around 140C

2. Put oil in pan and fry the lamb in small batches to get a good colour (don’t burn it!) on all sides.

3. Remove the lamb from the pan into a casserole dish.

4. Deglaze the pan with a small amount of wine and pour this into the caserole dish.

5. In a seperate pan, gently fry shallot in butter(or dairy free alternative) until it is transparent (don’t let it go brown!).

6. Add flour and cook stirring all the time for 1 minute.

7. Slowly add the stock in small batches, stirring all the time.

8. Add the wine, jelly and thyme and bring to the boil.

9. Add beans and stok mix to the casserole dish and place into the oven for 2 hours

10. Strain the liquid off into a large pan and bring to a fast boil to reduce the amount of liquid until it becomes thick enough to coat back of a spoon.

11. Taste liquid and season with salt and pepper as required and return meat to the pan.

12. Serve and enjoy on a cold winter’s evening.