June 26, 2008

Fish gratin

We had some half-fat creme fraiche to use up so I found this recipe from a magazine and tweaked it to make it healthier (omitted some of the butter and used semi-skimmed milk instead of full-cream) and use up what we had in the fridge/freezer.

Serves 2

White Sauce:
  • 30g butter
  • 30g plain flour
  • 300ml semi-skimmed milk heated for 1 min in the microwave
  • Handful of mature cheddar cheese
  • 3 tbsp half-fat creme fraiche
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • Some cauliflower and broccoli florets cut into bitesize pieces (original recipe used spinach)
  • Knob of butter
  • Some indiscriminate frozen white fish, thawed (original recipe used thick pieces of haddock fillet)

  1. Make a white sauce by melting the butter in a small saucepan, then add the flour and cook over a medium heat for 1 minute until the flour and butter have combined to make a roux.
  2. Gradually pour in the warm milk, little by little, and beat until smooth after each addition.
  3. Bring to the boil, stirring, and simmer very gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Meanwhile, blanch the vegetables in boiling water, drain, set aside and keep warm.
  5. Heat the grill to high. Put the small knob of butter in a gratin dish and melt under the grill.
  6. Add the fish pieces and coat them in the melted butter, then season.
  7. Cook the fish under the grill for 2-4 minutes until half cooked (this will depend on how thick your fish is).
  8. Lift the fish onto a plate and keep the grill on.
  9. Spoon the cooked vegetables over the base of the gratin dish and put the fish on top.
  10. Stir half of the cheese and all of the creme fraiche into the sauce and season to taste with cayenne and/or mustard, salt and pepper.
  11. Pour the sauce over the fish and sprinkle with the remaining cheese and more cayenne.
  12. Slide the dish back under the grill for a further 4-5 mins until the gratin is golden brown and bubbling.

June 2, 2008

Tips & Tricks - Cook It!

  • I come from the school of thought that chicken thighs are far superior to breast as they have far more flavour and are much more tender, thus I tend to use them more in my cooking. However, if I have to use chicken breast for a stir-fry for example, then I will coat the chicken pieces in a mixture of equal parts cornflour and water. I usually slake 1 heaped tablespoon in 1 tablespoon of water. This paste prevents the chicken from being tough and dry when you fry it.
  • Always remove the green sprout from your garlic cloves as this is the part which is bitter.

Tips & Tricks - Substitute It!

  • If you have a recipe which calls for Buttermilk then you can make your own with normal milk and lemon juice or vinegar. Just mix 1 cup milk with 1 tablespoon lemon juice/vinegar and let sit for 10 minutes. The resulting mixture won't be as thick as buttermilk so you will need to reduce the amount, so for buttermilk pancakes which requires 1.5 cups you will only need 1 cup.

Tips & Tricks - Freeze It!

  • Always use freezer bags to store food in the freezer as they will prevent "freezer burn" which is when the food is damaged by ice crystals due to air reaching the food and give it an unpleasant flavour.
  • If you're like me and hate eating over-ripe bananas but haven't got time to make Banana Bread, then don't bin them - freeze them! Simply pop them unpeeled into a freezer bag and freeze for up to 6 months. The skins will go brown/black but don't worry. When you want to use them for Banana Bread/Muffins (see my yummy recipe!) then defrost at room temperature, snip the top off and squeeze out the fruit like a tube of toothpaste!
  • Are you put off from buying fresh root ginger because it always seem to go off before you've used it up? Well you can freeze the whole root and then just use a grater to get the amount you need - no need to thaw it first!
  • You can freeze egg whites, ideally in an ice cube tray to keep them separate.
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