Fantastic Fish Lasagna

  • Recipe(s): Fantastic fish lasagna (page 78)
  • Prep: Moderate
  • Taste: Good

So…. life’s been busy lately. It’s been so long since I posted that I can’t quite remember what to do!

Anyway, we ate a lot more fish than is typical for us during our challenge of completing every recipe from Jamie Oliver’s ‘Cook with Jamie…’ There were a tonne of fish recipes in the book. Most of them were quite good but this one, which we made on November 8, 2014, fell a bit short. Perhaps it was because we were expecting it to be similar to a traditional lasagna. SPOILER ALERT…this is not a traditional lasagna.

The prep on this recipe is moderate, due primarily to the time requirement. The thing with this prep is, it’s not the typical things that take the time, such as chopping, peeling, slicing, etc. but rather your time is spent frying, adding, subtracting, simmering. You definitely have to ‘watch the pot’ on this one to ensure you don’t miss a stage or burn something beyond recognition. Once you have made it through all of the steps you can sit back and let it cook in the oven for about an hour or so.

Before I get into how the final dish tasted there are a few things I should point out:

  1. Rasher = A thin slice of bacon
  2. Definitely use a block of Parmesan rather than the pre-grated variety

The reason I point this out is because both can have a pretty big impact on the flavour of the dish. For example, a thicker cut of bacon will not cook down as much, meaning it will not render as much of the nice fat in the dish.

Anyway, the final dish was ok/good. Firstly, you really need to get over the fact that it is not a lasagna, in fact it is nothing like a traditional lasagna. To me, it was more like a fish pie, or something like that. Secondly, make sure you use a block of parmesan. We used the dried, pre-grated variety, because we had it in our fridge, and it just didn’t work that well. I know that parmesan is not generally used in a traditional lasagna, however, as it was the only cheese used in this recipe I feel that a fresh variety would have added more zip and provided a bit of creaminess. The one thing I did like about this recipe was the shrimp. I purchased them fresh from Granville Island – boy were they good. Unfortunately, they weren’t good enough to elevate the dish to the next level.

We would probably not make this again, mainly due to the payoff between the time required and the finished product.

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Squid in the Summer

  • Recipe(s): Super squid linguine (page 71)
  • Prep: Moderate
  • Taste: Very Good

The intro to this recipe in the books says that it is a perfect recipe to have in the summer with a large glass of Spanish wine. Well, on July 12, 2014 (in the middle of summer) we made this dish for a group of friends. I can’t necessarily say that we were drinking Spanish wine but wherever it was from it was very well paired with this dish!

My partner prepped most of the recipe, which is something she’s really quite a pro at – earlier in the day she chopped the parsley and chili, zested the lemon, and got the garlic ready to go into the press etc., after which she placed everything into their own airtight containers and put them in the fridge to be used later. Organization is her thing, if you can’t tell. Anyway, I had picked up the squid and pasta the day before, from Granville Island of course, and prepped it in the afternoon, after coming home from completing the Triple Crown. Why did we do everything ahead of time? Because we would rather have a drink with friends outside in the hot sunshine than be stuck in the kitchen prepping dinner! Anyway, prepping everything ahead of time makes the prep seem light but it is still moderate as there is quite a bit to do ahead of time.

Everyone that was at dinner rated this dish very good and I concurred. It was a very, very tasty dish, which was really made by the fresh pasta. I picked up the pasta from Dusa, at the Granville Island Market. It makes a meal sooooooo much better when fresh pasta is used. It is just that much lighter and not as stodgy as a store bought pasta. To me it actually allows the other ingredients to stand out more because you are not tasting that starchy taste you get from the packaged variety. The chili added with the garlic and lemon zest added a nice zing to the dish and the glass of white wine (the one added to the dish and not the one in my hand) added a nice perfume. There was just the right amount of squid included in the dish, which was cooked to perfection. It was nice and tender, which I was happy about. I was afraid of over-cooking it, which would have made it quite rubbery.

The sign that everyone else liked it was the fact that there was nothing left in the end. It was devoured!

We would definitely make this dish again, perhaps next summer, with another glass (or 5) of wine.

Kick his ass, Sea bass…Thai style

  • Recipe(s):Steamed Thai-style sea bass and rice (page 229)
  • Prep: Easy/Moderate
  • Taste: Very Good

I have been waiting to write the title to this blog ever since I saw the recipe in the book. Such a classic line from such a classic movie (thank you, Dumb and Dumber). This is a fitting title to tonight’s meal as the sea bass definitely kicked some ass.

The prep was easy, bordering on moderate. The Kitchen Ninja (blender) did most of the work but it was still a bit of a time consuming process. Part of the prep involves parboiling rice, which is where most of the prep time was added. Aside from this part of the process there is nothing much that needs to be done except for chopping some green onions, cilantro and red chilli (don’t touch your eyes!).

The dish is supposed to cook in the oven for 15 minutes but it might take longer. I ended up having to cook it for 20 minutes so that all of the liquid was absorbed by the rice. The time could vary depending on the size of the dish you use. I used a fairly small dish, meaning the layer of rice was thicker. This makes it harder for the rice to absorb all of the liquid. No harm was done to the fish or snap peas so I was not too concerned with the extra time.

This dish was very good. I happen to really enjoy South East Asian flavours, which this dish provided a tonne of. When I was prepping the dish I knew that I was going to like it. The mixture of ingredients was so classic. The soya sauce added the saltiness, the ginger and garlic added a bit of earthy spice, the red pepper brought in a touch of heat, the coconut milk mellowed everything out and the cilantro brought the freshness. The best part of using these ingredients is that they work so well together that not one of them stands out above the other.

Having a well balanced sauce was perfect for the sea bass. I never had sea bass before and was pleasantly surprised with it. It was similar to a Talapia or Snapper but had a bit more meatiness to it, which stood up well to the cooking process. It did not flake apart like some other fish would. It doesn’t have a tonne of flavour, which was good because you want the freshness of the sauce to be the star, well at least that is what I wanted.

This dish would rank high on the flavour to effort scale and I would definitely make it again. You could easily substitute chicken or prawns instead of fish but I would recommend trying it with the sea bass first. It might just kick your ass as well…

The good, the bad and the blood sausage

The good, the bad and the blood sausage

  • Recipe(s):All day breakfast salad (page 52) & Squid with black pudding stuffing and sticky tomato sauce (page 291)
  • Prep: Easy & Moderate
  • Taste: Very Good & Mediocre

Blood sausage…….

The last two nights (August 27th & 28th, 2014) have seen us make and consume some interesting dishes. One was good, one was bad and they both contained blood sausage. It has been a two night cooking affair with this very special ingredient. An affair that I am glad has come to an end.

Growing up in Canada I am not accustomed to this very special form of sausage. I had only ever had it a few times and I was not totally enamoured with it when I did have it. To say that I was looking forward to these recipes would be a lie. However, knowing that we have to complete all of the recipes to complete the challenge we decided to complete them in rapid fire succession on consecutive nights.

The prep for the salad was easy, as was the cooking process. The one difficult part to the recipe is the timing. You want to make sure that the fried ingredients (bacon, blood sausage, bread, etc.) come out of the pan and onto the greens just before your poached egg is done. I would recommend taking your egg out of the fridge about 10 minutes prior to cooking to allow it to get closer to room temperature. Unfortunately I used a cold egg, which prolonged the poaching process, throwing the rest of my timing off. Outside of the timing, do make sure to not overcook the egg. Having a nice oozy yolk is ideal.

Even though my timing was off the dish was still very good, bordering on excellent. We were both pleasantly surprised. For me it all started with the dressing. It had a nice little dollop of english mustard added to oil and white wine vinegar, which created a nice tangy, yet not overly acidic, dressing. Having this on top of the frisse and arugula (subbed for cress) alone would have been great. Adding the bacon (making everything better), bread and the blood sausage was an added bonus. Topping the dish off was the egg. I felt that you could eat this dish for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. I guess this is why Jamie gave it its name.

I am glad we made the all day breakfast salad first because if our first experience to blood sausage was the stuffed squid we may not have made the salad at all.

The prep for the second dish was moderate. Chopping, frying, stuffing, frying again and then braising (not quite but close to) takes quite a bit of time. While I thought I started the dish well ahead of when my partner would arrive home from work, I was still cooking when she walked through the door.

This dish did not even come close to the salad. The squid, which I picked up fresh from Granville Island this afternoon was pretty thick, which I think is why it seemed a bit rubbery when we ate it. It was fully cooked, so I had no worries there – it was more of a texture issue for me. The blood sausage was definitely more prevalent in this dish. While the salad contained bits and pieces here and there, the mixture for the stuffing in this recipe was more of a pate texture. Not…..pleasant….at….all. Now, this could be from my limited experience eating blood sausage, maybe it is an acquired taste, like scotch or kimchi. My partner did like the tomato portion and the sausage mixture in small amounts. Unfortunately, that was it. It would be unfair to rate this dish as poor as we are not accustomed to this type of sausage, so we ranked it as mediocre. We would not make it again.

We would definitely make the breakfast salad again, for any meal of the day.

Bacon and Scallops taken up a notch

Bacon and Scallops taken up a notch

  • Recipe(s):Pan-fried scallops with lentils, crispy pancetta and lemon creme fraiche (page 250)
  • Prep: Moderate
  • Taste: Very Good

Is there anything better than scallops and bacon?

I would normally answer no to this question but after tonight’s (July 19, 2014) recipe, I would say, yes, yes there is a combination better than scallops and bacon. It is; scallops, bacon, lentils and super thick plain Greek-styled yoghurt.

The prep for this recipe was moderate. It is not rated this high because of the technical skills required but because there are many things moving at the same time, which requires some degree of organization. The recipe indicates to get the bacon started after your lentils are done but I would argue that you can get the bacon going before this point. We ended up having to wait quite some time for the bacon to finish, during which time the lentils just sat there – they didn’t get cold or anything but it seemed like a waste of time.

The one thing to be careful of with this recipe is to make sure that you do not leave too much liquid in the lentils prior to mashing in the potato, garlic and tomato. I definitely left too much, which made the lentils much runnier than they should have been. Thankfully I did not overcook the lentils and they were nice and soft, but not overly so. Aside from this the rest of the dish if very easy to cook. Do take care to not overcook your scallop. There is nothing worse than a rubbery scallop!

If you didn’t catch on in the second paragraph, we both greatly enjoyed this recipe. I mean, bacon and scallops are a perfect pair. They go together like peas and carrots, rum and coke, Bonnie and Clyde…..they are an amazing combination. The addition of lentils, with everything that came along with them; potato, tomato, red wine vinegar and garlic, was amazing. And the plain yoghurt…..what a nice addition. The vinegar in the lentils and the lemon in the yoghurt added a nice amount of acidity to the dish, which helped to counteract the fattiness of the bacon and yoghurt. The vinegar in the lentils did much of the same. You would think all this acidity would be overpowering to the delicate taste of the scallops but they did not. You could definitely get much of that distinctive taste that comes along with a scallop. The asparagus added a nice crispiness, that the rest of the ingredients lacked. So really this dish had a good balance of texture and flavour, which we really like. My favourite bite incorporated every single ingredient of this recipe and it was delicious. All in all this was a top notch dish. It didn’t quite make it to the ‘amazing’ category but was very good indeed.

I would rank this mid way on the flavour to effort scale due to the prep but would make this again for sure.