Posts Tagged ‘salmon’

The Japanese GP – home made Sushi!

October 15, 2011

Last Sunday was the Japanese GP and there was never any doubt in my mind as to what I would make.  I love sushi, but have never really given it a go at home so this seemed like the perfect excuse to try.  Sushi seems to be quite popular over here as well, there are an awful lot of sushi bars around.  You can also buy the rice and nori sheets in the supermarket.  The one thing you can’t get though is rice vinegar, which is a little frustrating as sushi is vingared rice, the plain stuff just doesn’t cut it!

Before starting my sushi I took to the web looking for tips.  The one I found most useful was Ian & Sue Mitchell’s How to Make Sushi site.  It was their advice that I followed for the tricky part – cooking the rice!

I used a cup of rice (this made enough sushi for 2 with some spare) and washed the rice until the water ran clear.  I then placed the rice in a heavy pan with 1 and a half cups of cold water and brought everything to the boil.  Once the water was boiling the heat was turned down low, a lid put on the pan and everything was left for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes I turned the heat off  but didn’t take the lid off, leaving the pan for a further 10 nerve racking minutes.

Finally after this time as up I could look at the rice.  It was perfectly cooked.  The rice was soft and the grains separated easily.  It hadn’t caught to the bottom and it wasn’t too glutinous!  I was very relieved!

While the rice was cooking I had made my vinegar mixture.  For this quantity of rice I heated two tablespoons of white wine vinegar (instead of the proper rice vinegar) with two tablespoons of caster sugar and half a teaspoon of salt.  Once the sugar and salt has dissolved (and the room smelt of vinegar!) I turned off the heat and let the mix cool.

With the rice ready it went into a large plastic bowl along with the vinegar mix and I ‘fluffed’ and cooled the rice moving it around with a pair of chopsticks.  After about 5 minutes of fluffing and fanning the rice with some paper I then left it to cool by itself for an hour or so.With the rice cool I began to make my sushi.  I started off with some Nigiri.  This involved making some small sausages of rice which would then be topped with tuna or salmon.  On first picking up the rice I quickly discovered just how stick the vinegar/sugar mix had made it.  By wetting my hands first I was able to handle and shape the rice without the majority of it sticking to my palms.

I made 10 little sausages and then cut my toppings, 5 tuna and 5 salmon.  My fish was raw and so you have to be careful.  I’m quite lucky in that although I’m pretty far from the sea, salmon tartare is very popular in this region and so you can still get very fresh fish.  A Migros 15 minutes away from me has a very good fish counter where the quality is very high and so I felt confident enough in the fish I had to happily eat it uncooked.  I cut five slices each approximately 2 cm by 5cm from my salmon and my tuna and placed them on top of the rice along with a little wasabi.  I then cut some small strips of nori to secure the toppings to the rice.Next I had a go at  making maki rolls.  The amount of rice I had let me try two varieties and so I made some avocado and salmon ones and some tuna and fresh red and yellow pepper one.  To make the maki I placed a sheet of nori onto a bamboo place mat (you can get proper sushi mats, but my place mat worked just fine) and spread my rice over ¾ of a nori sheet.  I then placed my toppings along what would be the length of the roll and added some daubes of wasabi before proceeding to try and roll everything.  This is not as easy as it sounds and as when making a roulade or swiss roll, taking things slowly seemed the way forward.  I carefully rolled things trying to keep everything tucked in and tight and eventually I was left with a large green sausage of sushi.The next challenge was trying to cut the sushi.  I had a very sharp knife, but it obviously wasn’t sharp enough as it just pulled and torn the sushi.  In the end the best thing I found was a serrated bread knife.  This did flatten the circle slightly (something I could kind of fix one the sushi was in bits), but at least I was able to get bite size pieces.  From my two rolls of nori I made about 12 individual pieces (plus the ends which were just as tasty but not as pretty) and these went onto my plate with the nigiri.I finished things off by cutting some slices of salmon sashimi for my partner and I and then we were ready to tuck in.  I have to say I was pretty impressed.  For a first attempt everything looks pretty professional when it was all together on a plate.  When I tried the rice by itself I felt it was maybe a little sweet, but with the toppings/filings and the wasabi it was just right.  Aside from preparing the rice I was surprised how straight forward actually making the sushi was.  I had always thought that sushi must be quite difficult and, I’m not saying it was easy peasy, but I feel I could do this again once evening for tea rather than needing to set aside a whole afternoon to prepare everything.  All in all I was very pleased with how things went!

The race was a triumph for the two fastest men within it. The championship is really a two horse race, with Vettel needing one point in the rest of the season to clinch his second world title, while Jenson Button needs victories in every single race.

Button did his job but Vettel singly failed to read the script, driving the Red Bull home safely in third. Despite losing his momentary pole to Vettel who drove him off the track, Button came back using tire strategy and jumped the Red Bull in the pits stops. From there he was unstoppable, bring the car home with over two seconds in hand.


Saucy Fish Co

April 6, 2011

I have been rather busy of late, what with trying to arrange my move to Geneva (coming round horribly fast!), appearing in a production of ‘Oh What a Lovely War!’ and both my partners birthday and Mother’s Day this weekend.  As a result I haven’t had much time to cook (or write!) and so the Saucy Fish Co’s offer to try some of their new range came at just the right time!
The Saucy Fish Co. from Grimsby won the Seafood Prix d’Elite “Seafood Product Line Award” in 2010 and their products are now stocked in large (and some small) Tesco’s.  The range covers fish fillets with sauces, foil bag bakes, fishcakes and stand alone sauces.  From the vast selection of products I decided to try the salmon fillets with watercress and crème fraiche sauce and the salmon hollandaise “saucy fishcakes” with an added packet of hollandaise.

The products I tried

First up, the salmon fillets with sauce.  The two fillets themselves were a lovely size and had a great colour, but I was rather surprised to find that the skin had not been scaled!  I don’t think I’ve ever bought a fish fillet before where this has been the case.  Slightly perturbed, but still undeterred, I got out my sharp knife and proceeded to remove the scales in my kitchen sink (liberally spreading them about in the process).  This wasn’t too difficult to do, but it did make quite a mess. The fillets didn’t look quite so pretty when I had finished (I may have been a little rough).

The fillet complete with scales

I then proceeded to cook the fillets in the pan (skin side down for two thirds of the time and a quick flip over to finish the top) whilst warming the sachet of sauce in a cup of hot water. This was the method suggested by the packet.  The packet recommended cooking the fillets for 10 – 15 minutes in a pan, but I personally think that’s a bit much and would dry out even the middle of the fillet, let alone the thin end!
So I did mine for about 6 minutes in a hot pan which gave a nice crisp skin and flesh that was just cooked through.  This I served up with some steamed charlotte potatoes and a dribble of the sauce (it was a very small packet for two people!).

The salmon served up

After my disappointment the scales I was glad to find that the fish tasted great.  It had a strong flavour and a lovely moist texture.  The sauce had a great tang from the crème fraiche which cut through the oiliness of the fish, however I don’t think the watercress flavour came through very well. A bit more peppery punch would have been nice!
A few days later I cooked the saucy fishcakes.  These were a salmon fishcake with hollandaise sauce in their centre -a very fun idea!  Again I think that the packet exaggerated the cooking time a little (or else my oven is ferocious) as I put them in for the recommended 20 at 200°C and they came out a little crispier than I would prefer!  We had these with sautéed potatoes and some salad

The saucy fish fishcake served up....

...and cut open

These also had good flavour, although a little more salmon wouldn’t have gone amiss, I think it’s a little cheeky to call them salmon fish cakes when they’re  only 19% salmon with another 15% cod..  The cakes themselves were nicely soft and the hollandaise inside was really  buttery. I think the idea is really novel and worked well; it just needs a little tweaking!

Well, after eating both the salmon filets and the fish cakes I was feeling a little fished out so I decided to have the hollandaise sauce with eggs instead. One evening I cooked myself some eggs Florentine using half the packet and a few mornings later I used the rest making eggs Benedict for breakfast with my partner(you get plenty in this pack!).

The eggs florentine

and the eggs benedict

The sauce was made with different ingredients to the one in the fishcakes. It had a very pale yellow colour and lovely thick consistency.  I heated my first batch in the microwave, and the second batch in a pan on the stove.  Both times the sauce came out fine.
The flavour divided opinion however.  Personally I found it a little too acidic.  I can see how the vinegar flavour would be great when accompanying a fatty fish, but on eggs I found it a little sharp.  My partner however preferred this sauce over others we have tried for the very same reason.  He thought the vinegar cut through the richness of the eggs Benedict and lifted the dish.  So there you go a nice pre-made sauce which requires very little work, this was the easiest and most successful of the Saucy Fish Co products I tried.
All in all, and despite my little grumbles, I think there is a lot of promise in this range.  Prepared food will never be the same as home made, but with a few tweaks I think this could be a great range of convenient fish products!

A lovely meal out with work at the Laguna Restaurant

November 19, 2010

Last week my department held a two day off site retreat at the Park Plaza Cardiff (not very far for me to travel I know :-p), and apart from two days out of the office the thing that excited me most was the prospect of eating in the hotels Laguna Restaurant.  I had been there previously as part of a day spa package at the hotel and really enjoyed the food and so was eager to try it again.

The restaurant is situated at the back of the hotel and overlooks the greenery of the old canal feeder and Cardiff’s civic centre.  It was very spacious and light with a high ceiling and modern feel. There’s a terrace for the summer days (and smokers), but what with it being November and rather chilly, we ate indoors.  This being a work event I didn’t have the nerve to bring along camera to capture the food and so, inspired by Ailbhe Phelan’s magnificent drawings on her Simply Splendiferous blog, I have attempted to recreate the meal through the medium of coloured pencil (unfortunately falling far short of her own skilled artistry).

The meal began with warm bread rolls.  Olive triangles, mini French loafs and rye buns were on offer and bowls of olive oil and balsamic vinegar were provided for dipping which proved to be a nice, lighter alternative to butter.  I had an olive triangle the first day and a rye bun the second.  Both were delicious and wonderfully soft, a lovely nibble while we waited for our starters.  Our meals were to be two courses, and the menu provided plenty of option with four starters, two “large or small” options you could choose as either starters or mains and four main choices.  There was also the option of dessert, but I ended up keeping it savoury both days.

The first day I went for a starter of prawn and brown shrimp cocktail which was served with granary bloomer bread and half a lemon wrapped in muslin to catch the pips.  The plate looked extremely elegant and appealing and I thought the lemon in muslin was a great touch.  The cocktail itself was succulent and full of flavour.  The lettuce was crisp and fresh and the rose marie has quite a kick in it which really lifted the dish.

My starter of prawn and brown shrimp cocktail

My main of seared salmon with squash sage and chilli risotto

For my main I chose the seared fillet of salmon which was accompanied by a squash, sage and chilli risotto.  The portion was enormous, a huge of fillet salmon with crisp skin and lovely soft flesh and a supreme quantity of autumnal orange risotto.  The sweetness of the squash was complemented by the sage and the subtle chilli heat which was much milder than that in the starter.  The combination of rich creamy risotto (I suspect there may have been a fair quantity of cream and butter involved!) and oily salmon was delicious, but far too much for lunchtime and I must admit to being unable to finish it all.

Having enjoyed my lunch so much on the first day I was excited to go to see what was on offer on the second.  About half the menu was the same as the first day, but there was still plenty I wanted to try from both the old and the new selections.  This time I went for a starter of seared spiced salmon with asian salad and pesto.  This was once again the picture of elegance, presented in clean straight lines.  I can’t say that I’m familiar with the concept of asian pesto, and on tasting it I would have to just say that it was just a mix of coriander and garlic.  Tasty, pretty, but not overly inspiring.  The tuna though was nicely flavoured and the salad had a great variety of flavour colour and textures including lambs lettuce, radish, carrot and sesame seeds.

My starter of seared spiced salmon salad with asian pesto

My main of confit belly pork apple sage risotto

For my main I decided to go for a risotto again (repetitive I know!).  This time I had a confit belly pork, sage and apple risotto from the “small or large” section.  Once again this was exceptionally rich and I dread to think juts how much dairy (and fat!) was involved.  The pork had been flaked so thst little nuggets of flavour were speckled throughout the dish as well as some large chunks of sweet red apple.  Overall this dish was rich, sweet and decadent.  This time I had eaten less for breakfast in preparation and was able to finish it all, but only just.

Overall I was impressed with the restaurant and I think I’ll be going back again.  The quality of the food was excellent and although the service was relaxed it wasn’t too slow.  It’s not too expensive either (£16.50 for a 3 course pre-theatre menu).  I wouldn’t normally consider the restaurant of a hotel chain when planning a meal out, but Laguna is a great lunch or early evening destination in a great city centre location.


August 16, 2010

Our stack of plates!

My partner and I love sushi – in fact our first date was at a sushi restaurant, something that filled me with fear into me due to my inability to consume sushi with any kind of elegance.  Luckily my inelegance wasn’t a problem and so for a recent special occasion we decided to go to Zushi in Cardiff.  The restaurant is an independent sushi and noodle bar located on the ground floor of what used to be the AA building and is now a block of stylish city flats at the end of Queen Street.

The interior is clean and modern (as is to be expected form a Japanese restaurant!) with the chefs working on their creations in the middle and the conveyor (the first in Cardiff, but we now have a Yo Sushi) transporting them around the restaurant.  You can sit either at the conveyor or in a series of booths, we choose a booth, and the plates range in price from £1.70 for the basic hosomaki and salads up to £3.70 for some of the Sashimi and more elaborate/exotic creations.  The menu can be found here and has a pretty good range and there were also things on the conveyor which didn’t feature on the menu at all.

Salmon Sashimi

In addition to sushi they offer a selection of Ramen, Noodle and hot dishes which read like a mini Wagamamas menu.  We didn’t try these, but I think I would go back sometime to give them a go and see how they compare.

With the opening of Yo Sushi in St David’s 2 Zushi now has some competition.  As a result they have introduced some good value lunch and evening offers.   The evening offer is £13.99 for all the sushi you can eat from the conveyor and also includes miso soup, coffee and ice cream if you want.  Before arriving I was a bit sceptical that this would mean a small selection of low price plates travelling by and I was prepared to have to ask and pay for some pricier items.  Turns out I was wrong.  There was a great selection of plates of all colours, and there was certainly no shortage.  Plenty of hot and cold, meat and fish dishes as well as salads and even desserts.

The sushi was of a high quality and I had no complaints about what we ate (and we ate plenty!).  My only issue at all would be that the restaurant was fairly busy (not a problem for them!) and so occasionally things were all taken before they reached us, but this is just the peril of a conveyor system.  Disappointment at someone having eaten the tuna I had my eye on aside, this was a great deal.  The eat as much as you want (what a great challenge!) meant we could relax and gorge ourselves without having to be scared that we would need a loan to cove the bill, a serious consideration with some other sushi restaurants I’ve visited – it’s so easy to get carried away!

So to sum up; a great restaurant, a really good offer and an enjoyable evening out.  Well worth a visit if you like sushi, especially if you don’t want to spend too much.

Pea, Broad bean and Mint Risotto with Seared Salmon

May 31, 2010

Pea, broad bean and mintrRisotto with pan seared salmon

With the weather not quite settled down to glorious sunshine yet, I have been trying to find meals that are light, bright and spring like. Yet they must still be filling and warming enough to stop you feeling hungry on some of the colder evenings.

Upon discovering some forgotten salmon fillets in the back of the freezer, one of the dishes I decided to try and create was a spring vegetable risotto, topped with some salmon.  However my original vision was scuppered by the lack of fresh peas and broad beans available when I went to the supermarket, leaving me to resort to tins!  This was not quite the celebration of spring veg I was had envisioned!

Pea, broad bean and mint risotto (for 2)

1 small onion, finely diced,

Half a clove of garlic chopped, or a small one, the puree stuff is fine as well!,

125g risotto rice,

Half a small glass of wine (no measures, just a good glug),

400mls of vegetable stock,

1 tin of garden peas drained,

1 tin of broad beans drained,

½ tsp dried mint,

25g of parmesan grated,

A small amount of olive oil.

I began by adding the peas, broad beans and dried mint to my pan of boiling stock.  I then gently softened my onions and garlic in another pan before adding the risotto rice and cooking through for about 45 seconds to a minute.  Next I chucked in my glug of wine, the remains of another evenings bottle, allowing this to be absorbed before beginning to slowly introduce my stock to the mixture (trying not to add too many peas or broad beans at this time).

Once around 2/3 of the liquid had been added to the pan I separated out half vegetables and 50mls (ish) of stock and pureed this with a blender and set aside, continuing to add the remaining liquid and vegetables to the risotto.  At this time I also began to heat a small frying pan for my salmon which would take about 8 minute to cook through.

When all the remaining stock and veg had been added and absorbed into the risotto I added my lovely green puree, followed by the parmesan.  Cooking the whole lot through for about a minute more then serving topped with the seared salmon.

When I first opened the tins of vegetables  I felt disappointed by the lack of vibrancy in the colours, but in the end I was really pleased with how the risotto turned out.   It tasted great, and I don’t think the lack of fresh vegetables was detrimental at all, not bad at all for a largely store cupboard meal.  I have now invested in some frozen broad beans and peas for the future, in case the supermarket lets me down again.

Kensington Place, London

May 26, 2010

I recently went off to London for the day with a friend to visit the Grace Kelly exhibition in the V&A. So we decided to book a lunch table in advance through Top Table.  The restaurant we decided upon was Kensington Place which is located on Kensington Church Street, a five minute stroll from Notting Hill Gate tube station and very easy to find.

For lunch the set menu cost £15 for two courses and £19 for three, and booking with Top Table you get a small glass of house wine as well.  There was a large selection available on the set menu, so I doubt that anyone would struggle to find something they liked the look of. The restaurant itself is light and modern, with architectural chairs which were comfier than they looked.  In contrast to everything around it, a bright summery mural of a lakeside scene took up one entire wall of the restaurant and yet managed  not to seem out of place.

Our meal started with a choice of breads to nibble on before our starters arrived.  I had chosen the Ballotine of Loch Duart salmon, oyster vinaigrette and pickled vanilla cucumber, and my companion went for the English asparagus salad, soft egg and Alsace bacon.  Both starters were beautifully presented.

Ballontine of Loch Duart salmon, oyster vinaigrette and pickled vanilla cucumber

English asparagus salad, soft egg and Alsace bacon

My salmon was wonderfully soft, gently breaking when cut.  It was very delicate tasting, in contrast to the accompaniments, but managed not to get lost under these.  The pickled cucumber was delicate and sharp, with just a background hint of vanilla, and the vinaigrette was similarly tasty.  Unfortunately the egg on my friends plate was a little too firm to be called soft, otherwise I would have had no complaints about this course.

For mains, my friend opted for the Confit duck leg, warm garlic sausage, frise salad and red wine jus .I had the Pot roasted chicken, leeks, glazed macaroni, leek veloute and lamb’s lettuce.  Again these dishes were well presented.

Pot roasted chicken, leeks, glazed macaroni, leek veloute and lamb’s lettuce

duck leg, warm garlic sausage, frise salad and red wine jus

My chicken was great, the chef had worked really hard to showcase the meat and I had a leg, a deboned thigh and a good wedge of breast, all of which was succulent and full of flavour.  This skin was a little soggy, but that’s to be expected with a pot roast, and it tasted wonderful regardless.

The accompanying leeks and were sweet and so was the veloute, though if I were to nitpick, this was a little thin.  The glazed macaroni (long pieces of macaroni with a thick cheese topping) was an unusual accompaniment which worked well with the chicken.  Overall the dish was visually appealing and lovely to eat, but did lack texture with everything on the plate being soft.

Whereas my chicken had been quite subtle, the duck was a boldly flavoured dish with plenty of garlic and a deep jus complemented by the fresh spring vegetables and frisee.  It was an enjoyable dish both to admire and eat.

Although the portions were not terribly large, the two courses proved more than enough and we decided to forgo desserts.  Overall I would say that the food was eye catching presented and wonderful to eat.  The set menu was great value for money and the faults I’ve noted were minor things, the things that were done right far outnumbering the ones that weren’t.  I would look forward to eating there again if I’m in the area, and would happily recommend the restaurant to others.

London for the weekend

April 13, 2010

Med Kitchen (Cambridge Circus) and Boulevard Brasserie (Covent Garden)

On a lovely sunny April weekend my partner and I travelled up to London to meet up with his parents.  Over the course of the two days we dined in the Med Kitchen at Cambridge Circus and Boulevard Brasserie.  Both were offering 3 course meals with a Bellini for £15 so I thought I’d do a little compare and contrast (especially as looking back I choose very similar meals!).

On the Saturday, Med Kitchen.  Part of a small chain of six all located in the center of London, the Cambridge Circus branch is just opposite the Palace Theatre (currently showing Pricilla, Queen of the Desert!).  The restaurant was very light, airy and busy without being cramped.  I was unfortunately sat in a bit of a draft and so got cold towards the end of the meal, but I would say that was just bad luck.

The set menu had a choice of 4 starters, 4 mains and 3 desserts.  I went for the duck parfait with toasted pugliese bread (which they had mis-spelt on their menu – oops!) and homemade fig chutney, seared salmon with French beans and a tomato, olive and caper sauce and crème brulee.

First to arrive, the bellini’s, which were a lovely way to start a meal, very fruity and light.  Then the duck parfait followed quickly after that.  It was wonderfully rich, smooth and full of flavour; the home made chutney was gorgeous, although the chunks of fig were quite big meaning it was very difficult to eat elegantly!  The seared salmon was cooked perfectly, and the sauce was great, if a touch overpowering at times for the fish, but the dish was crying out for carbs (luckily I wasn’t too hungry to start with!).

Finally the meal was rounded off with the crème brulee which tasted divine, but was lacking sugar on top and had a weird grainy texture I couldn’t quite put my finger on.  Overall a decent if not spectacular meal, but great for the price, especially in central London.

The next day was the Sunday lunch menu as Boulevard Brasserie just off Covent Garden, another £15, 3 course and a bellini affair with once again 4 starters, 4 mains and 3 desserts.  The restaurant is set over three floors and the decor was a strange but pleasant mixture of rustic and opulence.  This time it was Foie Gras and Chicken Liver Parfait caramelised onions and crispy country bread, Fillet of Trout with mashed potato and watercress sauce and Petit Pot au Chocolat.

The bellinis were classier looking with a hint of peach at the bottom of the glass, making the previous days efforts look like a bit bucks fizz by comparison.  The parfait was once again deliciously rich and smooth, although it must be said that the onions added little to the dish and bread was incredibly fragile making it difficult to spread the parfait without breaking it into tiny pieces (again not terribly elegant, I must start to order dishes that are eaten with a knife and fork!).

The trout was succulent and I swear that the mash had more butter in it than potatoes.  The watercress sauce was delicious, but I would have liked a little more to cut through the butteryness of the mountain of delicious mash.  Finally I got to the “petit” chocolate pot.  This was the richest dessert I have eaten in a long time and there was nothing “petit” about it!   It was velvet smooth, heady with chocolate and cream and slipped easily down the throat.  I should have stopped myself, but before I knew it I had eaten the whole lot.  The entire meal was sumptuous and full of flavour and I dread to think of the calories consumed and in my bloodstream. Sky high on sugar and fat I left, very happy indeed!

If I had to pick one to visit again, it would be the Boulevard Brasserie, but that’s not to say that I wouldn’t recommend Med Kitchen.  Both offers were a great deal and I’ll definitely keep them in mind the next time I’m up that way.