Ça va, mon chou?

IMG_5867Savoy cabbage, quickly cooked, with butter and pepper is pretty good as it is. But if you want to pep it up to serve as a side dish with south-east Asian food it may not quite cut the mustard.The trick with cabbage is to not cook it for a whole school term. A flash in the pan to soften it is enough, so be careful and be quick. This is fiery and comforting at the same time and goes really well with some steamed fish with lemongrass and lime leaves.Ingredients1/2 Savoy cabbage, shreddedCoconut oil for frying2 hot red birdseye chillies, sliced1tbsp red Thai curry paste1tbsp dessicated coconut1tbsp coconut aminos or soy sauce1tbsp lime juice100ml coconut creamSalt to seasonMethodSauté the cabbage in some coconut oil, letting some of the shreds almost burn. Add as much chilli as you like, my chillies were surprisingly hot, so be careful.Add the curry paste to the pan (home made if you can be bothered) and add a little more coconut oil. Cook for a few minutes, stirring well so it doesn't burn.Pour in the coconut cream and heat through. Tip into a bowl and blowtorch the top of the cabbage if you have one to give it a little bit of a dramatic char. Add a little more sliced red chilli and some hazelnuts sprinkled on top if you fancy, and serve.

Love and hake

IMG_5354Still off the carbs and sugar, mealtimes are becoming much more interesting. While I have craved the odd sandwich or snack, and with weekends being particularly tricky with the spaghetti loving children around more, it's not been too difficult to keep on track.I've realised that we rely so heavily on carbs to fill us up, adding other ingredients to it, rather than focusing on vegetables as the main ingredient and building around that. We've also cut down on salt here, which goes against all my instincts in the kitchen. I'm having to really get as much flavour out of the ingredients as I can through spicing, and sleight of cooking. The jar of powdered dried mushroom now has a place at the front of the shelf.Still, as I float from room to room rather than bloat my way around, I feel a little lighter physically and a little more excited about fresh ingredients. I do half expect David Attenborough to peek out from behind the vegetation in the fridge at times —I also have crocodile meat in the freezer, so he may well be in there too— such is its lushness.Apart from the seven hour lamb leg with harissa, rosemary and garlic I cooked on Friday, this week has had a lot of fish in it. Including my favourite pickled herring in dill which is my snack of choice, I've cooked salmon, tuna, prawns and in this recipe, hake. I'm surprised it's not more popular here, it's soft and meaty like cod and has a lovely delicate flavour. It's a winner with coconut and Thai ingredients so please try this. Once you make the paste, which you can keep in an airtight container for a week, this recipe takes about ten minutes. I'm not going to give you a paste recipe here, by all means buy some ready made if you like. I used David Thompson's Panaeng paste recipe, which does involve boiling peanuts for half an hour, but that's up to you. I ate this on my own, by candlelight listening to The Beautiful South, but that, also, is up to you.IngredientsThis is for one person, so just add more veg and fish as you need.Coconut oil for frying (or olive oil if you don't have any)4tbsp Panaeng curry paste - homemade or bought. I'm sure green curry paste would be as delicious1 tin coconut milk125ml water1/4 savoy cabbage, inner leaves only, shredded1 small bunch of spring greens, trimmed2 small hake fillets, total about 180g, salted for five minutes and rinsedSoy sauce and lime juice to tasteA pinch of chilli flakes to tasteMethodHeat a little coconut oil in a deep, heavy saucepan and fry the paste gently for a few minutes.Add the coconut milk and water then bring to the boil. Now throw in the spring greens and cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.Add the cabbage and cook for a minute, then add the fish, bring to the boil and simmer for 3-4 minutes depending on its thickness.Taste the broth and add lime juice and soy sauce to taste.Spoon the greens into a bowl then add the cabbage and fish. Pour over the broth and finish with chilli flakes.

Jasmine-cured mackerel fishcakes

IMG_0905Fishcakes are a great way of either using up fish trimmings or making fish a bit more accesible for the children.I'm a big fan of Thai fishcakes. Full of zingy flavours, and with their added prawn and no potato they are firm and can be roasted in a little oil or deep fried, as with the traditional British ones. When making the British kind, something that's really important to me is not including too much potato and not making them too large.This recipe is for fishcakes that are a bit special because they use mackerel that has been cured in sugar, salt and jasmine pearls. These are easily found in supermarkets in the tea section. The fishcakes have turmeric and spices in them to boost the flavour. Increase the quantity to suit your palate; I made these to be very child-friendly. Normally I prefer them with a bit more kick.Serve with a cucumber and dill mayonnaise or some smoked paprika ketchup.Serves: 4Preparation time: 30 minutesCooking time: 20 minutesIngredients4 fresh mackerel, filleted4 tbsp of jasmine pearls4 tbsp caster sugar4 tbsp salt4 medium floury potatoes50g butter, melted50ml milk1 tbsp turmeric powder1 tbsp garam masala2 tsp ground coriander seedsSalt and pepper to seasonFlour for dustingMethod1. Place the fish on a large plate or tray and sprinkle over the jasmine, salt, sugar and a twist of pepper. Make sure all the skin and flesh is covered then wrap in clingfilm and leave to cure in the fridge for at least an hour.2. Rinse and gently poach the fish in water for about five minutes then remove the skin, flake the fish and set aside to cool.3. Cook the potatoes until soft and starting to fall apart when you prod them with a knife. Drain and leave to steam dry for a while then mash well with the butter and milk until creamy.4. Mix together the fish, potato and remaining ingredients and shape into fishcakes.5. Toss them in flour to dry them out and shallow-fry in vegetable oil (preferably rapeseed) until golden brown, flipping halfway through.6. Drain on kitchen paper and serve with the mayonnaise and ketchup and a beetroot and chicory salad.