#342 Halibut with Anchovies

It’s always nice to add an extra species of animal or plant to my list of foods I have eaten. Halibut is reasonably pricey so I have typically avoided them in the fishmonger’s shop. They are also beasts – the largest flatfish to be found in European waters. Check out this one caught off the west coast of Iceland in 2010:

It weighed an impressive 34 stones (that’s 476 pounds, or 220 kilos)!

This recipe is from the Polish novelist Joseph Conrad’s wife. She was and Englishwoman called Jessie George, who obviously had a flair for cookery. She wrote a book called A Handbook of Cookery for a Small House, and I assume (for Grigson doesn’t say) that it is this volume from which the recipe comes.

The recipe includes an unusual ingredient – Patum Peperium, otherwise known as Gentleman’s Relish. It is a highly spiced potted anchovy spread, and was a Victorian invention – click here for a link to the other blog for more information on this delicious savory.

This will serve 3 or 4 people, depending upon the size of your piece of halibut, which should weigh between 1 and 1 ½ pounds. Try and get hold of a steak, if you can only get fillets buy two pieces and sit them on top of each other. Make the spiced butter by mashing together 4 ounces of softened butter and a very generous heaped teaspoon of Patum Peperium and smear it over the halibut, including the underside. Sprinkle over 6 tablespoons of white breadcrumbs and bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 190⁰C (375⁰F) until the breadcrumbs have browned.

In the meantime make the tomato sauce that accompanies the fish. Peel 8 ounces of tomatoes by cutting through the skins in a cross shape on their undersides. Place in a jug and pour over boiling water. After 1 or 2 minutes, remove the tomatoes and the skin should be easy to peel away. Chop the tomatoes and cook them in a saucepan with a good sized knob of butter. Gently cook until the juices are reduced to just 3 or 4 tablespoons. Season with a teaspoon of Worcester sauce and some salt, pepper and sugar.

Remove the fish from the oven and place on a serving dish, pour the buttery juices into the sauce and spoon it around the fish. Finally, add 6 split anchovy fillets and place on top of the fish in a criss-cross pattern.

Jane suggests serving with matchstick potatoes. She does not let us know how to make them, but luckily I knew anyway: peel some potatoes and cut into 2 or 3 millimetre matchsticks – julienne as the French say – use a food processor or Chinese mandolin to do this (if you don’t have one, then don’t even bother and boil some potatoes in their skins instead). Plunge the potatoes into a roomy bowl of water so you can rinse away the start. Then drain them in a sieve.

Heat up some cooking oil such as sunflower or groundnut. When a piece of bread goes nice and brown in about 30 seconds, it is hot enough to add the potatoes in batches. Fry for 2 or 3 minutes until golden brown, around 180⁰C if you have an electric deep fat fryer or cooking thermometer, then drain on kitchen towels. Salt and serve.

#342 Halibut with Anchovies. What a delicious dish! The fish was firm, flaky and moist and the butter was seasoned with just the right amount of the Patum Peperium. The tomato sauce was rich yet fresh; a great meal for a summer’s evening. 8.5/10.

#263 Stuffed Tomatoes

A quickie, this one…
So as I mentioned in my last post I made a couple of vegetable sides from English Food for Joan and Dave’s Thanksgiving party. That is not to say that these recipes from the Vegetables chapter are in any way vegetarian and these stuffed tomatoes are no exception. They are pretty easy to do aswell. Take twelve tomatoes and cut off their tops. Scoop out their centres and chop them up, removing any seeds first. Turn the tomatoes upside down to drain. Meanwhile, make a batch of herb stuffing – I’ve made it before as a recipe in its own right (get it here) and add the chopped centres to the mixture. Spoon them into the tomatoes and replace their little hats. Place on a baking sheet cook alongside whatever you might be having for dinner. In our case it was, of course, turkey. The temperature doesn’t really matter; just don’t leave them in so long that they just collapse. Griggers reckons that they would go well with lamb too.
#263 Stuffed Tomatoes. I liked these, though I’m not sure if everyone agreed. The stuffing was good though wasn’t as flavoursome as the last time I made it, but it was still good and did compliment the tomatoes. The tomatoes here are very good though – they actually taste of tomatoes and aren’t just the green chlorosed lumps we typically find in British supermarkets. 6/10.

#188 Ragout of Lamb

Another bargain from Orton Farmers’ market – a nice leg of lamb for a tenner. I love lamb, I do. Griggers actually half-inched this one from a chap called Michael Smith. I don’t know who he is. Anyway, I wanted to do this one because I got to use to use up a massive punnet of tomatoes that I also got from the market. This recipe is not worth making with those crappy old chlorosed supermarket thingies. Get some proper ones; if you grow them yourself, alls the better. It’s a nice recipe this one, a nice summery stew.

You need 2 pounds of leg of lamb that has been cubed for this recipe. If you get the butcher to bone it, don’t forget to ask for the bone – you’ve paid for it, make some stock out of it! Shake the cubed meat in a bag along with two tablespoons of well-seasoned flour. Brown them in a pan with a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil. Place the browned lamb in a casserole and then brown 2 diced carrots and half a head of celery that has also been diced in the pan. When done add those to the casserole. If you have a casserole that can go straight onto the hob, then you can do it all in one. Now add ½ teaspoon of Cayenne pepper, 2 crushed garlic cloves, a sprig of rosemary and the grated rind of a lemon to the meat and vegetables and pour over 1 ¼ pints of chicken stock. Bake in the oven for 1 ½ hours at 190⁰C.

At the mid-way point, you need to add around 18 caramelised spring or pickling onions. To make them prepare the onions: leave about 2 or 3 inches of green stalk on the spring onions. If it’s pickling onions, you are using, just peel them. Melt ½ an ounce of butter in a pan and add the onions, plus 1 ½ teaspoons of sugar. Cook until caramelised, making sure they all get coated and browned evenly.

The final stage of this recipe is to cook the tomatoes lightly – they are used as a topping: peel the tomatoes, halve them, scoop out the seeds and dice them up. Melt ½ an ounce of butter in a saucepan and cook the tomatoes lightly. Take the ragout out of the oven, skim it of fat, check for seasoning, place it in a bowl and place the tomatoes on top. Scatter with chopped basil. Serve with a baked potato.

#188 Ragout of Lamb. A really nice stew this one; the meat was beautifully tender and the chicken stock, tomatoes and basil really lifted and made it light and summery – it’s a shame we have no actual summer to speak of. The onions collapse into sweet, sweet mush too. Great stuff – 7.5/10.

#171 Herb Stuffing

I have been trying to address an FAQ recently: “how far through the book are you?” I have been a right old geek and calculated it on a spreadsheet! Unfortunately I can’t work out how to put a table into Blogger and I’m no good with html script. If anybody reading this knows how to do a table please leave a comment. I did notice that I have not paid much attention to the Stuffings section, having done the Parsley and Lemon Stuffing at Christmastime. I went for this herb stuffing for two main reasons: firstly, Grigson uses this stuffing in many other recipes; and secondly, I had all the ingredients. I wanted to judge it in its own right and not part of another recipe, so I made it and used it to stuff a roast chicken for Sunday dinner.

By the way: There is no method for roasting a chicken (or goose for that matter) in English Food, so I went for the method normally used: 20 minutes a pound plus an extra 20 minutes at 200°C. Make sure when you calculate the cooking time, you weight the chicken after you’ve stuffed it. Place the chicken in a roasting tin, rub in plenty of butter into the skin and season well. Cover with foil and baste every half an hour. Remove foil for final 30 minutes and baste every 15 minutes until cooked. Leave to rest for 15 minutes before carving.

Anyway, back to the stuffing: Gently fry a chopped medium onion in 2 ounces of butter until nicely soft and golden and pour the contents including juices into a mixing bowl. Now add 2 ounces of chopped ham or bacon (I went with the latter; black bacon from the Cheshire Smokehouse), a tablespoon of chopped parsley, a tablespoon of chopped thyme, 4 ounces of breadcrumbs, and egg, an egg yolk and finally a seasoning with salt and pepper. Stir well and use it however you like: stuff poultry, veal, rabbit or tomatoes, or even roll into balls and bake on a tray in the oven.

#171 Herb Stuffing – 9/10. Absolutely delicious! Such a massive return for such little effort. It is really full of flavour; it is very important that you use good ham or bacon and fresh herbs for this as they should be the dominant flavours. There’ll be no Paxo in my house ever again! If you are doing a roast chicken dinner, give it a try – you will not be disappointed.

#71 Rolls Filled with Cheese and Tomato Paste

Next up for the picnic – Rolls Filled with Cheese and Tomato Paste. A perfect thing to take out on trips etc., reckons the Grigson; and she is correct! Looking at the recipe, I though it was a bit of a faff to prepare, when you could just have a cheese and tomato buttie. Jane suggests using bridge rolls – I have no idea what they are, but small baguettes seem to do the same job.

Greg sneaking in sarnie before dinner

For six: Slice 6 small baguettes in half longways and scoop out as much of the bread from inside as possible without creating any holes in the bread; breadcrumb the scooped-out bread in a food processor. Next, chop a small onion very finely, and soften gently in 2 ounces of butter. Chop up three skinned tomatoes and add to the mixture – you may want to add a tablespoon of tomato puree and some sugar at this point, unless you grow your own tomatoes, or live in Spain. Simmer the mixture for about 15 minutes, until all is quite thick. Whisk in the egg and keep stirring until the sauce thickens even more – don’t let it boil or the eggs will scramble. Take off the heat and stir in 2 ounces of grated Cheddar cheese, and the breadcrumbs – don’t add them all at once, you may not need them all. Season with salt and pepper and stir in a tablespoon of chopped parsley. Fill the rolls with the paste along with a layer of something green – lettuce, watercress, or whatever.


#71 Rolls Filled with Cheese and Tomato Paste – 6.5/10. They are certainly bizarre but very good, at first I wasn’t sure if I liked them, but as I scoffed away as I walked about, I decided that I did. Though I’m not sure if a ‘normal’ cheese and tomato sarnie is better. They went oddly well with lagers that Jono brought along.

#68 Carrot and Tomato Soup

This one is very similar to the tomato soup I made last month, and has almost the same ingredients. I used beef stock rather than vegetable stock this time, which really brings out the flavour of the tomatoes, so unless you’re vegetarian go for the beef!

Soften 8 ounces of sliced carrots and a medium-sized, chopped onion in 2 ounces of butter. Add 8 ounces of peeled and chopped tomatoes and 1 3/4 pints of stock and gently simmer until the carrot is cooked. Liquidise and pass through a sieve to remove seeds before returning to the pan. Season with salt and pepper and add 1/4 pint of single cream and some chopped chives.

Soup 7/10; attractiveness 1/10.

#68 Carrot and Tomato Soup – 7/10. Really delicious. Sieving it and adding cream made it really silky and smooth, which is important when you can hardly open your mouth. It freezes brilliantly too.

#60 Tomato Soup

I still haven’t make anything since I got back, however I did do (#60) Tomato Soup before I left for France. I think it’s important to use fresh tomatoes in this, as tinned have a taste of their own, that although very good, are not suitable. I bought tomatoes on the vine and kept them on the windowsill so that they got nice and ripe and, er, tomatoey. Even then I still had to add extra sugar and tomato puree. Anyways, it was nice to have a cream of tomato soup that wasn’t from a tin.

Soften 3 ounces of chopped carrot, 2 ounces of onion and a garlic clove in two ounces of butter, and then add a pound of peeled tomatoes that have been halved. (To peel them, put them in a bowl of boiling water for 30 seconds and the skins just slip straight off.) Add 1 1/4 pints of stock – chicken, beef or vegetable (I did veg). Bring to the boil and simmer until everything’s cooked through – about 15 minutes. Test the carrot, as it is this that takes the longest. Liquidise the soup and push it through a sieve leaving behind the tomato pips. Now the important bit: the seasoning. Add salt and pepper as you normally would, but also add some sugar and around 2 teaspoons of tomato puree, if the tomatoes need it. Also add some freshly-grated nutmeg; I think it makes all the difference. Boil 1/4 pint of single cream and add the soup mixture. When you are just about to serve it, sprinkle over some chopped parsley. Serve with bread, or maybe a giant crouton.

The Grigson says that you can serve it cold: Chill the soup before adding cold cream.

#60 Tomato Soup: 7/10. A really good, light summery soup. It wasn’t packed with tomato flavour, but it was delicious. I’ll certainly do it again.