Smoked Haddock and Leek Fishcakes

Prepare yourselves… this recipe gets a little bit cheffy. We know our usual style is bang it all in a roasting dish and then, 1 hour later, dish yourself up a plate of goodness but sometimes you want to fancy things up a bit. This makes a lovely smaller dinner for two, or would make a beautiful starter if you only served 1 fishcake per person. The fishcakes themselves are a straight steal from Nigel Slater but we’ve gone and done one better (sorry Nige!) and created a beautiful smoky white sauce to serve with them. So next time you have a certain someone to impress, or just fancy gettin’ cheffy with it give these a go!

Ingredients

  • 400g floury white potatoes (about 1 large potato)
  • 400g leeks, finely sliced
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 300g undyed smoked haddock fillet
  • 250ml milk
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5-6 peppercorns
  • Olive oil
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • Wilted spinach to serve

Cut the potato into chunks and cook in boiling water for around 10-15 minutes or until soft. Heat 1 tsp of the butter in a frying pan and add the leeks, slowly sweat down and cook until really soft and sweet. Once the potato is cooked drain it and then place in a bowl to cool for a few minutes. Bring the milk to the point of steaming in a small pan with the bay leaves and the peppercorns and then add the smoked haddock, cut it into several pieces to make sure it fits in and is covered by the milk. Place a lid on this, let the milk come to the boil and then turn the heat off and let it sit for 10 minutes, the haddock will be perfectly cooked and flaky at this point.Take the haddock out and leave until cool enough to handle on a board. Do not throw away the milk. This is where we and Nigel part ways, he makes no mention of the milk but we thought we couldn’t throw away this little goldmine of flavour so hang on to it, you’ll need it later. Strain it into a jug to remove the bay leaves, peppercorn and any little flakes of fish that have escaped.

Fishcake mixture

Crush the slightly cooled potatoes with a fork until there are no large lumps remaining but don’t worry about getting them perfectly smooth, these fishcakes are rustic and rough textured. Mix in half of the leeks and flake the fish in, discarding the skin. Shape into patties (we did 4 but you could make them smaller or bigger as you like) and set aside.

Heat most of the remaining butter (about 2 tbsp) in the pan you cooked the fish in (give it a quick wipe with a bit of kitchen roll) and once bubbling add an equal amount of plain flour to create a roux. Cook this for a couple of minutes to get rid of the floury taste and then start to add the milk that you saved earlier. Add this bit by bit, whisking well in between until all of it has been added. Keep this over a low heat stirring regularly to thicken.

Fishcakes cooking

Now just fry your fishcakes – everything in them is already cooked so they just need a bit of colour on the outside. Heat the remaining butter with a drizzle of olive oil in a frying pan (we used the one we used to cook the leeks earlier to save on washing up!) and when hot add the fishcakes. They will take a couple of minutes on each side over a medium heat. Try not to mess around with them and turn them too much, they are fairly fragile so avoid flipping them as much as possible.

Once they are golden pop a bit of wilted spinach on a plate and top with the remaining leeks and a dollop of the thickened white sauce. Place your fishcakes on and drizzle over the rest of the sauce. Serve with a glass of white wine and Instagram your cheffy creation!

Fishcakes with spinach and white sauce

Quick Chicken and Chorizo Jambalaya

Believe it or not the origins for this recipe lie in an Asda magazine from about 1998. We mean really it’s origins lie in a Caribbean interpretation of some French and Spanish food but this one right here is a vintage Asda classic. Updated by the Bird clan with some chorizo and chilli (and what a bland dish it would be without them!), it’s now a firm favourite for when you want a comforting, warming, one pan dinner in around 30 minutes. Oh one tip though? Leave time for the pan to soak before you wash it up – that delicious crusty rice at the bottom makes it a hell of a job to clean!

Ingredients (serves two hungry people or three less greedy people)

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 skinless chicken breast fillets, cut into strips
  • Chunk of chorizo, chopped
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 small red pepper, de-seeded and chopped
  • 1 small green pepper, de-seeded and chopped
  • 1 green chilli, de-seeded and chopped (optional)
  • 340g can chopped tomatoes
  • 330ml chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 135g long grain rice

Heat the oil in a large frying pan/skillet and then add the onion and chorizo. Allow the oil to come out of the chorizo and the onion to soften for a minute or two. Add the chicken and cook for 4-5 minutes or until there are no visible pink bits left. Add the garlic and cook briefly – you don’t want it to burn! Add the peppers, chilli and chopped tomatoes and cook for a further 2 minutes.

Onion and Chorizo

Dissolve the tomato purée into the hot chicken stock – we might have mentioned this tip before but it makes it so much easier to distribute it evenly throughout the dish! Stir in the chicken stock/tomato purée mixture, the dried thyme and the rice. Cover and cook for 20 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender. This last step is a bit open for interpretation, we tend to stir ours every five minutes or so to prevent it from becoming a total nightmare, and we have a well fitting lid so the stock to rice ratio usually works for us but if you need to add more stock then go ahead! Also it might be worth adding a layer of aluminium foil if your pan lid doesn’t fit too tightly.

And that’s it! Serve with salad if you want to be good but if you’re anything like us then serve yourself a mountain of the stuff and eat your way into a spicy, paprika-y, chicken-y carb coma.

Jambalaya

Sweet Potato, Rosemary and Chilli Bread

Bread time again! We thought we’d try something a bit different to warm us up during the recent cold snap. This sweet potato-based bread is our first foray into vegetable breads, and although it didn’t turn out quite perfect it still tasted totally delicious and we had to share it with you.

Here’s what you’ll need for a standard (about 800 g) loaf/boule:

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • A few sprigs rosemary
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • About 350 g strong white flour (enough to make it up to 500 g with the sweet potato) plus a bit more for kneading and making a crust
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • 2 heaped tsp fast-acting yeast
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 300 ml tepid water
  • 1- 2 tsp dried chilli flakes

Start by taking the skin of the sweet potato, chopping it up into fairly small chunks and roasting it, along with the rosemary, seasoning (good pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper) and olive oil for about 45 minutes at around 180 °C. You want the sweet potato to be soft, not crispy – otherwise the next bit will be pretty much impossible!

Sweet potato for bread

Once the sweet potato has cooled down, roll your sleeves up, take a deep breath and force the roasted sweet potato through a metal sieve. Pushing it through with the back of a spoon seems to work pretty well, but it’s hard work! Take out any rosemary leaves and add them to the sieved potato, but discard the stalks. If anyone has any better ideas for how to smooth out the sweet potato, leave us a message in the comments.

That ordeal over and done with, add the sieved sweet potato to a measuring scales and add enough strong white flour to make up the total weight of the potato and the flour up to 500 g. Add to a mixing bowl with 1 heaped tsp yeast, the table salt, the honey and the extra virgin olive oil. You may want to use a food mixer with a dough hook to bring the mixture together, as it gets pretty sticky – we did, but it’ll work just fine with your hands. While you’re bringing it together, slowly add the tepid water, about 50 ml at a time.

Flour it up!
Flour it up!

Once the dough has all come together, by machine or hand, tip it onto a well floured surface and knead for about 15 minutes. You’ll have to flour the surface again and again as it will stay pretty sticky! Once it springs back place in a well-oiled bowl, cover with cling-film and leave to rise in a warm place. Once it has doubled in size (about 2 hours), knock back, shape (whatever you like – we did a boule but would like to try a loaf next time!) and leave to prove for another hour or so.

About 20 minutes before the bread is ready to go in the oven, preheat it to about 200 °C. Now for the chilli crust – this step is kind of optional, but we urge you to give it a go as the results are delicious! Mix together a couple of tablespoons of strong white flour, 1 tsp yeast, the dried chilli flakes, and just enough water to turn it into a spreadable paste.

SP bread with chilli

Just before the bread goes into the oven, put a few slashes in the top with a sharp knife and smear over the chilli and flour paste so that it forms a thin layer. Now put it in the oven for about 30-40 minutes, until the top is dark and golden.

We ate our bread with some roasted red pepper and butter bean soup with some flaked pecorino, but it’s delicious all on its own!

Sweet potato bread done