Recipe – Monkfish Curry

The monkfish is a frightful looking creature with a massive head and lots of sharp teeth, so it’s a good thing that most places only display the filleted tail piece. On the other hand, monkfish is delicious with a firm, almost lobster-like flesh and no fiddly small bones to deal with.

Whenever I see freshly caught monkfish, I’ll buy it. It isn’t frequently available in Colorado and is rather expensive but well worth it. I remember when it first appeared on the fishmonger’s slab back in the UK and was presented in it’s entirety (as they did back then), it was the stuff of nightmares.

People would shudder and give it a wide berth, so initially it was incredibly cheap. However, once the fishmongers got smart and realized that by removing the face-from-hell and presenting just the lovely firm tail meat instead, it sold like hotcakes, pushing the price through the roof. Sadly it’s now somewhat over-fished and as they’re a deep sea dweller, trawlers did a lot of sea-bed damage dredging for them.

If you’re lucky enough to find it, here’s a lovely simple curry recipe. All you’ll need is some plain boiled rice and perhaps a vegetable or fresh relish on the side. If you’re looking for inspiration, there are plenty of ideas here in my Indian and Asian Food section. 

Monkfish Curry With Coconut Milk


(Serves 4-6)


1 3/4lbs (800g) of monkfish fillet, cut into 2 inch (5cm) chunks

4 large tomatoes peeled and seeds removed

1/2 teaspoon of mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds

2 fresh curry leaves

1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

1/2 a teaspoon of turmeric

7 fl oz (200ml) of hot water

1/2 a teaspoon of amchur (mango powder), optional

1 teaspoon of chili powder

1 teaspoon of ground cumin

4 teaspoons of ground coriander

3 1/2 fl oz (100ml) of coconut milk

Sea salt to taste

Fresh chopped cilantro/coriander leaf to serve


Rinse the monkfish under cold running water and drain. Finely chop the peeled and de-seeded tomatoes and set aside.

In a heavy sauté pan with a lid, heat enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan over a medium heat, then add the mustard seeds. Once the seeds start to pop, add the fenugreek seeds followed by the curry leaves, ginger and sliced onion. Cook until the onions are golden, stirring occasionally.

Add the turmeric powder, sauté to combine then add the chopped tomatoes and hot water to the onion-spice mixture, followed by the chili powder, cumin and coriander.

Turn up the heat so that it starts to boil, then partly cover with the lid and reduce it to a simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the fish, stir to combine and simmer for about 2 minutes, stirring gently.

Finally, add the coconut milk and sea salt to taste and bring it back to a gentle boil. Stir until the fish is cooked, about 4 minutes,  then take it off the heat.

Check to see if it needs more salt and sprinkle with chopped cilantro / coriander to serve.

Like most Indian dishes, this freezes well.

Posted in Fish, Indian & Asian Cuisine | Leave a comment

Recipe – Spicy Shrimp Vol-au-Vents

These tasty little appetizers came about by accident when I purchased frozen puff pastry vol-au-vents thinking I was buying frozen puff pastry sheets.

I’m happy to admit to always having frozen puff pastry in my freezer; to make it from scratch is laborious and the frozen stuff is really good, especially if you can find it made with butter. It comes in useful for all sorts of things that just need a puffy little golden tart base, or in this case, a pastry container.

Vol-au-vents were quite a trendy hors d’oeurves back in the 60’s and 70’s with their hot, creamy fillings of mushrooms, ham and cheese, smoked fish pate and of course, shrimp. Back then they were rather bland with a plain white sauce holding the contents together and as I recall, the shrimp ones were usually made with peas. Very few of us in the UK knew what ‘Cajun’ meant, let alone getting our hands on Cajun spices.

If you can find crawfish tails then even better as this is adapted from an Emeril recipe. As I had shrimp in the freezer and shrimp and crawfish are closely related, I felt it would work. Adding a splash of fine cognac didn’t hurt either and if you can find a good seafood stock, even better!

So these little shrimp-stuffed vol-au-vents became a happy nostalgic accident as I had all the ingredients and am forever practical, hating waste. A bit of a trip down memory lane for some people…or perhaps not, depending on your age.

Either way, these are really good.

Spicy Shrimp Vol au Vent

Spicy Shrimp Vol-au-Vents


(Makes 6 as an appetizer)


One package of 6 frozen puff pastry vol-au-vents

2 tablespoons of  unsalted butter

2 tablespoons of all-purpose (plain) flour

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 teaspoon of finely minced garlic

2 cups of good seafood or chicken broth

1/4 cup of brandy

1 pound of raw cleaned and peeled shrimp or crawfish

1/2 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning

1/4 cup of heavy cream

1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce

A pinch of cayenne

1/4 cup green/spring onions or chives (green part only), chopped


Put the pastry shells on a baking sheet and bake according to the package directions until they’re puffed and golden, about 15 minutes. Remove them from the oven and let them cool on a rack. Once cool enough, pull the tops off (you’ll use those later), remove any excess of soft pastry inside and discard it. You want lots of space for the filling.

Warm them in the oven before adding the filling.

For the shrimp filling; in a large saute pan melt the butter until foaming then whisk in the flour and cook, stirring slowly and constantly for 2 to 3 minutes, until you have a pale ‘roux’. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. It will absorb the flour and butter roux, then add the cognac and boil it off quickly before slowly whisking in the seafood or chicken broth.  Bring the sauce to a simmer and let it bubble away for about 25 minutes until thickened, whisking every minute or so.

Now season the raw shrimp with the Cajun seasoning and add them to the sauce. Cook stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, then add the cream, Worcestershire sauce, and cayenne pepper. Continue to stir and cook for one more minute before finally adding the chopped scallion (spring onion) greens. Stir together and cook for one more minute.

Divide the shrimp sauce between the warmed vol-au-vent cases and balance a pastry ‘hat’ on top of each.

Serve right away.


Posted in Fish, Made in Under 30 mins, Salads & Appetizers | 2 Comments

Recipe – Easy Pumpkin Dulce-de-Leche Ice Cream with Hazelnut Praline

A lovely seasonal ice cream that doesn’t require an ice cream maker and only takes 5 minutes to assemble – plus freezing time of course.

Serve it alone, perhaps with a sprinkle of praline (instructions for making praline below) or with a traditional Thanksgiving dessert such as pecan pie.

Dulce-de-leche is available in most good supermarkets in cans but if you can’t find it, take a can of regular condensed milk and boil it in a large pan of water for 2 hrs. One cooled, you’ll have a wonderful caramel that works beautifully with desserts such as banoffee pie, etc.

Pumpkin Dulce-de-Leche Ice Cream with Hazelnut Praline

Pumpkin Dulce-de-Leche Ice Cream with Hazelnut Praline


(makes 10 good scoops)


1 cup (240ml) of heavy cream, chilled

one 14 oz (400g) can of dulce de leche (or home-made, see above)

3/4 cup (180ml) of pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

A pinch of salt

Praline topping (instructions below)


Chill a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan in the freezer.

In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, dulce-de-leche, vanilla, cinnamon and salt .

In a separate bowl, beat the cream until it forms stiff peaks. Fold one third into the pumpkin mixture to lighten it, then gently fold in the remaining cream until it’s thoroughly combined.

Transfer the mixture to the chilled loaf pan, cover the surface with cling film, wrap in foil and freeze overnight before serving.

To make Praline:

In a heavy (preferably cast-iron) pan, combine equal quantities of whole raw hazelnuts (or almonds, pistachios, etc) and white sugar. Melt the sugar over a very low heat. The nuts will start to smell a bit toasty. This takes a while so don’t be tempted to crank up the heat.

Eventually the sugar will become a deep golden color and runny. When it reaches the runny stage, quickly pour the entire contents onto a large greased cookie sheet and allow it to cool and harden.

Once it’s hard, break it into pieces and grind it in a processor until you have a fine powder, or bash it with a rolling pin in a sealed plastic bag until you have very small shards – I keep both types in my freezer in little airtight containers.

You don’t need to defrost praline to use it. The shattered variety adds a lovely crunch to ice cream or as cake topping and the fine powdered praline is perfect for sweetening whipped cream or mixed into chocolate ganache for a decadent little truffle…that sort of thing.

Posted in Desserts, Gluten Free Desserts | 3 Comments

Recipe – ‘Youvetsi’ (Greek Lamb Stew with Orzo Pasta)

I love one-dish suppers, especially when they involve pasta of any sort.

There are many versions of Youvetsi, a traditional Greek recipe where orzo pasta is added to the stew at the very end. Purists will probably be up in arms about this not being 100% traditional as it’s relatively quick but my goal is to make food that tastes fabulous in the shortest possible time.

The combined flavors are wonderful with lots of fresh rosemary, a hint of spice and tender chunks of lamb simmered in a tomato-y sauce. I recommend using leg of lamb for the leanest cut but shoulder will also do very well.

The addition of fresh spinach gives you a healthy dose of green – just add more if this isn’t enough for you.

Youvetsi , Greek Lamb Stew with Orzo

Greek Lamb Stew with Orzo Pasta – ‘Youvetsi’


(Serves 4-6)


2 tablespoons of olive oil

1lb (450g) of lean lamb cut into 2-inch (5cm) chunks

1 medium onion, finely chopped

A fat garlic clove, minced

A sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves stripped and minced

1/2 a teaspoon of ground allspice

2 bay leaves

14 oz (400g) can of chopped tomatoes

7 fl oz (200ml) of chicken stock

2 teaspoons of runny honey

A pinch of sea salt

7 oz (200g) of orzo pasta

4-6 oz (120g) of washed baby spinach leaves

3 oz (75g) of crumbled feta cheese to serve


Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large heavy sauté pan or casserole with a lid and brown the meat in batches. Set aside. Add the onion and garlic and cook gently until soft then return the meat to the pan, adding the rosemary, allspice and bay leaves. Stir to combine and cook for another minute or so over moderate heat.

Add the honey, salt, chicken stock and canned tomatoes with their juice then bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the orzo according to the packet instructions, drain and rinse under cold water. Add the orzo to the lamb stew along with the spinach leaves.

Give it a good stir to wilt the leaves then cover the pan and take it off the heat to rest for 3-5 minutes before serving with a sprinkle of crumbled feta.



Posted in Meat, Pasta | Leave a comment

Recipe – Banana Walnut Chocolate Cake

I’m not much of a banana-eater but I felt compelled to save some that were destined for the bin as they’d turned black and I remembered an old recipe where only overripe bananas will do.

It certainly isn’t the prettiest cake but it tastes absolutely incredible so I recommend serving it cut into little squares -a  perfect addition to an English afternoon tea or perhaps served warm with some vanilla ice cream.

So here it is – sticky, moist and utterly irresistible!

Banana Walnut Chocolate Cake


(Makes an 8 x 4 inch / 20 x 10cm loaf )


1 cup (240 ml measure) of fine (caster) white sugar

1 cup of plain cake flour or regular all-purpose flour

4 oz (114g) of butter at room temp

1 cup (240ml measure) of overripe mashed bananas (2 or three depending on size)

A pinch of salt

1 teaspoon of baking soda (bicarbonate)

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup (120ml measure) of semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup (120ml measure) of walnuts, chopped


Preheat the oven to 350F (180C)

Line the base of an an 8 inch x 4 inch (10 x 20 cm) loaf pan and grease the pan.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy then gradually beat in the eggs followed by the vanilla.

Sift the baking soda, salt and flour together and fold into the batter. Once thoroughly combined add the mashed banana, chopped walnuts and chocolate chips.

Make sure everything is thoroughly mixed before scraping the batter into the pan.

Bake for approx 45-50 minutes (at altitude). You’ll need to bake for longer at sea level so test for done-ness by inserting a toothpick into the cake at the 50 minute mark and if it comes out clean the cake is ready.

Cool completely in the pan on a rack. This cake will keep well for a couple of days at room temp in an airtight container but as it’s so good, you’ll probably never find out.


Posted in Desserts | 2 Comments

Recipe: ‘Croccante di Noccioli e Pistacchi’ (Tuscan Hazelnut & Pistachio Crunch)

Deliciously crunchy, glossy and utterly more-ish, the recipe for this classic Tuscan treat came from Antonio Carluccio and is usually served around Christmas and on festive occasions. With the first snows of the season recently, I was feeling decidedly festive so I made a batch.

It’s really simple to make and the only unusual ingredient is the edible wafer paper (rice paper). You can buy rice paper on Amazon and it can be used as a base for various cookies and sweets such as Panforte di Siena –  another delightful Italian treat.

‘Croccante di Nocciole e Pistacchi’ ~ Tuscan Hazelnut & Pistachio Crunch


(Makes about 2.25lbs / 1kilo)


2-3 sheets of edible wafer/rice paper

14 oz (400g)  of golden sugar (superfine/caster)

3½ oz (100g) of runny honey

The finely grated zest of 1 orange

9oz (250g) of shelled hazelnuts

9oz (250g) of shelled pistachio nuts (not salted!)

1 lemon cut in half


Line a cookie sheet with foil and place 2 or three sheets of rice paper on it, next to one another.

In a heavy pan (preferably cast iron) gently heat the honey and sugar together until all the sugar has melted, then bring it to a boil and cook until the sugar becomes a light golden brown. Take it off the heat.

Add the orange zest and stir it for a minute with a wooden spoon then add the hazelnuts and pistachios, and stir until all the nuts are coated with syrup.

Pour this mixture onto the rice paper and use the lemon halves as spatulas to spread the mixture out to about 1 inch (2.5cm) thick. (The lemon will not stick, unlike a wooden or plastic spatula and it gives a lovely citrus-y tang to the finished toffee).

Allow it to cool completely before breaking it into pieces. It keeps well in an airtight container for about a week, not that you’ll be able to resist it for that long.


Posted in Cookies & Edible Gifts, Gluten Free Desserts | Leave a comment

Now That It’s Soup Weather…

Chilly days and frosty nights promote a longing for hearty soups – one of the nicest things about autumn.

Whether it’s soup of a chunky main-course variety or something simple that you might enjoy for lunch with a toasted cheese sandwich on the side, most soups freeze brilliantly. Provided you have a big enough pot to start with, there aren’t many things quite as satisfying as filling the freezer with containers of soup – perfect for those times you stagger home, cold, tired, hungry and not in the mood for chopping or grilling.

Below are links to a few of my favorite soup recipes from over the years – some classic, some unusual but all very, very good.

Smoked Fish Chowder with Sweetcorn & Leeks

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Classic French Onion Soup

Tuscan Kale, White Bean & Spicy Sausage Soup

Mushroom & Barley Soup

Chicken Soup with Lemongrass, Basil & Coconut

Cauliflower & Stilton Soup with Chili Croutons

Pasta & Chickpea Soup with Prosciutto & Parmesan Rinds


Posted in Soups | 2 Comments