On Wednesday I floured and pan-fried a terrific chunk of Dai’s seabass that I had in the freezer from a couple of weeks ago. Seabass freezes beautifully for short periods and this was a gorgeous piece of fish, in terms of both texture and flavour. I served it very simply with a sauce made of capers, diced tomato, finely diced banana shallot and finely chopped herbs (Thai basil, thyme, ordinary basil, parsley, oregano, lovage and just a little mint) in virgin olive oil and lemon juice, served with griddled courgette discs, sautéed potatoes and accompanied by lemon slices. It is super to be able to use herbs from the garden whilst they last, and the Thai basil, a new addition to my outdoor herb collection, came over particularly well. It is amazing how long the herbs are lasting – I was expecting most of them to be well on their way out by now. I will particularly miss the lovage, which I use in huge quantities in salad and fish sauces, as it is simply unavailable even in big supermarkets.
Yesterday the flavours in my fish tagine were a bit more complicated but it was also a doddle to prepare. Again from the freezer, I had a piece of huss that I cut into chunks, that I marinated in a mix of fresh coriander from my garden, paprika, cumin, cayenne, lemon and olive oil. This was then cooked, complete with the marinade, in puréed fresh tomato, cumin, garlic, onion, with fresh chillis and parsley (both from my garden), grated carrot, preserved lemons and okra, with a little home made fish stock. I sprinkled mint over the top and served it with lime and coriander cous cous. The latter was a cheat – a pack from Ainsley Harriott, but it is so good that I never feel guilty about not making it myself. Huss is brilliant for this type of cooking because it retains its shape, and has enough flavour of its own to stand up to all the herbs and spices. Like the seabass, it is a good choice for the freezer, and it is blissfully easy to fillet. I make the tomato, onion and garlic base in huge batches for the freezer, partly for convenience but mainly because I absolutely detest peeling tomatoes and prefer to confine the suffering to single large sessions. As I really don’t like the harsh sweetness of tinned toms (I’m a bit of a fussy eater) it is seriously worth the effort.
Today I was at the excellent community lunch, about which more on a future post, so there was no need for an evening meal, but I used some fish stock that I made yesterday from a freezer bag of fish bits (heads, tails, bones etc) left over from preparing and filleting fish to make myself a fish soup. To give it a bit of body and flavour I recruited some onions, some fennel that needed using up, garlic cloves, chilli from the garden and skinned fresh toms, all whizzed up in the blender. In a somewhat extravagant mood I lobbed in rather a lot of saffron for that extra bit of Mediterranean luxury, seasoned it with sea salt and pepper and sprinkled over a bit of coarsely chopped parsley. It was supposed to be basil but I wasn’t about to go outside to pick some in pouring rain and a gale (thanks Storm Callum) when I had some parsley in the fridge! Grabbed a spoon and bowl and it was Job done. There was loads left over for the freezer, a blessed fall-back for when I don’t feel like cooking.