Gurnard, Cannellini beans and Wild Garlic Salsa Verde

I have been on the search for some wild garlic for weeks. Everywhere I went, my eyes had been peeled for the beautiful white flowers and my nose was seeking out that allium aroma which is such a giveaway of this springtime plant. Up until last weekend I had begun to think that this year’s abnormal weather had affected the wild garlic and caused it to disappear. Then, when away in Dorset, I found some. Under the woodland canopy, in a damp corner, there it was. I hurriedly gathered some and my mind began to race with ideas.

Recently I was contacted by Maille, purveyors of all things mustard, and asked if I’d like to enter a competition using their products. I’ve always said that I wouldn’t do reviews or product promotions; but as I use their mustards all the time I feel I can do so with a clear conscience. Armed with mustard and wild garlic I knew exactly what to make. Salsa Verde. This sauce is a brilliant way to use fresh herbs from the plot and a fantastic accompaniment to fish and meat. The acidity of the salsa combines particularly well with the flavour of meaty fish like Gurnard (a great sustainable option, which is only really caught as bi-catch and if we bought more of it would alleviate the pressure on other species).

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You will need (serves 2)
2 decent sized Gurnard fillets

For the Cannellini beans
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil  
1/2 clove garlic (crushed) 
Small sprig fresh rosemary
1 tbsp. chopped parsely
Grated zest 1/4  lemon   
1 can Cannellini beans

For the salsa verde
Parsley, mint and basil leaves (a small handful of each)
A handful of wild garlic leaves
1/2 tbsp. each of capers
1/2 tbsp. gherkins (I used Maille le Mini Recette Classique, they have a natty cage inside the jar so you don’t have to delve into the jar to grab a gherkin)
1 tsp. Dijon mustard (I used the Mailles Dijon Orginale)
1 anchovy fillet
Enough olive oil to bring the salsa verde together into a pourable sauce

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For the beans, put a splash of olive oil in a saucepan, and mix in the garlic. Add the rosemary sprig, and the lemon zest and warm through. Remove the rosemary and add the drained and rinsed beans, before adding to the pan and warming through. Take a third of the beans and whizz in the blender, then return to the pan. Finally add a small handful of chopped parsley.

The salsa verde is simple to prepare. Start by blanching the wild garlic leaves, refreshing in cold water, and allow to cool. Finely chop the garlic, herbs, gherkins, capers and anchovy using a sharp knife and combine with the mustard and enough oil to make a pourable sauce. Put to one side for the flavours to mingle and mature. Season the cod cheeks with salt and pepper and fry in a little olive oil for 2 minutes on each side. In the last minute, add the chopped garlic and a little lemon juice.

To cook the gurnard, season the skin side of the fillet, then add skin side to a hot buttery pan. Fry until the skin becomes crispy, around 3 minutes. Turn over and cook for a further minute.  To serve, spread the bean mix on the plate, place the fillet on top and then place some salsa verde on top.

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Cod Cheeks, Jerusalem Artichoke Purée and Braised Peas

I got the fabulous Polpo cookbook for Christmas and spent the festive period drooling over the delicious dishes within it. One of the dishes I immediately took a fancy to was the Cod Cheeks, Lentils and Salsa Verde. Having never had cod cheeks, but being a fan of the Italian braised lentils the recipe is accompanied by, I set about finding some cod cheeks to give it a go. My local fishmonger (Fish on Shoreham harbour) stocked them frozen, as the demand is not high enough to warrant being on the slab every day. Easily cooked in a few minutes and relatively cheap, they’re one of those foods (like the ox cheek and breast of lamb) that are not used enough. In the Polpo dish, the sweet flesh of the cheeks contrasts beautifully with the acidity of the salsa verde.

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With things firmly in the ‘hungry gap’ at the allotment, one of the only crops I’m harvesting is Jerusalem artichokes. They make a beautiful cream coloured purée, which is a great accompaniment to white fish or sweet scallops. So the other day I combined the cod cheeks and the artichoke purée for a early spring supper.

You will need (serves 2)
For the Jerusalem artichoke purée
200g Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and chopped
water, to cover
30g butter
20ml double cream
A little lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the braised peas
Half an onion chopped
3 rashers streaky smoked bacon, chopped
100g frozen peas

For the cod cheeks and salsa verde
Parsley, mint and basil leaves (a small handful of each)
1/2 tbsp. each of capers and gherkins
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 anchovy
Enough olive oil to bring the salsa verde together into a pourable sauce
250g cod cheeks, cleaned of small pieces of bone
Chopped clove of garlic

For the Jerusalem artichoke purée, bring the Jerusalem artichokes to the boil in a saucepan and simmer until tender, then drain and allow to cool. Whizz the Jerusalem artichokes into a food processor with the butter, cream and lemon juice to make a smooth purée. When ready to serve, season the purée and heat gently to warm through.

To make the braised peas, heat a little olive oil in a shallow saucepan, then cook the chopped onion and bacon for 8 – 10 minutes until the onion turns golden and the pancetta is brown but not crisp. Turn the heat down, add the peas to the pan, then cover and braise for 5 mins until peas are tender. Add a dash of lemon juice, seasoning and a bit more olive oil, if necessary.

The salsa verde is simple to prepare. Finely chop the herbs, gherkins, capers and anchovy using a sharp knife and combine with the mustard and enough oil to make a pourable sauce. Put to one side for the flavours to mingle and mature. Season the cod cheeks with salt and pepper and fry in a little olive oil for 2 minutes on each side. In the last minute, add the chopped garlic and a little lemon juice.

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To serve, place a spoonful of artichoke purée onto each plate and smear a little across the plate. Top with the cod cheeks, followed by a drizzle of salsa verde. Scatter the braised peas around the plate.

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This post has been entered into Delicieux & Eat Your Veg March Four Seasons Food Challenge.

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Fish on a Friday

Last night we had breaded plaice and tomato salsa for dinner. I love the combination (adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Everyday) of the sweet and sharp tomatoes with the subtle flavours of the plaice. We usually get our fish from the fabulous Brighton and Newhaven Fish Sales on Shoreham Harbour. It’s a great place, offering a plethora of different fish with expertise and a friendly smile. During the summer I went along to one of their advance fish preparation courses. There were five others who wanted to spend a Tuesday evening wielding a knife and trying to perfect the perfect fillet under the expert tuition of one of the fishmongers. Over the ninety minutes, we learnt how to fillet both round fish (some lovely Sea Bass) and the more tricky flat fish (Plaice). In addition to the tuition, all the fish we filleted were ours to take away. So armed with a big bag containing ten bass fillets and ten of plaice, I walked home thinking of ways to use my fabulous filleted fish.

The next dates for their fish and shellfish preparation courses are Tuesday 15th October and Wednesday 27th November. These will cover dressing a crab, filleting mackerel, cleaning squid and gutting bream. Priced at £30 with lots to take home.The next advanced course which is perfect if you know a bit already will be on Tuesday 29th October. This is priced at £35 at we will cover filleting flat and round fish with lots to take home. You can get more information from their website.

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