A Very Good Friday Supper

If like me, you are a card carrying Christo, you would know exactly where the notion of Fish on Friday came from, and no it is not to do with seafood going off over the weekend. It was a mark of respect that dates back to Good Friday, the day that Jesus died on the cross, and as he is also known as the ‘Lamb Of God’, meat was not an option so supper consisted of fish. If this little vignette has made you more curious on said topic you can read more on my other blog, http://www.coolchicandinchrist.blogspot.co.uk.

This Good Friday, I decided to continue on my theme started last Easter of eating foods that may have been on Jesus’ menu as they were on a near east tip. It doesn’t get more biblical than unleavened bread and fish, but because this is Gastrotastic there is an element of style and eclectic flavours so we have pimped the flat breads with Sumac, a middle eastern spice that works a dream with fish and brought in some European influences too with an accompaniment of beetroot and goat’s cheese and my current ingredient crush, samphire. If you are still hungry a cheeky side of couscous can be added to this dish and you are good to go. For the couscous method, take a look at previous posts on the site. In this instance we kept things simple with the couscous, only adding parsley, baby tomatoes, red onions and lemon, so that the fish would be the main event.

In case you were wondering what we were listening to in the Gastrotastic kitchen today it was Chris Tomlin’s Mighty is the Power of the Cross. No video today, as  the mood is contemplative, but they will be back very soon.

 

Pan fried Sprats, Sumac infused flat bread, Baby Beetroot, Goat’s Cheese and Samphire with Parsley, tomatoes and red onion couscous.

Difficulty Factor: Super Simple

Ingredients

4 Whole Sprats

80 grams of Baby Beetroot

40 grams of Samphire

40 grams of Spanish Goat’s Cheese

10 grams of Butter

1 small red onion chopped finely

1 clove of garlic peeled and chopped

2 Large Round Flat Breads

2 Tablespoon of Olive oil

1 Teaspoon of Sumac Powder

Juice of a Lemon

Chilli Pepper chopped finely

Salt (to taste)

 

Method:

 

This meal is all about prepping the ingredients first as the cooking time is minutes, giving you more time to chill rather than slave away in the kitchen. Using Sprat was a bit of an adventure. I have often been a bit sniffy about it – it doesn’t have the most elegant of name for a start, but I decided to get over my suspicions, which if I was honest were grounded on a wafer thin premise and give the fish a chance. Eat a sprat and what you have is a fish that is as flavoursome as mackerel but at a fraction of the price – results all round. But back to the prior prepping; chop all of the fresh ingredients and put in bowls for quick assembly. In the case of the Sprats, clean (if the fishmonger hasn’t already done it for you) and leave in the fridge until needed.

 

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Next, cook your couscous and add the parsley, chilli, lemon and oil to it. It doesn’t matter if the couscous isn’t served piping hot for this dish, but what is important is that it is cooked earlier than the fish, which most definitely needs to be hot. Wait to add the tomatoes at plating up so that the couscous doesn’t get too wet in consistency.

 

For the garlic oil that will coat the fish, chop up the garlic and on a low heat fry in a little oil and when the garlic is soft take out of the pan and reserve for later. It is important you start with a cold pan as this will ensure that the garlic does not burn and become bitter to the taste.

 

Cut the baby beetroots and put on a plate for assembly. Cooking your own beetroot is better for flavour, but this Good Friday dish is all about ease and speed so do a spot of cheating and purchase some of the posh baby ones that can be found in a decent supermarket. Slice into  the goat’s cheese log and cut roughly into chunks. Put aside for later on separate plates so that the beetroot doesn’t stain the goat’s cheese.

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And now onto the Sprats: heat a little olive oil in a griddle pan and  put the Sprats in the pan cook for two – three minutes depending on size and turn over. When turning over pour over some of the garlic infused oil that was put aside. By putting the oil in this at this point the garlic becomes a layer rather than the dominant flavour in the dish.

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On another hot plate at the same time, heat a frying pan with a drop of olive oil and put the bread in it to heat for 15 seconds. Sprinkle the Sumak on the bread and flip over for a further 10 seconds. The bread is now ready.

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For the samphire melt the butter and fry a couple of minutes or until it is tender. Samphire is salty so there is no need to season. Whatever you do, do not overcook. Regular readers will know my feelings about overcooked vegetables and that they run deep.

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For the plating I went for an effect that I would describe as rustic fisherman on the shores of the River Jordan – with a taste for the finer things in life of course.

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Loving the Legumes Part 1

It has been a while since the last post but that doesn’t mean that lots hasn’t being going on in planet Gastrotastic . Our private dinner service has gone from strength to strength, where meals are created in the comfort of people’s homes and personalised recipe workshops are led by me to get anyone and everyone kitchen confident. For more information email mazzi@gastrotastic.com and your home could be my next stop!

Recently, I have been feeling the love for some neglected ingredients that are delicious, healthy and easy to prepare. I am talking lentils. Keen readers will note that I have plugged lentils before, but in a special two- parter I am moving away from the usual suspect Puy and green and heading east in a culinary sense, for two easy and often ignored varieties. The Red Lentil dish takes me back to student days, when a 20 kilo sack of lentils sat in a corner next to my vinyl collection and turntable, whereas the black lentil dish is a more recent addition when I was in search of alternative accompaniments to baked fish. Both take no time to prepare and excess lentils can be stored in the freezer for another meal.

In the Gastrotastic kitchen we are still playing Pharrell’s Happy. What’s not to love about this awesome track and what’s not to love about Lentils?!

Red Lentil, Spinach and Coriander Dhal with Chapattis
Difficulty Rating: Easy-Peasy

Ingredients:
220grams of Red Lentils
2 Echalion Shallots (finely chopped)
2 Cloves of Garlic
Thumb nail sized piece of chopped Ginger
30grams of Ghee
100grams of a block of coconut cream
1 Tablespoon of All Purpose Seasoning (I’m a fan of Rajah’s brand)
100grams of Coriander (roughly one large bunch)
200grams of Fresh Leaf Spinach
1 Tin of Tomatoes
1 Bird Eye Chilli
250mls of Vegetable Stock
2 tablespoons of Vegetable Oil
Salt (to taste)
For the Chapattis
250grams of Chapatti Flour
150mls of water
2 tablespoons of Vegetable Oil
1 teaspoon of Salt
Chapatti flour for dusting

Method
Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy based pan and add finely chopped shallots and cook until they begin to clarify. Add the chopped garlic, chilli and ginger later as this will ensure that it doesn’t burn and cook for a minute or so, next reduce the heat and add the all-purpose seasoning. In my quest to discover the best All-Purpose seasoning that saves you the drama of crushing a million and one different spices to create the same effect, I have found Rajah to be the best brand. You can get Rajah in big supermarkets that have an ‘ethnic foods’ sections, or in South Asian speciality supermarkets, but whatever you do not omit, as it really does make a big difference especially in this dish.

Next add the Red Lentils to the pan and cook dry for a minute or so. Unlike other varieties, they do not need to soak overnight before cooking. I always dry fry first so that the Lentils have a coating of the onion and other assorted goodies before adding anything else.

Now add the tinned tomatoes, stock, coconut cream and coriander. Bring to the boil so that it reduces for fifteen minutes or so and cover to simmer. You will know the lentils are cooked when they are soft to the touch. It is at this point you add the spinach and ghee and ghee and stir in. Putting the spinach in any earlier and it will discolour and not make the pretty contrast with the Red Lentils on the plate. Once the spinach is wilted the lentils are ready.

For the Chapatti:

I have always loved chapattis. I was introduced to them as a child as a result of the Indian influence in Ugandan cuisine, which has seen this become the snack of choice for many. Chapatti flour is very easy to get hold and the dough itself is a doddle to make.

First put the flour in a large bowl and gradually add the hot water. As they combine, add some oil so that the dough has a bit of give and knead for ten minutes or so. At this point I always pre divide the dough into balls, so that when it comes to rolling out the chapattis they will be of a similar size and shape. Roll out with a rolling pin, dusting the dough with flour so that it doesn’t stick to the pin now and the pan later.

Next heat a heavy based frying pan with a drop of oil. Wait for the pan to get smoking hot before adding the rolled out chapatti and lightly frying. A minute or so normally suffices, but the chapatti should be dry to the touch rather than oily when cooked. I normally make a few extra than are needed, as I said before they are great as a quickie snack, but heat of the pan is paramount to getting the right consistency.

To serve I always have a couple of chapatti per serving of Lentils – and this is definitely a no cutlery affair!