Ling/Haddock with Creamed Peas, Leeks and Bacon – Hix

Ling with creamed peas, leeks and bacon

I’ve been so busy lately I’ve not had time to browse through recipe books for new recipes but I really wanted to cook something a little more sophisticated tonight. When we stay in Dorset we try and visit the Hix restaurant in Lyme Regis, I bought the Hix Oyster & Chop House cookbook a while ago but hadn’t tried anything from it until today. Many of the recipes have slightly specialised ingredients and this one suggested Ling which I’d never heard of. However Ling is a firm white fish and as Haddock was on offer that was what I used. I made up the amount of sauce in the recipe for three of us so the quantities on the plate are a little more generous than they would be if you were making for four as the recipe suggests. This is lovely, simple to make and looks like it was more effort on the plate. I served with steamed samphire.


  • 4 thick fillets of ling (or other firm white fish(, about 200g each, with skin)
  • 150g freshly podded peas (about 300g before podding), or frozen peas
  • 100g butter
  • 6 rashers of streaky bacon, derinded and finely chopped
  • 1 medium or 2-5 small leeks, trimmed, cut into rough 1cm squares and washed
  • 200ml double cream


  1. Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper.
  2. Add the peas to a pan of salted water and simmer for four to five minutes or until tender, then drain. (I like my peas less well cooked so I put frozen peas in bowl and covered with boiling water)
  3. In the meantime, melt half of the butter in a heavy-based saucepan and add the bacon and leeks. Cover and cook gently over a medium-low heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring every so often, until the leek is soft. (I started cooking the bacon in the sauting pan, cut off some of the larger bits of fat which I left in sauting pan, I then put cooked bacon into a heavy based saucepan with the leeks and cream and cooked gently)
  4. Roughly chop the peas ( much as I love to cook I feel life is too short to chop peas so I lightly mashed them with a potato masher) and add them to the leek and bacon with the cream. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for a few minutes until the cream has reduced and is just coating the peas.
  5. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a non-stick frying-pan over a medium-high heat and add the ling fillets, skin-side down. Cook for three to four minutes until nicely coloured, then turn the fillets and add the rest of the butter to the pan. Fry for a couple of minutes until the fish is just cooked through. I cooked the fish in the pan I’d cooked the bacon so whilst the fish was cooking the small pieces of bacon fat were crisping up nicely at the side of the pan.
  6. To serve, spoon the creamed peas, leeks and bacon on to warmed plates and place the fish on top. Hix serves skin side up, my picture is skin side down. I then topped with a little crispy bacon fat.

Smoky Tomato and Bacon Soup – New Irish Cookery

Smoky tomato and bacon soup

I decided to make soup as starter for a dinner party, mostly because I’d found some lovely soup bowls to match my dinner china on and I hadn’t used them yet and one of the things I like about dinner parties is the chance to set the table nicely.

Soup bowl

I knew one of the guests preferred plainer fare so didn’t want to try anything too exotic. Since I was cooking other dishes from Rankin’s New Irish Cookery book I looked for a simple soup recipe. This sounded lovely and I’d never made it before. It was as nice as it sounds. It has only the two main ingredients bacon and tomatoes which blend in flavour wonderfully. A large bowl of this would make a lovely hearty lunch with fresh bread but a small bowl of it worked well as a dinner party starter. This soup had the advantage it could all be made in advance and simply warmed through before serving, quantities scaled up very well.


  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 250g piece smoked bacon, diced
  • 12 large ripe tomatoes roughly chopped or 2 400g cans of tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tbsps chopped fresh parsley to garish
  • 6 tbsps cream to garnish


  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions and bacon and cook for about 5 minutes  until the onions have softened and the bacon is lightly golden, stirring occasionally.
  2. Stir in the tomatoes and the tomato puree until all the flavours are combined
  3. Process in a food processor or blend well with a stick blender
  4. Recipe says to pass through a fine strainer at this point, I skipped this stage
  5. Season to taste, serve and garnish with parsley and cream.

Venison with Port, Guinness and Pickled Walnuts – Delia Christmas

Venison CasseroleI’ll be honest this casserole really doesn’t look appetising in the above photo, it looks better    in reality but it’s one of those hearty dishes rather than fine presentation. My copy of Delia Smith’s Christmas is well worn now as there are some dishes I make regularly from it, but I’d never tried this before.

One of my guilty trashy tv pleasures is ‘Come Dine with Me’, I tend to dip in and out rather than watch a whole episode and I don’t like the celebrity versions but I realised this had Mrs Moneypenny the FT columnist on it ( I loved her columns in the FT and read them regularly from when she worked in Japan, Mrs Moneypenny: E-mail from Tokyo through to her setting up her own company so I couldn’t resist watching. She made this casserole for her guests all of whom were very skeptical before they tried it but liked it when they tried it. I decided this would be a good Christmas eve option. I had my SIL Rachel, her family and my FIL as well as the four of us and I didn’t want to spend ages in the kitchen before dishing up dinner. Unfortunately I didn’t pre-read the full recipe so didn’t notice it start with ‘Begin this the night before’, this meant my meat had minimal marinading time. However it was still lovely and I would make it again.Next time I think I’d reduce the quantity of pickled walnuts and I would marinade. I served this with creamed celeriac and red cabbage as I had plenty of both of these prepared for the next day.

Quantities below serve 10 – 12 people as Delia recommends this for a party.


  • 2.75kg diced Vension
  • 1.2 litres Guinness
  • 275ml Port
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 225g chopped onions
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 x 400g jars pickled walnuts
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • Salt and freshly milled black pepper


  1. The night before, place the meat in a large bowl along with the bay leaf and thyme, then pour the guinness and port over it. Put a plate on top to keep the meat pushed down and leave in a cool place overnight.
  2. Next day, when you are ready to cook the meat, pre-heat the oven to gas mark 1, 275°F (140°C). Then melt half the butter and oil in the casserole and heat gently. Drain the meat (reserving the liquid and herbs) and pat the steaks dry with kitchen paper. Now turn the heat to high and brown the meat (in two batches) to a rich brown on both sides. Now add the rest of the butter and oil to the casserole. As soon as it begins to foam, add the onion and brown this for about 8 minutes before adding the garlic and frying for another 2 minutes.
  3. Now return all the meat into the casserole to join the onions. Stir in the flour to soak up the juices, then pour in the marinade (including the bay leaf and thyme), add the walnuts and season well. As soon as it reaches a gentle simmer, put a lid on, then transfer the casserole to the middle shelf of the oven and forget all about it for 3 hours, by which time the meat will be tender and the sauce marvellously dark and rich.

Smoked salmon blini canapés

Smoked Salmon blinis

I made these canapes as a starter for Christmas lunch whilst the turkey was resting. They needed to be made in a hurry so I didn’t zest the lemon and forgot the dill, which is a shame as the garnish does make them look pretty. Generally presentation above is not as good as it could be but they went as quickly as they were made. A quick and easy canape that can make your smoked salmon stretch a bit further.


  • 1 lemon
  • 200g smoked salmon
  • 1 small shallot or onion finely chopped
  • Approx 20 ready made blinis
  • 1 small pot sour cream
  • Small bunch fresh dill
  • freshly ground black pepper


  1. Use a lemon zester to remove thin strips of zest from the lemon. Put the strips to one side, to use to decorate blinis.
  2. Dice the salmon by piling up the slices of smoked salmon into a stack. Using a very sharp knife, cut across the stack to give you thin strips. Turn the stack 90 degrees and cut across the strips again so that end up with fine chopped salmon. Place into a bowl.
  3. Add the juice of half of the lemon, and season with freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Add the finely chopped shallot and mix well.
  5. Spread a layer of soured cream onto each blini. Place a spoonful of the salmon mixture on top of the soured cream and garnish each with a small sprig of dill and a strip of lemon zest.


Greek Pastitsio

Pastitsio plated

I had a pack of minced beef to turn into dinner and couldn’t face spaghetti bolognese. This recipe is a combination of several from the internet. Most were for vast quantities so I reduced down and modified to merge 2 or 3 slightly different approaches. This was more effort than bolognese sauce but not that much and made a very pleasant change. I served with greek salad which is a firm favourite with my teen boys.


  • 450g minced beef
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 400g tinned tomatoes
  • Ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chilli
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp dried thyme or a few sprigs fresh thyme
  • 100 ml red wine
  • 300g macaroni
  • 100g grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 20g butter
  • 20g flour
  • 500ml cream


  1. Pre-heat oven 180 degrees C
  2. Brown mince in sauteing pan
  3. Add chopping onions and fry until translucent
  4. Add minced garlic and fry another 2 minutes
  5. Add tomatoes and red wine
  6. Grate pepper, chilli, allspice and cinnamon into meat mixture and add thyme and cook for 5-10 minutes until not too wet
    Pastitsio meat sauce
  7. In meantime cook macaroni
  8. Mix cooked macaroni with 2 eggs and layer half on base of casserole. (I used a Le Creuset 23 cm Cast Iron Oval Casserole), then sprinkle on 1/3 of the grated parmesan.
  9. Carefully pour on the meat sauce.
  10. Layer rest of macaroni on top of meat sauce then top with with 1/3 grated parmesan
  11. Melt butter, add flour then whisk in cream and 2 eggs
  12. Layer white sauce on top and sprinkle final 1/3 parmesan
    Pastitsio uncooked
  13. Bake in oven for 40-45 minutes until top browned
    Pastitsio out of oven
  14. Serves 5-6
    Pastitsio in casserole

New Year Resolutions

I have a few none cooking resolutions as well but I thought I’d share my cooking related resolutions for this year in the hope that by writing them down I’ll be more likely to keep to them. One of last years resolutions was to keep up this blog so sometimes new years resolutions work…

(1) Continue this blog
By continuing this blog I’ll work my way through a few more of my neglected cookbooks

(2) Cook outside of my comfort zone
Much of what I cook is for family meals so at least once a month I’m going to try something much more ambitious.

(3) Master Indian Food
This is a bit of a cheat, we used to cook a lot of Indian food from scratch so it isn’t exactly new to me but I realised looking back over the last year I haven’t cooked any proper Indian food for over a year so this next year I’ll put those Madhur Jaffrey books to use.

(4) Entertain More
Last year we put a lot of effort into finishing the house so didn’t have time to do a lot of entertaining, this year I want to be more sociable so may as well combine it with improving my cooking skills.

(5) Eat out at good restaurants
We rarely eat out, in part because we started to realise that we could cook the meal we were eating better at home. However eating something new is inspirational so I plan to have the occasional good meal out.

(6) Exercise more
Not really a cooking resolution but definitely related. Cooking more and eating better food has an unfortunate side effect on my weight. I’m going to have to up my level of exercise!

2012 in review

Thank-you to everyone who has read this blog and especially to those who have liked posts and sometimes commented. I started late 2011 to keep a record for myself of what recipes I’d tried and what had worked and what hadn’t. Getting readers was a huge and unexpected bonus and it has given me much more incentive to keep trying and blogging new recipes. As a result I am a much more confident cook.  It has also connected me with people all over the world and introduced me to their/your blogs through which I have learnt even more. So thank-you again.

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 31,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 7 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Dukkah – A Middle Eastern Feast Claudia Roden

I’m not long back after 9 days staying with my sister-in-law Rachel in Dubai. This time I managed to get several opportunities to eat middle eastern food (mostly Lebanese) which was great as I love it. The only middle eastern cook book I have is a slim little paperback  A Middle Eastern Feast by Claudia Roden. This is a lovely little book which has an interesting introduction to middle eastern food and how she came to write the book. I’m planning to try quite a few recipes from this book. The main drawbacks of this book are the lack of index and pictures.

I came across Dukkah when I went out shopping one morning with Rachel and we stopped off at a lovely cafe called the Lime Tree for breakfast. I opted for the local breakfast and got fresh Arabic (flat) bread, 2 boiled eggs, 3 Lebnah (soft cheese) balls with different coatings and 2 little dishes, one with olive oil and one with Dukkah. As Claudia explains in her book Dukkah is a loose mix of nuts and spices in a dry crushed but not powdered form usually eaten with bread dipped in olive oil. I have no idea whether you would normally dip hard boiled egg into Dukkah for breakfast but I dipped my egg in as well and it was delicious. I divided Claudia’s recipe by 10 ! as I really don’t think I’d get through the sort of quantities she suggested. My quantities are below.


  • 50g sesame seeds
  • 25g coriander seeds
  • 15g hazelnuts
  • 2 tsps ground cumin
  • pinch salt
  • little ground pepper


  1. Roast or grill the ingredients separately
  2. Pound together until finely crushed but not pulverised
  3. Store in a jar

Strawberry Smoothie

I can’t quite believe I’d never realised how easy a way smoothies were to get kids to ‘eat’ fruit. My boys are quite good about eating fruit during the week in their packed lunch but not so good at the weekend. This is a very simple smoothie.


  • 150ml milk
  • 1 banana
  • 8 strawberries

Blend together.