Tag Archives: dinner

Fabulous Fish Thermidor

I have my wonderful friend, Helen, to thank for this dish. She produced it at a girls’ lunch and we all demanded copies of the recipe! It is really luscious and spectacularly easy to make. It can also be made in advance and re-heated. It tastes like a treat but is inexpensive to make – what’s not to like? Recreated at home, this is now on the list of ‘regular supper dishes’.

Serves 6

What you need…

1 x baking dish (mine is 30cm x 20cm x 7cm deep)

800g hake, skinned, filleted and cut into 3cm-ish chunks

45g butter

45g flour, sieved

750ml milk/Oatly alternative (to reduce dairy content)

Sea salt and black pepper

Splash rapeseed/olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

300g white mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

100ml tomato purée

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

125g Manchego/Cheddar cheese, grated

4 teaspoons brandy

225g raw jumbo king prawns (optional)

What to do…

Preheat oven to 170°c / 325°f / gas 3.

Tip the milk into a medium saucepan and, on a medium heat, gently poach the fish chunks for five minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the fish from the milk and set aside.

In a separate saucepan, melt the butter. Tip in the flour and quickly stir it in. Remove the pan from the heat and, using a ladle, slowly add your hot milk, stirring in each ladleful before adding the next.

Return the white sauce to the heat and cook until smooth and thickened. Season and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan and add the onion and mushrooms, frying gently until soft. Then, increase the heat to remove any moisture. Add the white sauce together with the tomato purée, mustard, cheese, brandy and the fish. Season with salt and pepper.

Turn the mixture into your baking dish, cover and pop in the oven to heat through for about 30 minutes. Wash up your three pans and relax. A delectably delicious dish awaits!

Fabulous fish thermidor is, as the name suggests, fabulous as it is, but if you wanted to add a little luxurious dimension, open the oven after 15 minutes and stir in your raw prawns. Cook for a further 15 minutes or until the prawns are pink.

Serving suggestion…

Steamed cabbage and leek work really well with a baked potato or basmati and wild rice (a current favourite!)

A bit about Manchego…

Manchego cheese has recently been recommended to me by my lovely friend, Jean. It is a cheesemade in the La Mancha region of Spain from the milk of the Manchego sheep breed. Official Manchego cheese is to be aged for between 60 days and two years, hence it is a little expensive. However, it is soooooooo worth it – absolutely delicious. Having grated enough for the recipe, there was then quite a lot of cheese-snacking to be done whilst preparing the dish. The cheese has a distinctive flavour, well developed but not too strong, creamy with a slight piquancy. I would urge you to try it!

Inspired by…

Lynn Bedford Hall, The Creative Cuisine (thank you again Helen for introducing me to this old but genuinely inspirational book).

How easy…

Wonderfully! I love these dishes that finish themselves off in the oven, while I quickly tidy up the pots and pans and treat myself to a glass of red!


Steak au Poivre

A classic I know but, oh how wonderful and totally indulgent – a real treat. I don’t eat steak much and have a growing concern about the amount of hormones pumped into livestock, so when we do occasionally have fillet (2 or 3 times a year, I feel the need to stress) we bypass the supermarket and visit butchers whose meat we know to be as happy and healthy as possible. The sensation as this fabulous meat alights your tongue – ahhh, worth a celebration all by itself!

Serves 4

What you need…

4 gorgeous fillet steaks, about 4cms thick

2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns

Splash of olive oil

2 shallots, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

Beef stock made from 1 stockpot (I use Knorr) dissolved into 400ml boiling water

1 tablespoon brandy/cognac

150ml soured cream

Salt for seasoning

What to do…

Prepare your steaks waaaaaay ahead of time if you want to optimise the flavours and textures. Start by crushing your peppercorns. You can use a pestle and mortar to do this or put them between 2 A4-sized pieces of cling film (on a board) and bash them with either a rolling pin or meat tenderiser).

Fillet doesn’t need tenderising. Instead, put a teaspoon of olive oil onto one side of each steak, spreading it evening over and then, using the heel of your hand, massage the steak – it needs no more than this. Then sprinkle over the crushed peppercorns, pressing them into the meat, saving just 2 teaspoons for use in the sauce. Flip the steaks over and repeat the process on the other side. Cover the steaks with cling film and set aside for several hours.

When you are ready to cook the steaks, get the sauce in order! Using a medium-sized saucepan, pour in your oil and add the shallots and garlic. Cook on a medium heat for a couple of minutes until they begin to brown. Add the beef stock and saved peppercorns. Add the brandy/cognac and continue simmering until the sauce is reduced by half – 4 – 5 minutes.

Remove the sauce from the heat and let it cool for 5 minutes. Then, gradually add the soured cream, stirring continuously – if you add too much, too fast it will curdle so take your time. Once it’s all in, check the taste and season with salt; then put the sauce back on a low heat, whilst you cook the steaks.

For the steaks, take a heavy frying pan and pop it onto a very high heat. Dry fry them (remember, you’ve already rubbed oil into them) quickly for about 1 minute on each side, then lower the heat and cook them how you want them – rare, medium rare, well done etc. Lots of recipes quote timings on this but I’ve found that with steaks this thick, it’s easier to take a sharp knife and cut into the middle of the steaks whilst they are in the frying pan and just check them out!

When they are about there, spoon any cooking juices into the sauce and then serve these mouthwatering steaks immediately with their delicious sauce.

Serving Suggestion…

We like Steak au Poivre with mushrooms that have been cleaned and sliced and then fried in a combination of butter, truffle oil and salt. Potato Dauphinoise works spectacularly well with the peppercorn sauce and the wilted spinach is the token healthy green on the plate! Just yum, yum, yum!

Inspired by…

Well, Delia is partly responsible, as is saveur.com, the online version of the New York Times and my take on all of that…but also our local butcher, who explained to me how to treat the fillet steak with respect: massage only!

How easy…

It’s really very easy. The key is in having the time to do it in a relaxed fashion, which lets face it, is the only way – this meat is expensive and deserves time and respect to properly enjoy the well-earned results. Just find an excuse to indulge!



Monkfish Roasted with Parma Ham and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

A lovely dish that is easy to make, very easy on the eye and great tasting.

Serves 4

What you need…

1 small jar of sun-dried tomatoes in oil

2 large handfuls of fresh basil

Olive oil

16-20 slices of Parma ham

4 x 200g/7oz monkfish tail fillets, trimmed

Sea salt and black pepper

Balsamic vinegar and rocket (optional, to serve)

What to do…

Pre-heat oven to 200c/400f/gas 6. Place sun-dried tomatoes and half their flavoursome preserving oil in a food processor with all the basil and blend until smooth. While blending, add the remaining preserving oil to the paste until it’s nice and spreadable.

Take four A4-sized pieces of greaseproof paper. Rub some olive oil over each piece and lay about 4 slices of Parma ham snugly next to each other, on each piece of paper. Divide your paste into 4, smearing each quarter evenly over the ham. Then, place your monkfish fillets at one end, season, and, using the greaseproof paper as an aid to wrap the monkfish firmly in the Parma ham, fold and roll up. Slide the Parma ham-wrapped monkfish off the greaseproof paper onto an oiled baking tray (with sides as liquid will escape during cooking and make a right mess of the oven – been there, done that!). Roast for 15-20 minutes.

To serve your monkfish roasted with Parma ham and sun-dried tomatoes, either slice up or serve each portion whole, ideally with really buttery mashed potato. Garnish with drizzled balsamic vinegar over the fish and scattered rocket over the whole plate.

It’s quick, gorgeous and looks like it’s taken hours of slaving. Ideal for a dinner party as it can be prepared in advance, kept covered and refrigerated until you are ready to pop it in the oven; or for a family supper when you fancy something a little different.

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver

How Easy…

Very easy and hardly any clearing up!

Roast Breast of Duck with Plum and Apple Tarte Tatin

A fabulous Autumnal treat that looks and tastes so sumptuous and actually isn’t that difficult to make. Whoever you make it for will be very appreciative! It’s rich and ever so slightly decadent!

Serves 4

What you need…

1 tartlet tin, with 4 8cm holes, greased

1 9-cm cookie cutter

200g ready-made puff pastry (unless you’re on Bake Off, who has the time to make it?!)

2 apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped

2 plums, stoned and roughly chopped

5 little knobs of butter

4 dessertspoons of honey

30g shallots, chopped

250ml port

500ml chicken/game stock (made from a stock pot and water)

4 duck breasts, similarly sized

225g spinach

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

Preheat the oven to 200°c / 400°f / gas 6.

Score the skin on the duck breasts in a crisscross pattern and season well. Put aside for the moment.

Making the jus/sauce: melt the first knob of butter in a saucepan and add the shallots, cooking for five minutes on a low heat. Add the port and stock and reduce until the sauce coats the back of the spoon – about 15 minutes. Set to one side – it doesn’t have to be boiling hot to serve but you may want to reheat just before serving to make sure it’s still runny rather than starting to set.

Making your tarte tatins: in your tartlet tin, place a knob of butter in the centre of each ‘mould’ and pour over one dessertspoon honey over each one. Mix together the apple and plums and then take a handful of the mixed fruit, piling it on top of the honey and butter.

Roll out the pastry to a thickness of 5mm and, using your cookie cutter, cut out four 9cm circles and place over the top of the fruit, tucking the sides in so that you have four upside down tarts. Pop in the oven for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, take a heavy frying pan, turn the hob heat up to a medium high heat and cook the duck breast, skin side down, in the dry pan for about nine minutes, then turn the breast over and cook for a further six minutes. Keep an eye on it – it can scorch quite easily (as evidenced in my photogograph!)

Towards the end of the duck cooking time, wilt the spinach in a pot with just a couple of spoonfuls of water and little salt for two minutes.

To serve, place a mound of spinach on each plate and top with one tarte tatin, removed from the tin and served fruit side up. Put the duck on the plate and drizzle the jus/sauce around the plate.

Delicious doesn’t cover it! This recipe for Roast Breast of Duck with Plum and Apple Tarte Tatin is a rich, lovely treat, ideal for dinner party. Halve the ingredients and make a sumptuous romantic dinner for two.


You’ll have some pastry left over – you could always re-roll it and create another few fruit tatins but for use as desserts or perhaps a couple of Apple Roses (see my other recipes).

I use Waitrose Cooks’ Ingredients frozen chopped shallots – quick and saves all that crying!

Inspired by…

Julian Owen-Mold

How easy…

It’s really easy providing the duck breasts are the same size and therefore cook evenly during the same time. It’s quite smelly and the hob will be a mess at the end, but it’s worth it and surely, if you’ve done the cooking, someone else should clear up!