It’s that time again. Our weekly Date Night Dinner, where I impress my long-suffering husband with yet another marvellous meal from my ever-growing repertoire. However, this week was a shared effort. I did the starter and dessert and AlphaMale created his showpiece supper of Moules Marinieres. Genius on my behalf as about 90 percent of mine was prepared ahead, leaving me free to sit by the fire in the dining room, sipping on a nice cold Sauvignon Blanc, whilst he slaved over a hot stove. Like I said. Genius.
On the menu tonight:
Grilled mackerel with soy lime dressing; Moules Marinieres; Lemon Meringue tartlets.
GRILLED MACKEREL WITH SOY LIME DRESSING AND FENNEL SALAD
This is a Raymond Blanc recipe which he made on a recent television show. It looks impressive and tastes delicious. Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients, most of them are store cupboard, and almost the entire dish can be prepared in advance and then assembled at the last minute as the fish cooks. I used one whole mackerel, filleted and divided into two small pieces. I also adjusted the amount of salad ingredients to suit 2 people.
250ml white wine vinegar
5-6 pieces of coriander stalk
40g caster sugar
35g finely chopped red onion
1/2 tsp whole pink peppercorns
3-4 lemon slices
2 whole mackerel, filleted
1 tbsp oil
Heat the vinegar, water, coriander, sugar, onion, peppercorns and lemon slices in a pan over a medium heat. Heat until almost boiling (about 60c) then remove from the heat and transfer to a flat, shallow container and set aside to cool.
The mackerel fillets need to be marinated in the cooled liquid for 20 minutes prior to cooking. Pat them dry with kitchen paper and make several diagonal scores in the skin, to prevent them curling up during cooking. Line a baking tray with foil and brush all over with olive oil. Arrange the mackerel fillets , skin-sides upwards. Place under a pre-heated, hot grill and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until the skin is crisp and the flesh is cooked through.
Soy and lime dressing Ingredients:
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp water
1lime, juice only
1 tsp fresh root ginger, finely diced
1/2 tsp dark muscovado sugar
Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and gently heat through until the sugar has dissolved. Set to one side.
Fennel salad Ingredients:
1 tsp fennel seeds, soaked in water for 2 hours, drained and toasted gently in a dry pan.
1 fennel bulb, finely sliced – on a mandoline if possible- and soaked in ice-cold water for 20 minutes.
1/2 lime, juice only
1 bunch rocket leaves ( I used watercress)
2 pinches sea salt
1 pinch cayenne pepper
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Retain a few fennel seeds for decoration.
Divide the fennel salad equally among four plates. Place a grilled mackerel fillet on top of each portion. Spoon the salad dressing over the fish and scatter over the remaining toasted fennel seeds.
(Serves 2 as a main, 4 as a starter)
If AlphaMale has learned one thing whilst being married to Yours Truly, it is how to guestimate a recipe. As a Doctor of Chemistry, this is not something that comes naturally to him due to the danger of guestimating chemical combinations under lab conditions. But when it comes to a bag of mussels, he is top of the guestimation league, and would probably blow the roof off his precious laboratory. So this is a rough translation of his take on Moules Marinieres.
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
2- 3 shallots, or 1 small onion, finely chopped
a knob of butter
1 glug of olive oil
1 glass of cooking white wine
salt and pepper
Melt the butter and olive oil together in a large, lidded saucepan. I use my Jamie Oliver pasta pan for this, as it has loads of room for the mussels to open, and a nice, tight-fitting lid.
Tip all the mussels in at once, stir to combine, and pop the lid on. Steam over a high heat for 3-5 minutes. The mussels will all open. Discard any that don’t open on cooking. Do not be tempted to overcook, as the mussels will become rubbery in texture.
Spoon the mussels into warm serving dishes, sprinkle with the chopped parsley and pour over some of the hot cooking liquor.
Serve with crusty bread.
MINI LEMON MERINGUE TARTLETS
These are my mini version of Mary Berry’s lemon meringue pie, taken from her Complete Cook Book. The link is for a BBC version, which is slightly different. Mary’s book recipe is big enough to make four 10cm tartlets and one 22cm tart. It is possible to freeze lemon meringue pie, but if you do so, freeze the pastry and lemon filling only. Once defrosted, add the meringue topping and bake for the alloted time. If you freeze meringue it will just go soggy.
grated zest and juice of 4 large lemons
4 egg yolks
5 egg whites
250g caster sugar
250g plain flour
30g icing sugar
125g chilled butter, cut into cubes
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp cold water
Mary suggests a 25cm fluted, loose-bottomed flan tin. I used four 10cm fluted, loose-bottomed tartlet tins and a 22cm flan dish.
Combine the flour and icing sugar in a large bowl ( I cheat and use a processor), add the butter and rub in until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Mix in the egg yolk and enough of the cold water to make a soft pliable dough. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
Roll out on a lightly floured surface and use to line what ever tins you have chosen. Prick the base with a fork and bake blind (line with foil and fill with baking beans), at 200c, gas 6 for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and beans and continue to bake for a further 5 minutes, until the base has dried out.
Combine the lemon zest and juice with the cornflour, add the water and stir well. Bring to the boil, stirring continually until the mixture has thickened. Remove from the heat. Leave to cool slightly, then stir in the egg yolks and the sugar. Return to a low heat and cook, stirring the whole time, until the mixture is just simmering. Pour into the pastry shells.
Whisk the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Add the sugar 1 tsp at a time, whisking, until the mixture is glossy and holds its shape. Pile on top of the filling, spread evenly and use a palette knife to create a peaked effect. Bake for 45 minutes at 150c, gas 2 until crisp and brown.
Serve warm or cold.