Spring seafood

Although it is starting to warm up and there are signs of new life everywhere, spring can be a tricky time regarding seasonal fare.

So, instead of digging deep in the garden, we should celebrate the sea and all it has to offer.

I picked an array of recipes that are easy to prepare and will suit any occasion.

 

 

Photos: Simon Lambert
Photos: Simon Lambert

Moules mariniere

This simple recipe is an all-time classic. Mussels simply cooked with a few aromatics, with outstanding results.

SERVES 2

1kg mussels
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked
1 bay leaf
150ml dry white wine, e.g. muscadet
50g butter, cubed
a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

Method

Mussels need to be scrubbed first to remove any hairy bits and maybe even some barnacles and dirt. You also need to pull out the beard, which is the hairy clump sitting outside the join of the mussel. Rinse under cold water and discard any mussels that may be open or with broken shells.

Put the chopped shallots, thyme leaves, bay leaf and wine into a large pan, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat, and cook gently for five minutes, then turn up the heat to medium-high.

Drain the mussels and tip into the pan. Cover and cook until most of them have opened - about three minutes.

Add the butter and put the lid back on for 30 seconds to allow it to melt. Add parsley and shake the pan well to distribute, then season gently and serve immediately, discarding any mussels which remain closed.

Serve immediately with fresh bread to soak up the delicious juices.

Smoked fish and parsnip fishcakes

Who doesn’t love a good fishcake served simply with peas and homemade mayo?

Here I’ve improved the classic by adding parsnips. Once I tried this combination, it made perfect sense as the flavours harmonise sensationally with the smoked fish.

SERVES 4

300g smoked fish
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1 bay leaf
4 peppercorns and cloves
150g potatoes, peeled and chopped
150g parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 leek, finely sliced, washed and drained
1 Tbsp butter
1 egg
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp fresh fennel or dill fronds, finely chopped
100g finely ground cornmeal (polenta)
lemon for serving
good-quality mayonnaise
oil for frying

Method

Place the milk, bay leaf and cloves in a pan and poach the fish. Briefly allow to boil before turning off the heat and allowing fish to cool in the liquid.

Boil the potatoes and parsnips together in lightly salted water until tender.

Meanwhile, sweat the leek in a tablespoon of butter for five minutes. Add a third of a cup of the fish liquid and continue to cook until the leeks are soft and you are left with two to three tablespoons of liquid.

Once the potatoes are tender, drain and mash roughly, add the leek mixture, and flake the fish into bite-sized pieces. Add parsley, fennel and egg and season. Gently mix together until combined.

Shape into four large cakes. Coat well in the cornmeal, reshape and chill until required.

Heat the oven to 190degC.

Heat enough oil to coat the base of a fry pan. When hot, cook the fish cakes until golden on both sides and finish off in a hot oven for 10 minutes.

Serve with lemon wedges and your favourite accompaniments.

Cod and chorizo fishcakes

These delightful fishcakes are easy to make. Once you have mastered this simple technique you can then add different flavours to spice up your cakes.

SERVES 4

500g red cod or something similar, bones removed and roughly chopped
1 good-quality chorizo (200g), peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper
1 lemon, zest
3 spring onions, roughly chopped
30g parsley, roughly chopped
oil for cooking

Method

Put the fish, chorizo, seasoning, lemon zest and spring onions into a food processor and process until the mixture becomes a thick, sticky paste. Add parsley and blitz.

Remove the mixture. With slightly damp hands, mould the mixture into 12 evenly-sized cakes.

Heat up a large fry pan with enough oil to cover the base. When hot, add the fish cakes and cook for four minutes or until golden; turn over and cook for a further three minutes.

Remove and drain and serve with lemon wedges and a good dipping sauce.

Tray-baked salmon, fennel and potatoes

Tray-baked dinners are such an easy way to enjoy seafood. By teaming it up with flavoursome ingredients you can create your dinner in just one dish.

SERVES 4

4 x 175g  portions of salmon (skin-on, bones removed)
1 bulb of fresh fennel, outer leaves removed, fennel fronds
4 medium potatoes
2 lemons
sea salt
cracked black pepper
lemon mayo for serving

Method

Heat the oven to 190degC.

Bring a medium-sized pot of lightly salted water to the boil.
Prepare the fennel by cutting it in half lengthwise, then cut it into medium to thin wedges. Reserve fennel fronds for later.

Cut the potato into 4mm rounds.

Place the prepared vegetables into boiling water and cook for six to eight minutes, drain and refresh immediately.

Toss the vegetables with enough oil to coat well, season with salt and pepper and  half of the fennel fronds.

Place the vegetables and all the juices in the bottom of an oven dish.

Place the fish, flesh side down on top of the potatoes, with rounds of fresh lemon. Drizzle over a little more oil, a sprinkle of salt and roast in the oven for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and golden and the salmon is cooked.

Remove from the oven and serve straight from the tray.

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