2013 – Life on the blog

Apparently I’m averaging 15 visitors a day to the blog at the moment. While that doesn’t sound like a lot when you think of how many people use the internet, I’m pretty happy with that. 15 of you out there think it’s worth spending some time reading what I’ve posted. Overall, this works out at between 5000 and 6000 hits. According to my Analytics dashboard, I’m picking up new readers at a decent rate, roughly 2/3 of all visitors to my blog are new ones!

As for how people are finding my blog, there’s the obvious – search for “files and records”, the food…

  • turkey pork curry – 17
  • monkfish for kids – 8
  • minty chocolate fridge cake – 8

the geeky…

  • chromedeck sheets – 9
  • gtd pdf templates – 13
  • the data retrieval service encountered an error during connection to the data source – 2 (but both useful!

and the downright strange…

  • Is Tree-Fu Tom Satanic? – 12!!!!!
  • up helly aa smurf suit anderson high school – 1
  • beard wizard – 1

Okay, so the words “Tree-Fu Tom” and “Satan” appear in the same paragraph, but that’s only because I was praising Tree-Fu Tom and Peppa Pig, and Andy Hamilton voices Mr Elephant in Peppa Pig. In case the connection’s not obvious, Andy Hamilton writes “Old Harry’s Game” and provides the voice for Old Harry himself. I’m not helping, am I? That’s now 2 pages on the blog that’ll provide hits for “Is Tree-Fu Tom Satanic?”.

And as for the top posts of the year…

A close 6th place comes What a difference a week makes!, the turning point in our recent move from Shetland to Lincolnshire.

I’d like to thank each and every one of you who spends time reading my ramblings. If I could change one thing, it’d be getting a bit more feedback! Did my recipes help? Do you agree with what I’m saying? Disagree? My most commented-on post this year was this: Silent Sunday – 17th March 2013, and it’s a single photograph.

Have a very happy new year, and see you in 2014!

#CookalongFriday – The Perfect Way to Cook Fish for (my) Kids

A monkfish in a market
Image via Wikipedia

Keep it simple, that’s the key here.  No fancy sauces, nothing with flavours that could be too strong or too “fishy”.

Think back to your childhood, how did you enjoy fish?  If you’re anything like me, you’ve got fond memories of fish finger sandwiches in front of Doctor Who on the TV on a Saturday night.  Plenty of butter, chip butty as well if you’re lucky.  Or going with dad to the chippie to fetch fish and chips!  Magic times.

Anyway, today’s recipe is a damn simple way to cook one of my kids’ favourites:  Monkfish.

What? Your kids eat monkfish?  Well, yes.  I know it’s not the cheapest fish but it’s far from the most expensive and it’s really simple to cook well.  It’s also ugly, and kids like eating ugly stuff, yeah?  I mean, look at it!  It’s hideous!  How cool is that?  The bit you’re eating is actually the tail.  If your kids have seen Finding Nemo, the angler fish with the light on the end of the lure is the closest thing to a monkfish in there.

Right.  On to the recipe:

What you need:

  • Monkfish.  Some.  Not a lot.  Afraid I can’t help you much more than that.  If pushed, I’d say 1 half-tail for every 2 people, so a full tail would serve 4-6 depending on size.  Your fishmonger will advise, they’re wise types who know these things.  Have a look at your frying pan and take your best guess as to how much will fit comfortably.
  • Lemons.  2 or 3.
  • Butter.  Don’t try this with anything less than proper, salted butter.  It just doesn’t work (and you’ll waste the fish, giving your cat/dog a treat).
  • Potatoes.  New potatoes are good, standard potatoes are fine.
  • Milk.  Not a lot, just a splash to add to the mash if you’re using regular spuds.
  • A frying pan to cook the fish in
  • A regular pan to cook the potatoes in

Preparation

  • Wash the spuds.  Don’t peel them.  Cut new potatoes in half, regular potatoes into quarters
  • Cut the monkfish tail into 1″ (2.5cm) cubes.  Allow 4 per small person, 6 or more per adult.  If you’ve got extra, panic not, they’ll be eaten.
  • Boil the kettle and put the water into a pan to cook the potatoes.  Add salt to the water (1-2tsp).
  • Put the frying pan onto a low-medium heat.

Action!

  • The hard work’s done.  Trust me.  The rest of this all takes place in the time it takes to cook the spuds.
  • Put the potatoes into the pan, bring it back to the boil.  Should take about 12-15 minutes to cook through.
  • Halve the lemons, juice them and keep it somewhere handy.  Give a lemon half to each of your kids and watch their faces when they suck it.  Magic.
  • Put a good slab of butter into the frying pan, when it’s melted add the monkfish.  Cook for a couple of minutes, then add the lemon juice.
  • Turn the fish a few times while the potatoes are cooking.  The buttery, lemony sauce is going to go well on those potatoes
  • When the potatoes are almost done, pick the biggest piece of monkfish, take it from the pan and cut it in half, check that it’s cooked.  If it’s not, keep cooking them while you deal with the potatoes.

New Potatotes?

  • Drain them, add a knob of butter, put the lid back on the pan and toss them vigorously.

Regular Potatoes?

  • Drain them, add a knob of butter, milk and a generous spoonful of butter/lemon juice from the fish pan.
  • Put the lid back on and toss vigorously.  You’ll get smashed potatoes.

Plates, knives, forks, serve.  And that’s it.  My kids will eat this until it’s coming out of their ears.

If you’ve got some frozen king prawns, they can be tossed in with the monkfish while it’s cooking and make an excellent addition.  This also works well with cubes of most firm fish – ling, tusk, try something unusual!  Ask the fishmonger what’s freshest and go from there.  Let me know how it goes!

And if you’re after something a little less fishy, you could do worse than try  Grilled Lemongrass and Coconut Chicken over at m’colleague’s blog, Chronicles of a Reluctant Housedad where he’s testing the recipe from “My Daddy Cooks”.  He’s got better pictures than me but, let’s face it, chicken’s nowhere near as ugly as that monkfish up there!

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Baked salmon with a curry & naan crust, lentil biryani #cookalongfriday

Made a fortuitous discovery last night.  Thought the large slab of salmon in the fridge was smoked, it turned out to be fresh and ready for cooking.  That means we’re getting baked salmon with a curry and naan bread crust tonight, with a biryani of some kind to go with it.  That’s the up side.  The down side is that this is going to be almost entirely made up as I go along.  So here goes…

Taking inspiration from Jamie Oliver’s crusted cod recipe (30 Minute Meals p142), for the salmon we’ll need:-

  • 2 garlic and coriander naan bread
  • 1 onion
  • 5 cardamon pods
  • 1 tsp garlic and ginger paste
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp each of ground cumin, ground coriander and garam masala

The eagle-eyed might notice a surprising similarity to the curry paste from last week’s recipe.  Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

  • 1 side of salmon (or half a side, depending on what happens to be in the fridge).

I suspect this would work with cod, ling, tusk, basically any firm fish.  Don’t know about monkfish, give it a shot and see how you get on.  How bad can it be?

  1. Put the grill on to medium-high heat.
  2. Put the salmon under the grill for 5 minutes whilst you…
  3. Put the onion, cardamon, garlic & ginger paste, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, cumin, coriander and garam masala into a blender and blitz to a paste.
  4. Crumb one or both of the naans depending on how much fish you’ve got to cover.
  5. Take the salmon out from under the grill, smear the paste all over the top covering fairly evenly.
  6. Cover the paste with the naan crumbs.
  7. Return the salmon to the oven on the middle shelf, turn up the heat, cook until the crust is golden and crisp (or for about 10 minutes).

Now this is where the timing gets interesting because the biryani is going to take a lot longer to do than the salmon.

  • 100g lentils
  • 225g Basmati rice
  • 2 large onions
  • 1tbsp garlic and ginger paste
  • 25g butter1tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 5 green cardamon pods
  • 1 bay leafsalt and pepper
  • 900ml water
  • 1tsp garam masala
  1. Soak the lentils, wash the rice.
  2. Finely chop the onions
  3. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and fry the onions for a couple of minutes
  4. Add the garlic & ginger paste, cumin seeds, cinnamon stick, cardamon pods and bay leaf, fry for another 10 minutes or so on a low heat
  5. Drain the rice and lentils, add them to the pan and stir well, coating everything with the buttery oniony mixture.
  6. Add salt and pepper, then the water and bring to the boil.
  7. Stir once, lid on, heat down to lowest setting, leave it alone for 20 minutes.
  8. Start work on the salmon!
  9. Once the 20 minutes are up, remove the pan from the heat and the lid from the pan.  It can sit like this for another 10 minutes happily finishing everything off.

So this is more than a little experimental.  It’s taking elements of a few recipes and putting them together in a way that should (hopefully) work.  And if it doesn’t, well you could always scrape the crust off the salmon and buy in some bagels or chips to serve it with!  But hey, it’s Friday.  Live a little.  It’s the weekend tomorrow and the weather’s set to be good.

I’m not around next Friday, I’m down to Yorkshire to collect a table, amongst other things.  I’ll get my better half to let me know what she’s cooking and we’ll get that posted up here for your delectation and delight.

After the event.  Well, that went alright.  If I do this again, I’ll cook the onion for the salmon crust for 5-10 minutes, sweat it down and start it caramelising.  Either that or substitute for tomato.

The biryani worked very well as an accompaniment, though.  Delicious.