Well, it's a new week but the alternative carbohydrate experiments continue. It was the turn of couscous today, however, the first consideration was what type of protein to have.
We had the other half of our bag of individually frozen salmon fillets to use as I don't like to leave fish in the freezer for very long. It tends towards getting freezer burn so quickly, to make the best of its best, I wanted to use it fairly rapidly.
So, salmon. We've not been the greatest eaters of fish in the past - although we would have been, given the chance! Fresh fish is so flipping expensive that it often renders itself out of the equation for my dinner considerations. However, Asda have recently been selling a greatly improved range of frozen fish - and for an affordable price. This salmon has been our first foray into sampling some of it and we've been really pleasantly surprised. Naturally, it's nothing like the quality of fresh salmon - it really doesn't have a chance of being - but it isn't half bad, for frozen.
We have had two meals from the bag and there are two fillets left - which I imagine will go into a fish pie. It cost around £8 and at £4 for a meal didn't seem too expensive. That was, until we realised there were 11 (albeit small) fillets in the bag which meant two meals plus a bit! Even better.
So, what to do with this salmon? I'd grilled it in a marinade previously, so didn't want to repeat that. I hadn't really come to any conclusions, other than I knew that I wanted to keep the fish in its fillets and not break it up into pieces. Historically, we've had "broken into pieces" fish because that's all we could afford, so to have a fillet on your plate was quite a treat.
I was browsing through this month's BBC Good Food magazine and saw a recipe for Sicilian Cod, i.e. cod fillet with a thick tomato and herb sauce drizzled over. Now that had promise - as the acidity of the tomato sauce would work very well with the oily salmon.
What to serve the fish and sauce with, then? Potatoes immediately came to mind (I have to get out of that habit!) and got abandoned. I wanted something a bit more creative and something a bit more exciting.
In this rehash of our diet, I've tried - with every new recipe - to create a meal that has balance across all the food groups without creating huge portions. There's no doubt we've been eating too much (portion-wise) just lately and I was keen to bring the size back down again. Portion size is another of my problems, you see. I can't help it, I seem to channel some Jewish mother somewhere, who just wants to feed the family until their eyeballs pop. Hence, this portion control was in the back of my mind too.
I'm really not sure what made me think of the Ottolenghi Green Couscous, but I'm jolly glad I did. We really like this form of couscous - hubby says it's because you can't taste the couscous for all the herbs, onions, chilli and other loveliness that is in there. I love the interaction between the herbs, fried onion and sea salt that just teases the tongue.
I've made the Ottolenghi Green Couscous a couple of times in the past, but it has been a while since I made it last. The recipe is on Rhubarb & Ginger, just click on the link on the name above.
I reckoned the fish would go with the couscous with no real problem and the big flavour of the tomato sauce would complement the freshness and richness of the couscous. Decision made, Sicilian Salmon with Green Couscous was officially on the menu list.
None of the three components are difficult to make, the couscous is really just a matter of preparing the onions and herbs to mix into the couscous, the sauce is simplicity itself to make and the fish couldn't be easier, as I simply grilled the fillets.
It would have taken a bit longer if it wasn't for hubby who jumped into the role of sous chef and fried up the first batch of onions for me. Well, he had sidetracked me earlier when we were having fun translating various Polish phrases - most of which involved the word "doughnut" - from English to Polish and back again. I will have to tell you more of the Polish Delicatessen we visited today - but that's another story!
As I suspected, the three component parts - fish, sauce, couscous - went together really well and the flavours were really interesting. Even son & heir enjoyed his meal, saying that the tomato sauce went really really well with the couscous - and went back to the kitchen to get more! Now that really IS a vote of confidence. Hubby was very happy to have another meal that was not only a little bit different, but completely devoid of potatoes. *chuckle* It's not going to last - but if I can include a potato every now and then, just to soothe son & heir's and my own potato lust, that'll do.
A little "cooks note" that is worth mentioning, is that both the tomato sauce and the Green Couscous can be made well in advance. So if you're going to be tight for time one evening - it makes a very good choice!
February 2016 : This time, I paired the salmon up with some spinach fettucine and a side salad, which worked really well. I also made the following changes to the recipe :
- swapped a sweet white onion for the red one, which looked better;
- added 2 rashers of finely chopped bacon to the onions & garlic, all of which I cooked together instead of separately;
- added 3 sliced chestnut mushrooms and a chopped tomato to the pan once the onions etc were softened
- added 1 heaped teaspoonful of tomato puree;
- swapped out the oregano for 1 big teaspoonful of chopped dill;
- swapped the sugar for 1 teaspoonful of runny honey.
Recipe development in action! I think the changes and additions make for a more rounded, deeper flavour in the sauce and I'll be making it this way in future. I have reflected the changes in the recipe below.
SICILIAN SALMON (serves 3)
1 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
2 rashers smoked back bacon, chopped small (optional)
a small red onion (or white sweet onion), chopped finely
a clove of garlic, chopped finely
3 sliced chestnut mushrooms (optional)
1 chopped tomato (optional)
400g tin of chopped tomatoes - the best you can get
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 heaped tsp tomato puree (optional)
1 tsp dried oregano (or dried dill)
a pinch of sea salt
half a tsp of freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp sugar (or honey)
3 salmon fillets, skinless and boneless.
1. Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the bacon, onion and garlic. Fry until the onion is softened but not coloured in any way and the bacon is cooked through.
2. Add the mushrooms and tomato and continue to fry until the mushrooms are beginning to soften.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients (except for the salmon) and stir to combine. Simmer over a low to medium heat, stirring regularly, until thickened.
4. Place the fish fillets - upside down - onto a flat roasting tray, season and drizzle with olive oil. Place under a pre-heated grill for 2-3 minutes. Turn the fish carefully and replace under the grill for as long as it takes for the fish to change from translucent to opaque.
5. Taste the sauce for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
6. Serve the fish over couscous or fettucine pasta, with the sauce drizzled over.