Summer fish bowl

summer fish bowl

Despite the summery ambition in its title, this is the perfect spring dinner. It’s a wonderful way to use new season potatoes and asparagus. It’s light and fresh-tasting, yet still substantial. I can see this becoming a regular weeknight dinner at my place.

Summer fish bowl (adapted from Lois Daish, A Good Year, p. 31)

2 large potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 3-4cm pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 large carrot, thinly sliced

1 celery stalk, thinly slicely

1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced

1-2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced

1/2 cup white wine (dry riesling or sauvignon blanc)

6-8 low acid tomatoes (when tomatoes aren’t in season, substitute a can of tomatoes, drained of juice)

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

pinch saffron stamens

pinch cayenne pepper

fresh thyme leaves

1 1/2 cups fish stock, chicken stock or water with a splash of fish sauce

bunch asparagus, woody ends snapped off and the spears cut into lengths

chopped fresh leafy herbs, such as parsley and oregano

500g fresh fish

olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place potato cubes into a pot and over with cold water. Bring to the boil and cook until tender. Drain and set aside.

Warm the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot and add the onion, carrot, celery and fennel. Fry gently for about ten minutes until starting to caramelise, then add the garlic. Fry again briefly and pour on the wine. Allow to bubble up for 1-2 minutes, then add the tomatoes, seasonings and thyme. Cook for a few minutes more, then add the liquid and simmer for 20 minutes until everything is tender. Check to see if it needs more salt and pepper. Add the asparagus spears and continue to simmer gently while you grill the fish.

Preheat your oven grill. Prepare the fish by cutting into large pieces. Place in a rimmed baking dish, brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Slide the fish under the grill and cook for 3-5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, until it is barely opaque right through. Transfer the fish into a shallow heated bowl, add the cooked potatoes, pour over any juices from the pan into the pot of sauce and ladle the sauce over the top.

Grilled fennel

fennel

When seemingly simple recipes require two different methods of cooking I have been known to keep on turning the pages of the recipe book. Despite involving both boiling and grilling, I decided to give Lois’ grilled fennel a try, as I’ve learnt from Lois’ recipes this year is that every one of her instructions is there for a reason. As Ginny Grant wrote to me, with Lois ‘[t]here are no unnecessary embellishments in her cooking, everything that is in a recipe is there because it is needed.’ With this is in mind, I encourage you to give this recipe a go. It’s a lovely side which becomes the focus of the meal when paired with some grilled salmon and some boiled new potatoes; any extra sauce can be poured over top.

Grilled Fennel (Lois Daish, Listener, 19 February, 2000)

2 whole Florence fennel bulbs

olive oil

Dressing:

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon grainy mustard

2 tablespoon red wine vinegar

2 tablespoon cream or creme fraiche

1/4 cup olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Trim the tops of the fennel bulbs. Fill a large pot with water, submerge the fennel bulbs and bring to the boil. Simmer until the bulbs are tender all the way through. Drain and cut into thick slices. Preheat your oven using the grill function. Brush the pieces of fennel with olive oil and place on a tray and grill until browned.

Make the dressing by whisking together all of the ingredients in a small bowl or shaking together in a jar. Pour over the grilled fennel and serve.