Monday, 11 November 2013

True Colors

Merluzzo, Bulgur con i Crespelle, Cavolini di Bruxelles, Carote, Zenzero, Pepe "Szechuan" & Scorze di Mandarino
Cod, Bulgur, Barberries, Brussels Sprouts, Ginger, Carrot, Szechuan Pepper, Zest

The comment I hear being made the most about my food is that "it is so colorful!", but  you know what? On my planet, carrots are orange and greens are... well... green! And when you put them together on a plate, the result is of course very colorful. But the only reason things end up on my plate in the first placce is because they taste good together- the colors are coincidental and it is just a matter of not overcooking your food to keep it looking nice!

Carrots and Brussels sprouts are great examples of this- if you overcook your sprouts, they will become squidgy and kind-of olive colored and carrots become pulpy and sickeningly sweet. Being as I bought sprouts at the market on Saturday, I shall be making a couple of dishes with them this week... so let me share  one of my favorite ways of preparing them with you now- it is probably a little different to what you are used to!

Normally when you prepare your Brussels sprouts, you cut away the stems and peel away the outer leaves in order to clean them. Well, let me just suggest that you cut away a little more of the stalk, so that more leaves can be removed and that you do just that. Save the insides for another dish that you can cook traditionally or roast (mmmh... I might do that later myself!) and keep peeling away individual leaves. This sounds like a lot of work, and of course, compared to simply halving or quartering the sprouts, it IS- but come on! You want to have a nice meal right? Hard work is a slightly different kettle of fish! But we will get to the fish later...

So, now you have individual leaves- the next thing to do is to peel a carrot and cut it into equally thin slices, so that they will cook in roughly the same amount of time as the sprouts. The other ingredient I used was ginger, which I also cut into very thin slices. That's all the prep-work... the rest is easy as pie and a lot of fun!

The bulgur can be prepared a little before the fish and the vegetables in this dish- after a little initial boiling, it will take care of itself and leave you free to prepare the rest to serve piping hot and straight from the pan. To make it, I brought 2-3 cups of water for each cup of bulgur I was preparing to the boil, added a little salt and then stirred-in the bulgur. I stirred it occasionally for 2-3 minutes and in the meantime, finely chopped a little parsley and a Spring onion, which I then added when the bulgur had doubled in size and had almost absorbed all of the moisture. I then turned off the heat and added a good handful of barberries, a half teaspoon of smoked paprika powder, the juice of half a lime and a hint of cayenne. I stirred this together well and then set the saucepan aside for the bulgur to continue steaming and to finish cooking in its own residual heat. 

And then I finally got started on the vegetables! I heated up my frying pan, added a small pat of butter and the carrots and ginger first of all. After 2-3 minutes, I added the sprouts and a light sprinkle of salt, pepper and sugar. The next thing I did, was to scrape the zest from a mandarin orange, then 2-3 minutes later, I added the juice, which I simply, un-glamorously squeezed straight into the frying pan with my hand- don't hate me! Anything else would have been fussing too much and I am not aware of any such thing as a mandarin orange squeezer- haha! In any case, I added mandarin juice rather than regular orange juice as it is sweeter- and it is the sweetness that makes the carrots and sprouts work so well!

I tossed the vegetables in the juice, added a last few drops of sesame oil and then set them to one side whilst I quickly prepared the cod...

The cod went simply into a very hot pan- I added just a small pat of butter and set the fish down directly on top of it and let it sit and sizzle for a good 3-4 minutes... that was all it took for this small piece to brown nicely on one side and to almost cook all the way through... but not quite! The cod is ready to be turned over when you see clear juices running from between the flakes of flesh. I seasoned it with a little salt and a little freshly ground Szechuan pepper. I flipped the fish over , also seasoned it lightly from the other side and then pushed it to one side to finish cooking, also in its own residual heal. Whilst it did so, I gave the sprouts and carrots a little sprinkle of Szechuan pepper too and re-heated them briefly ready to serve up.

I set the cod on top of a bed of bulgur and sprinkled it with just a hint of the smokey paprika powder I love so much and the mandarin orange zest, then scattered the Brussels sprouts and carrots around, nicely glazed, sweet and deliciously spicy with the ginger and pepper and totally different to the same-old, same-old. And I am pretty sure you will like them served this way very much- especially in this combination! The tangy barberries and onion make the bulgur a great, flavorful side to the mild and juicy fish- and yep, that ginger, the hint of citrus and the Szechuan just transform the whole thing into a wonderful, colorful poem made of texture and flavor... Enough! You don't want to hear this- you want to get out there and make it for yourselves... right? ;-)

No comments:

Post a Comment