Grilled Plaice with herbs

Grilled Plaice with herbs

This is another really quick dinner for when you don’t have a lot of time or inclination to cook.  I never really liked flat fish much before seeing how Nigel Slater cooked it in his book, “Real Fast food”.   Use plaice, sole or lemon sole, which will take a bit longer as it’s more robust.  The same treatment is also lovely for fancy flat fish such as turbot or halibut, you will just need to cook the whole fish for longer, possibly in the oven.

The herbs aren’t crucial but they give massive health benefits (anti-inflammatory, gut-bacteria balancing, angi-ageing – the list is endless).

For 2:

2 sole or plaice fillets, about 160g each
Extra virgin olive oil – couple of teaspoons
About 1 dsp fresh thyme leaves
Optional: 3 heaped dsp chopped fresh/frozen parsley or scissor-snipped chives, or a mix of both.
A fresh lemon half, to squeeze over
Freshly ground black pepper

To serve: 6 cups steamed veg e.g. broccoli or runner/green beans OR 4 cups of greens and 2 cups steamed carrots or (not suitable for SC Diet) steamed slices of sweet potato.  The orange veg give you more nutrients than in white potatoes.

1. Put your veggies in the steamer and keep warm when cooked.
2. Heat your grill to medium.
3. Brush a baking sheet or the shiny side of a large piece of tinfoil with a little olive oil and place on your grill rack, laying the fish, skin side down, on top.
4. Smear or brush the fish with the olive oil and sprinkle over the thyme leaves and a few good grinds of black pepper.
5. Grill till tender and opaque, about 5 mins.  It’s done when the point of a knife goes through the fish like a hot knife through butter.  The baking sheet/tinfoil helps cook the underside of the fish so you won’t need to turn it at all.
6. Manhandle the fish onto warmed plates using a fish-slice or spatula, and scatter over the parsley and/or chives.
7. Serve with the veg and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and hand around the lemon to squeeze over.

You could use a small knob of butter, melted gently and brushed on, instead of the olive oil, if you want to,  provided you don’t need a 100% dairy-free diet.

Why this is good for you:
White fish is a source of high quality protein that’s low in saturated fats.  Herbs, especially fresh thyme, are a rich source of antioxidants that help lower inflammation in the skin (eg eczema), arteries (heart disease), and digestive system (eg. colitis, gastritis).   Extra virgin olive oil, especially when eaten raw, is a great way to bump up your intake of vitamin E.  Vitamin E moisturizes your skin from within.  This vitamin also helps keep the blood thin, assisting circulation to the brain, hands and feet.   Vitamin E has also been shown to play a part in dampening down an over-active immune system (e.g. allergies, auto-immune diseases).   

Baked sea bream with oregano

Baked sea bream with oregano

This dish is inspired by the flavours of Greece – fresh white fish, lemons, garlic and oregano.  I saw a prepack product and thought “wouldn’t it be nice to make the fresh version”.  It only takes a few minutes to get in the oven and is bursting with flavour and freshness.  We enjoyed it with steamed leeks, courgettes and carrots sprinkled with some extra virgin olive oil.

For two:

Lemon, garlic, oregano for fish

Lemon, garlic, oregano for fish

2 x 160g sea bream or sea bass fillets
1/2 cup (about 100ml) white wine (or 4 tbs water and 1 dsp lemon juice)
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil or (if you want dairy) a knob of butter
Zest of 1 small lemon (organic or scrubbed with soapy water and rinsed)
1 clove garlic, crushed or finely sliced/chopped
Handful fresh oregano (about 5 x 12cm sprigs), stalks removed (if you don’t have fresh oregano you could use fresh tarragon or 1 tbs of chopped thyme leaves)
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 200C
2. Lay the 2 pieces of fish skin side down in a small roasting tin or ovenproof dish.  3. Pour over the wine (or water with lemon juice), the olive oil or butter and sprinkle on the lemon zest and garlic and a few good grinds of black pepper.
4. Chop the oregano.  Reserve half for later and sprinkle half over the fish.
5. Cover the dish with tinfoil and seal the edges.  Or use a close-fitting lid.  The idea is that the fish steams in the liquid and stays succulent, rather than roasting and drying out.  Bake for 8-10 minutes until the fish is cooked through.
6. Serve sprinkled with the remaining chopped oregano.

Serve with:
Any green vegetable.  We like steamed leeks and broccoli.  And optionally some carrots or carrot mash.

Why this is great for you:
Oregano and garlic can help supercharge your health and vitality.  They both act against overgrowths of disease-causing bacteria and yeasts in your gut.  The bacteria that live in your gut outnumber the cells of your body 10 to one and they have a massive impact on mental and physical health.  Not having enough good bacteria, or an overgrowth of bad is a major factor in skin conditions and digestive troubles.  If you take antibiotics, eat food with glyphosate (herbicide) residues, or eat a high carbohydrate diet, your gut bacteria will not be all they should be.  Garlic and oregano can help start to set things right.  Garlic, oregano and lemons also contain anti-ageing, anti-inflammatory compounds that protect your brain and your joints and slow down the accumulation of wrinkles.  Unprocessed white fish is a good source of high-quality protein.  Protein is needed for helping us eliminate natural and man-made toxins.  If you team the protein up with (more than half your plate) greens and multicoloured veg you have a winning formula for energy and vitality. 

Really easy thai green fish curry

Really easy thai green fish curry

We had this for dinner last night – what a lovely change after all the festive overindulgence….

This recipe is great with fillets of lemon sole or monkfish.  You could also use cod or hake though these do have a tendancy to break up more easily (so don’t stir during cooking or they will go to mush).   Thai Curry paste from Western companies like Sharwoods is less hot then that from Asian shops so choose whatever you prefer.   This recipe is also good made with shelled king prawns which can be cooked from frozen (but don’t cook for more than a few minutes or they will become tough!).

For two:

2 medium white fish fillets (about 130-150g each), skinned and cut into bite sized cubes
1 large onion, roughly chopped or a bunch of spring onions, cut in 2cm lengths
200g frozen peas (for alternative, using courgettes, see below)
2 cloves garlic, crushed or chopped
2-3 teaspoons Thai green curry paste (or yellow/red if you don’t have green)
1 small tin coconut milk (165ml tin from Asian shops/good supermarkets)
Juice of 1 small lime (or use the juice of half a lemon)
2-3 heaped tablespoons chopped fresh coriander if you have it
Optional: 1 dsp of Thai fish sauce

1. In a wide bottomed saucepan or frying pan on a medium heat mix the coconut milk, curry paste, and fish sauce if using, and stir until smooth
2. Add the onion and cook, covered, till softened (about 8-10 mins for white onions, about 3 minutes for spring onions).
3. Add the garlic, peas (breaking the lumps up), courgette if using, and fish to the mix in the pan and stir well to coat everything in sauce.  If the mixture looks a little less saucy then you would like or looks like drying out, add a tablespoon of water (the fish will give off liquid during the cooking too).
4. Cover with a lid or a plate simmer for about 5 minutes until the fish is opaque.
5. Squeeze over the lime (or lemon) juice, and sprinkle on the coriander.

Serve with:
Low carb or SC Diet:
Grains (not suitable for SC Diet):
Brown basmati or long-grain rice cooked with ½ teaspoon of turmeric to give a beautiful golden colour.
100% buckwheat noodles (Health stores/Asian shops)

We ran out of peas the other night and used a couple of large courgettes instead.  Sliced into 1cm disks and added 5 mins after the onions, they are delicious too.

Ketogenic diet option:
Avoid using the peas and instead use courgettes, and don’t use rice or noodles instead.  As a cheat, you could use “zero” or “slim” noodles from Asian shops or health stores, which are made from konjac.  Konjac helps feed good bacteria in your gut, which can aid weight loss.  Konjac is not absorbed or digested by your body, so they effectively have zero calories!!

Why this is good for you:
Herbs, spices (in curry paste) and garlic give a huge boost to your health, helping detoxification, reducing inflammation and delaying ageing (great news for any of us over 30!).  If you want beautiful, clear skin and a healthy digestive system, cooking daily with herbs, garlic and spices is a winner.  All green vegetables are rich in magnesium, which also helps us to relax, sleep well and feel upbeat.  Coconut milk is high in good fats called medium chain triglycerides which are great for energy, being burned off by your body instead of being stored in fat cells.  Coconut also contains lauric acid and caprylic acid, both of which help prevent excessive yeasts and “bad” bacteria in your gut.   Coriander helps bind (and safely remove) toxins in your digestive system, especially mercury which you ingest (every time you eat) if you have old-fashioned silver-coloured dental fillings.   Cooking at low temperatures like this (100C or less), instead of frying or roasting, keeps more nutrients in your food too. 

Rogan josh cook-in sauce for chicken, fish, beans or pulses

Rogan josh cook-in sauce for chicken, fish, beans or pulses

We ate this last weekend after arriving back from a few days away, desperate to get away from bland food.  This is a beautiful, aromatic cook-in sauce for vegetables, white fish or lean meat.  People always ask for the recipe when I serve it up.  It is equally nice with fish, chickpeas, or chicken. You could also use it to reheat leftover cooked lamb or beef or as a cook-in sauce for peeled prawns.  It stores well in the freezer so you could make a large batch, freeze in individual portions, and thaw as needed. this amount of sauce is enough for 4 people, or 2 with leftover sauce to put in the freezer.

3 medium onions
3cm piece fresh ginger
2 large fat cloves garlic (optional)
1 tbsp virgin coconut oil (or olive oil if you can’t get coconut)
1 rounded tsp ground coriander
1 level tsp ground cardamom
1/2 level tsp ground cloves
1 level tsp ground cinnamon
1 rounded tsp turmeric
1/3–½ level tsp chilli powder (optional – avoid if you don’t like heat!)
1 x 65ml tin coconut milk (or 60g creamed coconut + 300ml/1¼ cups boiling water)
300ml/1¼ cups passata (sieved tomatoes) or 1 tin tomatoes, liquidized
1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
A food processor/liquidiser

1. Finely dice the onion, grate the ginger and crush the garlic.  Place in a saucepan with the coconut oil or olive oil and 1 tbsp water and sweat them with the lid on over a low heat until the onion begins to soften/go translucent.
2. Add the spices and sweat for a few more minutes.
3. If using creamed coconut, dissolve it in the boiling water and place it in a food processor.  If using coconut milk place in the processor with around 200ml water.  Add two-thirds of the onion mixture and process until smooth.
4. Put the processed mixture back into the pan and add the passata and fresh coriander.  Simmer for 5 mins, then season to taste with pepper.
5. Freeze in containers ready for future use or use for cooking any of the ideas below.
6. Serve with brown rice.

Cook-in ideas (just heat sauce in a heavy-bottomed saucepan to prevent burning, add your ingredients to be cooked, then cover with a lid):

  • Fish & veg: Allow 100-120g white fish (skinned and cut into 2.5cm cubes) and 2 cups of broccoli florets or thawed/fresh peas per person.  If using broccoli, cook it in the sauce until almost done, then add the fish, which only takes a few minutes.  If using peas, you can add the fish and peas at the same time.
  • Chicken & veg: Allow 100g chicken fillet (cut in 1cm slices or 2cm cubes) plus 2 cups sliced runner beans or broccoli florets per person.  Heat the sauce, add everything else, cover with a lid and cook till done, stirring occasionally (around 10 minutes).
  • Chickpeas & veg:  Allow 1 cup of cooked drained chickpeas plus 2 cups green veg (eg. broccoli florets or green beans) per person.  Throw the whole lot into the simmering sauce, cover with a lid and cook for around 8 minutes until the vegetables are softened but not overcooked.

Why this is good for you:
Research shows that all spices have anti-aging, antioxidant, health-boosting properties.  Onions and garlic are great sources of soluble fibre, which feeds the helpful gut bacteria needed for proper digestion, mental clarity, and clear skin.  Soluble fibre also binds to natural and man-made toxins (such as chemicals, used-up hormones, and medications) in your digestive system, ensuring that they exit the body quickly and as safely as possible.

Sea Bass al’Aqua Pazza

Sea Bass al’Aqua Pazza

This is my simple take on a gorgeous dish I once ate in Italy.  You know how it is, sitting in a beautiful piazza on a hot summer’s night, everything is amazing.  It still tastes pretty good on a drizzly Irish evening though and looks impressive even though it’s REALLY easy.  If you can’t bear to eat whole fish, just use fillets, cooked skin side up, instead.  You will need to cook the other ingredients first for 5-10 minutes so they soften before adding the fish fillets.  Fillets would take about 10 minutes to cook through wheareas the whole fish take longer.  See the bottom of this recipe for why it’s great for you.

Serves 2

120ml or 1/2 cup dry white wine
3 dsp extra virgin olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and roughly sliced
2 small or 1 medium seabass (or bream if you prefer), gutted and cleaned
12-14 cherry tomatoes
3-4 large sprigs of fresh basil
Freshly ground black pepper
A heavy-bottomed pot/frying pan with lid
To serve:
4 generous handfuls or cups of broccoli florets/green beans

1. Lay the fish in the pot (cut off the head first if you need to to get the fish flat in the pot, or if you don’t like seeing the head on your dinner plate).
2. Cut each cherry tomato quarter to half the way through – this allows the juice to flavour the whole dish as it cooks – and add to the pan with the wine, olive oil, garlic, basil, and a few twists of black pepper.
3. Put the lid on, place on medium heat, and simmer for about 20-25 minutes (depending on the size of the fish) until the fish is tender and a skewer easily pierces it right through.  Pull the pan off the heat and leave it covered while you steam your greens.
4. Serve the fish with the greens with the winey herby juices spooned over.

If you’re not wanting to lose weight you could also add a few babies boiled potatoes.

Why this is good for you:
White fish is a great source of high quality protein which is needed for repair and maintenance of your whole body, including your skin, hair and digestive system.  Olive oil, herbs and tomatoes are rich in antioxidants which also aid repair and slow ageing.  Green veg are rich in magnesium which is crucial for relaxation of your nervous system.  Allowing your brain to wind down means your body can do the housekeeping.  That is: healing, digestion, repair, regeneration.  Chronic stress derails all.