Seafood, Fennel and Lime Salad

This is a straight up Ottolenghi recipe that I’ve followed almost to the letter. More herbs more lime more prawns. But it’s *basically* to the letter. It’s not often I follow a recipe so closely, but it’s so reliant on fresh flavours that you really can’t go wrong. I cooked this for a friend recently and had to buy clean and prepare baby squid for the first time. Exciting stuff. I’ve adjusted it so it’s a starter that feeds 2. Oh! And before I go into a bit of a rant. Get proper big and raw tiger prawns. And by tiger prawns, I mean proper prawns, not pre cooked tiny little shrimps. There is a big difference between prawns and shrimp. The end.

Seafood, Fennel and Lime Salad:
1 small fennel bulb - thinly sliced
1/2 a small red onion - thinly sliced
Juice and zest of 1 lime
1 garlic clove - crushed
1 tbsp fresh dill - chopped
1 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley - chopped
1 mild chilli - de-seeded and finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
6 tiger prawns, peeled and de-veined
170 g cleaned baby squid
1 tbsp sumac
2 tbsp chopped coriander
Sea salt
Pomegranate seeds to garnish

Top and tail the fennel and slice it widthwise super thinly through a mandolin into a large bowl. Thinly slice your red onion and toss them in. Whack in the lime zest, juice, garlic, parsley, chilli, one tablespoon of olive oil and a good pinch of salt. Mix it all up. Set aside.

Get a griddle pan on the stove and get it smoking hot. Mix the prawns and squid in a bowl with the other tablespoon of oil and a pitch of salt. Grill these in small batches and turn them over once. The squid should take 1-2 mins each side and the prawns 2-3 mins. You want the nice grill lines so don’t move them around in the pan.

Once they’re done, slice up the squid and toss the seafood in with your salad. You can serve this warm or a leave it in the fridge for up to 1 day. When serving, sprinkle over your sumac and coriander, taste, adjust seasoning, maybe squeeze more lime, and liberally garnish with the pomegranate seeds. EAT.

Incidentally, cleaning squid is quite fun. Carefully pull out the tentacles. Chop off the eyes and beak. Remove the flat soft bone from the hood(?) and rinse out any bits inside that. I found sacks of eggs in a couple of mine. This made me fleetingly sad for a moment, before I remembered how tasty grilled squid was.

squid prep

Mini Caprese Stacks

I made these recently as part of a four course meal. Look! It’s a Caprese salad in bite sized form! Not only are they super easy to make, but they’re also perfect little morsels to kick start a meal. Antipasto. You clever Italians you. The only thing you need to get right for this is amazing ingredients, so go for the best tomatoes and cheese you can get your grubby little mitts on. I went with piccolos and an organic mozzarella.

Mini Caprese Stacks:
Cherry tomatoes
Mozzarella
Fresh basil leaves
Extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
black pepper

Carefully shave the top and tail of each cherry tomato before you halve them, this gives them a flat base to sit on so they stand properly. Trim the stem off the end of each basil leaf. Arrange your tomatoes on a plate, add a leaf, rip a bit of cheese. Leaf. Cheese. Leaf. Cheese. Leaf. Cheese. Drizzle with a bit of oil. Bit of salt and black pepper. Done.

Glut of Cucumbers: Simple Asian Cucumber Salad

I’ve been getting a lot of cucumbers in my veg boxes as of late, and I was simply not getting through them enough. So at times like these I really love to make this simple Asian salady side dish. There’s a lot of variations of these dishes across the swathe of Asia and the only reason I’m not calling strictly calling this a Chinese pickle recipe is because I’ve not added any rice vinegar (but it is cured with the salt). Serving cucumbers in this fashion is most like Korean namul and it’s those variations of veggie sides that I love most about Korean BBQ’s.

Simple Cucumber Namul Ingredients:
1 whole cucumber or 2-3 smaller varieties
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chilli flakes or 1 small red chilli
1/4 tsp white pepper
1-2 tbsp sesame oil
1-2 spring onion finely chopped (optional)
1/2 tsp sesame seeds (optional)

You want to slice the cucumber into long strips at around 2-3 mm thick. I used to do this by hand with a filleting knife, but my cousin and his wife bought me a voucher for a cooking store last year and I got a mandolin…man…I’m loving the mandolin. When you’ve got lovely long thin strips, cut away the cucumber seed areas. Yes, I know you can eat these, but for the purpose of this dish they add way too much water, so get rid.

In a sealable container add all the above ingredients and mix until all evenly coated. You might think that there’s just a bit too much salt in this, but the salt helps draw out the water from the cucumber giving them a nicer bite (and that water will eventually dilute the salty flavours anyway). Now put them in the fridge overnight and enjoy the next day.

This recipe is pretty adaptable to your tastes, you can even add a bit of soy, grated ginger or garlic if you would like. The veg is really interchangeable: cabbage, carrots, beans, bean spouts, radish, kohlrabi…some of these veg you’ll want to par boil. I’ve served my cucumbers with a congee made with rolled oats – a healthier version of congee perhaps, but mostly because I didn’t plan to cook the rice early enough for making nice creamy congee.

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