Cream of Mussel Soup with Saffron

Fiona Kirk Cream of Mussel and Saffron Soup.jpeg

(makes 4 servings)

If you love mussels, you will love this soup. The broth is seriously shellfishy but at the same time very delicate and despite the addition of cream, not at all cloying.  And, as this soup is a bit of a treat and is rich in protein, minerals and good fats, I feel no guilt whatsoever in advising you to have some freshly-baked bread on the side - it is simply one of those soups that demands a bit of dunking!

Ingredients

10 saffron threads (no need for absolute accuracy here!)
300ml strong fish stock (if using ready-made stock or pastes/cubes, make/buy twice what you need and reduce by boiling until you have somewhere close to the required amount of stock)
1.5kg fresh mussels, de-bearded, barnacles chipped off and well-washed (discard any that don’t close when tapped against a hard surface)
4 tablespoons double cream
1 tablespoon dry sherry
3 egg yolks
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
Lemon juice
Fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped

Method

  • Put the saffron threads in a cup, add 1 tablespoon warm water and let them infuse for at least 10 minutes.
  • Put the stock in a soup pot and bring to a rolling boil. Add the mussels, cover and shake, keeping the heat high until the shells have opened (about 5 minutes). Discard any unopened mussels then drain, retaining the liquid.
  • Strain the liquid through a very fine or muslin-lined sieve to get rid of any grit or bits of shell and return to a clean pot then shell the mussels and keep them aside, covered while you make the soup. You can keep some in their shells for topping/decoration if you wish.
  • Add the sherry and the strained saffron infusion to the broth and stir over a low heat until hot but not boiling then whisk the egg yolks into the cream in a cup or small jug and drizzle slowly into the broth, whisking all the time, raising the heat (so you achieve a continuous bubble not a frantic boil) until the broth thickens slightly. This can take around 5 minutes or more but be patient - you are looking for a double cream sort of thickness, not lumps of scrambled egg in a milky broth!
  • The minute you have reached the desired consistency, remove the soup from the heat and season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice.
  • Add the shelled mussels and stir gently for a few minutes to allow them to warm through before serving with some finely-chopped parsley scattered over the top if desired.

Aubergine Curry with Meat, Poultry, Fish or Tofu

Aubergine Curry with Meat, Poultry, Fish or Legumes.jpg

Ingredients

(makes 4 servings)
1 ripe mango, peeled, stoned and diced
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped mint leaves
Sea salt
Fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon light olive oil
450g fresh, skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 large or 2 small aubergines, wiped and cut into bite-sized chunks
225g button mushrooms, cleaned and halved
6-8 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 teaspoons peeled and grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, peeled and grated/mashed
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 level tablespoons Thai red curry paste
½ teaspoon chilli flakes
2 heaped tablespoons ‘no added sugar’ almond butter
250ml unsweetened almond milk
250ml coconut milk
240g tinned or jarred chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 good handfuls roughly chopped coriander leaves
2 good handfuls roughly chopped basil leaves
Raw cauliflower (white only) box-grated and steamed of microwaved for a couple of minutes

Method

  • The salsa: mix the mango, sugar, mint, a good pinch of salt and a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice together in a bowl, cover and set aside.
  • The curry: warm the olive oil in a large, shallow pan and sauté the chicken pieces until lightly-browned and just cooked through before removing them (and their juices) to a dish and setting aside.
  • Add the coconut oil to the pan, warm through then sauté the aubergine, mushrooms, tomatoes, ginger and garlic over a medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Return the chicken pieces and their juices to the pan and continuing to sauté for another few minutes, stirring carefully so as not to break up the vegetables.
  • Mix the curry powder, Thai curry paste, chilli flakes and almond butter into a cupful of the almond milk and stir well until very smooth then add this mix to the pan followed by the rest of the almond milk, the coconut milk and the chickpeas. Stir well, bring slowly to the boil then turn the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Just before serving, add the basil and coriander to the curry and stir to combine for a scant minute or two before serving on a bed of the cauliflower with the fresh mango salsa alongside (good quality mango chutney also works well).
  • NB: replace the chicken with the same amount of turkey, lean lamb, veal, firm white fish, fresh prawns or tofu (all cut into bite-sized chunks before sautéing in the olive oil until just cooked through as per the chicken).
  • ALSO: you can play around with the spices if you like your curry hotter or milder and add more or less of the almond butter.

This is truly amazingly good - one of my resident ‘tasters’ declared it the best curry she has ever had... and it tastes great with all the different protein choices making it a meal that can be regularly repeated without diet boredom creeping in! It also freezes well.

Stuffed Avocados

Stuffed Avocado

Firstly: take a ripe avocado, half it, remove the stone, scoop the flesh out of both halves with a spoon (make sure you scrape it clean as a lot of the goodness lies very close to the skin) and dice the flesh into a bowl with a good splash of lemon or lime juice to keep it from discolouring before deciding what to add. If it is a large avocado, leave the stone in one half, paint the flesh with lemon/lime juice and wrap it tightly in clingfilm for later (or tomorrow). If it’s a small avocado, use both halves.

Next: decide on what vegetables/fruit you want to add to the mix and dice, finely slice or grate them.

Then: add some protein and some sort of sauce or dressing and mix the whole lot into the diced avocado.

Finally: scoop your ‘combination’ into the empty avocado shells and top with some crunchy nuts and/or seeds.

Vegetable/Fruit Choices: tomatoes, cucumber, radishes, courgettes, carrots, peppers, chilli, roasted artichokes, olives, peas, corn, celery, spring onions, seaweeds, apple, pear, pomegranate, kiwi fruit, grapes, cherries.

Protein Choices: cold, cooked meats, cooked fish and shellfish, chopped egg, cooked beans, lentils and chickpeas, hummus, tofu, soft and hard cheeses.

Sauce/Dressing Choices: sour cream, mayonnaise, yoghurt, raita, salsa, extra virgin olive, avocado, nut and seed oils, horseradish, chutney, dressings.

Nuts and Seeds: fresh, roasted or toasted.

Here are a few of my favourite combinations:

  • Fresh prawns or crabmeat, sliced radish, chopped boiled egg, natural yoghurt and toasted pine nuts.
  • Tinned salmon, chopped boiled egg, sliced mixed olives, sliced cucumber, natural yoghurt, lemon juice and a good dash of smoked paprika powder.
  • Cottage cheese, grated courgette, grated apple, diced tomatoes, mango chutney and toasted flaked almonds.
  • Quickly sautéed bacon bits, sliced, ready-roasted peppers, raisins, parmesan shavings and shelled pistachios.

Crab, Salmon and Avocado Salad


(makes 4 servings)

This is a particularly delightful mix and the addition of the pickled fennel and avocado ‘cream’ are (I have to say, modestly) inspired!

Ingredients

Cider vinegar
Water
Sugar
Sea salt
1 bulb fennel, trimmed, root removed and very finely sliced
150g fresh white crab meat, flaked
5 drops Tabasco
Fresh lemon juice
2 avocados, skinned, stoned and roughly chopped
100g good quality (or homemade) mayonnaise
100g crème fraîche
30ml fresh lime juice
1 green apple, cored and diced
100g smoked salmon in thin slices
Freshly ground black pepper

Method

  • Combine a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of sugar, 1 tablespoon cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon water in a small pot, bring just to the boil, turn off the heat, add the fennel, cover and set aside until cool.
  • Mix the crab meat with the Tabasco and a dash of lemon juice, grind in some black pepper, cover and set aside.
  • Mash the avocado with a fork (or in a blender) with the mayonnaise, crème fraîche and lime juice until it is smooth and creamy.
  • Place the smoked salmon slices on a serving plate, scatter the diced apple around, drain the pickled fennel and add to the plate along with the crab mix, drizzle the avocado ‘cream’ over the whole lot, scatter more freshly ground black pepper around and serve.

Crispy-topped Baked Fish, Tofu or Chicken

Crispy-Topped Baked Fish

(makes 1 serving)

The tasty topping can be made in advance, making this dish a real ‘no brainer’ when you’re tight for time. It works really well with fish, chicken or tofu but you can play around with the ingredients dependent on what’s in the fridge.

Ingredients

1 white fish fillet or
1 slice of tofu (around 2cm thick) or
1 medium-sized skinless chicken breast
1 tablespoon oats
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons olive or coconut oil
3 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
2 heaped teaspoons tomato puree
1 medium-sized tomato, sliced
15g Parmesan cheese, grated

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6.
  • In a small bowl, mix the oats, parsley and lemon juice, lightly season and set aside.
  • Warm the oil in a small sauté pan and cook the spring onions over a medium heat until soft then add the tomato puree and mix well. 
  • For fish or tofu: Place a sheet of baking foil in a small oven-proof dish, place the fish or tofu in the middle and pull up the sides of the foil so you create an open-topped parcel.
  • Top the fish/tofu with the spring onion/tomato puree mix, arrange the tomato slices on top and finally the oat mix (don’t close the parcel) then place the dish on a middle shelf in the oven and bake until cooked through.
  • Thin fish fillets and tofu will take around 5-6 minutes, thicker/denser fish fillets will take around 8-12 minutes. Have a peek and check that the fish flakes nicely and the juice is clear.
  • Remove from the oven, turn the oven off and the grill on (to a medium heat), scatter the cheese on top, grill on the lowest shelf until the cheese melts and is just beginning to brown (around 5 minutes) then with a fish slice, lift the fish/tofu onto a warmed serving plate and spoon over the cooking juices.
  • For the chicken: Place the chicken on the foil, lightly season, add a splash of oil, scrunch the foil so it creates a loose but sealed parcel and bake for 10 minutes then open up the parcel, top as per the fish/tofu and bake for a further 10 minutes or until the juices run clear and the chicken is cooked through.
  • Continue as before and serve.

Parcel Baked Fish

Fish in a Parcel

(makes 1 serving)

Fish was born to be baked in a parcel. All the juices meld together creating a delicious, quick and super-healthy meal. Get friendly with your local fishmonger, buy fish and vegetables in season and add herbs and spices to sharpen things up. This is one of my favourites.

Nutrition Bite: Asparagus contains significant amounts of the nutrient inulin, which doesn't break down in the digestive tract. Instead, it passes undigested to the large intestine, where it becomes a food source for healthy bacteria which is responsible for better nutrient absorption, a lower risk of allergies and a lower risk of colon cancer. 

Ingredients

1 white fish fillet of choice
1 generous handful fresh spinach leaves
1 small onion, peeled and very finely sliced into rings
6 fresh asparagus tips
1 ripe tomato, sliced
1 small red chilli, de-seeded and finely sliced (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh parsley or coriander leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons good olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6.
  • Lay out one piece of aluminium foil about 12-14” square and place the spinach on it.
  • Lay the fish fillet on the bed of spinach followed by the onion, asparagus, tomato, chilli (if using) and herbs.
  • Drizzle the lemon juice and olive oil over and season lightly with salt and pepper.
  • Fold the foil to create a parcel, leaving plenty of space around the contents, place on a baking sheet and bake for around 25 minutes or until the fish is cooked and the juices run clear.
  • Timing will depend on the thickness of the fish fillet so take a peek after 25 minutes. Be careful when opening the foil as hot steam will escape.
  • When cooked, lift the contents of the parcel onto a warmed plate and spoon over the delicious juices.