Delia Smith's Winter Collection
MARCH 29 2012

Why, oh why am I so darn bad at cooking fish?!? I can't understand it. Am I using the wrong pan? Is the pan not hot enough? Do I need a fancy fish spatula? I was determined not to mess up the fillets for dinner tonight. "I can do this! Just use lots of butter and get the pan super hot." Fish into the pan with a reassuring sizzle. Okay, lets turn these babies. AAARRRGGHHH!!! It's all sticking and falling apart and I start panicking and... ugly, ugly, ugly.

Delia's fish, from her website. SEXY!

yup... that's how I do it. TORTURED!

Backing up a few steps. There are eleven fish dishes in Delia's Winter Collection, so I knew I would have to face this at some point. Today I chose one of the simplest and lightest and decided to pair it with baked celery (not sure about celery as a side dish, but we shall see).

First I whipped up the romesco. Fry garlic, jalapeno and walnuts in a super hot pan until dark browned and blistering, then into the food processor. Now the tomatoes go into the pan until "charred and blackened all over". Due to an extreme lack of patience and the serious smoke that started to pour from the pan, my tomatoes weren't quite to the blackened stage... but, oh well! Puree with the jalapeno mix then emulsify with olive oil. I couldn't get it to the "consistency of mayonnaise", but it still tasted pretty darn good.

blackening my pan more than the tomatoes


Now to turn my attention to the celery. I always chop the root-end off celery the day I buy it to allow single stalks to be easily pulled from the bag, so am out of luck with the "keeping them attached to the root" step. Oh well. My jumble of celery ends and pieces is quickly browned with the shallots and transferred to the foil. Next bacon... yummmm! Once crisp, it joins the celery along with an assortment of aromatics, white wine vinegar and olive oil. All packaged up and into a screaming hot oven for 20 minutes.

frying the celery jumble

ready for the oven. yummm... bacon.

Okay fish, lets do this. Dunk in milk and dust with the flour/parm coating, then into what I believe to be a sufficiently hot pan coated with scads of butter and oil. What happens next happens every time... panic and horror. Fish sticking and breaking apart and then the shredded bits start to burn. I don't want to miss out on the crispy parm coating, so I scrape it off the bottom of the pan into a dish, thinking it will now be a crunchy topping sprinkled over the ravaged fillets. Maybe a different pan will be better? Um... nope. Not helpful. Just more dishes to wash. Geeeez. What is wrong with me.

Finally, the fish is cooked through and I scrape it into a pile on each plate, top with crunchy parm bits and cover with romesco. The celery smells of bacon and vinegar and herbs... intriguing. Time to eat. The fish actually tastes really good. The crispy parm bits (which would make a lovely crust if done correctly) add rich saltiness and the romesco is fresh and light. I do like the celery, although it's a bit stringy and maybe next time I'll peel the larger stems. Of course, anything tastes good with bacon!

baked celery. actually smells really nice.

dinner looks a little sad, but was pretty darn tasty!


Serves 4

4 x 6 oz thick fillets of fish (skinned cod, haddock, monkfish, turbot or halibut)
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 dessertspoon finely grated Parmesan

2 fl oz milk
1 oz butter
1 tablespoon oil for frying
Salt and freshly milled black pepper

For the sauce:
3 large cloves garlic
2 green chillies, halved and de-seeded
1-1/2 oz walnuts
3 ripe plum tomatoes, skins removed
6 fl oz extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly milled black pepper

For the garnish:
A few flat-leaf parsley sprigs


To make the sauce, take a good solid frying pan and heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over a medium heat, then lightly saute the whole garlic cloves for about 3 minutes or until they feel softened and have turned golden. Then add the chillies and walnuts and continue to cook for another 2 minutes.

Now tip them into a processor, then return the pan to a high heat and when the oil begins to smoke, cut the tomatoes in half lengthways and place them in the hot pan cut side down. Keep the heat high and cook the tomatoes until they are charred and blackened all over - this will take about 1-1/2 - 2 minutes on each side. Next add the tomatoes to the processor, turn it on to a low speed and with the motor running add the rest of the oil in a slow, steady stream. The sauce will then begin to thicken and assume the consistency of mayonnaise.

After that add some seasoning, then transfer the sauce to a jug or bowl and stir in the balsamic vinegar. Cool, cover with clingfilm and chill until needed. But let it come back to room temperature before serving. When you're ready to cook the fish, mix the flour, seasoning and cheese together on a plate and pour the milk into a shallow dish.

Now wipe and dry the fish with kitchen paper. Then dip each piece first into the milk and then into the flour mixture, making sure it's well coated and that you shake off any surplus. Next heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan and as soon as it's really hot cook the fish for 2-3 minutes on each side, depending on its thickness. The coating should be golden brown and as soon as it's cooked remove the fillets carefully with a fish slice to warm serving plates. Serve with a little of the sauce spooned over, and garnish with the parsley.


1 head celery
3 slices pancetta or smoked streaky bacon
6 shallots, peeled

3 tablespoons light olive oil
1 or 2 thyme sprigs
1 rosemary sprig
4 sage leaves
1 dessertspoon white wine vinegar
Salt and freshly milled black pepper


Pre-heat the oven to 475°F.

Begin by removing the tough outer layers of the celery, then pare the outside of the root off, but leave it attached. Now cut across the celery about 3½ inches from the base. Stand the lower half upright and cut vertically through the centre. Then cut each half into 4 to make 8 pieces, keeping them attached to the root. Save a couple of nice leaves (preferably attached to a small stem) and trim the top pieces of celery to a similar length to the base, cutting off any really tough and stringy edges. Now wash all the pieces and dry them on kitchen paper.

Next heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a frying pan, then lightly brown the celery and shallots, keeping them on the move so they brown evenly. Now transfer them to a plate. Increase the heat under the pan, add the pancetta and fry the slices until they're really crisp – it will take 2-3 minutes and you'll need to keep turning them.
Next lay the silicone paper over the baking tray and lightly grease a circle of 9 inches on it. Arrange the celery in an attractive shape on the paper, putting the prettiest pieces on the top, add the shallots, thyme, rosemary and sage leaves in among it, and season with salt and pepper.

Now combine the remaining olive oil and wine vinegar, sprinkle that over the vegetables, followed by the pancetta crumbled into pieces with your hands. Next fold the silicone paper over and seal, making pleats, all round – you may find a couple of metal (not plastic) paper clips useful here, as it's essential to keep the steam trapped inside.

Place the parcel in the pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes. After that carefully unwrap the paper – you may need scissors – and serve the vegetables with the juices spooned over.

These recipes are taken from Delia Smith’s Winter Collection.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Web Analytics