Sand sole, or witch flounder.


Just the usual day. Crossed Essex Road with Pauline, immediately crossed back again ‘cos her bus had finally arrived, witnessed a car shunt another car, bit of shouting, crossed back over the street again and popped in to Steve Hatt the fishmonger. Much banter, including terrible puns about Baghdad which I won’t repeat. When I finally stopped giggling like a child and got round to asking Marsey what was good, he recommended sand sole, “like Dover sole but cheaper”.

Never heard of it.

So I bought 2, had them skinned and cleaned and brought them home. When I looked them up I discovered that they are also known as witch sole or witch flounder. Made for me, really.

On Monday I had stolen some very fresh herbs, thyme and rosemary, from Aisling’s kitchen (thanks, Aisling!) and there were tiny tomatoes from the plants on the balcony.

For 2:

2 Sand sole, skinned and cleaned

4 sprigs of rosemary and 4 of thyme

8 small tomatoes, lightly roasted in the oven

2 crushed cloves of garlic

1/2 teaspoon seasalt

Preheat oven to 220ºC/425ºF/gas mark 7

Place the whole tomatoes on a flat tray or sheet of foil in the oven while it’s warming up.

Simply place the sole on some foil in an ovenproof dish, place the herbs, slightly pre-roasted tomatoes, garlic and salt on top. Pop in the pre-heated oven for 20 -25 minutes.

It’s that simple. SO delicious!

I served them with sauteed mixed veg; carrots, red peppers, mushrooms, broccoli.





Beetroot Risotto – Thanks to Amelia!

beetroot_photo.jpgI was lucky enough to meet kindred spirit foodie Amelia Stewart of Cook First recently, and invited her to contribute a guest recipe to the Essex Road treasure chest of recipes. Here it is!

Beetroot Risotto

Beetroot is exceptionally nutritious (and delicious!) being full of antioxidants. Beets are also an excellent source of folic acid, manganese and potassium.  Practising my my ‘no-waste’ mantra, this recipe uses the entire beetroot vegetable; beet leaves are rich in calcium, iron as well as vitamins A and C, and taste similar to spinach.

This beautiful dish makes a vibrant and wholesome lunch or supper; perfect with a decoration of fresh rocket and a large glass of Soave.

Serves 4

Cooking Time: 1hr 35 minutes

500g beetroot (peeled)

1 tbsp vegetable oil

730ml good quality vegetable stock

30g unsalted butter

1 white onion (finely chopped)

3 gloves of garlic (finely chopped)

250g Arborio risotto rice

125ml white wine

100g beet leaves (chopped)

4 tbsp pecorino (finely grated)

  1. Preheat your oven to 190C. Halve the beetroots (if large) and place on a baking tray. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover with a sheet of foil and roast for about 50 minutes, until a tender when prodded with a fork. Remove from the oven to cool. Once cool enough to handle, cut into 1cm cubes.
  2. Place about 1/3 of the cubed beetroot in a blender with 30ml of stock and whizz until pureed.
  3. Next put the butter and vegetable oil in a saucepan on a high heat and toss in the onions and garlic. Turn down the heat and let them simmer and sweat for about 5 minutes until they have softened.
  4. Next add the rice and stir to coat all the grains in the onions and garlic. Next add the wine and stir again.
  5. Then add a ladle of stock, stirring until all absorbed. Add ladle by ladle until you have used all the stock and keep stirring for about 15 minutes. Then add the rest of the beet leaves, beetroot cubes and the puree and cook – stirring constantly so the bottom doesn’t burn – for about 2 minutes.
  6. Take off the heat and stir in 2 spoons of the pecorino cheese. Divide between 4 bowls and dust with the remaining grated pecorino and lots of ground black pepper.


Food improvisation.

IMG_0165Step 1. Walk into Steve Hatt the Fishmonger and ask Marsey what’s good.
Step 2. Buy turbot. Wince slightly at the price, but, hey, it’s worth it!
Step 3. Go home, sniff and sip everything in the drinks cabinet until you find something that smells as if it might go well with turbot.
Step 4. Place thin citrus slices on whole turbot, add a splash of olive oil and a measure of Quetsch d’Alsace Eau de Vie
Step 5. Place in pre-heated oven (220ºC) for half an hour….

And since the oven is hot anyway, may as well roast these slices of 3 types of beetroot – thank you, Market Garden.IMG_0167

Slivers of beetroot with everything…


Beetroot is just coming in to season now. I know that lots of people buy those shrink wrapped pre-cooked things, but for me nothing beats (geddit?) the texture and flavour of fresh, raw beetroot.

The leaves are tasty too, so if your greengrocer has beetroots with the leaves on, don’t waste them… I cook beet leaves in the same way as I cook spinach; just toss them in a little hot oil in a pan for a couple of minutes. Then season with salt and pepper and sprinkle a few sunflower seeds or pine nuts over them to serve.

Lately I’ve been slicing raw beetroots very thinly using a potato peeler. (Today I made the mistake of doing that while wearing a pale grey dress. I now have a rather attractive pale grey and red spotted dress.) The flavour is very strong, so even a paper-thin slice has plenty of sweet tanginess. Last week I served raw slivers with oven-roast lamb merguez sausage and a little rocket as a starter – the slightly bitter tang of the beetroot and rocket is a perfect balance to the yummy, fatty sausage.

And today, the most colourful salad; frisee lettuce, little gem, avocado, lamb’s lettuce, rocket, basil, sweet red pepper, cherry tomatoes and shaved beetroot. .  I’ll be serving that later with some pumpkin and pine-nut fiorelli and grated parmesan. Head round here if you’re in the neighbourhood! 😉

(If you have supported the recipe cards project, thank you! I’m told your copies should be dispatched to you shortly. The Unbound website says that the box sets are sold out, but contact me directly here and I’ll get you a set.)

Bantered Haddock (not a typo).

As you will know by now, I like to go into the local shops and ask them what’s good today… On Saturday, Marsy (pictured here looking a bit dangerous) at Steve Hatt the fishmongers reeled off (Fishing joke, gedditt?) a list, and it was the haddock that took my eye. The lads asked me how I was going to cook it, and I said, “I don’t know, you tell me.”  Banter ensued. I was warned that Chef Guy (who also works at Steve Hatt) would use lots of French chef words and I wouldn’t understand him. So I plucked up the courage to ask him, and he said, “Fry it. With butter.” Very French. So I did.


Well, I added a few little extra touches of my own as follows:

Serves 4.

You will need:

1.5 kg haddock. Skin on, bones out, cut into 4 evenly sized pieces

A cup of breadcrumbs seasoned with a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper and 2 tsps powdered sumac.

3 tbsp oil and a knob of butter (couple of tablespoons for those of you not prepared to guess what a “knob” is 😉 )

What to do (roughly speaking):

Spread the seasoned breadcrumbs out on a large shallow dish

Pat the haddock fillets dry with kitchen paper, then one by one press them firmly but gently into the breadcrumbs, first one side and then the other. Place them on another flat plate while you…

… heat a mix of cooking oil and butter in a large frying pan until it’s really hot.

Place the haddock pieces skin side down into the pan, turn down the heat slightly and cook for 5 minutes

Very gently turn them over with a fish slice and cook for 5 minutes on the other side. To check that they are cooked, gently insert a knife into the centre of one of the fillets and prise it open to take a look inside.

I served the haddock with some tiny new potatoes and a salad of red lettuce, cos lettuce, spinach and thinly sliced sweet red pepper dressed with mustard vinaigrette.

Thanks, chef guy. Thanks, everyone at Steve Hatt, everyone at the Market Garden, and everyone at James Elliott Butchers.

And thanks to all of you for your patience re. the recipe cards. I’m told they should be ready on 23rd June




The Market Garden has recently added a nice little Caribbean section which is where I saw these. Having no idea what they were, not even the soggiest clue, I bought some.

Turns out that eddoes (or malangas in Spanish) are tropical root vegetables, something like a potato or a yam. They are thought to have originated in Asia, but are very common in Caribbean and Brazilian dishes.

The first thing that I noticed was that when I peeled off the fibrous skin was that the flesh  is quite sticky. This is probably because they are very starchy and high in calories.

After boiling them whole for 15 minutes I sliced them into discs about 1 cm thick (the centre was still quite hard), and fried them in oil for about 2 minutes each side. Then I added them to a spinach and chick pea curry. Really yummy – more interesting in texture and taste than potato.

Next week I’m going to use them in a fish curry. I’ll let you know the verdict, and the recipe. Stay tuned