Dillicious Pea Puree with Roasted Salmon


Along with babies heads and bacon sandwiches, the smell of dill really does it for me. It seems to be impossible to grow it outdoors in the UK so when I open those packets of supermarket fresh dill, the pungent, aniseedy, aroma transports me back to Greek holidays: dry heat radiating from hot stone, Retsina and decaying vegetation. The Greeks in particular cook with dill a lot; it finds its way into stews, stuffings and salads rather like the way the Italians rely on basil.

This recipe has it’s roots in some Nigella recipe, and she called the following ‘mushy’ peas. I love mushy peas but this term seems a little harsh for such as delicious dish. Puree seems more onomatopoeic. It’s also a quick one. As usual serves 2.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C and prepare the required number of salmon fillets, for preference, skin on. Once up to temperature, place the salmon on an oiled baking sheet, season with salt and pepper and a little lemon juice and put in the center of the oven for around 15 minutes.

Meanwhile peel a clove of garlic and place in a saucepan. Cover with 2 cm of just boiled water, return to and allow to boil for 2 – 3 minutes. Remove the clove from the water and pop ½ of it in a mini chopper or blender. (This gives flavour without all the bitterness of raw garlic). Pour away the water and then top up with fresh and cook around 200g of petit pois in the usual way. Drain and add the peas to the mini chopper along with plenty of dill sprigs. It’s hard to quantify exactly but keep going until you think you have enough for your own taste. You do need more to impart the flavour than you think. 4 tbsp minimum I would say. Also add about a tablespoon of lemon juice and a good dessertspoon of anything from 0% fat Greek yoghurt through to full fat soured cream. Blend to give a fairly smooth puree and then check the seasoning. Remove the fish from the oven and serve up on plates with a good dollop of the pureed peas. Scale up of course if required.

Great as a dip for new potatoes either with the salmon or without and genuinely helps use up a bag of dill. It seems to be sold in rather generous quantities. Other ‘using up’ ideas would be stuffed into sandwiches with smoked salmon, lemon juice and black pepper and Fabulously Fine Filo Fish Pie.

There will be more dillights to come…

Beach Hut Food (or almost half a dozen things to do with Tortilla Chips)

Despite the distinctly mediocre weather we have been experiencing this week, we have found our collective stiff upper lip and pressed on with our half term/Jubilee plans regardless. We like to book a beach hut on Studland beach for a week each year and this week has been the appointed one. The weather on the Isle of Purbeck can frequently render national forecasts useless and certainly for part of the time I think we have managed to suffer far less rain than some. Sunday tea time we returned from a very pleasant afternoon at the beach, switched on the TV, to find the National Anthem in full flow on the River Thames and a bedraggled choir trying to look cheerful notwithstanding the driving rain. Nightmare.

Kitchen for the week

So during a typical week, we like to cook at the beach as much as possible and over the years we have developed Beach Hut Food. This can easily be regarded as camping food and so with the camping/glamping/festival season upon us some might find the following useful. I’m not really suggesting anything very revelatory just jogging memories I suspect.

The return of the 5 layer dip; the original recipe is here but an easier or possibly more child friendly version would be as follows:

Small tin of refried beans spread on the bottom of  the bowl/saucepan/suitable receptacle.

A layer of sweetcorn from a small tin to cover the beans or a layer of guacamole from a ‘ready to eat’ tub

A layer of tomato salsa, strength to your taste

A layer of half fat soured cream

A layer of grated cheese

Arrange the tortilla chips around the bowl as illustrated. This is really good as an accompaniment to a barbecue. N.B. Doritos are not very strong and therefore not good for scooping. Sainsburys Basics Tortilla Chips are much much better in this regard.

Tortilla Soup; British summers being what they are, soup is still a must even in July at times. Cuppa soup Cream of Tomato or a tin of Heinz Tomato can be pepped up with a few drops of Tabasco sauce and tortilla chips to dip with.

Camp style Caesar Salad; this is adapted from a Nigella recipe so she deserves all the credit. Arrange some salad leaves (Little Gem are good here) in a bowl and dress with Caesar salad dressing (we like the Pizza Express Light variety). Add to that handfuls of tortilla chips and grated Parmesan or any grated cheese.

Tortilla chip sandwiches; if you are at the beach, the ‘do I have sand in my sandwich’ concern can be offset by adding tortilla chips to the filling. The crunchy sensation they provide will mask any actual sand. Again grated cheese, a drop of Tabasco and chips work well and should you have these ingredients around because you made the 5 layer dip, will help with using stuff up.

As it was Jubilee weekend, we really pushed the boat out however and had my favourite sandwich of all, baguette with smoked salmon, lots of dill, lemon juice and black pepper and whilst barbecuing constructed this user-friendly arrangement.

Frozen raw King Prawns can defrost throughout the day in a cool box. Thread onto the skewers as the barbecue is lit to finish defrosting if necessary. Fill a fish holder with the skewers and cherry tomatoes for ease of handling.

The fish holder is often filled with Bream stuffed with dill. If you have sea air up your nostrils, this barbecue dish has to be one of life’s great pleasures.

Warming up for Wimbledon

Ratatouille Style Prawn Curry

Well by now I was definitely banking on warm days, asparagus in the veg box and an opportunity to embark on a few salad recipes. What is going on with the weather? Particularly, as just two hours away by plane, Spain is experiencing some of the hottest temperatures for May on record. However, as I didn’t have the oven on today, I was considering a quick blast of central heating. (I didn’t succumb in the end – promise). So what are we eating instead with the seasonal veg shifting towards salads, courgettes and peppers, that sort of thing. I could have made a ratatouille, but you know what, it didn’t really seem ‘warming’ enough.

Curry. I think that will do it. As I have mentioned before I don’t really worry too much about authenticity with curries. I like a sharp, hot kick, usually mid-week which precludes too much genuine, subcontinental finessing. I appreciate that I should try harder and explore the cuisine with a little more diligence, but when the chilli/spicy craving strikes there simply isn’t the time. I do think though that with a good jar of curry paste and a plan, it is possible to make simple curries with distinctive punch.

Aubergines are excellent curried, one of the most delicious curry dishes I ever tried was curried baby aubergines. Spicy and creamy with some bite to the skins….Heavenly. So it wasn’t too much of a leap to get to this, serves 2:

2/3 Spring Onions, sliced, 1 cm Ginger, finely chopped, 1 clove of Garlic, crushed, 1 Courgette, roughly chopped, ½ Aubergine, roughly chopped, ½ Green or Red Pepper, sliced, 1 tin of Chopped Tomatoes, 2 tbsp Rogan Gosh Curry paste, 250g Frozen Raw Prawns, a good handful of roughly chopped Spinach (optional), Salt, Pepper, Oil and a squeeze of Lemon Juice.

In a medium-sized saucepan, heat 2 tbsp of oil and add the spring onions and ginger, stir round for a couple of minutes and add the garlic, give it another minute and then add the courgette, pepper and aubergine. Stir round and allow to sweat gently for 10 minutes or so. Stir from time to time and add a little more oil if necessary (the aubergine can really soak it up). Add the tomatoes and the curry paste and about ½ a tins worth of water from the kettle, stir to combine and allow to simmer for 15 minutes minimum, or longer if you wish, whilst you cook some rice. Keep an eye on the sauce, stir occasionally and add a little more water if required. About 5 minutes from the end of the rice cooking time tip in the frozen prawns and the spinach if using and turn the heat up slightly to bring the sauce back to a simmer. Stir frequently at this point, add some seasoning and lemon juice. Once the rice is cooked, the prawns have turned pink and the spinach is wilted, serve sauce on rice in the usual manner.

Spring fresh curry, just what we need it seems.

Sorry I don’t have an image of the final dish, but it looks like tomato sauce on rice; not particularly enlightening!

Fabulously Fine Filo Fish Pie

So according to the Hummingbird Bakery and Google Alerts, it’s British Pie Week. I’m not actually sure by ‘British’ if we are talking geographically or the more jingoistic slant of British pie recipes, but who knows or cares, it’s all about food. Actually, the more I think about it the more confused I am becoming on this point…….hmmm. Anyway, whatever this pronouncement might mean it’s not clear who is promoting it. Pastry makers? potato growers? butchers? fish mongers? the spinach society? apple growers?  the list goes on which just goes to prove that pies are perfect for any occasion, any ingredients and any season.

Coincidently, we have been having a bit of a savory pie renaissance at Cutest Cakes HQ. My better half declared when we first met that he didn’t like offal and so Steak and Kidney pie seemed to be off the menu, however after 20 years I finally lost my patience and made one recently and here are the left overs:

I made it with Hot Water Crust Pastry (with butter not lard!) which was dead easy to do, looks dead professional and in my case courtesy of the beloved Rachel Allen, and as you can see it went down a storm with the kids and kidney haters alike and so now I am a mixture of smug and exasperated!

I am also a big fan of Shepherds Pie (minced lamb with mashed potato topping) and expanded on the original recipe by devising a tagine inspired version a couple of years ago. The ’70’s-stylie picture below shows this paprika laced, honeyed delight topped with a mixture of sweet and regular potato which worked well. This was originally served up for a Bonfire Night Party so I think I shall save the recipe for November time.

At Christmas we usually have a Turkey and Ham Pie with the obligatory left overs and to be honest this is my favourite dish on the Yuletide menu. I am sorely tempted to divulge the recipe now, but again, I think I will save it up for the relevant moment.

So, I have devised a Springtime pie and as Friday is looming up I thought a fish one might be appropriate. I adore Fish Pie in all forms; creamy ones with white sauce and mashed potato, tomato-y ones with fish, peppers and a short crust pastry topping, but this has a slightly fancy slant and is a little less faffy as the topping is made with filo pastry.

I first discovered the filo pastry pie topping some years ago on a recipe card that came free with a magazine or a box of stock cubes or something like that. I have only used it as a topping with savory recipes so far but I will show you what to do with the left over pastry sheets, once you have made this recipe, next week. Very sweet, very perfumed and very luscious…..

The beauty of using filo pastry surrounds the ease of assembly and the fact that the finished result looks very sophisticated. This could easily be served up as a dinner party dish and has the required how-did-you-do-that factor! In an unusual break with tradition, I shall present this recipe in a formal way:

Ingredients: (Serves 4)

600-800g ‘meaty fish’ cod, hake, salmon, smoked haddock, that sort of thing, filleted and skinned

150ml White Wine, Juice of ½ Lemon, 125g Butter, Salt & Pepper, 225ml Cream, 1 ½ tsp Dijon Mustard, 2 tbsp Dill or Parsley, 3 hard-boiled Eggs, 80-100g Frozen Petit Pois,defrosted, a handful of Baby Spinach Leaves, 1 Packet of Jus-Rol Filo Pastry, defrosted.


  • Preheat oven to 200°C/Fan 180-190°C.
  • Place fish pieces into the bottom of a wide bottomed, deep-sided frying pan or large saucepan and add the wine, lemon juice, seasoning and about 90g of the butter, diced. Cook, covered, gently over a moderate heat for around 10-15 minutes.
  • Once cooked, transfer the fish to a pie dish with a slotted spoon, add the cream to the cooking liquor and continue to simmer the liquid for another 10-15 minutes until the sauce has reduced, thickened and coats the back of a wooden spoon.
  • Add the mustard and herbs and stir through. Remove from the heat.
  • Roughly chop the boiled eggs and stir these and the peas into the fish mixture, gently. Add the cream sauce and finally stir through and tamp down the spinach.

Right, the pastry: Melt the remaining butter in a nonstick saucepan, search for a pastry brush and set aside nearby. Unroll the filo pastry carefully, and separate the first sheet from the pile. Tear or cut this sheet into quarters and then scrunch each quarter up as shown in the picture and work your way across the top of the fish/veg filling. Cover the whole lot with the filo pastry sheets, you may or may not need them all.

Once you have finished and have no gaps showing, brush the melted butter across the top of the whole lot.

Bake for around 30-35 minutes, the top should be golden brown and the filling bubbling underneath.

You can pause the pie making once the eggs and peas have been added and pop the whole lot in the fridge once cool for anything up to 24 hours, but do not add the spinach and the pastry until the last minute. Cook for 40 minutes instead and turn down the temperature a little towards the end so the pastry does not burn. Yummy.

Finally, fold up any remaining pastry, wrap in clingfilm and fridge until I show you how to make light and airy baklava.

Do we still have fish because it’s Friday? Smoked Mackerel Pate for Leaner Lines.

What a momentous first week of blogging I have had. A few statistics are called for in the circumstances I feel, if everyone can just humour me for a second.

Update: have adjusted recipe description to make it clearer, I hope. 

I’ve had 181 overall views (awesome), best day was 52 views with the Cake Pops post (not surprising), 50 referrals from Facebook (such lovely friends), 4 of my friends commented (big thanks guys), 2 people not known to me very kindly commented about the Granola (just for the record I am a big fan of the stuff, and was pleased to see I was not alone in the universe) and I have 1 follower which I’m extremely excited about and it appears not to be my Mother.

A web-based community.

For those of us working from home it does transform our day and provides some ‘office bonhomie’.

‘Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers’. Alfred Lord Tennyson

This sharing of information and advice used to be all word of mouth, and the passing on of cooking knowhow was of course a generational, family affair.

My Mum is a good cook. I’ve always loved her food, and naturally she learnt from my Grandmother.  Very unassuming, Granny would beaver away in her kitchen producing classic british food that just tasted good and she was always interested in what you were wanting to eat next. Breakfasts of white toast smothered in butter and Marmite, boiled eggs, maybe crispy bacon, nothing unusual, but for some reason delicious and memorable. So I watched her and my Mother, subconsciously mainly, but absorbing the knowledge and skills to give me the confidence to get stuck in.

This point can thrown into sharp relief with the following, for which I have permission to share; I shared a house for a couple of years whilst at college with three other female friends, at least one of whom had received a similar educational background in cooking. So, she and I were hanging out in our student kitchen, a natural place for us to be, when another flatmate/friend arrived to make something to eat. She wasn’t much into cooking at the time, preferring the more usual social activites of an 18/19 year old and was a little prone to the odd culinary mishap, today was such a day and so when she eventually left with a sheepish grin, a hastily made sandwich, thoughts of what she would rather be doing and a mildy resigned air, my companion turned to me and declared with a sigh,

‘Of course, Wigs, the reason you and I can at least give the appearance of being able to cook is because we must have been pretty boring as younger teens and sat in the kitchen around tea-time watching our mothers!’

That wiped the slightly wry smiles off our nerdy little faces as unfortunately I suspect there was never a truer word spoken… So we might have been a little uncool, and in my case reading cookbooks rather than classics, but we had absorbed how to check the potatoes are cooked, test if a sponge is baked and peel the pith and peel from an orange (see veg box fruit salad post!). Although anything can be described in print watching it being performed makes it much easier to learn, not to mention finding oneself actually tasked with checking if the spuds are done, with competent verification coming along behind. I’m not really saying anything new or that this is good or a bad thing, it just seems like that’s the way it is.

Fish Fridays

But the overarching legacy my Granny has left (apart from her copy of Delia’s Complete Cookery Course) is that fact that she was Catholic and so my Mother always had fish on Fridays and this practice lingers on with me.

So, to the recipe for today, this I think may have been inspired originally by the aforementioned Delia, (who I will discuss at length at some other point) but it’s been stuck in my head for years and no doubt tweaked accordingly: take 2 smoked mackerel fillets and flake them into a large bowl or food processor, add to them 125ml or more easily 1/2 cup each of both cottage cheese and fromage frais or soured cream. Squeeze in a little lemon juice and either blitz in the processor, or if you want something less homogenous you can just mash it up with a fork (à la The Fabulous Baker Brothers), add a sprinkling of finely chopped parsley or dill and a little black pepper and lemon zest. Good with toast, bread sticks, carrot or cucumber sticks….

N.B. I think this will work for those on the Dukan Diet, followers of which I seem to be surrounded by at the moment so this is dedicated to all you and my much beloved ex-flatmates. Keep the faith.

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