Fast-food seafood with a secret Italian ingredient

Two very different dishes that will inspire a visit to your local fishmonger

 ‘Nduja clams and tomato toasts.

 ‘Nduja clams and tomato toasts.

 

It is to my detriment that I so heavily associate seafood with the summer months but having grown up mackerel fishing with my grandfather and cousins off the back of Ireland’s Eye, fish and seafood will always be core to my Irish summer.

The hearty chowders and rich, tomato-based fish stews can wait until the winter months. Instead, fresh seafood licked by the flames of a hot barbeque is what’s called for this season. Whole, gutted mackerel stuffed with lemon and wrapped tightly in tin foil, cooked over an open fire, was the treasure of my childhood after a long day hunting for blue-and-silver bounty.

While he was doling out mackerel parcels and tinned peaches for dessert, I’m sure clams cooked with ‘nduja were far from my granddad Do’s mind while he taught us to cook, but I’m fairly sure if he was still around, he wouldn’t have turned them down.

’Nduja [in-doo-yah] is a vibrant red, spicy spreadable sausage hailing from Calabria in southwest Italy. Made with pork fat and packed with herbs, spices and the all-important Calabrian chilies, it could be compared to a super soft version of chorizo except for it piquancy and texture which truly sets it apart from its Spanish cousin.

As an ingredient it is having a bit of a “moment”; don’t be surprised to see it being used in everything from pasta to pizza and with fresh seafood. In my ’nduja clam recipe it creates a lush and creamy sauce to coat the plump morsels and is spread generously on sourdough toasts brushed with tomato and garlic – ideal for mopping up that liquid gold.

As much as I enjoy spice with my seafood, sometimes cooking a humble fish supper with a little butter in the pan is all that’s required. I hope you can excuse the simplicity of this dish but with only a handful of ingredients you can create a rather satisfying dinner that allows the freshest of fish to shine. A creamy cauliflower mash, wilted spinach, garden peas, and your choice of fish – real and honest, seasonal, fast food. Two very different seafood dishes but two which quite happily complement each other, and will ideally inspire a visit to your local fishmonger.

Pan-fried fish with cauliflower mash and garden peas

Pan-fried fish with cauliflower mash and garden peas.
Pan-fried fish with cauliflower mash and garden peas.

Any white fleshed fish works well here and even mackerel fillets would be nice. The cauliflower mash is incredibly easy to make and is a great side dish to recreate for other recipes.

Serves 2

  • 2 hake or cod darns, skin on
  • 200g frozen or fresh peas
  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • A good knob of butter
  • A large handful of spinach
  • Sea salt and black pepper

For the mash:

  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • A small knob of butter
  • 3 tbsp cream
  • 3 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked

Bring a pot of water to the boil before adding salt and the cauliflower florets. Cook for approximately 6 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender when pierced with a fork. Using a slotted spoon, remove the florets from the water and transfer them to a food processor along with the butter, cream and thyme.  Blitz on high until a smooth puree forms. Season to taste. Transfer to a bowl and keep warm.

With the water still boiling, add the peas and blanch them for 3 minutes before draining and refreshing in ice water.

Place a frying pan over a medium high heat and add the butter and oil. When the butter is melted, season the fish with black pepper before placing skin side down to cook for 3-4 minutes. Carefully turn the fish and add the spinach and peas, cooking until the leaves are wilted and the fish is cooked all the way through. Add another knob of butter at this point to baste the fish as it cooks.

Spread the cauliflower mash across two warm serving plates. Top with peas, spinach and the cooked fish. Season with sea salt and black pepper and serve.

’Nduja clams

 ‘Nduja clams and tomato toasts.
 ‘Nduja clams and tomato toasts.

Speciality food stores are most likely the best spot to track down ’nduja and it is worth the effort. When preparing clams, tap open ones against a work surface and discard any that don’t close or have cracked shells. Leave to sit in a bowl of cold salted water for at least 20 minutes before cooking to purge any sand or grit that remains.

Serves 2

  • 500g clams
  • 100g ’nduja
  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 1 large shallot finely chopped
  • 200ml cider or dry white wine
  • 3 tbsp double cream
  • A good handful flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

For the tomato toasts:

  • 4 slices sourdough bread, toasted
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1 ripe beef tomato, sliced in half
  • 150g ‘nduja
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt

Place a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the ‘nduja, broken in to small chunks. Fry until golden and the red oils are released. Add the butter, shallot and garlic and fry for 2-3 minutes, until the shallot is tender. Pour in the cider or wine and bring to the boil.

Discard any clams with broken shells and any that refuse to close when tapped. Add the clams to the cooking liquor, cover with a lid, and allow to steam for 4-5 minutes, or until the shells open completely, shaking once or twice during cooking.

Once cooked, using a slotted spoon transfer the clams to a serving bowl. Stir the cream and parsley into the pot and season to taste. Pour the cooking juices over the clams and serve.

Brush each sourdough toast with the garlic clove, rub vigorously with the exposed tomato halves and spread with ‘nduja. Drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt.

Serve the clams with the tomato toasts to mop up the sauce.

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