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Recipes: Capture the moment

All three dishes here were chosen for their ease of preparation, and for the ready availability of the produce used. The recipes allow the cook to avail of the freshest ingredients at the market, and also to take advantage of any special offers.

For example, it would be simple to substitute another whole fish for the sea bream should you come across a bargain. Equally, if strawberries are out of season, a wide range of seasonal fruits and berries such as kiwi or blackberries can take their place in the pavlova.

The zuppa di pesce is authentically Italian. The ingredients combine very well -- but note that it's very important to fry all the seafood in a very hot pan so it all gets some colour, as doing this adds an extra depth of flavour to the dish.

The sea bream dish is very simple, rustic and tasty. When fish is cooked on the bone it stays very moist, and the flavour is greatly enhanced. Here it is baked whole, with the cherry tomatoes and the spinach added later, and all the juices released by the fish during cooking are captured in the sauce. The one-dish manner of presentation makes this a particularly hassle-free main course, and it is also very good value for money.

Pavlova, likewise, is a very cost-effective and efficient dessert, and just perfect as a light after-dinner treat. Crispy on the outside, slightly soft and chewy on the inside, it is a great way of using up unwanted egg whites.

There are many elements to making the perfect pavlova. Clean equipment is very important, as is clean sugar. Because of its sweet, fluffy texture, plenty of ingredients are compatible with it -- soft fruits, clotted cream, vanilla, nuts, chocolate, and coulis of any sort. Children, in particular, love this dessert.


Serves 4.

You will need:

4 red peppers

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400g (14oz) chorizo sausage

Olive oil for frying

4 whole langoustines

16 mussels

16 clams

8 crab claws

500g (17oz) cod, diced into 2cm cubes

400g (14oz) tin chopped tomatoes

1 glass white wine

1 tablespoon garlic, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

Dice the red peppers and the chorizo sausage. Heat the olive oil gently and fry the peppers and chorizo sausage together at low heat for 20 minutes until the peppers are softened.

In a large, very hot pot, cook the langoustines, the mussels, the clams, the crab claws and the diced cod for a minute with some olive oil.

Add the chorizo sausage and red pepper mixture, then add the tin of chopped tomatoes, the white wine and the chopped garlic. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook for 4-5 minutes. Serve garnished with the chopped parsley.


Serves 4.

You will need:

500g-600g (17oz-21oz) whole sea bream -- or the same amount of another white fish, depending on what is best at the market

1 tablespoon garlic, chopped

Olive oil for frying

200g (7oz) cherry tomatoes, halved

100g (3½oz) fine green beans

200g (7oz) spinach, chopped

2 glasses white wine

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Chargrill the whole sea bream on both sides, placing it under the grill for five minutes each side. Then set aside for a few minutes to allow the juices to redistribute, reserving any juices that escape from the cooked fish.

In a deep pan, fry the chopped garlic with the olive oil. Add the halved cherry tomatoes, the fine green beans and the chopped spinach. Then add the white wine and the reserved cooking juices of the fish. Cook for 12-15 minutes to reduce the liquid by a third. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and garnish with the chopped fresh parsley. To serve, put the sea bream in a casserole and garnish with the vegetable mixture.



For the pavlova, you will need:

3 egg whites

130g (5oz) sugar

For the filling, you will need:

200g (7oz) whipping cream

50g (2oz) caster sugar

Seeds from ½ vanilla pod

100g (4oz) mascarpone cheese

Fresh strawberries, to serve

Preheat the oven to 100°C, 212°F, Gas ¼. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Whisk the egg whites and the sugar until they are stiff and shining. Shape the meringue into six nests on the lined baking tray. Make an indentation into each one. Bake for 1½ hours.

Whisk the whipping cream, the caster sugar and the vanilla pod seeds until soft peaks form. Fold in the mascarpone cheese. Decorate with strawberries.


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