The weather may be cold and just a little dreary right now, but it doesn’t mean we have to be grey and grumpy as well. So to beat the gloom, let’s try to evoke those hazy, lazy days of summer by laying the table with brilliant blues, dazzling whites and the colours of those smooth, sea-glistening pebbles on the coast. Then draw the curtains against the weather outside, dress in something floaty and put on Jimmy Buffett’s “Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude” to set the mood. Light a myriad of candles to enhance the glow and invite a bevy of friends and family to join the fun. All you need is a favourite recipe – one that sings to you of summer, warms the soul and doesn’t keep you in the kitchen. Here is one of my favourites for you to share, if you’d like.
(A quick and easy bouillabaisse)
800g white fish fillets, cut into rough chunks
400g cooked and peeled prawns
200ml olive oil
2 tbsp Pernod
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 can of chopped Italian tomatoes w/garlic and olive oil
400ml fish stock
1 tbsp parsley, chopped
1 tbsp lemon zest
1/2-inch thick slices of French bread, brushed with olive oil and toasted for 15 minutes in a 350°F oven, until golden.
Remove any skin or bones from the fish.
Mix together the olive oil, onion, garlic, chilli and fennel seeds. Tip into a pan and add the tomatoes and stock. Bring to a rapid boil, add the fish and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the prawns and stir in the Pernod. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To serve, put a big dollop of aioli on each of the French bread croutons and float them on the soup. Sprinkle with a little chopped parsley and lemon zest. Put the remaining croutons in a napkin lined basket on the table, as well as a bowl of extra, very more-ish aioli!
For the aioli:
Tiny pinch of saffron threads
1 1/2 tablespoons warm water
2 large egg yolks
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
100ml extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Pinch of Cayenne pepper
In a small bowl, soak the saffron threads in the warm water until disolved. In a deep bowl, combine the egg yolks, garlic, Cayenne pepper and salt, and whisk to combine. Very slowly, dribble in the olive oil, whisking all the time. You can add the oil a bit more quickly after about half has been absorbed, but go very slowly at first or the mayonnaise may separate.
Add the saffron and its soaking water, then use the lemon juice to swirl around in the bowl to catch any of the remaining saffron essence and whisk into the aioli.
In this painting, Ntombi is preparing her own special version of seafood stew. With robustly fresh vegetables from her little garden, fish caught a scant few minutes ago from just down the beach and stock which has been simmering since sunrise creating a bouquet of appetite inducing aromas, Ntombi will produce a meal that would make even the most lauded Michelin starred chef quake in his Lobbs.