Tom’s Table: My Favourite Everyday Recipes: From cheddar and ale soup to pollack with orange

Adding bold twists and flavour to traditional dishes makes for some mouthwatering results

A sprinkle of Douglas fir is a fantastic addition to pollack with orange and dill
A sprinkle of Douglas fir is a fantastic addition to pollack with orange and dill

Cheddar and ale soup

This is a super soup – ideal on its own with some bread for lunch, or as part of a bigger meal. I really like the combination of the rich, hoppy ale and the gentle acidity from the dairy. The chopped apple and malty dressing I use to garnish the soup cuts through the rich flavours and really makes them shine.

Serves 4

75g butter
1 large onion (about 175g), diced
1 large potato (about 175g), peeled and diced
70g plain flour
500ml chicken stock
500ml brown ale (your choice, but the stronger the better)
100ml double cream
350g strong Cheddar cheese, grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the dressing

4tbsps olive oil
1tbsp malt extract
1tbsp cider vinegar

To garnish

1 large Bramley apple, peeled, cored and finely diced
2tbsps chopped chives

Melt the butter in a large, heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and potato and cook gently, stirring from time to time, until softened (but don’t let them take on any colour), around 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle the flour evenly over the vegetables in the pan and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes, then stir in the chicken stock. Whack up the heat and bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook gently for about 10 minutes until the soup has thickened. Pour in the ale and heat gently for a further few minutes.

Remove from the heat, let cool slightly and then transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor. Add the cream and whiz until nice and smooth. Pass the soup through a fine sieve into a clean saucepan and season with pepper and a little salt – do not add too much at this stage as the cheese will introduce extra saltiness later.

To make the dressing, whisk together the olive oil, malt extract and cider vinegar in a small bowl until emulsified. Warm the soup gently over a low heat and stir in the grated cheddar, allowing it to melt. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and trickle a little dressing on top of each one. Sprinkle on the diced apple and chives and serve immediately.

Pollack with orange and dill

The lovely, white flesh of pollack goes really well with a citrus dressing and the earthiness of the dill. I use a bit of Douglas fir in this dish, which might seem a bit “cheffy” for everyday, but if you can get your hands on some, it’s a fantastic addition and goes brilliantly with the other ingredients. If you can’t, no worries. Just leave it out. I like to serve this with a simple potato salad.

Serves 4

4 pollack fillets, about 250g each
Vegetable oil, for frying
Flaky sea salt

For the dressing

3 unwaxed oranges
100ml olive oil
150ml cider vinegar
75g caster sugar
Small bunch of dill, chopped, a few sprigs saved for the garnish
2tbsps Douglas fir pine needles, chopped (optional)

For the coating

175g coarse yellow cornmeal
40g plain flour
1tsp salt
1tsp cayenne pepper
1tsp garlic powder

 

For the garnish
1 orange, peeled, all pith removed and cut into segments

First make the dressing. Pare the zest from 2 oranges with a vegetable peeler, keeping a little of the pith on, and cut into small dice. Place in a small saucepan, cover with the olive oil and heat very gently over a low heat, for 20 minutes or until the skin is just soft. Take off the heat and leave to cool. Squeeze the juice from all the oranges and put into a small pan with the cider vinegar and sugar. Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Let it bubble to reduce by two-thirds until thickened and syrupy. Pour into a bowl and allow to cool.

Add the orange zest and olive oil mix to the orange juice reduction and whisk to combine. Stir in the chopped dill and pine needles if using, and set aside until ready to serve.

For the fish coating, mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Heat about a 2cm depth of oil in a deep-sided frying pan or sauté pan until it reaches 180°C. Use a frying thermometer to check the temperature, if you have one; otherwise drop a cube of dry white bread into the hot oil to test it – if the bread turns golden brown in just under a minute, the oil is ready.

Dust the fish fillets on both sides with the cornmeal coating, shaking off any excess. You may need to fry them in batches, depending on the size of your pan. Lay the fish in the pan and fry for 2–3 minutes on each side until the crust is crisp and golden brown. Using a fish slice, carefully transfer to a tray lined with kitchen paper to drain. Season lightly with salt. Serve the pollack fillets on warmed plates, garnished with the orange segments and dill, with the dressing spooned over.

White chocolate and pistachio blondies

These make a tempting, sophisticated alternative to the more familiar dark chocolate brownies. The earthy flavour of the sesame seeds and oil works so beautifully with white chocolate, balancing out its sweetness. Sprinkling on a little flaky sea salt at the end is a lovely finishing touch.

Makes 16

300g plain flour
2tsps baking powder
Pinch of salt
100g shelled pistachio nuts, (bright green ones if you can find them), roughly chopped
200g white chocolate, roughly chopped
50g sesame seeds
150g butter, plus extra for greasing
300g demerara sugar
40ml rapeseed oil
40ml sesame oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 vanilla pod, split in half lengthways
Flaky sea salt, to finish

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/Gas 4. Lightly grease a 25cm square cake tin with butter and line the base and sides with non-stick baking parchment, letting some overhang the sides of the tin, to make it easier to lift out the cake later. Put the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and mix well, using a balloon whisk, to combine. Stir in the pistachios, 100g of the chocolate and the sesame seeds.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a very low heat, then add the demerara sugar, rapeseed and sesame oil, and the eggs. Using the point of a small, sharp knife, scrape out the seeds from the vanilla pod directly into the pan. Heat very gently for 3-4 minutes, whisking constantly, to combine and warm through – don’t overheat or the eggs will curdle.

Pour the warm mixture onto the dry ingredients and whisk until thoroughly combined and the chocolate has melted. Finally, fold in the remaining chopped chocolate.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 25-30 minutes, until cooked through. It should be lightly golden and quite firm to the touch. If a skewer inserted into the centre comes up slightly tacky, that’s fine, as it means the blondie will be nice and moist in the centre.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle on a generous pinch of flaky sea salt. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes, then lift out, peel away the parchment and place on a wire rack to cool. Cut into squares to serve. The blondies will keep for 4-5 days in an airtight tin.

Tom’s Table: My Favourite Everday Recipes. Published by Absolute Press, £25.99. Photography by Jenny Zarins

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