Take my word for it, you won’t find any ready-meal that can compare with either of these two totally scrummy fish platters. We have access to the finest ingredients for them, too. Norfolk crab and locally caught white fish for a start. You can use fresh prawns, too, for the “Walewska” (pronounced “vall-ess-ka”). If you use frozen ones, make sure they’re North Atlantic in origin – they are cold-water crustaceans, and take several years to mature, which gives them a better, more complete flavour than those originating in the warm waters around places like Indonesia, where maturity takes just one year.
Ingredients for two servings of three Crab Cakes as a main course (to serve four double up the ingredients)
1 smallish onion, red for preference, peeled and finely chopped.
1 celery stalk, finely diced
200 grams of white crab meat
Half tsp of ready-mixed mustard
2 tbsp mayonnaise.
1 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs
A dash of Tabasco sauce, and/or a pinch of chilli pepper.
Salt and pepper to taste.
1 tbsp olive oil for frying.
1, Heat the oil and gently fry the onion and celery until cooked through.
3. Mix the crab with the breadcrumbs, mustard, Tabasco and mayonnaise and breadcrumbs. Include the hot pepper at this point if you are using.
4. Form into six round cakes and chill for about 25 minutes.
5. Heat a little olive oil in a pan then fry the cakes for about three minutes on each side. They should be golden, crispy brown.
6. Serve with a dipping sauce (lobster-based would be perfect), other wise some mayo.
7. Accompany with a green salad, with a lemon based dressing and a young and fruity white wine.
8. Alternatively, for a fuller meal, stir-fry some mixed vegetables (finely sliced mushrooms, carrot, cabbage, salad onions and anything else you fancy – leavened with several dribbles of oyster or soy sauce and pepper) and serve them with the crab cakes and some quick-cook noodles.
This is an all-time favourite of mine – a dish based on a recipe of the 1960s dreamed up by chefs at the then famous fish restaurant chain of “Wheeler’s”. So good is it that whenever some Swedish friends visit they always ask me for it. “It is the best fish dish we ever ate”, they say. It tweaks up a basic Béchamel sauce with a little dry sherry, adds it to cooked fish, tops it with cheese and browns under a hot grill. Be careful not to over-do the sherry. You can use any firm white fish you like, and a mixture of seafood, too. For those of deep pockets, lobster treated this way is……perfick.
Ingredients for 4- 6 servings
350 g filleted firm white fish – cod, haddock, sea bass or, if you can find (and afford) one, Dover Sole
250 g North Atlantic prawns
125 g mushrooms, thinly sliced
Half litre of Béchamel or white sauce
1 des-sp dry sherry
60 g grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper
1. Take a good knob of butter and melt in a small frying pan.
2. Fry the lightly seasoned sliced mushrooms, turning from time to time until the juices have evaporated. Remove and set aside.
3. Poach the fish fillet in milk and a little butter, salt and pepper. When just cooked through, remove from the pan and reserve the milk mixture (which should be used in the Bechamel sauce); skin the fish if necessary and flake coarsely.
4. Mix together the cooked mushrooms, fish and prawns.
5. Take one large, or four/six small heatproof dishes and spoon in the fish mixture.
6. Stir the dry sherry into the Bechamel sauce and spoon over the fish.
7. Sprinkle the grated Parmesan cheese over the top and put under a hot grill until top is nicely brown and bubbling.
8. A Walewska needs little accompaniment other than lovely fresh bread for supping up the sauce, but a green salad will complement it nicely.
9. For your wine, look no further than the Chardonnay grape. A good Chablis for a dry and “old-fashioned” one, or a more in-your-face Australian or Californian if you will.