Monday, 21 May 2012

We had a day out in Brighton on Saturday, taking advantage of the relative warmth for the first time this Spring.

First stop; Jack & Linda Mills Traditional  Smokehouse under the arches, at the seafront on Kings Road. This place is a local institution and this weekend, the queue was out of the door, I joined the queue gladly and within ten minutes was sitting on the beach happily munching on a Kipper Roll. This is a great place and I really recommend it if you are in the vicinity.

We also picked up a few wild oysters from the shellfish stall that is opposite the Smokehouse. Fresh, from Essex - they were absolutely delicious.

After a day of family fun and frolics (and some decent homemade ice cream from one of the stall under the arches too). We headed for the fishmongers down towards Shoreham. Again, this is a excellent local supplier, with very good seasonal, local produce.

Had a good look and ended up leaving with half a kilo of clams and a filleted John Dory (plus the head/bones etc). The lobsters looked especially good but Devon, my daughter, was so freaked out about the thought of one of them removing her or her little brother's fingers with one pinch that I don't think that she would have got in the car with it had I chosen one!

John Dory with Clam & Vanilla Sauce
Serves 4 as a fish course (add potatoes to make it a main)

1 good sized John Dory, filleted (bones & head retained)
500g live Clams
1 Leek (just the white part, chopped)
1 Brown Onion (chopped)
1 stick of Celery (chopped)
Flat Leaf Parsley - handful of stalks (chopped)
4 Fennel Seeds (crushed)
4 Coriander Seeds (crushed)
Half a teaspoon of ground White Pepper
Dry White Wine
Vanilla Essence
Unsalted Butter
Creme Fraiche
Samphire or green beans (about 400g)
Flat Leaf Parsley - handful of leaves (chopped)
Half a Lemon
Olive Oil

  1. Put the bones and head into a large stock pot and cover with cold water.
  2. Bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer. Skim the surface to remove the scum every now and then. ONLY COOK THIS FOR 30 MINUTES - otherwise the fish bones break down and make it very bitter.
  3. In another stock pot or large saucepan, add a slurp of Olive Oil and cook the onions, leek, celery, parsley and spices. Cook over a low heat - you want them to soften but do not let them brown. Will take about 15 minutes. Then turn up the heat and add about half a cup of White Wine. Cook , stirring until pretty much all of the wine has gone.
  4. Strain the fish stock into the vegetables and let it simmer for at least another 30 minutes, more if you have time.
  5. Check the John Dory fillets for bones and remove them. Cut each fillet into two equally sized pieces and rub them with a little Olive Oil. Season each fillet.
  6. Strain the stock again, this time line the strainer with some muslin or a clean tea towel. You need about 500ml for this recipe. Let the rest cool and then freeze it to use it in the future.
  7. Put your 500ml of stock in a smaller sauce pan and add 3 or 4 drops of Vanilla Essence. Put it on a relatively high heat and start to reduce it. After 10 minutes taste it and add salt and a drop or two more of Vanilla Essence according to taste. NOTE - THE FLAVOURS WILL GET STRONGER AS YOU REDUCE THIS SO DO NOT OVER DO IT WITH THE VANILLA OR SALT!
  8. Continue to reduce the stock until it thickens and you have around 100ml left. Take off of the heat for a couple of minutes and whisk in a knob1 of butter (about the size of a 1.5cm Cube!). When the butter has melted and combined with the stock, mix in about a dessert spoon of Creme Fraiche. Whisk it until it is all combined and put to one side.
  9. Add a little Olive Oil to a large frying pad and when hot add the John Dory, skin side down on a high heat. Cook for a couple of minutes and then reduce the heat to medium. Cook for another 4 minutes and add a knob of butter to the pan, basting the fish fillets. Turn over the fish for one minute (keep basting) then take off of the heat and keep warm.
  10. Heat another saucepan, add the Clams and a good splash of White Wine. Put the lid on and give them a good shake. When the shells open (about 4 minutes), they are ready.
  11. At the same time, blanch the Samphire / Beans in boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove and drain.
  12. With a slotted spoon, add the Clams and about a dessert spoon's worth of liquid to the sauce that you made from the stock and give it a good stir over a low heat.
  13. Remove the skin and place the John Dory on the plate with the Samphire / Beans. Spoon over the Clams and Vanilla Sauce.
  14. Garnish with some chopped parsley and squeeze over a little lemon juice.

ENJOY! In fact this dish resulted in everyone actually licking their plates clean. Just what the cook wants to see at the end of the meal!

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