Pastéis de bacalhau (salt fish croquettes)

pasteis
This classic Portuguese dish traditionally uses salt cod, which is pretty hard to get hold of in the UK. Generic ‘salt fish’ makes an acceptable substitute, and I’ve added a coating of panko breadcrumbs for maximum crispiness. You can make these any size you like – bigger for a main meal or smaller for tapas-style snacks. Either way, they’ll be light and fluffy inside.
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Potato curry with fresh turmeric

curry-potato
I made this curry using fresh turmeric, an ingredient I’d been meaning to try for some time. Widely available at Thai, Chinese and Indian stores, it looks like small, orangey pieces of ginger root, and I can confirm that it’s every bit as fabulously delicious as I had hoped. Thanks, probably, to fresh turmeric, this turned out to be a triumph of home currying.

However, fresh turmeric is also the most astonishingly stainy stuff I’ve ever touched. From the knife I used to cut it, to the chopping board where it briefly rested, turmeric left a vivid reminder of its presence. Two days later, despite vigorous scrubbing with a pumice stone, my hands still look like I’ve had an accident with a fluorescent highlighter pen. Next time I’ll wear gloves, but if you’re looking for a substitute in this recipe, dried turmeric tastes absolutely nothing like the fresh stuff, so you might as well leave it out.
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Kipper fishcakes

kippercakes
Kippers are greatly underappreciated in cooking. They’re generally served whole, saving the cook the hassle of removing about 50,000 hairlike forked bones. I’d say the effort is worth it, though, because a de-boned kipper is the most intensely flavoured smoked fish for careful use in fish pies, soups or these excellent fishcakes. You need proper whole fresh kippers for this, not the bright orange boil-in-the-bag abominations of the same name.
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Seared scallops with tarragon salsa verde

scallops
This is a really luxurious and expensive starter. Since scallops are pretty amazing on their own, they don’t need much doing to them. I serve them with a fresh herb salsa verde, which is the perfect complement to the natural sweetness of the shellfish. And don’t cut the orange ‘coral’ off the scallops before cooking them – it’s the tastiest part.
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Cornbread

cornbread
This is one of the simplest breads you can make. You don’t even need to measure anything out accurately – just scoop up the ingredients in a mug, mix them into a rough batter, and bake. It’s brilliant with a nice veggie chilli, and you can customise it to your taste by adding a spoonful of sugar, or sprinkling grated cheese on top. Combining fine and coarse cornmeal gives it an interesting texture and a more corny taste. Whatever you do, it takes about half an hour from raw ingredients to finished cornbread, and it’s delicious served warm from the oven.
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The easiest crab and shrimp gumbo recipe

gumbo
When I started looking for recipes for this famous, yet (to Brits like me) mysterious, Creole dish, I was amazed at just how complicated most people seem to think it is. Take the rather ambiguous ‘roux’ base, for example. Even if you can figure out what it is, there are dozens of different methods for making it and a lot of conflicting advice on when it’s supposed to be added to the dish.

Then there’s the arcane ingredient known as filé powder, which is made from sassafras leaves. Some recipes suggest it’s virtually impossible to get outside of the US, which is complete nonsense. I’d never heard of the stuff before, but five minutes on the internet resulted in a packet of it dropping through my letterbox the next day, from a UK company, for about the price of a pint.

Anyway, this is my cut-the-nonsense version. I make the sauce in one pan and cook everything else in another, then add them together at the end. This way you eliminate 90% of the technical faffery that makes the average gumbo recipe look like something even Heston Blumenthal would dismiss as being impractical for home cooks. Adjust the quantities as you see fit – there’s no right or wrong way to do this, but the recipe below works for me.
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