I’m quite proud of this dish, but I can’t take all the credit. The almond and chorizo part is from ‘The Primal Blueprint: Quick and Easy Meals‘ by Mark Sisson. My brother bought the book last week, and I’d been combing through it for ideas when I found this one. We eat way too much meat, and as much as I like cooking steaks, lamb and chicken, occasionally I get all ‘balanced diet’ and the like. Plus this recipe is quite cool. This site has the full run down on Marks recipe, but I’m having the same problem with this as most recipes from these books. They’re just, well, a little boring on their own. And I don’t do boring, not really, unless I’m talking about getting a full extraction for an espresso shot, and I start going on about dosing levels, fresh beans, pre-infusing, even distribution. And only then, because I’ve been banging out shots for over ten years now and am constantly exposed outside my own workplace to insipid under or over extracted shots that just want me to take two portafilters and bash them against my head until someone stops this inhumane treatment of coffee beans, please! Just grind to order, backflush at least once an hour, maybe even manually pull your shots rather than relying on dodgy flow-meters, perhaps you could age your beans and start grinding them around the 10 – 14 day mark, hey, why not thoroughly clean, and I mean really clean, your machine every day! Show some pride for Christ’s sake! I mean- what? Boring? I’m boring you? I don’t do- Oh, right, that was out loud wasn’t it …
Soooo …. This recipe only has the crust and the fish. That’s it. Again, maybe somewhere else in the book there’s an accompaniment that has the requisite tone to sound great next to the fish, but I didn’t find it. So I made one up. And I’m quite proud of it.
Now, I don’t do cross-fit like my brother does, I seem to be allergic to sweat. Anyways I tried to do some pull ups the other day, and after three I had strained my neck and decided to call it a day. I might have a slight pot belly, but I find it to be an endearing part of my figure, it gives tone and balance. So cooking things from the Paleo Way as it were; its more to keep my brother happy, and I guess I really enjoy the challenge. Of major benefit to myself though, is the lack of dairy in the Paleo Diet. After struggling for years with eczema on my hands, I’ve finally (thats right, only took 12 years …) discovered that I’m rather intolerant of lactose, and to a certain extent, most kinds of dairy products.
Now, if you’re starting to wonder what this has to do with this recipe, bear with me. Because it’s got to do with mash, of the potato kind.
Potatoes are definitely not Paleo, which is a shame, because mashed potatoes when done right are one of the more enjoyable aspects of a whole range of dishes. Like bangers and mash, or steak and mash, or casserole and mash, or fish and mash, or roast potatoes and mash. Its really good. But, potatoes ain’t Paleo. Let alone the cream and butter you need to make really, really good mash. And cream and butter make my hands go all red and itchy. Which is really not nice.
So, the solution? Sweet potato mash. Sweet potatoes (back home we call it ‘Kumara’ but no one seems to understand what I’m talking about here) aren’t strictly Paleo either, but most Paleo Dieters, after giving up sugar, peas and mashed potatoes, kinda wink and let it slide; after all that fitness and health, there’s a dark place inside all of them that wants to be bad. What about the butter and cream? Well, in steps my new friend; coconut milk. And that, my friends, is how a legend dish is born. Oh, you’re gonna like this.
Almond & Chorizo Crusted Fish with Saffron Sweet Potato Mash & Broccolini
- Fish Fillets (I used to work in an amazing restaurant back home, Martin Bosley’s, and he had a fairly simple credo when it came to cooking: eat what’s in season, eat what’s local, eat what’s fresh. So no, I’m not going to tell you what fish to use, but I’d go with something local and something fresh. If pushed, I’d say something a little meaty in texture, on the more mild side flavour wise, a canvas upon which to paint, if you will.
- Chorizo (mild or packing some heat, it’s all down to personal preference)Parsley (you could time-warp back to 1982 and go curly, but I’m a flat-leaf kinda guy)
- Whole Blanched Almonds (I’m not a fan of slivers, too much oxidization …)
- Smoked Paprika (if you’ve got a good Spanish shop nearby, go all out and buy the most expensive tin they’ve got. You really won’t be disappointed)
- Good Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil (no skimping here, splash some cash)
- Sweet Potato (Golden, it’s got to be the Golden type. They’re usually huge as well, try and avoid these ones, going for the smaller ones if possible. Life becomes a little easier down the page or so)
- Coconut Milk (not cream, but you know this by now, right?)
- Saffron (if this is the first time you’ve bought saffron, welcome to the worlds most expensive spice)
- Broccolini (or beans I guess, if they’re in season, ditto asparagus. Actually, if its Spring in your neck of the woods, definitely use asparagus. This recipe behooves you to use asparagus. There, done it; I used ‘behooves’ in a sentence. Tick)
General Aside FAQ Business: Where are the quantities, the teaspoons, the grams?
Where I think it appropriate I always try and give exact measurements. But that’s for things like baking or the like. Generally, I’ve got a bit of faith in your ability to read through the recipe (which you’ve done already, right?) and use quantities and amounts that you think will be reasonable for your dinner table. Only two of you? Then get two fillets. Like your mash? Get a heap of sweet potatoes. I’m going to trust more in your ability to feel your way through the cooking process by your hands, your eyes, and most importantly, your tastebuds, than merely reciting back a bunch of cups and teaspoons that I know you’re not really going to adhere to. Who uses one teaspoon of cumin anyways? I always use two.
First … The Almond and Chorizo Crust:
I’d get the crust ready for the fish first. Dead simple.
Take the skin off the chorizo, then finely dice. Roughly chop the parsley, then finely chop the almonds up ala rustic style. Rustic style? Almond, chopping board, knife parallel to chopping board, five centimetres above, bang down, repeat. You’re going to need to toast some of these almonds for your broccolini later, so might as well do that now. The rest you can place into a bowl raw with the chorizo and parsley, add a slug of olive oil, a good dash of your expensive new tin of smoked paprika, and mix together into a rough paste. Season with a small amount of salt and pepper (you’ve got to be wary of the chorizo and how much salt that might be bringing to the mix) then set aside.
Next … The Fish:
It’s possible you may need to do some tidying up of the fillet, trimming the edges and making all the fillets uniform, this kinda helps them all cook relatively the same. Once trimmed etc, grab a baking tray, line with some baking paper if you hate to scrape things off later on, and lay the fillets down inside. Evenly coat your glorious mixture of almonds, chorizo and parsley over the fillets, then place in the fridge, covered, ready to get in the oven later on.
Next … The Sweet Potato Mash:
A little more effort than usual is required for this one, but it’s definitely one of those whispering “worth it” moments.
Get the oven cranking up to 180 degrees fan baking. Place two to three cloves of garlic in some tin foil, add a dash of olive oil, wrap up all nice and snug, then place in the oven. My entirely scientific measurement for when they are ready is about five minutes after you start smelling garlic. Have fun with that.
In the mean time, grab a large metal bowl if you have one (we’re going to need to re-heat this later on …) and pour in around half a cup of coconut milk. Add a good pinch of saffron; I’d probably go under rather than over as far as quantities go. With a whisk go back and stir in the saffron every few minutes or so, and marvel at its ability to turn white into gold. It’s as if it were magic.
Have you got a vegetable steamer? No? Go buy one. Spent all your money on tins of Spanish smoked paprika and saffron? Well, you could peel then boil the sweet potato until soft but I like to steam it with the skins on. That’s why you want the smaller sized sweet potatoes; its easier to steam and easier to peel off the skin afterwards. I make that sound a little easier than it is, because it’s not really. The sweet potato is rather hot; I’d recommend a teatowel in one hand holding the potato while you use a paring knife to rid the damn thing of its skin. And that’s not even the fun part yet!
Now, hopefully you’ve been smelling the sweet, sweet aroma of roasting garlic emanating from the oven, and have taken out the silver nugget of garlic goodness. Shed the foil of it’s booty, take the skin off the cloves, then, using a sieve in one hand and a spoon in the other, pass it through the sieve into the bowl of saffron infused coconut milk. Only it won’t fall into the bowl, you’ll need to scrape the now-mashed garlic off the other side of the sieve. It all adds to the frivolity.
How’d that go? Got the whole hang of passing stuff through a sieve with a spoon? That’s awesome, because now you need to do it with the sweet potato. That’s right, you probably could just use a potato masher, and mash it all together in the bowl with that hideous instrument. But this is the big leagues now baby, we’re going all out to get the Max Flavour. I mean texture, because that’s what this technique is all about; texture. It is so much better. So go for better. You deserve better. Keep telling yourself that whilst your hands are cramping up passing the damn sweet potato through the sieve. You. Deserve. Better.
Some salt and pepper, a dash of olive oil, and start mixing it all together to form a super smooth consistency. Which will be easy because you used the sieve. It may be a little dry, so add some more coconut milk if needed. I get a little OCD on this and have the coconut milk simmering slightly in a pan before adding it, because by now it’s probably gone stone cold. But I’ll get to that in a moment. For now bask in the glory of your accomplishment.
Next … Back to the Fish:
You left the oven at 180 fan bake right? Take the fish out of the fridge and place into the oven on the low shelf. It depends on the fish but around 5 – 7 minutes should be good before moving it up a shelf and banging the oven onto grill; we want the chorizo crispy and the almonds toasty. It would probably pay to keep a close eye on this. When you think its done, remove from oven and allow to rest. Everyone likes to rest after some tanning. Or baking, roasting then grilling.
Next … The Broccolini:
While the fish is resting you should have the steamer back working, and if you want to re-heat the mash without the aid of the magic box (microwave people, that’s the microwave) get another pot of water going on the stove with the bowl of mash on that, stirring often. Or cover with cling film and nuke in the box, it’s up to you. Maybe you are super organised and the mash is still warm. Yay for you.
So, steamer up and going, get the broccolini cooking through for a few minutes. It never really takes that long, and crunchy broccolini is always better than old people mush food broccolini, which is not cool. Unless you’re old, or have poor teeth. And if you have poor teeth you probably are old. In which case bravo for giving this recipe a go.
Next … Assembly:
I have no flash tricks for this, plate it how you want. Just make sure you season the broccolini and sprinkle the almonds you toasted earlier over the whole thing, maybe a splash of olive oil too. Get a few wedges of lemon ready for the fish and artfully stack up on the side of the plate.
Pour yourself a glass of Albarino or Fiano.
Take a deep breath.
And just enjoy this meal.