Tuesday, 26 April 2011


Weeknight suppers are not normally a time when I hone my cheffy skills, but, inspired by dinner at The Bull on Saturday evening (see earlier post), I fancied trying to recreate, at home, the main course I had there: fillets of bream on white risotto with fresh pesto and breadcrumbs.

In many ways, this is not a cheffy dish at all - just quality ingredients imaginatively combined. Which to me is the essence of good food, whether it is cooked and eaten at home, or at a fine gastropub in deepest, darkest Dorset.....

I didn't have bream, nor did I have time to visit the fishmonger as I was working in Kensington this morning. Instead, I defrosted two seabass fillets. Sea bream and seabass are similar in flavour and texture and one can therefore be substituted for t'other, if need be. I always have risotto rice in the cupboard, ditto parmesan and all the other key ingredients for risotto, and there's usually a bag of homemade breadcrumbs (stale homemade foccacia whizzed in the Magimix and then frozen). I would have made my own pesto, because life really isn't too short for that, but again I was constrained by time: when I got home from work, I had to turn into my alter ego, and teach piano to my keen adult student who is addicted to Michael Nyman at the moment. Thus, with the theme tune from 'The Piano' still ringing in my head (dah de dah de dah dah daaah, etc), I set about making a white risotto, i.e. white onion, white rice, vegetable or fish stock, grated fresh parmesan.

The fish fillets should be lightly dusted in flour and pan-fried just as the the risotto is nearing readiness (i.e. very slightly al dente, with a creamy finish). The other constituents of this dish can be prepared in advance: take approx. 2 tbsps of breadcrumbs and lightly fry or toast in a little sunflower or olive oil in a non-stick frying pan. To this, I added a tbsp of cooked prawns - optional, not essential, but rather a nice addition (in the version at The Bull, the breadcrumbs were mixed with brown shrimp). When you are ready to serve, start with a generous serving of risotto, sprinkle with the breadcrumbs/prawn mixture and top off with a seabass fillet and a nice dollop of slick, green pesto. A quick grind of black pepper, et voila, dinner is served!

Since I am 'on the wagon' during the week, this delicious supper will be served with Lidl sparkling water. Oh well.....!

Michael Nyman, soundtrack excerpt from The Piano

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