21 March 2013

Recipes & Pan Fried Snapper with Olives & Preserved Lemon & Herby Smashed Potatoes

I have been loving fish of recent weeks.  We have a wonderful little fishmonger just down the road.  Along with wonderfully fresh fish they do their own hot smoked salmon which is quite delectable, moist & delicately smoky.  This dish must have been inspired by here over at Life’s a Feast & was thrown together very quickly without too much thought on quantities & measurements which brings me to recipes.

I was also reading this post & found it thought provoking on recipes.  It can make cooking a little more of a chore if when developing a recipe or dinner (I use the term loosely) you have to write down precise measurements & quantities.  Not to mention trying to get that perfect blog-worthy photo, especially given that what I am cooking is actually my lunch or dinner.  

After all the reason most of us cook & blog is for pleasure & enjoyment, well it certainly is for me.  For me food is about sharing, enjoying, socialising, experimenting & when I get home from work after a long day  30 minutes of quiet preparing dinner is how I like to relax & let the worries of the day wash way, while I chop & bake & cook.   I don’t want it to ever become a chore, but sometimes if it has been a busy week & there has been no time to give this little blog some attention come the weekend it can feel like an obligation, there’s the pressure to get something up & posted. Though, almost always once I get started, whether pottering in the kitchen or a little quiet time in the morning writing with a pot of coffee, it is not long before I am back to enjoying. I love creating  & the quiet.

rec·i·pe [res-uh-pee]
1. a set of instructions for making or preparing something, especially a food dish: a recipe for a cake.
2. a medical prescription.
3. a method to attain a desired end: a recipe for success.
1350–1400; Middle English to Latin: take, imperative singular of recipere  to receive

So recipes? Should they be a precise set of instructions that will deliver a carbon copy of the photo in that book, magazine or blog? For me I think not & you only have to look at some of the recipes in the old classics, the Edmond’s Cookery Book here in NZ or The Glasgow Cookery Book in Scotland to see that that was not always the case.  Recipes in these books have minimal instructions, soemtime along the lines of “cook until done” & no photos!  

I like a recipe, unless it is baking where more specific instructions are required to avoid disasters, to be a guide, an inspiration. I realise some people like the comfort of a recipe but with the likes of the recipe below, a quarter cup of mixed herbs can be what ever you like.  I needn’t even be a quarter cup it could be more it could be less depending on how much you like herbs or what you have to hand. 

So with my recipes I like to give people options, & I hope a little confidence to experiment & give it a go.  I want people not to be intimidated by a precise list of instructions but have a few guidelines that will show them how quick & easy it is to get something fresh & delicious on the table for supper,  without any trials & tribulations.  Cooking should be a pleasure not a pressure test, we are in our own little kitchens after all & not on Masterchef! 

I do think cooking is about confidence & I was lucky enough to be brought up in a home where dinner was cooked every night & both my parents are great cooks.  Every Sunday Dad would rustle up scones of pancakes for a light Sunday supper post the Sunday roast. And before them my both my Grandmothers, so what I hope is that Toast can bring a little confidence & encourage people to cook more, so I would rather my recipes show how simple it can be, rather than a list of onerous instructions that intimidate. I want people to add a little more of this or a little less of that if they like, to cook for pleasure rather than as a chore.

What are your thoughts on recipes?  Should they be a few simple, almost guidelines or a list of down to the minute instructions?

Panfried Snapper with Olives & Preserved Lemon & Herby Smashed Potatoes

Serves 4


400g Jersey Bennes* Or other potatoes that roast well agria down this neck of the woods, Maris Piper in the UK, Yukon Gold stateside.
3 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup mixed herbs, chopped (I used thyme, parsley, mint & chives)
3-4 fillets snapper depending on size, or other white fish, again it will depend where you are.
1/2 cup seasoned flour
1 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp butter
1 preserved lemon, flesh removed, rind chopped
16 green olives**

*Jersey Bennes, the quintessential new potato in NZ.

**I’ll leave the choice of olives to you.  I always have some in the pantry to satisfy, my quite frequent, cravings for briny & salty.  Today it was green olives stuffed with feta so that is what went on dinner.


Pre heat the oven to 190C / 375F

Place the Jersey Bennes in a saucepan with salted water & bring to the boil & cook for 10 minutes.  Drain & place on a baking tray & smash a little with a fork to rough them up.

Mix together the olive oil & herbs & gently toss through the potatoes. Sprinkle with a little salt & place the potatoes in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden & roasted.  It is after all the crunchy bits that are the best.

Cook the fish just a few minutes before the potatoes are ready.  Mix half a cup of flour with a little salt & pepper on a plate.  Dredge the snapper fillets in the flour & shake to get rid of any excess. Set aside.

Add the olive oil & butter to a large frying pan & heat over a medium heat.  Add the snapper fillets & cook for a couple of minutes each side until just cooked through.  A minute before the fish is ready add the olives & preserved lemon to the frying pan. Warm through & then serve the snapper over the smashed potatoes.

This was bright & fresh.  A little of the exotic provdied by the preserved lemon & the olives contributing their saltiness.

If  you like this you might like this Herb Crusted Fish with Crispy Rosemary Potatoes
One year ago Hot Cross Buns



  1. Great post, Mairi, and a great dish. Like you, I'm a bit of this and a bit of that kind of cook. I seldom follow a recipe to the letter - I usually use them more for inspiration - and I always hope that readers will feel free to do the same with my "recipes".

    1. Me too Sue, I just wish more people had the confidence :)

  2. Wow, not only that you have this awesome talent in cooking, you're also a good photographer. I like how you did those shots, and to know that they're also your meal, makes me realize you're not putting anything to it to make the color look better. Awesome!

    1. Thanks Shirley, no just as is....couldn't bear to waste food just to get the photo!

  3. Beautiful, Mairi! I do love fish and your photos are so tempting. Sometimes I follow recipes exactly (especially when baking) and other times I take more liberties and see the recipe as a source of inspiration. I guess it depends upon my mood and how creative I'm feeling! I love Nigel Slater and how so many of his recipes are really suggestions with lots of ideas to make it yours. Happy Easter!

    1. Hi Hannah, I am with you on the baking :) Nigel Slater is fantastic & I love Donna Hay for inspiration too. Hope you has an amazing Easter!

  4. I like snapper often but haven't had the fillet often

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