Nigel Slater's 20 best Observer recipes: meat, fish and seafood dishes

 ,  |  Updated: October 30, 2013 11:21 IST

Nigel Slater's 20 best Observer recipes: meat, fish and seafood dishes
Mussels, grilled duck and squid in part 2 of Observer Food Monthly's celebration of Nigel Slater's first 20 years with the Observer
• Part 3 appears tomorrow

Baked squid with chilli tomato sauce

Ask your fishmonger to clean and prepare the squid for you, keeping each body sack in one piece ready to stuff.

Serves 4
medium to large squid 4, cleaned and prepared

For the stuffing
breadcrumbs 150g
anchovy fillets 6
lemon the grated zest of 1
flat-leaved parsley, chopped 20g
olive oil 6 tbsp
large tomato 1

For the sauce
medium onion 1
olive oil 2 tbsp
red chilli 1
large tomatoes (not beefsteak) 3
red pepper 1
vegetable stock 200ml

Make the stuffing: put the breadcrumbs in a mixing bowl.

Chop the anchovy fillets and add them to the breadcrumbs with the lemon zest, the parsley, olive oil and a seasoning of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roughly chop the tomato into small dice and mix into the stuffing.

Place the squid bodies on a chopping board and stuff them using a teaspoon. Push the stuffing along the body with your fingers, getting as much as you can in without splitting the skin.

Place the stuffed squid in a dish. If there is any stuffing left over, scatter it over the dish. Drop the tentacles into the dish.

Set the oven at 180C/gas mark 4.

To make the sauce, peel and roughly chop the onion. Leave to soften in the olive oil in a deep casserole.

Halve, seed and finely chop the chilli and add to the onion. Roughly chop the tomatoes and thinly slice the pepper (discarding the core and seeds), then stir into the softening onion.

Continue cooking for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft. Pour in the vegetable stock, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook for a few minutes.

Spoon the sauce over the squid and bake in the oven for 45 minutes until piping hot.

Mussels and bacon on toast

Makes 4 small rounds, enough for 2 as a light lunch
white bread 4 rounds
mussels 32
smoked streaky bacon 8 rashers
butter 50g
lemon juice a little
chopped parsley 1 heaped tbsp

Using a tea cup as a template, cut a round disc from each round of the bread. Scrub the mussels, tug off any beards, and tap each one hard on the side of the sink. They should close tightly. If they stay open, then discard them.

Tip the wet mussels into a large stainless-steel pot, cover with a lid and put them over a high heat. Let them cook in their own steam for a couple of minutes, removing them from the heat as soon as the shells open. Pull the mussels from their shells.

Cut each rasher of smoked streaky bacon into short strips about as wide as your little finger. Toast the bread.

Melt the butter in a frying pan, then add the bacon and let it fry until the fat is golden.

Tip the mussels into the pan, frying them just long enough to warm through. Season with a very little salt, a squeeze or two of lemon juice and the chopped parsley.

Tip the sizzling bacon and mussels over the rounds of toast and eat immediately.

Grilled duck salad with lemon grass and ginger

As the heat in this salad is mostly confined to the chilli, you can add as much or as little as you like. There are plenty of citrus flavours and fresh mint in here so it can take quite a bit of heat. If you are making this for four, use only three large cloves of garlic.

Serves 2 as a main-course salad
plump duck breasts 2, about 400g in total
spring onions 5
lemon grass 3 stalks
ginger a large knob
garlic 4 juicy cloves
vegetable or groundnut oil 2 tbsp
hot red chill 1 medium-sized
shelled peas (frozen are fine) 100g
plump, ripe limes 2, about 5 tbsp juice
nam pla (Thai fish sauce) 2 tbsp
caster sugar 1½ tsp
coriander a small bunch
mint a small bunch
mixed salad leaves for 2 to serve

Season the duck breasts and grill them, turning from time to time, until they are nicely and thoroughly browned, and tight and springy to the touch. Leave them to rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove the root and most of the green from the spring onions and slice the rest thinly. Peel and discard the coarse outer leaves from the lemon grass, then slice the inner leaves very finely into small rings. Add to the spring onions. Peel the ginger, and shred it into fine matchsticks. Peel the garlic and slice it very finely.

Warm the oil in a shallow pan, stir in the spring onions, lemon grass, ginger and garlic and fry at a gentle sizzle, stirring almost continuously until everything is pale gold and the smell tantalising. Meanwhile, seed and finely chop the chilli and stir it into the ingredients in the pan. Cook the peas briefly in boiling water, drain and cool.

In a small bowl, mix the lime juice with the fish sauce and caster sugar. Pull the leaves off the coriander and mint and chop roughly (you will need a good handful of each), then stir into the dressing.

Put the warm duck breasts on a chopping board and slice them thickly, about five or six slices to each one.

Toss the duck breasts, dressing and spring onion mixture gently together and leave for 5 minutes. Rinse the salad leaves, divide them between two large plates or shallow bowls, add the peas and put the warm duck salad on top.

Orecchiette with sardines and breadcrumbs

When mixed together at the last minute, this lovely dish of warm pasta, crushed sardines and crisp breadcrumbs is a wonderful jumble of piquant and homely flavours. Even with seriously good sardines it's a cheap dish. I sometimes add a handful of raisins or sultanas - the occasional bursts of sweetness are a good contrast for the capers and lemon. Use any pasta you have to hand.

Serves 2
orecchiette 250g
parsley a handful
sardines in olive oil 250g, drained
lemon 1
capers 1 heaped tbsp
extra virgin olive oil 4 tbsp
butter a thick slice
white breadcrumbs 5 handfuls

Bring a large pan of water to the boil, salt it generously and add the pasta. Leave the pasta to cook for about 9 minutes, till just tender.

While the pasta is cooking, roughly chop the parsley, mash the drained sardines with a fork, finely grate the lemon and squeeze the juice. Gently mix the sardines, parsley, capers and lemon juice, and add the olive oil.

Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the breadcrumbs and fry until golden and crisp. You will need to turn them regularly so they do not burn, and maybe add a little more butter if they seem to be soaking it all up. Season with salt, black pepper and lemon zest.

Drain the pasta lightly, then return to the empty saucepan. Add the sardine mixture and the toasted breadcrumbs and toss gently. Serve immediately.

Photo: Baked squid with chilli tomato sauce. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin

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