bream with chorizo, broad beans and tomatoes

when we first moved to this flat, we didn't think we'd stay long. it was our first property - a one bed ex-council flat in a 1920's block - and we thought we'd do better in a couple of years.

somehow - 7 years later - we never moved, even after we could afford to do it.

i'm not sure what it's about, this reluctance to sell up and move on. it may partly be because we have been largely happy here. we did have a couple of years with a crack den on the ground floor. i was desperate to get out then. my reaction to the den evolved from misery to fear, and then from fear to anger - which i guess is why we went to court to get the guy evicted. during that period, the whole idea of keeping it real and not wanting to live a weird and isolated life of a posh tosser was out of the window completely - all i could think about was a nice row of georgian houses somewhere like hampstead. but when the crack den went, and a very nice woman with flower baskets and barbecues and a slightly loud family replaced it, we have done very little about moving. i do look at property websites practically every day but i do it in a way i look at facebook - as a habit, and without much conviction. we've even been to see a couple of places but beyond talking about it excitedly at dinner, we never follow up.

the other part of not wanting to move is the strange microcosm of shops and services around us. when we first moved, i'd never heard of steve hatt's - in fact, i remember rich sending me a text message to tell me he'd found this amazing fish shop just round the corner. little did we know that half of north london went there to buy their fish. next door to hatt's is the greengrocer and next to them a butcher. it took a while but we now know all of them, and have little chats every weekend. i thought i'd made it when one of the fishmongers from hatt's said hello to me on the street and not in the shop - considering the volume of people they see, i was chuffed he remembered me.

it makes a difference, this sort of thing. we all want to be a part of something, and being a part of a community in the middle of a very urban london neighbourhood is quite unusual. don't get me wrong - even while writing this, part of me fears i've jinxed it and will be mugged tomorrow, and it's not all sweetness and neighbourly love - our car's been broken into at least twice since we came here.

but still, i enjoy it enough to carry on living here, even if we have outgrown this flat in many ways.

the point of all of this was to say that the fish in this recipe was from hatt's, and i can't tell you how much difference it makes compared to buying a sad, wet and slightly smelly shrink-wrapped fillet from a supermarket. rich did the filleting here (and the fish cooking but shhhhhh i like to pretend it's all me), and the recipe is - surprise, surprise - angela hartnett's. she makes it with potatoes, which i replaced with broad beans for something slightly starchy. it really did work - though i do think you need to get rid of the outer broad bean shell unless they are very very small, so it's not something you want to do if you are cooking for more than two.

for two

4 sea bream fillets, skin on and scored - you can kind of see it on the picture: just take a very sharp knife and make a few slits on each fillet but without slicing through the flesh. scoring the skin in this way helps it not curl up and go weird during cooking
olive oil
about 300g broad beans, unshelled - podded, boiled for 3 minutes, then released from the tough outer skins
100g chorizo sausage, diced into 1cm cubes
2 leeks, very finely sliced
250g cherry tomatoes, cut in half
a few fresh thyme sprigs
a small handful of parsley, chopped
a squeeze of lemon juice
salt and pepper

first, fry the chorizo in a little bit of oil until it releases its spicy oil - 2 or 3 minutes, i guess. add the leeks and cook over high heat for around 5 minutes, but don't allow them to brown. add the cherry tomatoes, the chopped herbs and season to taste.

heat some oil in a separate pan, then add the bream fillets, skin-side down, and pan fry for 3 minutes until they are golden. turn the fish over carefully and continue to cook for a minute, if that.

spoon the veggies onto plates and top with fish. squeeze a little lemon juice on top.


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