My beloved spiraliser was starting to gather dust over winter, as I tend to associate spiralised veggies with bright salads and summer sun.
Until I came across a recipe from Flemish TV chef and restaurateur Jeroen Meus for a herb crusted coley with grated celeriac instead of spaghetti in a carbonara side. Genius. I’m now a complete convert to celeriac spaghetti and have used it in a fair few traditional Italian “pasta” dishes since. It’s light and delicious.
The herb crusted fish reminded me of a similar dish I’d seen in one of my older cookbooks. A little digging around brought me to “Canteen Cuisine” by Marco Pierre White and Michael “You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off” Caine. The herb mix is similar, but Marco pairs his with a tomato fondue (cooked tomatoes to you and I).
In my never-ending quest to up the veg and down the fat, butter, cream and carbs, I set to experimenting. Resulting in this delightful low-carb and lower-fat rendition of Fettucini Alfredo. The sweet acidity of the tomatoes both underneath the herb crust and in the “spaghetti” balances out the richness of the creamy sauce.
I’ve added the merest hint of chilli here and there. It’s not overpowering or spicy. It just provides a welcome background warmth. And the anchovy adds salty depth rather than any fishiness. Trust me.
You can’t really taste the avocado either. But it adds extra richness (and nutrition) to the sauce without the need for excessive cream or butter.
I would have added spinach, baby kale or courgettes if I’d had any. But England appears to be a bit short on veg at the moment. So I didn’t. Feel free to add any or all of them, as they will add another flavour contrast, texture, yet more nutrition and of course a wonderful green dash of colour too. Broccoli, mushrooms or red pepper work equally well.
The Italians wouldn’t dream of serving cheese with fish. But in combination with the tomato, chilli and celeriac, I find it works beautifully in this dish, as the cheese plays a supportive role rather than being a protagonist that’s fighting for the limelight.
The celeriac and avocado Alfredo is lovely on its own as a vegetarian lunch or supper too. Just replace the cheese with your favourite vegetarian alternative. Or for the carnivores, enjoy the Alfredo with crispy bacon or pancetta lardons carbonara style. A revelation.
Herb Crusted Fish on Celeriac Alfredo (serves 4 – GF LC RSF)
150 gr firm white fish fillets pp such as hake, coley, cod, pollock, haddock, bream or sea bass
butter or oil to grease the baking tray if needed (I used a silicon baking mat instead)
For the Herb Crust:
30 gr freshly grated Parmesan, Comté or Gruyère
40 gr (GF) Panko Japanese breadcrumbs or (GF) equivalent (leftover bread and crusts dried out in a low oven and roughly crushed works perfectly fine)
40 gr fresh herbs such as parsley, basil, tarragon, thyme, coriander, chives or a mixture, but mostly parsley (mine today was parsley, thyme, basil and chives)
40 gr butter at room temperature
1 tbsp capers, drained
1/2 tbsp mustard of choice (I used wholegrain)
zest of 1/2 a lemon
For the Tomato Fondue:
3-4 semi-dried tomatoes, drained of oil
1/2 shallot, peeled
1/2 garlic clove, peeled
1/3 fresh chilli, a good pinch of cayenne or dried chilli flakes (optional)
1/2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp anchovy essence or 1 anchovy, drained of oil
a sprig of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the Celeriac:
1 celeriac, peeled and spiralised or cut into long thin strands using a mandoline, or grated on the coarse side of a good grater (PS don’t spiralise your finger as I did. This is not a meat dish. Just saying)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
For the Alfredo Sauce:
1 generous tbsp butter
1 banana shallot, chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
8-10 semi-dried tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
1 large ripe avocado
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
125 gr creme fraiche
3 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan, Comté or Gruyère
a grating of fresh nutmeg
a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper or paprika
Extra herbs and grated cheese for garnish (optional)
For the herb crust:
Set 1/4 of the herbs aside for the sauce and garnish, then chop the garlic and the rest of the herbs in a mini food processor. Add the rest of the crust ingredients and blend.
Spread out onto a tray lined with grease proof paper or a silicon baking mat. Top with another piece of greaseproof paper or silicon mat and roll out to the thickness of a £1 coin.
Rest in the fridge or open freeze until set.
Alternatively you can just spoon the herb crust onto the fish as is for a more rustic effect.
For the celeriac:
Blanch the celeriac in a large pan of boiling salted water for a minute or two. Drain, cool in iced water (with lemon juice to stop the celeriac from turning brown. Set aside.
For the tomato fondue:
Blitz the tomato fondue ingredients except the thyme and bay leaf in a blender or mini food processor. Transfer to a non-stick frying pan and set over medium heat. Add the bay leaf and thyme, cook on medium-low until all the moisture has evaporated. You should end up with a thick tomato paste. Remove the thyme and bay leaf and set aside.
Meanwhile blitz the avocado to a smooth paste in a blender or mini food processor. Add the cream, egg, egg yolk, cheese, a healthy grating of nutmeg and S&P. Add lemon juice to taste and a pinch of cayenne (if using). Blitz again until smooth and combined.
All this can be done some hours or even a day in advance.
When ready to cook and eat, heat the oven to 180 C.
Grease a baking tray or line it with a silicon baking mat. Place the fish portions on the tray and season with S&P. Top each portion with a little tomato fondue.
Cut the herb paste into shapes to fit the fish and place on top of the tomato fondue.
Bake in the oven for 15 mins or until the fish is just flaking and the crust has started to melt and colour. Set aside to rest.
Meanwhile heat the butter over medium heat in a large casserole. Add the shallot, garlic and lemon zest. Sauté until the shallot is translucent, but still pale. Drain the celeriac and add it to the casserole together with the semi-dried tomatoes.. Toss and warm through for a couple of minutes.
Add the sauce together with the reserved herbs. Stir, cover and turn off the heat. The residual heat of the vegetables will “cook” the sauce. Also, any excessive heat would curdle the eggs.
Check the seasoning and adjust if needed.
Serve the herb crusted fish with the celeriac and avocado Alfredo, garnished with a few extra herbs and an extra grating of cheese.
Any leftover crust and tomato fondue can be frozen for later use. Else they will keep in the fridge for a couple of days.
The tomato fondue is great tossed through pasta. Or thickly spread onto toast, then topped with cheese and grilled until the cheese is oozing. The herb crust is nice on top of cheese and then grilled too. Or go for the Full Monty: Toast. Cheese. Tomato. Crust. Grill. Lovely.