A Recipe For Bad Breath
“Please excuse my breath, I had fish for lunch” is something I say more than the average person should. I just can’t help it, I love fish. The fishier the better. Anchovies, tuna, smoked snoek, you name the fish and I’ll eat it with careless abandon. The downside to consuming all these fishy treats is the lingering after-breath. Yes, I should have a travel toothpaste and toothbrush stashed in my handbag, but really, who actually does that? Instead, I embrace my fishiness by keeping arm-distance away (at least) from people.
Along with smoked fish, the bad breath culprits include onions and eggs. These are a few of my favourite things, bad breath or not. Ultimately I will make a dish with one (or all of these ingredients) and my guests will exclaim how delicious the meal was and yet how smelly their breath is. Conundrum.
So how do you make people come around to a truly pungent dish? You follow it up with a refreshing, mouth-clearing dessert. And no, we are not serving Colgate-flavoured sorbet here. We’re going for something that contains all the mouth-freshening qualities nature can offer. Olive oil, full cream yoghurt, citrus and herbs are all you need to clear that fishiness right away.
Behold, I giveth stinky breath and I taketh it away.
Smoked fish risotto with boiled eggs and crispy onions
2 onions, 1 finely sliced, 1 finely chopped
300g uncooked, smoked fish such as haddock
Small handful of peppercorns
1 bay leaf
500ml – 750ml vegetable stock (preferably homemade)
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2t curry powder (add a little extra if you want more of a kick)
300g arborio rice
⅓ cup white wine
zest of 1 lemon
2T freshly chopped dill
Start with your crispy onion garnish. Place a generous amount of oil into a small saucepan and place on a medium-high heat. Add a slice of onion to check the temperature – if it starts to fry and floats to the top, then the oil is ready. Fry the sliced onion (the chopped onion is for the base of your risotto) in batches for a couple of minutes, stirring continuously, until golden brown and crisp. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Set aside until ready to serve and try not to eat them all while you cook.
Now onto the fish. Place the smoked fish into a small pan with peppercorns and bay leaf and cover with the water. Cover with a lid and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to simmer the haddock for about 5 minutes. You want to cook the fish, but make sure you don’t overcook it such that it begins to fall apart. Remove the fish from the liquid with a slotted spoon, set aside and reserve the liquid from the pan, straining it into a measuring jug. Add enough of your vegetable stock to bring the fishy water up to the 1 litre mark. This is now the stock for your risotto, so pour it back into a saucepan and gently warm over a low heat.
Get your boiled eggs ready. You can boil them to your preference but for the perfect jammy egg, bring a small pot of water to the boil and gently place the eggs into the boiling water. Set a timer for 6 minutes, then remove the eggs from the boiling water and plunge into cold water. You don’t need the egg to cool completely if you don’t want to, just allow them to cool enough so that they’re easy to peel.
Move on to the risotto. In a large wide saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons of butter over a medium heat until foamy, add the chopped onion and cook until slightly softened. Add the garlic cloves and cook everything for another 5 minutes. Sprinkle over the curry powder and cook for a further 2 minutes, then add the rice to the pan. Stir constantly at this point to ensure that you coat each grain of rice in the curried butter mix. Turn up the heat and add the wine, stirring until absorbed. Add a ladleful of the warm fishy-stock liquid, stirring occasionally until it is absorbed. Repeat the process with the rest of the liquid until the rice is cooked and sticky, which should take about 20 minutes. Remember, only add another ladle of liquid once the first has been absorbed, and don’t overwork the rice by stirring. Most of the liquid should be used up, but if your rice is cooked, don’t worry about trying to add the leftover liquid.
Once your risotto is ready, remove from the heat and add the cooked smoked fish. Gently break into nice-sized chunks and stir through delicately, with an extra blob of butter for good measure. Peel the boiled eggs and slice them in half to place on top of the dish. Zest over the lemon and check the seasoning before scattering with the crispy onions and the chopped dill.
Olive oil and yoghurt cake with lemon and thyme
300g granulated sugar plus 1T extra
3T fresh thyme, leaves picked and finely chopped
185g cups all-purpose flour
½ t baking powder
½ t baking soda
Pinch of Maldon salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup full cream Greek yogurt
½ cup olive oil
Zest of two lemons, plus juice of one lemon
225g icing sugar
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Sprigs of thyme, to serve
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a 20cm diameter cake tin and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Pulse the sugar and thyme together in a food processor until the thyme has broken down. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into a bowl. Stir in the thyme sugar. In a separate bowl or large jug, mix the eggs with the yogurt and olive oil. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and gradually stir in the wet ingredients. Add the lemon zest and juice. At this point taste to check if the lemon and thyme are pronounced enough, otherwise add a little extra juice and finely chopped leaves. Be careful not to over-mix, then scrape the batter into the prepared tin. Sprinkle over a tablespoon of granulated sugar.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the cake is coming away from the inside of the pan and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Turn it out, peel off the paper, and leave to cool on a wire rack.
Whisk the icing sugar together with the lemon juice and zest (add more if not lemon-y enough) and drizzle over the cooled cake. Tear thyme leaves off the sprigs and scatter over the top.
Jess Spiro is a freelance writer based in Cape Town. When she’s not cooking, she can be found with a negroni or a taco in hand. Or both.