Home > humor > Strictly amateur: rice ‘n’ fish one pan meal

Strictly amateur: rice ‘n’ fish one pan meal

rice and fish

Note the glass of red wine in the background...

Let’s start with some disclaimers.

I’m not the head cook in this household. and my cooking is strictly amateur.

When I read recipes, which I do occasionally, I usually have a vision of them as literary works with no particular relevance to any actual meal that might be made or consumed. This assumes of course that the recipe is for food, rather than a Zombie, or any of a range of other things one might want recipes for.

I don’t often follow recipes, for the following reasons:

  • I did the shopping yesterday and didn’t think to get the fresh asparagus (or whatever) I ‘d need for a particular recipe.
  • The recipe includes stuff V can’t eat (basically gluten, dairy, eggs, corn, soya), or stuff I shouldn’t eat (basically sugar, nuts and bolts, blue things, resistors and capacitors, squid, octopus, prawns). Okay, I don’t particularly like most of that stuff anyway, but the things V can’t eat are real no-nos because she gets very ill. And you’d be surprised at the range of products maize, corn and milk get into – even most brands of baked beans and even stock cubes.
  • I’ve started cooking at 5.30pm and we need to eat about 6pm. If it’s ready by 6.05, V will start gnawing my fingers off with hunger. She’s like that. I, on the other hand, like my fingers to stay attached to my hands.

As a result, most cooking I do – and I’d suspect most real cooking by real people – is done according to the practical principles of ‘what’s in the cupboards/fridge/freezer?’ and ‘what’s V been growing in the garden?’ and ‘how long have I got?’

Hence, an actual recipe that, contrary to expectations, worked out reasonably well a few days ago. We’d been into town, got back late, V was tired and we needed to eat quickly.

  1. What’s in the cupboards? Risotto rice. Oil.  Onions. Garlic. Seaweed (actually we have three different kinds with subtly different flavours, and even I can tell the difference). Kim chi, home made – see the previous recipe I put on here. Bottle of cheap red wine. Herbs. Brake fluid.
  2. What’s in the fridge? Carrots, cabbage, Chinese leaves.
  3. What’s in the freezer? A couple of pieces of frozen basa (aka Vietnamese river cobbler, a firm textured white fish that’s been marketed in the UK for a few years now as an alternative to cod). A packet of mixed seafood – mussels, prawns, squid, octopus, etc. Frozen peas.
  4. What’s in the garden? Not a lot at this time of year but I found a handful of green beans.

Half an hour to cook in.

Conclusion 1: I have no idea what the hell brake fluid is doing in the food cupboard. Go and put it in the shed. This will avoid any possible later confusion.

Conclusion 2: fish risotto, a one-pan meal, for dinner.


Chop the onions and a couple of cloves of garlic, crush the garlic a bit under the knife blade, and fry onions and garlic gently in a couple of tablespoonfuls of oil. I used a wok but any frying implement big enough for a two-person meal will do.

While they’re gently frying, defrost the basa in the microwave, slice the carrots into very thin strips, wash and slice the cabbage and Chinese leaves, take the tops and tails off the beans. Boil a kettle full of water, for later.

Uncork a cheap red wine and pour yourself a glass. It’s not like you’re drinking red wine with fish, exactly, is it?

The rice takes about 8 minutes according to the packet but I find it takes a bit longer. One mugful for two people. Throw it in the pan. Also throw in the carrot, which will take longer than the other stuff to cook. Add the (defrosted) fish, chopped into thumb-sized pieces. Check how many thumbs you have left.

Add enough boiling water from the kettle that nothing will stick to the bottom of the pan. Turn the heat up so the water’s bubbling nicely.

Have another glass of red wine. In my experience that takes exactly 2 minutes and is the best way to time cooking.

After a glass of wine/couple of minutes, add the cabbage, Chinese leaves, green beans and frozen peas. Check the brake fluid is still in the shed and didn’t surreptitiously reappear among cooking ingredients or get used accidentally.

After another couple of minutes (glass of wine optional) add the herbs. I used thyme, marjoram and celery salt, but that’s because V has a bunch of intolerances to some of the other herbs I would have liked to use.

Now we’re about four minutes from the end. Time for a glass of wine. It’ll only go off if it isn’t drunk.

Two minutes from the end add a couple of pinches of seaweed – in this particular case I used a type our health food shop sells as ‘sea salad’, a mix of half a dozen varieties, but I could have used nori. Nori is slightly more pungent, and brown – unless you grill it lightly first, in which case it goes crispy and golden-green. But I didn’t want to turn on the grill and didn’t want anything brown in the pan for purely aesthetic reasons.

Side note: we can’t use stock cubes in our house due to their gluten and dairy content (the gluten free ones have milk proteins in) but the seaweed seems to work as an alternative. Strange but true.

Now for the clever part, because V and I are going to have different versions of the same one-pan meal. I don’t want seafood other than the fish, but fortunately it only take a couple of minutes to cook otherwise a lot of it goes rubbery.

I served up my own and put a couple of spoonfuls of kim chi (which V can’t have, too much vinegar and chili) on the plate as a side dish. Then I added the mixed seafood to what was left in the pan, left it to cook for another two minutes maximum and V’s dinner was done.

Did it look good on the plate? Well, it looked like a pile of ‘rice and stuff’, and I’d had half a bottle of wine by that point. That’s probably why the pic at the head of this post – taken on my mobile phone – is more than a bit blurry. We ate it all pretty quickly though, I kept all my fingers intact because it was done by 6pm, and I still had both thumbs (had to count them twice due to the wine) which was fortunate because distinguishing a rogue thumb from a thumb-sized piece of basa would only have been possible due to the presence of bones (which would anyway have been a choking hazard!).

V liked it. I know this because she’s asked me to make it again.

I’ve bought another bottle of red wine specially for the occasion.

Last thoughts. Things I would have added, were they not on V’s no-no list, would have been a handful of sweetcorn and about half a red pepper just to colour it up, and maybe asafoetida as a herb instead of the thyme and marjoram because it brings out fish flavours nicely. If you’re okay with stock cubes, use a fish or chicken one according to taste though I’d recommend still using the seaweed because it tastes good. I’d still suggest not adding any thumbs or brake fluid, though.

  1. December 1, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    LOL sounds like a brilliant dish, but I’m glad you left out the brake fluid and thumbs! A bit less red wine would proabably have been a good idea, too. You’d have got a clearer picture and probably not have fallen asleep draped over the edge of the sofa! ( Iheard about that from V)!

  2. December 2, 2010 at 12:21 am

    Ah, but I fall asleep on the sofa with or without the wine!

  3. December 3, 2010 at 12:29 am


    It is a wonderful site. This is not my request of the visit to link and my site though I also have the site of the herb. Thank you for spending happy time.

    • December 3, 2010 at 11:39 am

      Thank you for your comment. I am never sure how well my sense of humour translates from English to other languages! I just looked at your blog using Google Translate and enjoyed your posts as well.

  4. December 18, 2010 at 9:21 am

    Yup. Just checked the gluten free vegan stock I use and it’s got corn flour in it.

    • December 18, 2010 at 10:35 am

      It’s a pain, isn’t it? I can’t immediately think of any gluten free stock cubes that don’t, though I remember buying a little tub of stock granules at Elf Foods in town that may suit your needs – can’t immediately lay my hands on it to check the ingredients though. I remember it was a small orange tub! We tend to use potato flour or rice flour for thickening, and seaweeds – sea salad or nori – for a stock-like flavour. Again, Elf Foods sells these things and I believe the Chinese supermarket (the one in what I think of as the ‘old Kwikfit building’) does a range of seaweeds too.

  1. December 3, 2010 at 4:05 am
  2. December 6, 2010 at 11:26 am

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