Harry's guacamole

With a bit of effort, this simple dip can become a showstopping starter.

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 Homemade guacamole is quick, easy and far, far tastier than any shop-bought version. Before the letters of complaint start to arrive, I make no claims as to the authenticity of this recipe but I do know that it’s a great dip to serve with tortilla chips, crudités or toasted pitta bread. It is also a great accompaniment for grilled meats, chicken and fish, or you can spread it on toast and top it with a poached or fried egg to liven up your breakfast. Our son Harry often serves this gâteau as a starter. It is pretty, very tasty and, when accompanied by a small leaf salad and served with tortilla chips or warm pitta bread, gets rave reviews.
  • Halve the fennel vertically, slice lengthways to a thickness of 4 – 5mm then blanch in a pan of boiling water with a teaspoon each of salt and sugar, and the lemon juice, for 10 – 15 minutes or until tender. Strain well.
  • Fry the sliced shallot in 20g of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil until translucent. Add ½ teaspoon rach of sugar and salt and the fennel seeds and fry gently for 2 minutes.
  • Add the blanched fennel to the shallot pan and mix.
  • Transfer to a shallow, ovenproof dish large enough to hold all the fillets in one layer. Set to one side.
  • Next, prepare the beurre blanc. Gently fry the chopped shallot in 20g butter until translucent, add the vermouth and wine. Simmer to boil off the alcohol.
  • Add the fish stock, lemon juice and sugar, then boil until reduced by about a third.
  • Remove from the heat and strain into a small pan. Set to one side.
  • About one hour before serving, heat your oven to 180°C.
  • Add 100ml wine to the fennel, dot with small pieces of butter, then place in the oven for an hour. Make sure it doesn’t brown too much.
  • After an hour lay the fish fillets on top of the fennel. Season with salt and pepper and top each with a thin slice of butter.
  • Return to the oven for 10 – 12 minutes.
  • While the fish is cooking, heat up the beurre blanc base until beginning to boil.
  • Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cold butter two pieces at a time, until an emulsion forms that coats the back of a spoon. Season.
  • Check the fish; it should be just set when cooked.
  • Using a spatula, carefully lift a fillet, and the fennel underneath it onto each plate, spoon over some beurre blanc and serve with new potatoes and perhaps a few fine green beans.

For the guacamole

3 ripe avocados

1 medium sized tomato, deseeded and diced (about 5 mm). Leave this out if you’re making the gâteau.

½ small red Thai bird’s eye chilli (or any other chilli depending upon your heat tolerance);

finely chopped 5 spring onions, chopped

1 pickled gherkin, finely chopped

1 tbsp chopped coriander

¼ red pepper, finely diced

1 large clove of garlic, grated or crushed

1 heaped tbsp mayonnaise

½ tsp Tabasco (I prefer the chipotle version)

Juice of 1 lime, or 2 if not very juicy

1 large pinch of ground cumin

1 large pinch of paprika

Salt and ground black pepper

For the guacamole gâteau (makes 6 individual gâteaux or 1 large gâteau)

1 recipe of guacamole as above, omitting the tomato

6 tomatoes, deseeded and diced into 5mm pieces

300 g cooked sweetcorn (fresh, frozen or canned)

Cajun seasoning

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