Salmon, Prawn and Avocado Sushi

In the past 10 years or so sushi have taken off around the world, providing a healthy fast food solution for people who are fed up with burgers, fried chicken, pizza and tacos.

We’ve eaten sushi in all sorts of unlikely places. The most unusual place was Quito, capital of Ecuador, where we found a fabulous sushi restaurant through Trip Advisor called Shibumi. The owner/chef is a local who learnt to make sushi while living in Denmark. He also learnt Danish, married a Dane and had a son. The son is now grown up, the owner got divorced and moved back home to open the restaurant with his son.  We sat at the bar right in front of where they were making the sushi and as you can see we got the full story. There’s only enough room for 8 diners in this “hole in the wall” so it’s very intimate.

Our daughter Catherine and her husband went to a sushi restaurant some years ago and sat next to the open kitchen where they were able to watch the sushi-maker doing his thing. In fact I think they went back three nights in a row. In our family, when it comes to food, we like to be where the action is.

Catherine and Sacha are now the family sushi experts and I have to admit that I didn’t roll the ones in the photos. But having watched how it’s done I feel confident to have a go next time. A sushi mat is not essential but makes the rolling easier.

There are some excellent Japanese restaurants in Bangkok and while passing through recently we ordered these delicious sushi, garnished with crispy fried vermicelli. I made a note of what was in them – as I do when I’m travelling – and we re-created them on a recent trip to Newcastle to see Catherine & Co.

In Bangkok the sushi had an additional garnish of salmon caviar which was delicious, but we didn’t have any when we made the ones in the photos.

1 cup Sushi rice
1½ cups water
2-3 Tbs rice vinegar, to taste
5 sheets of Nori (seaweed)
1 salmon fillet (180-200g)
10 cooked prawns, halved lengthwise
1 large avocado, halved then cut into thin slices
To serve:
Japanese sweet soy sauce (it’s thicker than normal soy sauce)
Pickled ginger
Wasabi paste
1 cup rice vermicelli noodles
Oil to fry vermicelli

Place rice in a sieve and rinse thoroughly with cold water from the tap, until water runs clear. Place rice in a saucepan with the 1½ cups of water. Bring to the boil then cover and simmer on as low a heat as possible, until rice is cooked but still has a bit of bite. This takes about 10 mins and water will have all been absorbed.

Tip rice out into a shallow bowl and spread it out so it cools quickly and doesn’t continue to cook. After about 10 mins mix in the rice vinegar and allow it to cool completely.

Prepare prawns and the avocado. Slice salmon into thin slices downwards, discarding skin. Lay first sheet of nori on a sushi mat (if available – you can do it without) and spread about a fifth of the rice over. Rice should not be in a thick layer, there should be some small gaps. Arrange about a fifth of the avocado and four prawn halves in a row across one side of the nori sheet, then roll up tightly into a cylinder. Repeat with remaining nori sheets, rice, avocado and prawns.

Heat 2-3 cm of oil in a small frying pan and deep fry the vermicelli noodles until crispy. Drain on paper towels.

To serve, slice sushi into 2cm slices and arrange on a serving dish on their sides. Place a slice of salmon on each one and garnish with crispy fried vermicelli. If you don’t have enough salmon pieces to do them all, arrange the ones without salmon, cut side down, as shown in the photo. Drizzle a little soy sauce here and there then put some in a small dish and, if liked, mix in a little wasabi paste.  Arrange a small pile of pickled ginger near the soy sauce. Serve as finger food or with chopsticks.

Serves 4 as an aperitif or finger food

Note: if you can’t find them in your local supermarket, nori sheets, sushi rice, wasabi, pickled ginger, rice vermicelli noodles, Japanese soy sauce and rice wine vinegar are sold in Asian specialty shops.

Fish fillets with Curry Sauce

A quick and easy recipe for two, which can easily be doubled for four. You can use any kind of white fish fillets or steaks, or salmon fillets if you prefer. The sauce turns something ordinary into something quite tasty.

2 fillets fish (I used Basa)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 Tbs butter
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
½-1 tsp curry paste or powder
2 tsp grated ginger
1 Tbs finely chopped thyme leaves (or another fresh herb)
1 tsp grated lemon zest
To serve:
Lemon wedges
Fresh herbs

Preheat oven to 220°C. Line a shallow baking tray with foil and turn up the edges to catch the juices. Season fish on both sides with salt and pepper then arrange on the foil.

Melt butter in a small pan then mix in the garlic, curry, ginger, thyme and lemon zest. Spoon evenly over the fish. Bake for 8-10 mins or until cooked to liking. Serve garnished with lemon wedges and herbs. Broccoli goes well with this.

Serves 2

 

Anchovy Butter

This Anchovy Butter is amazing.

Serve it on steaks or fish, on steamed vegetables, on toast under scrambled, soft boiled or poached eggs or mixed into pasta. It keeps for up to a month in the fridge.

125g butter at room temperature and cut into pieces
About 6 tinned anchovies, drained from the oil
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
Juice of ½ lemon
Shake of paprika

Place all ingredients in food processor and mix until smooth. Place in a small bowl and dust with paprika. Keep refrigerated.

Makes about 1 cup

Zucchini Salad with Mint Dressing

When we go to our farm in summer we pick all the zucchinis before we return to Canberra. As we only go every second weekend this means we bring back some huge ones, which have grown since our last visit – actually they are more like marrows – and some small ones which we pick in order to stop them growing huge before our return.

The big ones are good for soup or for Zucchini with Tarragon and Sour Cream, one of our all-time favourite recipes for this versatile vegetable. The small ones are good for recipes such as Mustard-Glazed Salmon with Zucchini Ribbons or Zucchini Bake, another family favourite.

This salad with its vibrant green dressing is another good way to use smaller zucchini or as Matthew calls them, the ones that haven’t got away. It’s absolutely scrumptious and very healthy. If you have some zucchini flowers to garnish this salad they look quite spectacular. Unfortunately I didn’t have any for this photo.

6 zucchini (courgettes) about 6″ or 15cm long
60g grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dressing:
1 cup mint leaves
½ cup olive oil
1 small clove garlic, crushed
Juice of 1 lemon and the grated rind of half
To garnish:
2 Tbs seeds such as sunflower, sesame, pepitas
A few zucchini flowers (optional)

Wash zucchini and trim off the ends then slice them horizontally with a mandoline. Place in a salad bowl with the grated cheese and season with salt and pepper. Place all ingredients for dressing in food processor and process till you have a vibrant green dressing. Place seeds in a dry frying pan and stir over moderate heat until lightly toasted.

Drizzle some of the dressing over the zucchini and parmesan and mix well. Garnish with the toasted seeds, the zucchini flowers (if available) and drizzle with a bit more dressing.

Serves 4-6

 

 

Pork San Choy Bau

Wraps have become a popular alternative to sandwiches in the past few years. Supermarkets and cafés offer a wide range and they make a satisfying and healthy lunch.

Start by spreading the wrap with homemade or bought mayonnaise or hummus, then put some protein such as cheese, ham, cold roast chicken, canned tuna or hard-boiled egg in a line down the middle, then whatever else you can find in the fridge – chutney, olives, cucumber, grated carrot, sliced tomatoes, lettuce, a few nuts. I don’t think I’ve ever made the same one twice.

This quick and tasty Chinese recipe uses lettuce cups instead of wraps and is perfect for a mid-week dinner or informal entertaining. Eat them with your fingers – which is a bit messy but the way they’re intended to be eaten – or with a knife and fork. Instead of lettuce cups you could serve the filling in ordinary bread wraps.

2 tsp vegetable oil
500g minced pork
1 chopped onion or 3 shallots
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbs fresh ginger, finely chopped or grated
1 220g can water chestnuts, drained and sliced
¼ cup oyster sauce
¼ cup Thai sweet chilli sauce
¼ cup soy sauce
2 Tbs sesame oil
1-2 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs Chinese cooking wine or sherry
2 Tbs lemon or lime juice
To serve:
1 iceberg lettuce, separated into cups
2 Tbs sesame seeds, lightly toasted
2 shredded spring onions

In a large frying pan heat the oil then add the pork, onion and garlic and stir fry for about 10 minutes over moderately high heat, until onions are soft and pork is broken up and starting to brown. Add ginger and water chestnuts and continue to cook for a couple of minutes.

Add remaining ingredients and stir until sauce has thickened and starting to caramelise.

Serve pork in the lettuce cups garnished with toasted sesame seeds and spring onions. The outside leaves of the lettuce are too large to use for this recipe, so keep them for another meal and use the smaller ones.

Serves 4

Variations:

  • Use beef or chicken mince instead of pork
  • Use Hoisin sauce instead of Oyster Sauce
  • If you don’t have any water chestnuts, leave them out

 

 

Japanese Raw Fish Salad

We went to a Japanese restaurant in Bangkok last month which served delicious, light and very reasonably-priced food. I ordered a raw fish salad, which was a generous main course size and cost around $10. It was so delicious we went back, I ordered it again and decided to recreate it when we got back.

This is a recipe for people who like raw fish. Buy very fresh, sashimi quality and discard any fibrous, stringy bits as you cut it up. While the idea of fake crab stick is an anathema to many people, that’s what they used in Bangkok and I was pleasantly surprised. It added a touch of sweetness to the flavour combination. If preferred substitute cooked crab or leave it out and use a bit more fish.

The salad was topped with about two tablespoons of salmon caviar. These salty little delicacies explode in your mouth and really make the dish. They must be much cheaper in Thailand than they are in Australia where they retail for over $30 for a 100g jar. In this country there’s no way you could be so generous with the caviar and only charge $10 for the dish. You can buy red fake caviar in most supermarkets for a fraction of the cost, but it’s not the same thing and to be avoided.

About 8-10 cups small salad leaves
350 firm white fish, cut into fat matchsticks
350 salmon, cut into fat matchsticks
200g crab sticks, cut into fine julienne
Sauce:
1 cup mayonnaise (preferably home-made)
¼ cup tomato sauce (ketchup)
Juice of 1 lemon
Tabasco or hot chilli sauce, to taste
Garnish:
1 small jar salmon caviar

Arrange salad leaves on 4 large or 8 small plates. Arrange the fish and crab sticks on top in layers.

Mix all ingredients for sauce. Drizzle over the salads and garnish with the salmon caviar.

Serves 4 as a main course or 8 as a starter

Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls

These rice paper rolls make a refreshing aperitif or light dinner.  There’s no cooking involved making them the perfect choice for a hot summer’s evening when everyone is feeling lazy, even the cook.

The rolls can be made up to three hours ahead and kept in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap, so they don’t dry out. Vary the ingredients according to what you have on hand.

100g vermicelli noodles
350g cooked prawns, cut in halves horizontally
½ cup each coarsely chopped coriander and Vietnamese or ordinary mint
1 Lebanese cucumber or half a telegraph cucumber, cut into matchsticks
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
10 rice paper wrappers (approx)
Dipping Sauce:
1 clove garlic, peeled
30g palm sugar or brown sugar
4 Tbs lime or lemon juice
3 Tbs fish sauce
1 small red chilli, thinly sliced
To garnish:
Vietnamese mint or ordinary mint

Place vermicelli in a bowl and pour over boiling water to cover. Stand for 2-4 minutes or until tender, then drain well. Use scissors to roughly cut the vermicelli into shorter lengths then place them in a bowl with the prawns, mint, cucumber and spring onion. Season to taste.

For the dipping sauce, pound garlic and sugar to a paste in a mortar and pestle then mix in the remaining ingredients. If preferred, instead of making the dipping sauce serve the rolls with store bought Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce.

Fill a bowl with hot water. Working with one rice wrapper at a time, submerge in water to soften for about 20 seconds, then place on a damp tea towel. Spoon some of the prawn filling down the centre, fold in the ends, then roll up tightly to form a cylinder. Place on a tray lined with non-stick baking paper and cover with a damp tea towel. When you have made them all serve immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving time, up to 3 hours.

Serve 2 or 3 rolls per person, with the dipping sauce and mint.

Makes about 10 rolls

Note: rice paper wrappers are sold in most supermarkets and Asian grocery stores.

Chicken Breast with Lemon and Capers

Looking for something tasty to serve mid-week? This easy recipe is one you will probably make again and again. It’s easy to halve the quantities if there are only two of you. Adding extra butter to the sauce at the end is very French and decadent, so if you’re worried about cholesterol by all means leave it out.

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/3 cup plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
2 eggs, beaten
1¼ cups Panko breadcrumbs
60g Parmesan cheese, grated
25g butter
1 Tbs olive oil
½ cup dry white wine
2 Tbs lemon juice
2 Tbs drained capers
50g butter
2 Tbs finely chopped parsley

Hammer out the chicken breasts a bit with a meat mallet to an even thickness. If the breasts are huge, trim some off and keep for another meal – a stir-fry for example. Place seasoned flour, beaten eggs and Panko crumbs mixed with grated cheese in three separate shallow bowls. Coat each chicken breast first in the flour, then the beaten egg and lastly the crumb mixture, patting it on firmly.

Heat the 25g butter and olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the chicken for 5-7 minutes each side, or until golden brown and cooked through. Check with a sharp knife if you’re unsure. Remove chicken from pan and keep warm while you prepare the sauce.

Wipe out frying pan and add the wine and lemon juice. Cook for 2-3 minutes over moderately high heat, until reduced by about half. Add capers and the 50g butter cut into smaller bits, stirring constantly, until butter has barely melted. If sauce splits add a tablespoon of cold water and stir briskly until it emulsifies again. Add parsley, season to taste and spoon over the chicken. Serve with a green vegetable.

Serves 4

Pasta with Cabbage and Anchovies

Don’t like anchovies? I have to admit I’m not mad about them either when they’re whole. But crushed into a sauce they add a unique depth of flavour which has been known to win over quite a few anchovy haters. A traditional Caesar Salad dressing wouldn’t be the same without them – but a lot of people wouldn’t even know they’re there.

I found this recipe on the New York Times recipe site which said “Just don’t mention the anchovies, tell people it’s pasta, cabbage and umami”.

This recipe is tasty on its own or as a side dish with grilled meat.

Pasta with Cabbage and Anchovies

500g dry pasta such as penne
5 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbs butter
4 anchovy fillets
½ cup coarse breadcrumbs or Panko breadcrumbs
1 Tbs finely chopped fresh sage
Salt and freshly ground black pepper. To taste
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive oil
½ tsp dried red chilli flakes, or finely diced fresh chilli to taste
8 cups shredded cabbage
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Drain.

While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a small frying pan and add half the garlic and the anchovies, mashing with a spatula until they dissolve into the butter. Add breadcrumbs and sage and cook, stirring, for about 2 mins or until golden brown. Turn off the heat and season with pepper.

Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium to high heat. Add remaining garlic and chilli and cook for a minute or so, until fragrant. Add the cabbage and cook, stirring from time to time, for 15-20 mins or until it begins to caramelise. Mix with the pasta and breadcrumb mixture, saving some of the breadcrumbs to garnish. Check for salt and pepper and serve immediately, garnished with the remaining crumb mixture and the Parmesan.

Serves 4

 

Fish Fillets with Miso, Soba Noodles & Asparagus

This recipe Which came from a Coles supermarket magazine is quick, easy, tasty and healthy. What more could you want?

Fish Fillets with Miso, Soba Noodles & Asparagus

4 boneless, skinless, white fish fillets (about 150g each)
2 Tbs miso paste
3 Tbs orange or lemon juice
2 tsp honey
2 tsp soy sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
180g dried soba noodles
2 bunches asparagus, cut into 2
150g snow peas, sliced
2 tsp sesame seeds, lightly toasted
2 spring onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

Place a large saucepan of water on to boil and turn the grill on high. Line a baking tray with foil, spray with oil and place the fish fillets on top. Mix miso paste, orange or lemon juice, honey and sauce sauce. Brush both sides of the fish with this mixture and season lightly with salt and pepper. Place fish under the gril and cook for 8-10 mins or until cooked.

Meanwhile cook noodles for a minute or two, then add the asparagus and snow peas and cook for another 2 mins or until vegetables and noodles are cooked. Drain well and mix in half the remaining miso sauce. Divide noodles and vegetables among 4 serving plates. Arrange fish on top and spoon over remaining miso sauce. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and spring onions.

Serves 4