Asian Style Kingfish Ceviche

When we were in Newcastle recently we dined at a restaurant called Sprout. The Kingfish Ceviche ordered by one of our party was so good we all had a taste!  I decided to try and recreate it on return to Canberra. I added the pink peppercorns (see note below) which were a definite plus to the flavour and colour combination.

Asian Style Kingfish Ceviche

300g Kingfish fillets (or other firm white fish)
Juice of 1 lime or half a large lemon
1 small bulb of fennel, trimmed and thinly shaved
3-5 radishes (depending on size) thinly shaved
2 spring onions, very finely sliced on the diagonal
4 stalks asparagus, blanched and cut into 2-3cm lengths
2-3 tsp very finely sliced lemon grass
1 cup coconut milk
2-4 tsp fish sauce, to taste
2 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp finely chopped fresh chilli (or to taste)
2 tsp brown sugar
1 Tbs vegetable oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To garnish:
Pink peppercorns

Cut fish into bit size slices and mix with the lime or lemon juice. If you like your ceviche very lemony add more lemon juice. To blanch the asparagus, cook them in boiling water for 1-2 minutes then refresh under cold water, drain and pat dry with paper towel.

Leave fish for an hour or so, stirring from time to time, then mix in remaining ingredients, keeping some fennel, radish and asparagus for garnish. Season to taste then arrange on serving plates and garnish with the reserved vegetables and a few pink peppercorns.

Serves 6 as a starter

Note: A pink peppercorn (baie rose in French) is the dried berry of the Peruvian Peppertree. They were so-named because they look like peppercorns. The flavour is aromatic and only slightly peppery. They go well with all kinds of fish dishes, including Gravlax and smoked salmon. Available at specialty shops such as The Essential Ingredient.

Pomegranate, Parsley and Risoni Salad

This salad comes from a Greek cook book called Taking you Home. I’ve tweaked the quantities a bit – the original recipe has 2 cups of risoni – but apart from that it’s pretty much the same.

Serve with roast lamb or chicken, grilled lamb chops, or as part of a buffet.

Pomegranate, Parsley and Risoni Salad

1 cup Risoni (rice-shaped pasta)
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
¼ cup slivered almonds
About 1 cup pomegranate kernels (see note below)
1 cup chopped parsley
10 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 400g can lentils, drained and rinsed
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs lemon juice
100g feta cheese, crumbled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cook risoni in boiling salted water until al dente. Place pumpkin seeds and almonds in a dry frying pan and cook for a few minutes, stirring, until lightly toasted. Drain risoni and place in a bowl with remaining ingredients, saving some of the feta to put on top.

Serves 6

Note: remove seeds from 1 large pomegranate or buy fresh kernels, which I found in Costco in a three pack. I used one and froze the other two as they freeze well.

Wild Mushroom Salad with Parmesan and Prosciutto

We recently spent a week in Slovenia – two days in the capital Ljubljana and 4 days in Bled. If you haven’t been to this part of the world I recommend you put it on your list. Amazing scenery with dominating mountains, crystal clear turquoise blue rivers and majestic forests. The neat little houses each had a neat little woodpile and a well kept veggie garden. Everything was spotlessly clean and well-maintained. A good way to see some of this beautiful scenery is to arrive in Ljubljana by train from Vienna, which takes between 5 and 6 hours.

In late summer and early autumn farmer’s markets in continental Europe sell a variety of wild mushrooms – porcini and ceps to name two that I am familiar with. One of the culinary highlights of our stay in Slovenia was a salad made with wild porcini and garnished with shaved parmesan and crispy bits of prosciutto. In Australia you can’t find wild porcini (well that’s what I thought, see below) so I used a mixture of shitake and enoki mushrooms to recreate it back home. It was not the same but still delicious.

After doing some research on the internet I discovered that wild porcini mushrooms have recently been found growing in parts of South Australia and Victoria. Their location is a well kept secret and any that are sold are snapped up by top chefs for between $60 and $120 a kilo. They apparently like similar growing conditions to truffles and can be found under pine and oak trees.  I have thought about blitzing some dried porcini in the food processor and sprinkling the powder under a large oak tree in our garden. Might work?

Wild Mushroom Salad with Parmesan and Prosciutto6 handfuls rocket and/or baby salad leaves
Olive oil and lemon juice or white wine vinegar
1 tsp honey (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
400g wild porcini (I used enoki and shitake)
olive oil and 1 clove garlic, crushed
200g shaved Prosciutto
100g shaved Parmesan cheese
Toasted pine nuts (optional)

Lightly dress salad leaves with a simple dressing made with olive oil, lemon juice or white wine vinegar, a little honey and salt and pepper to taste. Arrange on four serving plates. Slice or cut  up the mushrooms and mix them with a little olive oil and crushed garlic. Add a little salt and pepper to taste. Pan fry the mushrooms in a non-stick pan over high heat, stirring, for 3-5 mins or until lightly browned. Divide mushrooms between the four serving plates. Cut Prosciutto into small bits (I used scissors) and add to the pan. Cook over high heat, stirring, until crispy. Divide amongst serving plates, top with Parmesan and pine nuts if using – I didn’t in the photo but they would make a nice addition. Drizzle some olive oil around the salad and sprinkle with some coarsely cracked black pepper.

Serves 4

Salade Lyonnaise à la Madeleine

When we lived in Pretoria in the late 1980s we found a fabulous French restaurant called La Madeleine. There was no written menu so Belgian chef-owner Daniel Leusch would come to each table and explain what was available that day. His Lyonnaise Salad was introduced in the following way.

“And today, for starters, we ‘ave a leetle salade, wif a warm poshed egg, garneeshed wif some leetle crispy lardons, some freshly made croutons and ‘ollandaise sauce. Or, we ‘ave…..”

And so he would go on until he had described everything and we were left, drooling, to make decisions.

It’s twenty-five years since we left Pretoria but La Madeleine is still going strong, with Daniel and his wife Karine’s daughter Anne in charge of the kitchen. Since then my version of Daniel’s Salade Lyonnaise has become one of my favourite lunches. But you do have to be in the kitchen at the last minute, so I usually only make it for two, maximum four people. If you don’t have time to make Hollandaise Sauce substitute mayonnaise, preferably home-made. For hungry people serve two eggs instead of one.

As it’s one of the signature dishes of the French city of Lyon I ordered this salad in three different bistros while we were staying there a couple of years ago. What a disappointment! Soggy bacon or croutons, over-cooked eggs and indifferent salad greens meant that none of them lived up to their reputation. Take me back to Pretoria any time!

Salade Lyonnaise à la Madeleine4-6 cups mixed small salad leaves
2 slices bread (preferably something rustic like sourdough)
Olive oil
100g smoked bacon in one piece (called speck in Australia)
2 eggs
Salad dressing:
1 cup mild vegetable oil (e.g. Canola)
¼ cup cider vinegar
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
1 Tbs honey (optional, or use less)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 clove garlic, peeled and halved
Quick Hollandaise Sauce:
50g butter
2 egg yolks
1 Tbs cream
1 Tbs lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For Hollandaise sauce place butter in a small bowl and microwave for 30 secs. With a small hand whisk, beat in yolks, then cream and lemon juice. Microwave for 45 secs, stopping to beat every 10-15 secs. This is important to avoid scrambling the eggs! Season then cover and keep warm by standing the bowl in a larger bowl containing hot water.

Brush both sides of bread with olive oil, cut into croutons then either bake in a hot oven on a tray lined with baking paper for 5-10 mins or fry in a non-stick frying pan until golden and crunchy.

Meanwhile poach eggs until done – whites firm, yolks still soft. While they are cooking, prepare the lardons – cut bacon into thick slices, then into little chunks. Fry in a non-stick frying pan with a tiny bit of oil and drain on paper towels.

Place all ingredients for the salad dressing in a screw top jar and shake vigorously. Mix salad greens with some dressing (see note below) and divide between 2 plates. Place a poached egg in the centre and spoon some Hollandaise sauce over. Sprinkle the croutons and lardons around the egg.

Serves 4 as a starter or light lunch

Note: Any unused French dressing will keep for up to a month in the fridge so I often make double or triple the recipe. Don’t crush the garlic, just cut it in half, so the flavour isn’t overpowering. The French wouldn’t put honey in their dressing (I love it especially as I keep my own bees!) so if you want to be authentic leave it out.

Bring a Plate

Pot Luck lunches and dinners, where guests are asked to “bring a plate”, are popular in Australia, especially over summer which coincides with the festive season. Picnics, beach parties, Christmas, New Year and office parties – it’s hard to get through summer without being asked to bring a plate

A Greek friend arrived in Canberra from Athens in the 1960s with very little English. When he and his wife were invited for lunch and asked to bring a plate they were somewhat perplexed. If their hosts didn’t have enough plates, they thought, perhaps they were also short of glasses and cutlery. So they brought their own, never imagining they were expected to bring food.

Opera by Candlelight is held each year at the Albert Hall Canberra in late February. The ticket price includes a table complete with candelabras and chairs for each group. Guests bring their own food and beverages and enjoy an evening of opera arias. We usually get four or five couples together, then each couple brings one course – nibbles, starter, main, sides or dessert and of course a bottle or two! Oh yes and in this case you do also need to bring plates, cutlery and glasses! It’s fun to get dressed to kill and make a real occasion of it. Some people go to a lot of trouble to coordinate their outfits and table decorations and there’s a prize for the best dressed table. For more information and to book tickets contact Carl Rafferty: raffertycarl@internode.on.net

Opera by Candlelight

There are two types of plate you can take to these Pot Luck occasions. A large plate to place on a buffet or in the middle of the table, so guests can serve themselves. Or a plate of finger food which can be passed round without the need for individual plates and cutlery.

If you go to the Café Cat recipe index you will find lots of ideas, but here are a few suggestions. Sticky Chilli Chicken or Sticky Honey Chicken can both be made the day before and are delicious served at room temperature.

If you’re looking for an easy dip try Dukkah, Lemon Feta Dip or Smoked Trout Paté. For something slightly more snazzy try Watermelon and Feta Squares which are very refreshing in hot weather.

My favourite dishes for a buffet include Cucumber Salad, Ferne’s Roast Tomato Salad, Remar’s Broccoli, Nut and Bean Salad and if you like spinach then you can’t go wrong with either Spinach Salad with Red Dressing or Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds which are both delicious. Take the dressing along separately in a jar with a lid.

Remar’s Broccoli, Bean & Nut Salad

On a recent trip to Denmark we spent a couple of nights with our dear friend Remar Sutton. During the European summer Remar lives in a delightful thatched cottage near Ledreborg castle. When the weather in Denmark starts to get nippy he moves to his other abode in the British Virgin islands, for the winter months.

Born in south Georgia USA, Remar is softly-spoken with a charming Southern lilt. So far he has led a full and very interesting life and I can’t see him slowing down any time soon. Washington post columnist, author, consumer and privacy rights advocate, he’s currently, amongst other things, Pro Bono Chairman of the Foolproof Financial Literacy Initiative. This scheme provides free and independent consumer and financial advice to young people and adults, to help them make sound financial decisions and avoid scams and fraud.

Remar regularly entertains eclectic groups of about 30 guests, ranging in age from late teens to nonagenarians. Having a zest for life and an opinion seem to be the only prerequisites for being invited.

DSCF0722DSCF0723The flickering citronella torches lining the paths and surrounding the protected sunken garden showed people the way. Bottles of wine and glasses were lined up, so guests could help themselves.

Remar is a seasoned host and has his culinary repertoire down to a fine art. Tender barbecued pork fillets were sliced and accompanied by colourful platters of asparagus spears and fresh mango slices. Crusty bread, a crock of Danish butter, steamed rice and Remar’s delicious Broccoli, Bean and Nut Salad completed the main course, with fresh blueberries and cream for dessert. The secret to feeding a crowd is to keep it simple.

Some of the guests sat outside and ate under the stars. Others found a spot in one of the two hexagonal glass atriums, where it was warmer. After coffee the evening grew cooler and some of the older guests set off to drive back to Copenhagen. The remaining few sat around the blazing fire pit, wrapped in shawls to keep the chill off our backs. The conversation was lively as we put the world to rights until the wee hours.

Remar’s Bean and Nut Salad makes enough to feed a crowd, but it’s easy to halve or quarter the quantities. It keeps in the fridge for up to four days, so any leftovers won’t go to waste. The recipe is fairly flexible, allowing you to adjust it according to what you have available. Pick your favourite nuts, including some cashews, for the nut mix.

Remar's Bean and Nut Salad6 cups broccoli florets (small ones no bigger than 2cm)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 can sweetcorn kernels, drained (or use frozen or fresh kernels)
2 cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans firm white beans, drained and rinsed
1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
4 cups mixed nuts
2-3 cups raisins or sultanas
2 cups dried cranberries or Goji berries
2 cups pomegranate seeds (if available)
Dressing:
¼ cup Extra Virgin olive oil
¼ cup Balsamic vinegar, preferably white
1 Tbs sugar

Cook broccoli in a covered bowl or in a plastic bag with a tablespoon of water for 2 minutes on High, then drain and season generously with salt and pepper. Mix all ingredients together except for pomegranate seeds and shake dressing in a jar.

Mix dressing into salad then cover and refrigerate for several hours for flavours to blend. If preferred add the nuts just before serving, but Remar says they are nicer when they’ve absorbed some of the flavours. Tip salad into serving dish and top with the pomegranate seeds.

Keeps in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Serves at least 20

Seafood Coleslaw

I never travel without a small notebook in my bag, so I can make notes when I eat anything tasty or unusual. Dissection on the plate is usually enough to work out the main ingredients. This is my take on a delicious salad we ate at a café at Copenhagen airport last month. Light, healthy and summery, this recipe ticks all the boxes.

Seafood sticks or seafood extender as they are also known is something I rarely buy. I know they’re totally artificial – by which I mean they’re made from an inexpensive white fish and don’t contain any seafood –  but they work quite well in this recipe. If preferred use double the amount of chopped prawns. You can also substitute lobster (crayfish) or crab meat.

Seafood Coleslaw
About 6 cups finely shredded white cabbage
3 spring onions, sliced thinly on the diagonal
1 large apple, cored, thinly sliced, then cut into fine julienne
1/3 cup sesame seeds
1/3 cup flaked or slivered blanched almonds
150g seafood sticks (seafood extender)
350g large cooked prawns
¼ cup olive oil
1 Tbs cider vinegar or lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ cup pomegranate seeds (see note below)
Extra virgin olive oil

Place cabbage, spring onions and apple in a salad bowl. Place sesame seeds and almonds in a dry frying pan and stir over moderate heat until very lightly toasted. Cool then add to the salad bowl.

Peel all the prawns, leaving the tail and head on four (just remove shell from body) to use as garnish and slicing the rest – not too small. Cut seafood sticks into julienne. Shake oil, vinegar or lemon juice, sugar, mustard and seasoning in a jar then add to salad and mix well. Taste and add more salt or pepper if necessary. Divide salad between four individual plates. Arrange one whole prawn on each serving and sprinkle the pomegranate seeds around. If liked drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil.

Serves 4

Note: Fresh pomegranates are only in season for a very short time, so I used pomegranate seeds from Costco which I had frozen. I sprinkled them on when they were still frozen as they thaw very fast and I didn’t want them to go mushy. You could substitute dried cranberries, for that splash of red.

Persimmon & Shaved Fennel Salad

I’ve tried persimmons a few times and I have to say I wasn’t impressed. When firm and slightly underripe they were very astringent and by the time they tasted good they were so ripe as to be almost mushy.

The good news is that you can now buy a variety of persimmon called Fuyu which Woolworths are importing from New Zealand and which are non-astringent. I was inspired by my friend Franca to combine them with shaved fennel to make a delicious and unusual salad which goes particularly well with salmon.

Fuyu persimmons are ready to eat when they feel firm, like a tomato, not soft like a very ripe avocado.

Persimmon & Shaved Fennel Salad2 firm Fuyu persimmons
1 bulb of fennel
Dressing:
3 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Pinch of sugar

Wash persimmons, remove calyx then halve and thinly slice downwards. Wash fennel, trim off stalks (saving a few green fronds) halve then shave into very thin slices using a very sharp knife or a mandoline.

Arrange persimmon and fennel in a serving bowl. Place all ingredients for dressing in a small jar with a lid and shake well. Drizzle over the salad then decorate with a few green fennel fronds.

Serves 4-6

Smoked Trout Salad with Asian Dressing

One whole smoked trout is enough to make a light meal for two people. Whole hot-smoked trout are sold in supermarkets in Australia in vacuum packs. The use by date usually allows you can keep them for a week or two in the fridge before they need to be eaten. Handy for those occasions when you peer into the fridge thinking “What can I make for dinner with what I’ve got?”

Carefully remove the flesh in large chunks, discarding the skin and bones. I definitely have to wear my reading glasses to do this! Mix with freshly cooked pasta, adding a splash of cream and a few capers or chopped dill. Some halved baby tomatoes or rocket leaves are an optional addition.

Or make this Asian salad which is perfect for a hot summer’s day.

Smoked Trout Salad with Asian Dressing

Dressing:
3 spring onions or small shallots
1 clove garlic
½ small red chilli, seeded and chopped
2 Tbs roasted peanuts
1 Tbs fish sauce
1 Tbs tamarind paste (sold in jars)
3 Tbs water
3 Tbs palm sugar, chopped, or substitute brown sugar
Salad:
1 smoked trout, flesh removed, bones and skin discarded
2-3 cups small salad leaves
1 Tbs finely chopped lime (skin and flesh)
2 Tbs roasted peanuts, chopped
½ cup coriander leaves
Extra virgin olive oil

Dressing: Place onions, garlic, chilli and peanuts in food processor and process until you have a paste, stopping to scrape down the sides halfway. Place paste in a saucepan with remaining dressing ingredients. Simmer for 3-4 minutes then leave to cool. It should be thick and a bit sticky.

Meanwhile arrange salad leaves on two plates. Top with the trout pieces, the lime, peanuts and coriander leaves. Drizzle with some of the sauce, then drizzle a little olive oil around the edge of the plate. Any leftover dressing is delicious served with cold roast meats.

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a starter

Note: some supermarkets sell smoked trout fillets without skin or bones.

Variation: to serve as finger food, separate the leaves of 2 heads of chicory (witloof or witlof) and top each with a piece of smoked trout, the remaining toppings and some of the dressing.

Thai Green Mango Salad

My friend Jurate who lives in the Sydney suburb of Haberfield gave me 3 green mangoes. Actually the tree is in her neighbour’s garden, but he’s happy for her to take the fruit that hangs on her side of the fence.

We’ve been to Thailand so many times, I’ve lost count. When travelling back to Australia from Europe we find a few days of relaxation, massage, great food and swimming is the perfect way to break the journey and get over some of the jet lag.

I used the mangoes to make one of our favourite Thai dishes, Green Mango Salad and it was delicious.

Thai Green Mango Salad

3 green mangoes, peeled and coarsely grated or cut into fine julienne
3 spring onions or 1 small red onion, finely sliced
½ cup fresh grated coconut or desiccated coconut
¼ cup Thai or ordinary basil, shredded
¼ cup coriander, coarsely chopped
Dressing:
Juice of 2 limes
2-3 Tbs palm sugar, crushed, or brown sugar
1 Tbs Thai sweet chilli sauce
1 small red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
2 Tbs fish sauce
To garnish:
Roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
About 20 cooked prawns, peeled

Mix salad ingredients in a bowl. Mix dressing and taste – it should have a nice balance of sweet, salty, sour and hot. Mix dressing with salad, then serve garnished with the peanuts and prawns.

Serves 4

Note: green mangoes are usually available in Asian shops. If liked you can bulk up this salad by adding 2-3 cups of beansprouts.