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.

Chicken Teriyaki

This chicken recipe is easy and delicious. Perfect for a family dinner but also perfect for a BBQ with friends – just double the quantities and arrange on a large serving platter, with the rice underneath and the chicken arranged over the top.

The spring onion slices in the photo are huge because they’re from the garden and everything seems to grow huge at the farm! Any leftovers are good cold.

 

8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 1kg)
Marinade:
½ cup soy sauce
½ cup sugar
1 Tbs grated fresh ginger
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cinnamon stick
1 Tbs lemon juice
¼ cup water
To garnish and finish:
Extra water
1 Tbs cornflour
Thinly sliced spring onions
Toasted sesame seeds
Steamed rice

Place trimmed chicken pieces in a heavy-duty sealable plastic bag. Place all ingredients for marinade in a saucepan and heat until sugar has dissolved, then cool. Pour into bag with chicken, close the bag and leave in the fridge overnight. Best to put the bag into a bowl just in case it leaks.

Drain chicken and set aside. Pour marinade through a sieve and discard the cinnamon and other bits. Place marinade in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Mix cornflour with 2 Tbs extra water and add to the marinade, stirring until sauce thickens. Sauce should be the consistency of heavy pouring cream. If it’s too thick add a tablespoon or two more water.

Preheat a grill or BBQ. Lightly brush chicken on all sides with the sauce and cook for 4-5 mins each side, or until cooked through and nicely glazed. Reheat sauce.

Slice chicken and serve on a bed of steamed rice, drizzled with some sauce and garnished with spring onions and toasted sesame seeds.

Serves 4

 

Barbecued Baby Octopus

Whenever I serve baby octopus I think of my dearly departed Dad.

Kenf

His name was Kenneth but in the family he was always known as Kenf. For someone brought up on a very traditional British diet Kenf was quite adventurous when it came to eating. He loved Chinese food and spicy curries. In fact he pretty much ate anything you put in front of him.

My parents came over from the UK to visit us in Paris and I decided to serve baby octopus. As we finished our meal I glanced up and although he didn’t say anything I could tell that he wasn’t impressed.

“What do you think?” I enquired. “Well if you really want to know” he replied “I thought it was like eating Dunlop rubber”.

Maybe they were a bit chewy, but I didn’t think they were that bad! Since then I’ve found this recipe which isn’t chewy (thanks to the red wine) and I often wonder if it would have met with Kenf’s approval.

If you like things spicy add a bit of finely chopped fresh chilli.

IMG_0156

1 kg baby octopus (fresh or frozen)
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
250ml (1 cup) red wine
1 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs sweet chilli sauce
1 Tbs tomato sauce (ketchup)
1 Tbs olive oil
To serve:
Chopped fresh coriander
Olive oil

If using fresh octopus clean thoroughly, rinse and drain well. If using frozen octopus thaw, rinse and drain.

Place balsamic vinegar and wine in a saucepan with the octopus. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 mins. Drain, discard the wine and place octopus in a bowl with the soy, chilli sauce, tomato sauce and olive oil. Stir to combine.

Heat BBQ to high and cook the octopus for 5-6 mins, turning occasionally, until lightly charred and crispy on the edges. Serve on a bed of rocket or with steamed rice, garnished with coriander and a drizzle of oil.

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a starter

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.

Panko Prawn Balls

The QANTAS business class lounge in Bangkok is currently serving some delicious prawn balls. Light and crispy on the outside and soft and prawny in the middle, they are served with sweet chilli sauce for dipping. Very moreish.

Having read through a few similar recipes online I came up with the following version.

Panko Prawn Balls

3 spring onions
¼ cup drained canned water chestnuts
300g peeled and deveined raw shrimp or prawns
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp grated ginger
2 tsp cornflour
1 egg white
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
2 tsp Chinese rice wine or sherry
To finish:
Panko crumbs (see note below)
Vegetable oil
Sweet Chilli Sauce

Finely chop spring onions and water chestnuts in a food processor using the pulse button or by hand. Tip into a bowl. Finely chop the prawns – not too fine – you don’t want a puree, so leave a few chunky bits. Add to the bowl with remaining ingredients and mix well.

Place panko crumbs in a shallow bowl. Using damp hands, form prawn mixture into balls about 2cm in diameter, roll in panko crumbs, then place on a tray. Refrigerate until needed.

Heat 2-3 cm of vegetable oil in a frying pan or wok. When hot add the prawn balls, a few at a time and cook, turning so they cook both sides, for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels.

Serve prawn balls warm on toothpicks with sweet chilli sauce for dipping.

Makes about 20 balls

Note: Panko crumbs are much lighter and crunchier than normal breadcrumbs. You can find them in most supermarkets.

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.

Sticky Pork Ribs with Plums

What the supermarkets here call pork spareribs are actually pork belly rashers, as they have no bones. I bought a packet and was planning to cook them with a sticky sauce. Then my Thai friend Pom gave me some plums, so I decided to throw them in towards the end of the cooking time. The result was delicious with the fruit providing just the right contrast to the richness of the meat.

Sticky Pork Ribs with Plums

8-10 pork belly rashers or spare ribs
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs BBQ sauce, or HP sauce or Tomato Ketchup
2 Tbs oyster sauce or Sweet Chilli Sauce
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs honey or brown sugar or maple syrup
1 crushed clove garlic
2-3 tsp grated fresh ginger
About 8 plums

Preheat oven to 180°C. If liked remove rind from the pork. Leaving it on results in chewier pork, but I like it that way. Place pork in a baking pan and season on both sides. Bake for an hour to an hour and a half or until tender, turning them over about halfway through the cooking. Tip off the fat. Mix the three sauces with the honey/brown sugar or maple syrup, garlic and ginger and spread some over the pork. Add the plums, stoned and cut into quarters. Return pan to the oven for about 15 minutes then remove, turn the pork over and spread with remaining sauce. Continue to cook for a further 15 minutes or until nicely glazed and plums are cooked. Serve with steamed rice and steamed bok choy.

Serves 3-4

Variations: leave out the plums altogether if preferred, or substitute peaches or nectarines.

Scallops with Black Bean Dressing

When Tetsuya Wakuda opened his restaurant Tetsuya’s in Sydney in 1989 it was a culinary breath of fresh air and Australians were literally wowed. By combining French cooking techniques he had learnt while working at Kinsela’s for Tony Bilson with the pure clean flavours of his heritage this smiley Japanese chef was an overnight success.

The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide gave Tetsuya’s their highest possible award every year from 1992 until 2009. Not bad for a guy who arrived in Sydney in 1982 with nothing more than a small suitcase and a love of food.

This delicious starter appeared in a newspaper article about Tetsuya some 20 years ago and I cut it out. I’ve been making it ever since and it always goes down well. Scallops are quite expensive but three per person is enough for a light starter.

Scallops with Black Bean Dressing

24 large scallops, without roe
1 leek, white part only, cut into fine julienne
oil to fry
3 Nori sheets, very finely sliced*

Dressing:
¾ cup vegetable or light olive oil
¼ cup salted black beans, finely chopped*
¼ cup finely chopped shallots
3 Tbs rice wine vinegar*
2 Tbs mirin*
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 Tbs fresh ginger, grated or finely chopped
1 tsp soy sauce

Thaw scallops if frozen and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Place dressing ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake well. Taste and add a bit more rice wine vinegar if necessary, to get the right balance. Deep fry leeks in hot oil until crispy then drain on paper towels. Recipe can be made ahead to this stage.

To serve, arrange the nori “straw” on 8 serving plates. Brush or lightly spray scallops on both sides with some oil, then sear on a hot pan or griddle for 1-2 minutes each side or until golden. Arrange three scallops on each plate, drizzle with some of the dressing, then garnish with the crispy leeks.

Serves 8

Notes: * ingredients marked with an asterisk are available from Asian food stores. Leftover dressing will keep for a week or two in the fridge and goes well with grilled fish or chicken. The black beans come in tins or packets. If you buy them in a tin, drain and rinse well. Large raw prawns can be used instead of scallops and if you don’t have any nori, serve on a bed of finely shredded rocket.

Beef Teriyaki

Beef Teriyaki is one of my favourite stir fry recipes. There are other stir fries I’ve made once or twice, but I’ve made this one dozens of times. It’s quick, easy and adaptable – just as delicious at room temperature as it is hot.

With the addition of lots of veggies, a small amount of beef goes a long way. Use Singapore noodles, Hokkien or similar. We find the amount of soy sauce is about right, but soy sauces do vary from brand to brand. If you find it’s a bit too salty make a note and next time use less soy sauce and make up the difference with water.

Beef Teriyaki500g beef – I use 2-3 thick rump or topside steaks
3 Tbs vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 large onion, halved and sliced
1 large red pepper, sliced
4 medium zucchini (courgettes) sliced or cut into sticks
2 medium carrots, cut into sticks
250g mushrooms, sliced
½ cup soy sauce
1 Tbs sugar
¼ cup dry sherry
450g packet of fresh, pre-cooked Chinese egg noodles (omit for a Low Carb meal)

Freeze steak a bit to make it easier to slice thinly. Slice downwards into paper thin strips. Dry well on paper towels. Heat oil in wok or large frying pan. Add meat and garlic and stir fry for 1-2 minutes over high heat or until browned. Remove meat from pan, leaving the oil behind. Add onion and stir fry 2 minutes, then add remaining vegetables except mushrooms and stir fry for 5 minutes or until al dente. Add soy sauce mixed with sugar and sherry. Meanwhile cook noodles in boiling salted water according to packet instructions. Return meat to pan with mushrooms and stir fry for 2-3 minutes. Fold through drained noodles and stir fry for about a minute.

Note: if using dried noodles you will need only 125g and they will take longer to cook. If liked you can always add a touch of fresh chilli and substitute other vegetables such as broccoli, green beans, cauliflower or asparagus.

Serves 4