Asparagus with Smoked Salmon, Poached Egg and Quick Hollandaise

Asparagus goes very well with smoked fish and with eggs. This recipe uses both and ties all the ingredients together with a delicious herby hollandaise sauce, which takes no time at all to make.

It’s best to be cautious on timing the first time you make the sauce. Microwave ovens vary and it may only need 10 or 12 seconds on High in yours.

10-12 spears asparagus
4 slices smoked salmon
2 large eggs
Quick Hollandaise Sauce:
2 egg yolks
3-4 tsp lemon juice
pinch of salt and cayenne pepper
60g butter, melted
1 Tbs chopped fresh tarragon (optional)
To garnish:
Pink peppercorns (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil

Trim and wash asparagus and place in a frying pan. Add cold water to cover, then turn on the heat, bring to the boil and cook for 3 minutes or until al dente. Drain on paper towels then arrange on two heated serving plates. Meanwhile poach the eggs and make the sauce.

Arrange a poached egg and two slices of smoked salmon on each serving of asparagus. Garnish with the sauce, a few pink peppercorns, if using and a drizzle of olive oil.

Quick Hollandaise Sauce: place egg yolks, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a heatproof bowl and whisk with a balloon whisk to combine. Whisk in the hot melted butter, then zap in the microwave for 14-15 seconds on High (no more or the egg yolks will scramble). Whisk vigorously to combine, add the tarragon and serve.

Serves 2

Pumpkin and Leek Frittata

Frittata is a quiche without the pastry. Delicious straight out of the oven and leftovers make a tasty lunch the following day.

1 kg butternut pumpkin, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
2-3 leeks depending on size, white part only, sliced
6-8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbs fresh chopped thyme
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 eggs
1½ cups cream
½ cup grated parmesan
1 cup ricotta or cream cheese (optional)
Chopped parsley to garnish

Preheat oven to 220°C. Place pumpkin, leeks, garlic, thyme, oil, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix well. Spread out on a shallow baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 25-30 mins or until cooked and starting to brown. Meanwhile whisk eggs, cream and parmesan in a bowl and season.

Tip vegetable mixture into a non-stick frying pan with an oven-proof handle. Choose one measuring about 28cm in diameter. Pour the egg and cream mixture evenly over the vegetables, then if using put blobs of ricotta or cream cheese all over.

Bake for 25 minutes or until puffed and golden. Garnish with parsley.

Serves 4-6

Proper Baked Beans

First produced in 1901, Heinz Baked Beans have maintained their popularity for well over a century. One of the best known advertising slogans launched in the UK in 1967 was Beanz Meanz Heinz.

I’ve never been a fan, but have several friends who eat them when they need some comfort food.

Proper Baked Beans, made from scratch by soaking dried beans, now that’s a different story. I think they’re quite delicious. In this recipe the beans aren’t actually baked, although you could always cook them in the oven rather than on the stove top, if preferred. In fact Heinz Baked Beans, despite the name, aren’t baked either. Raw beans are placed in the cans with the sauce, then sealed and cooked in very large pressure cookers.

500g dried white beans (eg haricot blanc, white kidney beans)*
2 Tbs canola or olive oil
250g smoked streaky bacon, chopped
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 x 400g cans tomatoes, chopped
500ml water
2 Tbs tomato paste
100g brown sugar (or less if preferred)
200ml vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
To serve:
Hot buttered toast
Chopped fresh herbs
Grated Parmesan (optional)

Cover beans with cold water and leave to soak overnight. Drain and rinse thoroughly then place in a large saucepan, cover with water and simmer for an hour, or until cooked. Beans vary and could take up to two hours. Add more water as necessary. Drain.

In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan heat the oil. Add the bacon, onions and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring often, until onions are soft and bacon is starting to brown. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, vinegar and water. Bring to the boil then add the cooked beans. Reduce to low and simmer for an hour and a half, or until you have a thick sauce and very tender beans. Add a dash more water from time to time if necessary.

Check seasoning and serve on toasted and buttered Turkish or Sourdough bread, garnished with chopped herbs and a little grated Parmesan, if liked.

Serves 8

*If preferred, substitute 3-4 cans of drained canned beans and skip the first paragraph of the recipe.

Oeufs en Cocotte

A few weeks ago I was looking for good breakfast dishes on Café Cat to recommend to 2CC radio listeners who wanted to spoil their Mum on Mothers’ Day. As I looked through the Index I realised that, despite being into its seventh year, Café Cat had not yet published my absolute favourite egg dish, Oeufs en Cocotte, which is just a fancy French way of saying Baked Eggs.

Serve this for breakfast, brunch, lunch or supper to put a smile on everyone’s face. If you’re a fan of eggs I guarantee you’ll like this one. Once you’ve made them a couple of times you will know exactly how long they take in your oven.

Other delicious egg recipes you might like to try are Salad Lyonnaise à la Madeleine and Spanish Eggs with Jamon.

30g butter
Stale breadcrumbs (about 4 heaped Tbs or so)
4 large eggs
4 heaped tsp sour cream or crème fraîche
1 Tbs snipped chives
To serve:
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Hot buttered toast

Preheat oven to 180°C. Make the breadcrumbs by whizzing a slice or two of stale bread in the food processor. Don’t make them too fine. Butter two half cup ramekins and put a small piece of butter in each. Heat the rest of the butter in a non-stick frying pan and cook the breadcrumbs, stirring, until golden brown. Place half the breadcrumbs in the bottom of the ramekins, then two eggs in each dish, then top with the remaining breadcrumbs.

Place ramekins in a baking dish and pour boiling water to come halfway up the sides. Bake for 15 mins, or until whites are set, but yolks are still soft in the middle. Press the tops with your finger to check.

Mix sour cream with chives and dollop on top of the dishes, then sprinkle a few more chives on top. Serve with buttered toast and pass round a salt and pepper mill.

Serves 2

Variations: if you don’t have chives use finely chopped spring onion tops.

Kedgeree with Curry Sauce, Hot Smoked Salmon & Poached Eggs

I grew up on a fairly basic British diet of meat and three veg. However, my mother was a British Army kid and while living in Hong Kong and Malta she was exposed to some “foreign dishes”. She had two in her repertoire – Spaghetti Bolognese and Kedgeree. Nowadays these dishes are familiar to most people, but when I was a child they were pretty unusual to find in a British household – unless of course you were “foreign”, which we weren’t.

When one of my school friends came round for dinner and Mum served one of these my guest would push the food around the plate and eat very little. No doubt about it, back then this was weird food.

You can find my mother’s recipe for Kedgeree along with an Asian variation here. I found today’s version in an airline magazine some years ago and have been meaning to make it ever since. I have a huge folder and an email box dedicated to recipes I plan to make one day, so I don’t think I’ll ever run out of inspiration for this blog!

1 cup basmati or other long grain rice
300g hot smoked salmon (or substitute ordinary smoked salmon)
1 Tbs butter or Extra Virgin olive oil
2 Tbs snipped chives
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Curry Sauce:
1 Tbs butter or olive oil
2 shallots or spring onions, chopped
2 tsp curry powder
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
2 Tbs vinegar
½ cup white wine
1 cup fish or vegetabe stock
1 cup cream or coconut cream
pinch of saffron or turmeric
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To finish:
4 poached eggs (or soft boiled)
Chopped fresh coriander
Crispy shallots (a dried product from Asian supermarkets)
Lemon or lime wedges

Place rice in a saucepan with a little more than one and a half cups of water and a teaspoon of salt. Bring to the boil then cover and turn down heat as low as possible. Cook for 10-15 mins, or until water has been absorbed. Turn off the heat and leave it to continue cooking in the steam.

Meanwhile for the Curry Sauce, melt butter in a frying pan and cook shallots for 2-3 mins until soft. Add curry powder and cayenne and cook, stirring for a minute. Add vinegar and cook until it has evaporated. Add wine and do the same. Add stock and cook until reduced by half. Add cream or coconut cream and saffron and cook until the sauce has a nice coating consistency.. Season to taste. (If liked pass through a sieve – see Note below)

Poach the eggs. Break the hot smoked salmon into large chunks and mix into the hot rice with the butter or olive oil and chives. Season to taste.

To serve, divide rice between four bowls. Top each serving with a poached egg and some Curry Sauce. Garnish with coriander, crispy shallots and a lemon or lime wedge.

Serves 4

Note: I used spring onions rather than shallots and decided to pass the sauce through a sieve to remove the bits. I mixed these bits into the rice, so they weren’t wasted. I just thought the sauce looked nicer without them. After sieving the sauce I reheated it to serve.

Green Vegetable Frittata with Pesto and Cheese

Frittatas are Italian omelettes. They make a delicious hot meal and any leftovers are perfect cold for lunch next day.

1 bunch asparagus and 1 small bunch broccolini
2 Tbs butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 eggs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
To serve:
About 6 Tbs pesto (bought or home-made)
Extra virgin olive oil
100g goat’s cheese or feta cheese, crumbled

Wash vegetables and cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) lengths, discarding the tough ends. Heat butter in a 25cm (10 inch) cast-iron or non-stick frying pan. Add the asparagus, broccolini and garlic and season lightly with salt and pepper. Stir fry for 3-4 minutes. Meanwhile beat the eggs and season lightly.

When the vegetables are cooked and starting to brown, add the eggs, pulling in the sides with a spatula as they cook, as you do with an omelette. When the frittata is mostly set, sprinkle the Parmesan over the top. Turn off the heat then either put the pan under a hot grill for a minute or so, or cover it with a lid and let it stand for for a minute or so. This is to set the top.

Mix enough olive oil into the pesto to make it pourable then drizzle over the top of the frittata. Top with the crumbled cheese. Cut into wedges to serve.

Serves 3-4 as a light meal

Burrata with Rockmelon

The Fine Food Fair was on at the Convention Centre in Sydney last month. It runs over 4 days every September and alternates between Sydney and Melbourne.

That’s Amore Cheese makes Italian-style cheeses in Thomastown Victoria. They had a stand at the Fine Food Fair, with a wonderful selection of their wares on display. The burrata was superb so I made a point of finding out where to buy it in Canberra where I live. It’s sold at the Mart Deli at the Fyshwick Markets and when I popped in just before closing time last Sunday they were selling everything with 25% off and there were just two pots of Burrata left. I bought them both.

Burrata is made from cow’s milk, rennet and cream and is a typical product of Murgia in the south of Italy. The outside consists of mozzarella, while the inside contains stracciatella and cream, giving it a delicious, soft texture.

Burrata goes well with fruit so I came up with this easy dish which combines it with rockmelon. It also goes well with:
  • Sliced tomatoes – use really flavoursome ones from your garden or farmer’s market – drizzle with Extra Virgin olive oil and garnish with basil leaves
  • Grilled figs – drizzle the figs with honey before grilling and serve with burrata as a starter or dessert
  • Grilled capsicums – drizzle with Extra Virgin olive oil and maybe some basil pesto

 

One Burrata cheese (125g net)
Melon balls (or substitute mango, peach or nectarine slices)
Extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic glaze
Finely shredded spring onion
Salt flakes and cracked black pepper
Crusty fresh bread to serve

Place cheese in the middle of serving plate then arrange remaining ingredients around it, as shown in the photo.

Serves 1 or 2 as a starter or snack

Little Cauliflower Cheeses

This recipe makes 12 delicious little cauliflower cheeses. Instead of flour it uses breadcrumbs to hold the mixture together. Serve as a side dish, snack or healthy addition to school or office lunch boxes.

It’s a very adaptable recipe. Use broccoli or asparagus instead of cauliflower. Grated Parmesan or crumbled feta instead of cheddar.

1¼ cups breadcrumbs, preferably Panko
500g cauliflower florets
1 egg
250ml light cream or evaporated milk or half cream and half milk
¾ cup grated cheddar cheese
2 rashers bacon, finely chopped (or use ham)
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped (or use another fresh herb)
25g butter, melted
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 200°C. Lightly grease a 12 hole one-third of a cup muffin pan. Keep half a cup of cauliflower florets. Place the rest in a food processor and process till finely chopped. Place in a bowl with the breadcrumbs, egg, cream and half a cup of the grated cheddar. Mix well and season to taste, then divide among the muffin pan holes.

Slice remaining cauliflower thinly and mix with the bacon, thyme, melted butter and remaining cheddar. Top the muffins with this mixture. Bake 20-30 mins or until risen, golden and firm to the touch. Don’t overcook as they will be dry if you do. Cool 10 mins in pans then run a knife around to remove. Serve warm or at room temperature garnished with some fresh thyme leaves.

Makes 12

Variation: for a vegetarian version leave out the bacon and add some chopped pitted olives.

Bruschetta with Ricotta & Roasted Grapes with Rosemary

This recipe is from Silvia’s Italian table, a cooking programme currently showing on the ABC. I substituted ricotta cheese for the home-made curd cheese and balsamic glaze for the vino cotto. The result was absolutely delicious.

Make up a double or triple batch of the grapes and serve over the holiday season with cold ham, turkey or duck.

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4 cups seedless grapes (red, black or green or a mixture)
2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs vino cotto or balsamic glaze
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 Tbs fresh rosemary, pulled off the stems
1 cup ricotta cheese
1-2 Tbs cream if necessary
Toasted baguette slices or rolls (I used English muffins)

Pre-heat oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with foil or baking paper. Remove grapes from stems and spread onto baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil and balsamic glaze, season with salt and pepper and scatter with rosemary. Use your hands to thoroughly coat the grapes and crush some of them a bit. Bake for 20 minutes or until glazed. Remove from the oven and cool a bit.

Meanwhile toast the bread and top each piece with a thick layer of ricotta. If the ricotta is a bit dry as mine was, mix in some cream to make it nice and creamy. Spoon the grapes over the ricotta and serve.

Variation: South Americans can substitute Queso Fresco for the Ricotta

Rice Pudding

Rice pudding made a regular appearance on the dessert menu when I was growing up in England. My mother served it with jam or baked until it formed a golden brown skin on top. Either way it was delicious. Sadly most of the desserts I grew up with have gone out of fashion. Indeed there are probably a lot of readers who have never tried a home-made rice pudding, let alone made one.

A few years at boarding school in the UK put Matthew off all the traditional British milky desserts – rice pudding, tapioca, semolina pudding and custard. He was scarred for life and won’t touch them with a barge pole.

The weather was cold and miserable last week and I was feeling the need for some comfort food. So I made rice pudding and as Matthew doesn’t like it I ate the lot – for breakfast, for dessert or as a snack.

Rice pudding is such a flexible dish. Make it on the stove top, in the oven, in the microwave or in a rice cooker. Serve it hot or cold with jam, stewed fruit such as rhubarb or apples, or fresh fruit such as banana, blueberries or mango. Sweeten it with sugar, honey or maple syrup. If using sugar then add it when you cook the rice. If using honey or maple syrup, drizzle it on top when serving.

I usually zap a bowl full in the microwave and eat it with a drizzle of cold cream on top. Heaven, if you like that sort of thing.

Rice Pudding

1 cup short grain or medium grain rice
25g unsalted butter (optional, but it does make it richer)
4 cups (1 litre) milk
1/3 cup brown or white sugar (I use slightly less)
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped (or 1 tsp vanilla essence)
½ cup cream or canned evaporated milk
To serve:
Jam such as raspberry, strawberry or rhubarb (preferably home-made)
Or stewed fruit such as apples, peaches, rhubarb
Or fresh fruit such as banana, blueberries or mango

Place all ingredients except the cream in a saucepan, Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring from time to time, for 20-25 mins or until rice is al dente. Stir in the cream or evaporated milk and serve immediately while it’s hot, or chill and serve later, hot or cold. If preferred you can drizzle the cream or evaporated milk on top at serving time.

I prefer it hot, but it’s easy to zap a serving in the microwave.  Serve with jam, fruit compote or fresh fruit.

Serves 4

Rice Pudding made in a Rice Cooker
Place all ingredients except the cream or evaporated milk in a rice cooker and cook for one cycle, leaving it on the “keep warm” setting for 15 mins or so after it’s cooked. Add cream or evaporated milk and serve. Depending on the size of your rice cooker you may need to reduce the quantities so it doesn’t boil over. Mine is quite small so I have to reduce the rice to ¾ cup and the milk to 3 cups. Also I need to stir it a couple of times while it’s cooking, so it doesn’t stick.

Rice Pudding made in the Microwave
A really good way to use up leftover plain cooked rice. While rice puddings are usually made with short or medium grain rice, because they are stickier, any kind will do. Place cooked rice in a large bowl, so it won’t boil over. Add enough milk to not quite cover the rice and sugar to taste. Cover then microwave on High for 2-3 mins. Add cream or evaporated milk and serve. Or you can microwave it in individual servings.

Rice Pudding made in the Oven
Make rice pudding either in a saucepan (according to the basic recipe) or in a rice cooker or microwave. If made in the microwave you will need to use about 4 cups of leftover rice. Butter a shallow 6 cup baking dish, add the rice pudding and spread it out. If it seems a bit thick add a little milk and stir through. Dot with a little butter (about 30g cut into small pieces) and sprinkle with a little brown or white sugar. If liked a sprinkling of coconut flakes is nice. Bake in a hot oven for 25-30 mins or until browned on top and serve with a drizzle of cream.