Lobster & Mango Salad with Thai Dressing

This salad is perfect for a New Year’s Eve buffet. I’ve been making it for about 20 years and it’s always a hit. One of my top ten cold recipes.  If preferred, use peeled prawns instead of lobster as I have in the photo. You will need a kilo of prawns to end up with half a kilo once they are peeled. Serve on individual plates as a starter or on one large platter as part of a buffet.

500g cooked lobster (crayfish) meat, or cooked shelled prawns
2 slightly underripe mangoes, skinned, sliced and cut into julienne sticks
1 med red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
1 bunch spring onions, white & some of the green, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 bunch coriander, leaves picked off (keep the stalks for the dressing)
A handful of basil leaves, picked off and torn in half if large
60g baby spinach
1 cup beansprouts
Dressing:
¾ cup lime juice
80g palm sugar or brown sugar
1 stalk lemongrass, white part only
Stalks from 1 bunch of coriander
2 Tbs Fish sauce
Garnish:
¾ cup unsalted cashews
Extra Virgin olive oil

Make dressing and refrigerate. Slice lobster meat into large chunky pieces. If using prawns just peel, devein and leave whole. Mix with a little of the dressing and the chilli and refrigerate till serving time. Toast cashews in a dry pan, over medium heat. Wash spinach, basil, beansprouts and coriander. Dry in a salad spinner then refrigerate in the spinner. Prepare mango and spring onions and refrigerate, separately. All ingredients can be prepared well ahead.

To serve, mix spinach, coriander leaves, basil leaves, beansprouts and spring onions with enough dressing to moisten. Divide between six individual plates or pile into one large serving dish. Arrange the lobster or prawns on top and garnish with the mango and cashews. Drizzle with extra dressing if liked. You may not need all the mango, depending on the size of the mangoes you use. Drizzle a little olive oil around the salad.

Dressing:
Heat lime juice in a small saucepan with palm sugar and stir to dissolve. Place in food processor with remaining ingredients. Process till fairly smooth, then tip into a jar with a lid. Can be made ahead.

Serves 6 as a starter or light lunch, 4 as a main course or 10 to 12 as part of a buffet

Notes: if you don’t have lemongrass use a couple of strips of lemon or lime peel, removed with a potato peeler. If you don’t have unsalted cashews, salted ones will do. If you don’t have lime juice use lemon juice.

Gin-Cured Salmon with Kewpie Mayonnaise & Pickled Grapes

This delicious gin-cured salmon (inspired by a dish I had at one of our favourite Canberra eateries, Lambsheds) is great to have ready in the freezer for the holiday season, whether you’re living in the northern or southern hemisphere. It’s so easy to make and guaranteed to impress your guests. I buy the salmon from Costco because they do a great job of deboning, you don’t even have to check. This recipe is a variation on a traditional Gravlax.

Serve the salmon as a starter or light lunch, or on Chinese spoons, as appetisers. I’ve been collecting Chinese spoons from second-hand stores for some time and have well over fifty. When asked to bring a plate to an end of year gathering this is what I have been taking this year.

If you don’t have time to make the cured salmon, the recipe works well using plain raw salmon (top sashimi quality, remove any brown bits and slice thinly) with the kewpie mayonnaise and pickled grapes. Kewpie mayonnaise is a Japanese product available in most supermarkets. Juniper berries and pink peppercorns (which are actually not peppercorns at all) are available from specialty shops such as The Essential Ingredient.

The grapes in the photos are very small ones we grow ourselves, so I leave them whole. They are delicious with cured salmon, smoked salmon, or on oysters, with a sliver of spring onion, for those who don’t insist in eating them “au naturel”.

1 side of salmon (about 1kg), skinned and de-boned
1/3 cup each salt, sugar and gin
1 tsp pink peppercorns
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp juniper berries
2 tsp coriander seeds
Finely grated rind of 1 lime
To serve: 
Kewpie mayonnaise
Finely sliced spring onions or finely chopped onion
Pickled grapes (see below)
Baby cucumbers, sliced and halved (optional)
Pink peppercorns (optional)

Cut salmon in half across the middle of the fish. Place spices in a mortar and pestle and grind fairly finely. Place in a bowl with remaining ingredients and mix well. Spread about a third in a shallow glass dish, then place one piece of fish on top, then another third of the spice mix, the second piece of fish and remaining spice mix. Cover with plastic wrap or a plastic bag, then place a plate or a board on top and a couple of cans of tomatoes or whatever, to weigh it down. Refrigerate for 2-3 days, turning the fish once or twice.

Remove the salmon from the gin marinade, scrape off the spice mix and pat dry with paper towels. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and freeze until needed.

To serve, slice salmon thinly and arrange on individual starter plates or Chinese spoons. Garnish with Kewpie mayonnaise, spring onions, baby cucumber (optional) and drained pickled grapes. If liked sprinkle with a few pink peppercorns.

Pickled grapes:
½ cup each water, white or cider vinegar and sugar
Black seedless grapes cut into halves or quarters, depending on size

Heat water, vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan until sugar has dissolved, then tip into a jam jar. Add grapes. The quantity varies, but they all need to be submerged in the liquid. Keep in the fridge.

Three-Cheese Semolina Gnocchi with Gremolata

My friend Meg served this delicious starter over a year ago and at my request sent me the recipe. It’s taken me ages to get around to making it, as I always have a long list of recipes I want to try.

It originally appeared on Donna Hay’s website, but it’s not there any more. The original version serves 10-12 so I halved it to serve six as a starter. The recipe uses an Italian cheese called Taleggio in the gnocchi mix, but you could also use something stronger such as Gruyere or Cheddar.

750 ml milk
1 cup semolina
3 egg yolks
100g grated Taleggio cheese (or substitute Gruyere or strong cheddar)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A few sprigs of fresh marjoram
½ cup grated mozzarella
½ cup grated parmesan
Gremolata:
1 Tbs finely chopped parsley
2 tsp finely chopped fresh marjoram
2 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp lemon rind (removed with veg peeler then shredded finely)
1 small clove garlic crushed

Place milk in a non-stick saucepan and bring to the boil. Gradually mix in the semolina, using a wooden spatula. Cook for 2-3 mins or until thickened then remove from the heat. Mix in the egg yolks, the cheese and season to taste. Scrape into a lightly greased square or rectangular dish. Mine is 20 cm square. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours or until firm.

Meanwhile make the gremolata by mixing all ingredients together in a bowl or a jar with a lid.

When ready to serve, turn on the grill. Cut the gnocchi into six evenly sized rectangles and place on an oven tray lined with baking paper, leaving some space between each one. Sprinkle with the marjoram, the mozzarella and the parmesan. Grill for 2-3 mins or until cheese is golden and melted. Arrange on 6 serving plates and top with the gremolata. Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil around the gnocchi.

Serves 6 as a starter

Variations: instead of taleggio you could use goat’s cheese. Instead of fresh marjoram you could use oregano or thyme

Crushed Carrots with Pistachio Pesto

I adapted this recipe from one by Noor Murad. She uses fresh coriander as the green herb in the pesto. I used mint and am confident that basil would work equally well. You could even use a mixture of fresh herbs. This recipe raises the humble old carrot to amazing heights. Serve as a side dish or as part of a buffet.

Carrots:
1 to 1½ kg carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
½ cup water
2 Tbs olive oil
6 cloves garlic, peeled
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp chilli flakes
2 Tbs maple syrup
Pesto:
1 cup tightly packed coriander, mint or basil leaves
¾ cup pistachio nuts, lightly toasted
1 clove garlic
About ½ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Garnish:
½ red onion, thinly sliced
Juice of 1 lime or half a lemon
¾ cup Greek yoghurt

Preheat oven to 200°C. Place carrots and remaining ingredients in a shallow roasting pan. Mix then roast for 30 mins, or until no liquid remains and carrots are glazed, turning once or twice during cooking time. Tip onto a shallow serving plate and crush the carrots roughly with a  fork.

While carrots are cooking make the garnishes by mixing about half the lemon or lime juice with the red onion and the other half with the yoghurt. Also make the pesto by placing all ingredients except the oil in a food processor. Process until chunky, adding the oil gradually through the feed tube with the motor running and stopping halfway to scrape down the sides. Season to taste.

Drizzle the pesto over the carrots, then put blobs of the yoghurt all over and finally the drained onions.

Serves 4-6 as a side dish

Variations: use pine nuts instead of pistachios, a little Harissa paste instead of chilli flakes, parsnips or sweet potatoes instead of carrots

White Chocolate Semifreddos with Raspberry Coulis

Recently I spent a few days in hospital. While eating the unimaginative, tasteless, hospital meals I watched the SBS Food Channel and jotted down some ideas.

This recipe comes from Anna Olson. The conical paper cups you need to make ice cream cones can be found on eBay. The ones I bought come in a pack of fifty, weren’t expensive and arrived within a few days. Just look for Conical Disposable paper cups on Google. If preferred, scrape the white chocolate mousse into a loaf tin (either silicone which doesn’t need to be lined or metal which does) and cut it into slices after freezing.

1¼ cups milk
3 egg yolks
3 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs cornflour
2 tsp gelatine
3 Tbs cold water
250g white chocolate broken into squares
2 Tbs butter
1 cup thick cream
Raspberry Coulis:
2 cups frozen raspberries
2 Tbs sugar, or to taste

Place milk in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Place egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a bowl and mix with a balloon whisk, gradually adding the hot milk. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook, stirring with a wooden spatula until thickened. Mix the gelatine and cold water in a small bowl, then zap in the microwave for 20-30 secs or until dissolved. Mix gelatine into the custard then turn off the heat and add the white chocolate and butter. The heat from the custard will melt them. Stir occasionally to mix them in then allow the mixture to cool.

Whip cream until thick then fold into the cooled mixture. Use to fill 8-10 conical paper cups. Place them in glasses which allow them to stand more or less upright. Freeze overnight or for several hours.

For the coulis, thaw the raspberries with the sugar, stirring from time to time, until sugar has dissolved. Push through a sieve, discarding the seeds and pulp.

Place a semifreddo cone on each serving plate. Peel off the paper cups and garnish with the raspberry coulis.

Serves 8-10

Mushroom and Mustard Soup

This soup is one of our favourites. If you have wild mushrooms growing where you live and you know they are edible, then this is a perfect way to use them. If not just buy some mushrooms, preferably the larger ones which are dark underneath and have more flavour.

500g mushrooms
100g butter
600 ml chicken or vegetable stock
4 Tbs dry sherry
2 Tbs Dijon mustard
300 ml thick cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Do not wash or peel mushrooms, just wipe and chop roughly. Melt butter in heavy pan and allow to brown. Add mushrooms and cook for a few minutes, stirring. Add stock and sherry. Bring to the boil and add mustard.

When cool enough to handle, blend the soup in a blender or food processor. Add cream and adjust seasoning. Can be made ahead to this point. Reheat the soup and serve with a swirl of cream on top.

Serves 8

Beef Stroganoff L’Or du Rhone

Everyone has a favourite recipe for beef stroganoff, but if yours doesn’t use brandy to flambé the meat, give this recipe a try. It makes all the difference.

It comes from a restaurant just outside Geneva which we frequented in the 1970s. I had a look on Google but it’s no longer there. Beef Stroganoff was one of the dishes you could order and watch them make on a trolley they brought to the table. Another one was Crêpes Suzette. As I watched the performance I wrote down the recipe, to which I have added the mushrooms. I’ve also halved the amount of cream they used.

1 kg fillet of beef, cut into strips
Or 750g beef and 250g button mushrooms
Dry English mustard and oregano
Salt and Pepper
60g butter
250g chopped shallots or spring onions
1/3 cup brandy
Few drops Tabasco sauce
4 tsp paprika
1 cup sour cream
4 Tbs chopped parsley

Prepare meat then season with some dry mustard powder, oregano, salt and pepper and put aside. Quantities to suit your taste. Leave mushrooms whole if small, or cut into halves or quarters, according to their size.

In a large frying pan heat half the butter and fry onions gently until soft. Add mushrooms and continue to cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until softened. Remove from the pan. Turn up the heat and add remaining butter, then the meat, stirring and cooking for 2-3 minutes or until browned all over. Return the onions and mushrooms to the pan and cook, stirring for another couple of minutes. Add brandy and set alight, stirring until flames subside. Turn off extractor fan while you do this. Add Tabasco, paprika and sour cream and cook, stirring, for a minute or two until thickened.

Garnish with parsley and serve with pasta or rice and a green vegetable.

Serves 4

Substitutions: use fresh cream instead of sour cream.

 

Feta and Spring Onion Bouikos

The Middle East’s answer to cheese straws, these feta and spring onion bouikos are delicious. The recipe, slightly tweaked, came from a UK restaurant called Honey & Co.

Bouikos can be prepared ahead and left in the fridge until just before guests are due to arrive. They are at their best served warm, not quite so good at room temperature and should definitely be eaten on the day they are made. I doubt very much that you will have any leftover, but if you do please send them round here.

I’ve made them twice and used feta and cheddar both times, but I plan to try using other cheeses, such as a blue cheese and ricotta. You could even try adding some finely diced bacon.

2 spring onions
50g cold butter cut into four
40g grated sharp cheddar (about ¼ cup)
40g feta (about ¼ cup)
¾ cup plain flour
Good pinch salt
¼ cup sour cream
Nigella or Poppy seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 180°C unless you are making these ahead and planning to refrigerate them till serving time. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Place spring onions in a food processor and process to chop. Add remaining ingredients and process until mixture forms a ball, then stop the motor. Tip out onto a lightly floured surface then pat out or roll out to a rectangle with a thickness of about 1 cm. If using, sprinkle with Nigella or poppy seeds. Cut into 12 squares, then cut each square into two triangles. Arrange slightly apart on baking sheet then bake for about 15 minutes, turning the tray halfway through to ensure even colouring.

Makes about 24

Chocolate Brownie

Delicious as a snack with a cup of tea or coffee, or as a dessert with cream and berries, everyone needs a good chocolate brownie recipe. The last time I made this with my granddaughter Natalia, we swapped the chocolate chips for M and Ms, at her suggestion. She rushed off on her bike to buy a packet.

½ cup butter (125g)
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1¾ cups self raising flour (or plain flour and 2 tsp BP)
Pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup cocoa
1 cup chocolate chips or chopped nuts (e.g. walnuts, macadamias, pecans) or a mixture

Preheat oven to 180°C. Butter a 9 inch or 22cm square tin and line with baking paper. Or use a silicone pan which doesn’t need greasing.

Place butter and sugar in food processor and mix well, scraping down the sides halfway through. Or use electric beaters in a bowl. Add eggs, mix, then gradually add the sifted flour, salt, vanilla and cocoa, scraping down the sides again halfway through.  Add chocolate chips or nuts and process very briefly, just enough to mix them in.

Scrape into tin and smooth the top. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Don’t overcook as it’s better undercooked than overcooked.

Cut into 16 squares

Roasted Peas with Brown Butter & Garlic

Yotam Ottolenghi has taught me that all vegetables taste better roasted rather than boiled in water, the way our mother’s and grandmothers cooked them. Maybe not yours, but certainly mine. They knew how to roast potatoes, parsnips and pumpkin, but anything green went into boiling water. Roasting Brussels sprouts, asparagus and cauliflower takes them to a whole new level.

This recipe didn’t come from Mr Ottolenghi but from Pinterest, where you can find quite a few versions. I’m not going to give exact quantities. I used less butter than the recipes called for, so I’ll leave it up to you. Don’t be put off by the amount of garlic because the roasting makes it soft and sweet.

I served the peas with salmon topped with a mixture of finely chopped ginger and Thai sweet chilli sauce, baked in the oven on a tray lined with baking paper for for 8-10 minutes at 200°C.

Frozen Peas
Butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Peeled cloves of garlic (about a dozen?)

Preheat oven to 200°C. Place the peas in a sieve and run hot water from the tap over them, drain and put in a bowl. Heat a large knob of butter in a saucepan until it turns golden brown. How much butter is up to you and depends on how many peas you are doing.

Add the butter, garlic cloves and seasoning to the peas. Line a baking tray with baking paper and tip the peas onto it, spreading them out into one layer. Bake for 10-20 minutes, turning once or twice. Time will depend on the size of the peas.

Variations: add some finely diced bacon or frozen corn kernels.