Crispy Skin Salmon with Green Papaya Salad

On a recent trip to Europe we caught up with quite a few friends and family in Denmark, England and France. It was so nice to return to Copenhagen (12 years after we lived there) and find that our old friends still wanted to hang out with us. As we walked in the door the cork would pop off the first bottle of champagne, then we’d have a lovely time eating, drinking and being merry. Just like we’d never been apart. When we left a couple of days later they went back to their normal, more sensible, regime, while we moved on and started all over again.

This is why we like to spend a few days on the way back to Australia at a resort in Thailand, to recover. A week of swimming, reading, massage and early nights, with no wine and just the occasional beer or cocktail means we get home looking and feeling like we’ve had a holiday.

For the past few years we’ve stayed in Khao Lak, a 75 minute drive north of Phuket airport. It’s relatively quiet, the way Phuket was 20 or 30 years ago. I send an email to a taxi company called “Cheaper than Hotel” and when we walk out of the airport there’s our driver waiting.

Breakfast at the Chong Fah resort where we’ve stayed two years running is substantial, so we skip lunch and go out for dinner after a Happy Hour cocktail at sunset. The nearby resort named Casa de la Flora (which in correct Spanish should be Casa de la Flor) serves delicious modern Thai food. We dined there twice and both times ordered this dish which I have done my best to replicate. The recipe serves 4 as a light main course or 8 as a sharing plate.

4 salmon fillets, skin on
Salt and pepper
1 Tbs oil
Salad:
½ a small green papaya (about 200g), or 1 green mango
2 carrots (about 200g)
2 spring onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
6 green beans cut into 2.5cm lengths (or use snow peas)
½ cup dried shrimp (from Asian stores) (optional)
1-2 dried chillies, chopped, or chilli flakes, to taste
8-10 cocktail tomatoes, halved
Dressing:
1 Tbs Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce
1 Tbs lime or lemon juice
1 Tbs fish sauce
1 Tbs brown sugar or palm sugar
To garnish:
1 lime
2-3 Tbs toasted peanuts

Pour boiling water over the dried shrimp. Leave for 15 mins then drain. Cut the papaya and carrots into julienne strips. Mix all ingredients for salad. Mix dressing and add to the salad.

Season salmon then place in a non-stick frying pan, skin side down. Turn on the heat to moderately hot and cook for 3-4 minutes, until skin is crispy, then turn over and cook for another 3-4 minutes, or until done to your liking.

Divide salad between 4 serving plates. Top with the salmon and garnish with the lime, cut into cheeks or wedges and the peanuts.

Serves 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salted Caramel Macadamia Tart with Chocolate Ganache

Matthew loves anything with salted caramel, so I knew this would be right up his alley.

I used a 28 cm metal flan tin with a loose bottom. If your tin is a bit smaller the filling will be thicker and you may have a bit more pastry left. Use a shallow tin rather than a deep one you would use for a quiche.

1 batch of Sweet Shortcrust Pastry made into a 25-30 cm pastry shell
Or 1 bought pastry shell
400g macadamia nuts
Salted Caramel:
1 cup sugar
¼ cup water
1 cup cream
80g unsalted butter
1 tsp salt
Chocolate Ganache:
1 cup cream
1 Tbs liquid glucose (corn syrup)
300g dark chocolate
30g unsalted butter
To serve:
Sea salt flakes
Whipped cream

Make pastry according to the recipe at the link. Follow the instructions down as far as refrigerating for 15 mins. Bake 10 mins, remove paper and weights, then bake for a further 8 minutes (instead of 3 minutes), or until fully cooked and golden. Place macadamia nuts in a large non-stick frying pan and stir over moderate heat until slightly coloured. Spread over the base of the pastry shell.

For the salted caramel, heat sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves, then cook, without stirring but swirling from time to time, until it turns into a rich amber caramel (10-14 minutes). Carefully add cream and stir until smooth. Remove from heat and stir through butter and salt. Spoon evenly over the nuts in the tart shell, then leave to set.

For chocolate ganache, bring cream and glucose to the boil in a saucepan then remove from heat. Add chocolate broken into squares and butter, stirring until melted. Allow to cool for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until glossy. Spread ganache over the salted caramel, then stand in a cool place until set. Serve at room temperature or chilled with flakes of sea salt scattered on top. It’s very rich so cut into small servings. Whipped cream is optional.

Serves 12-16

Beetroot Kebabs with Labneh and Dukkah

I’m a big fan of beetroot, labneh and dukkah, so when I saw a recipe in Gourmet Traveller using all three, I knew I would like it.

 

500g Greek-style yoghurt
1 tsp salt
3-6 beetroot, depending on size, peeled, halved lengthwise or left whole if smaller
1 Tbs olive oil
50g butter
Dill sprigs
3 Tbs Dukkah

To make the Labneh, mix salt into yoghurt then scrape into a sieve which has been lined with muslin or any thin fabric. A man’s handkerchief works well. Place the sieve over a large bowl, cover then refrigerate overnight to drain. Discard the liquid before serving.

Thinly slice beetroot using a mandoline or slicing blade on a food processor, then mix with the olive oil and salt to taste. Use your hands to make sure the oil is thoroughly distributed. Wear gloves if you’re concerned about the colour, although it does come off quite quickly. Thread onto skewers, allowing one or two skewers per person, folding beetroot if necessary, leaving smaller slices unfolded. Can be prepared ahead to this stage.

Preheat grill or barbecue to high, then cook the kebabs, turning occasionally, for 5 mins, or until lightly charred all over.

Melt butter in a small saucepan, then allow it to turn golden brown (3-4 mins). Mix in the dukkah.

Serve beetroot kebabs with a dollop of labneh to the side. Scoop out a little of the labneh to make a nest and fill it with some warm dukkah butter. Sprinkle a little dukkah around and garnish with dill sprigs.

Makes about 8 kebabs serving 4 or 8

Lemon Curd & Almond Bread & Butter Pudding

When I was growing up in England bread and butter pudding was a popular dessert. My mother made it regularly, using stale bread, butter, dried fruit, sugar, milk and eggs. Nothing fancy, but always one of my favourites. Using up stale bread, rather than giving it to the birds or throwing it away, was something you did automatically if you had lived through the Second World War.

This version is slightly more complicated with the addition of cream, nuts and lemons. Home made lemon curd provides an added zing, but if you don’t have time buy a jar from the supermarket. If you do find time to make a couple of jars it will keep in the fridge, unopened, for a couple of months and is a useful addition to a number of easy desserts such as Blueberry Parfaits.

1 loaf brioche bread
About 1 cup lemon curd
2 cups cream
½ cup milk
Finely grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
4 eggs
4 heaped Tbs sugar
Flaked almonds
Almond Butter:
150g blanched almonds (whole or slivers)
60g butter at room temp
1 heaped Tbs sugar
Finely grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
pinch of salt
To serve:
Fresh cream or crème fraiche
Icing sugar

Make or buy the lemon curd. Make the almond butter: place almonds in food processor and process till fine, then add remaining ingredients and mix well.

Slice brioche into 1 to 1.5cm slices. Use a cookie cutter to cut rounds as big as you can from each slice. Butter a deep 8-10cm pudding tin or dish. Place all the cut offs from the brioche in the bottom then spoon about half the lemon curd over the brioche. Spread one side of each brioche slice with some almond butter and arrange over the surface, nut butter side down and slightly overlapping, if you have enough slices to do so.

Place cream and milk in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. In a bowl whisk eggs, sugar, lemon juice and rind – just enough to combine, using a hand whisk. Pour in the hot cream and whisk to combine. Pour this mixture evenly over the brioche. Sprinkle with flaked almonds and set aside for an hour or more. Dessert can be made several hours ahead or even the day before and kept refrigerated and covered. A shower cap makes a great cover!

Preheat oven to 170°C. Bake dessert for 30-40 minutes or until puffed and golden. If it starts to get too brown, cover loosely with a piece of foil and/or turn the oven down a bit.

When cooked, spoon remaining lemon curd over the top, dust with a little sifted icing sugar and serve with cream.

Serves 8

 

Crème Caramel

Crème Caramel and Crème Brulée are my two favourite desserts. They’re quite similar in terms of ingredients, but one has a liquid caramel sauce while the other has a crunchy caramel topping, achieved with a blow torch.

The raspberries you can see in the photo were ones I had frozen from our garden a couple of months ago. I took them out of the freezer about half an hour before serving, so they just had time to thaw, but not to go squashy.

My Dad lived to the ripe old age of 90 and this was what he had for his last meal. I can see his face now, savouring every mouthful. I can’t think of anything I’d rather have for my Last Supper.

¾ cup sugar
1/3 cup water
5 eggs, thoroughly beaten with a fork
1 tin sweetened condensed milk
3 cups fresh milk (or a mixture of cream and milk)
1 tsp vanilla essence
To serve:
Thick pouring cream
Fresh or frozen berries, just thawed
A dusting of icing sugar

Preheat oven to 170°C. Heat sugar and water in a heavy saucepan and stir until sugar has dissolved. Boil without stirring until you have a rich caramel, swirling the pan so that it colours evenly without burning. Tip into a lightly oiled ovenproof dish with a capacity of 1.5 to 2 litres (I used a metal ring mold) and swirl around so that it coats the sides of the dish as well as the bottom.

Beat remaining ingredients together thoroughly with a balloon whisk, then pour through a sieve on top of the caramel, discarding any bits of egg in the sieve. Place the dish in a baking tin and add enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides. Bake for 50 minutes, remove and cool, then chill for several hours or overnight.

Loosen around the edges with a thin-bladed knife, then tip the Crème Caramel onto a serving plate. If all the caramel doesn’t come out, place the baking dish or tin in a bowl of very hot water to melt it, then pour it over the dessert. Serve with cream, fresh berries and a dusting of icing sugar.

Serves 8-10

Scallops with Champagne Grapes and Almonds

We planted two grapevines at the farm, one red and one white. We didn’t pay a great deal of attention to the varieites and now discover that the black grape is what’s known as a Champagne Grape.

This has nothing to do with Champagne – either the region or the beverage – it’s just the name. The fruit of the Champagne grape is small and round and looks more like a blueberry than a grape. It’s the variety which is dried to make currants, which aren’t really currants at all. Traditionally used in Christmas cakes and puddings, currants are also known as Black Corinthian Raisins or Zante raisins.

We’ve been eating these small sweet grapes fresh for dessert or breakfast, with a dollop of Greek yoghurt. I also dried a few as you can see in the photo. Left on a tray in a sunny spot they were ready in a few days.

The last few Champagne grapes went into this recipe for scallops from a New Zealand website called Epicurious. Matthew declared it was Business Class food, which I think he meant as a compliment – something Neil Perry who plans the menus for QANTAS might approve of?

8 to 12 large scallops without roe (see note below), thawed if frozen
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbs butter
3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
2/3 cup Champagne grapes (or small seedless black grapes, halved)
1½ Tbs lemon juice
1/3 cup flaked almonds, toasted
2 Tbs chopped parsley

Dry scallops thoroughly with paper towels then season with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat half the butter in a frying pan large enough to cook the scallops in one layer. Let the butter brown slightly then add the scallops and cook them for 2 minutes each side over moderately high heat, until nicely browned. Remove scallops to a warm plate and cover with foil.

Turn the heat down a bit then add the remaining butter to the pan with the shallots. Cook, stirring for 2 minutes or until soft. Champagne grapes are the size of blueberries so if yours are bigger cut them in half. Add grapes to the pan with the lemon juice and most of the almonds and cook, stirring for about 2 minutes. Add most of the parsley and any juices which have accumulated on the scallop plate, then divide among 2 plates (main course) or four plates (starter) and top with the scallops, the reserved nuts and parsley to garnish.

Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a starter

Note: as a main course for 2 you will need 8-10 scallops and as a starter for 4 you will need 12.

Substitutions: use the white part of spring onions (scallions) instead of shallots; use dried currants, (reconstituted in some hot water for 30 minutes, then drained) instead of the grapes; use pine nuts instead of almonds.

Sweet Potato & Spinach Salad with Rice and Cranberries

Lunch with our dear friends Lorna and Jim is always a pleasure.  At our recent catch up Lorna served this delicious salad with confit salmon, followed by strawberries and ice cream.

The original recipe said to leave the skin on the sweet potato, but I decided to peel mine as it was rather blemished. If you’re missing one or two ingredients don’t worry, I’ve listed some substitutions which would work.

1 medium sweet potato (about 500g)
2 red onions, peeled and cut lengthwise into 6ths or 8ths
2 tsp olive oil
1 cup brown basmati rice
1½ cups water
100g baby spinach leaves
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup pistachios
100g feta cheese, crumbled
Dressing:
¼ cup olive oil
1-2 Tbs red wine vinegar
2 tsp honey
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 180°C. Scrub sweet potato or peel if preferred, then cut into 1.5cm cubes. Mix with the onions and 2 tsp olive oil then spread out on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake for 25-30 mins. Remove from the oven and cool.

Meanwhile place rice in a saucepan with the water and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil then cover and turn down the heat as low as it will go and cook until water has been absorbed. Turn off heat and leave to continue steaming. Cool.

Place dressing in a jar with a lid and shake.

Place all the ingredients in a large salad bowl. Add the dressing and toss.

Serves 6

Substitutions:
Pumpkin instead of sweet potato
White onions instead of red
White rice instead of brown
Rocket instead of spinach or half and half
Sour cherries or raisins instead of cranberries
Pine nuts (toasted) instead of pistachios
Goat’s cheese instead of feta
Cider vinegar or lemon juice nstead of red wine vinegar

 

Pasta with Prawns and Pepperoni or Chorizo

This recipe comes from my friend Ferne. She’s made it for me twice, once in Canberra and once in Brisbane where she now lives. Both times it was delicious.

Any kind of pasta will work, but my preference is to use fresh fettuccine, sold in most Australian supermarkets in 375g packets.

With a mixed salad and some fresh crusty bread, this recipe will serve 4.

375g fresh fettuccine
20g butter
250-300g pepperoni or chorizo, sliced
350g peeled raw prawns (weight after peeling)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup dry white wine
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
½ a fresh diced chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped
Handful chopped parsley
½ cup cream
Extra virgin olive oil to garnish

Cook pasta according to packet instructions then drain. Meanwhile heat butter in a large frying pan and cook pepperoni or chorizo for a few minutes, until starting to brown. Add prawns and garlic and continue to cook, stirring, until prawns turn pink. Add wine and lemon juice and cook over moderately high heat for 3-5 mins, to reduce the sauce by half. Add chilli and seasoning to taste. Mix in the cooked pasta, the parsley and cream. Divide between 4 bowls. Top with extra chopped parsley and drizzle a little oil around each serving.

Makes 4 servings

 

Mango Kulfi

To make traditional Indian or Pakistani ice cream, known as Kulfi, you begin by cooking sweetened flavoured milk over a low heat, stirring continuously to stop it from sticking and burning, until the volume is reduced by half. The milk takes on a distinctive flavour due to the caramelization process and this is the base you use to make the ice cream.

Having read a few articles and recipes online, I decided to replace the cooked milk with what is called Manjar or Dulce de Leche in South America. If you can’t find this use a can of Nestle Caramel Top n Fill, which is readily available in Australian supermarkets.  Kulfi can be made in any flavour, but mango kulfi is very popular in India, so as I had a packet of frozen mango in the freezer I thought I would give it a try.

This method of making ice cream in a food processor with frozen fruit virtually turns your food processor into an ice cream machine. As the frozen fruit breaks up it freezes the other ingredients. As you can see from the photo of the Kulfi when it was ready to go into the freezer, it already had the consistency of ice cream. Quick Raspberry Ice Cream is another recipe on this blog which uses this speedy food processor method. You can use any frozen fruit but the pieces must be fairly small or the motor will struggle.

250g Dulce de Leche or Manjar (or 1 can Nestle Caramel Top n Fill)
300ml cream (thickened, whipping, double)
1kg frozen mango pieces (I bought mine at Aldi)
Ground cardamom to taste
Pinch of salt
Grated rind and juice of 1 lime (save a little zest for garnish)
Lime Syrup to serve (optional)
Juice of 1 lime
½ cup water
¼ cup sugar
Lime zest

Place Dulce de Leche or Caramel topping in food processor with cream. Process until mixed and then, with the motor running, slowly add the mango cubes through the feed tube. Depending on what size food processor you have, you may need to make the Kulfi in two batches. Mine was just big enough. Keep mixing until all the mango cubes have been pureed, stopping to scrape down the sides with a spatula from time to time. Add cardamom (half a teaspoonful then mix and taste and see what you think), the salt and the lime zest.

Scrape Kulfi into a plastic container, cover and freeze for 3-4 hours or overnight. Remove from freezer 15 mins before serving. Scoop into bowls, drizzle with lime syrup and garnish with a little lime zest.

Lime Syrup: Place lime juice, water and sugar in a small saucepan and heat to dissolve sugar. Continue cooking until reduced by a third to a half and syrupy. Cool.

Serves 8-10

Salmon en Croute with Dill Mayonnaise

This recipe takes a little longer than most of the recipes on this blog, but it’s really not that complicated and an elegant way to feed a crowd.

I bought the salmon at Costco because their salmon never has any bones in it. If there’s one job I really hate it’s removing salmon bones with tweezers. In Australia puff pastry comes in pre-rolled squares which measure about 25x25cm. If you live somewhere it’s sold in a block you will need enough to roll out to a rectangle which is a bit bigger than double the size of the salmon.

1 side of salmon (skinless and boneless)
Puff pastry (I used three 25x25cm squares)
2 leeks
1 bunch spinach
50g butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 egg, beaten
To serve:
1 cup mayonnaise (preferably home made)
1 bunch dill, stalks discarded

Clean leeks to remove any grit then chop finely, using all the white part and some of the green. Heat half the butter in a frying pan and cook leeks gently, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until soft but not brown. Add cream and cook until evaporated. Season to taste. Wash spinach and remove stalks. Place in a large saucepan with just the water clinging to the leaves and cook, stirring, until wilted right down. Place in food processor with the remaining butter and process to a slightly chunky puree. Season to taste. Prepare the leeks and spinach the day before and keep refrigerated.

Roll out pastry. I used three ready-rolled squares. Two squares stuck together and one square cut in half and stuck together lengthwise then joined onto the two big squares along the long side. Roll over the joins with a rolling pin so they stick. If using a block of pastry you will need to roll it out thinly to a rectangle slightly larger than twice the size of the salmon. Place pastry on a lightly greased baking tray – I used the shallow oven tray which came with my oven. If liked, line the tray first with baking paper.

Spread the leek mixture down the centre of the pastry in the shape of the salmon, then lay the salmon on top and cover with the spinach. Make sure the salmon is covered entirely by the leeks on the bottom and the spinach on the top. Fold in the two ends of the pastry which should be 2-3 cm longer than the fish. Cut diagonal slashes into the pastry on the two sides as far as the salmon, then bring them in alternately to create a pseudo-plait, pinching the ends together. If it doesn’t look like a work of art, don’t worry it will look amazing when it’s cooked. If liked, arrange a row of diamond shapes, made from pastry off-cuts, down the join in the middle, to cover any imperfections. Refrigerate until serving time.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Brush pastry all over with beaten egg. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until well-browned. Place mayonnaise and dill in food processor and process until smooth.

Serve slices of the salmon pie with the dill mayonnaise. New potatoes and a steamed green vegetable such as broccolini, asparagus, green beans or snow peas go well with this.

Serves 8-10