Crisp-skinned Fish with Warm Potato Salad & Salsa Verde

This recipe was inspired by a photo of a dish served at The Retreat on the Row restaurant, located in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, UK. It’s very quick to whip up for a midweek family dinner, but smart enough to serve to friends. The herb mix is very versatile. You can even use a few rocket leaves if that’s all you have.

Choose a waxy potato which will hold its shape in a salad and any firm-fleshed fish fillets which haven’t been skinned.

Two portions of firm-fleshed fish, skin on (I used barramundi)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tbs olive oil
250g small waxy potatoes
Basic Salad Dressing
Snipped chives
A quarter to half a red onion, very thinly sliced
Something green to garnish – I used a pea shoot from the garden
Salsa Verde:
2 big handfuls fresh herbs – mint, coriander, basil, parsley, whatever you can find in the garden
Juice of half a lemon
2 tsp capers
Small clove garlic, crushed
2 small gherkins
½ tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

Scrub the potatoes and cut them into quarters. Cook in boiling salted water for 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain, then mix with some basic salad dressing, a few snipped chives and the red onion.

Salsa verde: place all ingredients in food processor except the oil and process for a minute or until chunky. Drizzle olive oil through the feed chute with the motor running, until you have a thick chunky green sauce.

Season fish then place skin side down in a cold non-stick frying pan smeared with the tablespoon of olive oil. Turn on the heat and cook over medium heat until skin is golden and crispy. Turn fish over and cook for another couple of minutes, or until cooked through.

Spoon some Salsa Verde on two serving plates. Top with the potato salad, then the fish and garnish with a pea shoot.

Serves 2

Affogato with Creamy Vanilla Ice Cream

Affogato consists of vanilla ice cream or gelato drizzled with a shot of freshly brewed coffee and some Amaretto – an Italian liqueur made with almonds.

This traditional Italian dessert is so quick and easy to make. The perfect way to end a meal with friends, with almost no work involved and a cinch to make for yourself, when you feel you deserve a little treat.  If you don’t have Amaretto, experiment with other liqueurs you find tucked away at the back of your alcohol cupboard, such as Baileys Irish Cream, Tia Maria or Frangelico.

The home made vanilla ice cream takes less than five minutes to make (plus freezing time) and it’s so delicious! But if you can’t be bothered just buy your favourite brand.

Vanilla ice cream – bought or quick home-made (see below)
Freshly made espresso coffee
Amaretto or liqueur of your choice

Place two scoops of ice cream in a small tumbler. Add a shot of espresso, then drizzle with about a tablespoonful of Amaretto or liqueur of your choice. Serve immediately.

Quick Home Made Vanilla Ice Cream: whip two cups (half a litre) whipping cream until thick then add a can of condensed milk and a teaspoon of vanilla essence (or vanilla seeds scraped from one pod) and continue to whip until combined. Scrape into a container with a lid and freeze for several hours or overnight. Remove from the freezer 10 minutes before serving. If you prefer it a little less sweet use more cream. I used three cups (750ml) instead of two.

Grilled Prawns with Cauliflower & Miso Dressing

Our friend Meg served this delicious prawn and cauliflower starter from Aussie chef Matt Moran recently. The recipe makes six starters, or  make half as a light and healthy mid-week dinner for two.

½ cauliflower cut into florets (about 300g)
2 Tbs vegetable oil
18 green jumbo prawns peeled and deveined, tail on
100g butter
100g baby spinach
S and P
¼ green apple finely sliced vertically, then julienned, so you have peel each end
50g sliced almonds, toasted
Baby or regular coriander
Cauliflower purée: 
40g butter
The rest of the cauliflower (about 300g) chopped small
½ cup cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
White Miso Dressing:
100g white miso
½ small golden shallot, very finely chopped
1cm piece ginger, very finely chopped
½ small hot red chilli, very finely chopped
1½ Tbs lemon juice
1 Tbs mirin
1 tsp rice wine
2 tsp tahini
1 Tbs honey
1 Tbs caster sugar
5 tsp veg oil
75 ml water

Puree: heat butter in frying pan, add cauliflower, cover and cook, stirring occasionally for 10-15 mins or till very soft but not coloured. Add a few teaspoons of water if it starts to stick. Process with cream, salt and pepper till smooth. Reheat to serve if necessary.

Dressing: blitz all together in food processor till smooth, then push through a sieve.

Cook cauliflower florets in boiling salted water for 4  minutes or until al dente. Drain and set aside. Preheat chargrill plate till hot. Mix prawns with the oil in a bowl and cook on the grill for 3 minutes, turning once, until just cooked.

Meanwhile heat half the butter in a frying pan and toss the cauliflower florets for 4-5 mins till golden, set aside. Add remaining butter to pan and toss the baby spinach till just wilted, season.

To serve, divide cauliflower purée between 6 plates and spread into a circle. Top each serving with 3 prawns, some spinach, cauliflower florets, almonds, apple julienne. Drizzle with some dressing and top with coriander. I also drizzled a little extra virgin olive oil around the edge.

If serving as a main, increase the prawns so each person gets 5 or 6.

Serves 6 as a starter, four as a main

 

Eton Mess

Looking for a quick and easy dessert to serve over the Canberra Day long weekend? Eton Mess, a traditional English dessert which makes the most of the summer berries is quick, easy and delicious.

A mixture of meringue, berries and whipped cream, this dish was first mentioned in print in 1893 and is thought to have originated at Eton College in England, where it’s served at the annual cricket match against Harrow School.

In the 6th episode of the TV series The Gilded Age, which I’m currently watching, the French chef is asked to prepare a British meal. For dessert he makes Eton Mess, which he describes disparagingly as a mess made by a bunch of schoolboys.

The traditional recipe for this sumptuous dessert uses broken up meringues, either home-made or shop bought. I prefer to use a pavlova base, because the meringue is crunchy on the outside, but soft and marshmallowy on the inside. In Australia pavlova bases are sold in most big supermarkets.  I’m not sure if they are available in other countries, except perhaps New Zealand, but you can always make your own or use broken up hard meringues, which are more readily available around the world.

I like to use half fresh cream and half sour cream or crème fraîche, but if preferred you can use all fresh cream.

1 pavlova base to serve 12 (or about 12 large individual meringues)
250 ml whipping cream
250 ml sour cream or crème fraîche
1 Tbs icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
500g strawberries
2-3 tsp caster sugar
150-200g raspberries (or blueberries, blackberries, blackcurrants etc)
Chocolate sprinkles (optional)

Wash strawberries, cut in half or slice if large and place in a bowl with the caster sugar. Mix and leave aside for an hour or two, so the juices start to run.

I used about three-quarters of a large pavlova base for this dish. Break off chunks and arrange about half of them in a large glass serving dish, or break up the hard meringues. If preferred, make individual servings using large whisky tumblers.

Scatter half the strawberries and half the raspberries or other berries over the meringue. Place the cream, sour cream, icing sugar and vanilla in a bowl and whip using electric beaters until soft peaks form. Place blobs of the whipped cream over the meringue and fruit, then the rest of the pavlova/meringue pieces, the juices from the strawberries, the remaining cream and lastly the rest of the strawberries and raspberries. They are not shown in the photo, but if liked decorate the top with some chocolate sprinkles, which always look nice with berries and cream. Refrigerate until serving time and serve within a couple of hours.

Serves 6-8

Note: if liked, add a tablespoonful of a liqueur such as Kirsch, Grand Marnier, Cointreau or Curaçao to the strawberries and sugar.

 

 

Strawberry No Bake Cheesecake

This recipe is adapted from one called Narrabri Cheesecake which Matthew used to make before we met. Part of his bachelor repertoire, guaranteed to impress the girls. It’s quite rich and you will get at least twelve servings, enough to serve a crowd.

Crust:
150g plain sweet biscuits e.g. Digestives, Nice, Marie
100g butter, melted
Filling:
300ml whipping cream
750g cream cheese, at room temperature
1 can condensed milk
1/3 cup lemon juice
Grated rind of one large lemon or two smaller ones
Topping:
250g strawberries, halved
Strawberry Sauce:
250g strawberries, diced
1-2 Tbs sugar, to taste
1 Tbs lemon juice

Butter a 22-24 cm (9-10 inch) springform cake pan and line the bottom with a circle of baking paper. Whizz the biscuits in a food processor until you have fine crumbs. Mix with the melted butter, then press evenly over the base of the cake pan. Refrigerate while you make the filling.

Using a stand mixer (my preference with this recipe) or hand beaters, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Scrape out into another bowl. No need to wash the first bowl – just add the cream cheese and mix until smooth. Add the condensed milk and lastly the lemon juice and rind. Use a spatula to scrape down the mixture stuck to the sides of the bowl, then mix a bit more. Fold through the whipped cream, scrape into the cake pan and smooth the top. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Clean and sort the strawberries, keeping the best ones to decorate and the rest for the sauce.

Strawberry Sauce: place all ingredients in a saucepan. Simmer for about 5-10 minutes then push through a sieve, discarding what won’t go through. Keep refrigerated.

Arrange halved strawberries over the top of the cheesecake. Run a knife with a thin blade around the sides of the cheesecake, undo the clip and remove. If you like, run a knife under the base of the cheesecake, under the paper, so you can remove the base. If preferred, just leave the base on. Slice cheesecake using a large knife dipped in hot water. Serve sauce (not shown in photo) separately in a small jug.

Serves  12-16

Variations: use other berries.

 

Chocolate Fondant Puddings

This quick and easy recipe for individual chocolate fondant puddings – the ones with delicious molten chocolate centres that were all the rage in restaurants some years back – is adapted from one by Australia’s best-selling cookbook author, Donna Hay.

I used individual silicone moulds, but any small containers, such as metal dariole moulds, ramekins or coffee cups, will do. To make them gluten-free leave out the flour and increase the almond meal by a quarter of a cup. Make your own almond meal by blitzing almonds, with or without skin, it doesn’t matter, in a food processor until finely ground. I made the full recipe of six puddings, but only cooked two and froze the rest uncooked and covered. They take a few minutes longer to cook from frozen.

¾ cup almond meal
¼ cup plain flour
¼ cup icing sugar
2 egg whites
100g butter, melted
160g dark chocolate, melted
12 squares dark chocolate, extra
To serve:
Thick pouring cream
Cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 170°C and grease six individual moulds with oil or butter. Place almond meal, flour, sugar, egg whites, melted butter and chocolate in a bowl and mix well with a balloon whisk. Spoon half the mixture into the six moulds, press two squares of chocolate into the middle of each, then cover with remaining mixture. Bake for 12-15 minutes until set on top. Test by pushing with your finger. Stand for 3-4 minutes, then loosen the edges with a knife, tip out and serve with cream and a dusting of cocoa powder through a sieve.

Serves 6

Substitutions: if you don’t have almonds use walnuts.

Roast Pork with Black Pudding, Bacon and Rhubarb Sauce

This recipe from the BBC’s Good Food site makes an elegant dish for entertaining (just double the recipe) or dinner for two on a special occasion such as a birthday, anniversary or Valentines Day. It’s very easy and most of the preparation can be done ahead of serving time.

1 fillet of pork, weighing about 350g
125g black pudding
6-8 rashers streaky bacon
2-3 tsp oil
Black pepper
2 tsp honey
6 stalks rhubarb
½ cup stock (chicken or veg)
2 Tbs cream, sour cream or crème fraîche

Cut the pork along the middle without cutting right through. Skin and finely chop the black pudding and stuff into the hole in the pork. Squeeze the fillet closed. Stretch out the bacon rashers with the back of a knife and use to wrap around the pork, with the ends underneath, or use toothpicks to hold it in place. Can be prepared ahead to this stage.

Preheat oven to 190°C. Place pork in a roasting pan, drizzle with the oil and season with pepper. Roast for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile wash and trim the rhubarb, cut into 3cm lengths and mix with the honey. Add to the roasting pan after 30mins, then cook for a further 10-12 minutes or until rhubarb is tender and bacon is browned. Remove pork and rhubarb from the roasting pan and keep warm. Place roasting pan on the hotplate, add the stock and cream and cook, stirring, until thickened to the consistency of a coating sauce. Check for seasoning.

Slice pork thickly and serve with the rhubarb and the sauce.

Serves 3

Roast Pork Belly with Plum Sauce

I recently gave away my deep fat fryer, to make room in the cupboard for a newly-acquired air fryer.

Deep fried food isn’t good for cholesterol levels and I never knew what to do with all that half-used oil. I put the deep fat fryer on a local Facebook “buy nothing” website and a friendly Turkish man collected it within an hour. Better his cholesterol than ours.

I bought a smallish 5 litre air fryer for under $100. It has a five litre capacity which is big enough to make a family-sized batch of chips (French fries) when the grandkids come, or as a treat for us – steak and chips or fish and chips for dinner never fails to put a smile on Matthew’s face.

Since it arrived a couple of weeks ago I’ve tried my new gadget on chips and calamari rings – the ready crumbed frozen ones you buy in a supermarket – and suffice it to say, I’m hooked. They took less than half an hour to cook from frozen and were perfect. There are only two settings to deal with on the model I bought – temperature and time. You can pull out the drawer at any time to give the food a shake and see how it’s doing. No. 1 son was impressed and put it on his Xmas Wish List.

Last night it was time to put the machine to the ultimate test – crispy roast pork belly. As you can see from the photos, it was amazing and all done in less than an hour. Two big pluses with an air fryer are firstly that the kitchen stays cool (this will be great in mid-summer) and secondly the oven doesn’t get spattered with pork fat. I haven’t done a whole roast chicken yet, but that’s on the list.

800g – 1kg boneless pork belly, with skin
2 tsp salt
Oil spray
Plum Sauce:
6 medium plums, stoned (see note below)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ red onion, chopped
2 Tbs tamari sauce (or substitute ketchup manis or soy sauce)
1 tsp chilli flakes (or to taste)
1 Tbs chopped fresh ginger
Sugar, honey or maple syrup to taste

Preheat air fryer to 200°C for three minutes. Cut through the pork skin with parallel cuts in two directions. Rub all over with salt, place in the air fryer basket and spray the skin with oil. Cook for 25 minutes, then lower the heat to 160°C and cook for a further 30 minutes, or until cooked to your liking. Serve with the sauce and a steamed green vegetable.

Sauce: Place all ingredients except sweetener in a medium saucepan and simmer for 20 minutes or until everything is soft. Cool then blend until smooth. Sweeten to taste with a little sugar, honey or maple syrup. I used a tablespoonful of sugar.

Serves 4

Note: Freeze stoned plums during the season, six to a bag. They are useful to make this recipe, or to add to fruit crumbles. The plum sauce keeps in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for several months.

 

 

 

 

Swedish Almond Cake

Swedish Almond Cake (Mandeltarta) was made internationally famous by IKEA who sell it frozen in their stores. I decided to make my own.

The recipe makes a small cake which will serve 8. To make a bigger cake use two 24-25cm cake tins and increase the ingredients by fifty per cent, using 6 eggs instead of 4.

Meringues:
4 eggs whites
Pinch salt
80g sugar
140g ground almonds (see note)
Filling: 
4 egg yolks
75g sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
125ml cream (½ cup)
2-3 Tbs flaked blanched almonds, lightly toasted by stirring in a dry pan over moderate heat
125g unsalted butter, at room temp
125ml cream (½ cup) extra
To serve:
Fresh raspberries and cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 190°C. Grease and bottom-line two 20cm cake pans. Beat egg whites and salt with electric beaters until soft peaks form, then gradually add the sugar, beating continuously, until you have a stiff meringue. Fold in the ground almonds.

Divide evenly between the cake pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 25 mins then cool. Meanwhile in a non-stick milk pan, mix the egg yolks, sugar, vanilla and cream with a balloon whisk. Turn on the heat and cook, stirring continuously, until thickened. Scrape into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Cake can be prepared to this stage the day before or several hours ahead.

With electric beaters mix butter until light and airy then mix in the refrigerated custard in two lots. Add the extra cream and continue to whip for a minute or so. Remove paper from meringues and place one on a serving plate. Cover with half the filling then place the second meringue on top. Use remaining filling to cover the top of the cake. The original recipe covers the sides as well, but  I just covered the top. Sprinkle flaked almonds all over. Refrigerate until serving time.

Serve alone or with fresh berries and cream.

Serves 8

Note: make almond meal by blitzing shelled almonds (blanched or unblanched, your choice) in a food processor.

Renés Chicken with Pernod

For over two decades, the iconic Omaha restaurant Dixie Quicks drew customers of all ages and backgrounds like a magnet, for good food, acceptance and respect. René Orduña ran the restaurant with his husband Rob Gilmer and it soon became a hotspot for artists, drag queens, musicians and creative types, giving sanctuary and guidance to gay Omahans.

When René died of cancer in 2016 Rob continued to run the restaurant on his own for two years. But it was not the same. “This was Renés restaurant” he said. “He was the catalyst, he was the force.” So after 22 years in business Dixie Quicks finally closed its doors in January 2018.

René gave his recipe for Chicken with Pernod to my cousin Mary Beth who lives in Omaha. It was one of the most popular dishes on the menu and her favourite.

2 large skinless boneless chicken breasts (or 4 small ones)
1/3 to 1/2 cup plain flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tsp butter and 2 tsp oil
1 large shallot or 1 small onion, finely diced
250g tomatoes cut in quarters or cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ to ½ cup chicken stock
½ cup cream (or coconut cream)
½ cup Pernod
To serve
:
Steamed Rice
Finely chopped parsley

Trim chicken breasts, cut each one in half and hammer out a bit with a meat mallet. Season the flour and use it to coat chicken on both sides, discarding any excess. Heat butter and oil in a frying pan which holds the 4 pieces of chicken in one layer. Brown chicken on both sides, then lower the heat and continue to cook until cooked through. Remove from pan.

Add shallots or onion to the pan and cook, stirring over low heat until soft. Add tomatoes and a little salt and pepper. Return chicken to the pan, add Pernod and stir to deglaze the pan. Flambé, shaking the pan until the flames subside. Add chicken stock and cream and cook, stirring and turning the chicken until sauce has thickened and reduced a bit. This will only take a coupe of minutes. Check for seasoning.

Serve over steamed rice, sprinkled with parsley.

Servs 4