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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caramelised Chicken Kebabs

 

If you like sticky Asian chicken dishes you’ll like this one. I used less than half the amount of sugar in the original recipe (which I thought was a bit over the top) and it worked well.

1.2 kg skinless, boneless chicken thighs
2 Tbs Asian fish sauce
1 Tbs brown sugar
1 Tbs lemon juice
Glaze:
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 Tbs Asian fish sauce
3 Tbs lemon juice
2 Tbs rice vinegar
1 Tbs honey
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbs grated fresh ginger
To serve:
2 Tbs white sesame seeds
2 Tbs black sesame seeds
2 Tbs flaked almonds
Thinly sliced spring onions, or chives
or chopped parsley

Cut chicken into 2.5cm (1 inch) chunks. Mix with the fish sauce, brown sugar and lemon juice and marinate for an hour or two.

Place all ingredients for the glaze in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil then simmer for a few minutes to thicken.

Thread chicken onto 8 bamboo skewers which have been soaked in cold water. Cook on a grill or BBQ for about 8 minutes, brushing regularly with the glaze, or until cooked through. Cook for about 2 minutes on each of the four sides.

Place sesame seeds and almonds in a dry frying pan and stir over moderate heat for a few minutes or until golden.

When kebabs are cooked place on serving dish and brush again with the glaze. Sprinkle with the sesame seed mixture and the spring onions or herbs. Serve with steamed rice and a cucumber and onion salad.

Serves 4

Berry Nice Jam

This recipe makes about two and a half cups of delicious, fresh berry jam. It’s not cooked, so it will only keep for a few days in the fridge. Serve with fresh scones, croissants or Greek yoghurt. It also makes an amazing filling for a cream and jam sponge cake.

It works on the principle that when chia seeds are mixed with liquid they swell up and thicken the liquid. Have you ever tried chia seeds for breakfast? Soak them overnight in milk or juice, then add to your usual muesli and fruit mix.

2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries (or other berries)
3 Tbs honey, sugar or a sweetener such as Stevia
4 Tbs chia seeds
¼ cup water
1 tsp vanilla essence (optional)

Thaw the berries if frozen and crush them a bit with a fork. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. The jam will thicken as the chia seeds swell. This will take several hours or overnight. Keep in the fridge and use within a few days. Can be frozen, so you might like to freeze half and use half.

Makes about 2½ cups

Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Chocolate Sauce

When the kids were growing up I used to make a quick and easy chocolate sauce with a recipe from my mother in law. It goes well with ice cream, waffles and pancakes and disappeared faster than I could make it.

On a recent trip to Denmark  we spent a delightful weekend with our dear friends Vickie and Frants on the island of Fyn. Vickie served a delicious chocolate sauce with ice cream and when she explained the recipe I realised it was almost identical to mine, which I hadn’t made in ages.

Last weekend I went on a bit of a cooking spree and made a few things for the fridge and freezer, including peanut butter ice cream and chocolate sauce to serve with it. For Matthew, not the kids who are long gone. The recipe makes about a cup of sauce, so if you have a house full of kids you might like to double it. If you can’t find golden syrup, honey or maple syrup should work. The ice cream is very quick to make and you don’t need an ice cream machine.

Peanut Butter Ice Cream:
1 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
A generous ½ cup of sugar
600 ml cream
125 ml milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
A pinch of Maldon salt flakes
Chocolate Sauce:
½ cup water
½ cup sugar
4 Tbs cocoa powder
2 Tbs Golden Syrup
A piece of butter the size of a walnut
1 tsp vanilla essence

For the ice cream, use electric beaters to mix the peanut butter with the sugar until smooth. Gradually beat in the cream and milk and continue beating until thick. Add the vanilla and salt, then scrape into a plastic container and freeze.

For the sauce, place all ingredients except the butter and vanilla in a large saucepan, as it tends to bubble up. Heat, while whisking until smooth, then boil at a steady boil without stirring for 4-5 mins. Remove from the heat, add the butter and vanilla. Serve immediately or store in the fridge, covered and reheat in the microwave for about 30 secs. If it gets a bit thick add a tablespoon or so of water before heating. And if it’s too “dark” add some cream.

Serve ice cream topped with the sauce.

Makes about 1 litre of ice cream and 1 cup of sauce

 

 

Portuguese Tarts

Portuguese tarts are famous around the world. Creamy custard filling, encased in flaky pastry then cooked in a hot oven until they start to blister on top. They’re best eaten freshly made, but if there are any left over pop them into a moderate oven for a few minutes to crisp up the pastry again.

1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
½ cup sugar
2 Tbs cornflour
200 ml milk
200 ml cream
1 tsp vanilla essence
About 350g bought puff pastry (or make your own)

In a large saucepan use a balloon whisk to combine all ingredients except the pastry. Bring mixture to the boil, whisking all the time, until thickened. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled.

Pre-heat oven to 200°C. Grease 12 x 1/3 cup muffin pans. Roll out pastry and cut circles to fit the pans. Divide filling between the pastry cases – I managed to get 11 rather than 12. Bake for 20 minutes or until custard starts to brown. If you are able to switch your oven from Bake to Grill, or even better Fan Grill, for the last few minutes it will be easier to brown the tops of the tarts the way they do in Portugal, so they are a bit blackened.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes about 12

Parmesan Chicken with Asparagus and Lemon

Asparagus season is here again and I’m always on the lookout for new ways to use this delicious vegetable.

Making an asparagus bed is a long term project. The bed can’t be used for anything else and for the first two years experts advise you resist picking and let the asparagus die down. The plants need to concentrate on establishing deep roots. But if you have the space an asparagus patch is a very worthwhile investment in time. Once up and running it will continue to produce asparagus every year for up to 20 years. Harvesting where we live in eastern Australia starts some time in October and runs for a month or two. Cut the spears just below the level of the soil with a sharp knife when they’re about six inches or 15cm long.

There is nothing quite like home-grown asparagus, but if you don’t grow your own, take advantage of local asparagus available in Australian supermarkets now. The rest of the year it’s mostly imported from South America.

We like our asparagus served hot with melted butter or cold with vinaigrette or mayonnaise. It’s also delicious roasted in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper or sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and grilled.

This week’s recipe teams it with chicken and Parmesan. If you have a big enough tray put the chicken and asparagus all on one and serve from the tray, to save washing up. I had to use two.

For the chicken:
2 large chicken breasts (3 if smaller)
2 Tbs flour
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbs finely chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tsp grated lemon rind
2 Tbs melted butter
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 lemon, thinly sliced
For the asparagus:
About 500g asparagus spears, washed and trimmed
1 Tbs melted butter
1 Tbs olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven 180°C. Line a large shallow baking sheet with baking paper. Place flour in a bowl. In a second bowl mix the panko crumbs, Parmesan, parsley, salt and pepper. In a third bowl mix the lemon rind, butter, lemon juice and garlic. Cut the chicken breasts into thick strips. Coat with flour, then the garlic/lemon mixture and lastly the panko crumbs. Place on prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with any leftover panko mixture over.

Bake for 10 minutes then remove from the oven and cover with lemon slices. If there’s enough room, place the asparagus on the same tray. If not line a second tray with baking paper. Mix the butter, oil and garlic and brush all over the asparagus, then drizzle the rest over. Sprinkle with the grated Parmesan. Return to the oven for 10-15 minutes or until chicken is golden brown and asparagus is cooked. If liked serve with a drizzle of olive oil. Steamed new potatoes go well.

Serves 3-4

Smoked Haddock Chowder

Inspired by a recent trip to the West of Scotland I decided to make my version of a soup they call Cullen Skink. Doesn’t sound very appetising does it? Well Cullen Skink is the Scottish name for Smoked Haddock Chowder, a chunky, hearty soup made from smoked haddock, known locally as Finnan Haddie and it’s delicious, despite the name! I read through half a dozen different recipes online and came up with this.

If you can’t find smoked haddock, use smoked cod and if you can’t find either why not experiment with hot smoked salmon? It will only need to be gently heated through as it’s already cooked.

50g butter
2 leeks, chopped (use mostly the white part and a tiny bit of green)
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunky cubes
Vegetable stock
1 cup cream
500g smoked haddock or cod, skinned and cut into 2 cm chunks
3 Tbs dry sherry (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
To serve:
Chopped parsley
Crusty bread

In a large heavy-based pan melt butter and cook leeks gently for 10 minutes or until soft. Add potatoes and enough stock to just cover them. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Add cream, fish and sherry and cook for a few minutes until the fish is done. Test by taking a piece out. You don’t want the fish to disintegrate and it won’t take long to cook. Season with salt and pepper and add a dash more stock or cream if the soup is too thick.

Garnish with parsley and serve with crusty bread.

Serves 4-6

Pork with Sour Cream, Bacon, Mushrooms & Chutney

In my late teens I worked as a sales assistant every Saturday in a department store in England called Lefevres. In school holidays I often worked full time, especially at Christmas when they needed extra staff. There were no automatic cash registers back then, so it was great for mental math skills.

Over a period of 4 or 5 years I worked in almost every department in the store – from baby wear, women’s wear, underwear and hardware, to haberdashery, menswear and footwear. My hours were from 9am till 5.30pm with an hour off for lunch. I earned the princely sum of one pound a day. You could do a lot with a pound back then.

If you’ve seen the BBC TV series “Are you Being Served?” which aired in the UK in the 1970s and 1980s you have an idea of what it was like. The place was full of bossy Mrs Slocombe-types, with a distinct hierarchy or pecking order. Everyone was referred to by their surname – first names were verboten.

After a couple of years I was offered the job of Switchboard Operator because the girl who held that position during the week wanted Saturdays off. When things were quiet I used to ring a special number for the recipe of the day. This is one of those recipes and it remains a family favourite to this day. It’s a sort of pork stroganoff. If you don’t like pork use chicken thighs instead. By the way, in case you were wondering, the black bit at the bottom of the photo is a raisin from the chutney!

500g pork fillet, cut into strips
50g butter
100g bacon, in chunky dice
200g small mushrooms, wiped (or larger ones halved)
1 cup tomato chutney
2/3 cup sour cream
S and P
Chopped parsley to garnish

Fry bacon in frying pan without fat, remove from pan. Add butter to pan and brown meat. Add mushrooms, bacon and chutney and cook, stirring for 3 mins. Add sour cream, the cooked bacon and check seasoning. Simmer for a few minutes until meat is tender – doesn’t take long. Garnish with parsley and serve with boiled rice and a green salad or green vegetable.

Serves 4

Variations: use strips of chicken instead of pork

Chicken with Dates

My friend Ferne passed on an idea for a quick canapé to serve with drinks – dates with blue cheese and sesame seeds. Cut through one side of each date, remove the stone, fill with some blue cheese and sprinkle with the seeds. I used a creamy blue cheese from Aldi which comes in a half moon shaped pack and black sesame seeds rather than white. They were delicious and the leftover dates went into the chicken dish below.

 

2 Tbs oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 kg chicken thighs (skinless and boneless)|
1 can tomatoes (chopped if not already)
1 cup water
3 Tbs sherry
1 chicken stock cube
2 tsp cumin
1 cup dates, stoned and halved or quartered
To serve:
Rice, couscous or mashed potatoes
Chopped fresh parsley or coriander

Heat oil in a large deep frying pan and cook onion and garlic gently, until soft. Cut chicken into chunks, discrding any fatty bits. Add chicken to pan and continue to fry, stirring, until chicken has browned all over. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for  10-15 mins, or until chicken is tender, adding a little more water if necessary.

Serve with rice, couscous or mashed potatoes, garnished with the chopped herbs.

Serves 6

Variation: if preferred use about 1.2kg of whole chicken thighs with bone in and skin on or off.

Rocket Salad with Sweet Potato, Parmesan & Pine Nuts

Whenever we go to our daughter’s in Newcastle we eat lots of rocket. It grows there like a weed. I much prefer the larger flat leafed rocket you can grow to the skinny wild rocket sold in supermarkets.

This salad is delicious with or without the sweet potato.

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2-3 tsp olive oil
Salt
A big bowl full of rocket leaves, washed and spun dry
1/3 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
1 cup coarsely grated parmesan cheese
Dressing:
½ cup Extra Virgin olive oil
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 180°C. Mix sweet potato chunks with the oil and a little salt, then spread out on a shallow baking sheet. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until starting to brown. Make dressing by shaking all ingredients in a jar with a lid.

Place rocket, sweet potato, pine nuts and parmesan in a large salad bowl. Add some dressing and mix thoroughly to coat.

Serves 4

Variations: use pumpkin instead of sweet potato. Use goat’s cheese or feta cheese instead of grated parmesan.