Pancakes with Sticky Pork and Vegetables

These make a tasty mid-week dinner or something to serve as finger food with drinks. Instead of cooking a pork fillet you could use shredded leftover roast pork, beef, chicken or lamb.

Pancakes:
1½ cups cold water
2 eggs
1 cup sifted self-raising flour
2 Tbs vegetable oil
¼ tsp salt
Filling:
500-600g pork fillet
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Julienne sticks of cucumber, carrots and spring onions about 3″ long
Black sesame seeds (optional)
Sauce:
3 Tbs Hoisin sauce
2 Tbs honey
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
½ tsp Chinese five spice powder

Mix all ingredients for pancakes in a food processor or blender, then tip into a jug. Make about 12 thin pancakes using just under a quarter of a cup for each. Use a non-stick pan and tip the pan to spread the mixture evenly. Lightly oil the pan before you start but you won’t need to use oil or butter for each pancake, because there’s oil in the pancake mixture. As you make them, stack the pancakes one on top of the other – they won’t stick to each other.

Meanwhile preheat the oven to 200°C. Mix the sauce. Season the pork and place in a roasting pan. Spoon 2 tablespoons of sauce onto the pork, then brush over to coat thoroughly. Roast for 20-30 minutes or until cooked to your liking. Turn the pork and baste halfway through cooking time. Slice pork thinly, then cut into strips. Place in a bowl and mix in most of the remaining sauce. Keep some for garnishing.

Lay pancakes out on a work surface.  Divide the shredded vegetables and pork between the pancakes, in a line along the middle, then roll up tightly. Cut each pancake in two, on the diagonal and arrange on a serving plate. Drizzle with remaining sauce then sprinkle with a few black sesame seeds. If serving as finger food, instead of drizzling with the remaining sauce, serve it in a bowl for dipping.

Serves 6

Variations: use shredded zucchini or red pepper (capsicum) instead of cucumber or carrot.

Crispy oven-baked Cauliflower Bites

Serve these delicious, crunchy cauliflower bites as an aperitif or light meal. The ones in the photo are larger florets which we had as a light meal. I served smaller ones with Christmas drinks and they were a great success. All the preparation can be done several hours ahead.

1 small to medium cauliflower or half a large one
Batter:
2 Tbs Besan (chickpea) flour
1 Tbs cornflour (corn starch)
1 tsp each of turmeric, salt, oregano and paprika
2 eggs and a little water
Coating:
3 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 Tbs sesame seeds
Dipping Sauce:
½ cup mayonnaise (preferably home-made)
¼ cup sour cream or plain yoghurt
1 Tbs tomato sauce
A little chilli sauce such as Tabasco or Sriracha, to taste (optional)
Paprika

Cut cauliflower into florets – one or two bites in size. Mix the batter all together in a bowl with a fork, adding enough cold water to make a coating consistency. Add the cauliflower florets and toss well until thoroughly coated. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a shallow baking tray with baking paper.

Mix the coating ingredients in a shallow bowl. Remove cauliflower, one or two pieces at a time and toss in the crumbs, patting them on. Arrange in a single layer on the baking tray. Can be prepared in advance to this stage.

Bake for 20-30 minutes until tender (test with a skewer or sharp knife), golden and crispy. Smaller florets will take less time. Mix sauce ingredients together, sprinkle with paprika and serve with the cauliflower.

Makes 36-40

Note: feel free to use different herbs and spices such as dried basil, cumin etc

Curry Dip

I’ve been making this dip since I was at school, which is quite some time ago. Served  with a colourful array of raw vegetables it makes a healthy accompaniment to drinks. Make it the day before serving, for the flavours to develop.

250g cream cheese
1 cup thick Greek-style yoghurt
4 Tbs mayonnaise (preferably home-made)
4 tsp curry paste or powder
1 Tbs grated onion
¼ cup raisins or sultanas, chopped finely
1 tsp sugar
Paprika to garnish

Have the cream cheese at room temperature. Mix with remaining ingredients and refrigerate, covered, overnight, for the flavours to develop. Sprinkle with paprika and serve with raw vegetables or crackers.

Chinese Spoon Canapés

Chinese spoons are great for serving tasty morsels with drinks. Find them in Asian stores or collect them from second-hand shops, known as Op shops in many countries. I have more than two dozen and use them a lot.

When serving a canapé on a spoon you don’t need a base of bread, toast or a cracker. The spoon takes its place. I like to keep the ingredients on hand to make my favourite combinations. So I’ve usually got prosciutto and soft blue cheese in the fridge (plus the walnuts and jam in the pantry) and when I’ve used them I add them to my shopping list. Same goes for the gravlax or smoked salmon, kewpie mayonnaise and pickled grapes.

Kewpie mayonnaise is a Japanese product sold in the Asian section of Australian supermarkets. Once you have pickled grapes (which are home made) in the fridge you’ll find they go with lots of things as a tasty, fresh garnish, so make more than you need.

I haven’t put an ingredients list or method for the first two ideas. Just arrange the components on the spoons as shown in the photos. You can whip up a tray of one or two of these combinations in no time at all.

(1) Prosciutto (or jamon serrano), creamy blue cheese, a lightly toasted walnut or pecan half, half a teaspoon of fruit jam or jelly or paste and a coriander leaf (optional, not in photo).
You can use virtually any sweet jam, jelly or paste such as cranberry, plum or quince.

(2) Gravlax (or smoked salmon or trout) with kewpie mayonnaise, spring onion and pickled grapes.
The pickled grapes are home-made and keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge. The ones in the photo are very small ones we grow and freeze. They keep for months in the freezer and I take them out as I need them for pickling. If you use larger fresh grapes, cut them in halves or quarters.

(3) Tuna and Avocado Spoons with Wasabi Dressing

200-250g piece of sashimi-grade tuna
1 or 2 avocados, halved and thinly sliced
Fresh Coriander leaves
Lightly toasted sesame seeds to garnish – photo shows white but black ones look good
Dressing:
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 Tbs soy sauce
1½ Tbs sesame oil
2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
1 Tbs brown sugar
¼ tsp wasabi paste, or to taste

Slice tuna thinly. This is easier to do if the tuna has been frozen and is only partially thawed. Arrange a piece on Chinese spoons, top each with a slice of avocado and a coriander leaf. Drizzle with dressing, sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve when the tuna has thawed – it will only take a few minutes.

Dressing: Place all ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake vigorously.

Makes 16-20 spoons

Easy Peasy Salmon Sushi

Salmon sushi make a quick and tasty, not to mention healthy meal, especially if you make them using an ice cube tray. I made the rice cakes a bit too tall, so the ratio of rice to salmon wasn’t quite right. Next time I won’t fill the ice cube holes so full.

1 cup sushi rice
1¼ cups water
1-2 Tbs Mirin
1-2 Tbs Rice Wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
2 salmon fillets, skin removed
To serve:
Black sesame seeds
Wasabi paste
Soy sauce
Pickled Ginger
Sliced avocado

Place rice and water in a saucepan with a good pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Cover and turn down the heat as low as possible. If you have a heat diffuser use it under the pan. Cook rice for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and let it sit for 15 minutes to continue cooking in the steam.

Oil an ice cube tray – I used a spray can. You may need more than one ice cube tray depending on how many holes it has. Fill with the rice, pushing down firmly, then refrigerate for a couple of hours or more.

To serve, tip out the rice cakes and arrange them on a serving tray. Thinly slice the salmon and drape a piece over each rice cake. Sprinkle with black sesame seeds.

Serve with wasabi paste, soy sauce, pickled ginger and sliced avocado.

Makes 16-20 sushi to serve 2-3 as a light meal or more as an aperitif.

Mazza’s Ceviche Dip

Ceviche originated in Peru, as a means of keeping fish before refrigeration was available. Some people don’t like the idea of eating ceviche, because the fish is not cooked. In fact the lemon or lime juice “cooks” the fish without heat and softens the texture, so it doesn’t taste raw.

This delicious recipe from my dear friend Mazza has been known to convert quite a few people who didn’t think they liked ceviche or have never tried it. Served with corn chips, it’s great to pass round with pre-dinner drinks. If preferred, skip the corn chips and serve it on Chinese spoons. With the addition of tomato ketchup it’s not a traditional ceviche recipe, but a good crowd pleaser.

Choose best quality white fish and give it a few hours in the fridge before serving.

500g firm white fish fillets, cut into 1-2cm cubes
2 Tbs chopped spring onions
½ red onion, finely chopped
Juice of 1lime
1 large tomato, skinned, seeded and chopped
¾ cup tomato sauce (ketchup)
2 tsp oregano
1 small red chilli, including seeds, finely chopped (leave out the seeds if preferred)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 Tbs chopped lemon grass
Lots of chopped fresh coriander
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
To serve:
Corn chips

When you cut up the fish discard any stringy bits. Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate for a few hours.

Serve with corn chips.

Note: if you don’t have any lemon grass, remove the peel from half to one lemon with a potato peeler and chop it very finely. Other possible substitutions: lemon instead of lime juice, white instead of red onion and parsley instead of coriander.

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.

Peanut Caramel Slice

If you have a packet of miso paste in the fridge, bought for a recipe which only required a tablespoonful or two and you’re wondering what to do with the rest, this is the recipe for you. If not, go and buy some.

Miso paste keeps for weeks in the fridge and is a useful addition to all sorts of dishes, both sweet and savoury. It adds an intensity of flavour known as umami, the fifth taste sensation after sweet, sour, bitter and salty. Try adding a tablespoonful to your next casserole or bolognese sauce.

This yummy slice has miso in the shortbread base where it combines with the other ingredients to make a very moreish snack. If you like peanut brittle you will like this slice which is totally addictive. If you don’t have any miso you could just leave it out.

Shortbread base:
125g butter at room temperature
5 Tbs sugar
1 egg yolk
1 Tbs miso paste
1 cup flour
2 Tbs cornflour
½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking powder
Caramel:
1 cup brown sugar
2 Tbs honey
50g butter
Good pinch of chilli powder (optional)
250g salted roast peanuts
½ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line the base of a 9″ (22cm) square cake pan with baking paper and grease the pan. Place butter and sugar in food processor and mix till creamy. Add egg yolk and miso then lastly the flour, cornflour, salt and baking powder. Mix well, stopping halfway to scrape down the sides. Put blobs all over the base of the tin, then press it to a uniform thickness with slightly damp fingers. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden.

Meanwhile, heat brown sugar, honey and butter in a saucepan until melted, stirring. Add chilli powder, peanuts and salt and mix well. Put blobs all over the shortbread base, then spread evenly with a knife. Put back in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Cool for 20 minutes, then cut into about 20 squares while still warm. Keep in an airtight tin. If kept in the fridge the slice will be more chewy. As an after dinner nibble cut the pieces in half again so you get 40.

Makes about 20 pieces

Variations: use slivered almonds, roughly chopped macadamias or a mixture of nuts instead of the peanuts.

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

Hummus

Hummus is available in every supermarket, but when I first learnt to make it, while we were living in Israel in the late 1970s, that wasn’t the case.

This recipe is quick and easy and, like anything homemade, much cheaper than the bought variety. With tahini and canned chickpeas in the pantry you can whip up a batch any time, as the other ingredients such as lemon juice, garlic and olive oil are part of most people’s everyday supplies. I’ve been using canned chickpeas for quite some time. They’re so convenient but, if preferred, by all means soak and cook some dried ones.

While hummus makes a delicious dip to serve with drinks, it’s also good as a spread in sandwiches, instead of butter, or as a component in several of the recipes on this blog, such as Roasted Veggies with Hummus or Baked Eggplant with Hummus Lentils and Pine Nuts.

Hummus keeps in the fridge for up to a week, but if preferred why not make half the recipe first time.

2 cans chickpeas, drained
1 tsp salt
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2/3 cup tahini paste, stirred
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
Garnish: (optional)
Chopped parsley
Toasted pine nuts
Extra virgin olive oil
Paprika

Place chickpeas in food processor with remaining ingredients. Process, adding enough water to give the consistency of a dip. Keep in the fridge, covered, until needed.

To serve, add a little water if Hummus has become too stiff, then spread in a swirl onto a shallow dish and decorate with chopped parsley, toasted pine nuts, paprika and a drizzle of olive oil. The garnish is optional, but it looks and tastes great. Serve at room temperature with pita bread, crackers or raw vegetables such as carrots, cucumber and cauliflower.

 

Makes about 3 cups