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.

Smoked Trout and Corn Risotto

Laurie is a massage therapist who works with my osteopath. He’s a keen cook and follower of this blog, so while he’s digging into my back with his elbows we talk about food, to take my mind off the torture.

This is one of Laurie’s recipes. I have changed the method slightly, cooking the corn kernels after they have been removed from the cobs, rather than while still on the cobs. If you’re a fan of risottos and smoked trout you will love this recipe.

30g butter
2 corn cobs
1 litre chicken stock
Flesh from one smoked trout, carcass and skin reserved
1 onion, chopped
1 small leek, white part only, chopped (keep the green part)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1½ cups arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine
Chives or spring onion tops, chopped, to garnish

Melt a third of the butter in a wide, shallow pan and cook corn on medium to high heat, stirring, for 8-10 minutes, or until starting to brown. Remove from pan. Add stock, reserved trout carcass and skin to the pan with the leek tops. Bring to the boil, simmer covered for 15 mins then strain, discarding the solids and keeping the liquid.

In the same pan, heat half remaining butter and cook onion, garlic and leek for 4-5 minutes until soft but not browned, stirring often. Add rice and cook, stirring for 2 minutes, then the wine and cook for another 2 minutes. Add reserved stock, a ladle at a time, allowing the rice to absorb the liquid before adding more. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until al dente, stirring constantly.  If rice isn’t quite done when all the liquid has been absorbed and it’s starting to stick, add a little water, a tablespoonful at a time, until it’s done. Check for seasoning.

Carefully mix corn, trout pieces and remaining butter into the risotto with half the snipped chives or thinly sliced spring onion tops. You don’t want the smoked trout to break up too much.

Garnish with remaining chives or spring onion tops.

Serves 4

Substitution: use frozen corn kernels, thawed.  Add some diced red capsicum (pepper) with the onion and leek, for added colour.

Pan-Fried Fish with Baba Ganoush & Caper & Olive Salsa

Baba Ganoush is a delicious Middle Eastern dip to serve with pita bread or pita bread toasts. It also goes well with some starters or main courses. Try it with smoked salmon. Or with today’s pan-fried fish.

The recipe makes more Baba Ganoush than you will need for this recipe which serves 2. Keep the rest and serve it as a dip. For a gluten-free version of this recipe leave out the flour.

Baba Ganoush:
500g eggplants (2 or 3)
1 large or 2 smaller cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbs olive oil
lemon juice and salt, to taste
Pinch of ground cumin
2 Tbs mayonnaise
1 small pot Greek-style plain yoghurt
Fish:
2 portions of firm-fleshed white fish
2 tsp plain flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Good pinch ground cumin
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp butter
Salsa:
1 Tbs capers, drained
1 Tbs chopped green or black olives
1 Tbs chopped parsley
1-2 anchovies, chopped
½ small red chilli, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
Lemon juice to taste
To serve:
Extra Virgin olive oil

Baba Ganoush: If possible, barbecue the eggplants over charcoal which gives the dip a distinctive, smoky flavour. Or cook them under a hot grill on both sides, until they collapse and the skins are black and blistered. You can also cook them in an oven at 180°C for about half an hour.

When cool enough to handle, cut in  half lengthwise and scrape out the flesh, discarding the skins. Chop flesh finely by hand, then add remaining ingredients. Using the food processor makes it too smooth, so best done by hand. If there’s time you can chill it for several hours or overnight for flavours to develop.

Fish: Mix flour with salt, pepper and cumin and coat the fish. Heat oil and butter in a frying pan and cook fish till golden on both sides.

Salsa: Mix all ingredients together.

To serve, place 2-3 Tbs Baba Ganoush in the middle of 2 serving plates (you will have some left over to use as a dip). Place a piece of fish on top. Top with the salsa, then drizzle a little oil around the edge.

Serves 2

 

Japanese-style Ceviche

This delicious recipe was given to me by my daughter Catherine who got it from her chef friend, Tim. Catherine and her husband love raw fish and meat dishes, so they eat a lot of ceviche and carpaccio. If you’ve never eaten raw fish, this is a good way to start as it honestly doesn’t taste raw. The recipe serves 2 as a starter or one as a main, but it’s easy to multiply the ingredients to serve 4 or 8. It’s also very quick to make.

The black sesame seeds add a nice colour contrast and the fried shallots add a bit of crunch. They make a great garnish for all kinds of savoury recipes.

1 portion salmon (about 180g) or use a firm white fish
1 small or half a large avocado, cubed
Zest and juice of 1 lime or ½ lemon
2 tsp sesame oil*
2 tsp Mirin
1 Tbs pickled ginger, finely chopped*
1 spring onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbs Kenko Creamy Sesame Dressing*
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
To garnish:
Black sesame seeds*
Fried shallots*
Fresh coriander leaves
Lettuce leaves
Olive oil (optional)

Remove skin and any bones from salmon then cut into small cubes. Mix with remaining ingredients. Taste and see if it needs a little more lime juice or sesame oil.

Serve immediately on lettuce leaves, garnished with black sesame seeds, coriander, fried shallots and a drizzle of oil. You can leave out the lettuce leaves and the olive oil if preferred.

Serves 2

* sold in Asian supermarkets. For the Kenko Dressing you will need to find a shop that sells Japanese ingredients. If you can’t find it substitute ordinary mayonnaise mixed 50-50 with soy sauce. Not quite the same but it will do.

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

Fish with Lemon and Broccolini

This very simple fish dish allows the flavour of the fish to shine through. Choose very fresh firm-fleshed fillets. Roasted broccolini may not look very appetising, but it’s delicious.

¼ cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 Tbs lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
About 600g fish fillets (in one piece or several), skin on
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1-2 bunches broccolini, ends trimmed
To serve:
2 Tbs capers

Preheat oven to 200°C. Mix oil, garlic, lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Arrange fish fillets skin side down on the paper. Arrange lemon slices over the fish and the broccolini around the fish. Brush fish and broccolini liberally with the oil and lemon juice mixture, using it all.

Place in the oven and cook for 8-10 mins or until fish is cooked through (test with a sharp knife) and broccolini has started to char around the edges. If broccolini is ready before the fish take it out of the oven and put the fish back for a few minutes.

Serve the fish sprinkled with the capers. Boiled or steamed new potatoes go well with this dish.

Serves 3

Sri Lankan Squid Curry

My friend Doug and his wife had a holiday in Sri Lanka last month. The gourmet food tour was organised by a company called Intrepid Travel and they had a fantastic time tasting delicious local food at restaurants, cafes and private homes, as well as visiting food markets and factories.

This Squid Curry was one of Doug’s favourite dishes so he sent me the recipe and I decided to give it a try. I left out the pandanus leaf because the Asian supermarket I use only sells it in huge bunches, but I did buy the curry leaves. The ones I didn’t use will keep for next time. I added a touch of sweetness with the palm sugar and used spring onion as a garnish because I didn’t have any coriander.

The squid itself doesn’t have much flavour but the overall result makes a nice change from the usual chicken, beef or pork curries.

1 kg squid tubes, cleaned (I used a frozen pack)
3 Tbs vegetable oil
10 dried curry leaves (I used a few more than that)
1 tsp each whole mustard and whole fennel seeds
A square inch piece of Pandanus leaf (optional)
1 Tbs grated or finely chopped fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Half a large onion or 3-4 French shallots
1 tsp each ground cumin, coriander and turmeric
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
1 x 400ml can coconut milk or cream
Ground cayenne pepper and salt to taste
2-3 tsp palm sugar or brown sugar
Garnish:
Chopped fresh coriander or thinly sliced spring onion

Cut squid into bite-sized chunks and score any thicker pieces. Mine were all the same thickness so I didn’t need to do this. Wash and dry with paper towels. Heat oil in a wok or large pan over high heat. When very hot add the curry leaves, pandanus leaf and whole seeds and stir for a few seconds then add the ginger, garlic and onion. Stir fry until starting to brown then add the ground spices and tomatoes. Stir-fry for a few minutes.

Add coconut milk and mix well. Simmer to reduce slightly, season with cayenne pepper and salt. Can be prepared ahead of time to this point. Mix in squid and cook for a few minutes until tender. This won’t take long and if you overcook it the squid will be rubbery.

Garnish with coriander or spring onion and serve with steamed rice.

Serves 4-6

Bruschetta with Goujons of Fish, Peaches & Buttermilk Dressing

This recipe was inspired by a bruschetta we ordered while we were in Chicago last year. I remember it was topped with homemade fish fingers – otherwise known as “goujons”- peaches, tomatoes, cucumber and a creamy dressing. The rest I had to invent.

The tomato is often thought of as a vegetable, but in fact it’s a fruit. If you don’t like fruit with savoury dishes, you won’t like this recipe, but I love the fresh flavour combination. If liked leave out the bread. Leftover dressing is delicious served with any salad.

4 slices of baguette, cut on the diagonal (I used sourdough)
Olive oil to brush onto the bread
500g white fish fillets (I used Basa) cut into fat fingers
3 Tbs plain flour, seasoned
1 egg, beaten
1 cup or more breadcrumbs (preferably Panko)
1 small cucumber, sliced on the diagonal
A few cherry tomatoes, halved
2 peaches or nectarines, peeled and sliced
2 Tbs olive oil
25g butter
Fresh herbs such as mint or coriander
Buttermilk Dressing:
¼ cup mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
3 Tbs buttermilk
1 Tbs chopped chives
2 tsp cider vinegar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed

Coat fish fingers (goujons) with the seasoned flour, shaking off the excess, then with the beaten egg and lastly with the breadcrumbs. Heat oil and butter in a large frying pan and fry them for 2-3 minutes each side, or until golden brown and cooked through. Drain on paper towels.

Place all ingredients for dressing in a jar with a lid and shake well. Brush the bread on both sides with the olive oil (if liked mix in a crushed clove of garlic) then grill till golden. I toasted mine in an electric sandwich press which works well and avoids having to turn on the grill.

Arrange toasted bread slices on 4 plates. Arrange the fish on top then garnish with the cucumber, the tomato halves and the peach or nectarine slices. Drizzle with some of the dressing and garnish with fresh herbs.

Makes 4 bruschettas

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