Asparagus with Smoked Salmon, Poached Egg & Quick Hollandaise

Asparagus goes very well with smoked fish and with eggs. This recipe uses both and ties all the ingredients together with a delicious herby hollandaise sauce, which takes no time at all to make.

It’s best to be cautious on timing the first time you make the sauce. Microwave ovens vary and it may only need 10 or 12 seconds on High in yours.

10-12 spears asparagus
4 slices smoked salmon
2 large eggs
Quick Hollandaise Sauce:
2 egg yolks
3-4 tsp lemon juice
pinch of salt and cayenne pepper
60g butter, melted
1 Tbs chopped fresh tarragon (optional)
To garnish:
Pink peppercorns (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil

Trim and wash asparagus and place in a frying pan. Add cold water to cover, then turn on the heat, bring to the boil and cook for 3 minutes or until al dente. Drain on paper towels then arrange on two heated serving plates. Meanwhile poach the eggs and make the sauce.

Arrange a poached egg and two slices of smoked salmon on each serving of asparagus. Garnish with the sauce, a few pink peppercorns, if using and a drizzle of olive oil.

Quick Hollandaise Sauce: place egg yolks, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a heatproof bowl and whisk with a balloon whisk to combine. Whisk in the hot melted butter, then zap in the microwave for 14-15 seconds on High (no more or the egg yolks will scramble). Whisk vigorously to combine, add the tarragon and serve.

Serves 2

Three-Cheese Semolina Gnocchi with Gremolata

This recipe originally appeared on Donna Hay’s website, but it’s not there any more. The original version serves 10-12 so I halved it to serve six as a starter. The recipe uses an Italian cheese called Taleggio in the gnocchi mix, but you could also use something stronger such as Gruyere or Cheddar.

750 ml milk
1 cup semolina
3 egg yolks
100g grated Taleggio cheese (or substitute Gruyere or strong cheddar)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A few sprigs of fresh marjoram
½ cup grated mozzarella
½ cup grated parmesan
1 Tbs finely chopped parsley
2 tsp finely chopped fresh marjoram
2 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp lemon rind (removed with veg peeler then shredded finely)
1 small clove garlic crushed

Place milk in a non-stick saucepan and bring to the boil. Gradually mix in the semolina, using a wooden spatula. Cook for 2-3 mins or until thickened then remove from the heat. Mix in the egg yolks, the cheese and season to taste. Scrape into a lightly greased square or rectangular dish. Mine is 20 cm square. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours or until firm.

Meanwhile make the gremolata by mixing all ingredients together in a bowl or a jar with a lid.

When ready to serve, turn on the grill. Cut the gnocchi into six evenly sized rectangles and place on an oven tray lined with baking paper, leaving some space between each one. Sprinkle with the marjoram, the mozzarella and the parmesan. Grill for 2-3 mins or until cheese is golden and melted. Arrange on 6 serving plates and top with the gremolata. Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil around the gnocchi.

Serves 6 as a starter

Variations: instead of taleggio you could use goat’s cheese. Instead of fresh marjoram you could use oregano or thyme

Watermelon Carpaccio

This delicious recipe makes a light, vegetarian lunch for the warmer months. It looks just like a raw beef carpaccio but in fact it’s thin slices of watermelon!

I haven’t put quantities in the ingredient list because they will vary according to how thick you cut the watermelon and the number of servings. The photo shows a lunch size. As a starter make them smaller.

Thin slices of watermelon
Crumbled feta cheese
Thinly sliced red onion
Lightly toasted pistachios, roughly chopped
Chopped fresh mint
Salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
Extra Virgin olive oil
Juice from ½ a lemon
To serve:
Balsamic glaze (optional)

Arrange overlapping slices of watermelon on serving plates. Sprinkle over the cheese, onion, capers, pistachios and mint. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice.

Serve with balsamic glaze, if liked.

Substitutes: use pine nuts instead of pistachios; creamy goat cheese instead of feta, rockmelon instead of watermelon.



Smashed Avocado on Toast with Pesto and Poached Eggs

Australian restaurateur Bill Granger served his first plate of smashed avocado in 1993 at his informal café Bill’s, located in the Sydney suburb of Surrey Hills.

Roughly mashed and seasoned with lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper he served the avocado on toasted sourdough bread. The dish took off to become a global phenomenon, indicative of the rising popularity of Australian-style breakfasts and brunches.

In this recipe I have added some pesto and poached eggs, to create a more substantial dish for lunch. If liked, serve two poached eggs per person.

1 large ripe avocado
2 Tbs pesto (preferably home-made)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Lemon or lime juice, to taste
Extra virgin olive oil, to taste
2 poached eggs
2 thick slices sourdough bread, toasted

Remove flesh from avocado onto a plate and mash roughly with a fork. Leave it nice and chunky. Roughly mix in the pesto and season to taste with salt, pepper, lemon or lime juice and olive oil.

Arrange toast on two serving plates. Top with the avocado, then the poached eggs. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and some cracked pepper.

Serves 2

Note: make pesto at the end of summer when basil is cheap and plentiful – you may even have some in your garden. Freeze in ice cube trays, then tip into a container or plastic bag and keep in the freezer to add a taste of summer to your winter recipes. Spread over pizza bases instead of the usual tomato paste. Use in pasta dishes such as this one.

Prawn Scramble with Crispy Shallots

Looking for a quick and easy lunch or light supper?

This is my variation on a dish I have ordered several times at my favourite lunch-time café, Deakin and Me. It’s basically scrambled eggs with prawns and salad served on toasted sourdough. Sometimes I ask them to skip the toast and serve mine on a large piece of roasted pumpkin with the skin on. Either way it’s delicious.

I got distracted and overcooked the crispy shallots but they still tasted good. If preferred, buy some crispy shallots sold in Asian stores and some supermarkets, in a packet.

I think they use raw prawns, but I used cooked ones. The photo is of my serving, which I had without the toast.

4 eggs
2 Tbs milk
2 Tbs butter or oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
250g cooked prawns (about 125g shelled weight)
¾ cup beansprouts, trimmed if necessary
½ cup each coriander leaves and flat parsley leaves
Green part of a spring onion, thinly sliced on the diagonal
3 Tbs mayonnaise
1 Tbs Sriracha sauce (or another chilli sauce, such as harissa)
2 slices sourdough bread, toasted (& buttered if you like)
1 Tbs lime juice
2 wedges lime (optional)
Crispy shallots:
3-4 shallots
Vegetable oil

Peel prawns, cut into chunks and season. Mix mayonnaise with sriracha sauce and lime juice.

Beat eggs and milk with a fork and season. Heat butter or oil, add prawns and stir fry until hot (if using raw prawns this will take a little longer). Remove prawns and keep warm. Add the eggs and gently scramble them, stopping when they are still quite soft. Gently fold in the prawns.

Place toasted sourdough on two warmed plates. Arrange scrambled eggs and prawns on the toast, buttered if you like. Top each serving with some beansprouts, spring onions and herbs. Drizzle some spicy mayo around the edge and sprinkle with crispy shallots. Garnish with lime wedges, if using, and serve immediately.

For the crispy shallots, place the peeled and chopped shallots in a small frying pan. Cover with cold vegetable oil. Cook over medium heat until they are golden and crunchy. Drain and leave on paper towels to cool.

Serves 2

Broad Bean Garlic & Goat Cheese Bruschetta

This recipe is adapted from one by Jamie Oliver and it’s a real winner.

A great way to use broad beans if you have them growing in the garden. Or a packet of frozen broad beans works well. In fact they are one of those vegetables, like peas, which freeze so well they’re almost as good as fresh ones.

500g broad beans, fresh or frozen
150g soft creamy goat cheese (see note below)
4 thick slices sourdough bread
2 Tbs chopped fresh tarragon (or parsley if you can’t get tarragon)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Extra Virgin olive oil

Cook broad beans for 2-3 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain, refresh under cold water, then slip off and discard the outer skins and drain again. Add the tarragon and olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Mix cream cheese with one of the cloves of garlic, crushed. If it’s too thick, add a tablespoon or two of plain yoghurt.

Toast the bread then rub with the other clove of garlic. I brushed both sides with a little olive oil and toasted them in a sandwich press.

Divide the cream cheese  between the slices of toast, top with the broad bean mixture and drizzle extra virgin olive oil.

Serves 4

Note: Jamie uses feta cheese mashed with plain yoghurt. I used Aldi spreadable goat cheese which comes in a 150g pot. It’s soft enough that you may not need any yoghurt.


Salmon Carpaccio with Fennel Salad & Sweet Onions

We met Sharon and François while we were all living in Kuala Lumpur in the mid-1980s. They have retired to Menton, in the south-east of France and in September we spent a couple of days with them. It’s a beautiful spot on the French Riviera, just a 20-minute drive from Monaco.

They often stroll across the border from Menton to Ventimiglia, the first town on the Italian side of the border, to have coffee, it’s that close. Every Friday there’s an open-air market in Ventimiglia and, as our last day happened to be a Friday, guess where we went. After strolling around the market and buying a few bargains we were ready for lunch. Francois and Sharon had booked a table at their favourite bistro, Geppy’s.

I ordered the Salmon Carpaccio, served with a fennel salad and sweet onions. This is my interpretation. The photo shows a fairly large serving as I made it for lunch rather than as a starter.

About 250-300g gravlax, thinly sliced (bought or home-made)
1 bulb fennel, thinly shaved
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 tsp honey
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Sweet onions:
2 large onions, halved then thinly sliced
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs white balsamic or white wine vinegar
A pinch of salt
2 tsp sugar
To garnish:
Snipped chives and some fennel fronds
Black salt or black sesame seeds
2-3 Tbs mayonnaise mixed with a little wasabi paste, to taste

Make the sweet onions. Heat olive oil in a frying pan, add the onions and cook slowly for 20-30 minutes or until soft but pale in colour, stirring often. Add the vinegar, salt and sugar and continue to cook for a further 15 minutes, or until the onions are very tender. Cool.

Arrange salmon decoratively in the centre of two serving plates (four if you are doing starters). Mix the fennel with the oil, lemon juice, honey and seasoning. If preferred, use your favourite salad dressing instead. Arrange the fennel around the salmon and arrange some of the onions in the middle of the salmon. Garnish with black salt or black sesame seeds, a few blobs of mayonnaise mixed with wasabi and some snipped chives and fennel fronds.

Serves 2 for lunch or 4 as a starter

Substitutes: use smoked salmon instead of gravlax

Fennel, Blood Orange & Goat Cheese Salad

Blood oranges are only in season for a short time and are hard to find in Canberra where I live. I’ve planted a tree and am waiting patiently to pick some fruit. Our back courtyard is very protected, providing a little mediterranean oasis. We have an olive tree, a lime, a lemon and a cumquat tree, all growing happily and producing lots of fruit.

Every year in late April we pick about 80 kilos of olives. These come from our tree and a friend’s tree. They don’t bother to harvest their olives and are happy for us to pick them. To be perfectly honest, Matthew picks the olives so I can’t claim any credit. He then takes them to a man who produces olive oil commercially. A couple of days later we pick up about seven one-litre bottles of extra virgin olive oil, which is truly amazing and keeps for at least a year. We only use it for dipping, drizzling and making salad dressings. It’s too good to cook with.

Recently I found some blood oranges in a shop called Harris Farm in Bowral, a couple of hours drive from Canberra, when I happened to be passing through. It’s a fabulous shop and I was delighted to learn they are opening a branch in Canberra near IKEA some time this year.

This recipe, pairing citrus with fennel, is light, summery and delicious. If you can’t find blood oranges use ordinary oranges or one pink grapefruit instead.

1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced with a mandoline (save a few fronds for garnish)
2 blood oranges, segments removed, peel and pith discarded
1 handful rocket leaves
100g goat cheese (or creamy feta)
1 Tbs white wine or cider vinegar
2 tsp orange or lemon juice
5 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp honey or maple syrup
1 sprig rosemary, finely chopped
3 Tbs walnut or pecan halves
1-2 tsp maple syrup
A few mint leaves if available

Place all ingredients for dressing in a jar with a lid and shake vigorously. For the garnish, place nuts in a small frying pan and drizzle with the maple syrup. Cook over moderate heat, stirring, for a couple of minutes or until glazed then cool.

Mix fennel with some of the dressing then divide between two serving plates. Tuck some rocket leaves here and there, then arrange the orange segments and the cheese, broken into small pieces, on top. Garnish with the nuts and the mint leaves. Drizzle remaining dressing around the edge of the salad and arrange a couple of fennel fronds on top.

Serves 2

Toasted Tuna Open Sandwiches

My dentist has TV you can watch on the ceiling while he’s fixing your teeth. It’s usually tuned in to the food channel and it gives you something to take your mind off all that drilling. Last week I watched a guy on SBS who was making these toasted tuna sandwiches. There was no sound, but it wasn’t a complicated recipe.

Here’s my version of this delicious quick and easy lunch for two. After the excesses of Christmas it might be just what you need. It’s also great for the kids during school holidays.

1 185g can tuna, drained
½ small onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced or chopped
2-3 Tbs mayonnaise, preferably homemade
1 cob fresh corn (optional)
Grated cheddar
2 slices bread, lightly toasted

Cut corn kernels off the cob (if using) and place them in a bowl with the tuna, onion, celery and mayonnaise. Divide mixture evenly between the two slices of toast, top with grated cheese, then cook in an air fryer at 200° for 5-7 minutes or place under a grill. When cheese is golden brown serve immediately, garnished with baby tomatoes or some salad.

Serves 2

Warm Halloumi and Mushroom Salad with Crispy Lentils

This recipe was recommended by my friend Megan who was owner-chef at the Palette Cafe at the Beaver Gallery in Canberra for over 20 years.  It was my favourite lunch venue and I miss it, although Meg continues to serve wonderful food whenever we’re invited for dinner.

The recipe comes from, a good source of online recipes which has stood the test of time. In the recipe they put the lentils, halloumi and mushrooms in the oven to roast. I changed the method slightly and cooked everything, apart from the lentils, in a frying pan. I think it gives you more control over getting the halloumi nice and golden brown. The recipe serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main course.


4 large portobello mushrooms
250g halloumi cheese
1 can lentils, drained, rinsed and patted dry
Olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
200g green beans
150g mixed small salad leaves and/or spinach leaves
2 tsp pink peppercorns

Spinach pesto:

50g baby spinach leaves
25g parmesan cheese, grated
½ cup walnut halves
2 cloves garlic, crushed
100ml olive oil

Preheat oven to 200°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper and spread out the lentils in a single layer. Roast for about 15 minutes, moving them around a couple of times, until they are evenly golden and crunchy. Remove from the oven and cool.

Place all ingredients for pesto except the oil in food processor. Process until chunky then add the oil through the feed chute with the motor running. Scrape into a small bowl.

Cook green beans in boiling salted water for 4 minutes or until lightly cooked. Not as well cooked as al dente but not as crunchy as when raw. Refresh under cold water, then pat dry.

Peel mushrooms and remove stalks. Heat 1-2 tablespoons olive oil in a large frying pan and cook the mushrooms for 3-4 minutes each side. Remove from pan and cut each mushroom into 3 or 4 slices. Add lemon juice to the mushroom juices left in the pan, mix then add to the salad greens with a pinch of salt. Mix well then arrange the salad on four serving plates (or two for a main course).

Wipe out the frying pan and add a tiny drizzle of oil. Pat halloumi dry then cut into slices. Fry on both sides until golden brown.

On top of the salad arrange the beans, the mushrooms and the halloumi. Garnish with the crispy lentils and the pink peppercorns, then drizzle each serving with some of the spinach pesto.

Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main