Asparagus with Smoked Salmon, Poached Egg and 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.

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 (no more or the egg yolks will scramble). Whisk vigorously to combine, add the tarragon and serve.

Serves 2

Pumpkin and Leek Frittata

Frittata is a quiche without the pastry. Delicious straight out of the oven and leftovers make a tasty lunch the following day.

1 kg butternut pumpkin, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
2-3 leeks depending on size, white part only, sliced
6-8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbs fresh chopped thyme
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 eggs
1½ cups cream
½ cup grated parmesan
1 cup ricotta or cream cheese (optional)
Chopped parsley to garnish

Preheat oven to 220°C. Place pumpkin, leeks, garlic, thyme, oil, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix well. Spread out on a shallow baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 25-30 mins or until cooked and starting to brown. Meanwhile whisk eggs, cream and parmesan in a bowl and season.

Tip vegetable mixture into a non-stick frying pan with an oven-proof handle. Choose one measuring about 28cm in diameter. Pour the egg and cream mixture evenly over the vegetables, then if using put blobs of ricotta or cream cheese all over.

Bake for 25 minutes or until puffed and golden. Garnish with parsley.

Serves 4-6

Chargrilled Zucchini with Avocado Hummus

I recently spent a few days in hospital. As I ate the unimaginative, tasteless hospital food I watched the SBS food channel and made notes. This is one of the delicious recipes I wrote down which we had for lunch today. Why can’t hospitals do better?

6 zucchini (about 1kg) halved lengthwise
1 clove garlic, crushed
Finely grated zest and juice 1 lemon
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
3 Tbs dukkah
Lemon wedges, chopped parsley and olive oil, to serve
Avocado Hummus:
2 ripe avocados
½ cup tahini
1 clove garlic, crushed
Finely grated zest and juice 1 lemon
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the Hummus, place all ingredients in food processor and process until smooth and creamy, stopping halfway to scrape down the sides. Heat a large chargrill until hot and cook the zucchini halves, without oil, for 3 minutes each side, or until charred and cooked through.

While zucchini is cooking mix garlic, lemon zest and juice, oil and seasoning in a large bowl. Add the cooked zucchini halves and toss gently. Pile onto a serving platter and scatter with the parsley. Finish with dollops of avocado hummus, a sprinkling of dukkah, a drizzle of olive oil and the lemon wedges. If liked make half the recipe which serves 2.

Serves 4

Teriyaki Burgers

Serve these tasty burgers as a mid-week family dinner, with or without French fries, and I guarantee you will be asked to put them on the menu on a regular basis.

There is no doubt that homemade French fries (or chips as we call them) are much tastier than bought ones. However, if I made them on a regular basis I would be twice the size, with or without Covid. So I keep a packet of bought chips in the freezer to zap in a hot oven and serve with steak, burgers and fried fish. Just a few, mostly for Matthew, which always puts a smile on his face. Using frozen fries makes this a very quick meal, but if you want to make your own please do.

6 hamburger buns, halved and toasted (I used brioche)
Quick pickled veggies (see below)
Mayonnaise (preferably Japanese Kewpie, but any will do)
Lettuce leaves
French fries, homemade or bought
Teriyaki chicken:
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
3 Tbs plain flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp oil
¼ cup soy sauce
2 Tbs Mirin (or substitute vinegar)
2 Tbs sake or dry sherry
1½ Tbs sugar

Make the quick pickled veggies at least a couple of hours before eating. They will keep for up to a week in the fridge.

Mix salt and pepper into flour and use to coat the chicken, shaking off excess. Heat oil in a large non-stick frying pan and cook chicken for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until golden. Mix the soy sauce, Mirin, sake and sugar and add to the pan. Cook, stirring and spooning the sauce over the chicken and turning them until the sauce has thickened and reduced and chicken is nicely glazed. Toast the burger buns. Be careful if using brioche buns as they can easily burn.

To serve, spread some mayonnaise on one half of each burger bun, then top with lettuce, some pickled veggies, a piece of chicken and the other half of the bun. If liked, serve with French fries, either homemade or bought, cooked according to the package directions,

Serves 6

Quick pickled veggies: finely slice or julienne 1 zucchini (or a Lebanese cucumber), 1 carrot (or a small red capsicum/pepper) and 1 onion (or half if very large), either red or brown.. Add ¼ cup vinegar, ¼ cup sugar, 1 tsp salt and enough water to just cover them. Make at least 2 hours before serving. Keeps for a week in the fridge.

Crushed Carrots with Pistachio Pesto

I adapted this recipe from one by Noor Murad. She uses fresh coriander as the green herb in the pesto. I used mint and am confident that basil would work equally well. You could even use a mixture of fresh herbs. This recipe raises the humble old carrot to amazing heights. Serve as a side dish or as part of a buffet.

Carrots:
1 to 1½ kg carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
½ cup water
2 Tbs olive oil
6 cloves garlic, peeled
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp chilli flakes
2 Tbs maple syrup
Pesto:
1 cup tightly packed coriander, mint or basil leaves
¾ cup pistachio nuts, lightly toasted
1 clove garlic
About ½ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Garnish:
½ red onion, thinly sliced
Juice of 1 lime or half a lemon
¾ cup Greek yoghurt

Preheat oven to 200°C. Place carrots and remaining ingredients in a shallow roasting pan. Mix then roast for 30 mins, or until no liquid remains and carrots are glazed, turning once or twice during cooking time. Tip onto a shallow serving plate and crush the carrots roughly with a  fork.

While carrots are cooking make the garnishes by mixing about half the lemon or lime juice with the red onion and the other half with the yoghurt. Also make the pesto by placing all ingredients except the oil in a food processor. Process until chunky, adding the oil gradually through the feed tube with the motor running and stopping halfway to scrape down the sides. Season to taste.

Drizzle the pesto over the carrots, then put blobs of the yoghurt all over and finally the drained onions.

Serves 4-6 as a side dish

Variations: use pine nuts instead of pistachios, a little Harissa paste instead of chilli flakes, parsnips or sweet potatoes instead of carrots

Hot Chocolate Puddings

These hot chocolate puddings can be made and cooked in just under half an hour, making them perfect for a last minute gathering or a family treat. You can also make them up to a few hours ahead and leave them in the fridge until you’re ready to pop them in the oven. There’s no flour, making them gluten free.

125g butter
150g dark chocolate, broken into squares
3 eggs, separated
2/3 cup sugar
pinch salt
To serve:
Cream or vanilla ice cream

If you are going to cook the puddings straight away, preheat oven to 190°C. Place butter and chocolate in a small bowl, cover and zap in the microwave for 1-2 minutes or until melted. With electric beaters, beat egg yolks and sugar until thick and creamy. Thoroughly wash the beaters, then whip the egg whites and salt until they hold soft peaks. Add the chocolate and butter mixture to the egg yolk mixture using the beaters, then gently fold in the egg whites using a spatula. Divide between six ramekins or coffee cups (no need to grease them). They should be about three quarters full.

Bake the puddings for 10-15 minutes or put them in the fridge until you’re ready to cook them. When ready they should be well risen and firm to the touch, but still soft inside. If they have been in the fridge for a few hours they will take 2-3 minutes longer than if they haven’t.

Serve immediately with cream or vanilla ice cream.

Serves 6

 

Lemonade Scones

This famous Australian recipe for scones was invented decades ago by a rural country women’s association. I’ve often wondered what they taste like.

Then the other day a news programme featured a 92 year old lady called Muriel who has been making these scones forever. I decided it was time to have a go.

The recipe uses just three ingredients: self-raising flour, cream and lemonade. Converts swear that once you’ve made these scones you won’t go back to your old recipe which involves rubbing butter into flour and then adding sugar and milk. The milk and butter components are covered by the cream and the subtle sweetness comes from the lemonade. If you go onto Google and type in lemonade scones you will find that there are heaps of recipes and slight variations.

I have to be honest and admit that I didn’t have any lemonade so I used diet tonic water which worked fine. In less than half an hour I had 18 perfect scones to serve with homemade jam and whipped cream. They were as light as a feather and delicious.

4 cups self-raising flour
300ml cream
300ml lemonade (or sprite, Seven Up)
Pinch of salt
Milk to brush
To serve:
Whipped cream
Berry jam (raspberry, strawberry, blackcurrant or blackberry)

Preheat oven to 180°C. Sift the flour into a large bowl (Muriel sifts it three times!) then make a well in the centre and mix in the cream and lemonade, using a knife. When the mixture has all come together, tip it out onto a floured surface. Use your hands to lightly flour any sticky areas and form the dough into a round shape. Lightly pat it to an even thickness of about an inch or 2.5cm. Handle lightly and do not knead. This is not bread dough. Cut out scones using a round cutter, or if preferred, just cut the dough into squares.

Place on a lightly greased baking tray, brush the tops with milk, then bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown, well-risen and cooked.

Serve with whipped cream and jam.

Makes about 18

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.

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.

Sponge Cake with Jam and Cream

Hill House is a dairy farm located on the heather-clad moors of County Durham, in the very north of England. I learnt to make this sponge cake when staying there in my early teens. Unlike a Victoria Sandwich, an egg sponge doesn’t contain any butter.

My Dad’s cousin, whom we called Auntie Vina (pronounced Vyna), taught me to make many of the cakes I still make today. My first sponge cake turned out so well I made another one and entered it into the Butterknowle annual agricultural show’s cooking section and won First Prize. You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. The sponge in the photo got a bit overcooked on the sides, as you can see in the photo, but it still tasted good. I always think of my dear old Dad when I make this cake as it was one of his favourites.

3 large eggs
2 tbs warm water
¾ cup sugar
1 cup plain flour
Filling:
¾ cup raspberry or strawberry jam (preferably homemade)
1 cup cream, whipped
Icing sugar

Preheat oven to 180°C. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, sugar and water until very thick and tripled in volume. Add flour through a sieve and fold in carefully with a metal spoon. Scrape into a 20cm cake tin, greased and bottom lined with baking paper. Bake for 20 minutes or until well risen, golden brown and firm to touch in the middle. Don’t overcook. Cool in the tin for a few minutes, then run a knife around the outside and invert carefully onto a cake rack.

When cold, remove paper from the bottom, then turn over. Cut sponge in half horizontally, then cut the top layer into 8 slices – this makes it easier to cut the cake after it has been filled. Fill with jam and whipped cream. Place the 8 slices back onto the uncut bottom layer and sieve some icing sugar over the top.

Chocolate Sponge: use ½ cup self-raisig flour, ¼ cup cornflour and ¼ cup cocoa. Omit the jam and fill with whipped cream.

Note: if you make the cake in a tin with a larger diameter you need to increase the ingredients, otherwise it comes out thin and unimpressive. So for example with a 22cm tin use 4 eggs, 3 Tbs water, 1 cup of sugar and 1¼ cups of flour.