Asparagus with Caper & Egg Dressing

Asparagus is delicious served hot with melted butter or cold with mayonnaise. This sauce goes a step further, being a Hollandaise sauce with a few extra additions. The sauce also goes well with ham or poached eggs.

4 egg yolks
4 Tbs white wine vinegar
2 Tbs water
1 tsp hot English mustard
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp smoked paprika
2 hard boiled eggs, finely chopped
100ml cream
2 Tbs capers, drained and chopped
2 Tbs finely chopped parsley
5 or 6 asparagus spears per person
Extra parsley leaves and Extra Virgin Olive oil to garnish

Place egg yolks, vinegar, water, mustard, salt and paprika in the top of a double boiler, or in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Using electric beaters, whisk the sauce until it doubles in volume. Remove from the heat and fold in the hard boiled eggs, cream, capers and parsley.

Meanwhile, cook the asparagus in shallow boiling water in a frying pan, for 4-5 mins or until al dente. Drain on paper towels.

Serve the sauce warm over the asparagus. Any leftover sauce goes well cold with ham or cold asparagus.

Serves 4-6

 

Scandinavian Potato and Salmon Casserole

A couple of years ago we went husky dog sledding for a few days in northern Finland, near the Russian border. We stayed in a timber house by a frozen lake, miles from anywhere.

Each evening, after a few hours of sledding, we dined with the couple who ran the place. This delicious potato and salmon casserole was served one evening and I asked for the recipe. Our hostess explained that there are variations of this dish all over Scandinavia. Everyone makes it the way their mother made it and the only common ingredients are potatoes, salmon and dill. Quantities are flexible and the recipe can easily be adjusted to feed more people, so nobody measures the ingredients. In the frozen north they use a lot of frozen vegetables in winter, although we visited a big supermarket in the closest town, Kajani, which had pretty much everything.

This is a holiday for anyone who likes an adventure. While it was very cold outside, we were well rugged up and cosy in the house at night. Twenty-eight dogs lived outside in kennels, while three lived in the house, because they were elderly or unwell. My favourite, Serek, a handsome black dog with a white ruff, was convalescing from a tummy upset. He wouldn’t come near us when we arrived, but by the time we left he was up on the bed watching us pack our suitcases.

Each morning 28 dogs started howling “Please take me” but we were only able to take fourteen each day. Daylight was from 9.30 am till about 3.30 pm, so we went sledding from about 11 till 2pm. On return we got changed before trudging through the snow for about 50 metres to the sauna hut, where we spent an hour or so in our birthday suits, thawing out and sipping cold beer. Our host said he had made a hole in the ice so we could jump into the lake after the sauna, to cool off. We declined.

Soon after our return home we bought a golden retriever puppy and named him Serek, in the sure knowledge that nobody else in the doggy park would be calling out that name.

About 400g salmon (fresh, tinned, smoked, or a combination)
About 600g potatoes, peeled
2-3 handfuls fresh spinach or use one packet of frozen spinach
1 onion, chopped finely
1 Tbs butter or oil or a bit of each
100g bacon or prosciutto, chopped (optional)
2 Tbs chopped fresh dill (or use parsley or tarragon)
1½ cups grated cheese (cheddar or anything that needs using up)
About 1 cup cream (depends a bit on the weight and variety of the potatoes)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

If using fresh salmon, remove skin and any bones and cut into 2cm cubes. Drain canned salmon. Boil potatoes in boiling salted water until cooked, but not overcooked. Cool then slice about 1cm thick. Fry onion in butter or oil until soft but not brown, adding the bacon or prosciutto (if using) after the first minute or two.

Grease a casserole dish then layer up the ingredients, starting with potatoes and ending with potatoes topped with cheese. Season as you go, then drizzle over the cream. While the layers will vary according to the size of your dish I put half the potatoes, then half the salmon and dill, followed by a sprinkling of cheese and fried onion, then seasoning. Then all the spinach (chopped if leaves are large), the rest of the salmon, dill and onion, the remaining potatoes and cheese and lastly the cream.

Bake for 40 minutes at 180°C or until golden brown on top. Serve with a salad or green vegetable.

Serves 4

Variations: 

  • use frozen peas or broad beans instead of spinach
  • add a layer of sliced or quartered hard-boiled eggs
  • use a cup or so of white (Béchamel) sauce instead of cream
  • add a few prawns
  • use ham instead of bacon

Filipino Chicken Curry

This quick and easy curry is not too spicy, making it ideal for a family meal which includes kids.

It reminds me of the simple curries my mother used to make using ready-made curry powder, rather than all the different spices. Serve with steamed rice and chutney.

1 kg boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbs curry powder or paste, or to taste
1 can coconut milk
1 can tomatoes (diced or whole)
1 Tbs sugar

Cut chicken into 2cm chunks and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large frying pan and gently fry the onion and garlic for a few minutes until soft but not brown. Add curry powder or paste and the chicken and continue to fry, stirring, for 2-3 minutes or until chicken is starting to colour.

Add coconut milk, tomatoes (chop them if they aren’t already) and sugar. Simmer for 20-30 minutes or until chicken is tender and sauce has thickened. If the sauce is getting too thick before the chicken is ready add a small dash of water. Serve with steamed rice and chutney.

Serves 6-8

Harissa Carrots

Since the first of his seven cookbooks hit the shelves in 2008, Yotam Ottolenghi has brought vegetables to a whole new level.

This recipe from his latest book Simple is a real winner.  He sprinkles fresh pomegranate seeds over the carrots just before serving, but I didn’t have any. They’re still delicious just as they are.

Who would think the humble carrot could taste so amazing?

2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp honey
2 Tbs Harissa (or another chilli paste such as Sriracha)*
20g unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbs olive oil
¾ tsp salt
1 kg baby carrots (or regular carrots cut in halves lengthwise)
To serve:
Juice of ½ a lemon
1-2 Tbs chopped coriander leaves
Seeds from 1 pomegranate (optional)

Preheat oven to 200°C. In a large bowl mix the cumin, honey, harissa, butter, oil and salt. Add the carrots, mix well, then spread out in one layer on a shallow baking tray lined with baking paper. Roast for 25-35 minutes, or until cooked al dente and beginning to brown a bit.

To serve, drizzle with the lemon juice and sprinkle with the coriander and pomegranate seeds, if using. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Serves 6-8

* use less chilli paste if you don’t like things hot and/or you’re serving kids

Fiona’s Gluten Free Chocolate Cake

My friend Fiona follows a gluten-free diet. I love the nutty texture of her Gluten Free Chocolate Cake which keeps her sane when she’s studying for law exams.

Today’s recipe is adapted from Fiona’s. I’ve adjusted the quantities slightly, adding less sugar and a bit more chocolate and nuts. I’ve also added a topping of unsweetened cocoa powder, an idea from one of Yotam Ottolenghi’s chocolate cake recipes.

I served the cake as a dessert, with whipped cream and some cumquats I preserved a year ago, but it’s perfectly delicious just as it is, with a cuppa. As a dessert you could also serve it with berries or a ball of coffee ice cream.


250g dark chocolate
250g butter
250g almond meal*
4 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
½ tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
To serve:
About 2 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
Candied oranges or cumquats or fresh berries
Whipped cream

Preheat oven to 180°C. Heat butter in a saucepan and when melted add the chocolate, broken into squares and turn off the heat. As chocolate melts, stir to combine. Mix in egg yolks, then sugar, almond meal, salt and baking powder. In a large bowl whip egg whites with electric beaters until soft peaks form. Scrape in the chocolate mixture, in two lots, gently using a spatula to thoroughly combine.

Scrape mixture into a greased and bottom-lined 22cm round cake tin and smooth the top. Bake for 35-45 minutes. Check after 35 minutes. When ready cake will feel firm on top and a skewer inserted in the middle will come out clean. If you have a fan-forced oven you may find the cake is ready in just over half an hour, as mine was. Chocolate cakes are best under-cooked rather than over-cooked.

When cool, remove cake from tin and cover the top with cocoa powder, using a sieve. Serve cake with berries and whipped cream or just as it is.

Serves 12-16

* buy almond meal or make your own by blitzing nuts in food processor until they resemble breadcrumbs. I used half bought and half I made using unskinned almonds. If you don’t have any almonds substitute walnuts, pecans, pine nuts or even a mixture.

Sesame Salmon

This delicious recipe was given to me by my daughter Catherine. She 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, 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. The fried shallots do make the photo look a bit dark, but they make a great garnish for all kinds of savoury recipes. If preferred leave them out or garnish with some chopped herbs such as coriander or chives.

If I had to describe this dish I would say it’s like a Japanese prawn cocktail, made with raw salmon instead of prawns!

1 portion salmon (about 180g)
1 small or half a large avocado, cubed
Zest and juice of ½ lime
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*
Lettuce leaves
Olive oil

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, fried shallots and a drizzle of oil.

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 mayonnaise. Not quite the same but it will do.

Roasted Eggplant with Saffron Yoghurt

Another Yotam Ottolenghi recipe I tried recently. As you can see, I rather overdid the saffron, which made the yoghurt sauce a rather lurid yellow, but it was still delicious. Pomegranate seeds add a lovely splash of red, but if you don’t have any use chopped roasted red peppers or perhaps a few dried goji berries, soaked briefly in hot water, then drained.

3 medium eggplants, cut into 2cm slices or wedges
Olive oil for brushing
2 Tbs toasted pine nuts
A handful of pomegranate seeds
A few basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sauce:
A pinch of saffron strands or powdered saffron
3 Tbs hot water
180g thick Greek-style yoghurt
1 clove garlic, crushed
2½ Tbs lemon juice
3 Tbs olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Make sauce by infusing saffron in hot water for 5 minutes, then whisking in the remaining ingredients. Sauce will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Preheat oven to 220°C. Place eggplant on an oven tray, brush both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20-35 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool. Eggplants will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Arrange eggplant on a serving platter, slightly overlapping. Drizzle with the sauce, sprinkle with the pine nuts and pomegranate seeds, then scatter with a few basil leaves.

Serves 4

EQ Grilled Chicken Salad

My friend Dawn can’t eat gluten or dairy products, so the Gluten and Dairy-Free Grilled Chicken Salad at EQ Cafe and Lounge in Deakin caught her eye when we had lunch there recently. I decided to join her. It was delicious, not to mention healthy, so I was inspired to have a go at making it at home.

Goji berries are native to Asia and have recently become available in dried form in mainstream Australian supermarkets. The cheapest I could find were from Aldi, which sells 150g of Organic Chinese goji berries for $5. There is currently no clinical evidence that these berries are going to lower your cholesterol or cure you of anything, but they do add a nice splash of red to this salad. Substitute diced red capsicum or halved cherry tomatoes if you don’t have goji berries.

Quantities are approximate. I bought a 120g pack of rocket from Aldi and used about two thirds in the salad and one third in the pesto.

About 80g rocket, washed and spun dry
1 cup finely shredded red/purple cabbage
1 endive (witlof) cut into 1cm wide lengthwise strips
16 sugar snap peas
¼ cup dried goji berries
¼ cup red wine (or if preferred use water)
¼ cup hazelnuts, lightly toasted
200-250g chicken tenderloins trimmed and dried on paper towels
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Rocket pesto:

1 small clove garlic
About 40g rocket, washed and spun dry
2 Tbs pine nuts
2 tsp lemon juice
100 ml olive oil (approx)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Lemon Vinaigrette:
2 Tbs olive oil
2-3 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp honey (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place vinaigrette ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake.

Place red wine in a small saucepan and heat to boiling point. Add goji berries, turn off the heat and leave to cool, then drain thoroughly.

Make pesto by placing all ingredients except oil in food processor. Process for 30 seconds, then gradually add the oil with the motor running, until you have a thick pouring consistency.

Mix the rocket and red cabbage with the lemon vinaigrette. In two shallow salad bowls arrange the salad in layers. First the rocket and red cabbage, then the endive, sugar snap peas, goji berries and hazelnuts. Brush chicken with oil, season, then grill or pan fry until golden brown on both sides and cooked through. Slice each fillet into 2-3 pieces, arrange on top of the salad. Drizzle the salad (especially the chicken) with the pesto – you won’t need it all.

Serves 2 as a main course

 

Fresh Coriander Chutney

Serve this delicious fresh chutney with curries, roast meats, fish, samosas, or in sandwiches and wraps. Or simply as a dip with fresh crusty bread. There’s no end to its uses.

1 large bunch coriander
1 cup roasted peanuts
4 Tbs lemon juice
2-3 green chillies, seeds removed
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp turmeric
2 heaped tsp brown sugar

Place all ingredients in food processor and process till it looks like pesto. Scrape down the sides, add a little water if necessary, then briefly process again.

Keeps in the fridge for several days.

Makes about 1½ cups

Variation: use cashews or pine nuts instead of peanuts

Roasted Beetroot with Avocado

At this time of year we have lots of vegetables in the garden, including tomatoes, zucchini, beetroot and basil. So Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes, with their strong bias towards veggies, are perfect.

We’ve been eating so many of his amazing recipes lately that Matthew says he wouldn’t be surprised to walk into the kitchen and find the man himself.

This week I made his Roasted Beetroot with Yoghurt and Preserved Lemon which I served for lunch with avocado. We sat in the garden under the olive tree sipping a glass of chilled white wine and enjoying this delicious, not to mention healthy, combination.

If you don’t have any preserved lemon, just leave it out or add some grated lemon rind. I used fresh marjoram instead of dill, but you could also use fresh basil or chives.

1 kg beetroot
2 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 small preserved lemon, chopped, seeds discarded
2 Tbs lemon juice
2 Tbs chopped fresh dill (or use marjoram, basil or chives)
1 Tbs Tahini
¾ cup Greek style plain yoghurt
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ripe avocados

Preheat oven to 200°C. Wash and dry beetroots, but leave skin on. Wrap each one in foil then bake for about an hour or until tender. Test with a sharp knife or skewer. When cool enough to handle, peel and slice into a large mixing bowl.

Heat olive oil and cumin seeds for a few minutes in a small frying pan, until seeds start to pop, then tip over the beetroot. Add the onion, preserved lemon, lemon juice, half the herbs and season to taste. Mix well then transfer to a shallow serving dish.

Mix the Tahini into the yoghurt then put blobs all over the top. Peel and dice the avocados and arrange around the edge of the plate. Garnish with the rest of the herbs.

Serves 4