Salmon Poke Bowl

According to Google, poke bowls (pronounced pokee) originated in Hawaii but are now deeply-rooted in Japanese cuisine. Poke means “cut into pieces” and refers to the slices or cubes of raw fish that are served in a bowl, along with rice, vegetables, dressing and seasoning.

A poke bowl is usually an individual serving, with the various ingredients arranged in groups. In this version, which I created as part of a buffet lunch where I had been asked to bring a plate, I made one large poke bowl, with the ingredients evenly layered in the serving dish.

I have always made my own salad dressings but this roasted sesame dressing is an exception. I buy it from Woolworths and we always have a bottle in the fridge. If you have never tried it I should warn you that it’s addictive. Guaranteed to perk up any salad!

1 cup sushi rice
2 Tbs rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar, or to taste
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
300g fresh salmon
1 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 finely chopped birds-eye chilli (optional)
1 Lebanese cucumber, half  the peel removed, sliced
1 carrot, peeled and shredded into fine julienne
1 avocado, sliced
3 eggs, hardboiled and quartered
½ red onion, thinly sliced (or spring onions)
Coriander leaves
Black sesame seeds
1 Tbs pink peppercorns (optional)
Kewpie Japanese roasted sesame dressing (see note below)

Cook the rice in boiling salted water then rinse, drain thoroughly and mix in the rice wine, sugar and seasoning to taste, while it’s still warm. Spread over the base of a large serving dish. Remove skin and trim any stringy bits from the salmon, then cut it into 1cm cubes. Mix it with the olive oil, grated ginger and chilli if using.

Arrange the ingredients evenly over the rice, in the order they are listed. Finish with a sprinkle of black sesame seeds and some pink peppercorns if you have them. Lastly drizzle with the dressing and serve immediately.

If preferred serve the ingredients in 3 or 4 individual bowls.

Serves 6-10 as a side dish

Note: Kewpie Japanese roasted sesame dressing is available in Australia in the Asian aisle of most supermarkets. Here is a photo of the bottle so you know what it looks like and a recipe to make your own if you can’t buy it where you live.

Variations: add baby tomatoes, halved. Use raw tuna instead of salmon.

Coleslaw with Fresh Corn & Ginger

Try this slightly different coleslaw mix for a change. It’s healthy and goes well with meat, chicken or fish. The quantities are easily halved.

4 cups shredded red cabbage
4 cups shredded white cabbage
2 carrots, coarsely grated
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 cobs corn, kernels removed
2 spring onions, thinly sliced (optional)
½ cup raisins or sultanas
1-2 Tbs grated fresh ginger
1 Tbs honey
1-2 Tbs lemon juice
2 Tbs olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients together. Any leftovers will keep, refrigerated for a day or so.

Variations: add some small broccoli or cauliflower florets, pine nuts or cashew nuts. If you don’t like things too sweet, leave out the raisins and use less honey.

Mexican Charred Corn Salad

This fresh corn salad is a nice accompaniment to chicken, fish or beef or use it to fill some wraps, with a few slices of barbecued chicken.

Using mayonnaise in the dressing makes it creamier but leave it out if you prefer. Optional garnish is some sliced avocado.

3-4 cobs of fresh corn (or 3 cups frozen corn, thawed)
2 Tbs olive oil
2-3 spring onions, thinly sliced or diced red onion
3 Tbs mayonnaise, preferably home made (optional)
1 or 2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 Tbs chopped fresh coriander or parsley
1 small red chilli, finely chopped (optional)
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 small red capsicum (or ½ a larger one), diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (or substitute crumbled feta)
2 Tbs lemon or lime juice
Sliced avocado (optional)

Remove kernels from cobs using a sharp knife. Heat oil in a large frying pan and cook the corn for 10 minutes, stirring often, over medium to high heat, until it’s starting to brown a bit.

Mix all ingredients together.

Serves 4


Salmon with Green Mango Salad

You can’t buy green mangoes in the two local supermarkets I frequent. When I go to a Middle Eastern shop a bit further afield which sells them I always buy a few when they are in season. Green mangoes are a particular variety, smaller and thinner than the sweet ones. If you can’t find green mangoes, buy some very underripe ordinary ones. You don’t want soft mushy flesh, it needs to have a bite to it.

This salad is perfect without the salmon as part of a buffet. If you don’t like things too hot, leave out the chilli or use less.

Tamari is gluten-free, so it’s a good option for celiacs.

3 Tbs fish sauce
¼ cup lime or lemon juice
1 or 2 Tbs brown sugar, honey or maple syrup, to taste
2 tsp Thai sweet chilli sauce
¼ cup dry unsweetened coconut flakes
2-3 firm green mangoes
2-3 cups beansprouts
½ cup coarsely chopped coriander
1/3 cup coarsely chopped basil
3-4 spring onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 small red chilli, thinly sliced (optional)
¼ cup peanuts or coarsely chopped cashews
4 salmon pieces
2 Tbs finely chopped or grated fresh ginger
2 Tbs tamari or sweet chilli sauce

Place all ingredients for dressing in a jar with a lid and shake vigorously.

Place coconut in a dry frying pan and stir fry for 2-3 minutes or until light golden. Cool. In the same pan stir fry the nuts until starting to colour ,then cool.

Peel the mangoes, cut the flesh into thin slices, then cut these into long thin julienne strips. I used a vegetable peeler to make the strips you can see in the photo. Place in a large bowl with the beansprouts, fresh herbs (saving a few of each to garnish), spring onions and half the coconut. Add enough dressing to moisten, then tip onto a serving plate. Garnish with the reserved herbs and coconut and sprinkle with the nuts.

Meanwhile, arrange salmon pieces on a shallow baking tray lined with baking paper. Preheat oven to 200°C. Mix ginger with tamari or sweet chilli sauce and spread over the top of each piece of salmon. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until cooked to your liking. I like it pink in the middle, but if you like it well done cook for 15 minutes.

Serve the salmon with the salad on the side.

Serves 4

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

Please bring a Plate

It’s that time of year when there are lots of gatherings where guests are asked to “please bring a plate”. It may not be common in all countries, but here in Australia what we call Pot Luck lunches or dinners, where everybody makes a contribution, are quite normal. Picnics, beach parties, family or work gatherings to celebrate Christmas or New Year, which of course is the height of summer here. It’s hard to get through December and January without being asked to bring a plate.

A Greek friend arrived in Canberra from Athens in the 1960s with very little English. When he and his wife were invited for lunch and asked to bring a plate they were somewhat perplexed. If their hosts didn’t have enough plates, perhaps they were also short of glasses and cutlery. So they brought their own, never imagining they were expected to bring food.

Today’s photo shows a delicious salad which can be put together in no time with 5 ingredients picked up from the supermarket. It’s so easy I’m not even going to write a recipe. Just layer a packet of washed rocket, then a packet of prosciutto or jamon serrano, cut into smaller pieces with scissors, some small chunks of a soft creamy blue cheese (I used Gorgonzola from Aldi) and walnut or pecan halves. Just before serving, drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil  and balsamic glaze.

Here are some other recipes you might like to try next time you’re asked to bring a plate.

I’ve taken Spinach Salad with Red Dressing to many Pot Luck lunches and dinners over the past 3 or 4 decades. Even the older kids like it,

Beef Teriyaki can be served hot or at room temperature. Either way it’s delicious.

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

Persimmon Fennel and Orange Salad

Persimmons are in the supermarkets at the moment. Ready to eat when they feel like a ripe but not overripe tomato, this unusual fruit makes a delicious, slightly sweet, addition to salads.

Persimmons pair particularly well with fennel and this salad goes well with seafood, salmon and chicken. Here’s a similar salad, without the orange.

1 bulb fennel
1 or 2 persimmons
1 orange
2-3 Tbs Basic salad dressing

Trim then thinly slice the fennel, then cut into smaller pieces and place in a bowl. Thinly slice the persimmons, cut into halves or quarters and add to the bowl. Peel the orange, remove the segments and add to the bowl. Add salad dressing and mix well. While it’s nicer fresh, any leftover salad will keep in the fridge for up to 24 hours.

Serves 4

Melon, Buffalo Mozzarella and Prawn Salad

I’ve tweaked this recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi and added prawns, which aren’t in his original version. The result is a light and healthy salad which will serve four as a starter or two as a main.

You may have noticed that I use this serving dish a lot. It’s one of my favourites from a pottery called Bison, located just outside Canberra in Pialligo.

½ small red onion, thinly sliced
Grated rind and juice of ½ lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
250g peeled large cooked prawns (weight before peeling about 500g)
3-4 cups mixed salad greens (lettuce, rocket etc)
2-3 cups melon balls or cubes (rockmelon or watermelon or a mix)
1 avocado, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
1 whole ball Buffalo Mozzarella (100-150g) cut or torn into bite sized pieces
1 Tbs buckwheat groats (optional)
1 tsp black mustard seeds
2 Tbs fresh coriander leaves
3-4 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Mix onion with lemon rind and juice. Halve the peeled prawns horizontally. If prawns are small leave them whole. Add them to the onion with a pinch of salt and mix.

Arrange salad leaves in a shallow salad bowl. Arrange the melon balls, avocado and mozzarella on top. Arrange the prawns and onions over the salad and drizzle with the lemon juice. Place the buckwheat groats in a dry frying pan over moderate heat and cook, stirring, until lightly toasted.

Garnish the salad with the buckwheat, mustard seeds, coriander leaves and a generous drizzle of olive oil.

Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main


Maltagliata of Beef with Balsamic Dressing

My friend Bettina recommended this delicious and quick recipe for beef from Melbourne-based chef Karen Martini.

I’ve tweaked it a little and reduced the ingredients to serve two people rather than four. It’s easy enough to double or triple to make more servings. Use any tender cut of beef.  I used one large T-bone steak which weighed just over 400g after I had removed the bone and excess fat. Any salad mixture will do, although I think the slightly bitter radicchio leaves make a difference.

It’s a fairly simple recipe which allows good quality beef, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar to shine.

About 6 big handfuls of mixed salad greens (rocket, baby spinach, lettuce, radicchio)
A handful of parsley leaves and a handful of basil leaves
About 400g steak cut into stir-fry slices (fillet, rump or sirloin)
2-3 Tbs plain flour
1 Tbs olive oil to fry the meat
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
½ a small red onion, thinly sliced
125g fresh ricotta cheese
2 Tbs pine nuts, lightly toasted in a dry frying pan
1-2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, extra
Salad Dressing:
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
7 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Mix steak with the flour, shaking off and discarding any excess. Prepare salad ingredients, cutting or breaking any large leaves to bite-size. Place salad dressing ingredients in a jar and shake.

Heat olive oil in a large heavy-based frying pan and add steak over medium heat. Separate the pieces and allow them to cook on one side, without moving, for 2 minutes. Turn the meat over and season. Add the onion and balsamic vinegar and continue to cook, swirling the pan, for another minute or so, until the onions have softened a bit.

Place salad ingredients and herbs in a bowl and add enough salad dressing to coat. You won’t need it all. Arrange salad on one large or two individual serving plates. Use tongs to arrange steak over the top, dot with blobs of ricotta and scatter over the pine nuts. Drizzle the extra virgin olive oil over and around the salad.

Serves 2