Salmon, Preserved Lemon & Cucumber on Cauliflower Cream

This dish was inspired by a starter we were served at a black tie dinner at the Commonwealth Club in Canberra. It was created by Executive Chef, Mr Karl Krautler.

Karl used salmon confit while I used home-made salmon gravlax. I added some pickled radish slices and a few pink peppercorns and made larger servings to serve as a light main course. This quantity is enough for two light mains or four starters.

There’s a recipe on this blog for Gravlax which you can use in this dish – slice thickly then cut into small cubes. Or use what I call my quick Gravlax. Just buy between two and four salmon portions (preferably without skin) and put them in a plastic container with a tablespoonful each of sugar and salt and maybe a small slug of gin or vodka (optional). Refrigerate for 2-3 days, turning once or twice, then pat dry, wrap with clingfilm and use within a day or so or freeze. Very useful for all sorts of dishes, including canapés.

1 small cauliflower or ½ large
2-3 Tbs cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
250-300g cubed salmon Gravlax (see above for link)
1 Lebanese cucumber, half the peel removed (if preferred remove it all)
¼ preserved lemon
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
2-4 tsp lemon or lime juice, to taste
Sliced pickled radishes (see note below)
2-3 tsp pink peppercorns
A few micro-herbs or tiny rocket leaves
Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle

Break cauliflower into florets, place in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Cook for 15 minutes or until tender then drain and blend in food processor with the cream and seasoning.

When cool spread some cauliflower cream on two serving plates (or four if doing starters). Discard pulp from the preserved lemon, then finely dice the skin. Mix with the salmon, oil and lemon juice. Arrange the salmon evenly over the cauliflower cream, then decorate with the cucumber (seeds removed, cut into chunks), radish slices (whole or halved), pink peppercorns and micro-herbs. Drizzle a little oil around each serving.

Serves 2-4

Pickled radishes: thinly slice 1 or 2 bunches of radishes (discarding the ends) and place in an empty jar. Heat ½ cup each sugar, water and vinegar in a saucepan with a tsp mustard seeds. Pour over the radish slices. Keep in the fridge. Give them a few days to mature before use.

Smoked Salmon with Ricotta and Asparagus

I’m always on the lookout for tasty, low carb lunches which can be made quickly. During the asparagus season we often have this easy combo. Aldi sells a fresh creamy ricotta in a 500g plastic container like a sieve, which we really like. It’s enough to make this recipe two or three times. Often the simplest of recipes are the best.

The smoked salmon rolls are quite filling, so if preferred use only two slices and less ricotta filling, to make them smaller.

6 slices smoked salmon
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese (or substitution see below)
2 Tbs chopped chives
Balsamic Glaze
10-12 spears of fresh asparagus
Kewpie mayonnaise or butter (optional)

Place 3 slices of smoked salmon on a chopping board, slightly overlapping, to make a rough circle or square. Mix the ricotta with the chives and season if you like – I don’t find it’s necessary. Place half the mixture on the smoked salmon in a sausage shape in the middle, then roll up into a neat package. Repeat and place one on each of 2 serving plates. Meanwhile cook the asparagus for about 6 minutes in boiling water, drain and pat dry. Arrange asparagus on the plates. Drizzle a little balsamic glaze over the smoked salmon packages. Serve with kewpie mayonnaise or butter on the asparagus.

Serves 2

Substitutions: soft goat’s cheese, queso fresco in South America, cottage cheese.

Easy Peasy Salmon Sushi

Salmon sushi make a quick and tasty, not to mention healthy meal, especially if you make them using an ice cube tray. I made the rice cakes a bit too tall, so the ratio of rice to salmon wasn’t quite right. Next time I won’t fill the ice cube holes so full.

1 cup sushi rice
1¼ cups water
1-2 Tbs Mirin
1-2 Tbs Rice Wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
2 salmon fillets, skin removed
To serve:
Black sesame seeds
Wasabi paste
Soy sauce
Pickled Ginger
Sliced avocado

Place rice and water in a saucepan with a good pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Cover and turn down the heat as low as possible. If you have a heat diffuser use it under the pan. Cook rice for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and let it sit for 15 minutes to continue cooking in the steam.

Oil an ice cube tray – I used a spray can. You may need more than one ice cube tray depending on how many holes it has. Fill with the rice, pushing down firmly, then refrigerate for a couple of hours or more.

To serve, tip out the rice cakes and arrange them on a serving tray. Thinly slice the salmon and drape a piece over each rice cake. Sprinkle with black sesame seeds.

Serve with wasabi paste, soy sauce, pickled ginger and sliced avocado.

Makes 16-20 sushi to serve 2-3 as a light meal or more as an aperitif.

Two days and three nights in Orange

The town of Orange is three and a half hour’s drive north of where we live in Canberra. It has a pleasant climate, lots of good restaurants and is somewhere we’ve been meaning to visit for some time.

We recently booked a pet-friendly B & B, so we could take our golden retriever, Serek, and headed off for a long-overdue catch-up with friends who joined us from Sydney. The drive from Sydney to Orange, driving west, also takes about three and a half hours.

The first night we dined at the Peacock Room at the Oriana Motel. As we walked through the garden to the entrance we were greeted by the owner, a tall friendly Norwegian called Espen Harbitz, who has made his home in Orange. He invited us to make the most of the balmy summer weather and join some guests who were enjoying an aperitif at tables set out under the trees.

The meal was excellent, especially Espen’s Gravlax, so I emailed after we arrived home and asked if he was willing to share his recipe. He did so with alacrity. It’s the same as mine, but with one addition: a cup of Aquavit. So I ordered a side of salmon online from Huon Salmon (which has great colour and flavour) and a bottle of Aquavit from Nick’s Wine Merchants and the result was delicious.

To make Espen’s Gravlax follow my recipe but add a cup of Aquavit (or vodka) to the mixture of salt, sugar, pepper and dill used to cure the fish. In the photo below I served it with sweet mustard sauce (recipe is with the Gravlax recipe) and toasted sourdough, as an aperitif.

Next day we enjoyed an excellent lunch accompanied by superb wines at Sister’s Rock restaurant at the Borrodell Vineyard.

There are plenty of interesting things to do in the region, including a wander around the picturesque heritage town of Millthorpe and a visit to the Orange Botanic Gardens.

Dinner on our last evening was at The Schoolhouse restaurant in the old Union Bank building. Inspired by my light beetroot starter, I created the dish you can see in the photo below, using macadamia hummus as a base (use macadamias instead of cashews and soak them longer), topped with wedges of cooked and pickled beetroot, thin slivers of radish, a few toasted macadamia halves and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. A thin lengthwise slice of a home-grown zucchini (use a vegetable peeler), some parsley, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a grind of pepper completed the plate.

Potato Cakes with Smoked Salmon

Our potato crop has just started so I put these delicious potato cakes on the menu for a light lunch last weekend. They originate in Scandinavia and when we were living in Copenhagen we ordered them quite often in restaurants.

They don’t contain any flour making them gluten free, which is good news for readers who avoid eating wheat and other grains.

500g potatoes
1 small onion, grated (optional)
1 egg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive or vegetable oil to fry
To serve:
Smoked Salmon or Trout
Sour Cream
Snipped chives

Peel potatoes and coarsely grate by hand or using a 0.5cm attachment on your food processor, transferring to a large bowl of cold water as grated. Soak potatoes for a couple of minutes then drain well in a colander. Spread potatoes on a tea towel and roll up. Twist towel tightly over the sink, to remove as much liquid as possible.

Transfer grated potato to a bowl and mix in the grated onion (if using), egg, salt and pepper. Heat ¼ cup oil in a large nonstick frying pan over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches of four, spoon 2 tablespoons potato mixture per potato cake into frying pan, spreading into 3-inch rounds with a fork. Reduce heat to moderate and cook for 4-5 minutes, until undersides are browned. Turn over and cook for 4-5 minutes more. Transfer to paper towels to drain and season lightly with salt. Add more oil to pan as needed. Keep potato cakes warm on a wire rack over a shallow baking pan in a low oven. Leftovers can be reheated in a low oven.

Serve potato cakes with smoked salmon or trout, sour cream and chives and cracked pepper.

Makes 6-8 cakes serving 3-4

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.

Marti’s Smoked Salmon Lunch

My friend Marti who lives in Paris served a delicious cold lunch when we were visiting, the centrepiece of which was smoked salmon.

It was such a good combination I made a note of what she served, so I could repeat it for one of my Spanish conversation lunches. It’s a great way to serve a crowd with minimum fuss. Marti managed to fit everything apart from the potatoes and the cottage cheese on one fish platter. I have a similar dish, but unfortunately mine is smaller so I had to put the salad, eggs, avocado and tomatoes in another dish.

Quantities will vary according to how many people you’re serving.

Sliced Smoked salmon formed into rolls
Garnish such as onion rings, capers, pink peppercorns
Lemons cut into wedges
Avocados cut into quarters
Mache or rocket or other small lettuce leaves
Soft hard boiled eggs, cut into halves
Cherry tomatoes
Baby new potatoes
Knob of butter, snipped chives
Cottage cheese
1 small onion, finely chopped or spring onions
Baguettes (home made or bought) or any nice crusty loaf and butter

Cook the potatoes and mix with butter and chives. Place in a serving bowl. Mix cottage cheese with onion or spring onions, finely chopped and place in a small bowl. Slice bread. Arrange everything on serving platters.

 

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

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.

Crispy Skin Salmon with Green Papaya Salad

On a recent trip to Europe we caught up with quite a few friends and family in Denmark, England and France. It was so nice to return to Copenhagen (12 years after we lived there) and find that our old friends still wanted to hang out with us. As we walked in the door the cork would pop off the first bottle of champagne, then we’d have a lovely time eating, drinking and being merry. Just like we’d never been apart. When we left a couple of days later they went back to their normal, more sensible, regime, while we moved on and started all over again.

This is why we like to spend a few days on the way back to Australia at a resort in Thailand, to recover. A week of swimming, reading, massage and early nights, with no wine and just the occasional beer or cocktail means we get home looking and feeling like we’ve had a holiday.

For the past few years we’ve stayed in Khao Lak, a 75 minute drive north of Phuket airport. It’s relatively quiet, the way Phuket was 20 or 30 years ago. I send an email to a taxi company called “Cheaper than Hotel” and when we walk out of the airport there’s our driver waiting.

Breakfast at the Chong Fah resort where we’ve stayed two years running is substantial, so we skip lunch and go out for dinner after a Happy Hour cocktail at sunset. The nearby resort named Casa de la Flora (which in correct Spanish should be Casa de la Flor) serves delicious modern Thai food. We dined there twice and both times ordered this dish which I have done my best to replicate. The recipe serves 4 as a light main course or 8 as a sharing plate.

4 salmon fillets, skin on
Salt and pepper
1 Tbs oil
Salad:
½ a small green papaya (about 200g), or 1 green mango
2 carrots (about 200g)
2 spring onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
6 green beans cut into 2.5cm lengths (or use snow peas)
½ cup dried shrimp (from Asian stores) (optional)
1-2 dried chillies, chopped, or chilli flakes, to taste
8-10 cocktail tomatoes, halved
Dressing:
1 Tbs Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce
1 Tbs lime or lemon juice
1 Tbs fish sauce
1 Tbs brown sugar or palm sugar
To garnish:
1 lime
2-3 Tbs toasted peanuts

Pour boiling water over the dried shrimp. Leave for 15 mins then drain. Cut the papaya and carrots into julienne strips. Mix all ingredients for salad. Mix dressing and add to the salad.

Season salmon then place in a non-stick frying pan, skin side down. Turn on the heat to moderately hot and cook for 3-4 minutes, until skin is crispy, then turn over and cook for another 3-4 minutes, or until done to your liking.

Divide salad between 4 serving plates. Top with the salmon and garnish with the lime, cut into cheeks or wedges and the peanuts.

Serves 4