Salmorejo with Seafood Medley & Goat Cheese Mousse

Salmorejo is a Spanish soup, made from tomatoes, bread, olive oil and garlic. It’s served cold and is best described as a smooth Gazpacho. My son-in-law, who is a fabulous cook, served it when we were visiting earlier this year. I had never tried it before and thought it was delicious, so he sent me his recipe.

Having decided to use it as a base for a medley of seafood, I was concerned that when I heated it up in the microwave the Salmorejo might split, but it didn’t. It behaved perfectly.

Salmorejo relies on good quality tomatoes, so if it’s the middle of winter and the tomatoes in the supermarket are looking pale and unloved, use a couple of tins of good quality Italian tomatoes. As you can see from the photo, I didn’t do a very good job of making the goat cheese mousse into a beautiful shape with two spoons. The pressure was on to get the plates on the table for our guests before it got cold, so I ended up just putting rustic blobs. It still tasted good though.

600g ripe tomatoes
1 baguette
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 Tbs sherry vinegar (or red/white wine vinegar)
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
1 small piece of skinless white fish per person (I used Ling)
1 small piece of skinless salmon per person
1 large scallop per person
1 large green (raw) prawn per person
50g butter, melted
1 clove garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper, to taste
Basil oil:
½ cup fresh basil leaves
Olive oil
Goat Cheese Mousse:
1 cup whipping cream
100g soft goat cheese

Skin tomatoes, remove cores and place the rest in a blender. Remove the “guts” from the baguette. You should have 2-3 cups. Keep the outer crusts for another use.

Add 2 cups of the bread, vinegar and garlic to the blender. Blend until smooth, adding the olive oil through the chute with the motor running. Add salt to taste. Add more bread if necessary, to achieve desired consistency. Refrigerate till serving time.

Remove shells from prawns, leaving the heads and tips of the tails intact. Melt the butter with the garlic and  season to taste. Use it to brush all the seafood on both sides. Can be prepared ahead to this point and kept in the fridge.

Make basil oil by blending the basil with enough oil in a blender or food processor to make a thick sauce. For the goat cheese mousse, whip cream with electric beaters until thick then add the goat cheese and continue to whip until combined. Keep in the fridge.

At serving time, grill or pan fry the seafood. I cooked the prawns and scallops in the air fryer and the fish on a paper-lined tray in a hot oven. They took about 10 minutes max.

To serve, heat the Salmorejo in a microwave, ladle into 8 serving bowls and top with the seafood. Place a blob of goat cheese mousse in the centre and drizzle some basil oil around the edge. Serve with crusty bread and follow with a green salad – we had fresh rocket from the garden with toasted pine nuts.

Serves 8

Prawn Wontons with Pesto

These prawn wontons are quick to make using a packet of wonton wrappers from the supermarket. Thaw the packet enough to remove the number you need, then stick them back in the freezer.

I used frozen green (raw) prawns from Aldi which are peeled and deveined and you just have to remove the tails. Remove the number you need from the packet and then stick it back in the freezer.

I used pesto I had frozen in ice cube trays last summer. We grow lots of basil which is an annual. I always make several batches of pesto just before the first frosts arrive, because frost invariably kills the plants. If I had used freshly-made pesto it would had been a brighter green but the taste was still good. Then I used ginger which I also freeze in ice cube trays and keep in my freezer, so I always have it on hand.

Adjust the recipe to serve more people. Three makes a nice starter or light lunch, four makes a light main course, which we ate accompanied by a substantial side salad.

16 wonton wrappers, thawed
8 very large or 16 medium green (raw) prawns, thawed if frozen and dried
Pesto preferably home-made
1 Tbs grated fresh ginger, optional
2 cups baby spinach leaves
2 tsp butter or oil
Extra virgin olive oil

Arrange half the prawns on half the wonton wrappers. If using two prawns, place them like two moons facing inwards so they make a neat circle in the middle. If using ginger, mix it into the pesto. Top the prawns with a teaspoon of pesto. Moisten the bottom wonton wrapper with a little water around the edge, then press another wonton wrapper on top. Pinch well to seal.

Heat a large pan of water and when boiling, turn down a bit so it’s simmering. Add the wontons one at a time and simmer for 2-3 minutes or until the wonton wrappers are translucent. Meanwhile place spinach in a small frying pan with butter or oil. Cook for a minute or two, until wilted.

Arrange drained spinach on 2 serving plates. Top with the wontons, drained then dried on kitchen paper. Mix a little oil into the remaining pesto and drop it over the top. Drizzle a little oil around the edge of the plates and serve.

Serves 2

Prawn Burgers

I was in my local shopping centre, heading for the supermarket, when I saw a sign outside a small bistro which said “Today’s Special: Prawn Burger”. I thought to myself “That sounds nice”, so I bought a packet of peeled green prawns and some brioche buns and made them for dinner. They were delicious.  If you can’t find raw prawns you could use cooked ones and just cook the burgers for less time.

On its own, or perhaps with some oven chips cooked in the oven or an air fryer, dinner’s ready.

200g peeled green (raw) prawns
1 spring onion, roughly cut up
½ an egg white
1 Tbs cornflour
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup breadcrumbs (preferably Panko)
1-2 Tbs oil
To serve:
2 or 3 brioche burger buns, split and toasted
Mayonnaise (preferably home made)
Salad: Avocado, tomato, lettuce, cucumber, red onion
Or coleslaw: shredded cabbage, carrot + a mayonnaise based dressing, plus some avocado (shown in the photo)

Place half the prawns, the spring onion, egg white, cornflour and seasoning in food processor and process until fairly smooth. Fold in remaining prawns, roughly chopped.

With damp hands, form mixture into 2 burgers the diameter of the brioche buns and coat them evenly with breadcrumbs, patting them on. Refrigerate until ready to cook.

Heat oil in a frying pan over moderate heat and fry the burgers for 4-5 minutes each side, or until golden and cooked through.

Spread some mayonnaise on the toasted buns, then fill each one with a burger and some salad or coleslaw.

Makes 2 burgers

Chicken Chow Mein

Back in the 1980s I bought a copy of the Women’s Weekly’s Chinese Cooking Class Cookbook and worked my way through it. I was a young mother of three kids at the time and my only experience with Chinese food prior to that was buying takeaway.

I still have that book, dog eared and spattered from many years of use, with comments and amendments jotted here and there. The recipe for Chicken Chow Mein is served on a bed of crispy fried noodles and includes pork. I’ve adapted it to use the precooked Asian noodles sold in most supermarkets these days – preferably Chow Mein, but Hokkien or Singapore noodles will do – as they are healthier than anything deep fried. I also leave out the pork and just use chicken and prawns.

450g lean chicken meat, cut into thin strips
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp Chinese cooking wine or dry sherry
1 tsp cornflour
450g ready to serve egg noodles (Chow Mein, Hokkien or Singapore)
4 Tbs vegetable oil
1 Tbs ginger, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
350g peeled uncooked prawns, deveined
2 medium onions, peeled and roughly chopped
1 red capsicum (pepper), cut into thin slices
1 large carrot, cut into julienne strips
2 sticks celery, thinly sliced diagonally
¼ white cabbage, shredded
8 spring onions, sliced diagonally
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ cup water
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 chicken stock cubes (about 2 tsp stock powder)
1 Tbs Chinese cooking wine or dry sherry
1 Tbs sesame oil
2 tsp sugar

Mix chicken with soy sauce, dry sherry and cornflour. Stand for one hour while you prepare the vegetables. Pour boiling water over the noodles, stand for a few minutes, then drain.

In a wok or very large frying pan heat the oil and cook the ginger and garlic for one minute. Increase the heat and add the chicken and stir-fry for five minutes. Add the prawns, toss for a couple of minutes, then add all the vegetables (save a few spring onions for garnish) and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the combined sauce ingredients and lastly the drained noodles. Toss for a couple of minutes, then serve garnished with the reserved spring onions. Serve with extra soy sauce or sweet soy sauce (kecap manis) drizzled on top, if liked. And if you’re wondering what you can see sprinkled on the front of the dish, it’s a good pinch of crushed chillies.

Serves 4

Crisp-skinned Fish with Warm Potato Salad & Salsa Verde

This recipe was inspired by a photo of a dish served at The Retreat on the Row restaurant, located in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, UK. It’s very quick to whip up for a midweek family dinner, but smart enough to serve to friends. The herb mix is very versatile. You can even use a few rocket leaves if that’s all you have.

Choose a waxy potato which will hold its shape in a salad and any firm-fleshed fish fillets which haven’t been skinned.

Two portions of firm-fleshed fish, skin on (I used barramundi)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tbs olive oil
250g small waxy potatoes
Basic Salad Dressing
Snipped chives
A quarter to half a red onion, very thinly sliced
Something green to garnish – I used a pea shoot from the garden
Salsa Verde:
2 big handfuls fresh herbs – mint, coriander, basil, parsley, whatever you can find in the garden
Juice of half a lemon
2 tsp capers
Small clove garlic, crushed
2 small gherkins
½ tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

Scrub the potatoes and cut them into quarters. Cook in boiling salted water for 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain, then mix with some basic salad dressing, a few snipped chives and the red onion.

Salsa verde: place all ingredients in food processor except the oil and process for a minute or until chunky. Drizzle olive oil through the feed chute with the motor running, until you have a thick chunky green sauce.

Season fish then place skin side down in a cold non-stick frying pan smeared with the tablespoon of olive oil. Turn on the heat and cook over medium heat until skin is golden and crispy. Turn fish over and cook for another couple of minutes, or until cooked through.

Spoon some Salsa Verde on two serving plates. Top with the potato salad, then the fish and garnish with a pea shoot.

Serves 2

Prawn and Pesto Pizza

I don’t eat pizza very often, but when I do I’m fussy about what goes on top.

This is my favourite combination, using home-made pesto instead of the usual tomato base and a gourmet topping of prawns, bocconcini balls, grated mozzarella and pine nuts. This combination elevates the humble pizza to a whole new level.

To speed things up you could use a bought pizza base and bought pesto, but the home made options are, as always, best. The dough recipe makes one very large pizza (or two smaller ones) and is easy to double for a crowd. Many teenagers have hollow legs and are capable of demolishing a whole pizza each!  If you do make double the dough recipe, do it in two batches, otherwise your food processor might struggle. If you make two smaller pizzas you could do one with prawns for the adults and one with whatever the kids prefer.

When we fire up our pizza oven for a crowd, I make 3 double batches of this dough and end up with about eight medium-sized pizzas. For one pizza it’s not worth using the pizza oven, so I use the oven.

250g plain flour (preferably “00”)
½ tsp salt
Half a packet of dried yeast (about one level teaspoon)
2 tsp sugar
2 Tbs olive oil
160 ml (about ¾ cup) lukewarm water
About 6 Tbs pesto
16-20 raw, peeled prawns, depending on size
100-150g bocconcini balls
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
2-3 Tbs pine nuts

Place all ingredients for the dough in a food processor and process until it forms a ball. If the mixture is a too sticky to form a ball, stop the motor and add another tablespoonful of flour and mix again. Tip out into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap and leave for an hour or two, or until it has doubled in size.

Meanwhile make the pesto and assemble the topping ingredients. Preheat oven to 220°C or whatever is the hottest temperature your oven can reach. Knock down the dough and knead it for a minute or so, then press it out into a circle about 30-35 cm in diameter on a lightly oiled baking sheet or pizza stone. Spread with pesto, then arrange the prawns and bocconcini balls over the pizza. Top with grated mozzarella and pine nuts.

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until browned and bubbly. In a pizza oven it will take slightly less, probably 8-12 minutes.

Serve with a salad.

Makes one very large pizza

Grilled Prawns with Cauliflower & Miso Dressing

Our friend Meg served this delicious prawn and cauliflower starter from Aussie chef Matt Moran recently. The recipe makes six starters, or  make half as a light and healthy mid-week dinner for two.

½ cauliflower cut into florets (about 300g)
2 Tbs vegetable oil
18 green jumbo prawns peeled and deveined, tail on
100g butter
100g baby spinach
S and P
¼ green apple finely sliced vertically, then julienned, so you have peel each end
50g sliced almonds, toasted
Baby or regular coriander
Cauliflower purée: 
40g butter
The rest of the cauliflower (about 300g) chopped small
½ cup cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
White Miso Dressing:
100g white miso
½ small golden shallot, very finely chopped
1cm piece ginger, very finely chopped
½ small hot red chilli, very finely chopped
1½ Tbs lemon juice
1 Tbs mirin
1 tsp rice wine
2 tsp tahini
1 Tbs honey
1 Tbs caster sugar
5 tsp veg oil
75 ml water

Puree: heat butter in frying pan, add cauliflower, cover and cook, stirring occasionally for 10-15 mins or till very soft but not coloured. Add a few teaspoons of water if it starts to stick. Process with cream, salt and pepper till smooth. Reheat to serve if necessary.

Dressing: blitz all together in food processor till smooth, then push through a sieve.

Cook cauliflower florets in boiling salted water for 4  minutes or until al dente. Drain and set aside. Preheat chargrill plate till hot. Mix prawns with the oil in a bowl and cook on the grill for 3 minutes, turning once, until just cooked.

Meanwhile heat half the butter in a frying pan and toss the cauliflower florets for 4-5 mins till golden, set aside. Add remaining butter to pan and toss the baby spinach till just wilted, season.

To serve, divide cauliflower purée between 6 plates and spread into a circle. Top each serving with 3 prawns, some spinach, cauliflower florets, almonds, apple julienne. Drizzle with some dressing and top with coriander. I also drizzled a little extra virgin olive oil around the edge.

If serving as a main, increase the prawns so each person gets 5 or 6.

Serves 6 as a starter, four as a main


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.

Pasta with Prawns and Pernod

Back in March I posted a recipe for Chicken with Pernod, given to me by my cousin Mary Beth. Pernod adds a wonderful depth to any sauce. Once you’ve made it you will understand why this chicken dish was the most popular in Renés restaurant.

Today’s recipe is a loose interpretation of one by British food writer Simon Hopkinson. In his version he keeps the heads and tails from the prawns and makes a bisque-like, smooth sauce to go with the pasta, by pushing everything except the prawns through a sieve. This is my chunky version. French in style, with lots of butter and cream, this recipe is not on the Weight Watchers diet, but it is absolutely delicious and perfect for a special occasion. We had it to celebrate a birthday in Covid lockdown.

400g raw shell-on prawns, fresh or thawed from frozen (see note)
50g butter
2 shallots or a small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1 Tbs Pernod
¾ cup white wine
2 ripe tomatoes or 8 cocktail tomatoes, chopped
150 ml cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
150g dried long pasta (linguine, tagliatelle, fettuccine)
Grated rind and juice of ½ a lemon
1 Tbs chopped dill

Peel prawns and put the pasta on to cook in plenty of boiling, salted water until al dente. Heat the butter in a large frying pan and gently cook the onion and garlic until soft and translucent, stirring from time to time. Add the prawns and cook, stirring, for a minute or two, until they change colour. Add the Pernod and wine and cook on a moderate to high heat to reduce by half. Add the tomatoes, cream, lemon rind and juice and cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes, until the sauce has thickened a bit. Season to taste.

Mix cooked pasta into the sauce with the chopped dill, saving a few sprigs to garnish.

Serves 2

Note: if you only have cooked prawns, add them to the pan a bit later, with the tomatoes and cream. If you are making the recipe with peeled prawns, either cooked or raw, you will need about 200g.

Char Kway Teow

We lived in Kuala Lumpur for three years in the mid-1980s. The street food sold by people called hawkers was fantastic and my favourite dish was char kway teow.

A delicious mix of rice noodles, prawns, egg, garlic and other flavourings, I’ve tried many times to make char kway teow taste exactly the way I remember it. Unfortunately I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not possible. Even my Malaysian friends agree with me. You need to go to Malaysia or Singapore for the real thing.

My recipe has been adapted and tweaked over the years to produce a dish which might not be 100% authentic, but which you can make easily at home with readily-available ingredients. In Malaysia they add blood clams, known as kerang. If you can find them that’s wonderful, throw them in, but I just leave them out.

Fresh rice noodle sheets which you cut into strips are available in Asian grocers, but the ready to eat rice noodles sold in most supermarkets work well. Not quite the same, but still delicious. If you’re going to make a trip to an Asian grocer for the noodles you will also be able to find Chinese sausage and garlic chives there, as well as all the sauces.

This recipe serves 2. If you need to serve more people, make another batch, don’t double the recipe.

200g rice noodles (see note below)
2 Tbs vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
12-15 peeled and deveined prawns (preferably uncooked, but cooked also work)
1 lap cheong (Chinese sausage) thinly sliced (see note below)
Good pinch of crushed dried chillies, to taste (or add a little Sambal Oelek paste)
2 eggs, beaten
2-3 tsp soy sauce, to taste
2-3 tsp kecap manis (see note below)
2-3 tsp oyster sauce
1 bunch garlic chives or spring onions
200-250g beansprouts

If using rice noodle sheets (available in Asian stores) cut them into 1cm strips and separate them with your fingers. If using ready to eat rice noodles, cut the end off the bag and zap it in the microwave for 1 minute.

If using garlic chives (available in Asian stores) cut them into 4cm lengths. If using spring onions, slice thinly on the diagonal.

Heat oil in a wok over high heat. Add the garlic, prawns and sausage and stir-fry for a minute or two. Add the noodles and the crushed dried chillies and toss well to combine. Let the noodles get a bit stuck and charred, before you scrape them off. Add the spring onions or garlic chives and beansprouts and mix in.

Push everything to one side, pour the eggs into the space and cook them like scrambled eggs, allowing them to set, then breaking them up.

Add the 3 sauces. Start with a couple of teaspoons of each, taste and add more if necessary. Gently mix everything together. The beansprouts and chives or spring onions will still be raw and crunchy. Don’t overcook – you want the egg to still be soft.

Serves 2

Notes: (1) in Australia shelf-stable (long life) rice noodles are located in the Asian aisle of big supermarkets under the Wokka brand. Inside the packet are two packets each weighing 200g. I used one for this recipe. You might also find ready-to-eat rice noodles in the refrigerated pasta and noodles section of your supermarket. (2) Chinese sausage is sold in a shelf-stable (long life) packet in the Asian aisle of Woolworths and Coles. (3) if you can’t find kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) use more ordinary soy sauce and add a good pinch of sugar.