Roast Cauliflower with Cashew Hummus and Harissa Sauce

This recipe was inspired by a recent Master Chef programme. The contestant, Courtney Roulston, used cauliflower steaks or thick slices and the method was quite long. I’ve adapted it to use cauliflower florets and taken a few short cuts with the method. Despite these adjustments it’s still a somewhat long-winded recipe, compared with the ones I usually put on this blog. But it’s worth it and most of the elements can be made ahead of time.

Courtney called the sauce Cashew Tarator, but it’s really just Hummus made with cashew nuts and a slice of bread, instead of chickpeas. She used raw cashews. I only had salted ones, but the salt washes off when you soak them.

The chickpeas were rolled in flour, deep fried until crunchy and used a garnish. Mine didn’t go crunchy, so when I made the recipe a second time I roasted them with the cauliflower.

To speed things up you could use bought Hummus instead of the Cashew Hummus, a bought sun dried tomato dip instead of the Harissa sauce (add some chilli sauce to perk it up a bit) and Dukkah instead of the Spiced Seeds.

Any leftover cashew hummus and harissa sauce make a delicious dip, either separately or together. Just dollop them into a bowl and swirl them together a bit. Serve with corn chips, pita bread or veggie sticks.

Cauliflower:
1 large cauliflower, cut into 3cm florets
2-3 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp cumin powder
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1-2 tsp salt
2 Tbs lemon juice
Cashew Hummus:
1 cup cashew nuts
1 slice sourdough bread, crusts removed
1 heaped Tbs Tahini
2 Tbs lemon juice
2 tsp maple syrup
1 clove garlic
½ tsp cumin powder
1/3 cup cold water
Salt to taste
Harissa Sauce: 
1 large red capsicum
1 large or 2 medium tomatoes
3 long red chillies, seeded and chopped
¼ cup olive oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp caraway seeds (I substituted fennel)
1 Tbs tomato paste
2 tsp maple syrup
2 tsp vinegar
Salt to taste
Spiced seeds:
2 tsp pistachios
2 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp sunflower kernels
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp sumac
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Garnish:
Pomegranate seeds (optional)

Cauliflower: Preheat oven to 200°C. Line a shallow baking sheet with baking paper. Place cauliflower in a bowl with remaining ingredients except lemon juice. Mix well then spread out on the tray in a single layer. Roast for 20-30 mins, turning halfway through, or until cauliflower is cooked and slightly browned. Remove from the oven, arrange on 4 serving plates (or one large one) and drizzle with the lemon juice.

Hummus: cover cashew nuts with warm water in a small bowl and bread with cold water in another bowl. Leave the bread for about 10 mins, then squeeze out water. Leave the nuts for 20-30 mins then drain. Place nuts and bread in food processor with remaining ingredients and mix till smooth. Add a touch more water if it’s too stiff. Can be made ahead and kept refrigerated for 3-4 days.

Harissa Sauce: Roast the capsicum over a gas flame or BBQ until blackened, then place in a plastic bag and leave until cool when it should be easy to peel, remove seeds and chop. Cover tomato with boiling water, drain after a minute, run under cold water and peel. Place cumin and caraway or fennel seeds in a frying pan and stir over medium heat for a minute or two, until fragrant. Add oil, capsicum, tomato and chillies. Cook, stirring, for 3-5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, cook for a couple of minutes, then cool a bit before pureeing in food processor. Can be made ahead and kept refrigerated for 3-4 days.

Spiced Seeds: place pistachios and seeds in a small frying pan over moderate heat and toast, stirring for 2-3 minutes or until the sesame seeds start to colour. Place in a mortar and pestle, add sumac, salt and pepper and grind a bit, leaving the pistachios quite chunky. Can be made ahead and kept refrigerated for a week or two.

Place a dollop of Cashew Hummus on top of each serving of cauliflower, dollop some of the Harissa Sauce around, sprinkle with Spiced Seeds and pomegranate kernels, if using. Drizzle with a little Extra Virgin olive oil.

Serves 4 as a light meal or 6-8 as a starter

 

 

 

Foie Gras with Rocket, Beetroot & Caramelised Onions

Whenever we’re In France I buy a few tins of Bloc de Foie Gras de Canard. We declare them as we go through Customs and have never any problems getting them into Australia. Saved for special occasions, six cans last us a year or more.

This salad makes a light lunch or a substantial starter and is a good way to make one can of foie gras serve four or even six at a pinch.

1 can (150g) bloc de foie gras de canard
2-3 small beetroot
1 large onion, halved then thinly sliced
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
4 handfuls rocket, washed and spun dry
Salad dressing
2 Tbs pine nuts, lightly toasted
To serve:
Hot buttered toast

Preheat oven to 180°C. Peel beetroot, then thinly slice using a mandolin or slicing attachment on food processor. Mix about 30 slices with a drizzle of oil and a pinch of salt and arrange on a shallow baking tray lined with baking paper. Place in the oven and immediately turn temperature down to 100°C. Cook until they are crisp. This shouldn’t take long as they are so thin, but keep an eye on them.

Heat a Tbs oil in a frying pan and cook the onion for 15 mins over low heat until soft but not brown, stirring often. Add balsamic and continue to cook for a few minutes until caramelised. Transfer to a bowl and wipe out the pan. Cut the rest of the beetroot slices into julienne strips. Heat a Tbs oil in the frying pan and stir fry the beetroot for 10 mins or until al dente. Cool.

Mix rocket with a little salad dressing or some oil and vinegar and arrange on four serving plates. Divide the onion between the plates, then the stir-fried beetroot (you may not need it all) and the beetroot crisps.

Divide the foie gras, cut into thin slices, between the plates, top with a few toasted pine nuts, then drizzle a little oil around the edge of each plate. Serve with hot buttered toast.

Serves 4

Variations: instead of beetroot use fresh or dried figs, or marinated/preserved figs; instead of pine nuts use walnuts or pecans.

 

 

French Onion Soup

When our kids were 5, 8 and 11 we took long service leave, rented a chalet in the French Alps and skied for three months.

Timewise it fitted in perfectly between a posting in Malaysia and a posting in South Africa. We bought a car in London after spending Xmas with my family and drove over, packed to the gunnels with ski gear. Our chalet was on the outskirts of Megève – large and comfortable with an open fire.

The kids had left school in Kuala Lumpur just before Christmas and  were due to start in Pretoria after Easter. We were worried they might get behind, but two adults playing schools with three children for a couple of hours each day meant they got ahead.

They had never been on skis, but by the time we left, they skied like demons, leaving us behind. When we were snowed in for a few days we played Monopoly, Scrabble and Mastermind. When large blocks of ice fell off the roof the kids built an igloo, with a little help from Matthew. We went ice skating and watched the annual husky dog races. Everyone has fond memories of that holiday.

Five year old David fell in love with snails. When we were back in Australia later that year he asked the waiter in a Pizza Hut “Do you have escargots?”  The waiter, looking somewhat puzzled, said: “What mate? We’ve got pizzas and salads here mate.”

Most days we had lunch in the chalet: deux baguettes with a selection of cheeses, cold meats and patés. Occasionally we stopped for lunch on the ski slopes, where onion soup was invariably on the menu.

1½ kilos onions, halved then thinly sliced
60g butter and 1 Tbs oil
½ tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3 Tbs flour
2 litres beef or chicken stock
½ cup dry white wine
12-16 slices French bread sliced 2 cm thick
300g coarsely grated Gruyere or Emmental cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 Tbs dry sherry or brandy

In a large saucepan, cook onions in butter and oil over low heat, stirring often and with a lid for about 15 mins, or until soft. Best to use a heavy-bottomed non-stick pan as there is a tendency to stick with this recipe.

Add sugar and salt and raise the heat to moderate. Cook for 30-40 mins, stirring often, or until deep golden brown. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add stock and wine slowly, stirring. Simmer, covered for 30-40 minutes. Cool then refrigerate until ready to serve – preferably overnight. Reheat, add sherry or brandy and salt and pepper to taste.

Top bread slices with grated cheese and grill until golden and cheese is bubbling. Ladle soup into bowls and place one or two slices of bread on each serving.

Serves 6-8

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

 

Burrata with Rockmelon

The Fine Food Fair was on at the Convention Centre in Sydney last month. It runs over 4 days every September and alternates between Sydney and Melbourne.

That’s Amore Cheese makes Italian-style cheeses in Thomastown Victoria. They had a stand at the Fine Food Fair, with a wonderful selection of their wares on display. The burrata was superb so I made a point of finding out where to buy it in Canberra where I live. It’s sold at the Mart Deli at the Fyshwick Markets and when I popped in just before closing time last Sunday they were selling everything with 25% off and there were just two pots of Burrata left. I bought them both.

Burrata is made from cow’s milk, rennet and cream and is a typical product of Murgia in the south of Italy. The outside consists of mozzarella, while the inside contains stracciatella and cream, giving it a delicious, soft texture.

Burrata goes well with fruit so I came up with this easy dish which combines it with rockmelon. It also goes well with:
  • Sliced tomatoes – use really flavoursome ones from your garden or farmer’s market – drizzle with Extra Virgin olive oil and garnish with basil leaves
  • Grilled figs – drizzle the figs with honey before grilling and serve with burrata as a starter or dessert
  • Grilled capsicums – drizzle with Extra Virgin olive oil and maybe some basil pesto

 

One Burrata cheese (125g net)
Melon balls (or substitute mango, peach or nectarine slices)
Extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic glaze
Finely shredded spring onion
Salt flakes and cracked black pepper
Crusty fresh bread to serve

Place cheese in the middle of serving plate then arrange remaining ingredients around it, as shown in the photo.

Serves 1 or 2 as a starter or snack

Salmon Tartare with Orange and Passionfruit

This starter, adapted from a recipe I found for smoked salmon, is delicious and light. If you’re a fan of sushi you won’t be put off by the idea of eating uncooked salmon. It really doesn’t taste raw, but you could always use smoked salmon or Gravlax instead of the raw fish.

The flavour combination of salmon, orange and passionfruit is a winner.

About 750g fresh salmon or salmon trout
2 cups fresh or bottled orange juice
1 tsp honey
Pulp from 4-5 passionfruit
2-3 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh dill
Pink Peppercorns

Remove skin then cut salmon into small bite-sized pieces. Refrigerate while you make the sauce. Sieve the orange juice to remove any pulp. You will need 2 cups after sieving. Place in a saucepan and boil to reduce to about two thirds of a cup. Place in a jam jar with the honey, passionfruit pulp, oil and seasonings and shake well. Adjust the amount of passionfruit pulp and oil to taste.

Mix half the dressing with the salmon then divide among the plates in a pile in the middle. Spoon additional dressing over and around the salmon then garnish with the dill and pink peppercorns. You may not need all the dressing.

Serves 6

Variation: to make a more substantial dish add some diced avocado and serve on a bed of lettuce or rocket leaves.

Note: so-called pink peppercorns are not peppercorns at all. They have a very special, slightly perfumed flavour and can be found in specialty cook shops such as The Essential Ingredient. They go well with any salmon dish.

Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls

These rice paper rolls make a refreshing aperitif or light dinner.  There’s no cooking involved making them the perfect choice for a hot summer’s evening when everyone is feeling lazy, even the cook.

The rolls can be made up to three hours ahead and kept in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap, so they don’t dry out. Vary the ingredients according to what you have on hand.

100g vermicelli noodles
350g cooked prawns, cut in halves horizontally
½ cup each coarsely chopped coriander and Vietnamese or ordinary mint
1 Lebanese cucumber or half a telegraph cucumber, cut into matchsticks
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
10 rice paper wrappers (approx)
Dipping Sauce:
1 clove garlic, peeled
30g palm sugar or brown sugar
4 Tbs lime or lemon juice
3 Tbs fish sauce
1 small red chilli, thinly sliced
To garnish:
Vietnamese mint or ordinary mint

Place vermicelli in a bowl and pour over boiling water to cover. Stand for 2-4 minutes or until tender, then drain well. Use scissors to roughly cut the vermicelli into shorter lengths then place them in a bowl with the prawns, mint, cucumber and spring onion. Season to taste.

For the dipping sauce, pound garlic and sugar to a paste in a mortar and pestle then mix in the remaining ingredients. If preferred, instead of making the dipping sauce serve the rolls with store bought Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce.

Fill a bowl with hot water. Working with one rice wrapper at a time, submerge in water to soften for about 20 seconds, then place on a damp tea towel. Spoon some of the prawn filling down the centre, fold in the ends, then roll up tightly to form a cylinder. Place on a tray lined with non-stick baking paper and cover with a damp tea towel. When you have made them all serve immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving time, up to 3 hours.

Serve 2 or 3 rolls per person, with the dipping sauce and mint.

Makes about 10 rolls

Note: rice paper wrappers are sold in most supermarkets and Asian grocery stores.

Bruschetta at Nico Osteria in Chicago

Cindy is a flight attendant with United Airlines and we met through mutual friends when we were all living in Paris, some 15 years ago. After a few years working out of Paris she moved back to Chicago and has been asking us to visit ever since.

At last we made it. On a balmy evening in September we walked out of the arrivals hall at Chicago’s O’Hare airport and there was Cindy, waving furiously from her open-top vintage BMW. With our luggage squashed into the boot and half of the back seat we set off on a Chicago-by-night city tour, on our way to Cindy’s centrally-located apartment.

Cindy has been just about everywhere and I don’t only just mean United Airlines destinations. I mean from Anchorage to Timbuktu. When she visits a city she leaves no stone unturned. Tuesdays the museums are free, she said, so the morning after we arrived we crossed the Museum of Contemporary Art off the long list of things we had to fit into our six days in Chicago.

What a fabulous city. Wonderful architecture, a great public transport system and lots of free concerts and shows. Cultural highlights included a free two and a half hour concert of operatic arias in Millennium Park, with a full orchestra and choir. And a free lunchtime piano and violin concert at the Chicago Cultural Centre, an amazing Art Deco building which we toured afterwards. Cindy had acquired free passes for me to join her pilates classes at the exclusive East Bank Club, which enjoyed the patronage of Obama and Oprah when they lived in Chicago. And if one of the bars was serving free cocktails you can be sure that Cindy knew about it.

Cindy

Culinary highlights included a lobster sandwich at the French Markets – simple but so good – a delicious lunch from one of the many restaurants at Eataly, dinner at Nico Osteria and the $25 three course lunch at one of Nico Osteria’s sister restaurant Blackbird.

At Nico Osteria we sat on bar stools looking into the kitchen and, by asking a few culinary questions, soon built up a rapport with the sous chef. The head chef, meticulously checking each dish before it left the kitchen, Gordon Ramsey-style, decided we were foodies and sent out some extra dishes for us to try. Baskets of colourful tomatoes, large and small adorned the bustling kitchen. They were at the tail end of a tomato-inspired menu, the chef explained, and in three days everything would change.

We decided to share some bruschetta and they were all delicious. Today’s recipe is inspired by Nico Osteria’s Bruschetta with Chicken Liver Mousse, Marinated Onion and Lemon Honey. Instead of the Lemon Honey I used Tomato Baharat Jam, which goes so well with all kinds of pâté. Their chicken liver mousse had a bit of a kick, but I decided not to add chilli to mine.

The following day we had lunch at Blackbird and told the Maitre d’ that their set price menu had been highly recommended by the chef at Nico Osteria. Say no more – we were treated like family, with complimentary champagne and an amazing Lyonnaise-type salad, served in a crispy potato basket with a soft-poached egg on top arriving before our three course meal.

If you’ve never been to Chicago I suggest you put it on your list.

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Bruschetta with Chicken Liver Pâté, Marinated Onion and Tomato Baharat Jam

Chicken liver pâté (see recipe)
Tomato Baharat Jam (see recipe)
1 onion, halved then very thinly sliced
2 Tbs white wine vinegar or white balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs hot water
2 tsp honey
Pinch of salt
1 baguette (French loaf)
Extra Virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, crushed
A few halved cocktail tomatoes
A few rocket leaves

Make the pâté and tomato jam – the day before serving if you like. Mix onion with vinegar, honey, hot water and salt and leave to marinate.

To serve, cut baguette in half horizontally, then cut into serving sizes about 10-12cm long. You should get 6 or 8 from a loaf. Discard the very ends of the loaf. Mix olive oil with garlic, brush over both sides of the bread then toast till golden on a griddle pan.

Arrange toasted baguette on serving plates. Spread each one liberally with chicken liver pâté then garnish with marinated onion (drained and dried with paper towels) and Tomato Baharat Jam. Finish with some lightly dressed baby tomato halves and rocket leaves.

Makes 6-8 bruschetta

Mushroom Tarte Tatin

The French are famous for an upside down apple tart called Tarte Tatin. Apples are cooked with sugar and butter in an oven proof frying pan, topped with puff pastry, baked in a hot oven, then inverted onto a serving plate, so the apples are on top and the pastry is underneath.

This is a mushroom version. As you can see in the photo, I only had ordinary button mushrooms in the fridge. It would be even nicer with a few exotic ones thrown into the mix, but it was still scrumptious.

Use bought puff pastry or Nigella’s quick food processor version as I did. Serve with a lightly dressed rocket salad.

40g butter
1 Tbs olive oil
500g sliced mushrooms (preferably a few different kinds)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2-3 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed (or Nigella’s quick version)
To serve:
Chopped fresh parsley or thyme
Crème fraîche or sour cream
Rocket salad

FullSizeRender (1)Pre-heat oven to 200°C. Thaw pastry if frozen or make Nigella’s..

Heat butter and oil in a 20-25cm non-stick ovenproof frying pan. Make sure the handle is ovenproof too.  Add mushrooms and cook, stirring for 5 minutes until softened. Add garlic, thyme and seasoning and continue to cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring often, until mushrooms are golden and liquid has been absorbed.

Roll out pastry thinly if you are not using a ready-rolled version. Cut out a circle a bit bigger than the circumference of the frying pan. Place pastry on top and tuck the edges in all the way around. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Cool for a few minutes then invert onto serving plate.

Serve warm or at room temperature garnished with fresh herbs, a dollop of crème fraîche and a rocket salad.

Serves 6

Barbecued Baby Octopus

Whenever I serve baby octopus I think of my dearly departed Dad.

Kenf

His name was Kenneth but in the family he was always known as Kenf. For someone brought up on a very traditional British diet Kenf was quite adventurous when it came to eating. He loved Chinese food and spicy curries. In fact he pretty much ate anything you put in front of him.

My parents came over from the UK to visit us in Paris and I decided to serve baby octopus. As we finished our meal I glanced up and although he didn’t say anything I could tell that he wasn’t impressed.

“What do you think?” I enquired. “Well if you really want to know” he replied “I thought it was like eating Dunlop rubber”.

Maybe they were a bit chewy, but I didn’t think they were that bad! Since then I’ve found this recipe which isn’t chewy (thanks to the red wine) and I often wonder if it would have met with Kenf’s approval.

If you like things spicy add a bit of finely chopped fresh chilli.

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1 kg baby octopus (fresh or frozen)
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
250ml (1 cup) red wine
1 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs sweet chilli sauce
1 Tbs tomato sauce (ketchup)
1 Tbs olive oil
To serve:
Chopped fresh coriander
Olive oil

If using fresh octopus clean thoroughly, rinse and drain well. If using frozen octopus thaw, rinse and drain.

Place balsamic vinegar and wine in a saucepan with the octopus. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 mins. Drain, discard the wine and place octopus in a bowl with the soy, chilli sauce, tomato sauce and olive oil. Stir to combine.

Heat BBQ to high and cook the octopus for 5-6 mins, turning occasionally, until lightly charred and crispy on the edges. Serve on a bed of rocket or with steamed rice, garnished with coriander and a drizzle of oil.

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a starter