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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caramelised Chicken Kebabs

 

If you like sticky Asian chicken dishes you’ll like this one. I used less than half the amount of sugar in the original recipe (which I thought was a bit over the top) and it worked well.

1.2 kg skinless, boneless chicken thighs
2 Tbs Asian fish sauce
1 Tbs brown sugar
1 Tbs lemon juice
Glaze:
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 Tbs Asian fish sauce
3 Tbs lemon juice
2 Tbs rice vinegar
1 Tbs honey
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbs grated fresh ginger
To serve:
2 Tbs white sesame seeds
2 Tbs black sesame seeds
2 Tbs flaked almonds
Thinly sliced spring onions, or chives
or chopped parsley

Cut chicken into 2.5cm (1 inch) chunks. Mix with the fish sauce, brown sugar and lemon juice and marinate for an hour or two.

Place all ingredients for the glaze in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil then simmer for a few minutes to thicken.

Thread chicken onto 8 bamboo skewers which have been soaked in cold water. Cook on a grill or BBQ for about 8 minutes, brushing regularly with the glaze, or until cooked through. Cook for about 2 minutes on each of the four sides.

Place sesame seeds and almonds in a dry frying pan and stir over moderate heat for a few minutes or until golden.

When kebabs are cooked place on serving dish and brush again with the glaze. Sprinkle with the sesame seed mixture and the spring onions or herbs. Serve with steamed rice and a cucumber and onion salad.

Serves 4

Berry Nice Jam

This recipe makes about two and a half cups of delicious, fresh berry jam. It’s not cooked, so it will only keep for a few days in the fridge. Serve with fresh scones, croissants or Greek yoghurt. It also makes an amazing filling for a cream and jam sponge cake.

It works on the principle that when chia seeds are mixed with liquid they swell up and thicken the liquid. Have you ever tried chia seeds for breakfast? Soak them overnight in milk or juice, then add to your usual muesli and fruit mix.

2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries (or other berries)
3 Tbs honey, sugar or a sweetener such as Stevia
4 Tbs chia seeds
¼ cup water
1 tsp vanilla essence (optional)

Thaw the berries if frozen and crush them a bit with a fork. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. The jam will thicken as the chia seeds swell. This will take several hours or overnight. Keep in the fridge and use within a few days. Can be frozen, so you might like to freeze half and use half.

Makes about 2½ cups

Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Chocolate Sauce

When the kids were growing up I used to make a quick and easy chocolate sauce with a recipe from my mother in law. It goes well with ice cream, waffles and pancakes and disappeared faster than I could make it.

On a recent trip to Denmark  we spent a delightful weekend with our dear friends Vickie and Frants on the island of Fyn. Vickie served a delicious chocolate sauce with ice cream and when she explained the recipe I realised it was almost identical to mine, which I hadn’t made in ages.

Last weekend I went on a bit of a cooking spree and made a few things for the fridge and freezer, including peanut butter ice cream and chocolate sauce to serve with it. For Matthew, not the kids who are long gone. The recipe makes about a cup of sauce, so if you have a house full of kids you might like to double it. If you can’t find golden syrup, honey or maple syrup should work. The ice cream is very quick to make and you don’t need an ice cream machine.

Peanut Butter Ice Cream:
1 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
A generous ½ cup of sugar
600 ml cream
125 ml milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
A pinch of Maldon salt flakes
Chocolate Sauce:
½ cup water
½ cup sugar
4 Tbs cocoa powder
2 Tbs Golden Syrup
A piece of butter the size of a walnut
1 tsp vanilla essence

For the ice cream, use electric beaters to mix the peanut butter with the sugar until smooth. Gradually beat in the cream and milk and continue beating until thick. Add the vanilla and salt, then scrape into a plastic container and freeze.

For the sauce, place all ingredients except the butter and vanilla in a large saucepan, as it tends to bubble up. Heat, while whisking until smooth, then boil at a steady boil without stirring for 4-5 mins. Remove from the heat, add the butter and vanilla. Serve immediately or store in the fridge, covered and reheat in the microwave for about 30 secs. If it gets a bit thick add a tablespoon or so of water before heating. And if it’s too “dark” add some cream.

Serve ice cream topped with the sauce.

Makes about 1 litre of ice cream and 1 cup of sauce

 

 

Parmesan Chicken with Asparagus and Lemon

Asparagus season is here again and I’m always on the lookout for new ways to use this delicious vegetable.

Making an asparagus bed is a long term project. The bed can’t be used for anything else and for the first two years experts advise you resist picking and let the asparagus die down. The plants need to concentrate on establishing deep roots. But if you have the space an asparagus patch is a very worthwhile investment in time. Once up and running it will continue to produce asparagus every year for up to 20 years. Harvesting where we live in eastern Australia starts some time in October and runs for a month or two. Cut the spears just below the level of the soil with a sharp knife when they’re about six inches or 15cm long.

There is nothing quite like home-grown asparagus, but if you don’t grow your own, take advantage of local asparagus available in Australian supermarkets now. The rest of the year it’s mostly imported from South America.

We like our asparagus served hot with melted butter or cold with vinaigrette or mayonnaise. It’s also delicious roasted in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper or sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and grilled.

This week’s recipe teams it with chicken and Parmesan. If you have a big enough tray put the chicken and asparagus all on one and serve from the tray, to save washing up. I had to use two.

For the chicken:
2 large chicken breasts (3 if smaller)
2 Tbs flour
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbs finely chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tsp grated lemon rind
2 Tbs melted butter
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 lemon, thinly sliced
For the asparagus:
About 500g asparagus spears, washed and trimmed
1 Tbs melted butter
1 Tbs olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven 180°C. Line a large shallow baking sheet with baking paper. Place flour in a bowl. In a second bowl mix the panko crumbs, Parmesan, parsley, salt and pepper. In a third bowl mix the lemon rind, butter, lemon juice and garlic. Cut the chicken breasts into thick strips. Coat with flour, then the garlic/lemon mixture and lastly the panko crumbs. Place on prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with any leftover panko mixture over.

Bake for 10 minutes then remove from the oven and cover with lemon slices. If there’s enough room, place the asparagus on the same tray. If not line a second tray with baking paper. Mix the butter, oil and garlic and brush all over the asparagus, then drizzle the rest over. Sprinkle with the grated Parmesan. Return to the oven for 10-15 minutes or until chicken is golden brown and asparagus is cooked. If liked serve with a drizzle of olive oil. Steamed new potatoes go well.

Serves 3-4

Barbecued Cabbage Wedges with Ginger-Miso Dressing

A recipe for barbecued cabbage caught my eye recently. The sauce includes miso, a Japanese paste made from fermented soybeans found amongst the Asian ingredients in Australian supermarkets. If you live elsewhere you may have to visit an Asian grocery store.

Some recipes call for white miso and others for red miso, but they’re fairly interchangeable. I have them both in the fridge, where they keep, once opened, for several weeks. Miso has a strong umami flavour which goes well in marinades and sauces for fish and meat. It also goes well with this delicious barbecued cabbage.

If you can’t be bothered lighting the barbecue you can make this dish in a frying pan. The cabbage once caramelised becomes quite sweet, the way onions do when you fry them.

1 medium to large cabbage
2-3 Tbs olive oil
Salt and freshly ground back pepper
Sauce:
2 Tbs miso paste
2 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs rice vinegar
1 Tbs mirin
1 Tbs grated or finely chopped fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp sesame oil
Freshly ground black pepper
To serve:
Snipped chives or finely sliced spring onion tops

Light the barbecue. Remove outer leaves from the cabbage, then with a sharp knife cut it into 8-10 wedges. Place in a bowl and drizzle with the olive oil, using your hands to coat the cabbage thoroughly, then season lightly.

Cook cabbage wedges on the barbecue over a medium to high heat, turning every 2  minutes or so, for 10 minutes or until well charred and tender, but still a bit crunchy in the middle. Meanwhile mix all the ingredients for the sauce.

Serve cabbage drizzled with some of the sauce and sprinkled with the chives or spring onion tops

Serves 8

Rocket Salad with Sweet Potato, Parmesan & Pine Nuts

Whenever we go to our daughter’s in Newcastle we eat lots of rocket. It grows there like a weed. I much prefer the larger flat leafed rocket you can grow to the skinny wild rocket sold in supermarkets.

This salad is delicious with or without the sweet potato.

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2-3 tsp olive oil
Salt
A big bowl full of rocket leaves, washed and spun dry
1/3 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
1 cup coarsely grated parmesan cheese
Dressing:
½ cup Extra Virgin olive oil
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 180°C. Mix sweet potato chunks with the oil and a little salt, then spread out on a shallow baking sheet. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until starting to brown. Make dressing by shaking all ingredients in a jar with a lid.

Place rocket, sweet potato, pine nuts and parmesan in a large salad bowl. Add some dressing and mix thoroughly to coat.

Serves 4

Variations: use pumpkin instead of sweet potato. Use goat’s cheese or feta cheese instead of grated parmesan.

Beetroot Kebabs with Labneh and Dukkah

I’m a big fan of beetroot, labneh and dukkah, so when I saw a recipe in Gourmet Traveller using all three, I knew I would like it.

 

500g Greek-style yoghurt
1 tsp salt
3-6 beetroot, depending on size, peeled, halved lengthwise or left whole if smaller
1 Tbs olive oil
50g butter
Dill sprigs
3 Tbs Dukkah

To make the Labneh, mix salt into yoghurt then scrape into a sieve which has been lined with muslin or any thin fabric. A man’s handkerchief works well. Place the sieve over a large bowl, cover then refrigerate overnight to drain. Discard the liquid before serving.

Thinly slice beetroot using a mandoline or slicing blade on a food processor, then mix with the olive oil and salt to taste. Use your hands to make sure the oil is thoroughly distributed. Wear gloves if you’re concerned about the colour, although it does come off quite quickly. Thread onto skewers, allowing one or two skewers per person, folding beetroot if necessary, leaving smaller slices unfolded. Can be prepared ahead to this stage.

Preheat grill or barbecue to high, then cook the kebabs, turning occasionally, for 5 mins, or until lightly charred all over.

Melt butter in a small saucepan, then allow it to turn golden brown (3-4 mins). Mix in the dukkah.

Serve beetroot kebabs with a dollop of labneh to the side. Scoop out a little of the labneh to make a nest and fill it with some warm dukkah butter. Sprinkle a little dukkah around and garnish with dill sprigs.

Makes about 8 kebabs serving 4 or 8

Kale Salad with Orange and Sesame Dressing

Kale is a member of the brassica family, which includes cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and brussels sprouts. First cultivated around 2000 BC there’s nothing new about this green leafy vegetable, but in the past few years it’s enjoyed a revival as a super food.

Packed with vitamins and minerals, kale has high levels of vitamin K and C as well as iron.  Antioxidants make it great for lowering cholesterol and while you can cook it, just like spinach, the best way to maximise the nutritional benefits is to eat it raw.

The first kale salad I made was tough and chewy. I ate it because it was good for me, not because I enjoyed it. But the following day I discovered that the leftovers were delicious. The trick is to dress the salad several hours before serving, so the kale leaves soften. Then you add a bit of crunch to the salad just before serving with some nuts, seeds and crispy pita bread.

My brother David passed on this recipe from a café where he had lunch in Vancouver recently. The “recipe” came from dissecting and studying what was on his plate and taking notes. I’ve further adjusted his version with the addition of tahini to the dressing and crunchy fried pita bread on top.

1 bunch kale
1 cup seedless grapes (I used red ones)
2 cups thinly sliced raw cauliflower
2 spring onions or ½ red onion, sliced (optional)
Dressing:
Juice of 1 large orange (about ½ cup)
½ cup vegetable oil
2 Tbs soy sauce
¼ cup cider vinegar
2 Tbs tahini
1 Tbs sesame oil
2 Tbs honey (sugar or maple syrup)
1 clove garlic, crushed
Topping:
1 large pita bread
2 Tbs olive oil
2 heaped Tbs each flaked almonds, pecan nuts and sunflower seeds

Wash kale, spin dry then remove stalks and slice thinly. Cut cauliflower slices into smaller pieces. Place kale, grapes, cauliflower and onion in a large salad bowl.

Using a stick blender or food processor mix all ingredients for dressing till smooth, then pour into a jar.

Add enough dressing to moisten the salad, mix well then stand for several hours before serving. You will have enough dressing left for another time.

Meanwhile for the topping, separate the two sides of the pita bread and cut 2-3 cm pieces. Heat oil and add the pita, nuts and seeds. Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until pita is golden.

Give the salad a final mix, top with the pita mixture and serve.

Serves 4

Variations: use pine nuts instead of pecans or almonds. Use spinach instead of kale.

Fish with Lemon and Broccolini

This very simple fish dish allows the flavour of the fish to shine through. Choose very fresh firm-fleshed fillets. Roasted broccolini may not look very appetising, but it’s delicious.

¼ cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 Tbs lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
About 600g fish fillets (in one piece or several), skin on
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1-2 bunches broccolini, ends trimmed
To serve:
2 Tbs capers

Preheat oven to 200°C. Mix oil, garlic, lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Arrange fish fillets skin side down on the paper. Arrange lemon slices over the fish and the broccolini around the fish. Brush fish and broccolini liberally with the oil and lemon juice mixture, using it all.

Place in the oven and cook for 8-10 mins or until fish is cooked through (test with a sharp knife) and broccolini has started to char around the edges. If broccolini is ready before the fish take it out of the oven and put the fish back for a few minutes.

Serve the fish sprinkled with the capers. Boiled or steamed new potatoes go well with this dish.

Serves 3