Asparagus with Smoked Salmon, Poached Egg and Quick Hollandaise

Asparagus goes very well with smoked fish and with eggs. This recipe uses both and ties all the ingredients together with a delicious herby hollandaise sauce, which takes no time at all to make.

10-12 spears asparagus
4 slices smoked salmon
2 large eggs
Quick Hollandaise Sauce:
2 egg yolks
3-4 tsp lemon juice
pinch of salt and cayenne pepper
60g butter, melted
1 Tbs chopped fresh tarragon (optional)
To garnish:
Pink peppercorns (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil

Trim and wash asparagus and place in a frying pan. Add cold water to cover, then turn on the heat, bring to the boil and cook for 3 minutes or until al dente. Drain on paper towels then arrange on two heated serving plates. Meanwhile poach the eggs and make the sauce.

Arrange a poached egg and two slices of smoked salmon on each serving of asparagus. Garnish with the sauce, a few pink peppercorns, if using and a drizzle of olive oil.

Quick Hollandaise Sauce: place egg yolks, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a heatproof bowl and whisk with a balloon whisk to combine. Whisk in the hot melted butter, then zap in the microwave for 14-15 seconds (no more or the egg yolks will scramble). Whisk vigorously to combine, add the tarragon and serve.

Serves 2

Three-Cheese Semolina Gnocchi with Gremolata

My friend Meg served this delicious starter over a year ago and at my request sent me the recipe. It’s taken me ages to get around to making it, as I always have a long list of recipes I want to try.

It originally appeared on Donna Hay’s website, but it’s not there any more. The original version serves 10-12 so I halved it to serve six as a starter. The recipe uses an Italian cheese called Taleggio in the gnocchi mix, but you could also use something stronger such as Gruyere or Cheddar.

750 ml milk
1 cup semolina
3 egg yolks
100g grated Taleggio cheese (or substitute Gruyere or strong cheddar)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A few sprigs of fresh marjoram
½ cup grated mozzarella
½ cup grated parmesan
Gremolata:
1 Tbs finely chopped parsley
2 tsp finely chopped fresh marjoram
2 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp lemon rind (removed with veg peeler then shredded finely)
1 small clove garlic crushed

Place milk in a non-stick saucepan and bring to the boil. Gradually mix in the semolina, using a wooden spatula. Cook for 2-3 mins or until thickened then remove from the heat. Mix in the egg yolks, the cheese and season to taste. Scrape into a lightly greased square or rectangular dish. Mine is 20 cm square. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours or until firm.

Meanwhile make the gremolata by mixing all ingredients together in a bowl or a jar with a lid.

When ready to serve, turn on the grill. Cut the gnocchi into six evenly sized rectangles and place on an oven tray lined with baking paper, leaving some space between each one. Sprinkle with the marjoram, the mozzarella and the parmesan. Grill for 2-3 mins or until cheese is golden and melted. Arrange on 6 serving plates and top with the gremolata. Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil around the gnocchi.

Serves 6 as a starter

Variations: instead of taleggio you could use goat’s cheese. Instead of fresh marjoram you could use oregano or thyme

Asparagus Risotto with Prosciutto

It’s asparagus season again and our dedicated patch is producing a couple of kilos or more a week. It’s like nothing you ever see in the shops. So chunky and flavoursome. We eat most of it steamed, with melted butter, sometimes with fresh herbs mixed through. Or cold with home made mayonnaise.

I’m always on the look out for new ways to serve this wonderful vegetable, such as this delicious risotto.

50g butter
1 Tbs olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
250ml white wine
2 litres chicken or vegetable stock
A large bunch of asparagus (20-24 stems)
1 cup Arborio rice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
To garnish:
6 thin slices prosciutto
Extra virgin olive oil (optional)

Place half the butter and oil in a heavy-based pan over low heat. Add the onion and cook very gently for 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, until cooked but not coloured. Meanwhile trim off the tough ends from the asparagus. Choose 12 nice stems and trim them a bit shorter. Blanch them for 3 minutes in boiling salted water then refresh in cold water and dry on paper towels.

Cut the rest of the asparagus into bite sized pieces. When the onion is cooked add the wine, rice and chopped asparagus and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes. Gradually add the stock, a cup or so at a time, adding more as it’s absorbed into the rice. When the rice is al dente (you may not need all the stock) add half the grated parmesan and the remaining butter and turn off the heat. The risotto should be slightly wet. Season to taste then cover and stand for 5 minutes.

Serve on six individual serving plates and top with remaining parmesan. Garnish each plate with two of the blanched asparagus spears, a slice of prosciutto and, if liked, a drizzle of oil.

Serves 6 as a starter or 3 as a main

Chorizo Stuffed Chicken Roll with White Bean Salad

A boned and stuffed whole chicken makes a great centrepiece for a buffet table. I’ve done it once, or maybe twice. But it’s not a five minute job. This quick and easy recipe from Spanish-born Australian chef Miguel Maestre achieves the same flavour profile with far less effort.

5 large chicken thighs, skinless and boneless
2 chorizo sausages
About 8 thin slices of jamon serrano or prosciutto
Salad:
1 can butter beans, drained and rinsed
1 small red chilli, seeds removed and finely diced (optional)
1 French shallot, finely diced
3 Tbs finely chopped chives
2 Tbs finely chopped black olives
3 Tbs roughly chopped coriander
2 Tbs mayonnaise
1 Tbs olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Extra herbs for garnish
Balsamic glaze

Preheat oven to 200°C. Remove skin from chorizo and chop very finely in food processor.  On a shallow baking tray lined with baking paper, arrange the jamon, slightly overlapping, in a rectangle about 30cm wide and the height of the slices. Trim chicken pieces and gently hammer out any which are a bit too thick, so they are more even. Lay chicken on top of the jamon, leaving no gaps, like a jigsaw puzzle.

Place the pureed chorizo down the middle of the chicken. Using the baking paper to assist, roll the chicken over itself and form into a tight cylinder. Place the baking paper back down on the tray and arrange the chicken roll on top with the seam underneath. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until juices run clear when pierced with a skewer.

In a bowl place all the ingredients for the salad. Mix and season to taste.

Serve the chicken warm or at room temperature, thickly sliced, surrounded by the salad and garnished with the extra herbs. If serving cold, garnish with some balsamic glaze.

Serves 6-8

Chargrilled Zucchini with Avocado Hummus

I recently spent a few days in hospital. As I ate the unimaginative, tasteless hospital food I watched the SBS food channel and made notes. This is one of the delicious recipes I wrote down which we had for lunch today. Why can’t hospitals do better?

6 zucchini (about 1kg) halved lengthwise
1 clove garlic, crushed
Finely grated zest and juice 1 lemon
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
3 Tbs dukkah
Lemon wedges, chopped parsley and olive oil, to serve
Avocado Hummus:
2 ripe avocados
½ cup tahini
1 clove garlic, crushed
Finely grated zest and juice 1 lemon
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the Hummus, place all ingredients in food processor and process until smooth and creamy, stopping halfway to scrape down the sides. Heat a large chargrill until hot and cook the zucchini halves, without oil, for 3 minutes each side, or until charred and cooked through.

While zucchini is cooking mix garlic, lemon zest and juice, oil and seasoning in a large bowl. Add the cooked zucchini halves and toss gently. Pile onto a serving platter and scatter with the parsley. Finish with dollops of avocado hummus, a sprinkling of dukkah, a drizzle of olive oil and the lemon wedges. If liked make half the recipe which serves 2.

Serves 4

White Chocolate Semifreddos with Raspberry Coulis

Recently I spent a few days in hospital. While eating the unimaginative, tasteless, hospital meals I watched the SBS Food Channel and jotted down some ideas.

This recipe comes from Anna Olson. The conical paper cups you need to make ice cream cones can be found on eBay. The ones I bought come in a pack of fifty, weren’t expensive and arrived within a few days. Just look for Conical Disposable paper cups on Google. If preferred, scrape the white chocolate mousse into a loaf tin (either silicone which doesn’t need to be lined or metal which does) and cut it into slices after freezing.

1¼ cups milk
3 egg yolks
3 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs cornflour
2 tsp gelatine
3 Tbs cold water
250g white chocolate broken into squares
2 Tbs butter
1 cup thick cream
Raspberry Coulis:
2 cups frozen raspberries
2 Tbs sugar, or to taste

Place milk in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Place egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a bowl and mix with a balloon whisk, gradually adding the hot milk. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook, stirring with a wooden spatula until thickened. Mix the gelatine and cold water in a small bowl, then zap in the microwave for 20-30 secs or until dissolved. Mix gelatine into the custard then turn off the heat and add the white chocolate and butter. The heat from the custard will melt them. Stir occasionally to mix them in then allow the mixture to cool.

Whip cream until thick then fold into the cooled mixture. Use to fill 8-10 conical paper cups. Place them in glasses which allow them to stand more or less upright. Freeze overnight or for several hours.

For the coulis, thaw the raspberries with the sugar, stirring from time to time, until sugar has dissolved. Push through a sieve, discarding the seeds and pulp.

Place a semifreddo cone on each serving plate. Peel off the paper cups and garnish with the raspberry coulis.

Serves 8-10

Plum Cake

I’ve been making this cake for nearly 30 years from a recipe published by Stephanie Alexander, which she calls Mieze’s Plum Cake after the friend who gave it to her. I have slightly adapted the method but the end result is the same.

The best plums to use are blood plums which have dark purple skins and flesh, but unfortunately they’re only in season for a very brief period. The recipe works well with any plums you can get, or peaches, apricots or, as you can see in the photo, with nectarines.  You could also try making it with canned fruit if you’re housebound and that’s all you have.

I make this cake in a 22 cm (9 inch) square tin, so each serving has half a piece of fruit on top. This involves increasing all the ingredients in the original cake mix (but not the topping) to make a bigger cake which serves 16. For a smaller cake use the original recipe (see above link). I like to grind the nuts in a food processor and leave them slightly chunky, rather than buying ground nuts which are more like flour.

Serve with a cup of tea or as a dessert with a dollop of cream.

250g butter at room temp
250g sugar
200g plain flour
200g self-raising flour
pinch salt
3 eggs
½ cup milk
1 cup ground almonds or walnuts
8 blood plums, halved and stoned (or use apricots, peaches or nectarines)
Topping:
½ cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
60g butter
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 170°C. Process nuts coarsely in food processor then tip out. Process butter and sugar till fluffy, add eggs one at a time, sifted flours, salt, the nuts and then the milk, stopping to scrape down the mixture halfway through.

Spread into 9″ (22cm) square cake pan, greased and lined with paper. Arrange the plums, cut side up, over the cake and push them in a bit. The 16 halves should fit exactly. No need to wash the food processor before using it to mix all the topping ingredients. Pour topping evenly over the fruit. Bake in the centre of the oven for an hour, or until a skewer inserted in the middle (cake not fruit) comes out clean. If outsides are getting too brown, turn oven down a bit, but don’t overcook or the cake will be dry.

Variation: Use peeled and halved juicy pears instead of plums and add a tablespoon of fresh ginger to the topping.

Serves 12-16

Sweet Potato and Zucchini Slice

Every year we grow zucchini (courgettes) in our vegetable garden. Despite our best efforts, some of them get away and end up looking more like marrows. Large zucchini are great for making into fritters or a savoury slice like this one. If zucchini are large remove the seeds and some of the skin.

It’s worth investing in a 0.5cm grating attachment for your food processor. The grating attachment which came with my Magimix is too fine for things like carrot, zucchini and beetroot so I ordered the larger one online. It makes grating vegetables a cinch and has become the attachment I use most.

1 Tbs olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large sweet potato (about 500g), peeled and coarsely grated
500g zucchini, peeled and coarsely grated
1 cup ricotta or cottage cheese
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
¼ cup plain flour
5 eggs
2 Tbs chopped chives or basil
2 Tbs chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cherry tomatoes to garnish

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line a rectangular slice tin. I used a 22cm round cake tin instead.

Heat olive oil in a frying pan. Add onion and garlic and cook gently until soft but not browned. Mix with remaining ingredients, then scrape into cake pan and smooth the top. Bake for 40-70 minutes. Time will vary according to the cake pan you choose. If you use a rectangular slice pan it will be thinner and take around 40 mins. The one in the photo took about 70 mins. Any size/shape will do. When cooked it will be golden all over and firm to the touch in the middle.

Serve cold or at room temperature, garnished with the cherry tomatoes. We preferred it cold.

Serves 10

Variation: Fry 3-4 rashers of chopped bacon with the onion and garlic

Roasted Cauliflower and Prawn Salad

This delicious salad was served by friends who have a house in Mittagong. It’s from Janelle Bloom, guest cook at The Cook’s Cooking School in Bowral and was published in the Oct/Nov 2018 edition of the Southern Highlands of Australia magazine Highlife.  A perfect lunch on its own or as part of a buffet.

¼ cup skinned hazelnuts
2 cauliflowers
2 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp fennel seeds, bruised
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
1kg king prawns, peeled and deveined
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dressing:
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Small clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp caster sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 200°C. Place hazelnuts in a dry frying pan and stir over moderate heat until lightly toasted. Roughly chop. Slice cauliflowers about 2 cm thick and place in a large bowl. Add the oil and spices, salt and pepper and mix to coat well. Arrange in one layer in a roasting pan lined with baking paper. Bake for 15-20 mins or until golden brown and just tender, turning once during cooking time.

Place all ingredients for dressing in a jar with a lid and shake well. Cut the cauliflower slices into smaller fork-sized pieces and arrange in serving dish. Scatter with the spring onions and hazelnuts. Drizzle with the dressing, then toss gently to combine. Top with the prawns and parsley and sprinkle with coarsely ground black pepper.

Serves 4

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.