June 16, 2012

Crispy Salmon with Mint Salsa Verde

I absolutely love eating salmon. No matter how it is cooked - whether it be raw, smoked, cured, barbecued or baked, this delicious fish never fails to excite my taste-buds with its juicy, buttery and plump flesh. However, salmon really does not need much fussing over to make it tasty - a simple pan fry will crisp the skin up and release a wonderful aroma, great enjoyed with a squeeze of lemon and side salad. Below is a recipe for crispy salmon, served with a zingy, fresh green salsa that beautifully cuts through the richness of the fish. From Everyday Gourmet:

Serves 4:

For the salsa verde:
1 cup fresh mint, loosely packed
½ cup fresh parsley, loosely packed
¼ cup fresh basil, loosely packed
¼ cup fresh baby spinach leaves
1 tbs capers
2 anchovy fillets
½ tsp lemon zest
1 tbs red wine vinegar
⅓ cup olive oil
Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

For the salmon:
2 tbs olive oil
4 x 220g salmon fillets, skin on and bones removed
Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

For the salsa verde, pick and wash all the herbs. Place all the ingredients, excluding the olive oil, into a food processor or blender. Pulse until finely chopped. An alternative to using a blender is to combine the ingredients in a mortar and pestle, which is what I did. Simply add the ingredients in, one by one, and pound thoroughly between each addition. 

Start with the anchovy and capers:

Followed by the lemon zest:

Then the herbs and the red wine vinegar:

Place the blended ingredients into a bowl and mix in the olive oil until well combined. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

For the crispy salmon, heat the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over a high heat. Pat the salmon dry on each side with some paper towelling. Season well with salt and pepper.

Place the salmon, skin side down into the pan and cook for 5 minutes.

Then turn the fish over and cook for a further 1 to 2 minutes, or until cooked to your liking.

Serve immediately with a good dollop of the salsa verde and a fresh green salad or vegetables for a well-rounded meal :)

 Crispy Salmon with Mint Salsa Verde and Mashed Pumpkin and Potato

June 13, 2012

Lemon, Thyme and Garlic Chicken with Broccolini


This is one of my pressed-for-time recipes. The fragrance from the thyme combines with the lemon and garlic to produce a wonderful, punchy marinade that keeps the chicken moist and full of flavour. Deglazing the chicken with verjuice allows it to steam a little whilst cooking, leaving behind a lovely tang after it has evaporated. If you don't have verjuice, use half a cup of chicken stock instead.

Serves 4
- 8 chicken thigh fillets
- 1 garlic clove, grated
- 1 tbs thyme leaves
- Grated zest and juice of ½ lemon
- 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup of verjuice
- Knob of butter
- 8 broccolini stalks, halved
- Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

Combine the garlic, thyme, lemon and olive oil in a large, non-reactive dish. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the chicken to the dish and use your hands to massage in the marinade. If you have the time, leave to marinate for 30 minutes, at room temperature.

To cook the chicken, heat a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Drizzle in a dash of olive oil, then add the marinated thigh fillets. Turn the heat down to low-medium, cover with a lid (or thick sheet of foil) and cook for 3 minutes, or until you can see that the chicken is half-way cooked.

Flip the chicken over, deglaze the pan with the verjuice, cover again with a lid and cook for a further 2 minutes, or until the chicken juices run clear. Set the chicken aside on warm serving plates, to rest while you prepare the broccolini.

In the same pan that the chicken was cooked in, melt the butter and add the broccolini. Sauté for 2 minutes, season with salt and pepper and serve alongside the chicken. This also tastes great with mashed potato. In this instance, I served the chicken with some left over pumpkin pasta :)

 Lemon, Thyme and Garlic Chicken with Broccolini

June 10, 2012

Chunky Beef Ragù with Pancetta

This delicious, hearty ragù is based on the classic Italian bolognese sauce. Straying away from the traditional minced meat, I cut the beef into small chunks, which is perfect, served with the tube-shaped rigatoni pasta. I like that you are able to pick up pieces of the ragù with your fork, whilst still enjoying all the sauciness that comes with it. Nutmeg does wonders for beef, enhancing its meaty flavour without been too overpowering, so I've grated in a little for that extra oomph. Bolognese sauce freezes well, so make a little more than you need, and defrost the extras for a quick meal another day :)

Serves 4-6:
45g butter
2 tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, diced
1 stick celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1-2 red chillies, seeds removed and finely chopped
½ nutmeg, grated
90g pancetta, finely chopped
500g beef chuck steak, diced
1 cup dry white wine
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 cup beef stock
¼ cup cream (optional)

To serve:
500g pasta, boiled and drained
Shaved Parmesan
Flat leaf parsley, chopped

Heat the butter and oil in a deep, heavy-bottomed frying pan. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, chilli and nutmeg and fry until the vegetables are softened and browned lightly. Add the pancetta and the beef and fry until the meat changes colour.

Add the wine, let it bubble hard for a few minutes, and then add the salt, pepper, tomatoes and beef stock.

Simmer, uncovered, stirring every now and then, for 1½ hours. Add the cream, if using, and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes longer. Serve with the hot, drained pasta, shavings of Parmesan and chopped parsley.

Chunky Beef Ragù with Pancetta

As always, the sauce is better the next day - magically thickened and brimming with flavour

June 7, 2012

American Barbecued Baby Back Ribs

What is it about sticky pork ribs that makes them such a big hit? These suckers can get quite messy to devour (cue finger bowls and napkins), but there is just something about the syrupy, flavoursome sauce, enveloping every inch of the succulent meat that makes it just oh so tantalizing!

The following recipe, from "Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone" does great justice to a rack of pork ribs, lathering them in a wonderful homemade barbecue sauce. The list of ingredients may seem a little daunting at first, but the method is so easy -  all you need is time, and let the slow simmering do the hard work for you.

It's best to begin preparing the ribs well in advance, up to two days ahead, to make sure they have time to marinate and soak in the flavours from the dry rub and the sauce. The only problem I encountered was that, although delicious, my finished sauce was quite sharp in flavour and not sweet enough for my liking (I'm wondering if adding honey would help to make it more sticky and syrupy?). As the ribs are quite punchy, I simply served them with steamed white rice and a crisp salad on the side. Delish! 

Serves 4:

Dry Rub and Ribs:
1 tsp Cajun or Creole seasoning
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sweet or hot paprika
1 kg meaty baby back pork ribs

Barbecue Sauce:
2 tbs unsalted butter
2 medium onions, chopped
1 small celery stalk, finely chopped
2 cups beef stock
2 cups tomato sauce
1 cup distilled white vinegar
¾ cup (packed) light brown sugar
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
3 tbs Worcestershire sauce
2 tbs steak sauce
1½ tsp chilli powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
½ tsp dry mustard
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp hot sauce

Mix the Cajun seasoning, oregano, cumin, and paprika in a small bowl to blend, and rub the mixture all over the ribs. Wrap the ribs in heavy-duty foil, encasing them completely, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the wrapped ribs on a heavy baking sheet and bake in the foil for about 1hour, or until the meat is very tender. Unwrap the ribs and let them cool.

Meanwhile, make the barbecue sauce: Melt the butter in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and celery, and sauté for 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

Mix in the beef stock and all the remaining ingredients, and bring to a boil over high heat.


Then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour, or until the sauce reduces and thickens slightly.

Coat the ribs with half of the sauce and marinate for at least 1 hour at room temperature or for up to 1 day in the refrigerator. Reserve the remaining barbecue sauce.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the ribs on a foil-lined baking tray and roast, uncovered, basting often with some of the remaining barbecue sauce, for about 25 minutes, or until the ribs are heated through. Rewarm the remaining sauce and serve it alongside the ribs.


American Barbecued Baby Back Ribs

June 4, 2012

Cauliflower Soup with Crispy Pancetta Crostini

A bowl of enriching, steamy hot home-made soup is so good, especially when served with a bit of cold winter chill on the side :)  This luscious cauliflower soup is one of my favourites and I have teamed it up here with crispy pancetta and melted Parmesan on ciabatta bread (great for dunking into the soup) - the saltiness of the ham and cheese counteracts perfectly with the sweet subtlety of the cauliflower. The soup is a recipe from Australian Gourmet Traveller:

Serves 4:
50ml olive oil, plus extra to serve
50g unsalted butter, coarsely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 large Desiree potato, finely chopped
1kg cauliflower, trimmed into small florets
7 cups chicken stock
100g Gruyère, grated (substitutes include: fontina, gouda, swiss, provolone)
1 cup milk

For the Pancetta Crostini:
4 slices ciabatta
8 thin slices pancetta
½ cup grated Parmesan


Heat the oil and half the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and potato, and cover, stirring occasionally until the onion is tender (5-7 minutes). Add the cauliflower and stock, and simmer over a medium-high heat until the potato and cauliflower are very tender (20-25 minutes).

Purée with a stick blender, or in a jug blender, until smooth.

Return the soup to the stove and stir through the Gruyère, milk and remaining butter. Season to taste and keep warm.

For the crostini, grill the slices of bread until lightly toasted, sprinkle with half of the Parmesan, place 2 slices of pancetta on top of each slice of toast and then sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Place under the grill again until the pancetta is crispy and the cheese melted.

Ladle the cauliflower soup into bowls and serve, alongside the pancetta crostini, drizzled with olive oil.

Cauliflower Soup with Crispy Pancetta Crostini

June 3, 2012

Chocolate, Quince and Almond Tart

As we bid farewell to the season of Autumn, I find myself with possibly one of the last decent batches of quince at the markets. Hardly ever eaten raw, this delightful fruit oozes of a rich, honeyed fragrance and is firm, with a golden yellow skin that can sometimes be coated in thin, greyish fur. When cooked, the flesh of the quince takes on a sweet tart flavour with a moist and rich rosy pink flesh. Due to its hard, white and astringent raw state, the quince is at its best after long, slow cooking methods like poaching and baking.

After watching an episode on Masterchef, where Maggie Beer made the most decadent concoction of chocolate, Vino Cotto and almond cream, combining it with wonderfully poached quince on a golden, crumbly sour cream pastry, I knew this was the exact recipe I wanted to use my quince for.

Vino Cotto is made from the must of grapes and has an aromatic, unique sweet/sour flavour. It is Italian and can be found in most supermarkets and Mediterranean food stores. When preparing the quince, bear in mind that its flesh can discolor quickly. Once you have peeled and cored it, place the fruit in a bowl of water with a squeeze of lemon juice to help stop the oxidising.

Serves 12:
Pot Roasted Quinces:
1kg quinces
Squeeze of lemon juice
450ml water
1¼ cup Verjuice
400g caster sugar

Sour Cream Pastry:
200g unsalted butter, chilled
250g plain flour
125ml sour cream

Chocolate and Vino Cotto Frangipane:
120g unsalted butter, softened
150g fine caster sugar
200g almond meal
2 free range eggs
1 free range egg yolk
50g dark chocolate cocoa powder
4 tbs Vino Cotto (made from the must of grapes)

Double cream or vanilla bean ice cream, to serve

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Once you have peeled the quinces, cut in half and remove the cores and cut into quarters. Place in a large bowl of water, squeeze over lemon juice and set aside to stop the browning process.

To pot roast the quinces, place the water, Verjuice and sugar into a heavy based medium sized pot. Place over a high heat, bring to the boil and boil for 10 minutes, until a syrup begins to form. Place the quartered quinces into the syrup.

Cover with a lid and place into the oven. Cook for 1 hour, then give the quinces a very light toss making sure not to break up the wedges. Place back into the oven.

Check the quinces every 30 minutes to make sure that the liquid has not all evaporated. If it starts to, and they're looking like they will catch on the bottom, add an extra 100ml of water. They will take approximately 2 ¾ hours to cook.

Once the quinces are cooked, they should be a beautiful ruby red colour and a small amount of syrup left in the base of the pot. They should not be dry or caught on the base of the pot. Remove the quinces from the pot and place onto a plate or tray and set aside to cool.

Increase the temperature of the oven to 200°C.

To make the frangipane, place the butter and caster sugar into a food mixer and beat until light and creamy (approximately 6 minutes). Then add the eggs and yolk, one at a time, then the cocoa and Vino Cotto and mix for a further 1 minute. Add the almond meal and mix until well combined. Set aside until ready to use.

To make the sour cream pastry, pulse the butter and flour in a food processor until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add ¾ of the sour cream, pulse a couple of times more, then add the remaining sour cream and continue to pulse until the dough just starts to come together in a ball.

Tip the pastry out onto the bench and bring it together with your hands, gently pushing it in from the sides to form a rectangle (approx 2cm thick). Use a long, flat spatula to help you lift the pastry onto a large sheet of clingfilm, wrap it and refrigerate for 10 to 20 minutes to rest.

Roll out the sour cream pastry to 3mm thick, and grease a flan tin (23cm x 2.5cm). Use a rolling pin to carefully roll and lift up the pastry to line the flan tin. Cut off the excess pastry around the edge, but allow the pastry to come above the tin by 5mm, to allow for shrinking during blind baking. Place in the fridge for 15 minutes to chill.

Remove the tart shell from the fridge, spike the bottom with a fork, line the top with baking paper and place rice or blind baking beans on the top.

Place into the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes, then remove the beans and baking paper and bake for a further 5 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 175°C. Place two thirds of the chocolate and Vino Cotto frangipane mix on the base of the tart shell. Top with the cooked quince wedges and dot the remaining amount of the frangipane on top of the quinces.

Return the tart to the oven and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour. This time will depend on the oven, but just be sure that the frangipane is cooked in the centre. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Serve while warm with a dollop of double cream or vanilla bean ice cream.

Chocolate, Quince and Almond Tart