Thursday, September 27, 2012

Smoked salmon with jalapeno freekah and blood orange salsa

I love me a bit of salmon. I’ll eat it plucked from the sea, smoked, baked, steamed, fried, deep-fried, confit, sous vide. If its salmon, I’ll eat it and I fear I am looking directly into the face of mercury poisoning from excess consumption. I couldn’t be happier. I am a child of the 80s and so smoked salmon still holds that element of grandeur – it was the equivalent of today’s truffle. And while mass fish farming means it’s now as common as it comes, I’m still the guest, wolfing down the blinis, stopping only to breathe, refill and comment “ gosh, smoked salmon, you certainly are spoiling me.” 
This dish is best using a good quality smoked salmon, stellar produce makes all the difference. The jalapeno and blood orange cut through the richness of the salmon and avocado – they also do a great job of offsetting the nuttiness of the freekah.Basically, it is a tick all the boxes kind of meal without even trying - high protein, good fats, low GI, high fibre … I could go on but it’s exhausting; just know that it’s the sort of meal that will give you that sanctimonious glow that comes with eating well.

Serves 2
2 x good quality smoked salmon fillets
½ cup freekah
2 jalepeno chillies, finely sliced
½ cup coriander leaves
Zest of 1 lime
Blood orange salsa
1 avocado, cubed
½ red onion, finely diced
1 blood orange, peeled, segmented

Cook the freekah according to packet instructions.  Refresh under cold water and place in a large bowl and allow to cool.  Add the jalepeno, coriander and lime zest. Stir to combine, season generously and set aside.
Prepare the salsa by combining all ingredients in a bowl and stirring gently to combine. To serve, spoon the freekah mixture onto the plate. Add the salmon and top with the salsa. Alternatively, you can flake the salmon and toss everything super gently in a large bowl and serve as a salad.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Le Macaron

I realise the posts have been thin on the ground while I have been travelling but I promise to upload some decent food focused travel posts soon. In the interim, please rest assured I have certainly been consuming my fair share of macarons while in Paris. The favourite so far - white chocolate and jasmin tea from Pierre Hermes. I've also included the Laduree recipe for chocolate macarons should you feel the desire to make some. I'll be posting lots of recipes soon as well as interviews and pics of some of the great chefs I've met while here in Paris. Now off for a bite to eat before all the hungry ones make their ascent on the city for fashion week on Monday and put me off my dinner.

275g powdered sugar
140g powdered almonds
4 egg whites whipped (the older the eggwhites the better. Leave them out on the bench for a few days before making macarons)25 grams cocoa powder
325 grams bitter chocolate
300 grams heavy cream
75 grams butter (unsalted)

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Combine the almond powder, sugar and cocoa powder in a food processor until you have a smooth fine powder. It helps to sift and process a few times so the powder is incredibly fine for a more delicate shell.
Place the eggwhites in the powder. Beat rapidly and delicately with a wooden spoon to obtain a homogenous mixture, try to use a motion of stirring down toward the middle of the mixture and back up the sides again, constantly turning the bowl, until the mixture is even, light and fluid in consistency.
Prepare a pastry bag with a 1cm tip, then fill the bag with the mixture. Line a baking sheet (you get best results with a slipmat) with baking paper and squeeze macarons onto the paper (you should have enough mixture for about 45-50 macarons)
Cook for 11-12 minutes in the oven at 180 degrees on a baking sheet, leaving the door slightly ajar. Gently remove from the sheet and allow to cool.
For the ganache, pour the cream over the finely chopped bitter chocolate. Add butter at a temperature of at least 60C. Stir gently to incorporate. Let sit and cool to blood temperature - basically just an ambient room temperature. Garnish the macaron shells with a layer of ganache about 3/4 millimeters thick and sandwich the two halves together.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Espresso Martini frozen layer cake

It's fair to say that the term "health freak" is unlikely ever to be applied to me, but I like to think I generally balance the sinful and the saintly when it comes to food. I don't obsess over food groups, or diligently tally kilojoules, or sweat over my five a day. I do, however, often find myself saying, as I scramble for the dog leads to go for a walk, "that's probably enough cheese/ice-cream/cake for today, unless of course said ice cream/cake involves coffee and a sly tipple in the spirit of my favourite cocktail – an espresso martini. Then I’m involved in a take no prisoners kind of way. You should be too – the layers look beautiful and if you use store bought ice cream, this cake involves nothing more than a few gentle stirs and freezing time. 
Given the alcohol affects the setting ability of ice cream, I’ve alternated the alcoholic and non-alcoholic layers, it helps for when you are slicing the cake but don’t worry – this is just as good scooped quickly into bowls and eaten with abandon, just be careful if you have to drive anywhere afterwards. The richness of the spices and coffee means if you do fall into the “obsessive food group category” that a sliver really is enough, satiating even the most ardent ice cream lovers.

Vanilla layers
3 cups good quality vanilla bean ice cream
80ml vodka

Chocolate layer
3 cups good quality chocolate ice cream
2 tbsp ground cardamom

Espresso layer
3 cups vanilla ice cream
50ml Kahlua
90ml espresso (plus more to taste if you like it strong)

Espresso granita
125 mls water
125g sugar
125ml espresso

Grease a deep-sided 20cm diameter cake tin. Line the base and 2 long sides with plastic wrap, allowing the sides to overhang generously.
Start with the vodka layer and transfer the vanilla ice-cream to a bowl and set aside to soften slightly. Add the vodka and stir until incorporated. Spread over the cake base. Smooth the surface. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes or until firm. Transfer the chocolate ice cream to a bowl. Add the ground cardamom, stir until combined then gently pour over the top of the vanilla ice cream layer. Return to the freezer. Transfer the remaining vanilla ice cream to a bowl. Add the Kahlua and espresso and stir to combine. Pour into the tin over the chocolate layer, smooth the surface and cover with the overhanging plastic wrap. Place in the freezer for 2 hours but best overnight with the alcohol in the ice cream to ensure it is firm.
Prepare the granita by combining the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until slightly syrupy (2 minutes). Remove from heat, add the coffee then transfer to a shallow tray and freeze, stirring with a fork every 30 minutes, until ice crystals form (approximately two hours).
Turn out the cake onto a serving platter and remove the plastic wrap. Top with shards of espresso granita and serve. It helps to use a knife run under hot water to cut into the cake.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A new beet...

Beetroot Pasta with goats curd and candied walnuts

The crimson intensity of the beetroot pasta makes this dish look like a watercolour painting on a plate and I envisage eating it in some delightful sun-drenched courtyard while swilling a glass of rose, and enjoying all of my first world problems. Even if you’re not fond of the idea of beetroot pasta, the taste is quite subtle and it’s inclusion shouldn’t put you off. I had one beetroot dubious taste tester inform me that he “felt like he was eating the Kremlin.”  The feeling was obviously short lived because he polished off the plate and went in for a second round.  If the idea of all that kneading turns you cold, a lot of specialist grocers are stocking beetroot and other flavoured pastas so you can skip that step and just cook according to packet instructions then add the other ingredients at the end.

Serves 4 as a light meal

150g goats curd
½ cup walnuts (or nuts of your choice)
1 cup (firmly packed) mint leaves, coarsely chopped
1 ½ tbsp caramelised white balsamic (substitute with sweetened balsamic glaze if unavailable)
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tbsp olive oil

Beetroot pasta
300g 00 flour
3 eggs, lightly whisked
3 tablespoons pureed beetroot (fresh beetroot roasted)
Semolina to prevent pasta from sticking

Prepare the pasta by adding the flour to a large bowl, and make a well in the centre. Add the eggs and beetroot puree to the well. Begin to incorporate the flour into the wet mix then stir until a rough dough forms. Turn out onto a flat work surface dusted lightly with flour. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic (about five minutes). Shape into a disc and cover in plastic wrap. Allow to rest for 30 minutes.
Divide dough into four, then, working with one piece at a time, feed through pasta machine rollers, starting at the widest setting. Lightly flour dough as you fold and feed it through, reducing settings notch by notch, until pasta is 3mm thick. If not cooking immediately, toss a generous amount of semolina through your pasta strands as the beetroot pasta is a little stickier than your normal pasta and the semolina will prevent the strands from clumping. Cook the pasta in a saucepan of boiling water for 1-2 minutes or until the pasta rises to the top and is al dente in texture.

Place a fry pan over medium heat. Add the walnuts and lightly toast. Add the caramelized white balsamic and cook for 1 minute or until the nuts take on a candied, glazed appearance. Remove from the heat and place in a bowl. Cook the pasta in a saucepan of boiling water for 1-2 minutes or until the pasta rises to the top and is al dente in texture. Strain and add to the bowl with the other ingredients and toss lightly to combine.

Friday, September 7, 2012

A fizzy Idea....

Coca cola chocolate fondant puddings with salty cola nuts

Soft drink has never been my vice.  And it seems I’m not alone with worldwide sales of the stuff in decline. Coke, the perpetual number one seller, is one hell of a sugar hit. But there is little else in this world that mixes so pleasantly with a variety of spirits, helps the ails of a hangover post said spirits, or refreshes you at the end of a long hot summer day, in quite the same way. I discovered some old cooking recipes of South American food stalwart Edna Lewis where she incorporates cola across a range of sweet and savoury dishes so decided to incorporate it for this week's column over at Daily Life. After a certain amount of internal wrangling, I decided to put it to the test, using the coke as a natural rising agent for these little fondant puddings. By using a dark, more, bitter tasting chocolate, the sweetness of the coke is not nearly as present as you would think.  After the dark, just sweet and salty taste of these puddings, I’m not so sure I’ll be turning my back on the fizzy stuff after all.

 Serves 6

6 egg yolks
125g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
225g butter
200g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
250ml coca cola
50g plain flour, sieved
50g cocoa powder, sieved plus extra for dusting
Thin cream to serve

Cola nuts
1 cup coca cola
Mixed nuts
Healthy pinch sea salt

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Whisk the egg yolks, caster sugar and vanilla in an electric mixer until pale and thick.
Meanwhile melt the butter and chocolate in a saucepan over very low heat. Once melted, add the coca cola and stir to combine. Set aside to cool completely. Add the chocolate cola mixture to the egg mix. Gently fold in the flour and cocoa until just combined. Pour the mixture into a jug and allow the mixture to sit for 20 minutes.
Grease and line 6 x 250ml dariole moulds. Pour the mix into the moulds until ¾ full and bake for 20 minutes or until they look firm and brown on top and just set.
While the puddings are cooking, make the coca cola syrup by adding the coke to a saucepan and cooking for 10 – 20 minutes over a low to medium heat or until reduced by half. Add the nuts and salt and stir to coat. Pour the nuts onto a baking tray lined with baking paper and roast in the oven for 5-10 minutes or until lightly coloured, being careful not to let them burn.