Posts

Banoffee Pie with a Twist

 

There’s a knock at the door. As it opens a pretty young lady is stood there with a peace offering and slight protrusion of the mandible,

“Banoffee Pie?”

I’ll leave you to name the film and actress and I’ll embellish you with the edible part of this famous scene – the pie not the actress. And when I say famous, it is in our house anyway as my young daughter does a cracking impression of the actress delivering the pie and the line.

Banoffee pie has to be one of the food pairings where everything just works; it’s as if nature had decided that at some point in the existence of the human race the combination of banana and toffee with cream and crumbly shortcrust pastry  or biscuit base would be discovered, and cherished by many. If you look in to the origins of where this delight comes from you’ll find, and it was to my surprise, that it was invented by a chap named Nigel Mackenzie and his chef Ian Dowding at a restaurant called the Hungry Monk Restaurant located in the village of Jevington, East Sussex – that’s about 60 miles or 100 km south of that little city, London. As the legend goes they were looking at a dessert originating from America called Blum’s coffee toffee pie, and in finding it was lacking a certain something played around with a few fruity ingredients until they hit on banana (and ditched the coffee).

Unfortunately Nigel, who passed away in May this year, and the restaurant are no more, but what lives on are the almost infinite iterations of what can now be classed as a truly global dessert – a true legacy since 1971. (Sounds like an ad agency line – maybe I’m in the wrong business).

So this iteration? Well it’s got toffee, it’s got banana, it’s got cream and it’s got chocolate biscuits. I read that one of the pet peeves of the chef were the versions created with a biscuit base so I thought I’d try it, and that’s where the chocolate biscuits come in; and not bad at all, if I may say so – sorry Ian.

In this one there are a couple little of twists. Firstly the addition of lime to the banana and cream, and secondly a few sea salt flakes to the caramel. Sea salt in caramel is a homage to the wonderful caramels that come from Brittany (salted caramel – that surely is a future post, don’t you think?).

 

Serves: A few hungry souls
Preparation: 20-30 minutes + 90 minutes chilling (longer if you’re chilling out)
Cooking: 15-20 minutes

 

Ingredients:

1 packet (300g)  Crumbly chocolate biscuits | I use dark chocolate Digestives (British). Play around with what’s available where you are.
70g  Unsalted butter |

For the Caramel Toffee:
150g  Light soft brown sugar | light muscovado is excellent.
150g  Unsalted butter |
395g Can  Sweetened condensed milk | About 14oz.
Pinch sea salt |

For the Cream and Bananas:
1 tbsp. lime juice |
500ml Single cream | Minimum 35% milk solids.
½  lime  | The grated zest of
4-5 medium  medium-ripe bananas | You want to catch the bananas whilst they are still firm; riper than the fresh green but not yet reached that soft, cough-inducing stage.

Optional – but looks great – chocolate splinters and curls or grated chocolate.

 

Method:

For the pie I use a 23 cm (9 inch) diameter fluted flan tin with removable base.

The base is as easy as you like: melt the 70g of butter in a pan and then crush the biscuits to crumbs in a plastic bag with something like the end of a rolling pin. Add the crushed biscuits to the butter and mix till it looks like all the crumbs are coated. Spread the biscuit mix over the base of the fluted tin and then compress it ensuring that the biscuit base is even and that there is a small wedge of biscuit base around the edge i.e. going up the flute sides. Put the base in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to set.

To make the caramel toffee add the light brown sugar and 150g of butter to a medium heavy based pan and over a medium heat keep stirring until the butter has melted and the sugar has completely dissolved. Now add the sweetened condensed milk and a pinch of sea salt and stir. Bring the mix to the boil and then remove from the heat. Pour the runny caramel into the set biscuit base and return it to the fridge for the caramel to set – for about an hour.

When the caramel has set prepare the bananas and cream. Firstly, slice the bananas in to diagonal discs, put in a bowl and pour over the lime juice. Mix gently. The lime will add a little zing to the bananas whilst also delaying any browning. Next, whip the cream to lovely airy peaks and then very gently fold in the lime zest. Lay the banana slices over the set caramel and then gently spread over the whipped cream.

If you want to create chocolate curls or splinters melt about 150g of 70% cocoa solid chocolate to about 50 deg C (120 deg F) and spread over a cold surface – marble is perfect if available. Once the chocolate has lost its sheen but not completely set you can scrape it with a large knife to form those curls and splinters. Alternatively, grate some dark chocolate directly over the pie to decorate it. Bon Appetit.

Offally Good Sweetbread Nuggets with Chipotle Mayo

Introduction:

In Yorkshire, as a kid, offal was all the rage. Not because we were fancy-pant eaters with the adventurous tastes of the culinary Bohemian – no, offal was cheap; pig’s liver, lamb’s tongue, tripe (cow’s stomach lining), kidney  and  brains (not for the cholesterol sensitive) were all used. And then there were the lower-end cuts such as shin beef, chuck steak, belly pork, mutton (old sheep) and even a rabbit could be picked up very cheaply.

Roll on to 2015 in Melbourne, and I’m sure Melbourne is not alone here, and those face-screwing inducing cuts of animals are now costing a pretty penny, often in excess of the finer cuts of meat. And I’ll tell you why – because  it has become trendy to use it through the proliferation of both the inspirational and me-too chefs out there.

But for me, off-cuts and offal should be up there with the best because cooked right, and that is vital, they are some of the most incredibly decadent and tasty parts of the animal. That is assuming of course that the animal has been treated with respect and looked after in a great environment whilst alive. Just think, offal accounts for about half of the edible part of an animal and is texturally diverse, nutritious and distinctly favour-some.

When I was younger butchers  would virtually throw belly pork at you to make room for their more elusive and upper-market cuts. Now, people turn a blind eye to it’s sumptuous calorie busting fat content because it is an amazing cut and there isn’t one restaurant that doesn’t have their ‘succulent’ belly pork on the menu…and rightly so. By the way if you’ve never had beef cheeks, another of those ‘in’ cuts, before then check out this smashing little Bourguignon – if you have had beef cheeks then definitely check it out.

 

Today, however, if you’re not already acquainted, and if you are this may be a reunion with a long lost friend, I am going to introduce you to another truly incredible bit of the now trendy but-never-used to-be cut of offal – the sweetbread. My kids were so exited when I said we were having sweetbreads for dinner; the connotation in their minds was that of a great home baked dessert. Alas, when I explained that it was the pancreatic gland or thymus of a lamb or calf their noses screwed up and they walked away disappointed – maybe as you are doing now. Alas, I didn’t sell the dish that well to them but I was about to redeem things.

Bought fresh sweetbreads are plump, firm to the touch and should be pink bordering on white. They deteriorate quickly so they need to be used the same day of purchase to get the best out of them. They have an amazingly nutty creaminess with a soft meaty centre that even when overcooked can remain succulent.  They do take a little bit of preparation, but trust me, please do, when I say that it is worth it. The recipe coming up is for essentially sweetbread nuggets with a chipotle mayonnaise – a brilliant snack, or if tarted up a bit with some cheffy presentation and a little touch of greenery can be used as a starter. Let’s begin.

 

Serves: 4 for a snack  |  Preparation: 1 hour soaking + 1 hour prep  |  Cooking: 40 minutes

 

Ingredients:

1kg  Fresh plump sweetbreads |  Lamb’s or calf’s.
Large bowl  1% Salt solution | Enough to cover the sweetbreads – 10g of salt per litre of cold water – whisk to dissolve the salt.

For the Mayonnaise:
1  portion (About 275g) of mayonnaise | See here for the recipe.
Chipotle chillies | Use the tinned variety with adobo sauce.
2  tsp. adobo sauce | From the tinned chipotles.
1 lime  lime juice | Squeezed.
Pinch  Smoked paprika |

For the Sweetbread Nuggets:
Large eggs | Beaten.
1tsp.  Five spice powder | Recipe here.
150-200g  Plain flour | Enough to coat the sweetbreads
100g or so  Panko breadcrumbs | Enough to coat the sweetbreads.
To taste  Seasoning | Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

Grapseed oil | Enough for frying – any high smoking point non-fragrant frying oil will do.

 

Method:

Preparing the sweetbreads: every sweetbread comes with it’s own natural packaging that needs to be removed . This can prove a little tricky but patience is rewarded.

Firstly, to remove any blood from the sweetbreads soak them in the 1% salt solution for an hour in the fridge.

Make the mayonnaise whilst you wait. To a miniature food processor add two tablespoons of mayonnaise, two chipotle chillies and two teaspoons of *adobo sauce. Blitz until smooth. Add the blended chillies to the rest of the mayonnaise and stir well. Now add half of the lime juice and a little seasoning, stir well and taste. Add more seasoning and lime juice if required. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Sprinkle over the smoked paprika just before serving

Back to the sweetbreads: after an hour drain them and then leave to soak in unsalted cold water for 5 minutes. Now drain again and rinse them thoroughly.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add the sweetbreads and poach for about 4-5 minutes – until they have only just firmed up. Carefully, with a slotted spoon, lift the sweetbreads out of the poaching water and put in to a large bowl of cold water in a sink. If the water temperature in the bowl rises too much run more cold water through until it is cool. Now the finicky bit. Carefully peel the membranes from each sweetbread – there’s no need to remove every single bit, but certainly remove as much as you can without damaging or breaking them. Let the sweetbreads dry out on your kitchen bench and discard all the removed membranes.

In a large frying pan heat an inch (2.5cm) of grapeseed oil to 170 deg C. (340 deg F.)**.

To a bowl add the plain flour, five-spice powder and some seasoning, and mix. To another bowl add the beaten egg. And finally to a third bowl add the panko breadcrumbs.

Now coat a sweetbread in the flour and shake to discard any excess. Dip it in the egg and let any excess drip off. Finally, coat with the panko breadcrumbs and put to one side. Repeat for all the sweetbreads.

Cook the sweetbreads in the hot oil in batches, adjusting the heat to maintain the 170 deg C. (340 deg F.) temperature. Cook for a couple of minutes and then turn over. When golden brown remove the sweetbreads, drain on kitchen towel and serve immediately with that devilish chipotle and lime mayonnaise and be prepared to be an offal convert – or enjoy your re-acquaintance.

 

Depending on the availability of chipotle chillies and your ability to make a great adobo sauce I recommend buying tinned chipotles already in adobo sauce.

** Use a digital thermometer – it’s a great piece of kitchen equipment and can be picked up relatively cheaply.

Honduras – Ceviche with Chimol

Football:

Honduras first qualified for the World Cup in 1982, the great spectacle in Spain and the first World Cup that I have very clear recollections of. Honduras was grouped with Spain, Northern Ireland and Yugoslavia. I distinctly remember this group as Spain as group favourites and hosts managed to scrape through by the skin of their teeth after being unbelievably beaten by Northern Ireland and almost equivalently, unbelievably being held to a draw by Honduras. The Honduran team pushed Northern Ireland to a draw and eventually, and narrowly, lost to Yugoslavia, therefore being eliminated. It was still a great effort and the name Honduras has remained with me since that World Cup.

In Brasil, Honduras start with a really tough match against Les Bleus of France. If they can come through that with a draw then I reckon they have a chance against Ecuador (although I will probably say the same about Ecuador against Honduras when I write that post tomorrow) and Switzerland. After Costa Rica’s amazing win against Uruguay confidence will be high in Central America for another upset. Watch out for the two English Premier League players Maynor Figueroa and Wilson Palacios, as well as forwards Carlo Costly and Jerry Bengston.

 

The Dish: 

Pretty much throughout Latin America there are many common food types with each country having their own specialities. Honduran cuisine is no different in that it ranges from plantain and tortillas to chorizo and roasted meat. A national dish of Honduras is considered to be Plato Tipico, a plate of food with accompaniments that include fried plantain, refried beans, shredded marinated cabbage, salty sour cream (known as mantequilla) and bags of tortillas, of course.

The food sounds great but what really grabbed my attention was the seafood. Therefore, I have taken influence from the Caribbean coast and Bay Islands in selecting the dish for Honduras; a ceviche of white fish with prawns. Typically in Latin America sea bass is used but a really good firm white fish is equally as good. The ceviche is mixed with Honduras’ version of salsa, known as chimol.

 

Serves: 4   |   Preparation: 15 minutes   |   Cooking Time: 2 hours resting

 

Ingredients:

For the chimol:
85g Green bell pepper (capsicum) | Diced. This equates to about ½ a pepper.
85g White onion | Finely diced. This equates to about ½ an onion.
85g Ripe tomato | Diced. I used 1 medium Roma tomato.
1 handful  Coriander | Finely chopped.
1 lime Lime juice |
1 clove Garlic | Crushed.
1 pinch Sea salt |

 

For the ceviche:
200g Skinless sea bass | Cut in to 1cm cubes. I used barramundi which worked well. Any firm white fish is worth trying.
100g Cooked prawn | Diced.
1 tbsp. White wine vinegar |
1 lime Lime juice |
10 drops Tabasco sauce | Gives a little warmth.
Seasoning Sea salt and black pepper |

 

How To:

To make the chimol: add the green pepper, white onion, tomato, coriander, lime juice, garlic and salt to a bowl and mix well.

For the ceviche: to a bowl add the fish, prawns, vinegar, half of the lime juice, Tabasco sauce and the chimol. Mix well and then season, adjusting if necessary. Cover the bowl and put the ceviche in the fridge for two hours during which the fish will cook in the acidity of the lime juice and vinegar. Before serving squeeze in the other half of lime juice and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve with crackers or salted biscuits.

Australia – Mini Pavlova with Caramel Banana, Rum and Lime Puree

Football:

Australia is ranked lowest in the World Cup according to FIFA’s official rankings. Couple this with the fact they are in a group with Spain, the current World Cup holders, the Netherlands and Chile and you would be forgiven for not giving the Socceroos any chance whatsoever. In fact, my mate who runs a local café only but today said that he would give a couple of us free coffees all day if Australia even scored a goal. He may live to regret that offer because the steel and gritty determination of this sporting nation is second to none, and with the star Tim Cahill always seeming to pop up in the right place at the right time I am confident that I will be having more than one free coffee day.

 

The Dish: 

So, to the first day of this World Cup project 🙂

Actually, this is a dish that I had to start yesterday as you’ll gather when you read the recipe. In stark contrast to the image of Australia and the steel and grit of their sporting team the dish I have cooked is light, airy and sweet. It is an Australian classic; the Pavlova. And straight away this project runs in to a controversy. Like Russel Crowe and Crowded House the Pavlova has crossed the Kiwi-Aussie line. However, with Pavlova there still lies a shroud of mystery? Was it developed in New Zealand or Perth? Nothing is conclusive; however I have included it as an Aussie classic because regardless of where the first one was made, in the 14 years I have been in Australia it is quite obvious that this dessert is in every Australian’s make-up, from Avoca Beach to Zanthus.

The Pavlova here has been miniaturised and served with a caramelised Cavendish banana, Bundaberg rum (Australian) and lime puree, freshly whipped cream and sliced banana.

 

Serves: 5   |   Preparation: 45 minutes   |   Cooking: 1 hour 20 minutes + drying overnight

 

Ingredients:

For the meringue
140g Egg Whites | About 4 Whites from a medium Egg.
225g White caster Sugar |
13g Corn flour |
½ tsp. White vinegar |

 

For the banana puree:
125g White caster sugar |
2 Ripe bananas | Not over ripe, just the perfect eating ripeness.
20ml Dark rum | I used Bundaberg to keep with the Australian theme.
1 Lime Lime juice |

 

For the final dessert:
125g Single cream | Minimum of 35% milk fat solids.
2-3 Ripe bananas | Thinly sliced. Eating ripeness.
Grated lime zest for garnish

 

How To:

Preheat an oven to 130 deg. C (270 deg. F).

 

For the meringue: whisk the egg whites so that they form stiff peaks. Add half of the caster sugar and continue to whisk for about 30 seconds. Add the other half of sugar and continue to whisk until you have really stiff peaks. Add the corn flour and vinegar and gently fold until completely mixed through.

Line a baking sheet with baking parchment (use a little butter to hold it in place). Place a 75mm diameter stacking ring on the baking sheet and using a piping bag with an 8ml nozzle pipe the meringue mix in to it in a spiral motion. Pipe 3 layers and then gently remove the stacking ring. Repeat for the other meringues. Alternatively you can carefully spoon the meringue on to the baking sheet in nest shapes. Bake the meringue for 10 minutes at 130 deg. C and then reduce the oven to 100 deg. C (210 deg. F) and bake for a further 50 minutes. Now, turn off the oven and let the meringues cool and dry overnight in the oven.

For the banana puree: add the 125g of caster sugar to a large heavy based frying pan. Put the pan over a medium heat and allow the sugar to caramelise to a deep golden brown colour. Jiggle the pan around so that the sugar caramelises evenly. Add the two whole bananas to the caramel and toss them around until softened and coated. Deglaze the pan with the rum and put the lot into a food processor taking care as it will be hot. Add the lime juice to the processor and then blitz until smooth. After this I then use a hand blender to ensure all the caramelised sugar is blended. Put the puree in the fridge for an hour to cool.

For the dessert: Pipe or spread the banana puree over the top of each meringue. Whip the single cream to firm peaks and carefully spread it over the banana puree. Place the banana slices on the cream – be creative – and finally grate some lime zest over the banana for garnish. Enjoy the crunchy and sticky meringue with that amazing puree.

Brasilian Swing – Caipirinha

Introduction:

There’s one more day to go before the World Cup starts – well the unofficial World Cup of Food that is. To get right in to the swing of things crack out the cachaça for the national drink of Brasil – Caipirinha.

Cachaça is a clear sugarcane spirit, the essence of Brasil, and one that can be found from Scandanavia to South America. It’s been called a rum but technically rum comes from molasses whereas cachaça is derived from sugarcane, making it unique. Its status in Brasilian culture puts it right up there with the national football team, the Mardi Gras and the Samba. Its most common use is in the Caipirnha where it becomes incredibly intimate with lime to produce a wickedly fresh and globally loved cocktail. Caipirinha can be found all over Brazil from the hardcore of the favelas to the glitterati of the clubs of Ipanema.

It’s transcending in to winter here in Melbourne, but today has been full of sunshine and thus the mood is high and the cachaça is plentiful – the mood is, funnily enough, getting better and better the more I partake in this Brasilian delight. So, before I am completely engulfed in this spirit-ual high and can no longer type I will take you through the making of a Caipirinha. Boa saúde!

 

Serves: 1 drink   |   Preparation: 1 minute   |   Cooking: n/a

 

Ingredients:

60ml Cachaça | I use Sagatiba Pura – a good quality one is essential.
½ lime |
1tsp. Brown sugar |

Ice – whole cubes or crushed.

 

How To:

Cut the lime in to slices and with the sugar drop it in to a classic glass or sturdy tumbler. Using a muddler, wooden pestle or the end of a slim rolling pin muddle the lime and sugar so the sugar dissolves in the lime juice. Add ice and then pour in the cachaça. Mix and then thoroughly enjoy.

 

Thai Coriander and Black Pepper Aubergine Curry

Introduction:

A few years ago my wife and I attended a book launch and signing by the renowned Asian food writer and cook Charmaine Solomon. It was in the early days of my culinary enlightenment and an event like this was like looking in to a food kaleidoscope; so many colourful and varied combinations of ingredients to produce exquisite and aesthetically stunning patterns, or dishes. I loved gigs like this and this book launch was no different.

I went on to learn the absorption method for cooking  rice, smelled and tasted a variety of spices, herbs and vegetables, and had a couple of glasses of the old jumping grape. I remember vividly an attendee in the audience asking Charmaine what her views on fusion food were. This was at a time when the melding of different food cultures was becoming a fad. Her reply stuck with me, although in ink (or digitally written) it sounds corny. She said

I think a lot of fusion food becomes confusion food.

It was another profound moment for me, because it got me thinking that clever food, tasty food, great food must be about the harmony of the ingredients in the final dish; not the perception of how clever a cook/ chef can be by using unusual ingredients or techniques. I say this not to be dissuaded from trying unusual flavour pairings or textural combinations; I adore this kind of cooking. What I am trying to allude to is that whatever is delivered on the plate, harmony must always take precedent over a confusion of flavours, or even textures.

As is customary at a book launch and signing we bought a book and had Charmaine sign it. I was like a kid in a sweet shop; overwhelmed and excited to be in the company of such a revered food authority.    When it came to the signing she asked who to make it out to. My wife replied “Nick and Mitali”.

Some get confused with my wife’s name, albeit only 6 letters and it being spelt exactly as it sounds. It goes well to the Mickey Mouse ditty M-i-c-k-e-y…M-i-t-a-l-i…na,na,na,na,na, as comedian Lee Mack once pointed out in a show we were at. Anyway, Charmaine asked for the spelling, and when happy proceeded to write in the book whilst we chatted amongst ourselves. Charmaine looked up and said “there you go”. I looked down smiled and then read her words “To Mitali and Dick” …confusion indeed.

This dish is in honour of Charmaine Solomon (well it is one of hers). Simple, yet wickedly tasty and intense.

 

Serves: 2 to 4   |   Preparation: 45 minutes   |   Cooking: 45 minutes

 

Ingredients:

For the Paste
2 tbsp. Black peppercorns |
1 Fresh bay leaf |
200g Fresh coriander | Roughly chopped, including the stems and roots – warning: wash very well, especially the often sandy roots.
3 cloves Garlic | Roughly chopped.
2 tsp. Sea salt | I use Maldon.
½ lime Juice from a lime |
½ lemon Juice from a lemon |

For the Curry
700g Aubergine (eggplant) | That’s about 2 medium ones.
1 litre or so Grapeseed oil | For deep frying – any other non-fragranced oil such as groundnut or canola can be used.
2 tbsp. Grapeseed oil
3 tbsp. Coriander and black pepper paste | See above.
300ml Coconut milk |
200ml Water |
2 tbsp. Fish sauce |
1 tbsp. Palm sugar | Grated. Palm sugar has a treacle like taste which is excellent in Asian cooking.
½ lime Juice from a lime |
2 Sprigs Fresh coriander | Wash, pick the leaves and chop.

 

 

How To:

For the paste, firstly preheat an oven to 180 deg. C (360 deg. F). Spread the black peppercorns and bay leaf on a baking tray, put in the oven and toast for 5 minutes. Catch the marvellous scent as you pull the tray out of the oven.

In a small mortar and pestle, mince the garlic with the sea salt until a smooth paste is achieved (or do it on a chopping board using the flat of a knife). In a large sturdy mortar and pestle crush the peppercorns and bay leaf until coarsely ground. Now add the roughly chopped coriander and begin to pound. This takes a little work but it’s worth it (this can be done in a food processor but I think the results are better when done manually).  Now add the minced garlic, lemon juice and lime juice and pound until paste like. Put the paste in a clean, sterilised jar and store in the fridge for up to 3 months.

 

Now for the curry: heat the oil in a deep saucepan or wok until it reaches 180 deg. C (360 deg. F) – if you don’t have a thermometer, get one, it will be one of the best purchases you make. Cut the aubergine in to 2 cm cubes. In 3 separate batches deep fry the aubergine cubes until they start to take on a nice golden brown colour. Remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent kitchen paper.

Heat the 2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil in a large frying pan or wok, on a low heat. Add the coriander and pepper paste and cook for about 2-3 minutes. There will be a sensational fragrance given off. Increase the heat to medium, add the coconut milk, stir well, add the water and then bring to the boil. Add the fish sauce and palm sugar, stir, and simmer for about 5 minutes. Then add the aubergine and simmer for a further 10 minutes or so, until the aubergine is tender. Finally, add the lime juice and a half of the chopped coriander, stir and then serve immediately. Use the remaining coriander as garnish.

 

Notes:

  • Goes great with jasmine rice, or as I have served it here, sticky rice (also known as glutinous rice – which actually doesn’t contain gluten).

Nuoc Cham – Dipping Fish Sauce

Introduction:

Lime is the hardest, sharpest and most acidic member of the citrus family. Soy sauce is that rich, savoury, salty seasoning. And sugar is the pure sensation, crystallised pleasure which all people seem to have an innate desire for. The amalgamation of these three taste sensations, which tickles four of the five known receptor types in our mouths (sweet, sour, salt and umami), is the base for the classic Vietnamese dipping sauce and dressing nước chấm. In addition, a blast of chilli and hint of garlic adds heat and flavour to an already outstanding combination. The real secret, however, is to blend such ingredients in the most accurate of proportions, the accuracy of which is determined by your palette…

This version is what sends my palette in to sensory overdrive; it sucks me up in to a whirlwind of oral pleasure, dunks me in to a lagoon of citrus delight and then transports me to a corner of Hanoi whilst punching me with savoury heat, satisfying saltiness and garlicky tartness. Enjoy.

 

Serves: Used as a dip or a dressing for 4 people.   |   Preparation:  5 minutes   |   Cooking: 30 minutes resting

 

Ingredients:

30ml Fish sauce | Ensure that this is real fish sauce and not synthesised. Check the label on the bottle. If it has ‘flavours’ then it is synthesised.
20ml Lime juice | Yield from one medium lime.
25ml Rice wine vinegar |
1 clove Garlic | Crushed.
½ with seeds Bird’s eye chilli | This can be varied depending on your heat desire. ½ bird’s eye chilli adds a lovely warming tingle.
35g White caster sugar |

 

 

How To:

Add the fish sauce, lime juice, rice wine vinegar, garlic, chilli and sugar to a non-reactive* bowl. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Leave to stand for at least half an hour before using; this lets the ingredients become well acquainted.

*A non-reactive bowl is one such as ceramic, glass or stainless steel. Reactive bowls include those made from aluminium, copper and cast iron. When using acidic ingredients, in this case vinegar and lime, the acid in these ingredients can react with untreated surfaces (reactive bowls) and dissolve some of the metal causing the food to take on a metallic taste.

 

Notes:

–        This will keep in the fridge for about 5 days if covered.

–        For a bigger batch just increase the proportions relative to each other. I tend to make less but more often as the freshness of the lime can deteriorate over time.

 

Pickled Sea Trout with Soy and Lime Dressing, and Rocket, Fennel and Asparagus Salad

Introduction:

I think medical science has a lot answer for. Before the proliferation of ‘advice’ such as you should not eat this or that, and if you are to drink coffee then it must be decaffeinated, skinny, soy, de-leaded, de-flavoured and de-coffeed or else you will only live for the next 12 seconds, people had no guilt about eating things like butter, cheese, lard, dripping, eggs etc.. Now we have diets of flaxseed infused quinoa with water reduction, and have been convinced that aspartame (that sweet stuff) is ‘better’ for us than natural sugar. Balderdash, I say. In moderation we should enjoy the food that nature has supplied and not live in guilt. But you know what? You can still eat healthily and have food that packs bags and bags of flavour.

So, today at the fishmongers two beautiful looking sea trout were conversing about the pros and cons of quantum marine physics when one caught my eye, winked and said “come over here me old china plate (mate) – we’re healthy and tasty me and Fred (sic) and we fancy being bedazzled with some crazily great ingredients and then consumed by your lovely wife and yourself”.  Not one to look a gift fish in the mouth, I quickly snapped them up and tootled off home, seriously disturbed at the notion of talking fish. It is only when I go them home did I realise that they had been divulging too much in the old seaweed wine and were pickled before I had even reached for the cider vinegar.

Uttering not another word it was time to see what Fred and his mate (never did catch his name) were all about, and thus came in to existence pickled sea trout with soy, lime and ginger dressing, served with rocket, fennel and asparagus salad – with a bit of a bang.

 

Serves: 2 as a main meal  |   Preparation:  1 hour marinade + 30 minutes preparation   |   Cooking: 10 minutes

 

Ingredients:

2 medium Trout/ sea trout | When filleted gives about 300g each of flesh. Rainbow Trout or Mackerel are excellent substitutes.

For the Pickle Marinade    
250ml Cider vinegar |  
250ml Water |
1 medium Red onion | Sliced.
4 slices Lemon |
6 stalks Coriander | A nice intense flavour in the stalks makes them great for marinating.
40g Caster sugar |
1 tsp. Juniper berries | Fragrant berries that are a distant relative of pine.
½ tsp. Szechuan peppercorns | These impart a magical tingling sensation on the tongue.
1 tbsp. Olive oil |

For the dressing  
1 tbsp. Soy sauce | I use a medium soy sauce – e.g. Kikkoman.
1 tbsp. Water |
1 lime Lime juice |
1 tsp. Fresh ginger | Finely julienned (matchsticks).
½ tsp. Dark Muscovado sugar | A soft brown sugar is good as a substitute.

For the salad
A bunch Rocket | A bunch is a good handful.
2 Baby fennel | Finely sliced.
About 9 or 10 Asparagus tips | Blanched for 1 minute in boiling water and then immediately immersed in iced water to stop them cooking further.
½ lime Lime juice |  
1 tsp. Sea salt |
1 tsp. Szechuan peppercorns |
1 tbsp. Olive oil | Extra virgin for its light and fruity flavour.

 

 

How To:

Start by filleting the trout if you have bought them whole. Ensure that you pin bone the fillets by running your finger along the flesh a few times to feel for them.

To prepare the pickle, add to a pan the cider vinegar, water, sliced red onion, lemon slices, coriander stalks, Szechuan peppercorns, juniper berries and olive oil. Over heat, bring the temperature of the pickle to about 60 deg C (140 deg F) and then pour in to wide rectangular dish, such as a lasagne dish. Place the trout fillets in the pickle flesh side down, and leave to marinate at room temperature for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, for the dressing add to a small bowl the soy sauce, water, lime juice, ginger and sugar and then mix well until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside.

For the salad, place the finely sliced baby fennel in a bowl of iced water for 20 minutes and then drain and pat dry. This will ensure the fennel is beautifully crunchy. To a mortar add the sea salt and Szechuan peppercorns and grind with the pestle until powdered. This is a variation on what is known as Chinese gunpowder – a salty spicy tingle.

To a large bowl add the blanched asparagus tips, rocket, baby fennel, lime juice, Chinese gunpowder and olive oil. Mix well by hand – it’s the best way.

After an hour is up carefully remove the trout fillets from the pickle, pat dry with paper towel and then score the skin diagonally – about 3 or 4 scores per fillet. Place the fish on a well-oiled baking sheet, skin side up. Under a medium to hot grill, grill the fish for 5-7 minutes until the skin is crispy and the fish is cooked.  Personally, I have the grill on high and then place the baking sheet about 5 inches (12.5cm) from the grill. This ensures that I don’t burn the skin and that the balance of cooking the fish and crisping the skin is just about perfect.

To serve, place the salad on a plate and then carefully place a fillet on top of the salad. Spoon some of the soy, lime and ginger dressing over the fish. Just to be ‘chefy’ I only serve one fillet to start with, and then tuck into the second one once the niceties of plating are over.

 

Notes

  • Want something fantastic to add to sandwiches? Once you have removed the trout from the pickle, leave the pickle for another 12 hours, drain and discard the lemon, coriander stalks, peppercorns and juniper berries. You’ll be left with an amazing pickled red onion that still has a little bite. Absolutely fantastic with roast beef sandwiches.

Citrus Fresh Barramundi Tartare

Introduction:

Originally the term tartare described dishes that were covered in breadcrumbs, grilled and then served with a rich and seasoned sauce. More recently tartare has lended itself to describe a sauce or a raw meat dish, such as beef tartare. I have used the term to describe this raw fish dish.

This dish was inspired by the produce first, and the harmony and technique second. The lure of the glistening barramundi at the fish market was too much to resist. Barramundi has a very earthy taste and therefore I wanted an opposing yet harmonious flavour with it. The bite of the citrus counteracts the earthiness of the fish, but also has the freshness that compliments it.

Ultimately, by creating a tartare I have kept the wonderful flavour of the fish whilst (hopefully!) bringing through the other flavours without overpowering the fish itself.

I love to buy the fish whole and clean it at home. For Barramundi I go in at the top by slicing down either side of the backbone, snip out the backbone and then gut it, remove the gills and eyes, and then pin-bone. Then I can stuff the fish and cook it whole, or cut out the individual fillets, as for this recipe.

 

Serves: 2 as a starter   |   Preparation:  30-45 minutes   |   Cooking: None

 

Ingredients:

About 800g 1 baby Barramundi | Fillet and skin the fillets. This yields about 200g of white flesh.
½ peeled Granny Smith apple | Finely diced.
½ tsp. Dijon mustard | A quality French Dijon required here.
3 tsp. White onion | Very finely diced – white onion is sweet and less intrusive than red or brown.
1 tsp. Ginger | Fresh ginger minced to a paste.
1 Lime | Squeezed juice from fresh lime.
A pinch Smoked sea salt | I love the smoky subtlety – I use Maldon.
2 tsp. Fresh dill | Finely chopped.
1 tbsp. Olive oil | Light virgin olive oil that’s not too overpowering.
To taste Black pepper | Freshly cracked.
6 Sorrel leaves | A beautiful intense citrus burst when chewed – more than just a garnish.
A few Baby fennel fronds | Separate in to smaller fronds – use as a garnish.
Pinch Smoked paprika | A nice finish to the dish.

 

 

How To:

Ensure that there is no bone or cartilage in the Barramundi fillet. As we are using raw fish any cartilage will have a chewy texture which will not bode well – and as for bones… Cut the Barramundi fillet in to small cubes making sure that they are not too fine such as to end up as fish paste.

Add to the fish the apple, mustard, white onion, ginger, smoked sea salt and dill. Mix well, but with care, until the mixture is homogenous. Then add the olive oil and black pepper, and stir till mixed in. The ingredients should stick together, but also break away easily. This is really important for the textural feel in the mouth and the look on the plate.

Put the tartare in a food stacker, and compress lightly. Turn out on to a plate and garnish with the sorrel, fennel fronds and smoked paprika.

Notes:

  • The technique in this dish is all about the preparation – I find it’s so important to treat every dice or cut with care and precision, as it will have a profound influence on the texture and overall enjoyment.