Thursday 30 June 2011

Cauliflower Salad with Crisp-Fried Chorizo Sausage and a Warm Lemon Dressing

An easy, tapas-style dish with sensational flavours and textures: shaved raw cauliflower with crumbled fried chorizo, crisp breadcrumbs, a whisper of garlic and a warm lemony olive-oil dressing. If you're on a low-carb, #LCHF or diabetic diet, leave out the crumbs and will still taste wonderful.

Cauliflower Salad with Crisp-Fried Chorizo Sausage and a Warm Lemon Dressing

I really like raw cauliflower when it's young, fresh, snappy and unblemished, and reckon it's an ingredient that deserves to be used more often in salads. This vegetable may have a college education, but it's not naturally gifted in the flavour department, so when you serve it raw it's important to give it a kick in the pants with some bright, zingy ingredients. The inspiration for this recipe comes from my version of Robert Carrier's Cauliflower à la Polonaise (which, gratifyingly, remains among the most-viewed recipes on this blog).

It's not easy making neat, thin through-the-stalk slices of cauliflower - there is only so much 'tree-trunk' available on individual florets. Use a mandolin, or a very sharp paring knife. Chop the pieces that don't have a stalk attached, and hide them under the prettiest looking slices.

An authentic Spanish chorizo or Portuguese chouriço, made with smoked red peppers, will give you the best results. These beauties - available at good delis - are not cheap, but you need only one sausage for four servings, and they're of much better quality than most local versions, which tend to be fatty and somewhat, er, flaccid. If you can't find imported chorizo, add a pinch or two of fresh paprika to colour the dressing.

And if you'd like some heat in this dish, add a pinch or two of red chilli flakes to the pan when you cook the garlic.

Cauliflower Salad with Crisp-Fried Chorizo Sausage and a Warm Lemon Dressing

1 young, perfect cauliflower (or two smaller ones)
1 good chorizo sausage (15-20 cm long)
3 Tbsp (45 ml) sunflower oil or similar light vegetable oil
a small clove of garlic, peeled and finely grated
the juice of a lemon
2 breadrolls (or slices of bread),  a day or two old [optional]
6 Tbsp (90 ml) good olive oil
a big handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley
milled black pepper

Cut the core out of the cauliflower and break off the florets. Using mandolin or sharp knife, cut the florets vertically into thin slices and arrange on a platter. Put a piece of kitchen paper on the counter. Cut off a third of the sausage and set aside. Peel the skin off the rest of the sausage and crumble the flesh (or dice into very small pieces).

Heat the sunflower oil in a frying pan, add the sausage bits and fry, over a moderate heat, for a minute or two, until they're beginning to crisp and darken. Crumble the bread into the frying pan - you need some pea-sized nuggets, as well as smaller crumbs - and fry until crisp. (The crumbs tend to carry on browning after you remove them from the heat, so take them off when they're a pale gold, and watch them like a hawk.)

Tip the contents of the pan into a sieve, drain off all the oil and spread them out on the kitchen paper. Return the pan to the heat and add the garlic and a tablespoon of the olive oil. Gently cook the garlic for a minute or two, making sure not to let it brown. Now add the lemon juice, all in one go, and stir briskly to dislodge the sediment on the bottom of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the remaining olive oil.

Pour the warm dressing over the cauliflower and sprinkle with the fried sausage bits, breadcrumbs and chopped fresh parsley. Finely slice the remaining piece of sausage and arrange the slices on the salad. Grind over plenty of black pepper. You shouldn't need to add any more salt.

Serve immediately.

Serves 4 as a starter or side dish. 

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Tuesday 28 June 2011

Naartjie Mousse in Dark-Chocolate Cups, with Rosemary Flowers

'Naartjie', if you're not from these parts, is a South African word for tangerine. Inextricably associated with rugby matches, this well-loved fruit, with its dizzying citrussy perfume and blazing orange skin, is something eagerly to look forward to in winter. Here's a feather-light mousse served in dark-chocolate cups and garnished with fresh rosemary blossoms (which are there to add an interesting ping!).

Naartjie [Tangerine] Mousse in Chocolate Cups, with Rosemary Flowers
Naartjie Mousse in Dark-Chocolate Cups, with Rosemary Flowers

You can temper the chocolate (see Cook's notes, below) if you'd like a professional glossy finish and a lovely snap, but you'll need a digital cooking thermometer for this. It's really not necessary, though.

I tried three different methods of making chocolate cups, all of which failed or were very sorry-looking specimens, before someone suggested using balloons. "Duh," said one of my children.

Naartjie [Tangerine] Mousse in Chocolate Cups, with Rosemary Flowers
A feather-light mousse in a thin chocolate case.

These chocolate cups are fairly easy to make if you follow the instructions carefully, but do use a good-quality chocolate, not your run-of-the-mill Cadbury's or Nestlé. Also, don't leave the chocolate cups in the fridge for too long, or you'll find it impossible to peel away the balloons.

If you can't find rosemary flowers growing on a bush somewhere, grind up a few fresh or frozen leaves with some caster sugar, using a pestle and mortar, and sprinkle this green dust (see Frozen Rosemary Sugar) over the top of the mousses.

This mousse is based on my recipe for Gin and Lime Mousse

Naartjie Mousse in Dark-Chocolate Cups, with Rosemary Flowers

For the chocolate cups:
2 slabs of good-quality dark chocolate

For the mousse:
5 Tbsp (75 ml) tepid water
1 Tbsp (15 ml) powdered gelatine
3 large free-range eggs
1 cup (250 ml) caster sugar
2 tsp (10 ml) finely grated naartjie zest
½ cup (125 ml) freshly squeezed naartjie juice
2 tsp (10 ml) fresh lemon juice
1 cup (250 ml) single (whipping) cream
a pinch of salt

To top:
shreds of naartjie zest
fresh rosemary flowers, or rosemary 'dust' (see above)

First make the chocolate cups. Place a metal or glass bowl over a pot of simmering water (making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water). Break up the chocolate and put the pieces in the bowl. Allow to melt gently, stirring occasionally. Don't let the chocolate to get too hot: remove it from the heat when there are still a few bits left unmelted.

Cover two plates with baking paper. Tip the chocolate into a deep soup bowl and let it cool for a few minutes. Stir well. Blow up each balloon to about the size of an orange and tie a tight knot. Very lightly spray the outside of each with cooking spray (see Cook's notes, below).  Holding a balloon by the knot, dip it up to its waist in the melted chocolate. Lift the balloon out, turn it upside down and quickly and gently swirl the chocolate to spread it evenly around.

Now place the balloon, upright, on the baking paper. If the chocolate is very liquid, ask someone to hold it upright while the base sets. Repeat with remaining balloons. I suggest you make at least 12, to allow for breakages. Put the plates into the fridge and chill for 10-15 minutes, or until the chocolate is just hard. Now, using a pair of scissors, snip through the necks of the balloons, allow to deflate and gently peel them away. Refrigerate.

Now make the mousse. Put the water into a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatine on the top and set aside to 'sponge' for five minutes. Place in a pan of simmering water - the water should come half-way up the sides of the bowl - and leave until the liquid is clear (about three minutes). Remove the from the heat and cool for a few minutes.

Separate the eggs into two large bowls. To the egg yolks, add the caster sugar. Using a rotary beater or hand-whisk, beat the mixture for a few minutes, or until thick, pale and fluffy. Don't worry if the mixture seems claggy at first: it will soon loosen up. Whisk the naartjie juice and lemon juice into the egg yolk/sugar mixture, a little at a time. Stir in the zest.

Strain the cooled, melted gelatine into the egg mixture and mix well.  Whip the cream to a soft peak and gently fold it into the egg mixture. Place the bowl in the fridge for ten minutes to firm up.

Add a pinch of salt to the egg whites and whisk - using clean, dry beaters - to a firm peak. Using a large metal spoon, briskly stir a dollop of egg white into the egg-yolk/sugar mixture (this serves to 'slacken' the mix). Now, very gently, fold in the remaining egg white. Pile the mousse into the chocolate shells and chill for two hours, or until set.

Just before serving, sprinkle with naartjie zest and a few fresh rosemary flowers.

Serves 8.

Cook's Notes:
  • Don't overbeat the egg whites. If they're too dry, they'll give the mousse a powdery texture. 
  • It's not strictly necessary to spray the balloons with cooking spray, but it will help release them if you've left them in the fridge too long. (Yes, I did!)
  • If you can't find naartjies, use fresh oranges.
  • Be sure to measure the quantity of gelatine exactly. If you have sheet gelatine (which produces a very fine texture), use 6 leaves (weighing 10 grams).
  • There are various ways to temper dark chocolate, but this is the way I've found easiest, using a digital cooking thermometer. Melt two-thirds of the chocolate pieces. Don't allow the chocolate to overheat (it should not go above 45ºC).  Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining pieces. Allow to cool, stirring occasionally, until the temperature of the chocolate reaches 28ºC. Now put the bowl back over the pot of simmering water and gently reheat it 31ºC, stirring. (This doesn't take long, so watch the thermometer like a hawk). That's it. More detailed information about tempering chocolate here.

Naartjie [Tangerine] Mousse in Chocolate Cups, with Rosemary Flowers
Naartjie Mousse in Dark-Chocolate Cups

More naartjie recipes from this blog:

Slow-cooked Moroccan-style Beef and Apricot Stew with Naartjie and Chickpea Couscous

Couscous, Feta & Pea Salad with Naartjie Dressing 

Caramel-Dipped Naartjies, on Kebab Sticks

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Sunday 26 June 2011

Herby Rice Salad with Feta, Walnuts and Dried Pomegranate Seeds

Raw broccoli 'dust' is a feature of this vibrant green rice salad, but I thought I'd leave it out of the title in case it put you off. I admit that this ingredient (which you make by grating the very outer surface of fresh broccoli) does not have a distinctive flavour, but it adds good texture and colour to the salad and is, besides, very good for you.
Herby Rice Salad with Feta, Walnuts and Dried Pomegranate Seeds
Rice salads are rather old fashioned, and I can't remember the last time I saw one on a buffet table, let alone on a restaurant menu. I think these easy-on-the-budget salads need to be resurrected as family food, albeit with a fresh, light and healthy twist.

What's nice about rice salads is - like couscous and pasta salads - you can ring the changes and add anything you please. I've packed this salad with some of the delicious flavours of the Levant: plenty of punchy fresh herbs for zing, walnuts for crunch, feta for creaminess and dried pomegranate seeds for that 'ping!' factor.

The dried pomegranate seeds (or arils) I used are produced by local Cape company In Our Green Garden, and are available at good delicatessans and at some health shops. They have a lovely acidic, fruity bite, an interesting chewy-crisp texture and are packed with healthy antioxidants. I'm really intrigued by this ingredient - a first in South Africa - and look forward to experimenting with it in the future.

If you can't find these where you live, use fresh pomegranate seeds, or chopped dried goji berries, or cranberries - anything chewy, with a sweet-sour bite. I've used plain long-grain rice here, but you could use brown rice, steamed barley, quinoa or a wild-rice mixture if you'd prefer an even more wholesome, chewy salad.

Avoid Basmati or jasmine rice, or any other rice with an assertive flavour.

Note: when I refer to 'a cup' of chopped fresh herbs, I mean that you've loosely packed the cup with the chopped leaves.

Herby Rice Salad with Feta, Walnuts and Dried Pomegranate Seeds

2 cups (500 ml) long-grain white rice
5 cups (1.25 litres) cold water
1 tsp (5 ml) salt
1 cup (250 ml) finely chopped fresh mint
1 cup (250 ml) finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 cup (250 ml) finely chopped fresh rocket
1 cup (250 ml) crumbled feta cheese
½ cup (125 ml) dried pomegranate seeds (see my notes, above)
a large head of fresh broccoli
½ cup (125 ml) walnuts, broken into little pieces

For the dressing:
a small clove of garlic, crushed
¾ cup (190 ml) light olive oil
⅓ cup (80 ml) rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
the juice of a lemon
2 tsp (10 ml) Dijon mustard
a large pinch of caster sugar
salt and milled black pepper

To top
extra olive oil
some extra walnuts and feta

Put the rice, salt and cold water in a pot. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and cook at a lively simmer for 18-20 minutes, or until just cooked through (or follow the packet instructions). Tip the rice into a large colander and rinse under cold water for 30 seconds, to remove excess starch. Allow the rice to cool until lukewarm, fluffing occasionally with a fork to separate the grains.

In the meantime, make the dressing. Put all the ingredients in a jug and whisk together until combined.

Put the rice in a large bowl and add the mint, parsley, rocket, feta and pomegranate seeds. Break the broccoli into large florets and lightly grate the outer surface of each (to a depth of about 2 mm) on the coarse teeth of a cheese grater to create 'dust'. Tip the dust into the salad (keep the rest of the broccoli for another dish).

Pour the dressing over the salad and toss very well to combine. Season generously with salt and milled black pepper. Allow to stand for 30 minutes to an hour to allow the pomegranate seeds to soften slightly, and so the flavours can mingle.

Just before serving, stir in the walnut pieces.

Tip onto a large platter, drizzle with a little more olive oil and scatter over some extra crumbled feta and walnuts.

This salad keeps well in the fridge for up to two days, although the walnuts will soften.

Serves 8 as a side salad. Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Saturday 18 June 2011

Baked Aubergines with Tomato, Scorched Red Pepper, Feta and Mint

A happy marriage between a spicy Turkish Imam Bayildi and a Provençal ratatouille, this deep-flavoured vegetable dish sings with intense, sunny flavours, and is just as good cold as it is pleasantly warm.

Baked Aubergines with Tomato, Scorched Red Pepper, Feta and Mint
Baked Aubergines with Tomato,
 Scorched Red Pepper, Feta and Mint
I meant to add parsley when I made this the first time but, having none to hand, used instead a handful of the fresh mint that flourishes beneath my garden tap. I was instantly smitten by the combination of aubergine [eggplant], feta cheese, tomato and perky little mint leaves. Mint is a such an undervalued herb, I think, especially in savoury dishes.

Serve with plenty of good, fruity olive oil, and tearings of crusty bread for soaking up the tomatoey juices. You can use quartered big tomatoes in this dish - if they are very red, ripe and tasty - but I love the way that intensely flavoured cherry tomatoes stay almost whole in the sauce, and surprise your tongue with little bursts of acidy sweetness.

This dish improves upon standing.  Cover it with clingfilm, and leave it at room temperature overnight. If you're serving it right away, allow it to cool for ten to fifteen minutes so that it's pleasantly warm.

If you'd like to turn this into a sustaining meal, add a tin of drained chickpeas to the mixture before you put it in the oven for the second time.  And if you'd like a bit of crunch, sprinkle with a few handfuls of toasted pine nuts.

It's not strictly necessary to degorge the brinjals before you bake them (today's modern varieties are not as bitter as the brinjals yesteryear) but I have found that this process helps to prevent the slices from absorbing too much oil. Choose firm, tight-skinned brinjals with a dark glossy skin, and not too big.

Baked Aubergines with Tomato, Scorched Red Pepper, Feta and Fresh Mint

3 large aubergines [eggplants]
2 tsp (10 ml) fine salt
2 large ripe red peppers [capsicums], sliced
4 Tbsp (60 ml) olive oil
2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
a large pinch of salt
750 g small, ripe cherry tomatoes (about 5 cups)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped or grated
2 tsp (10 ml) ground cumin
1 tsp (5 ml) red chilli flakes
2 bay leaves
1 tsp (5 ml) sugar
1 cup (250 ml) water or stock
2 Tbsp (30 ml) tomato paste
salt and freshly milled black pepper

To serve:
1 cup (250 ml) of crumbled feta cheese
a handful of chopped fresh mint
an extra dusting of cumin
toasted pine nuts [optional]
olive oil
crusty bread

Heat the oven to 190ºC. Top and tail the aubergines. Cut them in half, lengthways, and then cut each half, lengthways again, into four 'wedges'. Now cut each wedge in half crossways so that you have finger-sized pieces that are roughly equal in size. Place the pieces in a large colander, in layers, and sprinkle with salt. Weigh down with a plate and allow to degorge for 20 minutes.

Start on the tomato sauce in the meantime (see below).

Rinse the aubergine slices under running water to remove excess salt, and pat dry on a tea towel. Arrange the pieces in a deep ceramic dish or roasting tray, drizzle over the remaining olive oil and, using your hands, toss well to coat. Place in the hot oven and bake for about 45 minutes, or until golden brown and just soft.

Put a large frying pan (a wok is ideal) over a high flame. When the pan is very hot, add the red pepper pieces (but no oil).  Cook, tossing all the time, for three to five minutes, or until the pieces are beginning to scorch in places to form small burned 'freckles'.  Pour 2 T (30 ml) of the olive oil into the wok, turn down the heat to medium and add the chopped onion and a pinch of salt. Cook for a few minutes, or until the onion has slightly softened, then add the whole cherry tomatoes, garlic, cumin, chilli flakes, bay leaves and sugar.  Turn down the heat to low and cook gently for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

Now, using a potato masher, gently squash the cherry tomatoes so that they burst and release their juices. Add the water (or stock) and tomato paste, and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Simmer the sauce for half an hour, or until it has reduced and thickened slightly.  Stir the sauce now and then to prevent it sticking on the bottom and add a little extra water or stock if it looks as if it's drying out. Turn the heat off under the sauce while you wait for the aubergines to finish cooking.

Remove the aubergines from the oven after 45 minutes and tip the sauce all over them, shaking gently so that each slice is coated. Return to the oven and cook for a further 20 minutes, or until the aubergine slices are very soft, but still holding together.

Allow the dish to cool for 10 minutes. Crumble the feta cheese over the top and strew with freshly chopped mint.  Drizzle with a little extra olive oil and dust with a little cumin (no more than a teaspoon).

Serve warm, or cold, with crusty bread.

Serves 8 as a starter or side dish. 

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Tuesday 14 June 2011

Chicken, Rice, Egg and Lemon: My Flop-Proof Avgolemono Soup

A delicate, nourishing and deliciously creamy elixir containing not a drop of cream, avgolemono soup is one of my all-time favourites.  This traditional Greek soup is often eaten at Easter; 'avgolemono' means, literally, 'egg-lemon', and is one of a family of similar sauces eaten throughout the eastern Mediterranean region. Because it's thickened and enriched with eggs and fresh lemon juice, it has a tendency to curdle in an instant, but I have found that adding a little cornflour to the mix helps to stabilise the soup and create a beautiful silken texture.
Chicken, Rice, Egg and Lemon: My Flop-Proof Avgolemono Soup
Purists may well throw up their hands in horror, but purists would serve this right away, without reheating it. I need a soup that can be made in bulk and reheated for family meals, however, and have settled on a version that - thanks to the cornflour -  reheats very well on both stovetop and in the microwave oven. If you follow the proportions below exactly, always reheat it exceedingly slowly, and never let it boil, you are assured of a perfect result every time. (When I told my friend Michael, a Greek himself and a purist of note, that I add cornflour to my avgolemono, he barely batted an eyelid, and told me that many a Greek housewife does the same.)

If you're sick, or feeling out of sorts, or just a little downhearted, this is the soup for you. It's like a ray of sunshine in your belly.

I am rather sentimental about this dish, because it's the very first soup I ever made. My mother had a wonderful book called Soup Beautiful Soup by Ursel Norman (published in 1976 and now, sadly, out of print) and its vibrant recipe illustrations (by her husband Derek) really fired my imagination as a young cook.

I like this soup with chopped fresh parsley, but you could add dill, chives, chervil, or any other delicate herb. It's not strictly necessary to add vegetables to the broth - a chicken simmered in water will do - but I think a good stock adds a great depth of flavour.

Chicken, Rice, Egg and Lemon: My Flop-Proof Avgolemono Soup

For the stock and soup:
one whole free-range chicken, trimmed of excess fat
two and a half litres of cold water
a few fresh parsley stalks
an onion, peeled and halved
2 carrots, scraped and roughly chopped
a bay leaf
a large sprig of thyme
six peppercorns
a thin slice of lemon, peel on
a big pinch of salt

3/4 cup (190 ml) plain Tastic rice

For the egg sauce:
3 large free-range eggs
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons (30 ml) cornflour [cornstarch]
1 tsp (5 ml) finely grated lemon zest
the juice of a large lemon

To finish:
finely chopped fresh parsley

Cover the chicken with the cold water, add the remaining stock ingredients (excluding the rice) and bring to the boil. Simmer for an hour and ten minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the stock and chicken to cool slightly. (Or you can cool them overnight.)

Skim off any fat, strain the stock into a big bowl and discard the flavourings. Take the flesh off the chicken,  pull it into flakes and shreds with your fingers and set aside.

Measure out exactly two litres of the stock, strain it again back into the pot and add the uncooked rice. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes, or until rice is cooked.

In the meantime, beat together in a large bowl the whole eggs, yolks, cornflour, lemon zest and lemon juice. Beat until well combined and slightly frothy. Set aside.

Tip the reserved chicken pieces into the simmering broth and allow to heat through for five minutes. Turn the heat under the soup to its very lowest setting. To the bowl containing the eggs, add four to five ladles of hot chicken broth - one at a time, and gradually -  whisking gently all the time. Now pour the egg mixture back into the broth and stir well over an exceedingly gentle heat. Don't allow to boil, or the soup may curdle. Season generously with salt and pepper (a pinch of white pepper is very nice) and stir in a handful of freshly chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

Serves 6  Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Sunday 12 June 2011

Old-Fashioned Pinwheel Sandwiches with Smoked Salmon, Crème Fraîche & Horseradish

A splendid way to stretch a small amount of top-quality smoked salmon or trout between many people. I'm a devoted fan of delicate old-fashioned sandwiches - read my thoughts about the art of making dainty sandwiches here - and I think it's high time we turfed those gut-busting ciabatta extravaganzas, with their marinated peppers and slices of Parma ham, into the bin and turned our attention to the little tongue-whisperers Grandma used to make.

The biggest problem you might encounter when making these sandwiches is finding a whole - that is, unsliced - loaf of bread from which to make them. I visited three large supermarkets and two well-stocked garage convenience stores on the day I wanted to make these, and couldn't find a single whole loaf of anything remotely square on the outside and soft-'n-fluffy within. Every single run-of-the-mill white or brown loaf on every shelf was pre-sliced and swaddled in plastic, and all the other whole breads were either the wrong shape, or stuffed to the gunwhales with sundried tomatoes, onions, olives, artichokes, cheese, small furry kittens, and so on.

Eventually I turned to the all-knowing Twitter, which advised me to try my local 7/11 store. I did, and there I found square loaves of ordinary white and brown bread, unplasticked, unsliced, and emitting innocent little puffs of warm, yeasty steam.

I felt like falling to my knees. (And I had a twinge of sadness that my kids will probably never experience the delight of hollowing out a loaf of warm 'Government' bread.  I can still feel the stab of pain in my larynx as I swallowed those giant squished-up nuggets of doughy bread, which we kids rolled in white sugar before we crammed them into our mouths.  This was not allowed, of course, but we did it anyway, just as we nicked condensed milk off the pantry shelf and glugged it deliriously, straight from the tin.)

Cutting a good, straight, evenly thick horizontal slice from a loaf takes some practice. If your bread is hot, allow it to cool completely. If possible, use a loaf of day-old bread, which will be easier to slice. Use a very sharp serrated knife, and quick, light sawing motions.

Use horseradish sparingly, as it's a very strong flavour.  I love these sandwiches with dill, but you can leave it out if you're not a fan. Parsley or very finely snipped chives are good substitutes.

Old-Fashioned Pinwheel Sandwiches with Smoked Salmon, Crème Fraîche & Horseradish 

an unsliced square loaf of fresh white or brown bread
softened butter
a pack of  smoked salmon, or Franschhoek trout
a tub of crème fraîche
a little freshly grated horseradish, or some creamed horseradish sauce
the finely grated zest of a lemon
finely chopped fresh dill (or parsley or chives; see my notes above)
salt and freshly milled black pepper

Place the loaf of bread on a board or countertop. Using a very sharp serrated knife, cut off the entire top crust of the loaf. Now cut the bread, horizontally - that is, lengthways -  into even slices about 7 mm thick. It's easiest to do this if you place your palm firmly on the top of the loaf of bread and cut from right to left (or the other way, if you're left-handed), using very quick but gentle and incremental sawing motions. Take your time about this, and stop every now and then to inspect the far side of the loaf to make sure you're cutting an even slice. Lay each slice on a chopping board and cover the lot with a clean tea towel.

Old-Fashioned Pinwheel Sandwiches with Smoked Salmon, Crème Fraîche & HorseradishIn a small bowl, beat the crème fraîche until quite smooth. Stir in the horseradish or horseradish cream sauce (to taste), and the lemon zest. Season with a little salt and black pepper.

Put a large piece of clingfilm on your countertop.  Take the first slice of bread and place it on top of the clingfilm. Spread lightly with the softened butter and cover with a single layer of smoked salmon. Thinly spread a little of the crème fraîche mixture over the top of the salmon. Sprinkle with the finely chopped dill.  Grind over a little more black pepper.

Now turn the bread slice so that its thinnest end is facing you. Pick up the edge of the clingfilm and, holding it firmly with two hands, use it to coax the slice into a roll, as you would if you were rolling sushi. Roll the slice up neatly and firmly (but without squashing the bread). Twist the ends of the clingfilm to make a loose cylindrical 'Christmas cracker' and place the parcel in the fridge. Repeat this process with the remaining slices.

Chill the rolls for 10 minutes (or for up to 25  minutes; any longer than that and they'll stiffen).  Now, using an exceedingly sharp knife, cut each roll, straight through the plastic, into five or six thin slices.  Peel away the plastic and arrange the sandwiches on plates. If you're aiming for authenticity, put them on a bed of very finely shredded iceberg lettuce.

Serve immediately.

Makes about 30 pinwheel sandwiches. Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Friday 10 June 2011

Salmon, Rice, Egg & Dill Pie with Lemon-Caper Butter

This homely pie is similar to traditional Russian coulibiac or kulebyáka, but I like to think of it as a kedgeree-in-pastry, as it has all the elements that make that famous Anglo-Indian dish so tempting: soft flakes of fish, hard-boiled eggs, creamy rice and plenty of fresh parsley and dill, with a tingle of black and cayenne pepper.

Salmon, Rice, Egg & Dill Pie with Lemon-Caper Butter
Salmon, Rice, Egg & Dill Pie with Lemon-Caper Butter
Salmon, Rice, Egg & Dill Pie with Lemon-Caper Butter
Cut the pastry into a fish shape!
This dish is quite easy to make using shop-bought puff pastry, although I have to admit that the fish shape is a bit fiddly to make. If you're put off by the idea of such cheffiness and frippery, make the pie in a simple rectangle.

The sauce of melted butter and capers is wickedly indulgent (I am enslaved by melted butter), but you can leave it out if you're watching calories: instead, make a cool sauce of equal parts good mayonnaise and thick Greek yoghurt, plus chopped capers and lemon zest and juice.

Salmon, Rice, Egg & Dill Pie with Lemon-Caper Butter
I used lightly smoked local trout  (see my previous recipe for Potted Trout) but you can use a fresh fillet of salmon, or smoked salmon or trout.   Or you could use your favourite smoked fish, such as lovely local smoked snoek, as I do in my favourite version of kedgeree.

Important note: I use still-raw lightly smoked trout that needs three to four minutes' poaching time. If you're using ordinary salmon, you will need to poach it for a little longer; that is, until it's just soft and beginning to flake, but still quite rare within. If you're using thin slices of smoked salmon or proper smoked trout, or smoked snoek, there's no need to poach the fish first.

Shop-bought puff pastry works very well, but do buy the best you can afford (I always use Woolworths pastry, because it's flop-proof, light and flaky, and doesn't taste like margarine, solidified whale fat, or any other such horrors).

Salmon, Rice, Egg & Dill Pie with Lemon-Caper Butter

¾ cup (190 ml) uncooked rice (plain Tastic, or basmati if you want a bit of perfume)
¾ cup (190 ml) cream
2 Tbsp (30 ml) soft butter
4 large free-range eggs (or five; see recipe)
350 g lightly smoked trout, or a fillet of fresh salmon
a thin slice of lemon, peel on
two rolls of good puff pastry, thawed
a handful (about a third of a cup; 80 ml) of chopped fresh dill
a handful of chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp (5 ml) cayenne pepper, to taste
the zest and juice of a large lemon
salt and freshly milled black pepper
a beaten egg, for brushing

For the sauce: 
¾ cup (190 ml) salted butter
a handful of capers, well drained
the juice of a lemon

To serve:
lemon wedges
sprigs of fresh dill

Put the rice in a pot and cover with cold water to a depth of two fingers (or follow the instructions on the packet). Add a pinch of salt and boil over a moderate heat until  just tender. Drain the rice very well, return it to the pot and stir in the cream and butter. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Put the eggs in a saucepan, cover with cold water and bring quickly to the boil.  Turn down the heat and simmer for six or seven minutes, or until they are hard enough to peel easily, and the yolks are just set. (It's a good idea to cook an extra egg, so you can open it to check for doneness.)  Remove the eggs from the heat, place the pan in the sink and douse in cold water. Let the tap trickle into the pot for a few minutes; this will prevent a dark ring from forming around the yolks. (Thank you Michael Olivier for this tip.)

Put the trout or salmon in a pan, cover with very hot water, add the lemon slice and poach for 3-4 minutes, or longer (see my notes above). Remove the fish with a slotted spoon and allow to cool slightly on a plate.

Heat the oven to 190ºC.

Now prepare the pastry. Place two large sheets of clingfilm, slightly overlapping, on your kitchen counter. Put one sheet of puff pastry on top. Lightly roll out the pastry. Using a sharp knife, cut out a large fish shape (see photograph below), but don't cut too close to the edges of the pastry sheet (this is the base of the pie, and is slightly smaller than the top sheet). Lay out another two sheets of clingfilm and on them roll out the second sheet of pastry.  Now place the first, fish-shaped pastry (carefully pick it up by grasping the long edges of the clingfilm) on top of the second sheet.  Cut out another fish shape, using the first as a guide, but make this second shape about 10 mm bigger on all sides. (If this doesn't make sense to you, send me an email!). Set both sheets aside.

Salmon, Rice, Egg & Dill Pie with Lemon-Caper Butter

Stir the dill, parsley, cayenne pepper, lemon zest and lemon juice into the cooled rice and season, if necessary, with more salt and black pepper.  Take three-quarters of this mixture and spread it over the smaller sheet of pastry, leaving a gap of 10 mm all around the edges. Remove the skin, if any, from the fish, pull it into large flakes and arrange it on top of the rice. Peel the eggs, cut them into sixths and arrange them neatly in between the fish pieces. Sprinkle with a little extra lemon juice, salt and black pepper, plus more cayenne pepper, to taste. Now lightly pat the remaining quarter portion of rice on top, to fill any gaps between the egg and salmon pieces. Scatter with a little more finely chopped parsley and dill, and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Using a pastry brush, brush beaten egg all the way round the edges of the pastry. Lift the bigger piece of pastry and place it carefully on top. You may need to stretch this top layer slightly. Seal the edges, either by pressing them together firmly, or by folding up the lower edge in small pleats. Make a decorative border by pressing the tines of a fork into the pastry's edges. Make a big eye and mouth for your pastry using the off-cuts of pastry, and use the rim of a small shot-glass to create a fish-scale effect. With the edge of a metal spatula, mark the tail of the fish. Poke a few small slits in the pastry, using the tip of a sharp knife, so steam can escape. Brush beaten egg all over the pie.

Using two metal spatulas (you may need an extra pair of hands here) gently slide the pie onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Bake at 190ºC for 20-30 minutes, or until the pie is puffed, golden brown and flaky.

In the meantime, make the sauce. Melt the butter and stir in the lemon juice and capers.

Serve piping hot, with lemon wedges and sprigs of fresh dill, and pass the lemon-caper butter around in a small jug.

Serves 8. 

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Wednesday 8 June 2011

Old-fashioned Potted Salmon (or Trout) with Mace and Cayenne Pepper

Old-fashioned Potted Salmon (or Trout) with Mace and Cayenne Pepper
Old-fashioned Potted Salmon (or Trout) with Mace and Cayenne Pepper
One of the only disadvantages, I reckon, of living on the southern tip of Africa is that salmon don't live here too. We can buy salmon flown in from northern waters, but it's eye-poppingly expensive and often not that good, unless it's very wild or very fresh.

I'd rather spend my pennies on the high-quality trout that's now quite extensively (and substainably) farmed in South Africa.

I've mentioned Franschhoek company Three Streams's superlative trout before on this blog (here, here and here) and I've used it instead of salmon in this very old recipe. This will, of course, work perfectly well with ordinary salmon.

In this recipe, I've used a whole fillet of still-raw, delicately smoked trout (available, in South Africa, at Woolworths). Because it's already lightly smoked, it takes only five minutes to poach, but if you're using ordinary salmon, you may need to leave it in its cooking liquor a little longer.

This recipe (see original, left) dates from 1795, but is doubtless a lot older, as English cookery has a long tradition of potting meats and fish.

The recipe comes from a book called The New Experienced English Housekeeper  by Mrs Sarah Martin, which is available online at Google Books. In her admirably clear and simple instructions, Mrs Martin calls for an ingredient called 'chyan'. This had me scratching my head for many hours, and even a concerted search of Google didn't throw out the answer. After hunting through some other recipe books of the period, I eventually realised that she meant 'cheyenne' pepper: in other words, cayenne pepper.

At the end of this post you will find a slightly more complicated recipe for potted salmon - one I haven't yet tried -  which comes from the The Experienced English Housekeeper by Elizabeth Raffald (1786).

I was a little doubtful at first that smoked fish would taste good without a hint of lemon or any other sort of acidity, but once I'd tried this dish, I was quite smitten by the combination of lightly smoked fish, ground mace and cayenne. This is very good spread on slices of very hot buttered toast. (Have I mentioned that you can make excellent hot, golden toast using a sandwich press and thinly cut day-old baguettes?)

Easy-Peasy-Lemon-Squeezy Pea and Gammon Soup with a Cool Mint ToppingYou can clarify the butter, if you have the time and energy, but this really isn't necessary if you're going to serve this within a day or two.

Mace (the hard filigreed case that encloses a whole nutmeg) isn't a spice that's seen in supermarkets these days, but it's well worth hunting down. I buy it whole from Indian spice shops and grind it to a powder using a mortar and pestle. If you can't find mace, very finely grated whole nutmeg will do, but use it sparingly.

I can't give you exact ingredients here: my advice is to add the spices a pinch at a time, and taste the mixture as you go along. You probably won't need to add extra salt to this dish, as I've specified salted butter. If you must use pepper (which I don't think is necessary), use white pepper.

Old-fashioned Potted Salmon (or Trout) with Mace and Cayenne Pepper

To poach the fish:
a large fillet of lightly smoked trout, or a nice fillet of raw salmon
2 bay leaves
a thin slice of lemon, peel on
6 black peppercorns, lightly crushed
a large sprig of fresh thyme
a pinch of salt
hot water to cover

To pot:
salted butter
freshly ground mace
cayenne pepper
bay leaves and sprigs of fresh thyme

Pull the skin off the fish and remove any bones.  Put the fish into a large pan and add the bay leaves, lemon slice, peppercorns and thyme. Add just enough hot water to the pan to cover the fish. Turn the heat on under the pan and poach very gently, in barely bubbling water, for 5 to 10 minutes (see my notes above), or until the fish is just cooked through, and beginning to fall into tender flakes on the outside. Don't allow the water to boil vigorously. Remove the fish from the liquid using a slotted spoon, cover and set aside to cool for a few minutes. Don't discard the cooking liquid.

Melt a slab (about 100 g, or one-fifth of a block of butter) in  your microwave oven, or in a small pan set over a medium heat.

Using your fingers, pull the warm salmon into big flakes and place on a plate or chopping board. Add the mace and cayenne pepper, one pinch at a time, and mix gently together using your fingertips. Taste as you go along. When the fish is seasoned to your taste, pack it lightly into a flattish dish (or several small ramekins) and moisten with a teaspoon or two of the liquid in which you cooked the fish. Pour the warm melted butter over the fish flakes, prodding the mixture gently with a fork so that the butter fills all the gaps. The butter layer should cover the fish to a depth of one millimetre. Press a fresh thyme sprig and bay leaf onto the top of each dish, and sprinkle with extra cayenne pepper. Refrigerate.

Take the dish out of the fridge an hour or so before you serve it, so the mixture can be easily spread.

Serve with hot buttered toast and a scattering of capers.

From The Experienced English Housekeeper by  Elizabeth Raffald (1786)

 Image above from The Experienced English Housekeeper by Elizabeth Raffald (1786). Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Wednesday 1 June 2011

Easy-Peasy-Lemon-Squeezy Pea and Gammon Soup with a Cool Mint Topping

This is my lighter, brighter version of classic pea and ham soup, and it's made quickly, with minimal boiling, in order to preserve some of the fresh colour of the peas.  Because I love the contrast of hot and cold, and to add sparkle to the soup, I've topped it with a cool mixture of thick Greek yoghurt, mint, lemon and Tabasco sauce, and a ripple of fruity olive oil.

Easy-Peasy-Lemon-Squeezy Pea and Gammon Soup
 with a Cool Mint Topping
Frozen peas are essential for this dish (I never use anything other than frozen peas, because their taste and texture is so superior to raw peas that've been sitting on a supermarket shelf for days).

Do try to find white pepper to use in this soup: it makes a small but appreciable difference to the flavour of both soup and topping.  If you have chicken or vegetable stock to hand, use that, but boiling water will do fine. (And the world won't end if you add a good stock cube to your water.)

The cornflour in the soup is there is help bind everything together. The first time I made this soup, it kept separating, but the addition of cornflour in the next batch sorted out that problem. With peas cooked for such a short time, you won't achieve a perfectly smooth purée, but I like a soup with a bit of texture.

Easy-Peasy-Lemon-Squeezy Pea & Gammon Soup with a Cool Mint Topping

1 kg frozen baby peas
1.5 litres (6 cups) boiling water or stock
4 lean gammon steaks (about 400 g)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
the juice of a lemon
a large onion, finely chopped or grated
a clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp (15 ml) cornflour
an extra squeeze of lemon juice
5 Tbsp (75 ml) cream
salt and white pepper

For the topping:
1 cup (250 ml) thick natural Greek yoghurt
2 tsp (10 ml) finely grated lemon zest
the juice of half a lemon
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) Tabasco sauce
a handful of fresh mint leaves, finely shredded
salt and white pepper
fruity olive oil

First make the topping. Put the yoghurt, lemon zest and juice, Tabasco sauce and mint into a bowl and stir well. Season with salt and a little white pepper. Refrigerate.

Put the frozen peas in a large bowl and pour half the boiling water or stock over them. Stir gently to break up any icy lumps and set aside.

Cut the gammon steaks into small cubes. Heat the oil in a large pot and add the gammon. Fry over a high flame, stirring often, until the cubes are nicely browned. Now add the juice of a lemon (stand back, as there will be spitting) and stir vigorously to loosen the brown sediment on the bottom of the pan. Cook for a further 30 seconds. Remove the gammon with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the onion to the pan (you may need to add a little more olive oil) and fry gently for a few minutes, or until soft and translucent. Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute.

Add the now-defrosted peas and water to the pot, along with the remaining boiling water or stock and a big pinch of salt. Bring rapidly to the boil and cook for a few minutes, or until the peas are tender but still bright green. Remove a soup-ladle full of peas, drain and set aside to use as a topping. Tip the soup into a liquidiser or food processor fitted with a metal blade, along with the tablespoon of cornflour, and whizz until smooth. (Or use a stick blender.)

Return the soup to the pot along with the gammon cubes (but set aside a few cubes to use as a topping). Reheat, using a spoon to skim off any foam on the surface. Simmer for four minutes; any longer and the soup will begin to lose its colour. Turn off the heat and stir in the cream and big squeeze of lemon juice. Don't reheat the soup at this point, as it may curdle. Season with more salt, if necessary, and a pinch of white pepper.

Serve piping hot, topped with a big blob of minty yoghurt, the reserved peas and gammon cubes, and a generous swirl of fruity olive oil.

Serves 6.

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