Sunday, December 29, 2013

How to Make Gravlax & Cured Salmon Galettes

Cured Salmon Galettes 1

'Tis The Season, and don't we all know it.  The festive season can be a wonderful time of the year - a time to spend time with family and friends, share some celebratory food (and a drink or two), but it can also be a highly stressful time of year.  Many of us take on too much ... trying to keep up with busy jobs, be the perfect hostess, stay on top of children's end of year activities, get the Christmas shopping done without blowing the budget ... the list goes on and on.  Not to mention all the over-indulgence on so many levels.

This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs we are all about food and drink for holiday parties and entertaining, and thankfully our current guest chef, Donna Hay, has plenty of great ideas to make entertaining for the festive season a breeze.

These little salmon pastries, adapted from a recipe from the Donna Hay website are perfect for a holiday party.  They are elegant, delectable and ridiculously easy to put together.  The original recipe uses smoked salmon, and that would certainly be delicious, but since gravlax is also incredibly easy to make and a great stand-by ingredient to have on hand at this time of year, I thought I would also share my recipe.

Wishing you all much joy for what remains of the festive season, and a happy and fulfilling year ahead.

Gravlax Recipe
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

45g (1-1/2 oz) sugar
60g (2 oz) brown sugar
60g (2oz) coarse sea salt
6 to 8 juniper berries
ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 tablespoons gin, optional
600-700g piece of salmon fillet, skin on, pin bones removed

In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, brown sugar and salt, combining well.

Lay a large sheet of tinfoil (at least twice the length of the piece of salmon) on your kitchen bench, and sprinkle half the sugar/salt mixture over the centre of the foil.  Place the salmon on top of the sugar/salt mixture, and cover the fish completely with the remaining mixture.  Sprinkle juniper berries, ground pepper and fennel seeds over the top, and drizzle over the gin if using.

Gravlax 1

Note:  You could also at this time top the salmon with any of the following optional ingredients:  a fennel bulb, thinly sliced;  a large bunch of chopped dill;  zest of a lemon or 1/2 of a chopped preserved lemon;  vodka instead of gin - I imagine even tequila would work well.

Wrap the tinfoil closely around the fish and seal all edges well.

Place the package in a dish, just big enough to hold it, and weight it down.  Refrigerate for two to three days, turning it over each day.

Fish will be ready when it feels firm to touch.

Gravlax 2

Slice thinly and serve with buckwheat blini, bagels, in salads, as an addition to an appetiser platter, or atop these little galettes - even tossed through pasta is great.

Cured Salmon Galettes 2

Cured Salmon Galettes Recipe
Adapted from recipe by Donna Hay
Makes 8
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

1x sheet ready rolled flaky pastry
1x egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley
pinch dried tarragon flakes
1 heaped teaspoon capers
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
8x slices of gravlax
handful of rocket leaves

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C (390 degrees F).

Cut the pastry square into four equal squares, then cut each square in half - you will end up with four rectangles.  Brush the pastry rectangles with the beaten egg, and prick each one in several places with a fork.  Place the prepared pastry on a parchment lined baking sheet, and bake in the preheated oven until puffed and golden - about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the sour cream, vinegar, parsley, tarragon, capers, salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust any of the flavourings as necessary.

Remove the baked pastry from the oven.   Top each one with a dollop of the sour cream mixture, a slice of salmon and a rocket leaf.

Serve immediately or at room temperature.

This is a great appetiser to serve for any festive occasion, or would also make a delicious, light lunch served with a fresh salad.

If you would like to get to know Donna Hay a little better, and to see all the wonderful festive fare my friends have been cooking up, then do go visit I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links.

IHCC Donna Hay Badge resized

I'll also be sharing this post this week at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by the lovely Michelle at Ms. enPlace, Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth at Beth Fish Reads, and at Foodie Fridays hosted by Designs by Gollam.

See Ya in The Gumbo Badge     Weekend Cooking Badge     Foodie Friday Badge

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Round-up

This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs is our December Pot Luck week - an opportunity to choose any recipe we like from our current chef (the fabulous Donna Hay), or from any one of previous eight IHCC chefs.

Turns out, time has been a bit precious for me this week, and cooking, photographing and writing about a new dish just didn't happen.  So instead I thought I would share with you a round-up of my favourite dishes from each of our chefs.

My very first post for I Heart Cooking Clubs was just as the group was winding up a six month spell with Nigella Lawson, and I shared these Chocolate Caramel Crispy Cakes ...

Chocolate Caramel Crispy Cakes 3

Despite the fact that these might seem like "kiddy" food, I can promise you that grown-ups love them too, and to this day this is one of the most viewed posts on the blog.  On a recent trip to San Francisco I made a batch of these for my 4 year old granddaughter - poor wee dot only got one of them, and the adults downed the rest!

This dish of Sauteed Chicken with Green Olives and White Wine from Mark Bittman is probably my "go-to" chicken dish.

Chicken with Green Olives 2

I said it back then, and I'll say it again - this is probably the best chicken dish I've ever made.  It has great flavour, colour and texture;  is very easy to put together from ingredients you most likely already have on hand;  requires minimal preparation;  and would be a great dish to feed a crowd.

I loved so many of the dishes I made with Giada de Laurentiis, but these Espresso Caramel Bars were a real favourite.

Espresso Caramel Bars 1, cropped

These were pretty easy for even a reluctant baker to make - crispy, biscuit crumb base;  ooey, gooey, slightly chewy caramel centre;  fudgy, espresso, chocolate topping;  finished with a sprinkling of smoked sea salt ... I defy anyone to stop at just one!

For a variety of reasons, I didn't get to cook along with Jamie Oliver too often ...

Cannellini Bean, Chorizo & Tomato Salad

... but this warm Salad of Cannelini Beans, Chorizo & Tomatoes is one that I've returned to over and over again.

Of all the chefs we've cooked with at IHCC, one of my absolute favourites (second only to Yotam Ottolenghi) was Tessa Kiros.  I loved so many of Tessa's dishes that picking a favourite was quite a challenge ...

Roasted Red Pepper Soup 1

but I think this Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Olives, Lemon & Yoghurt might be it.  This was one of the first recipes I bookmarked when I bought her book Falling Cloudberries, and with its thick, velvety texture, and bold, robust flavour it certainly didn't disappoint.  Lots of opportunity here to change up the toppings on this one too.

I didn't get a chance to cook too many dishes with Rick Bayless, but I know he was a big favourite with many of our other participants.

Lemon-Lime Sorbet 4

Choosing a favourite from the dishes I did make was easy ... it was hands down this Nieve de Limon (Lemon-Lime Sorbet).  I couldn't tell you how often I've made this now.  The bright, tangy citrus flavours are a refreshing treat any time of year.

Madhur Jaffrey has long been a favourite chef of mine, and a spell of cooking with her gave me the opportunity to dip into some of those cookbooks which had been gathering dust on the shelf for quite a while.  For many of our participants, exploring Indian food was a totally new experience, and I know that Madhur proved to be very popular with so many in the group.

Prawns in a Dark Sauce 2

This dish of Prawns in a Dark Sauce was simple to make, and the flavours rekindled so many childhood memories for me that I've since revisited this dish several times.

Those of you who visit here regularly won't be surprised to learn that my absolute favourite chef was Yotam Ottolenghi - I don't think I've cooked an Ottolenghi dish that I didn't like, and I find his food truly inspirational.  Trying to choose a "favourite" from the Ottolenghi dishes I've made is virtually impossible - I've loved every single one of them ...

Shakshuka 3

... but I figured this Shakshuka should take first place, since it is by far one of the most frequently cooked dishes in my kitchen.

And, lastly, we come to our current chef - Donna Hay.  Our journey with Donna is still young, but this dish of Green Tea Soba Noodles with Soy-Roasted Salmon and Broad Bean & Radish Salad is already a favourite.

Green Tea Soba Noodles with Soy-Roasted Salmon and Broad Bean & Radish Salad 3

Quick, simple, healthy and absolutely delicious - this is definitely going to be a perennial favourite in my house.

If you would like to get to know Donna Hay a little better, and to see all the wonderful Pot Luck dishes my friends have come up with, then do go visit I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links.

IHCC Donna Hay Badge resized

Lastly, I want to thank each and every one of you for your visits, lovely comments, and most of all your friendship over the year, and I wish you and all your loved ones a very happy Christmas.  xo

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Salted Caramel Coconut Macaroons

Salted Caramel Coconut Macaroons 1

When my brother and I were kids, a popular summer outing for our family was a day trip to Hamilton for a picnic at the lake.  Although the drive between Auckland and Hamilton these days is pretty much motorway all the way, and probably takes about 45 minutes, back in the day it was mostly a single lane (in each direction) highway and the journey took the best part of an hour and a half.

Now any of you who are parents will know that 90 minutes in a hot car (there was no air-con in cars back then) with a couple of kids in the back (who are either intent on murdering each other before reaching the destination, or driving you insane with the incessant "are we nearly there yet?" whine), is no fun ... no fun at all.

As luck would have it though, round about the half-way point in the journey (that stage where tempers are running so high, I suspect that if my brother and I hadn't killed each other first, one of our parents might have been tempted to finish the job), Shands Bakery would appear on the horizon.  Without hesitation, Dad would swerve off the highway into the bakery car park, whereupon we would all pile out of the car and collect fresh bread for the picnic and a large bag of coconut macaroons.

Now we would never normally be allowed to indulge in such a treat so close to lunchtime, but parents are wise creatures ... those coconut macaroons were so moist and chewy, and so big (each one about the size of a small child's fist) that one of those babies could be guaranteed to keep an annoying child quiet for the remaining 45 minutes of the journey!!  Of course, there were always a couple kept in reserve for the return journey.

In adult years, I often think of those macaroons (not to be confused with macarons) - little mounds of egg white, coconut and sugar, baked until golden on the outside but still moist and chewy on the inside - and thought I'd like to make them.  So when our theme this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs turned out to be "Fill The Tins" (baked treats to fill the tins for the holiday season or to give as gifts), I was reminded of those macaroons and felt sure that Donna Hay would be able to help me out.  In Fast, Fresh, Simple I came across Donna's recipe for Coconut Macroon Ice Cream Sandwiches.  The macaroons sounded like they would fit the bill, but filled with ice cream probably wasn't going to work in the biscuit tin!  That was when I got to thinking that a salted caramel filling would be perfect with the chewy coconut biscuits, and would make a delightfully indulgent treat.

I hope you enjoy these as a treat to spoil yourself with a decent cup of coffee, or as gift to spoil someone else.

Salted Caramel Coconut Macaroons 4

Salted Caramel Coconut Macaroons Recipe
Adapted from a recipe by Donna Hay
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

For coconut macaroons:
2 egg whites
2 cups dessicated coconut
1/2 cup sugar

For salted caramel filling:
1/2 cup sugar
70g (2-1/2 oz) butter
1/4 cup cream
generous pinch flaky sea salt

Begin by making the macaroons.  Preheat oven to 160 degrees C (320 degrees F).

In a medium sized bowl, very lightly whisk egg whites just until slightly "loosened".  Stir in coconut and sugar, and mix well until everything is thoroughly combined.

Scoop up heaped tablespoons of the mixture, and using your hands press the mixture together into a small disc.  Place on a parchment lined baking sheet, and once all the mixture has been used, place baking sheet in the preheated oven.

Bake until golden, about 10-12 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack before filling.

Now to make the filling.  Place sugar in a medium-sized heavy bottomed saucepan, set over medium heat, and without stirring allow the sugar to dissolve and take on a caramel colour.  Remove from the heat and carefully stir in the cream - it will bubble up vigorously, so be careful.  Return pan to the heat and keep stirring for about a minute, until completely smooth.  Add the butter and salt, turn off heat, and keep stirring for another minute again until completely smooth and butter is fully integrated.  Pour into a small bowl or jug and refrigerate until cold and spreadable.

To assemble, spread a spoonful of caramel on the underside of one macaroon, and press another macaroon on top.

If you would like to get to know Donna Hay a little better, and to see all the wonderful treats my friends have been filling the tins with, then do go visit I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links.

IHCC Donna Hay Badge resized

I will also be submitting this post to Sweet New Zealand.  Inspired by Alessandra Zecchini, Sweet New Zealand is an event for all Kiwi bloggers (whether living at home or abroad), or all foreign bloggers living in New Zealand, to link up their sweet treats.  This month, Sweet New Zealand is hosted by Alice at Alice in Bakingland.

Sweet New Zealand Badge A

I'll also be sharing this post this week at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by the lovely Michelle at Ms. enPlace, Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth at Beth Fish Reads, at Cook Your Books hosted by Joyce at Kitchen Flavours, and at Foodie Fridays hosted by Designs by Gollam.

See Ya in The Gumbo Badge     Weekend Cooking Badge     Cook Your Books Badge     Foodie Friday Badge

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Zucchini, Mint & Haloumi Salad

Zucchini, Mint & Haloumi Salad

This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs, we're conjuring up Donna Hay dishes which are "Fast & Fabulous" - dishes which can be made in 30 minutes or less.

This dish definitely fits the bill on both fronts. It could not have been faster - about 20 minutes all up, and that included a visit to the garden to pick a lemon, a few nasturtium flowers and a bunch of fresh mint.  I'd like to say I picked the zucchini as well, but although my zucchini plant is flowering and producing they were not quite ready for picking.

It was also definitely fabulous on many levels ... great textural contrast between the crisp zucchini, velvety spinach leaves, and chewy, melted cheese;  wonderful, robust flavours - bright, herby mint, tangy, sour pomegranate molasses, the sharp saltiness of preserved lemon, and a little bit of heat from the chilli;  and, no slouch in the looks department either - this was a very pretty dish and one which would certainly wow your guests despite the miniscule time spent on it.

I made a few minor changes to the original recipe.  I cut back the pomegranate molasses as it is a strong flavour and I felt the quantity specified was a bit much, and added a little bit of olive oil to help distribute the pomegranate molasses through the salad.  I also added a bit of preserved lemon for a little extra zing.  I will certainly be making this salad many times over this summer, and although this would make a great accompaniment to a bigger meal, I was more than happy to make a meal of it on its own.

Zucchini, Mint & Haloumi Salad 3

Zucchini, Mint & Haloumi Salad Recipe
Adapted from recipe by Donna Hay
Serves 2 as a light meal or appetiser, or
Serves 1 person as a substantial meal
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

2x small-medium zucchini
large handful of mint leaves, finely shredded
large handful or two of baby spinach leaves
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1/4 of a preserved lemon, flesh discarded and skin finely sliced
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
200g haloumi, thinly sliced
extra virgin olive oil for brushing & drizzling
pinch dried chilli flakes
1x lemon halved

Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat.  Brush haloumi lightly with olive oil on both sides, and sprinkle over dried chilli flakes.  Add haloumi and lemon (cut-side down) to the preheated pan.  Cook the haloumi until golden brown on both sides, by which time the lemon flesh will also be golden and caramelised.

Meanwhile, cut the zucchini into juliennes, and add to a medium sized bowl together with the shredded mint, preserved lemon, pomegranate molasses, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.  Toss gently until everything is combined.

To serve, arrange salad on plates and top with a few slices of the haloumi.  Drizzle with a little extra olive oil and squeeze over the caramelised lemon.

Zucchini, Mint & Haloumi Salad 2

If you would like to get to know Donna Hay a little better, and to see all the wonderful fast and fabulous dishes my friends have come up with, then do go visit I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links.

IHCC Donna Hay Badge resized

I'll also be sharing this post this week at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by the lovely Michelle at Ms. enPlace, Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth at Beth Fish Reads, Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays hosted by my special friend Deb at Kahakai Kitchen, and at Foodie Fridays hosted by Designs by Gollam.

See Ya in The Gumbo Badge     Weekend Cooking Badge     Souper Sundays Badge     Foodie Friday Badge