Snapper with coconut, ginger and coriander

snapper1-resized

When Ewen and Elissa Macpherson of Symphony Hill wines asked me to create a recipe to go with their Moscato Giallo I was both flattered and excited. They are a couple who have lived out their passions and dreams, and make spectacular, award winning wines with great style and panache. Matching a wine to a dish is a real art, and this variety is both unusual and unfamiliar. I wanted to design a dish that would bring out its highly aromatic tones and not overwhelm its complexity. Moscato is often associated with sweet or dessert wines, but this amazing wine challenges stereotypical pairings. It is quite special with this dish of snapper, with coconut, ginger and coriander. I’d love to hear what you think of it, especially if you pair it with the Moscato Giallo.

snapper4-resized

Serves 4

4 skinless snapper fillets, about 180g each
1 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, lightly crushed
1 tablespoon plain flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves with the tender stems attached
¼ cup alfalfa sprouts
2 tablespoons shredded coconut, lightly toasted
1 small dried red chilli, finely diced

Coconut Sauce:
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 small peeled brown onion
2 fresh garlic cloves
1cm piece peeled fresh turmeric
1cm piece peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 large vine-ripened tomatoes, with seeds and core removed, very finely diced
1 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
3 teaspoons fish sauce
½ teaspoon garam masala

First make the sauce. Heat vegetable oil on a low temperature in a medium sized heavy-based saucepan. In a small food processor combine the onion, garlic, turmeric, ginger and salt and process until finely minced. Add this mixture to the pot and cook slowly on a low heat until caramelised (this can take up to 30 minutes – don’t rush it, or the sauce will taste burned and bitter). Add the tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the mixture from the pot and then return 2 heaped tablespoons into the pot, setting aside the remainder. Add coconut cream, sugar, fish sauce, and garam masala. Bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. While the sauce is simmering, cook the fish. 

Season the fish on both sides with sea salt. Combine the fennel seeds and flour and lightly coat the fish pieces with the flour mixture, dusting off any excess. Heat oil in a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Cook the fish on one side for 6–8 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets. Turn and cook on other side 30 seconds. Divide the sauce between four bowls, place a piece of fish gently on top of the sauce, and top firstly with a little of the remaining tomato mixture, and the fresh coriander, sprouts, toasted coconut and dried chilli.

snapper2-resized

Huevos rancheros – for Sunday breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner

huevos1-resized

Huevos rancheros, or “ranch eggs” are Mexican in origin, and a simple and quite humble dish. But they taste terrific, especially with lots of delicious accompaniments such as dollops of sour cream, sprinklings of fresh coriander, chunks of smooth avocado and rounds of soft tortillas. They are also, we decided at our place, the perfect Sunday meal at any time of the day. One pan, quick and easy, lots of punchy flavours, and loved by all. If you are feeding more than two, just double the recipe and use a bigger pan, or two smaller pans. If dining solo, then halve the ingredients and luxuriate in a dish that you can eat straight out of the pan.

huevos2-resized-small

Serves 2

1 medium onion, finely diced
1 small red capsicum, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 long, fresh red chillies, finely chopped (if you like lots of heat then by all means add more, or add some dried chilli flakes)
400g cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 bunch fresh coriander
4 eggs
sour cream, sweet chilli sauce, freshly diced avocado, fresh coriander leaves, and soft tortillas, to serve

In a medium sized frying pan heat the olive oil and then saute the onions, capsicum, chillies and garlic until softened. Finely chop the stems of the coriander, and add to the pan, reserving the leaves for garnish. Add the tomatoes, a tablespoon of water, and cook over medium heat until the tomatoes have broken down somewhat and become quite soft. Season well with sea salt and a little black pepper. Using a spoon make wells in the tomato mixture for the eggs. Gently crack the eggs into the pan, lower the heat and cook the eggs to your liking. Take the pan to the table and serve straight away with the garnishes on the side for everyone to add to their taste. For breakfast and brunch have with orange juice then coffee. For lunch, a Corona, and for dinner, a crisp white wine.

Summer breakfast – vanilla spiced yoghurt

It’s the last day of my holiday today and I wanted to make something especially nice for my breakfast. Summer’s bounty has been particularly rich and beautiful this year. Stunning mangoes, peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries and blueberries are available in abundance and typify the flavours of summer in my part of the world. This recipe is really about the thick vanilla spiced yoghurt that sits perfectly on top of toasted banana bread or fruit loaf or brioche and under the fresh nectarines and blueberries drizzled with maple and vanilla syrup. The possibilities of foods that would benefit from a dollop of this lusciously thick, creamy, slightly sweet and tangy yoghurt are endless. But here is how I did it this morning.

banana-bread2-resized

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

500 g thick Greek yoghurt (my favourite brand id Farmer’s Union)
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 tablespoon icing sugar

In a medium sized bowl mix together the yoghurt, vanilla and sugar until well combined. Spoon the yoghurt into a piece of muslin. Place in a sieve over a bowl. Cover and place in the fridge overnight to drain. It will reduce to about 2/3 of the orginal amount and be super tick, almost like cream cheese in texture. In the morning, remove it from the muslin, discard the liquid, and store the thickened yogurt in an airtight container in the fridge.

Here’s a great photo of how to do this from Coloured plates that is far better than my words to describe this process. In their lovely blog post, Rachael and Ahmad describe how to make labne, which is a traditional Middle Eastern thickened yoghurt, usually paired with savoury ingredients. My version is simply a slightly sweet version.

dsc02511

I toasted some banana bread, spread it thickly with the yoghurt, added nectarine slices and a few blueberries, and drizzled over a little maple syrup. Would love to hear of delicious variations from you.

banana-bread3-resized

Summer rice salad

Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is a nobler art of leaving things undone.

Lin Yutang

A week’s holiday in the middle of summer has been an opportunity to rest and relax before the busy year really begins in earnest. It’s been stiflingly hot in my part of the world, so hot that a very fit man in his early thirties died of heat stroke over the weekend while biking in a nature reserve just north of Brisbane. So outdoor projects have been taken off the agenda, besides keeping the garden alive by watering in the late afternoon. Instead, I have been reading, finishing a quilt and spending lots of time in the kitchen. Creating new recipes is something that relaxes me, and this season has been one of trying to incorporate more seeds and nuts into my diet, both for the health benefits and for their taste. This rice salad was today’s experiment. The fresh peas, asparagus and zucchini sit atop a bowl of brown rice, seasoned with rice wine vinegar and a little olive oil, and stirred through are pepitas, sunflower seeds and black sesame seeds. I ate it on its own, but this salad would also be delicious as a side with grilled salmon.

summer-rice-bowl1-resized

Serves 2 as a meal, or 4 as an accompaniment

1 cup brown rice
2 cups water
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup pepitas
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup peas
1 large zucchini, sliced into thin strips, long-wise
1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into short lengths
2 tablespoons soft feta cheese

Bring the water to the boil in a medium sized saucepan. when boiling add the rice and stir gently. Cover and simmer for 20 – 25 minutes until the rice is cooked, but still retains some bite. Check the rice occasionally and add a little more water if it begins to stick to the bottom of the pan before it is cooked. Drain the rice and turn into a medium sized glass bowl. Stir through the rice wine vinegar and olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Leave to cool slightly. Meanwhile, rinse out the saucepan and bring more water to boil. Add the zucchini, asparagus and peas, and cook for 1 minute, until tender crisp and bright green. Stir through 1/3 of the vegetables into the rice and then place the rice into a serving dish. Top with the remaining vegetables and scatter over the feta. Best eaten warm or at room temperature.

Raspberry and almond smoothie bowl – food is not art

I’ve seen some astonishingly pretty smoothie bowls online in the last few months, intricately and beautifully decorated with nuts, seeds, fruit and flowers. The smoothie takes but a moment to make, but I can’t imagine how long it must take to carefully and artfully place these toppings, to achieve the effect of an edible artwork. I am sure tweezers must often be involved. I even saw one where tiny cookie cutters were used to cut out banana shapes into stars and hearts.

smoothiebowl1

I like my food to look good, but I cannot imagine any person in the real world actually having time in the morning to create a smoothie bowl that is more art than food to be eaten. So as a small act of rebellion I created this smoothie bowl, which takes less than a minute to make, and I think looks pretty and delicious. No elder-flowers, no careful linear display of pepitas, granola and berries – just a sprinkling of chopped almonds and coconut and a few little raspberries on top. The almond butter adds beautiful flavour and the vanilla a delicate sweet perfume. It’s healthy and delicious, and certainly achievable before a busy day at work or play. Would love to see smoothie bowls you have made!

Makes 1 serve, takes less than a minute to make

1 medium sized lady finger banana
1 cup frozen raspberries, with a few reserved for topping
1/2 cup milk (cows, soy, almond or whatever you have to hand)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract/vanilla paste
1 tablespoon almond butter
A few dry roasted almonds, roughly chopped, and a little coconut

In a blender combine all ingredients except for the almonds and coconut and blend until smooth. Pour into a shallow bowl and top with the almonds, coconut and reserved raspberries. Eat straight away.

Seed crackers – and I have not gone crackers

seed-crackers3-resized

Making my own crackers came about almost by chance. Some time ago I was looking for a gluten free cracker for my son that did not taste like cardboard and have the texture of polystyrene. I came across some seed crackers in the health food aisle of my local supermarket. They were delicious, full of nutty flavour, and crisp in texture. The only downside was the exorbitant cost. Even in the world of  gluten free foods, they were eye-poppingly expensive.  So they were only purchased for special occasions. Recently, however, I saw a blog post for home-made seed crackers, which looked very similar to these crackers and decided to attempt making them. They turned out to be really easy to make, and so much more economical than buying them. I never thought I would be a woman who made crackers, who would have the time and energy to devote to a task that could be argued was a waste of time, but these are so worth the small investment of time and effort required, that henceforth, I will be a constant baker of crackers.

I discovered that seed crackers are a traditional Norwegian food, called knekkebrød, although the traditional recipes also seemed to have rye flour as an ingredient. A gorgeous blog, called North Wild Kitchen, gave me some great background on knekkebrød. “A Norwegian breakfast and lunch is never complete without a slice of bread or a type of knekkebrød. These ‘crisp breads’ or ‘breaking breads’ which are flat and dry, resembling a cracker, probably originated in Scandinavia close to 500 years ago. Some sources say that crisp bread was a staple of the Vikings as they could store them for long periods of time. These crisp breads would have been baked on hot stones, while today’s knekkebrød is baked in the oven. Baking them in the oven is what makes these crisp breads so different from the Norwegian flatbrød, which is baked on a flat griddle, much like lefse. Once considered a poor man’s diet, knekkebrød has become widely popular boasting a healthy lifestyle with numerous variants from slightly sweet to nutty to herby & salty. They are easy to make, forgiving, and require only a few ingredients, which can be interchanged depending on what you have available in your cupboards. All one needs is a little imagination and water.”

seed-crackers1-resized

I created my recipe using this blog’s recipe as a base, removing the flour and using chia seeds soaked in water to bind the seeds together, which seems to be how most of the other flour-less recipes make the seeds into a mixture that could be bound. I think the combination below is a good one, but you could use poppy seeds instead of some of the sesame seeds, or add a few more flax seeds. You could also add spices such as whole cumin seeds, or even dried chilli flakes. I like them plain, and enjoy eating them with a scoop of avocado, some sliced tomato, and a sprinkling of soft feta and pungent coriander, or with hummus, shaved carrot and mint.

Makes about 40 crackers

1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/2 cup sesame seeds (a mixture of black and white is nice)
1/2 cup flax seeds
1/3 cup chia seeds
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 1/2 cups water

Preheat oven to 170 C. Place all the seeds, the salt and the honey in a medium sized bowl. Pour in the water and mix to combine. Leave for 15 minutes for the chia and flax seeds to soften and to thicken the water. Tip out on to a large oven tray lined with silicon baking paper, or divide between 2 medium sized trays. Spread out as thin as possible, firstly using the back of a spoon, and then using a smaller oven tray to press the mixture really flat (after covering with another piece of baking paper. You will get the best results if the mixture is spread really thin and there is still some room on the tray to separate the crackers during the cooking. If in doubt, use 2 trays. Bake for 20 minutes. Take out of the oven and cut into into crackers, what ever shape you like, and carefully turn them over. Return to the oven to cook for another 20-30 minutes until crisp and golden. Place on a rack to cool then store in an airtight container.

seed-crackers2-resized

Lime cupcakes

lime-cupcake2-resized

I don’t drown my sorrows..I suffocate them with cupcakes.

Anon.

Everyone needs a no-fail, go-to, whip-it-up-in-a-flash cupcake recipe, and this is mine. It works every time and is soft and moist and delicious. The lime gives a refreshing tang to counter the sweetness of the cake and icing, and the almond meal has a nice undertone of nuttiness and richness. My daughter makes fabulous cupcakes and she is also an expert with a piping bag and palette knife to decorate, and she has tested this recipe many times. Her advice is to make sure that you cream the butter and sugar until it is very light and fluffy, and not to be impatient at this stage of the recipe; then you will get light-as-air cakes. Enjoy any time you need a sweet treat – not just to drown your sorrows!

Makes 12

125g soft butter
180g raw caster sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
zest of 3 limes
185g self-raising flour
2 tablespoons almond meal
125ml milk

Icing:
2 cups soft icing mixture
3 tablespoons butter
juice of 1 lime, approximately

Preheat oven to 180 C. Line a 12 hole muffin or cake tin with cake liners. In a medium sized bowl cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and lemon zest. Add the eggs, one at a time and mix well. Alternately add the flour and milk until well combined. Carefully spoon the mixture into the cake tin, filling each liner to about 2/3 capacity. There should be just enough mixture. Bake in the oven for 12 – 15 minutes, or until lightly golden and an individual cake springs back when lightly touched with your finger. take the cakes out of the tin and cool on a cake tray until completely cold. meanwhile, in a small bowl beat together the icing ingredients, adding enough lime juice to get a smooth consistency. When the cakes are cold, ice and decorate them, unleashing all your creative impulses. I used thinly sliced lime zest, but you could use shave or toasted coconut, grated lime zest, sprinkles or sugar flowers, or whatever takes your fancy. The cakes will keep for 2 or 3 days if store din an airtight container.

Strawberry and fig pastries – to welcome the new year

We spend January 1st walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives…not looking for flaws, but for potential.

Ellen Goodman

As usual we spent our New Year’s break at our friend’s vineyard and winery, where there was much laughter, exquisite wines, and beautiful food. It was unusually warm and we spent much time on the front verandah with our glasses in hand, and jazz playing on their vintage record player. I contracted a summer head cold, which is the worst of all colds in my opinion, but this did not stop me from celebrating, nor from delighting in the best of summer produce. The New Year will be full of challenges and opportunities in equal measure for our family, including a trip to France in April for my daughter and I, the end of five long years of medical school for my husband, and the start of his new career as a doctor. I want to hold on to the joys of long summer days and relaxation with friends and family as long as possible, and so am cooking and creating dishes designed to foster wonderful informality and shared enjoyment of time spent together.

strawberry-and-fig-stack2-resizedLuscious figs and sweet strawberries are paired in this dessert, with thin, crisp pastry, crunchy nuts and vanilla laced cream setting them off to perfection. This dish would make a wonderful end to a casual summer meal as everything can be easily prepared ahead of time and then assembled at the last moment.

Serves 4

2 sheets ready rolled frozen puff pastry
1 punnet strawberries
4 fresh figs, each sliced into 6 wedges
2 tablespoons hulled pistachio nuts
1/4 cup icing sugar, plus 2 teaspoons, extra
juice of 1/2 lime
200 ml cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 190C. Defrost the pastry and when softened cut out 4 rounds from each sheet using a 10 cm fluted circular cutter. If you do’t have a suitable cutter, use a saucer or othe small plate and use a sharp knife to cut out the pastry rounds. Place on a baking sheet lined with silicon paper and then top with another sheet of silicon paper and another baking tray so that the pastry is squished between them, and won’t puff up during baking. Cook in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until pastry is a light golden colour. Set on a rack to cool. Meanwhile, evenly and thinly slice the strawberries and sprinkle over the 1/4 cup of icing sugar and the lime juice. carefully stir and set aside for about 20 minutes. A ruby red liquid will form and the strawberries will have a beautifully intense flavour. Gently whip the cream with the vanilla and remaining icing sugar. Roughly chop the pistachio nuts into small pieces. When the pastry is cool and you are ready to serve, place a pastry round on each of 4 dessert plates. Place strawberries over the pastry in an even layer and then top with a spoonful of cream, spreading it out over the strawberries. Reserve the liquid and place in a small jug. Place another pastry round on top of the cream and gently press down. Spread out spoonfuls of the remaining cream onto the top layer and then top with the figs. Sprinkle over the nuts and serve immediately, with the sauce from the strawberries passed separately.

strawberry-and-fig-stack3-resized

It’s hot in Brisbane but it’s Coolangatta – summer salads for celebrations

It’s so hot here – unreasonably hot for November, and as my thoughts turn towards upcoming end-of-year and Christmas celebrations, I’ve gathered a collection of my salad recipes for inspiration and to help me to keep cool in the kitchen. There’s something here for all tastes, and each one has a little twist to lift it above the usual fare. I hope there’s some inspiration here for  you too.

And if you are wondering about the title of this post – It’s hot in Brisbane, but it’s Coolangatta – it is the title of a real song, popular in the 1950s. You can read about it, see the fabulously kitsch sheet music and listen to the original recording here.

Rice 2 resizedCranberry and wild rice salad

Potato salad 2 resizedPotato and pea salad with hazelnut dressing

Carrot salad 2 resizedCarrot salad with coriander, chili and sesame

apple salad5 resizedRocket salad with apple and parmesan

nectarine salad3 resizedNectarines, prosciutto, mozzarella and mint

brie salad1 resizedBrie and rocket salad with pomegranate dressing

farro with pumpkin1 resizedMaple roasted pumpkin with farro

Fassifern tomatoesTomato and bocconcini salad with a beautiful basil dressing

Spiced carrot and brown rice salad

I’ve been having an enforced rest following some surgery, but today felt like some creative cooking – reading the recipe books and magazines given to me by my very thoughtful colleagues the inspiration. Our oldest is back at home with us for a time and as he is a coeliac, gluten free cooking is required at our place. So this combination of nutty brown rice with warm spices, sharp, fresh coriander and sweet carrots makes an excellent salad that is healthy and filling and delicious for all of us. I’d recommend serving it with some grilled chicken, Greek yoghurt or labne, and a crisp white wine.

 Serves 2- 4

1 bunch Dutch carrots, tops trimmed, and washed (or use 5 – 6 carrots, peeled, and sliced in half lengthwise)
finely chopped coriander stalks, from 1 bunch of coriander
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup brown rice, rinsed
2 cups water
1/2 cup currants
1/4 cup mixed seeds (I buy mixed seeds from the health food store)
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
1 teaspoon white sesame seeds
1 bunch coriander leaves, roughly chopped

Lemon dressing
1/4 cup (60ml) lemon juice
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 200C. Place carrots, coriander stalks, olive oil, cumin, smoked paprika, honey, and 1/2 teaspoon turmeric in a bowl, season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, and mix well. Spread out in a single layer on a baking tray lined with silicon paper and roast for 25-30 minutes, turning two or three times, until and tender. I wanted to serve the salad in the roasting tray so as not to lose any of the pan juices, so I used a white enamel tray that could go straight to the table. Set aside to cool.

While the carrots are cooking place the rice, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, and 2 cups water in a saucepan, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, 30 – 40 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender. Check it now and then to make sure the rice does not stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. Leave for 10 minutes with the lid on before uncovering to cool to room temperature. To make the lemon dressing, put all the ingredients in a small glass jar and shake well. When the rice is a t room temperature pour the dressing over and stir through. Add the currants, seeds and fresh coriander and mix well. Push the carrots to one side in the roasting pan, if you are serving from it and add the rice mixture. It will soak up any of the spiced juices in the pan. Alternatively place the carrots on a serving platter and drizzle over the juices, and pile the rice on the side.

carrot-salad-2