Salmon Tarator

Salmon Tarator

At start of this year I signed up for a 10 day challenge on this site. The idea was each day I would get an email prompting me to take on a small risk, in order to do something that would take me outside my comfort zone. For example:
1. Take a new route to work
2. Try a new exercise
3. Go to an event where you don’t know anyone
4. Reach out to someone and tell them you admire them
5. Try a new food

I particularly liked Challenge 8 which was “try a new recipe”. So here it is. This recipe is from Greg Malouf and I’ve adapted slightly based on the ingredients I had on hand. Sometimes I tend to stick to what I know but I’m glad this challenge prompted me to learn a new way to cook salmon and try new flavours with the “Tarator” crust. To cook this Salmon, you will bake each fillet in a parcel for 12 minutes at 80c then turn the fish over and re-wrap and cook another 12 minutes – then allow the fish to rest. The result is a perfectly moist, cooked salmon. The Tarator crust is as delicious as it is pretty too.

I loved the 10 day challenge, it definitely took me out of my regular routine, I’m thinking that it’s worth doing the challenge once a quarter, just to keep things interesting!

Salmon Tarator

Serves Six

  • 6 pieces salmon filets, skin on (250 g each)
  • 80 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tbsp sea salt flakes
  • Fragrant Salt

  • 1/2 tsp each cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cardamom seeds, fennel seeds and nigella seeds
  • 1/2 tsp sesame, toasted
  • Tarator Crust

  • 100 grams pine nuts
  • 2 small red onions, finely diced
  • 1 cup coriander, finely shredded
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves, finely shredded
  • 3 tsp sumac (I substituted dukkah)
  • Tahini Sauce

  • 100 grams greek yogurt (I substituted labneh)
  • 30 ml hulled tahini
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 small garlic clove, diced, mixed with 1 tsp salt
  1. Make the fragrant salt by dry roasting the cumin, coriander, cardamom, fennel and nigella seeds in a frying pan for 1 to 2 minutes. Cool. Place the salmon in a tray and spread the salt all over the filets. Cover with plastic and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
  2. For the Tarator, toast the pine nuts in the oven at 160 c for 10 minutes or until golden. Once cool, finely chop the pine nuts and mix with the red onion, shredded coriander, mint and sumac (or dukkah). Place in refrigerator until ready to use.
  3. Prepare the Tahini sauce by mixing all ingredients together.
  4. To cook the fish, pre-heat the oven to 100 c and place each fillet (skin side down)along with 20 ml of olive oil in a sheet of baking paper and wrap in to a parcel. Cook the salmon for 12 minutes then remove from the oven and turn the fish over and wrap again. Cook for another 12 minutes. Once the fish is done, allow to rest for another 10 minutes.
  5. To serve, place the fillets on a serving tray, top with the tahini sauce and press the tarator crust in to each of the fillets, on top of the tahini sauce. Mix the 80 ml of olive oil and the other half of the lemon and drizzle over the fillets.
Salmon Tarator

Salmon Tarator

Pam's Fresh Lumpia

Pam’s Fresh Lumpia

I met Pam over a year ago when I held a macaron class to raise money for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan. She signed up for the class and we got along straight away (it helped when I found out she worked in the food industry!). When the class ended, everyone left, but Pam and Kath stayed for lunch and that was the start of our friendship. Today, Pam is not only a great friend to me, but she is equally close to my siblings. She has an open invitation to all our family gatherings.

I learned this recipe from Pam. It comes from her Ama (grandmother). If I remember correctly, her Ama used to make this and another dish, Misua noodles, whenever it was someone’s birthday in their family. Then her Ama would personally deliver the food to each family. What a lovely tradition! One night Pam made this and the Misua for our family. It wasn’t anyone’s birthday but the amount of work she put in to the two dishes made all of us feel like it was!

I could eat this every day. Actually, that is a fact. There was a period where I must have eaten this for dinner two straight weeks – sometimes lunch and dinner. This is one of those dishes that tastes so good and is so filling that you don’t miss the fact that there is no meat! Two things I’ve changed – I’ve omitted the fresh lumpia/spring roll wrappers but you could easily purchase this from the frozen section of your grocery. I also omitted the sweet garlic sauce that you pour over the spring rolls. This recipe makes a lot – enough for at least 6 people. It also keeps well so great to make ahead.

Ama’s Lumpia

  • 50 ml vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons chicken powder
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and grated
  • 1/2 head of cabbage, sliced
  • 300 grams green beans, diced into 1 cm pieces
  • 500 grams firm tofu, drained and diced into 1 to 2 cm pieces
  • 200 grams crushed peanuts
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Coriander leaves for garnish
  • Optional: Cut nori sheets for garnish
  • Fresh lettuce leaves to serve
  1. In a large pot, heat the oil and add the onion, saute until translucent. Add the garlic and chicken powder (for seasoning)and cook for two to three minutes.
  2. Add the grated carrots and cook until wilted, around 5 to 7 minutes on medium heat. Add the cabbage and continue to cook until the cabbage is slightly wilted, around 10 minutes. At this stage, you will notice a lot of liquid seeping out of the vegetables. Add the green beans continue to cook around 5 more minutes. You are looking for the beans to soften but retain some bite.
  3. Finally, add the tofu and mix into the vegetables and cook for another two to three minutes. (Optional step:Pam drained the vegetable/tofu filling before assembly.)
  4. Make the crushed peanut mixture by processing the peanuts, sugar and salt in a food processor for a few seconds
  5. To serve, place a heaping spoon on to the lettuce leaves, add the crushed peanut mixture, top with coriander and nori.
Hazelnut, Labneh and Honey Toast

Hazelnut, Labneh and Honey Toast

Oh wow – how time flies. My poor neglected blog. It’s been nearly a year since I wrote anything and somehow I feel like I have to give you an excuse for the silence… The reality is life got in the way. New passions (Yoga! Running!), work, travel and I started trying to be healthier too. Somehow, it didn’t make sense for me to cook the same rich and heavy food I used to. I didn’t have time to make long and complicated recipes anymore… So the blog took a long break.

Sometimes people would ask me if I still updated my blog and I would always shrug it off and say “I’m too busy” but at the back of my mind, I knew I would one day revive it and maybe today’s the day? Who knows… I have good intentions and great (mostly healthy) recipes to share but I’ve also been there before where I’ve resurrected this blog with a few posts for a month or two… so let’s see. Hopefully this is a new beginning – a simple new beginning.

This is not so much a recipe but a guide to make pretty amazing toast. I don’t even need to write the recipe down – it’s that simple.

Start with some homemade labneh. Get some full cream Greek yogurt, and place it in a muslin/cheese cloth. Place the muslin over a strainer and the strainer over a bowl which will allow the whey to drain from the yogurt. Wait 24 hours before serving.

The toast some hazelnuts, in an oven at 160c for 15 minutes, and chop. Get some good quality sourdough (I used soy and linseed) and spread the labneh, then the roasted hazelnuts and finally some honey (I used honeycomb) and a pinch of salt. Bon Appetit, where I got the recipe from, also suggests some olive oil and a few turns of pepper which sounds lovely as well.

Homemade Labneh

Homemade Labneh

Prawn and Scallop Dumplings

Prawn and Scallop Dumplings

A few years ago I attended an eight week career development session with a group of very talented and ambitious ladies from work. There was a lot of coaching on how to communicate effectively and change your approach depending on who you were talking to and self-confidence building exercises (One of them was that we had to come up with a one or two liner for when we came face to face with the company’s CEO in the elevator – which never actually happened!).

In one of the final sessions we were asked to reflect on our goals and aspirations for the rest of the year and we all went around the room to share. Some of the ladies talked about aspiring for a promotion within a few months, other talked about how they had been so focussed on their career for the last few years that they wanted to make sure they also had time for their families. The lady beside me had her turn come up and she said she wanted to get healthy and lose 5 kilos… My turn was up and I said that my goal was that I would like to make a transition in to doing a different role at work, given I had been doing the same thing for a few years already.

That’s what I said…

In reality – I was thinking about how I wish my fingers were nimble enough to pleat dumplings like the har gao you could find in the dim sum restaurants. Yes, my definition of success was to be a dim sum master!

A few months later, I moved companies, and moved roles and in career terms, I’ve never looked back…

Occasionally, (like last weekend) I’ll make an attempt at perfecting the pleats – but they never turn out right. Instead, I settled for making little dumpling balls filled with prawns and scallops. The filling (yum!) more than made up for the lack of pleating skills and the dough still came out translucent and delicious.

Alas, my dream to be a dim sum master seems to be more elusive than ever.

Prawn and Scallop Dumplings

For the dough

  • 150 grams wheat starch
  • 85 grams tapioca flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 265 ml boiling water
  • 10 g lard or shortening
  1. In a bowl mix the wheat starch, tapioca flour and salt together. Slowly add the boiling water and then the lard. Using a pair of chopsticks, mix the dough until you form a ball of dough. Place the dough on your work space and start to knead (careful as it will be very warm). Knead for around 10 to 15 minutes. The dough will also be quite sticky, so you can use a pasta scrapper to help remove the dough from your work surface. Cut it into four equal pieces and place these in a plastic sandwich bag to rest.
  2. Take one of the pieces and roll it into a log around 20 cm long. Cut this into 8 equal parts place the pieces, except for the one you are going to work with back into the sandwhich bag.
  3. Get two sheets of plastic (you can use another sandwich bag, cut in half for it, alternatively, use two pieces of baking paper) and lightly oil the bags. Put the piece of dough in the middle of the two bags (or baking paper) and press down on the dough with the palm of your hand to flatten. Then take a rolling pin and roll out the dough until around 5 cm in diameter. Alternatively, use a tortilla wrapper to flatten the dough.
  4. Place a spoonful of the prawn and scallop mixture in the middle of the dough then pinch the ends together to seal and so you form a little dumpling ball.

For the prawn and scallop filling

  • 150 grams raw scallops, chopped
  • 250 grams peeled, deveined
  • 30 grams bamboo shoots, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tapioca starch
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 teaspoons oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons spring onions, white part only, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil plus more for serving
  • XO Sauce to serve
  • pinch of salt and white pepper to taste
  1. Finely chop the scallop and prawns and place in a bowl with the bamboo shoots, tapioca starch, egg white, oyster sauce, sugar, spring onions, sesame oil and salt and pepper.
  2. Using your hands, mix the scallop and prawn mixture well and cover with some cling wrap. Allow to marinate at least an hour in the refrigerator.
  3. Use the prawn mixture as per instructions above.
  4. Steam the dumplings for six minutes over high heat.
  5. Serve immediately with a mixture of XO Sauce, soy sauce, and a dash of sesame oil.

Nutter Butter Cookies

The other day my husband was raving about a cookie he had tried in a cafe. He said they were called “Nutter Butters” and they cost $5 each. $5 for a cookie?!? I was pretty surprised that someone would pay that much for one. I knew I could easily make these for a fraction of the price. I found a few recipes online, one of them actually coming from the cafe where he first tried the nutter butters – but in the end I decided to go with Thomas Keller’s recipe. Making your own cookies at home results in a nuttier, yummier and I should add – cheaper cookie. The cookies look really impressive but there is really very little effort involved in making them. The recipe was such a hit that there was a serious argument between me and my husband about how we would allocate the 8 nutter butters (i.e. how many would he eat, how many would I eat and how many we could afford to give away!)… and resulted in me making a second batch the next day.

Nutter Butter Cookies

Nutter Butter Cookies

Nutter Butter Cookies

Makes 8 large cookies, recipe from Bouchon Bakery

  • 140 grams flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 115 grams butter, softened
  • 80 grams peanut butter
  • 110 grams caster sugar
  • 95 grams brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 40 grams unsalted, roasted and chopped
  • 100 grams quick cooking oats

Peanut Butter Icing

  • 90 grams butter, softened
  • 105 grams peanut butter
  • 140 grams icing sugar
  1. Mix the flour, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl and set aside. Pre-heat the oven to 175 c (fan forced). If conventional oven, heat the oven to 190c.
  2. In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, mix the butter and peanut butter until light coloured and creamy, around 3 minutes. Add the sugars and continue to mix on medium speed for 5 minutes, scrapping down the bowl twice during the process. Add the egg and mix on medium until fully incorporated.
  3. Now, add the flour mixture and mix on low, around 1 minute then add the nuts and oatmeal, and mix on low just until combined.
  4. Using an ice-cream scoop, take some of the mixture place around 5 cm apart on a baking tray. Alternatively, you can use a spoon and roll the mixture into balls (using gloves makes it easier). Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  5. In the meantime, make the filling. Mix the peanut butter, butter and icing sugar in a mixing bowl fitted with a paddle attachment. Place the mixture in a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle.
  6. Once the cookies are cool, take one cookie and pipe some of the peanut butter icing and cover with another cookie. Continue until all cookies are filled.
Salted Caramel Eclairs

Salted Caramel Eclairs

I was lucky enough to receive book called “Secrets of Eclairs” by Marianne Magnier-Moreno from my sister and have been thinking it was about time I started learning to make eclairs. She also gave me a jar of Laduree Salted Caramel sauce (I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve all these goodies!). I’ve never had a sweet tooth but the sauce was heavenly! What better way to put these two to use than by making Salted Caramel eclairs?

There are a few tricks to making the choux pastry – the ones that stand out for me (1) dry the choux pastry out (called panade) after adding the flour (2) know when to stop adding the egg to ensure pipeable consistency (3) never open the oven door while baking and (4) ensure the pastry has dried out completely before removing from the oven (I know – how can you ensure the pastry is dry when you can’t open the oven door?!?).

Let me tell you now, the recipe is not complicated to make but it does take some time so allocate half a day to make these or alternatively, you can make the choux pastry (store in an airtight container at room temperature if not using immediately) and the creme patisserie ahead of time and then assemble right before serving. Believe me, the effort is worth it!

Salted Caramel Eclairs

For the Choux Pastry (Makes about 18 to 20 pieces)

  • 125 ml milk
  • 125 ml water
  • pinch of salt
  • 10 grams sugar
  • 100 grams butter
  • 150 grams flour, sifted
  • 4 eggs, beaten (around 200 grams)
  1. Place the milk, water, salt, sugar and butter in a saucepan and heat until the butter has melted.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and add the flour all at once. Stir the flour off the heat for a minute and then place the mixture back on the heat to dry out the pastry for around 5 minutes. Make sure to stir the choux mixture vigorously, over a medium heat.
  3. Remove the choux mixture from the pan and tip it in to a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat this mixture over a medium speed and gradually add the beaten eggs, a quarter at a time and make sure the egg is fully incorporated before adding more.
  4. When you’ve added around 3/4 of the egg mixture in, check whether the batter is ready. To do this, scoop some of the batter on to a spatula. If the mixture adheres to the spatula and then falls off, it’s just right. If it does not stick to the spatula, it’s too dry, add the egg mixture a little bit at a time until you get the right consistency. The idea is that if you pipe the mixture, it can hold it’s shape. (The first time I did this, I added all eggs in, and the mixture was too runny, the eclairs didn’t rise)
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 180 c
  6. Place the choux pastry in a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle that is 1.5cm thick and put in the refrigerator to allow to cool slightly.
  7. In the meantime, get some baking paper and you’re ready to create guides which will help you as you pipe the mixture. Using a ruler and a marker, draw rectangles that are 10 cm long and 2.5 cm wide, spaced around 4 cm apart. Place another sheet of baking paper over the guide.
  8. Take the mixture from the refrigerator and carefully pipe on to the baking paper, using the marked baking paper as a guide.
  9. Lightly spray some water over the piped choux pastry and place in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes and then lower the heat to 150 and bake another 20 minutes. Once done, turn off the oven and leave the pastry in, another 5 minutes. (Never open the oven door while baking the eclairs as this will cause it to deflate) Remove the pastry from the oven.
  10. When the pastry has cooled, use a serrated knife to cut along the tops of the pastry and fill with the creme patisserie (recipe below)

Creme Patisserie

  • 300 ml milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 100 grams sugar
  • 90 grams cornstarch
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 80 ml milk
  • 100 grams butter
  • 500 to 600 ml thickened cream
  • Salted Caramel sauce to finish the eclairs
  1. Heat the 300 ml of milk over a low heat. Add the vanilla.
  2. In a bowl, combine the sugar, cornstarch and egg yolk. Mix thoroughly then add the 80 ml of milk. Add this mixture to the 300 ml of milk and allow to thicken, using a whisk to stir the mixture. When the mixture has boiled, quickly take it out of the heat and place in a stand mixer. Allow the mixture to cool around 5 minutes. Using a whisk attachment, gradually add the butter until it is fully incorporated. Place the custard in a bowl and cover with clingfilm. Place in the refrigerator for around an hour.
  3. When the custard has cooled, take it out of the refrigerator and give it a good mix to loosen it slightly. Weigh the custard mixture. Let’s say the mixture weighs around 550 grams, take the same amount of cream and whisk it using a stand attachment to stiff peaks. Before adding the cream, add around 50 grams of the salted caramel sauce to the custard. Then, add 1/3 of the cream to the custard until well combined then carefully fold in the rest of the cream to lighten the mixture.
  4. Place the creme patisserie on to a piping bag fitted with a very small round tipped nozzle (about 6mm). Make three holes on the bottom of the eclair and pipe the cream patisserie filling.
  5. To finish the eclairs, spread some salted caramel over the eclairs and top with some sea salt flakes. Salted Caramel sauce can be bought or otherwise, you can use the recipe here (just skip step 7).
Prawn Kataifi

Prawn Kataifi

I used to work with a guy whose name I couldn’t pronounce. For months, I managed to avoid calling him by his first name until one day I was in a teleconference call and someone suggested that I introduce everyone. So around I went, introducing each one of them until I reached “Paraic” and I was like “uhm, how do you pronounce your name again?” Turns out it was an Irish name and pronounced something like “Pho-rac” (to date, I’m still not 100% sure).

I told my other officemate about it and he said he also didn’t know how to pronounce his name. In fact, for months he used to refer to Paraic as “the finance guy”.

The other name I can never get my head around is the guy from River Cottage. As much as I love that show, I always call him “Hugh something-something”. This evening I tested my husband (who claims he is also a massive fan of the show).

“What’s the name of the guy from River Cottage?” I asked him.

“Google it.” He said.

“No, just tell me!” I said.

“Hugh Whitley?… or Whitely? … or Fernley?” He guessed.

I burst out laughing. Turns out he was just as bad as I was.

This is one of those recipes where I am totally unsure of how to pronounce the ingredients. Kataifi? Ajvar? Don’t even ask me to try. All I know is that the combination is delicious! The inspiration was from a dinner I had a few weeks ago at Efendy in Balmain. The Ajvar is a Serbian relish made with roasted capsicums, roasted eggplants and some chili. It’s a delicious accompaniment to the prawns and it’s also amazing with fresh sourdough bread topped with goat’s cheese.

The herbs come from my newly planted edible balcony, but more on that another time.

Oh, and for the record – the River Cottage guy? His name is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Prawn Kataifi

Prawn Kataifi

Prawn Kataifi with Ajvar Sauce

Serves 6

  • 12 large prawns, peeled and deveined
  • 100 grams kataifi pastry, at room temperature for at least 30 minutes
  • 50 grams butter, melted
  • zest of one orange or mandarin and 1 tablespoon of it’s juice
  • Ajvar sauce (I used Mama’s Brand) to serve
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 210c. Mix the orange/mandarin zest and juice with the melted butter and pour over the kataifi pastry.
  2. Line a tray with foil and spray with some olive oil.
  3. Carefully spread around 2 tablespoons of the pastry on a wooden board and place a prawn on one side of the pastry and roll the pastry over the prawn to cover.
  4. Lay the prawn carefully on the lined tray and repeat with the remaining prawns.
  5. Place the prawns in the oven and bake for around 15 minutes, turning halfway until the prawns are golden.
  6. Serve with ajvar sauce.