I hope you enjoy the food!!!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Exceptional Jasmine Thai Salmon

"That smells disgusting" says one, "That smells really bad" mutters another.

Not great words to hear, as you are rushing to prepare dinner, two hours later than normal, after the day from hell.  The mood that I was in this late in the evening, and before the first glass of wine had had a chance to mellow me out - well my response was - "that's too bad, it's dinner - eat it or not!!!!"

Silently I am hoping that it wasn't going to be as bad as they thought it would be, that it was just the underlying smell (the one that they all dislike) of fish sauce, and that once they got over the smell, and tasted the dish, everything would be fine.

Saying that though, this recipe did have a rather unusual element to it - jasmine tea leaves!!  Now this is when I began doubting myself, and thinking that the way that this day had unfolded, the meal would probably be a disaster too!!!

Calm down, take another sip / gulp of wine, and keep on cooking......

Given that I was running so late getting this dinner underway, the saving grace of this meal was how incredibly simple, and quick it was to make.

I found the recipe in a little supplemental cook book that came with a Delicious magazine several months ago.  In it was an advertisement for Dilmah Teas - entitled Tea Gastronomy.  The picture below shows the tea bags used in the recipe.

I did make a couple of changes - I will highlight what I have done.

Exception Jasmine Thai Salmon
From an advertisement for Dilmah Teas in a Cookbook called Seasonal Flavours - from Delicious Magazine

Serves 4

2 x Dilmah Fragrant Jasmine Green Real Leaf Tea bags
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup fish sauce
2 tbs lime juice
2 tbs sweet chilli sauce
2 tbs oil
1 tbs brown sugar
4 x salmon fillets
1/3 cup roughly chopped cashews

snow peas, finely shredded
english spinach leaves
lebanese cucumber slices

Sesame oil drizzled over the salad.

Coconut rice to serve

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Tear the teabags open and sprinkle the tea leaves into a frying pan.  Stir in the water, fish sauce, sweet chilli sauce, lime juice, oil and brown sugar.  Bring to the boil over medium high heat.  Simmer for 1 minute. *

Add the salmon and cook each side for 30 seconds.  Transfer the salmon and liquid to a baking dish and bake for 5 minutes, or until cooked to your liking. **

Combine the salad ingredients, drizzle with sesame oil.  Serve with the salmon.  Sprinkle with the chopped cashews.

* I actually simmered the liquid for several minutes - I did wonder if I was in fact stewing the tea, but it worked out OK.  I wanted to get the sauce to a little thicker consistency.

I didn't put the liquid with the salmon in the oven - basically because I wasn't reading the recipe correctly.  Cooking for 5 minutes still left the middle of the salmon quite raw, so if you like it cooked through - cook for a few (say 3) minutes longer.  While the salmon was in the oven I left the sauce simmering on the stove top.  When I served the meal, I poured a little of the sauce over the top of the salmon, and served the rest alongside the dish in a little jug.

The end result, after all those exclamations of disgust at the beginning of the cooking???

This was a beautiful, light, refreshing, healthy meal!!!  Loved by all who ate it!!!

Definitely one to make again - perhaps I will plug their noses next time!!!

So Dear Readers is there a particular ingredient that you use that people dislike the smell of, but once in the meal all complaints are gone?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Thai Inspired Risotto with Salt and Pepper Seafood

Since coming back from Italy I have been making all manner of Italian food - which has meant lots and lots of pasta.  "The Darlings" love it, so I figure why not?  Sometimes its best to take the road of least resistance, when it comes to meal times.

Last night though I craved something like a thai curry but with an underlying urge for seafood.  Mmmm what should I make?  I have always wanted to make an Asian style Risotto, so I decided to give it a go!

So while last night's dish may have had its origins in Italy, it has travelled a completely different path.

I used all the basic principles of a true Italian risotto, I just altered the flavour combinations.

Instead of my "soffritto" having onion and garlic, I used garlic and lemon grass with a dollop of thai red curry paste.

I still added the white wine to coat the rice, but instead of the usual chicken stock I used fish stock and coconut milk - this resulted in a lovely creamy texture.  While it may not win the MasterChef Risotto challenge, it certainly won our taste buds over.

I have used the Thermomix to make this risotto, but if you use the basic principles of cooking a traditional risotto - adding hot stock slowly, and stirring, stirring, stirring - you will end up with the same results.

Thai Inspired Risotto with Salt and Pepper Seafood

Serves 4

3 cloves garlic
1 stem lemongrass, white part only
4 kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded
30g olive oil
400g arborio rice
100g white wine
375ml fish stock
400ml coconut milk
water (to make up 1000g or 1 litre)
1 piece (approx 300g) salmon fillet, skin removed, and pin boned - cut into thin strips
3 squid hoods, scored, and sliced into 3cm strips
500g green prawns. shells removed - tails intact on 16
salt to taste
100g white rice *
2 tsp rock salt
1 tsp mixed peppercorns

chopped red chilli, for garnish

oil for frying

Firstly make your coating for the salt and pepper seafood.  Place 100g white rice, the rock salt and peppercorns in the TM bowl.  Mill on speed 9 for 1 minute.  Remove from bowl and keep to one side.

* If you do not have a thermomix - simply use rice flour, and sea salt flakes, and freshly ground black pepper.

Place garlic and lemongrass into TM bowl, process on speed 7 for 3 seconds.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the olive oil and the red curry paste.  Saute for 2 minutes at 100 degrees on speed 1 with the MC off.

Insert the butterfly.  Add the rice and the wine to the TM bowl, and saute for 2 minutes at 100 degrees and Reverse and Speed Soft.

Add the coconut milk and fish stock, and enough water to equal 1000g.  Add 3/4 of the shredded kaffir lime leaves.  Cook for 14 minutes at 100 degrees on Reverse and Speed Soft.

Add the prawns that have the tails removed, and 3/4 of each of the salmon slices and squid strips.  Season to taste with salt.

Cook for an additional 3 minutes at 100 degrees and Reverse and Speed Soft.

Remove from the TM bowl and place in a Thermoserver, or large bowl and keep warm.

Meanwhile in a large ziploc bag add the rice and salt and pepper mixture, and the reserved seafood.

Shake well to coat the seafood in the rice mixture.

Heat 2-3cms of oil in a wok, or large frypan over high heat.  Cook the seafood in batches, until all cooked, and crisp - 2-3 minutes.

Serve the risotto topped with a selection of the salt and pepper seafood, reserved kaffir lime leaves, and chopped red chilli.

The verdict was split on this - Mr. CCC loved it the way it was, but I loved the addition of a slurp of ketchap manis.  I leave this totally up to you.

The flavours in the meal were just what I was looking for.  You have the punch of the curry, the zip of the salt and pepper seafood, and the lovely creaminess of the rice in the risotto!!!

Just what the doctor ordered!

So Dear Readers, what basic recipes have you tweaked to travel on a totally different path?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Calamari all'amatriciana

On our first night in Rome, after our twilight, highlights of Rome from a bus tour, we were treated to a meal at a local trattoria.  One of the pasta dishes we tried that night was bucatini all'amatriciana.  This dish was soon to become one of our favourites as we travelled around the different areas of Italy.  Of course, as with anything there were variations at each place that we tried it.

Amatriciana is a classic dish, and one of simplicity.  Traditionally it is made only with smoked pork (guanciale), tomatoes (oh how I loved those sweet Italian tomatoes!), a kick of chilli, and then topped off with some grated pecorino cheese.  A purist would argue that onions and garlic have no place in this dish!

The Romans claim this dish is theirs, but there are others who claim it originates from the town of Amatrice - a tiny town in the mountains bordering Abruzzo (more than 100 miles from Rome!) Wherever it comes from, it is a truly wonderful dish.

Since coming home I have made this dish several times, but this version I think nails it on the head, the flavours that I loved while in Italy.  While not claiming this is a traditional version, it is one that my whole family enjoys.

When you are out and about in real Italian food shops, you find some lovely interesting shapes in the pasta that is on offer on offer.  In Italy we found some very interesting shapes (and colours) of pasta!!

On a recent trip to Haberfield I ran across a shape called "calamari" - it reminded me of the shape of the pasta that I had at our favourite restaurant "Scirocco" - so this was the pasta I used tonight!

Calamari all'amatriciana
from trial and error, and several recipes!!

Serves 6

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
250g speck, cut into batons
crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, minced finely
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 x 400g cans whole peeled italian tomatoes
500g pasta  *
grated pecorino cheese

Heat the oil in a large frypan over medium high heat.  Add the speck, and saute until crisp, and golden. Drain the excess fat from the pan.  Add the onion and garlic, cook stirring until the onion softens - approximately 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, crushing slightly with a fork or a potato masher.  Cook for approximately 15-20 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.

Meanwhile bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.  Add the pasta a cook until 3 minutes before al dente.

(In Italy the pasta is served very chewy, almost with a breadlike consistency - the worst crime you can commit is to serve watery gluggy pasta!!)

* I have found that it is worth paying a little more and buying "real" italian pasta - the "al dente" texture is much easier to replicate.  The cheap local stuff goes far too gluggy!!!

Drain the pasta, but retain the cooking water.

Add the drained pasta to the tomato sauce, toss to incorporate the sauce well.  Add 1 cup of reserved cooking water.  Cook for a further 2-3 minutes, until the pasta is al dente.  Add more cooking water if needed.

Stir in approximately 1/4 cup of grated pecorino cheese.

Serve topped with grated pecorino cheese.

So while this isn't the traditional amatriciana recipe - it certainly went down a treat in our house the other night!!!  No leftovers tonight!!!!

Buon Appetito!!!