Entrees and Light Meals

Pea and ham soup

This is Grandma’s recipe.

Ham bones, or a combination of ham and bacon bones
2 onions, quartered
A few sticks of celery
3 or 4 large fresh carrots, grated
Several packets of split peas, green or yellow, or a combination of both (the colour of the peas doesn’t affect the flavour of the soup, only its colour)
1 teaspoon prepared hot English mustard
Additional ham, finely chopped

Remove any good ham that may be left on the bones, and set aside. Place bones in a large saucepan or stockpot with the onions and the celery. Cover with water, and bring to the boil. Skim off any scum that may form on the surface. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 4 – 5 hours, skimming when necessary. When you are happy with the colour and depth of the stock, strain it into a clean container and refrigerate so that fat can be easily removed.

Soak peas in cold water overnight, removing any black ones that will float to the surface when the peas are stirred.

Return the stock (with fat removed) to a heavy based casserole which has been greased on the bottom to stop the peas sticking during cooking. Add the strained peas, grated carrots and hot English mustard. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer slowly until the peas have lost their definition and soup has become thick. Take care that it does not burn on the bottom as the burnt bits will affect both the taste and the appearance of the soup. Lastly, add the chopped ham and stir in well. The soup should be thick, so don’t stint on the peas.

Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Poached eggs with smoked salmon and hollandaise sauce

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If you asked ten people what Eggs Benedict was, I am sure nine and a half of them would tell you it was poached eggs sitting on smoked salmon with hollandaise sauce.

Which is what happens when restaurants (and some food writers) are sloppy with their naming. A similar situation exists with Eggs Florentine.

Nevertheless, I just love eating this, whatever it is called.

4 thick slices of sourdough bread
Olive oil
1 clove of garlic (optional)
A generous quantity of smoked salmon
8 poached eggs (these can be poached in advance and reheated, as they would be in a restaurant situation)
Hollandaise sauce
Cayenne pepper (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
A sprig of dill or tarragon, to garnish

Brush both sides of the sourdough slices with a little olive oil and place under a hot grill for 1 – 2 minutes each side, until crisp and golden. Rub one side of each slice with the garlic clove.

Top each slice of sourdough with a generous quantity of smoked salmon, top the smoked salmon with 2 reheated and well-drained poached eggs. Spoon hollandaise sauce over the eggs.

Sprinkle with a little cayenne pepper if using, then season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Garnish with a sprig of dill or tarragon and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Variation: Cook some spinach in a little butter to wilt, then chop finely. Transfer the spinach to a sieve and, using the back of a spoon, press out as much water as possible. Season the spinach with salt and freshly ground pepper and lemon juice to taste.

Top each slice of sourdough with the spinach, add the smoked salmon, the poached eggs, then the hollandaise sauce. Garnish as above.

Chickpea and Sweet Potato Cakes

Chickpea and sweet potato cakes

Sarah and I recently took Milly for a bite to eat at the Lido in Racecourse Road. I was absolutely starving so I ordered their tapas plate. (Ever hopeful!) Sarah followed suit and we both ended up with enormous platters of food which we couldn’t possibly hope to finish. The best were the chick pea and sweet potato (kumera) cakes that were absolutely delicious. Needless to say I bought sweet potatoes and chick peas to experiment the next day and while my experiments were cooking I began leafing through the current edition of Australian Gourmet Traveller. There, on page 54 was a recipe for Chickpea and Sweet Potato Cakes with Green Bean and Mint Salad. Coincidences I believe in, but that was just ridiculous!

Mine was nearly right.

800g orange sweet potato (kumera), cut into boiling size chunks
400g canned chickpeas, well drained
35g (¼ cup) plain flour
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
1½ teaspoons ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive or grapeseed oil for frying

Cook the sweet potato in boiling salted water for 10 minutes or until tender. Drain well. Using a potato masher or ricer, mash until smooth. Add the chickpeas, flour and spices and mix together well. Mould dessertspoons of the potato mixture into rounds and place on a tray.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a heavy based frying pan over medium heat and cook the cakes (flattening them a little with a spatula) for 3 minutes on either side or until golden. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Serve with natural Greek yoghurt or tzatziki or raita to dip.

Serves 4.

 Photo by: self.com

Warm Thai Beef Salad

Warm Thai Beef Salad

Annie Douglass made this for Opening Day on ‘Nerang’ one year, beautifully presented on a huge serving dish, right down to the chilli flowers, one of which Dad actually ate! Or it can be simply tossed.

The salad ingredients vary enormously from the mundane to the exciting. Warm roast fillet of beef tastes wonderful at any time with a Thai dressing, but the dish should contain some more exciting ingredients than tomato, capsicum, onion and chilli. Snake beans, if in season, are perfect, chopped peanuts almost a must. Snow peas are good too. Think about adding some grated green papaw, some ruby red grapefruit segments with their membranes removed so that you get little droplets of red grapefruit through the salad. Coriander and mint are, of course obligatory. Without them you might as well leave out the beef. Above all it should taste fresh.

Essentials:
750g piece of eye fillet of beef, well trimmed
1 clove garlic, crushed
Peanut (preferably), or canola oil
1 cup fresh coriander leaves, shredded
½ cup fresh mint, shredded
½ – ¾ cup chopped peanuts
2 baby red chillies, seeded and very finely sliced
6 shallots, finely sliced

Dressing:
¾ cup fish sauce (nam pla)
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 dessertspoon oyster sauce
Sugar to taste

Salad Ingredients:
Choose from the following, trying to make the selection as interesting as possible:
Snake beans
Snow peas
Water chestnuts
Cherry tomatoes
Salad onion, sliced
Cucumber
Bean sprouts
Red capsicum, sliced
Garlic chives
Grated green papaw
Segmented ruby red grapefruit, membranes and seeds removed

Rub the beef with oil and garlic and roast in a pre-heated oven to rare or medium rare (about 20 minutes, depending on thickness). This should be done as close as possible to serving time so that the beef is still warm when served.

Blanch the snake beans in boiling water for 1 minute, drain and plunge into cold water to stop them cooking further. Strain and cut if desired. Top and tail the snow peas and remove strings. Blanch in boiling water for 30 seconds and plunge into cold water to stop them cooking further. Strain and combine with the snake beans. Slice the water chestnuts and the capsicum. Chop the garlic chives as coarsely as you like. Grate the green papaw if using, outer part of the fruit only. Peel the grapefruit, divide into segments and carefully remove seeds. Ease out the little ‘capsules’ of grapefruit, trying not to squash them as you do so.

Slice the beef as thinly as possible. Either arrange on plates or place in a bowl with other salad ingredients. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts, coriander, mint, chilli and shallots. Pour dressing over the whole salad.

Photo by: http://soojerky.blogspot.com.au

Almond milk and asparagus soup with truffle oil

This is not one of mum’s recipes but my own after my visit to The Sand End pub in Kate’s street in London. Saturday night was my first attempt and other than not being able to get the flower petals to garnish, it looked and tasted fantastic!

I made the almond milk from scratch as opinion seems to be that packaged almond milk has too much water added. I used raw almonds and it was very time consuming as you need to blanch the almonds and remove the skin. When I do it again, I’ll just buy blanched almonds although they do come at a premium price.

500g of blanched almonds
Hot water
3 bunches of asparagus
Lemon juice of one small lemon
Lemon zest
Chicken (or vegetable stock)
Truffle oil
Edible flowers (if available)

Pour boiling water over almonds and allow them to soften for 2 hours. Strain and add half the almonds to blender (500 grams is too much for most blenders). While blending the almonds slowly pour hot water into the blender – but do not add too much too quickly; you want a soup-like consistency. Repeat for the second half of the almonds.

Using a muslin cloth, strain the blended almonds and water mixture into a bowl. I hung mine up and let it drip, but still ended up squeezing the milk out by hand. The resulting liquid should be the consistency of milk but “grainier”.

Steam the asparagus to a firm but edible consistency – do not overcook. Drain and then place approximately two bunches of asparagus into the blender until it becomes a paste. The remaining asparagus is for garnish. Add the almond milk back into the blender and continue to blend. The resulting liquid should be still quite runny.

Pour the soup into a saucepan and add approximately 1 cup of stock, one piece of lemon peel and the juice of one lemon over a watched gentle flame. Heat the soup, continually stirring so that it does not stick to the base. As you do this the soup will thicken. You want the soup to become very thick so that you can thin it by adding more stock (but without adding so much that the subtle almond and asparagus tastes are over-powered).

Before serving, cut the remaining asparagus spears in half and add 2 spears to a shallow soup bowl. Remove the lemon skin and ladle the soup over the asparagus.

To serve, garnish with a drizzle of truffle oil and a pinch of lemon zest. If you happen to be able to find edible flower petals then this looks great.

Serves 4.

San choy bow

My original recipe for San Choy Bow made with pork mince was typed out on a scatty bit of paper and given to me by Mr.Bradfield, that scandalously expensive butcher at Oriel Park. I have no idea why he gave it to me, since I bought meat from him very rarely.  The scatty bit of paper has long since disappeared and of course, we have all since realised that San Choy Bow should be made, not with pork mince, but with cooked duck meat as part of Peking Duck.

So pork San Choy Bow is probably not authentic, (although the Thais do have a similar recipe also made with pork and served wrapped in lettuce leaves, called Issan Ground Pork.) Nevertheless San Choy Bow is a welcome relief from the boredom of normal meals. Kids, if ever any of you remember to have any, think that eating their meal out of  a lettuce leaf is just great. San Choy Bow is just as good made with chicken mince or finely chopped duck meat.

1 kg pork mince
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 good knob of peeled fresh ginger, crushed or grated
Oil for cooking
4 – 6 green onions, finely chopped
1 small tin of water chestnuts,
2 – 3 small red chillies, seeded and finely chopped
250ml (approximately) chicken stock
2 tablespoons shaoshing rice wine
3 tablespoons light soy sauce
3 teaspoons oyster sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon cornflour dissolved in ½ cup of water or chicken stock. to thicken

Fresh young lettuce leaves, preferably iceberg,  to serve.

To separate the lettuce leaves so they don’t tear, use a knife and remove the stalk of the lettuce and run cold water into the lettuce for a minute. Soak the lettuce in cold water for an hour, then drain, cover and chill until ready to serve. This will ensure its texture remains crisp.

Heat oil in a wok, add garlic and ginger and cook to release the flavours. Remove garlic and ginger with a slotted spoon. Add minced pork to the oil and cook, stirring until all the mince has changed colour and has broken up. Add green onions, water chestnuts and chilli stir through.

Add chicken stock and cook, uncovered until pork is cooked. Add the soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil and shaoshing wine and stir well to combine. Allow the mixture to reduce and thicken a little if necessary.

Give the cornflour mixture a big stir and add.  Stir in well. Toss and stir the pork until
cornflour has glazed all of the pork and the mixture has thickened.

Transfer to a serving dish with another platter containing fresh young lettuce leaves.

Guests take a lettuce leaf, place a spoonful of San Choy Bow, in the leaf, wrap it and eat it as finger food.

Serves 4.

Thai fish cakes

Unfortunately, opportunities for cooking these delicious fish cakes do not happen often, good reef fish being the price it is. When Dad and I went up to the Bunkers with Nikki and Bruce Phillips on the old ‘Arbitrage’, I went prepared (even though Bruce drew the line at my wok.) My chance came one day when we caught nothing but Red Hussars, a good eating fish with very little keeping ability. Red Hussars do not freeze well, so it is a matter of eat now, or use for bait. When I announced that I was making Red Hussar Thai fish cakes for lunch, I was banished from the galley and told to prepare them on the bait board. So I did. Nobody objected to eating them, though.

250g white fish fillets
½ cup snake or green beans, roughly sliced
1 coriander plant, leaves, stems and roots, finely chopped
1 stalk of lemon grass, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 small red chillies, seeded and very finely chopped
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 egg, lightly beaten
Oil for frying

Remove any skin and bones from the fish and cut into pieces. Place in a bowl of a food processor with all of the remaining ingredients, except the oil for frying. Process for 30 seconds or until just mixed. Do not over-mix. Refrigerate mixture for at least an hour or until cold.

With damp hands, shape the mixture into patties, approximately 5cm in diameter. Heat oil in a wok or deep frying pan and fry the fish cakes, a few at a time, until crisp and golden brown, turning once. Drain on absorbent paper and keep hot in a very slow oven (120C) while cooking the remainder. Serve with Cucumber Salad.

CUCUMBER SALAD

1 medium cucumber
2 shallots, finely sliced
1 –3 small red chillies, seeded and very finely chopped
¼ cup vinegar
½ cup hot water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
Chopped coriander to garnish

Quarter the cucumber lengthways and using a small spoon, scoop out the seeds from each quarter. Slice finely with skin on. Place sliced cucumber in a bowl with the shallots and chillies. Mix together the sugar and hot water add the vinegar and fish sauce and pour over the cucumber mixture. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving. Garnish with chopped coriander.