Beetroot-Cured Salmon and Homemade Bagels

Beetroot cured salmon….for such a long time I have wanted to make this. I don’t know why it has taken so many years for me to get around to it, because it’s so simple. I like the idea of curing my own salmon and the dark pink hue of the beetroot looks so beautiful against the coral salmon. Make sure your salmon is fresh. I’m a bit paranoid so I went to the fish markets.

Now the bagels, on the other hand, are part of my monthly Gourmet Traveller Challenge. Never had I made them before but I was so pleased with the results, I went off to work singing (now that’s a first!).

Beetroot-Cured Salmon

300g fresh thick salmon fillet

50g brown sugar

50g sea salt

5-6 black peppercorn seeds, crushed

1 small beetroot, grated

1 small bunch dill

Mix the sugar, salt, crushed peppercorns, beetroot and half the dill finely chopped. Lay the salmon, skin side down, in a non reactive tray (use ceramic, glass or plastic). Make sure all the bones are removed, pack the salmon with the curing mix. Cover with cling film and sit anther tray on top of the salmon, inside the tray and weigh down with two tins of whatever is to hand. Leave refrigerated for 1-3 days. Wash off the curing mix, dry and top with the remaining chopped dill.

To make the bagels I followed the recipe in the September issue of Gourmet Traveller. If you don’t have a copy it’s online here. They are pretty simple to make and very satisfying not to buy the shiny perfectly smooth round supermarket ones. Instead you will have real ones that look homemade, which is much more impressive.

To serve thinly slice the salmon and serve with toasted bagels. Serve with aïoli, crème fraîche with freshly grated horseradish, sour cream or whatever you fancy.

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Smoked Garlic Bagna Cauda

I always pick up French breakfast radishes whenever I see them. They are impossible to find, except at the markets. Normally I slide them across some good butter and dip them in a bit of sea salt but after spotting some smoked garlic at the markets, I had to give into the bagna cauda.

The smoking really mellows the bitter pungency of the garlic. It would be great to be able to smoke it yourself. A quick google search will tell you it’s not difficult to smoke anything but a bit of equipment preparation is necessary. So until then, the markets will have to suffice.

Smoked Garlic Bagna Cauda

4-5 smoked garlic cloves

full fat milk (about 300mls)

4 anchovies, in olive oil or salt, washed and patted dry

a large nob of good butter (about 25g)

olive oil (20mls)

half a lemon

Cut cloves in half and place in small saucepan, just cover with milk and put on a very low heat for 10 minutes. Drain the garlic and repeat, this time leaving the garlic until the cloves can be easily squashed with a fork. This could take about 20 minutes and you may need to add more milk to keep the garlic mostly covered. Blitz with a hand stick blender.

Add the anchovies and whisk in, then add butter, whisk, slowly add the olive oil while whisking. Everything should be nicely emulsified. This is a thin mixture so don’t be concerned. Add a small squeeze of lemon juice. Taste and adjust accordingly.

This Northern Italian dip is best kept warm whilst eating. So if you have a small fondue set or a tealight candle holder you can place underneath that’s great. Otherwise eat quickly.

Serves 2 for a shared entree.

Cauilflower, Gruyère and Poached Egg Soufflé : A Summer with Elizabeth David


There have been some chilly mornings of late, as Autumn arrives. I love a little chill in the air.  It seems it was not so long ago that it was summer and I was spending relaxed mornings lying on the beach.
On my way I would grab a book from the shelf near the front door. My hand always seem to land on Elizabeth David; small, compact and you could open to any page and start a good read.

I truly love her writing. I used to get frustrated that she didn’t speak in more precise measurements but as I became a more confident cook I actually found it more useful. You can abandon the fineries of measuring out every ingredient and never ever changing the recipe for fear of it not working out. Elizabeth David provides you with inspirational ideas and leaves you to work out the details.

The obvious choice to take to the beach was ‘Summer Cooking’, first published in 1955. I seem to be particularly obsessed with her chapter on eggs. In it she has a paragraph entitled Poached Eggs in Cheese Soufflé. The first published version of this recipe was by Alfred Suzanne in his ‘Egg Cookery’, 1893. Elizabeth describes the dish so beautifully I read it over and over again.

I’m sorry I didn’t measure everything out at the time, so your going to have to roll with this one.

The Gruyère and Cauliflower 

Put a saucepan on medium heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil and about 20g of butter. Once the butter is melted add 1/2 a finely chopped white onion or a shallot (or as they call it here a eschallot) with a large pinch of sea salt. Soften but do not brown. Chop half a small cauliflower head into small florets and add them to the pan. Pour in enough chicken stock, or water, to only just cover the cauliflower and bring to the boil, continue until you can push a fork easily through the floret stems. Spoon into a food processor leaving most of the liquid behind in the pan, and process until smooth. I like to add a large tablespoon of sour cream as well.

Separate two eggs.

The White Sauce

Rinse out the pan you just used and add about 20g of butter to the pan. Melt over medium heat, then add a heaped tablespoon of plain flour and stir together. After a minute of cooking add a splash of milk and whisk for another minute. Then slowly add about 350g warm milk and whisk to form a smooth white sauce. Then, off the heat, stir through your two egg yolks, add a very large handful of grated Gruyère cheese, the same amount of cauliflower puree and stir through. Check for seasoning. Add sea salt and pepper to taste.

The Eggs

Whisk egg whites until you get soft peaks. Add a third to the cauliflower, Gruyère mix to loosen, then add the remaining, gently folding through.

While all this is going on you can poach an egg. I’m not great at this and I rarely get my hands on super fresh eggs, which you need for the straight ‘drop in simmering water’ method. I like to use the oiled gladwrap method, perfectly described here by Not Quite Nigella.

Bake

Butter your chosen dish well. I used a breakfast bowl, don’t feel like you have to search out little ramekin dishes, go big and rustic. Fill half the dish with the mixture then carefully place in your poached egg, do not break it! Cover with more mixture to fill the dish. Grate fresh Parmesan over the top for extra flavour and a crisp brown top. Bake in an oven preheated to 200°C for 8-10 minutes. Remember not to open the oven door during this time or you will have a flat soufflé.

Makes one large serve or two modest ones.

Serve with a green salad and enjoy the runny yolk!

Fried Bocconcini with Gremolata Crumbs…The Gourmet Traveller Challenge. April

Yeah, Autumn has arrived!! I love it when a season changes. It’s not so pronounced, so to speak, in Sydney but, never the less, there is a definite chill in the air now.

April brought the Italian issue of Gourmet Traveller. I was kind of holding out this month to put in a bit of effort and crack out some cannoli but alot has been going on and sadly they never eventuated.

The fried bocconcini also took my fancy, all that warm melting cheese surrounded by crisply fried breadcrumbs, it had to be good. Perfect for a drinks party, definitely.

You can get the recipe here from the Gourmet Traveller website.

Tips, Tricks and Trials

OK so this is what I did wrong:

The note at the start of the recipe warns against not putting enough bread crumbs on and the cheese leaking out when fried. Seeing this and the state of my crumbs I knew I was in trouble. I used fresh white sourdough and I couldn’t get the crumbs fine enough. Everyone knows you have to use at least day old bread!

This made the double crumbing too thick for the cheese to melt properly. Still, I think I can retrieve them with a little stint inside a covered tray in a moderate oven.

The Gourmet Traveller Challenge. February: The Montpellier Public House’s potted trout with dill cucmbers

Gee it’s nearly the end of the month and I haven’t made my monthly GT recipe challenge, and this is only month two! Time seems to fly so quickly, if only the weekend had one more day…

After my recent visit to The Montpellier Public House, there was no question what I wanted to make from this months GT magazine.

Last month I had enthusiastically made my first pickled cucumbers, so I didn’t really see the need to make them again when I still had some left. The recipe was much the same anyway.

I also didn’t read the recipe properly before I went shopping and bought a fillet instead of a whole fish and because I thought the recipe called for a fillet and the fishmonger had none I bought ocean trout instead of rainbow trout. I think it worked out ok anyway.

The recipe is simple (ok, so I think I’m going to break my own rules everytime). Here is the link to the recipe on the Gourmet Traveller website.

If you like the aniseed flavours of fennel and dill your going to love this recipe. It’s perfect for an easy dinner or a light lunch. I think it would be great for a picnic too. For me, it will be perfect for those nights I finish work late and am too tired to cook and nearly too tired to eat. I guess the trout will keep for a few days. The cucumbers will keep for a few weeks or sealed in a sterilised jar for 5-6 months.

Stuffed Courgette Flowers

As soon as summer awakened, yes I know it’s gone back into hibernation, these courgette flowers were straight into my basket. I’d never actually used the flowers before but I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them.

The flowers themselves don’t actually really taste of much but the point is they are perfect vessels to fill with a soft cheesy mix. You could really go crazy but the most common fillings are of cheeses such as ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan. Alongside those in the mix you can also find, mint, basil, anchovies, olives and even a meat blend can be used to fill the flowers. Are you sensing an Italian theme here? Yes, they are commonly associated with Italian fare. The point is you can make it your own and use whatever you fancy out of your fridge. It may not traditional, but why not experiment?

I opted for a more traditional approach for my first try, picking up some ricotta, mint and parsley as I made my escape from the market.

Stuffed Courgette Flowers

Ingredients 

5-6 baby courgettes with flowers attached

about 80g-100g ricotta

1 tbsp chopped mint

1 tbsp chopped parsley

small grating of parmesan (say 10-15g)

salt and pepper

Vegetable or Rice Bran oil

Batter

4 heaped tbsp plain flour

1 heaped tbsp cornflour

1 egg, lightly beaten

cold sparkling water

First cut the stamen out from inside the flower, they are bitter. Take your time to do this and try not to tear the flower too much, as it is your vessel to hold the filling and as such will hold it better the less you tear the flower petals. I found this easiest to do with a pair of scissors.

To make the filling combine the ricotta, mint, parsley and parmesan. Add salt and pepper to taste (keeping in mind the parmesan will be slightly salty as well). I find using a plastic bag easiest  for a make shift piping bag. Spoon the mix into a heavy plastic bag, like a zip lock sandwich bag, and cut a small 1cm piece off one corner.

Then make the batter by combining the flour, cornflour and egg, whisking in the sparking water (maybe 100mls) until the batter is quite a runny consistency (like single cream).

Choose a saucepan wide enough to fry the courgettes flat. Fill it 4-5cm deep with the oil of your choice (choose one that has a low threshold to smoking at high temperatures). Put the pan on a high heat.

Fill the flowers with the mix, taking care not to over fill, make sure the petals covers the sides, then twist then ends to hold in the filling. Dip into the batter and place slowly into pan, flower first and away from you. Only fry two at a time so as not to reduce the oil temperature too much and over crowd the pan. When just golden remove and drain on kitchen paper. The courgette may still have a slight fresh crunch. Serve hot with a wedge of lemon.

Serves one as a main, two as an entree, or four as part of a sharing meal.