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.

Braised Duck, Beans and Bacon

Ahh The July French Issue Gourmet Traveller Challenge landed on my doorstep halfway through June. Don’t you love it when a new one arrives and I used it well.

At the beginning of July I held a 6 course dinner party at a friend’s house. The story goes like this….

My friend, Louise “Would you like to come over for a dinner party on 7th July?”,  Me “sounds fabulous”

Louise “lets meet to plan the menu”, Me “sure, what did you have in mind to make?”

Louise “well I thought you’d have some ideas, it’s all about you and what you’d like to cook for us”  Oh I get it now, sneaky girl. Louise bought all the ingredients and all I had to do was to come and cook! Such a great deal. Sneaky girl, she knew I’d love it.

We ended up doing the main course together and made duck with puy lentils and prunes from a past Gourmet Traveller issue, the recipe is on the website here. It may have been the fact she bought the duck from Terry Wright Butchers, but it turned out so well, falling off the bone. I will be making this one again.

I didn’t take pictures on the night, I needed to make something else so you knew I completed this months challenge. Seeing the month was flying, as usual, and life was so busy I thought I would do something simple.

I made this fish soup recipe by Colman Andrews, well he describes it as a recipe a friend used to cook for him in his tiny Marais flat. It was awful. Sorry, it was. I’m not even going to put up the picture of it. It was that bad. BUT voilà….

I got there in the end, cooking a braised duck, beans and bacon recipe. I guess it’s a take on cassuolet minus the Toulouse sausage. It’s a simple recipe, found here on the website.

Tips and Tricks

I added a few more ingredients to the recipe. When softening the onions I also added a diced stick of celery and a diced small carrot. It’s a rich dish and I think it benefits from the milder flavour.

There is alot of liquid in this dish, I think I would only add enough water to just cover the duck. I threw in a dash of Noilly Pratt to deglaze the pan after searing the duck. If it wasn’t frozen in the depths of my freezer I would have added a Toulouse sausage as well. And yes I do have them in my freezer, I love them.

Oh yeah, I also added finely chopped parsley to the breadcrumbs, purely to add some colour. Just be careful when you sprinkle them on the top before baking that you concentrate them on top of the duck. If you put them over the liquid and beans they soften into it making bread soup, unless you like that sort of thing of course.

Mackerel with pickled cucumber and horseradish

I never thought I’d say this but I need a break from comfort food. After the rainy long weekend when I hibernated in my flat I couldn’t take it any longer. I spent the weekend reading, perusing cookbooks and eating way too much.

There are so many great recipes in the June ‘British issue’ of Gourmet Traveller. Sometimes though, you have to be sensible. You can’t cook a family size pork pie for one and be eating it all week (as much as I kinda wanted to).

There were the Eccles cakes, my favourite and a much loved St John treat, scotch eggs and apple pies. The article on Brett Graham though really caught my interest. An Australian who has made his home and his name in London at The Ledbury and The Harwood Arms. I was surprised they included the recipes for Harwood favourites, those scotch eggs and that soda bread!

I’ve tasted (in large quantities) the bread and tried to attain the recipe, now I have it! Although I haven’t had the scotch egg. I copped a bit of flack for that and I hope to rectify that, now the famous recipe has been revealed.

In the mean time this mackerel is just what I need to bring me out of a winter stodge slump. It has been slightly adapted from the Gourmet Traveller.

Mackerel with pickled cucumber and horseradish

Ingredients

1 fresh as they come, mackerel

1 small thumb size piece of fresh horseradish

1/2 cup loosly packed mixed parsley leaves and dill fronds.

Pickled Cucumber

1 lebanese cucumbers, sliced finely (ideally with a mandolin)

100mls apple juice

100mls water

20mls white wine vinager

1/4 nori sheet folded into a small rectangle and finely sliced

1/2 cup lightly packed parsley leaves

1 pinch of sea salt

Method

Combine all the pickling ingredients, except the cucumbers, in a food processor and blend well. Pour liquid over a sieve and into a plastic bowl. Discard the bright parsley and nori left (shame). Add the cucumbers to the pickling liquid and leave to steep in the liquid for a few hours (2-3).

Fillet your mackerel (or have the fishmonger do it, but it’s not as fun). Lightly season with salt and olive oil, place skin side down in a hot pan. Hold the mackerel down lightly for a 30 seconds to make sure all the skin is in contact with the pan. Leave the fillets in the pan (don’t be tempted to turn them) for about 3 minutes. Then flip over and cook on the other side for a minute.

Drain cucumbers from the pickling juice. Arrange on plate, place mackerel on, crispy skin side up, add herb leaves and finely grate horseradish over. Be warmly generous with the horseradish.

Serves 2

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!

Braised lamb breast ragu

It’s hard to find a cheap cut of meat these days that hasn’t been caught up in the ‘gourmet’ food fad and can no longer claim a place on the cheap cut list. I remember when lamb shanks were so cheap I used to buy them for my dog to gnaw on. I’m not even sure there are any cheap cuts anymore. The lamb breast was $8.99/kg, which ended up being about $9.50 for the cut. But what to do with it? I have seen it rolled and slow cooked but I thought I’d give it a try as a ragu.

This is a cut of meat that benefits from a slow braise. So I gave it a sear in a pan on the stove top then into the oven in a bath of red wine, chicken stock (all I had in the house) and a bay leaf thrown in for good measure. Covered with foil, it cooked for an hour at 170°C then I couldn’t take the smell of it cooking any longer and went to the pub for a huge roast lunch. I turned it down to 150ºC while I was there for an hour, or so. After 2-2 1/2 hours the meat was tender and the rib bones slid straight out of the meat.

I find it easier to separate and pull the meat while it is still warm. You will find alot of meat in between the layers facia. It is quite fatty, so try to remove as much as you can.

Then make a simple tomato based sauce.

1. Soften 1 diced onion, 1 small diced carrot and finely chopped garlic in a few tablespoons olive oil in a saucepan on medium heat with a large pinch of sea salt. I would have added celery too, if I had it.

2. toss in a splash of red wine, say half a cup.

3. add a small tin of tomatoes and the same amount of passata (only because I couldn’t decide which to use as just the tin tomatoes wouldn’t create a thick enough sauce, next time I’ll just use passata)

4. add a fresh bay leaf

5. you can also add some herbs, oregano, or thyme or finely chopped rosemary

Simmer for 15-20 minutes, taste for seasoning, (as I needed to add pepper and quite a bit of salt). Then add the pulled lamb and simmer for another 5 minutes. Serve with good pasta and grated pecorino. Serves 4-6.