About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Recent Posts
Hashed Potato Pancakes
Easy Tomato Soup
A Matter of Opinion
Ruby Blood Navel Oranges
Chicken Cacciatora
Goulash Soup
Fennel, Guanciale & Fontina Quiche
Soup aux Bernard Salt
Polenta with Cavalo Nero & Borlotti Beans
Sorrel Sauce

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1001 Dinners 1001 Nights
A Few of My Favourite Things
Abstract Gourmet
Apellation Australia
Becks and Posh
BurgerMary ATX
Cook (almost) Anything at least once
Cooking Down Under
Cook sister!
Cooked And Bottled In Brunswick
David Lebovitz
Deep Dish Dreams
Chef Paz
Chubby Hubby
Eating Melbourne
Eating With Jack
essjay eats
Food Lover's Journey
Gosstronomy
Grab Your Fork
I Am Obsessed With Food
I Eat Therefore I Am
Iron Chef Shellie
Just Desserts
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Kitchen Wench
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Matt Bites
Melbourne Gastronome
My Kitchen in Half Cups
Nola Cuisine
Not Quite Nigella
Nourish Me
Seriously Good
Souvlaki For The Soul
Stone Soup
Sunnybrae
Syrup and Tang
Steve Don't Eat It!
That Jess Ho
The Elegant Sufficiency
The Perfect Pantry
The View From My Porch
Thyme for Cooking
Tomato
Tumeric & Saffron
tummy rumbles
What I Cooked Last Night
where's the beef
WhiteTrashBBQ
Vicious Ange

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forget me now
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St Kilda Today

Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Leftovers
Last night when I came home, wife D. had just finished cooking. The leg of lamb was resting in the pan, potatoes were drying out in the pot, and the peas and carrots were draining. D. looked at me and asked if I could make the gravy. With everything ready, there was no time, good gravy takes about twenty minutes, so I went to the pantry cupboard and grabbed an instant sauce packet.

Yep, that's my dirty little secret, instant sauce.

We keep two types, both Polish brands by Knorr, one is called Hunter sauce and the other Creamy Mushroom sauce and they are without a doubt the best tasting instant sauces we've tried. I've only ever seen them at specialist shops, but they're worth looking out for. Both of them contain porcini mushrooms.

Whenever we buy a roast, we always get one bigger than we need. Two reasons for this, it's easier to roast a big piece of meat, and there is a second meal to be had. After dinner I went back to the kitchen and made the gravy, in a couple of nights we will have shepherds pie and the gravy is for this. Sometimes for a change we have a miroton, sliced roast meat braised in onion sauce.

Miroton

Left over roast, sliced. (any meat is okay)
2 onions, peeled and sliced
50 g (2oz) butter
1 tablespoon flour
leftover gravy or sauce from the roast
1 tablespoon vinegar
salt and pepper

In a frying pan, slowly cook the onions in the butter until golden, about twenty minutes, add the flour and stir for a minute or so, then add the leftover gravy and vinegar. Cook for ten minutes, if too thick, thin with a little water. Season. In a roasting dish that will hold the meat neatly, spread some onion sauce over the base, layer some meat, then sauce until it's all used up. Cover with foil or lid and cook in a 180c (350f) oven for an hour and fifteen minutes. Even though the meat is already cooked, don't be tempted to cook for a shorter time, roasted meat seizes and becomes tough when cooked again and needs this time to soften. Serve with polenta (recommended) or mashed potato.
 
  posted at 11:11 am
  2 comments



Monday, January 30, 2006
Shopping Trip
I had a plan.

Fish stock in the fridge, paella rice in the cupboard, throw in some baby squid, there's a nice Arroz a la Banda. Squid was all that was wanted, so after work off to my favourite fishmonger. Closed. Never mind, there is another one not far from where I live. Open. No squid.

Change of plan.

A few stores up from the fish shop is a Noodle Hut. That looks good; fessed up in a previous post that my Asian cooking skills may not be up to scratch, so somebody else doing it, is just great. Before we go any further, it's not that all my Asian skills aren't up to par, it's noodle dishes I have trouble with. For instance, Thai green curry, Tom Yum soup, no problem. I suspect the problem I'm having with noodle dishes is related to heat, or more correctly, lack of heat.

Several years ago, Victoria's main gas supplier threw the wrong switch and blew up the terminal. Everyone, with certain exceptions, was ordered to turn off their gas supply. No cooking, no hot water, nothing. At this time, I was friendly with Andrew of Hing Shing, a Chinese takeaway in Moorabbin. Rather than close his business, Andrew hired gas bottles with burners, To this he added what essentialy looked like a chimney, which the wok sat on top of. Andrew explained that the chimney was to draw the gas and air up together, giving more heat than the burner could provide unaided, because intense heat is what is needed in wok cooking.

While I was in Andrew's shop, the phone rang, it was his mother from Hong Kong, so he sked me to take over the wok with the fried rice. What the hell. I can tell you that tossing a wok full of fried rice is hard work. Andrew needed to do something else, so he handed me the phone; I spoke a few words of English, his mother a few words of Chinese, then we both paused and laughed, a few more words, a lot more laughter.

Back at the Noodle Shop I decide that a glass of wine would be nice, saunter off to the bottle shop to pick up a crisp chenin blanc. It's hot, so over to the vending machine for a cold drink, put the correct change in, press the button, nothing happens. A woman sitting on the bench next to the machine, half sings, half cackles to me,

"You didn't put enough money in, you didn't put enough money in."

Push the button again, no response.

"You didn't put enough money in, you didn't put enough money in."

Step back from the machine to have a better look, a light blinks on, the machine must be feeling the heat too. Push the button a third time, triumph, my cold drink arrives. The woman cackles again,

"You put the right money, you put the right money."

"I did too," I laugh.

"Yes, you did."

Go back to the noodle shop, pick up my order and head back to the car. Walk past an arcade, where the busker Cowboy Bob has just set up. There on a bench next to him, listening to his country and western set, is the women from next to the vending machine.

I bet Cowboy Bob was mighty pleased to have her there.
 
  posted at 11:23 am
  0 comments



Friday, January 27, 2006
Tacos Anyone?
Tankeduptaco, that's a funny one; suppose a few readers think it was specially thought up for this blogspot. Not true. When my kids helped me to set up the computer a couple of years ago, they said I had to have a cool name for my emails and that name had to be unique. Thinking not so hard, came up with tank, my nickname from the past, as in built like a tank. From there, it was only a short step to tankedup, meaning full and ready to go. Then I added taco, one of my favourite foods, something simple and uncomplicated, with a never ending parade of fillings. So when I wanted a nome de plume for this blog, it was perfect. This blog is like a taco, full to the top with interesting fillings.

I've always liked Mexican food, it never ceases to amaze me, that from such simple ingredients, something greater than the sum of its parts emerges. One thing that irks me is that whenever food critics talk about great cuisines of the world, they NEVER mention Mexican food. Come on guys, what's wrong with you? In my world, Mexican cuisine is in the top three. Looking on my bookshelf, there are more French cookbooks than any other, next are Mexican cookbooks.

If anyone cares to leave a comment about their favourite cuisine and why, I will do a post about readers favourites.

So why do food critics dismiss Mexican cookery? I suspect it is to do with the use of chilies. For a start they can't drink their wines as the chile heat interferes with their ability to taste the wine, especially so with red wine. Capsaicin, the chemical responsible for chile heat, reacts with the tannins in the wine, rendering meaningful tasting impossible. The only wines that have any chance of showing anything are unwooded whites such as riesling, or unwooded reds in the beaujolais style.

If the critics cannot drink wine with their meal, half their pleasure has evaporated. The other problem the poor darlings have is if they aren't used to chilies, they cannot assess the food properly. Nuances that are apparent to any chile head are lost on them. So rather than admit that they are not equipped to critique the food, they dismiss it.

In supermarkets in my neck of the woods, in the gourmet section, the Italians are well represented with pasta and sauces, then would come Mexican, Indian and Asian food. I can't think of a single French item, for instance, that one could base a meal around. Supermarkets only stock what's selling and of the four cuisines mentioned, three of them are liberal with chilies and spices; this is the food the man or woman in the street wants to eat.

The glory of Mexican cuisine, is that a few ingredients have been coaxed into a form that is true to its peasant origins, but is capable of great sophistication. Think ceviche, mole, rellanos, fish in the Veracruz style. Think of all the different salsas, one small book I have contains more than thirty recipes alone. This cuisine is alive with taste, perhaps all it needs is a champion to show the world its proper place.
 
  posted at 11:11 am
  1 comments



Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Here I Am
Well it looks like the last known person in the blogging universe has been tagged ~ thanks to Angela at Seriously Brilliant Stuff.

So here I am.

Seven Things To Do Before I Die

Learn Polish - it is the sound of the wind & rain.
Write more food articles for publication.
Catch a wild barramundi.
Go back to Tahiti.
Buy a house with a big garden.
Work in the food industry - now you know I'm mad.
Drink my only bottle of 1957 Tokai Essence.

Seven Things I Cannot Do

Cure Autism - but I can help someone with it to be the best person they can.
Tap dance - too noisy.
Be a handyman- I cook, alright already.
A Rubicks Cube.
Stand by when someone needs help.
Cook Asian food well - I try, I really do.
Put links in the text - I nearly got it one time, maybe this year.

Seven Things That Attracted Me To My Spouse

The way she looks at me.
Her accent - it really does it for me.
Her green eyes.
Her smile.
The calmness that surrounds her.
The aura of mystery that sometimes drives me crazy.
She knew species of mushrooms that I didn't.

Seven Things I Say (or write) The Most

"That's a nice pirate hat."
"Scarbier": translation - treasure, as in "Hello treasure."
"Oh."
"Sail the seven seas with me."
"Go Bombers."
"Darling."
"M., what are you doing."

Seven Books I Like

Moby Dick, Hermann Melville - it's a fishing story, a very big one, dictionary essential.
Collected short stories of Somerset Maugham.
Memories of Gascony, Pierre Koffmann.
La Tante Claire, Pierre Koffmann - two cookbooks that are a seriously good read.
The Sum of All Fears, Tom Clancy - he nearly got it all right.
The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne - what love does.
The Cat In The Hat, Dr Seuss - who doesn't like a cat like that.

Seven Movies I Could Watch Over & Over Again

Roxanne - modern take on an old tale.
Sound of Music - okay, so I'm goofy.
South Pacific - real goofy
Finding Nemo - first computer animation I really liked, always dance with M. to the song at the end.
Titanic - first movie with the wife.
Blues Brothers - couldn't have more fun if you tried.
Woodstock - great music.

Seven People I Want To Join In

I nominate Greg seven times. Of all the people who should have a blog, you should. Hurry up.









 
  posted at 10:02 am
  2 comments



Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Help Wanted
My daughter P. called the other week to tell me that she wanted to do a party for her mum's birthday.

"Hi Dad, guess what? I'm going to do a party for mum."

"That's great, what are you going to cook?"

"Dunno yet, I've got a couple of recipies."

"How many are coming?"

"About twenty."

P. has never cooked for more than her family before. After a flurry of telephone calls and emails to me about the catering, I'm starting to get a feeling that my daughter is secretly asking for my help on the day, so I talk to my wife to ask if it's okay with her, which it is. Rang P. and offered my services, which were accepted faster than the speed of light.

We all hear the horror stories of friends and relations and their ex's. If it was late at night and after a few bottles of wine, I might tell you mine, but mostly I'm on John Lennon's side ~ Give Peace A Chance. When you have kids, it's crucial to decide what's more important: the reasons you broke up, or the kids. I know what's more important and have the scars on my tongue to prove it. What I've earned over the years is friendly relations with my ex. and well adjusted kids.

So down to business. Talk to P. about the number of guests, menu planning and budget. P. tells me she has budgeted $100 for twenty guests, to include snack food, lunch, birthday cake and desserts. As gently as I can, suggest it may not be enough. Between the two of us, we work out the details; all the ideas are P's. with some guidance from me.

Come the morning of the party, I turn up at 10.30; the guests arrive at 2.00pm, so I figure two hours should knock it over. How wrong I was, P. waited for me before starting anything ~ 3 1/2 hours to do the lot. We better work fast. Son N. had elected for barbecue duties, so wasn't up yet, son A. was given tabouli duties. First, sharpen all the knives on my nifty little machine, then we all get stuck in.

Peeling, dicing, chopping and cooking, we really moved. Their mum chimed in with a couple of dips of her own, hoummus and baba ganoush, which she gave me a taste of ~ the baba ganoush was seriously eggplanty.

"Did you put in the tahini?"

"No" she laughed, "and I just bought some this morning too."

Just as the doorbell rang, signalling the arrival of the first guests, just as we had pretty much finished the menu, P. brought out of the fridge some large mushroom caps.

"Dad, can we stuff these?"

Looked around and saw some black and green olives - some were stuffed with capsicum - and some fetta cheese. Crumbled the cheese, sliced the olives and mixed together. Filled the caps with this mixture, sprinkled with breadcrumbs and a lick of olive oil. If there were pine nuts and fresh rosemary to hand, they would have gone in, along with some crushed garlic. Baked in the oven at 200c (400f) for twenty minutes.

My job was done.
 
  posted at 10:16 am
  3 comments



Monday, January 23, 2006
Desert Island Dreaming
If I were to be suddenly marooned on a desert island, what, besides my Tom Hanks approved soccer ball, would I want to have with me? Easy enough to think of things I couldn't do without, but if my ship sunk or my plane crashed and there was no time to save life's essentials, like a case of Dom Perignon and a large tin of beluga caviar, what is the one thing to eat that would make life better on my island? Something to make life more tolerable. What is the one thing to choose if I could.

The problem with choosing one thing, is it can become boring after a while, so for the sake of this post, my island has a few things growing already. Things like onions, garlic, tomatoes and potatoes, maybe a few herbs. So what I really need is protein and being a good Australian lad, I choose to have a couple of sheep with me.

From this ark like beginning, my sheep would go forth and multiply, until I had a whole flock. Then the possibilities become endless. There are lamb cuts which are sweet and tender, two tooth with more flavour, then mutton with more flavour again and the structure suitable for stews, curries and tagines.

In Australia, the common cuts of lamb are loin chops, forequarter chops and legs of lamb, but there is one cut that I favour above all the others. The cut that pushes all the buttons for me is the shoulder or forequarter of lamb. Barry from Ormond Meat & Smallgoods tells me that in Australia, the forequarter or shoulder also includes part of the neck. What it really includes is all the flavour and texture that makes lamb so great. Because this cut is from the shoulder, it is a working muscle. That means it has structure, and because it's from a lamb, it hasn't had time to toughen. So the meat from this one part of the animal is suitable for frying or grilling, roasting and stewing. It really is the complete package.

It was my wife D's. and sister-in-law's birthday last week, so on Saturday we had a combined barbecue for them. We made D's. lamb shashliks to bring. I mentioned them in my very first post, with no recipe, so here it is.

D's. Lamb Shashliks

1 boned lamb forequarter(shoulder)
1/2 kg(1lb) raw kaiser fleisch or bacon, sliced thin and cut in 2.5cm(1") squares
4 green capsicums, cut in 2.5cm(1") squares
1/2 kg(1lb) small onions, peeled and cut in thin rings
vegeta (vegetable spice) or other dry spice blend
skewers, about twenty

Cut the lamb into chunks about 2.5cm(1") square and 1cm(1/2") thick. Thread a piece of lamb onto a skewer, followed by a piece of bacon, green capsicum then an onion ring. Repeat until there is five of everything, then finish with a piece of lamb. Season with spice mix and barbecue or grill skewers until done to your liking.

I promise that every last one will be eaten.

Back to my island, could I have a bottle of pinot noir mysteriously wash up on the shore? Oh, and a visit from my wife, the soccer ball is driving me mad.
 
  posted at 11:14 am
  0 comments



Friday, January 20, 2006
Eggplant Salad
I've been working on a new salad for a while now, made with eggplant (aubergine). It's kind of an unconstructed baba ganoush, that smoky, earthy middle eastern dip, pungent with cumin and garlic. But instead of baking the eggplant in the oven until it's collapsed, I've been cutting the eggplant into thick slices, rubbing with olive oil and cooking on a ridged grill, then cutting it into cubes and mixing with the dressing.Tried it out on my kids the other day.

"What do you think of it?"

"It's alright I suppose."

Damned with faint praise. Kind of knew that it wasn't quite right, but I couldn't put a finger on what was wrong. Until the other day. I was watching Kylie Kwong in Hong Kong ~ that has a nice ring to it ~ when she demonstrated a Chinese eggplant salad, where she peeled the eggplant, cut it into strips, salted it to draw out the bitter juices, which also had a softening effect, then steamed it until cooked. Kylie then made a Chinese style dressing which I'm ashamed to to be unable to tell you about, as I was in the middle of an epiphany. That was my answer, steaming.

The problem I had with eggplant was that if it was cooked too much, it would soften to a pulp, which I didn't want. Texture is important to this salad. When cooked on the cast iron grill pan, the eggplant was a touch undercooked. Steaming eliminated this problem and leaves a lovely silken texture without adding fried or grilled characters. Stronger flavours are coming later.

Eggplant Salad

2 plump eggplants, peeled and cut lengthways into thick slices
salt
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped into small dice
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup tahini paste
1/2 cup lemon juice
water
1 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper

Salt the eggplants in a colander for twenty minutes, rinse and pat dry. Cut into cubes or strips. Place on a plate in a steamer and steam for twenty minutes, until soft but not falling apart. When cool place in bowl with tomatoes and parsley. Mix all the other ingredients together. The lemon juice will thicken up the tahini considerably, thin with a little water, pour over salad and mix.
 
  posted at 12:30 pm
  0 comments



Thursday, January 19, 2006
St Kilda Photos
Found a great new site with photos of my suburb. Michael has taken some great shots, so go check it out at St Kilda Today, in my links list.
 
  posted at 5:14 pm
  2 comments



Pinnochio's Nose
Got home from work the other day, a little hungry, so check out the kitchen. Mmmm, meatball sauce for pasta. Taste, hmmm, there was a bitter, acrid edge to the sauce, just like it was burnt.

"Darling, did you burn the sauce?"

"No, I didn't."

Another taste.

"Are you sure?"

Looking me right in the eye.

"Darling, I promise you I didn't burn the sauce."

Now is a good time to keep quiet, so I help with putting the pasta on. I'm not saying another word about the sauce. After the pasta is cooked, put a splash of olive oil and a grating of grana over it and mix. Put on plates, some meatballs on top and a dollop of sauce. Dinner is served.

After a couple of bites daughter M. says she doesn't like it, goes to the kitchen and gets some plain pasta. I haven't said a word. We soldier on. Just as I'm finishing the pasta, look over to D's. plate. There, on the edge are little black flakes, the colour of charcoal, exactly the same as those on the edge of my plate. I've been quiet for a long time now.

"I burnt the onions."

"Did you?" with the best surprise I could muster.

D. was right, she didn't burn the sauce.

Kind of wondered later though, if Pinnochio had said it, would his nose have grown longer?
 
  posted at 11:28 am
  4 comments



Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Well Done
A couple of interesting finds due to the painting.

A $300 electronic car key that was missing for eighteen months. By the way, how do car makers get away with charging so much for a key? It's almost like give me the car and sell me the key.

Jam, that's right, jam. We are making jam faster than we consume it. Counted one box and there were twenty-five jars ~ we had six boxes. Too many of our friends have fruit trees, I might have to sneak out in the dead of night and do a George Washington, at the very least a good prune. On the spot New Year's resolution, we will only be making sour cherry (pie cherry) and raspberry jam from now on. Oh, if any one wants some jam ...

Banged on about bangers in my previous post, the way some people over cook them. Well sausages aren't the only form of meat to suffer this fate. Take my Christmas roast, four and a half kilos (10lbs) of glorious, aged prime rump of beef.

My sister-in-law E. hosted Christmas lunch. She asked me to procure the meat, which I ordered from one of my favourite butchers, Ormond Meat & Smallgoods. The owners Zepp and Marlies are Swiss, and most obliging; they will happily cut to order any type of meat in any shape or fashion and if you care to order in advance, will age your meat too.

E. had given me the number of guests early, so I ordered the meat a month before, plenty of time to age, and picked it up two days before Christmas. Unfortunately some guests were unable to attend, so the roast was a little large. The only thing to do was to slice some rump steaks off this magnificent lump of meat, which I did quite happily, for I knew what was going to happen next.

Whenever we cook a roast, my wife D. always asks for how long and at what temperature. Unfailingly I always tell her, unfailingly she always adds more time. When I complain D. points out that she cannot eat pink meat and I can eat well done meat, when I point out that she could eat from the outside of the roast, leaving me the pink inside, her reply is that the meat isn't cooked properly, then I add that she can eat steak tartare, which is completely raw, she adds that doesn't count.

Anyway E. asked me how long and at what temperature to roast the meat, which I told her and she then proceeded to cook it longer and hotter ~ just to be safe E. even added the resting time to the cooking time.

Did I tell you the vegetables were very nice?
 
  posted at 8:40 am
  3 comments



Monday, January 16, 2006
Silly Sausage
Well, I'm back, with a whole new respect for painters. Two weeks of painting, two rooms done. It seems mighty slow, but we live in an older style apartment, 1940's to be exact, with water damage to the ceiling and walls. Scrape old paint, patch and prime, sand old paint still sticking, oh dear, missed a spot, patch and prime, that repair doesn't look good, do it again. The ceiling in one room took three days to scrape the old paint off, flake by flake. Chef Melissa at Cooking Diva said painting could be fun. She is from Panama, so I took to scraping the paint off in the shape of Central America, complete with canal. It was fun the first couple of times, then I took to changing the outline. Central America as an S shape, then square, round, long and short. The Panama Canal visited other countries. North and South America were moved enough to put a wobble in the Earth's orbit. Scrape, scrape, scrape, it just became tedious after a while. Still, there is a lot of satisfaction looking at a freshly painted room.

Because of the painting, we went to the local parks for barbecues. Nothing special, just the usual suspects ~ sausages, lamb chops and chicken wings, along with salads. One day we organized a barbecue with one of M's. friends from school; you should have seen them, two five year olds hugging each other like long lost friends. We hadn't met A's. parents before, they turned out to be friendly and relaxed, as friendly and relaxed as you can be with six kids under the age of eleven.

I don't know if you can tell anything about someone by the way they cook, but A's parents were definitely well done kind of people. We started cooking about the same time, ten minutes later our sausages were ready, their sausages, the same size as ours, were not even half way done. After twenty-five minutes they did something that astonished me; they split the sausages nearly all the way through and laid them flat side down to complete the cooking. If there is a crime against sausages, I saw one committed.

When Melbourne hosted its first Grand Prix car race, the one we stole from Adelaide, I helped some friends who owned a wine shop and cafe, not far from the track at Albert Park, to cook for the hungry spectators. It was pretty simple fare, just sausages cooked on a barbecue, served in a roll with a choice of salad. My mate P. from same Beefsteak and Burgundy Club that I'm a member of, helped with the cooking.

While the menu was simple, the sausages were not. They were made by a Frenchman at La Parisienne in Carlton and were absolutely magnificent. The one I remember the most was the Toulouse, a beautifully plump and subtly spiced sausage, the same sausage used in cassoulet, the famous bean stew from France.

Some people are a little afraid of cooking sausages, they feel that they need to be well done and repeated stabbing with a fork mysteriously helps this process. Unfortunately P. was from this school of thought. I watched as good size sausages were reduced to only half their size. Not only did they look like a small serve, all their juices had disappeared. I stopped P. from cooking any more and told him to watch as I cooked one just for him. When it was done, I asked P. to take a bite of one of his sausages, then the one cooked for him. P. didn't over cook or stab another sausage for the rest of the day.
 
  posted at 8:16 am
  1 comments



Monday, January 02, 2006
Chef Melissa's New Year Eve's Dinner
I have snuck away from painting, 'cause Chef Melissa is running a "New Year's Recipe & Photo Swap", which to my way of thinking is much better than painting. You can find her in my sidebar as "Cooking Diva". Since I don't own a digital camera, I will try to make your mouth water with my words.

New Year's dinner is all about celebration with friends, reminiscing about the old year and looking forward to the coming year. The natural drink for this occasion is champagne or any good sparkling white wine. Of course we all like to mingle with everyone present, so some of the food needs to be portable and there is no finer combination than champagne served with gravlax of salmon.

Orange salmon eggs hatch in the gravel beds of wild mountain streams from where they migrate to the great rivers, slowly gaining in size until about two years of age, when they head for the ocean feeding grounds. Here they put on condition until they reach sexual maturity. It is this condition the salmon have put on, that enables them to make the perilous trek back to the gravel beds of their birth, for once the fish leave the feeding grounds, they eat no more.

This is what makes salmon so prized to us. The condition is stored as oil in the fishes flesh giving salmon a luxurious mouthfeel, which enables salmon to be prepared in many different ways. However there is one preparation which many people, particularly Scandinavians, believe captures the very essence of salmon and that is gravlax or cured salmon.

What is so good about gravlax is that it is hardly any work. The curing mixture is sandwiched by two pieces of fish and weighted. It is left to cure in the fridge for about two days with the occasional turning. That's all, it then only needs to be sliced and served. But what appears so simple also gives maximum impact. Your friends will love you for it, many of them will mistake it for smoked salmon and will be gobsmacked when you tell them you did it yourself.

Gravlax and champagne was a match designed in heaven. The oiliness combined with saltiness and a hint of dill and spice is the perfect foil for austere champagne. Even though gravlax is not cooked there is nothing fishy about it and no matter how much you choose to cure, it will never be enough, people always ask for more. It is the perfect appetizer and at only the cost of fresh salmon.

Salmon Gravlax

1.5 kg (2.75 lb) fresh salmon
1 bunch of dill
120 g (5 oz) salt
90 g (3.5 oz) sugar
2 tablespoons white or black peppercorns, crushed

Ask your fishmonger for two fillets of salmon from the head end with pin bones removed. Chop the dill and mix with the salt, sugar and peppercorns. Find a container (not metal) that will hold the salmon snugly, if you don't have one, a plate will do. Place one piece of salmon in the container or plate, flesh side up, cover with cure mixture, and place the other piece of salmon, flesh side down, on top. Cover with plastic wrap and weigh down with a couple of full tins or jars. Refrigerate for two and a half days, turning the fish every twelve hours. Take the salmon from the brine and scrape most of the dill off, you can leave it on for a pretty effect, but the peppercorns can be a bit sharp when bitten. Slice the salmon thinly with a sharp flexible knife. To serve, make small points (triangles) of bread, preferably light rye and top with salmon. The points can be garnished with chopped herbs, dill, parsley or chervil would be good, avoid strong herbs. Other garnishes would include a teaspoon of sour cream or horseradish and mustard cream topped with salmon roe. Of course cured salmon can be served absolutely plain.

Horseradish and Mustard Cream

2 teaspoons grated horseradish
2 teaspoons grated onion
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
25 ml (1 fl oz) white wine vinegar
pinch of salt
250 ml (8 fl oz) whipping cream

Whip the cream till stiff, mix all the other ingredients and fold into the cream and chill.
 
  posted at 11:35 am
  2 comments



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