Beetroot Cured Salmon with Finger Lime, Horseradish Labna and Buckwheat Lavosh

dsc_1481dsc_1515dsc_1519
The last few months haven’t been easy for me. All of a sudden I had found myself in a completely new living environment, new job (that I didn’t really like), missing my mates and social life back in Newcastle, and feeling overall, a little bewildered at the huge changes. It was weird considering I find it so easy to travel to remote countries alone, meet new people and seek out new experiences. I think it was because I knew deep down that this is going to be my life for a good while now, not just a stepping stone to the next overseas adventure.
I’ve now come to realise that this IS a new adventure, it just doesn’t involve as many plane trips or passport stamps. I’m finally starting to gain the courage to admit what I really want. And I think this place may just help me to accomplish my goals.
With an open heart and mind I have now found myself in a new job, with beautiful, encouraging, and motivating people, who, after only one week, I feel so grateful to be a part of their business and excited for their future and mine.
I love the focus on local produce up here and the sense of sharing. Last Friday two people came in with gifts from their farms, including some beautiful finger limes. My mind immediately started racing with what I could do with them. Not surprisingly, after another 38 degree day, I firstly thought of an icy cold gin and tonic, topped with the little bursting finger lime vesicles and some juniper berries. After daydreaming about that for a while I then remembered this salmon dish that I made at Christmas, a recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver. The flavours worked perfectly together and I was also so happy with how the labna and lavosh turned out. It all looks very fancy and complicated but in fact is very easy, especially if you skip making your own lavosh and just buy some.
There were Hot Cross Buns in the supermarket the other day, so let’s just say I’m getting in here early with the perfect Easter recipe for you all.dsc_1454 dsc_1531 dsc_1537

Recipe

You will need to start this recipe 48hrs in advance

Serves 6 as an entree

Ingredients

Salmon

800g side salmon, pin boned, skin off

2 fresh beetroot, peeled and chopped

Juice of 2 limes

Juice of 2 lemons

3 juniper berries, bashed

5 tbs rock salt

2 tbs raw sugar

50ml gin

Labna

500g natural, thick greek yoghurt

1 tsp salt

1 clove garlic, finely grated

1 tsp finely grated fresh horseradish

Buckwheat Lavosh

1 tbs raw sugar

100g buckwheat

300g plain flour

30g butter, cubed

1 tsp salt plus extra

2 tsp fennel seeds

150g water

2 egg whites

To serve

3 finger limes, vesicles removed

4 baby cucumbers, thinly sliced

Bunch baby radishes, finely sliced

Baby herbs

Method

Start the labna 48hrs prior to serving.

To make the labna, in a large bowl, combine the yoghurt, salt, garlic and horseradish and stir well to combine. Place in a colander lined with a double layer of cheesecloth, over a large bowl. Bring the edges of the cheesecloth together and twist to wrap the yoghurt tightly. Place 2 or 3 tins of beans (or whatever) on top and place in the fridge to set.

Start curing the salmon 24hrs prior to serving.

To cure the salmon, place all the ingredients, except the salmon, in a food processor and process until smooth.

Place the salmon in a baking dish and pour over the beetroot cure. Spread it evenly to coat both sides of the salmon.

Place a piece of baking paper over the salmon and tuck in snuggly around the salmon. Cover tightly with a double layer of cling wrap and place in the fridge for 24hours. No longer.

For the buckwheat lavosh, pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius  and line 3 to 4 baking trays with baking paper.

Combine the flours, sugar, salt and fennel seeds in a bowl. Add the butter and use finger tips to rub into the flour.

Add the water and 1 of the egg whites and stir to bring together. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic.

Cut the dough into 12 pieces and use a pasta machine to roll until 2mm thick (or use a rolling pin).

Place on to prepared trays and brush with the remaining egg white and sprinkle with a little cracked salt.

Bake, in batches, for about 20mins, or until golden and crisp (keep and eye on it!)

Remove from oven and allow to cool.

When ready to serve, remove the salmon from the cure and gently wash off any excess with as little water as possible.

Remove the labna from the cheesecloth and put into a serving bowl.

Thinly slice the salmon across the grain and arrange on a serving platter along with the radish, cucumber, baby herbs and finger lime vesicles. Serve alongside the lavosh and labna.

Enjoy!

 

 

Advertisements

Moroccan Seafood Stew with Pearl Cous Cous and Harissa Cream

DSC_0553

DSC_0525

DSC_0519

When Lisa contacted me and said she was in Aus and would love to do a collaboration shoot with me, I knew it would be a fun day. Having not seen Lisa for five years, we had a lot to catch up on, but, after only a couple of minutes it was like those five years had been just five days. When you have friends like that, time and space don’t seem to matter.

We initially planned to do an outdoor, bush tucker cook-up, to help showcase the Primus gear that Lisa needed to shoot. But, due to one of the biggest storms to hit the East coast in years, flooding, wind and rain found us doing a cute little set-up in my backyard. It was really great working with another passionate foodie and photographer, and not to mention Daniel’s amazing fire-starter skills to keep us warm and set the scene.

The stew was one of the tastiest things I have ever eaten, everyone was really impressed by it yet it was so easy to make. You could use whatever seafood you like, or even change it to meat and vegetables. The flavours were amazing, especially the sauce soaked up with some nice thick sourdough. It also matched really well with the pearl cous cous salad, I love the texture of those little beads.

I also roasted some whole cauliflower in the fire. I haven’t included a recipe here as it is very straightforward. Just rub the whole cauliflower with some olive oil, salt and your favourite spices (I used cumin and sumac). Wrap in foil and cook in the fire or a hot oven for about 20mins, or until tender. It’s delicious dipped in the harissa cream…

Good company, cute set-up, delicious food, a few drinks and a little bit of work. It was a fun day!

DSC_0543

DSC_0566

DSC_0588

DSC_0594

DSC_0601

Recipe (adapted from Valli Little)

Serves 8

Moroccan Seafood Stew

Ingredients

Olive oil

2 brown onions, sliced

4 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tbs fresh ginger, grated

2 tbs ras el hanout (spice blend, available in good spice stores)

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tsp harissa paste

2 x 400g can crushed tomatoes

1L chicken or veg stock

1 kg seafood marinara mix

1 kg mussels

2 salmon steaks, cubed

2 x 400g cans chickpeas, drained

2 tsp honey

Fresh coriander and toasted almonds to serve

Method

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium to high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, for 2 mins or until soft. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for a further 1min. Add as el hanout, cinnamon, harissa, tomato, chickpeas, honey and stock. Reduce heat to medium low, cook for 10 mins, or until slightly reduced. Add marinara mix, salmon and mussels. Cook for about 10mins, without stirring too much to avoid breaking up the fish. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Top with fresh coriander and flaked almonds.

Serve with cous cous and harissa cream.

Pearl Cous Cous (a rough idea, amounts were not measured on the day)

Ingredients

Pearl cous cous (cooked to packet instructions in chicken or vegetable stock)

Olive oil

Lemon juice

White wine vinegar

Honey

Dried parsley

Fresh coriander

Sultanas

Kalamata olives, sliced

Salt and pepper

Flaked almonds, toasted

Method

Combine all ingredients except for the almonds. Check for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Place in serving bowl and top with almonds just before serving.

Harissa Cream

Ingredients

2 red capsicums, roasted, skin removed

200ml sour cream

2 tbs harissa paste

1 tsp lemon juice

salt

Method

Using a stick blender or in a small processor, blend the capsicum, Harissa paste and lemon juice together until smooth. In a bowl, combine the capsicum mixture with the sour cream. Add a little salt to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crunchy Nut Fish with Wasabi Mayo and Veggie Chips

IMG_3759 IMG_3769 IMG_3786 IMG_3842

This is a funky recipe, shown to me by an awesome guy we have been staying with, it’s not often I’ll take a shortcut like this when preparing food, but I thought this little trick was too good not to share. I’ve heard of using crushed salt and vinegar chips as a crumb for fish, but never had I seen this before! Crunchy Nut Cornflakes are the star here, they lend a subtle sweetness and perfect crunch to the outside of the deliciously soft fish. I didn’t actually know what I was eating at the time, until I later asked him what he had used in the crumbs, I was shocked! I asked if he wouldn’t mind me using his idea and sharing it on my blog. And at the time I had all intentions of making my own crunchy nut crumb, but then I thought, hey, why change something that already rocks! So, for the first time in my life I bought a box of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, of which Benny has been enjoying the leftovers of for breakfast the last couple of days!!

We shared this meal with some friends down at the beach, trying to make the most of our last week in Darwin. Now that we are about to leave I’m ashamed of myself that we haven’t had way more sunset beach picnics. Time flies by so fast, it’s scary. One good thing about having a life like we do at the moment is that we really do live each day to the next without ever really knowing what might happen next, but the days still seem to melt away….

IMG_3795 IMG_3803 IMG_3848_2

 

Recipe

Ingredients
800g trevally (or other firm white fish), de-boned and cut into 10cm pieces
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbs whole egg mayonnaise
2 tbs plain yoghurt
1 tsp hot english mustard
salt and pepper
300g crunchy nut cornflakes, finely crushed in a mortar and pestle or food processor
Coconut oil, for shallow frying
2 medium red rascal potatoes, skin left on, cut into thick chips
1 large, white skin, purple flesh, sweet potato, skin left on, cut into thick chips
2 beetroot, peeled, cut into thick chips
Olive oil
Lemon wedges and a simple green salad to serve, if desired
Wasabi Mayo
4 tbs whole egg mayonnaise
4 tbs plain yoghurt
Juice of half a lemon
2-3 tsp wasabi paste

Method
For the fish, in a large, non-reactive bowl, combine the garlic, mayonnaise, yoghurt, mustard and salt and pepper. Add the fish and stir to coat. Cover and leave in the fridge for half an hour to marinate.
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees celcius. Prepare two baking trays with baking paper. In one large bowl, toss the potato and sweet potato with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread onto one tray. In the same bowl, toss the beetroot with some more olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread onto the other tray. (Keeping them separate will prevent the beetroot from staining the other vegetables).
Place in the oven and bake for 40-50mins or until golden and crunchy on the edges.
Meanwhile, for the wasabi mayo, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and use a whisk to thoroughly combine. Leave in the fridge until ready to serve.
To cook the fish, heat some coconut oil in a large, non-stick frying pan, over medium high heat. Place the crushed cornflakes in a bowl. Coat each piece of fish in the cornflakes, pressing into the fish firmly to coat.
Fry the fish pieces, about 2mins per side, until golden and crunchy. Drain on paper towel.
Serve the fish with a sprinkle of salt, the veggie chips, lemon wedges and wasabi mayo.
Enjoy!

IMG_3852

Ceviche with Avocado and Mango Salsa and Tortilla Chips (and my entry into a competition to win a foodie adventure to Sri Lanka)

IMG_2505_2 IMG_2464_2 IMG_2476_2 IMG_2483

Since starting this blog a couple of years ago, I’m quite surpised at how far I’ve come, and how much I have learnt, all through the process of trial and error. I always strive for something better, new ideas, and inspiration. I don’t have a studio, or special lights, or a set of props, each place I cook in I use what is available to me, look for the best natural light and battle it out with the flies. Being on the road has been very beneficial, as I am constantly meeting new people, discovering new produce and being introduced to new opportunities. I’ve come to realise that there is no point in planning or worrying too much about what the future holds, or whether I am making the right decisions. Everything folds out the way it is meant to. And luckily enough for me, lately, it’s been folding out pretty nicely.
Opportunities have been popping up left, right and centre, from being part of the upcoming annual Darwin Banana Festival this weekend, where I have been hired as a ‘banana stylist’, to writing recipes and styling shots for a new Australian foodie mag, and, to the point of this blog post; my entry into a competition to win a trip to discover and document, the food, culture and experience of Sri Lanka.
I’m so grateful to all of my supporting friends, who are constantly letting me know of little competitions and advertisements they see on social media, that they think I might be interested in. I would have missed half of them, including this competition, if it wasn’t for them. It’s such a lovely feeling, getting older, and realising how lucky I am to have these beautiful, supportive, creative and genuine people in my life.
Regardless of whether I win a position in the Sri Lanka trip, it’s been a fantastic experience completing the entry. As with each blog post I do, I try to push myself for a new angle, and this one really got me out of my comfort zone. If you told me ten years ago that I would have the confidence to ask a bunch of near strangers (except you Mel), to sit on the beach and share a meal while I take photos of them, I would have said, no way! But, despite the very unfortunately times spurt of rain, everything went perfectly and we had a great time, not to mention the delicious food! It gives me confidence, and makes me excited, to know that, unlike my first trip overseas five years ago (where I was too shy), I will be able to photograph more and speak to the locals more about their traditions, culture, recipes, ingredients, etc.
I’ve included my short essays here that were part of the application. It was so hard to stay within the word limits!
Also, if you have a spare couple of minutes and would like to nominate my blog in the upcoming Saveur Magazine Best Food Blog Awards, it would be hugely appreciated, if you think it deserves a nomination that is! http://www.saveur.com/article/contests/blog-awards-2015-nominate

IMG_2467

IMG_2519

Competition entry essays:

The Story Behind the recipe.

After a month in central Columbia, I was full to the brim with carbohydrate laden meals of rice, beans, potatoes, bread and meat. Thank goodness for the obligatory bowl of Aji on every table at even the smallest of roadside eateries, I drenched all my meals in this delicious homemade chilli salsa. I was itching to get to the coast.
So, with one last bowl of steaming, chicken feet soup at the bus station, we were on our way to Quito and then to a tiny coastal town called Canoa. We knew nothing about the place apart from the fact that it was a small surf town, famous for it’s slow paced, relaxed vibe.
After a rough overnight bus trip from Quito, we were finally approaching the coast. Morning rituals were getting underway, people riding to work, roadside stalls selling delicious treats and smiling school kids jumping on and off our bus.
We were exhausted, and starving, by the time we arrived in the main street of Canoa (a dirt road running the length of the beach). The beach was lined with little food shacks, shaded by Coco-Cola and Pilsner tarps. Each had a blackboard touting Ceviche, which we knew very little about. As far as I knew, maybe, it was some form of raw fish dish. But, as we had experienced so far on our trip, anything could be eaten at breakfast time, and we were too hungry to care. So, we picked one shack at random and sat down at the plastic table on the sand. Without having to order anything, we were brought two bowls of ceviche and some fried plantain. With a squeeze of fresh lime, and a tad of hesitation, we dug in. WOW! What a fresh and flavoursome bowl of food we had in front of us. The fish so soft and the lime so tangy, paired with a kick from some chilli sauce and the crunchy plantain chips. What a dish!
After that, we ate it at least twice a day for the week that we were there, but, as hard as we tried, we just couldn’t find that one shack where we had eaten our first. It was like it had disappeared, and no other could match it.

About me and why I should be chosen for the gig.

After years of studying art, architecture and teaching, feeling lost and unfulfilled, I finally saved enough money to travel overseas. I started with the Americas, backpacking and having my mind blown by the amazing traditions, landscapes, and people. It was on this trip, whilst working in a bar on the beach in a small fishing village in Peru (famous for it’s amazing tuna), that I came to the realisation that all I wanted to do for the rest of my life was cook. To never stop discovering ingredients, recipes and methods from all over the world, to cook meals that bring people together and make time stand still for a little while, whilst we all enjoy the fruits of the land and the labour of the people who love to cook with them.
Upon returning to Aus I was lucky enough to gain a position in a small cafe, that, over the two years that I helped to run the kitchen, has now turned into one of the most well known cafes in the Hunter.
With only a short stint in Europe in those two years, I decided that it was time to really hit the road. I sold most of what I owned, and have been travelling through Australia in a 4WD ever since, with an overseas ticket booked for April.
My foodblog has been an amazing creative outlet for me also. Something that has been forcing me to learn and discover new things about food and cooking, almost daily. Every meal I create, and every photo shoot I do, creates a new challenge for me. I never do the same thing twice. Discovery is my passion!

IMG_2532

IMG_2539_2

Recipe

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

Ceviche
1kg white, firm fleshed fish, I used Robinson Bream
Juice from about 5 limes
1 cup coconut cream
1 tsp caster sugar
1 long red chilli, finley diced
Handful of coriander leaves, finely chopped
Salt and Pepper
Salsa
2 ripe but still firm avocados
1 large mango
1 long red chilli
1 spanish onion, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbs olive oil
Handful of coriander leaves, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
Tortilla chips (or plantain chips if you can get them), lime wedges, sliced chilli, chilli sauce, and salad leaves, to serve

Method
Make sure there are no bones in the fish. Slice fish into pieces about 3cm long and 5mm thick and place in a large, non-reactive bowl. In another bowl place the lime juice, coconut cream, caster sugar, chilli, and coriander. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Add to the bowl with the fish and stir well to combine. Cover and leave in the fridge for at least 4 hours, but no longer than 10 hours.
When nearly ready to serve dice the avocados and mango into 5mm pieces. Combine in a bowl with the other salsa ingredients and stir to combine, being careful not to mash the avocado too much.
Serve ceviche with the salsa, tortilla chips, lime wedges, chilli, chilli sauce and salad leaves.
Enjoy!

Green Papaya, Rambutan and Crunchy Coconut Salad with Tamarind Dressing

DSC_0251DSC_0253

As I sit here, waiting for these photos to up-load, I look at my hands. They are weathered, scarred, with dirty fingernails and lots of little cuts and pricks due to my current job featuring way to many spiky fish and prawns. I think; ‘I work too hard’. Then, I look up, and see the birds flying past and the beautiful green, tropical surroundings. I feel the warm breeze and appreciate the flavours of the cold spiced rum, lime and soda that I’m sipping on. Then I think; “I’m so, so lucky’.

Life for me at the moment is in such a funny and weird place, between living like a backpacker, working like a Chinese man (I’m allowed to make this judgement, I work with them), and trying to continue with my creative love of cooking and creating. All this, as well as trying to stop every now and then and appreciate the little things, and being part of a relationship that relies on one another to grow and succeed, is somewhat of a juggling act.

I’m not sure if I’m getting it right but there have been a few very exciting developments this week that make me feel as though things could be working out. Stay tuned!

This is a very simple recipe. I’ve been cooking lots of these kinds of meals lately, especially due to the heat and the abundance of produce growing in this yard. It seems ridiculous to go and buy things from the grocery store when we have more than enough food growing in  the yard. We just have to be creative. I think I’ve topped about twenty different way to eat a papaya by now! And if I don’t have to work on a Sunday then I love to go and buy the local produce. This was my first time trying rambutans and I absolutely adored them! We ate this salad with some whiting fillets, simply floured and lightly fried, oh so good.

DSC_0239

 

Recipe

Serves 2

ingredients

2 small green papayas, julienned on a mandolin or grated

1/2 spanish onion, very thinly sliced

5 rambutan (or lychee), peeled, de-seeded and quartered

1 cup, loosely packed, mint leaves

1/2 cup coconut chips (these are sweetened and roasted coconut chips. You can find them in gourmet food stores and some grocery stores)

Dressing

Thumb size pice of ginger, finely grated

1/2 tsp tamarind puree

1 long red chilli, finely chopped

1/2 tsp caster sugar

1/2 tsp fish sauce

1/4 tsp sesame oil

salt and pepper

Method

For the dressing, grind all the ingredients together in a mortar and pestle until well combined. Alternatively, use a small food processor or stick blender. Or, just very finely chop everything and mix well.

Toss all the salad ingredients together, except for the coconut.

Toast the coconut slightly in a hot frying pan (I know it’s already toasted, but this makes it so much better).

Toss the dressing through the salad, pile onto a serving platter and sprinkle with the still warm coconut.

Enjoy!

 

Seafood Laksa (kind of)

IMG_1179

IMG_1198IMG_1211IMG_1237

This is another favourite from the weekend markets here in Darwin, each stall has their own recipe; all equally delicious. I wouldn’t ever claim this to be anywhere near an authentic replica, I used a lot of what I had on hand, and also tried to use a little less oil compared to the traditional recipes. I love this dish for that reason though, so long as you have a few of the key elements, you will no doubt be able to produce a delicious meal.

Another awesome part about this dish is that half of the elements don’t even get added until the very end, so, by putting all of these ingredients out on the table, you not only make for a colourful and exciting table full of food, you also allow people to top their soups in whichever way they choose. This is a great way of catering for a mix of, meat eaters, seafood lovers/haters, and vegetarians. To the list of toppers I have included in this recipe, you could also add; shredded chicken, boiled egg, cucumber, carrot, cabbage…anything you think might be nice.

One more awesome thing…. it’s incredibly delicious as a cold dish the next day; if you manage to keep any leftovers that is!

IMG_1187

IMG_1160Recipe

Laksa Paste

Ingredients

1 1/2 tbs dried shrimp, soaked in 1/2 cup boiling water for 10 mins

1 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp turmeric

2 long red chillies

2 birdseye chillies

3cm piece fresh ginger, peeled, diced

1 red onion, peeled, diced

2 stalks lemongrass, white and pale green part, diced

2 cloves garlic, peeled, diced

10 roasted cashews

2 tsp roasted shrimp paste

1 tsp peanut oil

Method

In a frying pan, over medium high heat, dry fry the spices for about 1-2mins, stirring constantly, until fragrant. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and grind into powder.

Place the spices and the soaked shrimp, along with the soaking water, and all the remaining ingredients into a small food processor or a bowl deep enough to process with a stick blender. Process until a smooth paste forms.

Transfer to a jar and keep refrigerated. It will last about 1 -2 weeks.

Seafood Laksa

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 tbs peanut oil

12 large green prawns, peeled (reserved), de-viened, tails left on

1/2 cup laksa paste

6 cups fish/chicken/or vegetable stock

400ml coconut cream

250g firm tofu, cubed

250g green beans, trimmed and halved

1 tsp coconut sugar

1 tbs fish sauce

Juice of 1 lime

salt and pepper

500g firm white fish fillet, cut into 4cm cubes

200g vermicelli noodles

200g wide rice noodles

Bean sprouts, spring onion, chilli, coriander, mint, thai basil, fried shallots, roasted peanuts, lime wedges, to serve

Method

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium high heat. Fry the reserved prawn shells for about 3 mins, until they turn red. Remove with a slotted spoon, leaving as much oil in the saucepan as possible.

Add the laksa paste to the saucepan and cook, stirring, for 2-3 mins.

Add the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium, add the coconut cream and bring to the simmer. Add the tofu, beans, sugar, fish sauce, lime juice and some salt and pepper and allow to simmer for 10-15mins.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan of boiling water, cook the rice noodles and vermicelli, cooking the thicker ones first for about 2 mins, then adding the vermicelli for about 1 min. Strain and rinse under cold water. Set aside.

Add the fish and prawns to the laksa. Turn off the heat and allow to gently cook through for about 5-8mins.

Divide the noodles between the serving bowls. Top with the laksa, ensuring even distribution of ingredients.

Top with remaining ingredients as desired.

Enjoy!