Saturday, 24 January 2015

Pan fried fish with lemon, caper and avocado salad

Another great dinner.

This is another meal my FiL joined us for - so it was only right that we paired it with 2012 Watershed Savignon Blanc Semillion from the Margaret River in WA.

Substitutions / Omissions / Deletions:

This was one of the more difficult menu items to shop for - on our original shopping day, we could not find endive, witlof or radicchio at all, and I scoured half a dozen supermarkets and green grocers from Waurn Ponds to Newcomb to Corio (while in the area for other errands) without any luck. Finally, I came across baby endive at the Pakington Strand Woolies the day before we were planning to make this meal.

I was looking through the salad items in the fridge to find a substitute for the other items, when my partner discovered that the avocado we had was beyond saving. As we were missing so many ingredients for the salad, I ran out to the supermarket to grab another avo, and was delighted to discover witlof at the same supermarket.

We ended up making the salad without the radicchio - it meant the meal didn't look quite as colourful as the pic in the magazine.

Rather than purchase fresh red snapper for this meal, we used some nile perch fillets we had in the freezer.

The only other omission was for FiL - he abhors fennel in all its forms, so we didn't crust his fish before cooking.

The main ingredients for our salad - baby endive, witlof, avocado and lemon.

Prep tips:

I started grinding the coriander and fennel seeds in a small mortar and pestle, before I remembered we had been given a small silver Turkish spice grinder by the in-laws after one of their many trips abroad. This made quick work of the seeds. If you don't have a spice grinder, you could always try using a coffee grinder, or mini blender to speed up the process.

Things to do differently next time:

The things I'd do differently next time are really so much to do with the cooking, but more with the logistics of the ingredients. We didn't end up doing this meal until almost a week after we went shopping. In the magazine, it is the first meal of the week, but as we aren't big fish eaters (with the exception of salmon for me, and seafood for my partner), we left this until later in the week. The next time we go shopping and it has avocado on the list, we would check which menu item had the avocado, and then decide whether to buy it on the weekend, or pick it up later in the week. 

Also, when I took the fish out of the freezer to defrost, I took out more than we needed as I thought it was all in the same packet. Too much fish was defrosted, and as I said my partner and I aren't big fans of fish fillets so eating fish again for dinner after this meal isn't really something we want to do. Luckily, my partner has a plan to make some Thai fish cakes with the leftover fish.


Taste - The quote of the night came from FiL, who commented "With meals like this, who needs to go out to eat!" FiL really enjoyed his fried Nile Perch, sans spices, and loved the addition of whole lemon wedges in the salad. 
My partner and I weren't as keen on the lemon wedges, but when cut up and eaten with other salad items they added a nice zing to the salad. The capers also added a sharp tang when you ate one of those. It was the first time I knowing had endive and witlof in a salad. If I had to make a comparison, I'd say that you could easily substitute rocket and cabbage for these ingredients if you had trouble finding them.
The fish was fantastic! The spices fried up into a nice crust, and the aniseed flavour of the fennel nicely complemented the Nile perch.
Ease - This meal was fairly easy to throw together - it was harder to find the ingredients than put them together to make a meal! 
If you're keen to get more fish in your diet, this is a very tasty way to prepare it with little effort.
Time - The prep time took a little longer than stated in the recipe, but as my partner pointed out, half of the prep is already done before the recipe starts. The ingredients list the spices already ground, the endive washed and the avocado sliced. It is getting the food at this level of readiness that adds the extra time to the recipe.

Would I make it again?

Yes! We had endive, witlof and avocado left over, so my partner was planning to make the salad for an Australia Day BBQ we had on the weekend. (Unfortunately for our guests, we ran out of time, but did have three other salads to serve them.) 

Friday, 23 January 2015

Barbecued steaks with anchovy butter and potato salad

Plated up! 

For this meal, we had my Father-in-law (FiL) join us. My FiL has the philosophy that dinner is not dinner, until it has potatoes, so this was a great recipe to do last night.

(By the way, the foodie members of the family are slowing beginning to teach him that potatoes don't need to be eaten everyday!)

As you can see from the picture above, plated up this meal looks amazing, and it went very well with a drop of Chris Ringland Shiraz.

There were no leftovers from this meal - we only cooked steak for the three of us, and with FiL in the house, the potato salad had no chance to make it to another day.

Substitutions / Omissions / Deletions:

We tend to find that steak is a very personal thing - so as I mentioned on the menu post, rather than just purchase the steak in the recipe, both my partner and I had the sort of steaks we prefer. Yesterday morning my partner grabbed two steaks out of the freezer for him and his Dad.

We did buy the Kalamata olives, but didn't use them in the salad. I am not an olive person, and I think my partner thought the flavour might be a bit too strong for my FiL - who having been told we were going to have steaks and potato salad for dinner might have been disappointed if the potato salad was to far from the traditional fare. The olive will probably get used with some sort of cheese or antipasto plate over the long weekend.

We also don't buy tinned anchovies, but the fluffy white fillets pictured below. These have a more delicate fishy flavour, rather than being overly salty, and are not in the slightest bit furry!
Prep tips:

The onion were chopped up in 3mm thick rings on the mandolin slicer. Rather than crush the garlic, it was finely diced using our Tupperware turbo chef. As it was rather late by the time we got around to cooking the steaks, they were done on the cast iron stove top grill, rather then the BBQ. The lemon was juiced using the hand-held lever citrus juicer.

Things to do differently next time:

The anchovy butter wasn't really anchovy-ie, but had more of a mildly salty taste. This was probably due to using the fillets, so if we did this again, we would probably use more anchovy fillets to give the butter a little more 'pow'. I'd also love to try the red wine butter that is listed at the bottom of the recipe as an alternative.

Taste - It is really hard to go wrong with steak! (Well, when you don't have vegetarian guests...) The anchovy butter was a great accompaniment to the meat, and still had lots of garlic and lemon flavour. The salad was a lovely alternative to traditional creamy potato salads. The red onion soaked in red wine vinegar was delicious - I have a feeling we may be doing this for other salads with onion. The potatoes were still slightly warm when I was eating them - which made them that little bit more nomable. As I said before - there were no leftovers, so the meal was good!
Ease - This was a fairly easy meal to throw together. Again, the gadgets made quick work of prepping the salad ingredients, and my partner would happily live on steak and can cook it to perfection.
Time - Timing for the meal is a little difficult to judge - I did half of the prep, and then had to run out to the supermarket to grab some things for dessert, so my partner finished it off. Also, we like to eat our steak rare, which means more time out of the fridge before we cook it (you need to get it up to room temperature before putting it on the grill so it's not cold inside when you eat it.) Because I was out at the supermarket, my partner didn't start cooking the steaks until I got back, which also meant the onion had longer to sulk in the vinegar, most likely making them taste so good. If I had to guess, I'd probably say we took a bit longer than 15 minutes to prep, but it wouldn't have been much longer than that.

Would I make it again? 
For sure! This is a pretty easy meal to adapt to personal taste which makes it a winner. I'd probably make the salad by itself for BBQs and picnics, as it would be something a little different and is not difficult to make. 

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Turkey salad with Chilli Jam and Toasted Coconut.

The salad ingredients awaiting dressing
Substitutions / Omissions / Deletions:

As mentioned in the menu post, we opted to not purchase pre-roasted turkey, but to use some chicken breast instead. We thought we had some in the freezer, but when I couldn't find any, I bought some fresh chicken breast that was on special. The chicken breast was cooked in a non-stick frypan without any fat or oils.

We only purchased a quarter of a cabbage when shopping, and used only about half of that. We still had leftovers.

I accidentally bought desiccated coconut instead of shredded coconut, so that was used instead.

We only used two shallots for the dressing, and only 2tsp of dried chilli flakes.

Prep tips: 

Given that the whole idea of eating salads in summer is that you don't need to turn the oven on, my partner opted to toast the coconut in a dry pan over the stove.

I'm not a fan of finely chopping anything, particularly shallots or onions, so I use a Tupperware Turbo Chef to dice these up.

We tend to use Microplane graters a lot in our kitchen for smaller items such as palm sugar and garlic.

The limes were juiced by using a small hand-held lever citrus juicer (pictured below) which makes quick work of the limes, and keeps any pith or seed out of the juice.

Things to do differently next time: 

Not much that we would do differently next time - however the magazine does have a suggestion of using whole prawns instead of poultry.

Taste  - This was a very tasty Thai influenced salad. My partner loves Asian flavours, so really enjoyed this meal, and even I devoured my serve as I found the salad delicious. My partner raved about this to his colleagues, and they wanted to try some. Luckily there are some leftover for him to take into work!
Ease  - Another easy salad recipe - by toasting the coconut on the stove, it is easier to keep an eye on it so you can remove it from the heat when it is all golden brown.
Time - Again, I am not sure I agree with the time given by the magazine. The picking of coriander and mint leaves took quite a bit of time, and by toasting the coconut on the stove, it required someone to watch over it. It is possible that if the oven was used, then more prep could have been done during that time. Again, if we didn't have such a gadget heavy kitchen we would have taken much longer with the prep.

Would I make it again?

Yes, although I wouldn't like to eat this too frequently as my preferred tastes lie in different directions. My partner would probably make this a bit of a staple over summer, when he likes to eat a lot of Asian inspired salads. This would also be a great meal to make use of leftover turkey roast after Christmas. 

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Pork, apple and fennel salad with redcurrant dressing

As you can see from the picture, we don't follow the days that the recipes are set out on, but make what we feel like (and what we have all the ingredients for)

The ingredients for the salad dressing.
Substitutions, Omissions and Deletions:

We couldn't find any redcurrants (fresh or frozen) so we left them out completely. I think we may have put in a little more of the Jelly in the dressing to make up for it. The suggestion was made in the magazine to substitute cranberries, but we couldn't find any fresh or frozen ones of them either.

My partner and I have a weakness for pork crackling, so it was all eaten with the roast the night before, so this was left out of the salad.

The "dry" salad ingredients before adding the pork and dressing.
Prep tips: 

I used a mandolin slicer (a cheapie, from Aldi) to slice up the apple and fennel. I sliced the apple very thinly (about 1.5mm) and the fennel on the next blade up (3mm), as the finer blade tended to hack the fennel up a bit. I'd recommend getting a mandolin slicer if you want to eat some of these interesting salads, as it does make the prep so much easier if you don't have very good knife skills.

Being an ex-kitchen hand, my partner has very good knife skills. I left the roast pork for him to thinly slice up and add to the salad.

Things to do differently next time:

I found a packet of dried cranberries in the pantry after we finished eating, so would probably try making the dressing with a few of those in it.

We would also make sure to have some crackling to garnish, and add a little extra to the meal.

Taste - This was an incredible meal. If you haven't eat much fennel raw before, it has a great aniseed flavour, that was perfectly offset by the apple, dressing and pork. My partner and I also got lunch out of it for the next day - and it was just as tasty.

Ease - Quite possibly the most difficult part of this was roasting the pork the night before (however the recipe does call for pre-roasted meat). The slicing of ingredients was easy, and the only cooking you really had to do was on the stove to make the dressing.

Time - The magazine suggests 15 minutes of prep and 7 minutes cooking. I'd suggest that if you were slicing all ingredients by hand your prep time may take a little longer unless you have awesome chef knife skills. All up, this probably took about 45 minutes from getting the recipe out, to having dinner on the table. This time would include searching for the ingredients in our poorly organised pantry and fridge.

Would I make it again?
Most definitely!
This meal was so good, that I would consider making it for other people when they came around for dinner, or to take to a picnic.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Menu and shopping list for week - from Jan 06 edition of magazine.

  1. Pan fried fish with lemon, caper and avocado salad
  2. Turkey salad with chilli jam and toasted coconut
  3. Ham, bocconcini, artichoke and basil calzones
  4. Barbecued steaks with anchovy butter and potato salad
  5. Pork, apple and fennel salad with redcurrant dressing
Thoughts and ideas: 

My partner commented that he didn't find this menu piqued his interest much - and I wasn't sure as there were a lot of salads. 


We decided to skip getting the pre-roasted turkey, and use some chicken from our freezer. We find the roasted turkey in the deli tends to look a little fake, and lacks a little bit in texture.

Similarly, we also had some fish in our freezer to use instead of the red snapper.

We have plenty of ham on the bone sitting in the fridge that was bought on special post-Christmas.

My partner loves steaks, so buys a lot on special to freeze, so he was set for the steaks. I prefer small lean steaks, so we picked some of those up instead of what was on the list.

We tend to have a weakness for roast pork and crackling, so we picked up a small pork roast, rather than pre-roasted meat, and had a roast for dinner that night to use the leftover roast for the menu.

We only use extra virgin olive oil, so no need to pick up regular olive oil.

We had trouble finding any red currants, witlof, endive, radicchio, and kaffir lime leaves.

Shopping list:

·         Fennel Seeds
·         Coriander Seeds
·         Olive Oil
·         Extra Virgin Olive Oil
·         Peanut Oil
·         Dried Chilli Flakes
·         Fish Sauce
·         Caster Sugar
·         Red Wine Vinegar
·         Apple Cider Vinegar
·         Small Jar baby capers
·         Small packet shredded coconut
·         Palm sugar or brown sugar
·         1 pkt dried yeast
·         1kg packet bread flour
·         50g parmesan
·         18 cherry bocconcini
·         4 char-grilled artichokes
·         1 can anchovy fillets
·         50g butter
·         20 Kalamata olives
·         1 jar redcurrant jelly
Fruit & Vegetables
·         2 witlof
·         1 small curly endive
·         1 small radicchio
·         1 avocado
·         5 lemons
·         1 orange
·         1/2 white cabbage or 1 mini cabbage
·         2 bunches mint
·         2 bunches coriander
·         8 kaffir lime leaves
·         3 shallots
·         1 bulb garlic
·         4 limes
·         100g baby rocket
·         1 vine ripened tomato
·         1 bunch basil
·         1 small Spanish onion
·         400g kipfler potatoes
·         2 bunches flat leaf parsley
·         1 pink lady apple
·         2 small bulbs fennel, with fronds
·         1 bunch watercress
·         1 punnet redcurrants (or frozen)
·         4 x 200g snapper fillets
·         200g roast turkey
·         150g piece ham
·         4 x 250g Scotch Fillets
·         75g roast pork crackling and 200g roast pork