Vodka-cured Gravlax Canapés

Yields: 10

Nat and I recently married.

That old thing…

We had a long lunch with our best friends and family. Six courses.

Six courses of incredible food in the tradition of both of us loving long lunches, great food and amazing wine.

The first course was named ‘Soup and Sandwich’.

The soup was the famous Banc Sweet Corn and Basil amuse bouche, served cold in a shot glass. We chose this soup because we have been making it as a starter for years and warm or cold, it is just wonderful.

Sandwiches mean even more to us and at one stage, we really were flirting with opening a gourmet sandwich shop.

We did this vodka-cured gravlax, served on a toasted baguette and it was awesome.

Here is the ‘Soup and Sandwich’ course as a test we did a few weeks before our long lunch; the baguette was a bit big and so we made it smaller for the main event:

As a starter to any dinner party, you could do a lot worse…

Everything can be prepped the night before and the salmon only takes a night to cure.

Slice the salmon, toast the baguette and serve:

People will think you’re a genius. (Especially if it the first of many courses!)

Ingredients

1 tbsp sea salt
1 tsp finely ground pepper
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp vodka
300gm salmon fillet, skin on
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tsp baby capers, rinsed
2 tsp lemon juice
1 qtr preserved lemon, finely diced
Chopped chives
1 shallot, minced
Baguette
Olive oil spray

Method

  1. Remove the pin bones from the salmon and place it skin down on plastic wrap.
  2. Combine the salt, pepper, sugar and vodka, spread over the fish, wrap tightly and refrigerate overnight, turning from time-to-time.
  3. Remove the skin from the salmon and slice very thinly.
  4. Combine sour cream, capers, lemon juice, preserved lemon, chives and shallots. Set aside.
  5. Heat oven to 180c. Thinly slice the baguette, spray with olive oil spray and toast until lightly golden. Allow to cool.
  6. Spread a small amount of the sour cream mixture on the baguette slices. Arrange salmon on the toasts, top with more. Of the sour cream mixture and a sliver of chives.

Prawn Börek

Makes: 8

Lordy.

These little numbers are absolutely incredible; like two-hat Middle Eastern incredible.

The egg, the melted cheeses, the prawns and especially the heat from the chilli. And then the nigella seeds.

I cannot overstate the importance of trying these at home as part of a bigger Middle Eastern feast.

You’ll smirk as you present them, comfortable that all remaining courses will be in your shadow with another family cook-off comfortably won by you.

Amazing.

(The original recipe from the wonderful Gourmet Traveller with only a few minor changes from me.)

Ingredients

6 large uncooked king prawns, peeled, deveined and finely chopped
100gm haloumi, finely grated
100gm Greek sheep’s feta, finely grated
2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp isot pepper*
2 egg yolks
8 filo pastry sheets
Vegetable oil, for deep frying
Melted butter
1 tsp nigella seeds**

Method

  1. Combine prawns with cheeses, parsley and isot pepper, then fold through the egg yolks.
  2. Take a sheet of filo pastry, brush butter on one half lengthways and then fold the filo in half lengthways. Place 2 tbsp of filling at one end, then fold o corner of pastry over filling to form a triangle. Repeat folding from side-to-side in a triangle shape until there is one fold left. Brush with butter and make the last fold, pressing to seal the triangle. Trim any excess overhanging pastry.
  3. Repeat for the remaining pastries and refrigerate for 1 hour uncovered to dry.
  4. Heat oil in a large deep saucepan to 180c. Deep fry the börek in batches, turning occasionally until golden and cooked through: 3 – 4 minutes.
  5. Drain on paper towels, spring with nigella seeds and serve.

* Substitute chilli flakes.
** Substitute cumin seeds.

The French Laundry’s Creamy Lobster Broth

Serves: 4

The French Laundry is one of America’s best and most well-known restaurants.

Driving through the Napa Valley and having lunch at The French Laundry is most definitely on my bucket list.

Thoma Keller, the man behind The French Laundry has another restaurant in New York called Perse and Nat and I agree that it was the finest dining experience either of us had ever had. 11/10.

Thomas Keller is a genius.

We have had The French Laundry cookbook for a number of years though we had only ever cooked one thing in it: Yabba Dabba Doo, an incredible standing rib with Pommes Anna and a Bordelaise Sauce.

Now we have done two… this classic broth which is to die for.

Rather than live lobsters, I purchased tails and set aside the meat for another dish. I then supplemented the lesser lobster shell with the prawn shells from 24 prawns.

It was sublime I know this is something we will do again for our next dinner party.

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 3 lobster bodies, cut into quarters
  • 1 ½ cups chopped tomatoes
  • ½ cup chopped carrots
  • 1 bunch tarragon
  • 2 cups heavy cream

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan and sear the lobster parts for a few minutes until they turn red.
  2. Add the tomatoes, carrots, tarragon and cover the lobster parts and vegetables with water. Bring to the boil, skimming off any impurities that float to the top.
  3. Reduce the heat and simmer for an hour.
  4. Strain the stock, pushing as much liquid through as possible. Strain the liquid again through a fine strainer and pour the liquid into a clean pan.
  5. Return the strained liquid to the heat and reduce slowly until there is one cup of liquid left. Add the heavy cream and continue to simmer until there is 2 cups left.
  6. Strain once more and refrigerate until needed.
  7. Slowly reheat and serve.

Roast Salmon, Bean and Potato Salad

Serves: 4

Salmon, green beans and potatoes pair beautifully and this classic and particularly simple Jamie Oliver number is yet another great example of why.

And it is even better cold the next day for lunch.

Pencil this in for next Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday night.

(Note: I have changed the name of the original recipe – it was just a bit too ‘Jamie’ – as well as adapting the ingredients and method slightly.)

Ingredients

4 x 200gm salmon fillets
Extra virgin olive oil
2 lemons, juiced and zested
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 clove of garlic, crushed
250ml fat-free natural yoghurt
1 pinch cayenne pepper
450gm baby potatoes, boiled, quartered and let to cool slightly
250gm green beans, cooked and left to cool slightly
1 bunch watercress
1 sprig fresh mint
1 sprig fresh basil

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200c.
  2. Rub the salmon pieces with a little oil, lemon juice and zest (saving some for the dressings), salt and pepper. Place them on a piece of baking paper and bake on a baking tray in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes until cooked. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly.
  3. Combine the crushed garlic and the yoghurt and season with salt and pepper, a little lemon juice and the cayenne pepper.
  4. Dress the potatoes and green beans in a little salt and pepper, lemon juice and zest and olive oil. Toss together with the watercress and herbs and divide among four bowls.
  5. Break the cooked salmon up and place on the dressed beans and potatoes. Serve with a spoonful of the yoghurt on-top.

Red Thai Salmon Curry

Serves: 4

This is a doozy of a recipe and one that could easily become a weekday staple.

Just make sure you visit your local Asian grocer for a quality, Thai red curry paste.

I added the vermicelli noodles though you could just as easily serve it on rice.

Seriously, as simple as it is, this is one moorish dish.

Don’t delay.

Ingredients

1 tsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp Thai red curry paste
1 onion, sliced
250ml reduced-fat coconut milk
500gm skinless salmon fillet, cut into 3cm pieces
200gm pack trimmed green bean
Half a pack of vermicelli noodles, cooked
Coriander leaves

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan and then add the curry paste. Cook for a minute or two until fragrant.
  2. Add the onion and cook gently until softened; 5 – 10 minutes. Pour in the coconut milk and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and then add the salmon and beans.
  3. Add the vermicelli noodles (if using) and let simmer for 5 minutes or until the fish flakes easily and the beans are tender.
  4. Serve with coriander.

Greek Fisherman’s Stew

Serves: 6

Wow, this is a gorgeous stew and on every level.

It tastes amazing, it is simple to prep and it’s healthy enough. Mopped up with some crusty bread, we loved every bit of it.

I’d go as far as to say this could become one of your favourites.

There is literally nothing not to like. Just make sure you season well.

Surprise yourself with this 10/10.

Ingredients

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 small head fennel, diced
½ tsp red chilli flakes
2 large ripe, truss tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
1 tsp sea salt (plus extra to season at the end)
Freshly cracked pepper
1 cup dry white wine
250gm potatoes, peeled and diced
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 kg firm white fish, cut into 3cm pieces (we used Pink Ling)
12 basil leaves, torn
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp harissa paste (or hot sauce)
Crusty bread to serve

Method

  1. Warm the oil in a heavy saucepan over a medium heat and saute the onion and garlic until soft though not brown. Add the fennel and cook for a few minutes until softened. Stir in the chilli flakes and then add the tomatoes and salt and cook on medium for about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the wine and 2 ½ cups boiling water, bring to the simmer and cook for another 10 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Check the seasoning and add the lemon juice.
  3. Add the fish pieces and simmer on low until the fish is just cooked through; another 5 or so minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, combine the mayonnaise with the harissa paste (or hot sauce).
  5. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the basil to wilt it.
  6. Serve with a good dollop of the spiced mayonnaise and some crusty bread. And a good glass of cold vino of course.

Seafood Sausage with Lemon Herb Sauce

Serves: 4

This is a restaurant quality dish and one that made us so happy preparing and cooking it.

The subtlety of the sausages which we did in the sous vide for an hour before lightly grilling, the sauce, the mash and the asparagus made for seriously a memorable meal.

A really warm, unique, “we just cooked a 1-hat dinner meal”.

If you could do these with a thicker sausage casing than we used, I think they would be even more impactful and explosive; dramatic and clearly prepared with talent. Something your guests would have to admire and talk about on the way home.

If you are looking for an impressive Saturday night dish for guests, you could do a whole lot worse than this recipe.

Note that this recipe assumes you have a sausage stuffer though if you don’t have one, maybe try them as slow-cooked skewers: form them like sausages, wrap them tightly in cling wrap and gently fry in a pan.

Either way, you can’t go wrong.

(This recipe is written assuming you have a mincer and a sausage stuffer. If you do not, process the sausage in a food processor, tightly wrap into sausage-like logs with cling wrap and refrigerate; when ready to cook, wrap tightly with foil and poach for 10 – 15 minutes in boiling water. Slice away.)

Ingredients

Sausage

250gm cod fillets, cut into 3cm pieces
250gm raw prawns, peeled, deveined and roughly chopped
250gm salmon fillets, skinned, cut into 3cm pieces
2 large eggs
¼ cup heavy cream
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp white pepper

Sauce

¼ cup white wine
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp white-wine vinegar
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter cut into small cubes
½ tsp grated lemon rind
1 tsp minced scallion
1 tsp fresh parsley leaves
1 tsp fresh, snipped dill
Cayenne to taste

Paris mash to serve
Steamed asparagus

Method

  1. For the sausage: Combine, mince and process the sausage ingredients. Stuff your sausages. Chill.
  2. For the sauce: In a small heavy saucepan, boil the wine, lemon juice and vinegar until reduced by half. Reduce the heat to low and whisk in the butter bit by bit, waiting for each piece to melt before adding the next. Whisk in the lemon rind, scallion,  parsley, dill, cayenne and salt to taste. Season.
  3. Cook your sausages: poach them or sous vide them (1 hour) and then grill them in a pan with a little olive oil to give them colour.
  4. Prepare your Paris Mash and steam your asparagus.
  5. A good dollop of mash on each plate, two sausages on-top, a drizzle of sauce and a side of asparagus.