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.

Delia Smith’s Asparagus with Quick Hollandaise

Serves: 4

Nat’s parents come over every few weeks for a meal (and several bottles of wine) and it is something I always look forward to.

I am always told by Nat’s mother – Deb – to keep it simple.

Which this easy little starter I served at our most recent meal, certainly is.

It is really elegant, super classic and foolproof if you pressed for time.

Which means more time for drinking champagne and catching up.

Ingredients

2 bunches asparagus, woody ends trimmed
1 bunch rocket

Hollandaise Sauce

1/4 cup creme fraiche
1 tsp cornflour
2 egg yolks
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp lemon juice
40gm unsalted butter, softened

Method

  1. For the Hollandaise Sauce, place the creme fraiche, cornflour, egg yolks, white wine vinegar and lemon juice in a saucepan over a low heat. Cook, whisking gently for 1 – 2 minutes until thickened and combined.
  2. Remove from the heat and set aside. Whisk in the butter until combined, then season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Steam the asparagus for 2 – 3 minutes until tender.
  4. Divide the asparagus and rocket among serving plates, then drizzle with Hollandaise Sauce and serve.

Turkish-style bread topped with lamb, spices and pine nuts

Serves: 4 – 6

This is really special, really easy street-food, perfect for a Saturday afternoon when friends come round.

The lamb mince can be prepared ahead of time meaning you only have the dough to do as people start walking through the door. Of course, when they see that you have made your own dough, they’ll know something clever is coming.

They’ll also think you’re a genius.

The taste – and the heat – is classic Middle Eastern.

And goes to show that the simplest things really can be the best.

Ingredients

175gm Greek feta, coarsely grated
250gm minced lamb
3 long red chillies, chilli and seeds coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 1/2 tsp cumin seed, dry-roasted and and finely ground in a mortar and pestle

Flatbreads

1/2 tsp dried yeast
2 1/2 cups plain flour, plus extra for dusting

To serve

Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Toasted pine nuts
Thinly sliced mint
Pickled long green chillies

Method

  1. For the flatbreads, dissolve the yeast in 300ml of lukewarm water.
  2. Combine flour and a large pinch of salt in an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add the yeast mixture and knead until a soft dough forms. Around 6 – 8 minutes.
  3. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 6 balls. Place balls on a floured tray, leaving 10cm between each and set aside for 1 hour to prove.
  4. Preheat the oven to 250c. Combine the lamb, chilli, garlic and cumin in a bowl. Roll out dough to 5mm-thick rounds on a lightly floured surface, then even top with the lamb mixture, leaving a small border. Transfer to oven trays lined with baking paper, drizzle with olive oil and bake (in batches if necessary) until crisp at the edges but soft in the center. Around 15 minutes.
  5. Serve scattered with pine nuts, mint and pickled chillies at the side.

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.

Eggplant dip (baba ghanouj)

Eggplant dip (baba ghanouj)

Serves: 10

Fresh Baba Ganoush is the bomb.

Served with some oiled and grilled Turkish bread, you have heaven.

This straightforward recipe is about as traditional as I can find and we served it across a few days including a family dinner where it was a hit.

The effort is worth the reward.

Ingredients

3 medium eggplants
1 ½ tbsp tahini
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 – 2 garlic clove
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sweet paprika
Finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Finely diced tomato
Oiled, grilled Turkish bread slices to serve

Method

  1. Grill the eggplants whole over a gas flame, turning with tongs until the skin is evenly blistered and the flesh is soft. Soak in cold water for 10 minutes to cool.
  2. Peel the eggplants and leave to drain for 15–20 minutes.
  3. Place the eggplant in a food processor with the tahini, lemon juice, garlic and salt and process until well combined and creamy. Add extra tahini, lemon juice or salt to taste.
  4. Scoop into a serving bowl and make a well in the center. Pour the oil into the well and sprinkle paprika, parsley and tomato on top.

Matt Preston’s Toasted Cheese Sandwich with ‘Quickled’ Onions

Matt Preston’s Toasted Cheese Sandwich with ‘Quickled’ Onions

Serves: 1 – 2

It is the night of New Year’s Day and that pretty much means toasties in a fry-pan.

It’s hot, you’re exhausted, you’ve had your wine and BBQ quota for the year and all you want is to curl up on the couch – with a beer – and watch Seinfeld.

The boys got their usual, plain-Jane toastie and loved it, though we had been saving this Matt Preston toastie for just a night like tonight.

And it killed it.

It is really special. It is simple to prepare assuming you have the right cheeses – which you really do need on account of their ideal melting points. The cheese melts like in a pizza ad.

And the ‘quickled’ onions leave a wonderful aftertaste.

Wow. What a way to start the new year!

Ingredients

1 leek, dark outer leaves removed
½ garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp finely grated parmesan
½ cup grated Gruyere
½ buffalo mozzarella ball, torn
25gm soften unsalted butter
2cm-thick slices white bread
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

‘Quickled’ onions

1 red onion, thinly sliced
¼ tsp sea salt
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tbs red wine vinegar

Method

For the quickled onions

  1. Toss onion, salt and sugar in a bowl. Set aside for 15 minutes to pickle slightly. Stir through vinegar and set aside for 2 minutes or until needed.

For the toastie

  1. Clean and trim the leek. Place in a microwave-safe container and microwave uncovered on a high-heat for 4-minutes or until the leek is just tender. Split lengthways, remove the soft inner layers (discarding the outer layers) and chop.
  2. Stir through the garlic and cheeses and season well.
  3. Preheat a frypan over a medium heat. Line with a piece of baking paper.
  4. Butter one side of each slice of bread and place 1 slice (per toastie) on the baking paper.
  5. Spread dijon over the slice and make a slight indent in the slice and fill with the cheese mixture. Place the other slice of bread on top, adding more dijon if you can juggle and ensuring the buttered side is facing outwards. (I know that you know how to make a toastie; I am writing this for our young boys so that when they start properly cooking, they have a few recipes and instructions to fall back on).
  6. Cook for 2 minutes each side until melted or until golden and the cheese is melted.
  7. Serve toastie with the quickled onions.