Only in New Zealand

Moeraki Moeraki Moeraki MoerakiOn Sunday morning, I was busily organising my family and my mother-in-law to leave for Moeraki, where we were meeting my sister-in-law and her fiancé for lunch at Fleurs Place. Fleurs is an amazing little seafood restaurant in this sleepy little village; fishing boats unload their catch directly at her door, and the food is simple and sublime.

When my mobile rang just after 10am, I thought it might be the restaurant asking us to change our booking. But it was Fleur herself, calling to ask if we happened to be driving up from Dunedin, and could stop by a local fish shop to bring her some live crayfish.

Such a kiwi thing to do, right? Both the request, and me responding like it was the most natural thing in the world. Like I’m called by the owner of a restaurant (a woman who rubs shoulders with celebrities on a regular basis, no less) all the time, asking for supplies. NBD, right?

Only in New Zealand.


Salmon and Avocado Salad with Dill Dressing

I’m married to a man who grew up on a cattle farm; his mum has a freezer full of beef and lamb. He rather reluctantly eats the vegetarian meals I prepare, always asking (with a cheeky grin), “Where’s the meat?”

Luckily, he would choose seafood over meat 95% of the time. Tall loves fish, especially salmon, snapper and blue cod. We try to eat fish once a week (even though I am mildly allergic, bleurgh), and during the warmer months, we eat a lot of fresh fish and salads.

This is such a simple, quick dish to prepare; serve with fresh bread (I like the texture of a ciabatta or Turkish pide with this) and a chilled glass of pinot gris or beer.

Salmon and Avocado SaladSalmon and Avocado Salad with Dill Dressing – serves 2-4

mesclun salad leaves
2 avocados, diced chunkily
1 bunch fresh asparagus, steamed until tender
1/2 telegraph cucumber, halved lengthways and sliced
handful cherry tomatoes, halved
1 wood roasted/hot-smoked salmon fillet
200g baked ricotta (method below; omit completely for dairy-free)
3T olive oil
approx. 1T lemon juice
1T fresh dill tips*
1t brown sugar*
salt and pepper

Combine mesclun, avocado, asparagus, cucumber and tomatoes in a large serving bowl.

In a small jug, whisk together the remaining ingredients; taste and adjust seasonings to your own taste. *You might want to reduce or increase the amounts of sugar and lemon juice depending on whether you like a sweeter or tarter dressing.

Pour the dressing over the salad and toss gently to combine.

Break the salmon into bite-size chunks and add to the salad along with chunks of baked ricotta.

Serve with lots of bread to soak up the dressing, and a glass of something cold and delicious.

Salmon and Avocado SaladBaked ricotta:
Line a baking tray with a small square of baking paper. Plop the ricotta on top, in an evenly-spread disc. Drizzle with olive oil and season; add fresh thyme leaves or dill tips. Bake at 200degC for 10-15 minutes until the top is golden brown and slightly crusty. Remove from the oven and cool. This can be made using firm-from-the-deli ricotta or fresh-from-a-pottle ricotta; I’ve tried it with both, and they are different in texture but equally delicious.

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Grilled Sweet Chilli Salmon with Vermicelli

There are days when I enjoy spending hours creating the perfect meal. Well…before children, there were days like that, anyway.

Then there are days when I just want to cook something quick and easy, but tasty and nutritious at the same time.

We always try and buy fresh fish from our local farmers’ market, and if we arrive early enough, we’ll be lucky and snaffle up some beautiful, coral-coloured fresh salmon.

The flavour of the fish is so good that I try and cook it as simply as possible; this recipe came about one night when there wasn’t much in the fridge, and I used what was to hand.

Grilled Sweet Chilli Salmon with Vermicelli – serves 2

2 salmon fillets, pin-boned
2T sweet chilli sauce, plus extra for dressing
fresh ginger, grated
vermicelli noodles
handful of green beans, trimmed
bunch of asparagus, trimmed
handful of baby spinach

Pre-heat your grill to high. Line a baking tray or dish with tin foil.

Mix together the sweet chilli sauce and fresh ginger; brush each piece of salmon with the sauce and place on the foil.

Grill for 6-10 minutes, depending on how you like your salmon cooked. We like ours medium-rare, and 8 minutes does the trick.

While the salmon cooks, steam the beans and asparagus until tender, and soak the vermicelli in boiling water until softened.

Gently combine the asparagus, beans and spinach with the noodles and extra sweet chilli sauce, to taste.

Pile the noodle mixture onto plates, and top with the grilled salmon.

Superfoods on a plate; enjoy!

Mediterranean-Style Cod

I discovered this recipe in a Sainsbury’s Magazine not long after we’d moved to England, and ever since, it has been my go-to “I want fish but don’t know how I want to prepare it” meal. Tall loves it, I love it, and Tiny has tried it once and it seemed to go down okay.

It’s super-quick and easy, and super-tasty, with delightful contrasting textures and flavours that work together so well. It’s lovely on a warm summer’s night, as the flavours are so fresh.

The original recipe calls for a jar of tomato pasta sauce, but I always make my own – I find jars of sauce have such an artificial taste, and honestly, they are never as good as homemade.

Mediterranean-Style Cod – serves 4

1 red capsicum, quartered and de-seeded
50g pitted black olives, halved or sliced
315g tomato pasta sauce – either a jar or homemade (please – go for homemade!)
700g blue cod (or cod loin, or any other light white-fleshed fish)
50g fresh breadcrumbs
50g parmesan cheese, freshly grated
2T olive oil
basil leaves, to garnish

Grill the capsicums, skin-side up, until blackened. Wrap in cling film and leave to cool. Once cool, peel off the charred skin and dice the flesh.

Preheat oven to 190degC. Grease an ovenproof dish just large enough for the fish to fit snugly in one layer.

Mix capsicum, olives and pasta sauce; spread in the dish.

Cut the fish into even-sized pieces and place on top of the sauce.

Combine breadcrumbs, parmesan and oil; sprinkle all over the fish to cover each piece.

Bake for 20 minutes, until the topping is golden and crunchy, and the fish is just cooked.

Garnish with torn basil leaves and serve with a crisp green salad and the carbohydrate of your choice.

Original Recipe: Sainsbury’s Magazine, some time in 2007.

Monkfish in a Saffron and Caper Sauce

Last Friday was Tall’s birthday, and earlier in the week, I asked whether he’d prefer going out for dinner, getting takeaways, or having me cook him something fancy. He opted for the third option, and gave me a big verbal pat-on-the-back by saying, “Well, any of them will mean good food…”

I settled on a fancy-sounding fish dish (he luuuurves fish), followed by a fancy-sounding-but-simple-looking pear dessert; when the day came, he decided to stay for a few after-work drinks, and chowed down on steak sandwiches and pizzas along with the beers. He decided my fancy-pants meal would probably be wasted on him, so that night we had a Spanish tortilla (potatoes, onion, cheese and egg), saving the fish dish until the following evening. I did make the fancy-schmancy pear dessert though, and will be making it again, oh, asap!

The fish dish was every bit as delicious as I’d hoped, and while the ingredients sound rather rich and decadent, the flavours were incredibly light and fresh. I can imagine this paired with a cool, crisp sauv blanc or even a fruitier pinot gris in the middle of summer – yum!

(Apologies for the soft-focus-late-80s photos – was using the old point-and-shoot…never again!)

Monkfish in a Saffron and Caper Sauce – serves 6

50g butter
300g shallots, thinly sliced (I couldn’t find shallots anywhere, so used one normal onion)
500ml white wine
1L fish stock
500ml cream (double, if you can find it; normal if you can’t!)
2 large pinches of saffron
1t caster sugar
50ml lemon juice

600-700g monkfish, cut into bite-sized pieces
25g capers
1T fresh basil, torn

Cooked spaghetti
3 plum tomatoes, deseeded and finely chopped (I used a handful of cherry tomatoes, halved)

Melt half the first measure of butter in a large pan and gently fry the shallots for 3-4 minutes, until semi-soft.

Pour in the wine, turn up the heat and reduce by two-thirds (5-10 minutes).

Add the stock and reduce by another two-thirds (15-20 minutes), skimming off any scum that rises to the surface*. Keep the sides of the pan as clean as possible to avoid the sauce turning brown.

Pour in the cream and saffron and reduce to half the volume (20-25 minutes); remove from the heat.

Pour the sauce into a blender and add the sugar and lemon juice; season to taste with salt. Add the remaining half of butter and blend for 1 minutes.

Pass the sauce through a fine sieve into a clean, large frying pan. Bring to a simmer over a low heat.

Season the monkfish and poach them in the sauce until cooked through, approximately 6-8 minutes. Stir in the capers and basil.

Serve with cooked spaghetti, with the chopped tomatoes scattered over the top.

*I used store-bought stock, and didn’t really notice any “scum”, but you possibly would if using homemade fish stock??

Recipe: Tom Aikens, ‘Market Kitchen Cookbook’