Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Food Collective Christmas Feast 2014

Pictures by Steve Shanahan

First Published Canberra Times 3rd December, 2014.

With Christmas closing in and plans for the annual family inundation afoot, the menu of the day requires some forward planning. As my job requires a lot of stove time, my aim is to reduce food preparation input on the day so I can spend it with family and friends. Our Christmas main meal will be a late seafood lunch spiked with fresh, citrus flavours, with just a hint of Tetsuya and Spirit House. And for fun, we will celebrate with some retro flavour combinations of prawns, coconut and pineapple. Just to prove we are the height of absolute sophistication, you won’t see a Golden Circle pineapple ring within cooee.

The dressings in this meal give it a good kick along, highlighting the seafood flavours that are a foil for the piquancy of the pretty pickled salad. The bulk of the preparation is in the dressings and salad, so be prepared to put the effort in the day before so you don’t spend Christmas day stuck in the kitchen. Then on the day, grab another willing set of hands to help you pull it together. The complete menu serves 4 to 6 people. It’s not en exact science, so just increase the quantities of everything to feed greater numbers.

Suppliers assured me that the listed foods would be in plentiful supply over the holidays. The seafood was purchased from FishCo Fish Market at Fyshwick and the Foie Gras from The Essential Ingredient in Kingston. The Yuzu and shredded Nori can be purchased from most Asian grocers and the Seafood Salad can be bought frozen from JJ’s Fysh at Fyshwick Markets. Keep any unused portions of seafood salad, which is essentially seaweed, in the freezer and this can be added to other meals, including soups, salads or with cold meats. 

Hint: To avoid mixing up the dressings, print the name of the dressing on some masking tape and stick it to the lid of the jar or container. This helps when it comes to putting the meal together.

Pretty Pickled Salad

½ cup rice vinegar
¾ cup sugar
½ cup water
1 tsp salt
1 cup each of shredded carrot, shredded white radish (Daikon), shredded cucumber, thinly sliced small red onion
2 tbsp grated ginger
1 cup bean sprouts
4 kaffir lime leaves, centre rib removed and finely shredded
½ cup coriander, chopped
½ cup mint leaves, chopped
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Salad Dressing
2 tbsp plum sauce
2 tsp sugar
pinch of salt
2 tbsp warm water
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp sesame oil

On the day before:
Combine the vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. When the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat and cool.

In a bowl, mix together the carrot, radish, cucumber, onion and ginger. Pour over the cooled syrup, cover with glad wrap and allow to pickle overnight. Keep refrigerated until ready to use. This will send off some fermenting vegetable smells, this is normal.

To make the dressing, combine all the ingredients in a bowl or jar and shake to combine. This can be left out of the refrigerator until ready to use.

When ready to serve:
Drain the pickled vegetables from the liquid and discard. Allow the vegetables to drain in a colander until there is little liquid remaining. Transfer to a bowl along with the bean sprouts, kaffir lime leaves, coriander and mint. Pour over the dressing and mix to combine, transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.

Scallops with Strawberries and Yuzu Juice
12 scallops, without roe or shells
1/4 punnet of ripe strawberries, finely chopped
handful of chives cut into 4 cm lengths
handful of tarragon, chopped

5 large strawberries, crushed with a potato masher
2 tbsp yuzu juice, or lemon juice
½ tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste

On the day before:
Combine all the dressing ingredients in a small jar and refrigerate until you are ready to dress the scallops.

When ready to serve:
Bring a small saucepan of water to a rolling boil. Plunge the scallops into the boiling water, leave to cook for fifteen seconds, then remove. The flesh should be only just turning white. Slice the scallops in half and lay overlapping on a platter. Drizzle the vinaigrette and scatter the chopped strawberries, tarragon and chives over the arranged scallops. The acid in the lemon will further “cook” the scallops.

Crispy Prawns with Garlic and Pineapple Salsa
700g of large green prawns, peeled and deveined
5 tbsp rice flour
3 cups of vegetable oil for deep frying
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
handful of coriander, chopped
lime wedges

Pineapple Salsa
½ a fresh pineapple, peeled, quartered and core removed
3 fresh chillis, sliced finely
1 tablespoon of dessicated coconut
handful of both fresh mint and coriander, chopped finely
salt and pepper to taste

On the day before:
For the pineapple salsa, chop the pineapple finely and combine with the remainder of the salsa ingredients. Leave in refrigerator to marinate until required.

When ready to serve:
Toss the prawns with the rice flour. Heat the oil in a wok or large saucepan till very hot. Fry the garlic until browned and remove with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towel. Fry the prawns in batches until golden and crispy, this should only take a minute or so. Drain on paper towel and transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with the coriander and garlic. Serve with the lime wedges.

Roasted Balmain Bugs with Smoky Tea
10 Balmain Bugs, cooked
1 tsp of Lapsang Souchong black tea
1 cup of defrosted seafood salad.
1 leek, julienned
1 cup of vegetable oil
Shredded nori

1 tbsp macadamia oil (or other flavoured nut oil)
½ tsp sherry vinegar

Preheat the oven to 260C.
The day before:
Combine the sherry vinegar and macadamia oil in a small jar and leave to infuse.

For the leeks, heat the oil till very hot and fry the leek in batches until browned and crispy. Remove and drain on paper towel. Keep in an airtight container until ready to use.

When ready to serve:
Chop the heads off the bugs and cut them in half, lengthwise with a chopper or a pair of strong kitchen shears. Remove the heads and discard. Season the bugs with salt and pepper to taste. Grind the tea to a powder in a mortar and pestle and sprinkle on the flesh side of the bugs.

Place the bugs, still in half shells, on an oven tray and place in the oven for about three minutes till just feeling warm on the outside.

To serve, place the seafood salad on a serving platter. Place the bug halves on top and pile up in the centre.

Drizzle with the dressing and arrange the leeks and shredded nori on the top.

Duck Foie Gras with Black Rice and Avocado
4 to 6 duck foie gras, approximately 30g each
1 tbsp mirin
1 cup cooked black or red rice
¼ avocado, finely diced

Avocado Puree
½ avocado, peeled
100ml milk
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp finely chopped chives

1 tsp honey
50ml soy sauce
1 tsp lemon juice

2 tbsp toasted and crushed sesame seeds
small bunch of chives, cut into 4 cm lengths

On the day before:
To make the avocado puree, blend all the ingredients until pureed in a food processor or blender. Store in a jar in the refrigerator until ready to use.

To make the dressing, combine all the ingredients in a small jar and shake. Store out of the refrigerator until ready to use.

Toast the sesame seeds in a small frypan until golden. Crush the roasted seeds in a mortar and pestle until fine and crumbly. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.
In a small bowl, mix the pre-made rice with the mirin and cover with glad wrap and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

When ready to serve
Place four (or six) spoonfuls of rice separately piled on a large serving platter. Place a spoonful of chopped avocado on top of each spoon of rice. Spoon a little avocado puree over the top of each. Then top with a round of foie gras. Spoon a teaspoon or two of dressing over the foie gras and top with a good sprinkle of crushed sesame seeds and chives.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Nicoise Summer Tart with Monkey Bread

Nicoise Summer Tart.
Photos by Steve Shanahan

First published Canberra Times,  26 November 2014.

The thing that’s so lovely about these warm, summery evenings in Canberra is the gorgeous luminous light that highlights the bright, new soft leaves of the trees. I believe we appreciate our seasons, as they are so incredibly extreme.

This association with light, summery evenings, easily translates to serving lighter, fresher foods incorporating the new seasons delicate vegetables, so easily accessible here. Tarts are perfect for entertaining and ideal fare for Christmas celebrations as they can be served warm on plates or passed around as finger food.

This particular tart is reminiscent of the French bistro classic, Nicoise Salad, however instead of serving it with tuna, I opted for the richer, more decadent flavours of salmon.  The tart holds up well for left-overs and can be made a day in advance. The beauty of a tart is that you can prepare and par-cook the tart shell in advance and the filling combinations are endless.

This tart was served alongside the wicked and indulgent Rosemary Monkey Bread, swimming in butter and honey.

Serves 8

2 cups flour
130 g unsalted butter, cold and cubed
3 medium sized eggs
½ head of butter lettuce leaves, torn into 5cm pieces
10 green beans, cut into 5 centimetre lengths
1 medium potato, peeled and sliced
1 95g good quality tinned salmon
½ cup cream
½ cup milk
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
3 tbsp olive oil
1 anchovy fillet
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 small red shallot onion, peeled
2 medium Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
½ cup pitted black olives

Place the flour, butter and salt into a bowl. Using your fingers, rub the flour and butter together until it resembles course breadcrumbs. Add six tablespoons of ice-cold water and mix with a knife until a dough forms. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it until smooth. This should take about two minutes. Form the dough into a disk and wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

Boil the potato in salted water until tender, then add the green beans and cook for a minute more. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a bowl of ice-cold water, then drain and place in a medium sized bowl. Add the lettuce and salmon to the vegetables and set aside.

Blend together the milk, cream, oil, mustard, eggs, anchovy, garlic, shallot and salt and pepper until smooth and add to the vegetables and salmon. Stir to combine and place in the fridge until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 170C.

Roll the dough into a thirty-two centimetre circle and transfer to a greased twenty-six centimetre spring form tart tin with a removable base, pressing the dough gently into the base and sides of the tin. Place the tin on a baking tray.

Prick the dough with a fork and cover with parchment paper and fill with dried beans. Bake until slightly firm, about fifteen minutes. Remove the paper and beans and spread the filling into the crust. Arrange the tomatoes and olives on the top and bake at a reduced oven temperature of 150C for approximately thirty minutes, this may vary and take longer depending on your oven. Check for doneness in the centre of the tart, it shoudl not be runny. Let the tart cool slightly before removing from the pan to serve.

Rosemary monkey bread
Rosemary Monkey Bread
180g unsalted butter
4 cups flour
1 cup of grated Gruyere cheese
1 cup of milk
¼ cup sugar
1 tbsp rosemary, finely chopped
2 tsp salt
¾ cup honey
2 packets or 14g of dried yeast

Grease a twenty-five centimetre bundt tin with butter and then dust well with flour. Whisk the flour, cheese, rosemary, salt and pepper in a medium bowl and set aside. 

Heat two tablespoons of the butter with the milk and one-third of a cup of water over medium heat until warmed. Do not overheat the milk as you will damage the yeast. Transfer the milk mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Stir in the sugar and yeast and allow to sit for about ten minutes until the mixture is foamy. With the motor running slowly add the dry ingredients to the yeast,  beating until the dough is smooth. Transfer to a lightly greased bowl, cover with cling wrap and leave in a warm place for about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Melt the remaining butter in a small saucepan and whisk in the honey and set aside.

On a lightly floured benchtop, pat the dough out into a twenty centimetre square about two and half centimetres thick. Cut the dough into two and half centimetre pieces and squash together into the prepared bundt pan, layering as you go. Pour the melted butter and honey mixture over the dough. Bake until golden and a skewer, when inserted into the middle of the bread, comes out clean. This should take about thirty minutes. Let the bread cool slightly before upending onto a plate and serve with the Nicoise summer tart.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Siam Twist Hackett

Thank you Siam Twist for another great night. Food was superb, service spot on and reasonably priced. Keep this up Siam Twist and you will be competing with the big gun restaurants of Canberra.  Blessed to have you as our "local". Well done Andrew and co.