Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Sticky rice balls in ginger syrup

Sticky rice balls in ginger syrup. Photo by Steve Shanahan
These are delicious to finish an Asian meal. Prepare them prior to serving. 

1/3 cup dried yellow split peas, pre-cooked to the equivalent of 1 cup of cooked beans
½ tsp salt
3 tbsp sugar

Rice Ball Dough
2 cups of glutinous rice flour, found at Asian grocers
¾ cup of water, and extra if required
toasted sesame seeds for serving

Ginger Syrup
3 cm fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into thick rings
1 cup brown sugar
3 cups water

Coconut sauce
300ml coconut milk
100ml water
1 tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 tbsp cornflour

Cook the yellow split peas for about 45 minutes or until soft. Drain, rinse in hot water, and mash with a potato masher until smooth, add the salt and sugar and mix to combine. Set aside.

For the rice ball dough, in a large bowl combine the rice flour and water and knead until a soft dough forms. Add water a tablespoon at a time if more water is needed to bring it together. The dough should be soft and sticky. Knead the dough in the bowl for a few minutes and wrap in plastic wrap and leave to rest.

For the filling, take a half teaspoon of the mashed pea paste and roll into about small balls, and place lined up on a piece of baking paper so they are not touching. Continue rolling into balls until all paste is rolled. Set aside.

For the ginger syrup, in a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the water and brown sugar. When the syrup starts to boil, add the ginger. Cover pot and and turn to low and leave the syrup to simmer for about 15 minutes.

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and turn down the heat to medium. Take one tablespoon of dough and flatten slightly to form a patty. Place a ball of paste in the centre of the dough. Gently work the dough around the paste and pinch and roll into a ball shape. Roll the ball lightly between your hands before gently dropping them into the boiling water. Continue rolling the balls until you have about 10 at a time in the water.

When the balls float to the top, they are cooked. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer them into the simmering ginger syrup. Continue until all the dough has been used up. Once all the balls are cooked simmer lightly in the ginger syrup for another 10 minutes. 

For the coconut sauce, in a small bowl, mix the cornflour and a tablespoon of water to form a thick slurry and set aside. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the coconut milk, water, sugar and salt. Stir to combine. When the coconut milk just starts to bubble, add the cornflour slurry and stir quickly for two minutes to stop lumps forming. Don’t overheat the coconut milk before you add the cornflour as this will create lumps.

Serve the warm dumplings in a bowl with a few spoons of ginger syrup, the coconut cream sauce poured over the top and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.  

Vietnamese style pancakes

Vietnamese pancakes. Photo by Steve Shanahan

Cooking Asian food requires some preparation and energy to hunt and gather ingredients, but provides its own reward with simple, light and fresh flavours.

We don’t need to travel very far in Canberra to access fabulous local food markets and a plethora of Asian grocers, offering the opportunity and inspiration to recreate Asian street style delicacies. My challenge each visit is to only buy as much as I need.

When old friends from the North Coast of NSW arrive for a surprise stay we visit the Capital Region Farmer’s Market to shop for an Asian feast.

So to counter my habit of buying more than I need, I make a shopping list and take my friend along for back-up. Arriving at the market I turn my trolley upside down to find the shopping list, which I realise is languishing on my kitchen benchtop. So we shop from memory and collect a little extra just in case. I do find shopping from memory does tend to keep me a little more focused.

After escaping with only a couple of extra bags of produce, we return to prepare the feast of pork and chicken pancakes in bean sauce and sticky rice dumplings in ginger syrup. This is accompanied with a glass or two of alcoholic inspiration.

Over dinner, our visitors enthused about the quality and choice of the produce available at the market, again reminding me of Canberra’s strong relationship to it’s burgeoning and multicultural food culture.

This recipe requires some preparation time, so start early and give yourself a few hours leeway or have someone else in the kitchen to share out the tasks.

Crispy Vietnamese pancakes with bean sauce
400g rice flour
300ml coconut milk
300ml water
2 green shallots, chopped finely
vegetable oil for frying

200g pork mince
100g chicken mince
1 small onion, chopped
3 green shallots, chopped
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp palm sugar or coconut sugar
1 chilli, deseeded and chopped
1 lime, juiced and zest
½ cup of fresh herbs, a combination of basil, coriander and mint, finely chopped
vegetable oil
1 tsp ground white pepper
200g fresh bean sprouts

Bean sauce
50g vegetable oil
100g salted soy beans, found at Asian grocers
150ml sweet chilli sauce
1 tbsp tamarind paste
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp dried chilli flakes
¼ cup of fresh ginger, finely chopped
¼ cup of green shallots, finely chopped
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
60g roasted peanuts
2 tbsp water

To make the pancake batter, place rice flour into a medium sized mixing bowl, add coconut milk and water and mix until smooth. Add shallots and mix together and leave to rest for half an hour.

To prepare the bean sauce, heat the oil in a medium sized frypan over medium heat. Then add the ginger and shallots and cook for one minute. Add the tamarind paste, bean paste, sweet chilli sauce, peanuts and sesame seeds and cook for five minutes, stirring to combine and prevent sticking and burning. Add the water and continue to stir for another two minutes. Remove to a bowl to cool slightly, then blend on high speed for one minute in a food processor or stick blender until smooth. Remove the blended sauce to a bowl and set aside.

For the filling, in a medium sized frypan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the pork and chicken mince and cook until golden and crumbly. Add the onion and shallots and cook for another five minutes. Then add the fish sauce, sugar, chilli, lime zest, peanuts, juice and white pepper. Continue to cook and mix for another five minutes. Taste for seasoning. Transfer the mince mixture to a medium bowl and stir through half of the chopped herbs, cover and set aside.

For the pancakes, preheat the oven to 80C. In a medium sized frypan or wok, heat three tablespoons of vegetable oil over a high heat and add a third of a cup of the batter, rotating the pan to evenly coat the the base of the pan.  When bubbles start to form cook for a further two minutes until crispy around the edges. Remove from pan with a large egg lifter and place on an oven tray. Transfer to the oven to keep warm. Repeat until all the batter is used.

To serve, place the pancakes on individual plates, top with a couple of spoons of warmed meat filling, add a spoon of chopped fresh herbs and top with a good dollop of bean sauce, some fresh bean sprouts and toasted sesame seeds.

Due to the crispiness of these pancakes they do not roll well, so eating with a fork and knife works best.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Lemon tart

Lemon tart. Photos by Steve Shanahan
Tarte au citron. This French classic, provides a light, tangy finish to a meal or as an indulgent treat at any time of the day or night. 

250g plain flour
100g chilled unsalted butter
2 egg yolks
2 to 3 tbsp chilled water
pinch of salt

Place the flour, butter and salt in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolks while still blending, then the water until the mixture comes together. Stop as soon as the mixture comes together as further blending will toughen the pastry.

Roll out the pastry on a floured work surface, to fit the base and sides of a butter-greased twenty-four centimetre loose base fluted tart tin. Once the tart tin is lined with the pastry, place it in the freezer for twenty minutes. This will provide a better result.

Preheat the oven to 180C.

To prebake the pastry shell, place the tart pastry in the preheated oven and bake unfilled for about ten minutes, until just cooked. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.

Reduce oven to 150C.

Lemon tart filling
3 large lemons
6 eggs
250g caster sugar
200ml cream
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
Icing sugar to dust

Zest and juice the lemons. In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the egg and sugar until well combined. Add the lemon zest, juice, cream and vanilla paste, whisking well till all combined.

Place the pre-baked pastry shell and tin on an oven tray. Pour the lemon and egg mixture into the pastry shell. Bake the lemon tart in the preheated oven for about thirty minutes or until just set and still wobbly. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin. To remove the tart from the sides of the tin, place the baked tart in the tin over a cup or glass and carefully push down on the tin using both hands to support the tart. The tart tin should come away from the tart. The tart cuts better when cooled and can also be placed in the fridge to speed up the cooling process before cutting.

Poached salmon with lemon and egg caper sauce

Poached Salmon with lemon and egg caper sauce and freekeh tabbouleh. Photos by Steve Shanahan
First published Canberra Times 27 August 2014.
As the frozen veil slowly lifts from Canberra and we enter thaw mode, its time to ditch the meaty, one pot wonders and embrace lighter acidic flavours. Don’t get me wrong - there is a place for the meaty one-pots, but I need a rest from cheek, shank and hinds for a while …… at least until next week. So I opt for moist and succulent poached salmon.

Recently I’ve been reading up on the cultivation of capers, and I am quite captivated by these feisty little buds that grow wild on hillsides throughout the Middle East, Turkey and parts of Asia. Their pickled acidity and brinyness adds a punch to fish dishes and provides a perfect match to this salmon dish. I prefer the bottled capers in salt, rather than the ones in brine as they can tend to be mushy. These can be found in supermarkets or delis.

As it happens, I’ve been lucky enough to score a bucket of juicy, sweet lemons from my sister and some fresh chook eggs from a good friend. This generosity of produce then prompted a forage to Fishco Fyshwick for wild salmon and a pile of fishheads to make a rich, fish stock. This is a bit of extra effort, but I want the flavours to shine through. 

I prepare the fish stock the day before I need it and leave it to reduce, simmering away on the stove for a few hours to extract maximum flavour. The secret to this stock is the roasting of the fish and vegetables first. The cooking smells coming from the kitchen are absolutely sublime as I am swept away on a nut-buttery seafood drift.  If I’d had any reservations about the input needed to make the fish stock as part of this recipe, they were quickly snuffed out. The sauce in this dish only requires one cup of stock, but the extra will keep for about a month in the freezer or for a few days in the fridge. If time is short, use a good quality, store bought fish stock.

To cut through the richness of the salmon, I added a freekeh tabbouleh salad and follow it up with the French classic tarte au citron, featuring both the fresh lemons and delicious chook eggs.

The following quantities serve 6 people.

Rich Fish Stock
Makes about 8 cups

2 onions
4 celery stalks
4 carrots
2 tbsp unsalted butter
Bones and heads of 3 or 4 fish
6 whole peppercorns
1 bottle of dry white wine
4 each sprigs of parsley and thyme
1 bay leaf

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Coarsely chop the onions, carrots and celery. Melt the butter in a large roasting pan and add the vegetables and fish pieces. Roast for 30 minutes.

Transfer the vegetables and fish pieces to a large stockpot and add three and half litres of water, the wine, peppercorns, herbs, bay leaf and salt to taste. Bring to a boil over a medium heat and then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer for approximately two to three hours. The stock should reduce by half.

Strain the liquid and reserve and discard all of the solids.

Poached Salmon

1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 stalk of celery, sliced
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
1 lemon, sliced thinly with skin on
2 bay leaves
6 black peppercorns
2 kilogram piece of centre-cut wild salmon
sprigs of fresh dill and parsley
2 cups of dry white wine

Place carrot, celery, onion, lemon slices, bay leaves and pepper corns into a fish poacher or deep roasting pan large enough to take the fish and vegetables. Rub the salmon with salt and sit on top of the vegetables in the pan. Add the dill, parsley, wine and enough water to just cover the fish.

Place the pan over two hot plates or large burner and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook until the salmon is just opaque and check for doneness to your liking by separating the flakes gently with a knife. This will take about 30 to 35 minutes. Let the salmon rest in the poaching liquid for ten minutes, then transfer to a board and peel off the skin on the underside of the fish and discard. It will come away easily. Also remove any dark flesh if you prefer.

Carefully lift the salmon onto a platter and remove any bones. Serve warm with the egg caper sauce and freekeh tabbouleh.

Egg Caper Sauce
1 ½ tbsp butter
1 ½ tbsp flour
1 cup Rich Fish Stock
½ cup of heavy cream
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp salted capers, rinsed
salt and white pepper

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a medium to low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly to prevent burning. This should take about two minutes.

Gradually whisk in the Rich Fish Stock, then the cream. Bring to a simmer, cook for about one minute, then remove from the heat and set aside to cool. The sauce will thicken a little as it cools.

Stir in the hard-boiled eggs and capers. Season to taste and keep warm over a very low heat until ready to serve over the salmon.

Freekeh Tabbouleh
5 tbsp of freekeh, washed
60g unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 stick of celery, finely chopped
2 pink shallots, finely chopped
½ medium white onion
1 tsp of kosher salt
½ tsp ground allspice
300g of cocktail tomatoes, finely chopped and drained of juice
3 cups of minced flat leaf parsley
½ cup of finely chopped fresh mint leaves
7 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
5 tbsp lemon juice

Place the butter in a medium saucepan and melt over a medium heat. Add the garlic, celery, shallots, stirring to cook for about five minutes. Add the washed and drained freekeh stirring to coat with the butter. Add 230 millilitres of water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer until the freekeh is soft, this should take about ten minutes. Drain the freekeh and vegetables in a colander.

Place the cooked freekeh into a medium sized bowl and add the chopped onion, salt to taste and the allspice. Then add the tomatoes, parsley, mint, oil and lemon juice. Stir to combine and further season to taste. Serve as a side to the poached salmon.