Ferran Adria, of the legendary El Bulli restaurant came up with an amazing cookbook for home cooking called The Family Meal. This book is way cool. 31 meals planned out, with each step of each meal fully documented with photographs. The ingredient list also caters to meals for 2 right up to 75! Very convenient indeed.
My first attempt at one of his recipes was this amazingly rich and creamy Caesar Salad dressing. It was one of those times the hubby was away (can’t remember where he went now) and all I had in the fridge worth considering was a head of cos lettuce and half a block of parmesan cheese. It was a no-brainer what I was going to have for my solo dinner.
A caesar salad to me isn’t really a salad. It’s too unhealthy and delicious to count as a one. I love it though, it’s one of those meals I’d have when I just feel like a tasty veggie-filled meal, albeit calorifically rich. Especially this version of caesar dressing – all garlicky and super creamy.
By Ferran Adria, “The Family Meal”
1/2 garlic clove
2 anchovy fillets, packed in olive oil, drained
1 egg yolk
2 tsp Sherry vinegar (I used white wine vinegar)
3 tbsp plus 1 tsp sunflower oil
20g finely grated Parmesan cheese
1. Put garlic, anchovies and egg yolk in a beaker or jug.
2. Process with a hand held blender until smooth.
3. Very gradually, pour in the sunflower oil while blending until it becomes a smooth, thick mayonnaise-like consistency. Blend in the vinegar.
4. Stir in grated parmesan cheese. All done.
Note: If making this dressing for two, I would recommend blending it in a small food processor. I found that with such a small amount, everything got stuck behind the blades in the hand-held blender. Took me a while to scrape them all out.
This summer in Melbourne is a true reminder of the song by Crowded House – Four seasons in one day. From blazing hot 38C days to chilly 15C. To make the best of it, I enjoy myself by cooking and eating cool summer salads to rich, warming soups all in the same season. Awesome isn’t it?
On one of those stinking hot days (i’m not very good in extreme heat – picture Oscar the grouch scenarios) I really didn’t feel like cooking or doing anything for that matter but I really wanted a light, healthy and delicious lunch. So despite the non-desire to cook, I left behind my personal indent on the couch and moved sloth-like to the kitchen to whip this dish up. And I was glad I did. I love dishes that require such minimal cooking but yield great results. There’s no sweating over a hot stove either – thanks to whoever invented electric kettles and microwave ovens!
PRAWN, FENNEL AND TOFU SALAD
20 medium prawns, shells removed (I used frozen ones)
150g fresh firm tofu (bean curd), cubed
1 small fennel, sliced finely
1 red chilli, seeds removed and sliced finely
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tbsp crispy fried shallots (available from asian stores)
handful of fresh herbs (I used basil and parsley), leaves picked
100g glass noodles (bean thread vermicelli)
1 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2cm piece of fresh ginger, finely grated
Prepare dressing by whisking lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, sesame oil, vinegar and ginger until all the sugar has dissolved.
Cook prawns – you can boil them in a pot or cook them in a bowl of water in the microwave for 5 minutes (or until cooked through), drain and set aside to cool.
Place glass noodles in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave aside for 10 minutes, then drain and cool by running through some cold water.
Assemble salad with all of the ingredients including cooked prawns and noodles except the fried shallots.
Toss salad with dressing, then top with fried shallots. Serve cool. Yum.
It’s really difficult to cut down on carbs. I should know, I struggle with it everyday! Planning for our weekly meals is always a challenge for I always try to have days without carbs. It’s easy to just have a stir-fry with rice, or a quick pasta dish, perhaps a tasty pie or a roast with baked potatoes. However it’s tricky when I have to make sure my hungry hubby is full and satisfied when I plan for non-carb meals.
This particular warm salad was quite the winner for me. No carbs were involved in this gig.
I found a good deal on lamb neck fillets at the store. Never cooked lamb neck fillets before but I found the fillets to be surprisingly tender and lean and they were not as expensive as lamb chops or loin.
On a sheet of parchment paper, I sprinkled thyme, cumin, cinnamon, paprika, salt and pepper (no particular amounts here, just use your discretion) and then rolled and coated each fillet with the spice combination. This method is also known as a dry rub which is generally like a marinade but without the liquids. Very easy and very effective especially when you’re grilling or pan-frying the meat.
Now, the salad. I find the best way to toss a salad is to do it with my fingers (Jamie Oliver styleee) in a large serving bowl like the one here. (Thanks Alsops for my beautiful serving bowl!) I drizzled a good amount of olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Just follow the rules of one part acid to two parts oil. Simple right?
Once the lamb is cooked, lay it aside to rest for a few minutes while you put the salad together. No rules here – add any crunchy, fresh salad leaves and veggies. I had a large pack of pre-washed crunchy salad leaves (straight off the supermarket shelf), a generous sprinkle of pomegranate seeds and sliced up some radishes and juicy tomatoes. Throw it all in the dressing and toss right before serving. Add the now ultra juicy, rested sliced lamb fillets and dinner is served!
I love simple meals and it’s carb-free and yummy. Yay me!
- 50 ml sweet chili sauce (Thai or Chinese)
- 40 ml dark sweet soy sauce
- 1 orange, juice and sliced rind
- 2/3 lime, juice and sliced rind
- 2 tbsp honey
Place all the ingredients in a zip lock bag, shake it about and make sure the ribs are well coated with the marinade. Place it on the side on a plate, and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.
To cook – preheat the oven to 200c, lay the ribs in a single layer on a baking tray. Bake for 20 minutes, turn the ribs over and cook till they are nicely caramelised. I baked mine for another 20 minutes. If you’re using smaller ribs, don’t overcook them, as long as the ribs are nicely coloured and cooked through, you’re good to go.
I served the ribs with a quick and delicious orzo salad.
- 200g orzo pasta, cooked and drained
- 2 large handfuls of fresh baby spinach leaves
- 1 cup cooked garden peas
- 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 shallot, finely diced
- 2 tsp dijon mustard
- a generous splash of white wine vinegar
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
Mix the diced shallots in with the vinegar in a salad bowl. Let it sit while you prepare the other ingredients. Doing this with onions of any sort takes away the pungent onion smells and flavour, and leaving behind the sweetness and milder flavours which are a lot more enjoyable. (no onion breath for one!)
Add in olive oil (general rule of thumb is one part vinegar, three parts oil), mustard, salt and pepper and mix dressing well before adding the rest of the ingredients. Toss and enjoy – with or without sticky ribs.
Next to its famous cousin, phở (Vietnamese rice noodles soup), the rice paper roll is probably one of the other more well-known Vietnamese favourites. In general, the spring roll-like combination of rice paper, salad, noodles, shrimp or pork is rather bland which I take it to mean – uber healthy! There’s not a single drop of oil used in this recipe, and everything in it is either boiled or steamed.
All the yumminess lie in the dipping sauce – Nước chấm – which is generally a concoction of fish sauce, lime/lemon juice/vinegar, sugar and optional aromatics like garlic and chilli.
Rice paper comes in stiff round sheets which is softened in a shallow dish of hot/warm water and then placed on a clean tea towel for some rolling action. The filling ingredients are kept simple and fresh. In this shrimp roll, I used carrots, lettuce, cucumber, coriander, cooked shrimp and cooked rice noodles. When there’s too much filling, it gets tricky handling the now sticky rice paper and the strands of rice noodles or lettuce that insists on sticking out…The key is to not over-fill and leave enough space around the sides of the rice paper for folding and rolling.
It’s a great entrée to serve at dinner parties, or as canapés or snacks. The good thing is that the rolls stay fresh covered with a damp cloth for a few hours, so it’s a great dish that can be prepared ahead of time.
Ingredients for rice paper roll:
- rice paper
- julienned carrot
- coriander leaves
- shredded lettuce
- julienned cucumber
- cooked shrimps (split in half)
- handful of cooked rice noodles
Basic Nước chấm:
Makes ¾ cup
3-4 tablespoons lime/lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup water
2 ½ tablespoons fish sauce
1 small garlic clove, finely minced
1 or 2 birds eye chilli, finely minced
Combine all the ingredients together, taste and adjust accordingly. There should be a good balance of tartness and sweetness. Once you’re happy with the sauce, add garlic and chilli and let the sauce sit for at least 30 minutes.
I’m a Jamie Oliver fan. Simply because I’ve tried several of his recipes and they have all been fantastic. Jamie’s latest cookbook ‘Jamie Does…’ is an exploration of food and culture of various places including Morocco, Spain, Greece, Sweden, Italy and France. I’ve also watched the TV series and have drooled over many, many goodies and gorgeous sceneries.
The very first dish I attempted from this new book is from the Spanish section. It’s a Chorizo and Tomato salad. Oh. My. Gawd. I loved this so much. It was so simple yet totally delicious. Crispy, salty chorizo mixed in with sweet juicy tomatoes in a simple vinaigrette and eaten with warm bread. So, so, so good. Even hubby who isn’t a big tomato fan gave the thumbs up, while he mopped up the last bit of juices on the plate.
Chorizo and Tomato Salad
adapted from Jamie Oliver’s new book – ‘Jamie Does…’
1 chorizo sausage (raw), sliced roughly
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 stalk spring onions, finely chopped
Fresh ground pepper
white wine vinegar
fresh flat-leaved parsley, shopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
Cook the chorizo in a lug of olive oil, you want them to be nice and crispy…once they’re ready, tilt the pan so the chorizo and oil are all on one side of the pan – throw the sliced garlic in the oil. Once the garlic starts to produce its wonderful aroma, it’s ready.
While the chorizo is cooking, prepare the tomato salad with some olive oil, salt, pepper and white wine vinegar (Jamie uses sherry vinegar but I didn’t have any)…toss in the spring onions and parsley.
Mix the cooked chorizo and garlic (and some of the flavour-packed oil) into the tomato salad and you’re ready! How easy was that?
Yum…I just had this two nights ago, but I’m thinking of getting more of it RIGHT NOW! It’s a great summer dish…I pictured myself sitting on a sunny patio, barefoot and enjoying the sunshine while I tucked into this dish, washing it down with a nice, cold glass of rosé. (Day-dreaming obviously – cos there’s no sun, no patio…but I could conjure up another one of this lovely salad and I still have some pink zinfandel waiting for me in my patio-less apartment).
When it was ridiculously warm (by UK standards) last weekend, all I could think of was grilled cheese for dinner. Yup as in oozing, melty cheese in toasty bread. Mm mmm… but the heat was depressing and even though my tastebuds were screaming for grilled cheese…my brain and hands decided to go for a cooler option – grilled halloumi salad. It helped that hubby was away – which meant there was no voice telling me to go the grilled cheese s’wich way.
It also meant that my time in front of the stove was reduced by A LOT and I would not be spending the rest of the night having cheese and carb sweats. Eew.
Halloumi is a traditional Cypriot cheese made with a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk. It has a very high melting point compared to other cheeses and so is fabulous for grilling. It is also salty and in warm weather, the Cypriots like to eat them with watermelon. I’ve got to try that one day…wished I had watermelon lying around in the house over the weekend. However, I did make a very refreshing salad with the grilled halloumi, herb salad leaves, cherry tomatoes and avocado, dressed only in olive oil and lemon juice – the cheese was salty enough to exclude any further seasoning.
Glad I went the salad route. In fact, I ate half of it and returned the bowl to the fridge for a ‘cool down’. Yeah, I don’t do so well in warm weather.
My hubby has no qualms about eating vegetables – as long as they are cooked. Somehow cool, crisp, uncooked salad leaves are in his ‘sometimes-only-if-I-have-to’ food list. Considering it’s been a rather sweltering summer (thus far), my ideal meal of choice is usually a salad, not quite so for my other half though.
I compromised…with a grilled vegetable salad. Which he actually loved!
Out came my spanking new (ok, not that new) grill pan and a load of veggies including asparagus, zucchini and shitake mushrooms. This simple grilled trio worked so well together and made for a refreshing and delicious side.
A bunch of asparagus, trimmed and left whole
3 small zucchinis, sliced evenly lengthways
1 punnet of fresh shitake mushrooms
1 large lime, halved and grilled for that added smoky flavour
Olive oil for greasing pan and dressing
Large pinch of sea salt for seasoning
Cracked black pepper
Toasted pine nuts
Grease grill pan lightly, and grill veggies in batches. Place cooked veggies on a platter, drizzle olive oil and squeeze grilled lime juice over it. Season and toss along with the toasted pine nuts.
The lettuce wedge salad was once a ubiquitous menu item of the 1950s and 1960s and only lost its appeal in the seventies when more interesting salads came on the scene. Apparently, the wedge has seen its way back in trendy menus but I have yet to come across one. Truthfully, would I order the wedge salad if I saw it on a menu? Come on, it’s so easy to make at home, I’d probably just feel ripped off if I did.
Looking through the various resources at hand, I’ve noticed that the wedge salads of today are mostly done with a blue cheese dressing. Hubby’s not a fan of blue cheese and getting him to eat salad on its own is difficult enough, there will be no chance that he’ll even come close if he caught a whiff of blue cheese. I had to improvise.
In place of the blue cheese dressing, I made a much lighter mustard mayo dressing which worked out really well. It was sweet, slightly tangy and had a little kick to it from the English mustard. The combination of refreshing, crunchy iceberg leaves, salty, crispy smoked bacon and pine nuts was delicious.
I’m guessing the lettuce wedge will be making more of an appearance at our dining table this summer and no, blue cheese dressing will not be joining.
My (hopefully) healthier version of the lettuce wedge salad
1 small head of iceberg lettuce
2 rashers of smoked bacon
handful of pine nuts
Half cup of light mayo
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp of english mustard
1 tbsp lemon juice
olive oil to thin the dressing
Cut the lettuce into wedges
Cut bacon rashers into bits and fry till crisp
Mix the dressing ingredients together, drizzle over lettuce wedges. Top with bacon and pine nuts…and voila!