maandag 17 januari 2011

Starter: Marinated salmon tartar with avocado and lettuce

This starter is one of the 'world-class recipes' taken from the cookery book ‘Topkoks voor Thuiskoks No 3.' 'Top cooks for Home cooks 3'
The cookery book contains fifty two favourite recipes provided by fifty two national and international chefs. Each contributor was asked to donate a recipe suitable for the home cook.
It is however not just a cookbook; TNT Post partnered with WTP* (World Food programme) to realise this book and all proceeds go to WFP towards providing nourishing meals for schoolchildren. The raised money of each copy sold will enable 40 children to receive a nutritious meal at school in Malawi.
At 9,95euro, it makes an ideal gift. This is the third edition; the fourth is now available. I understand availability in the English language is very limited.

It is a beautifully illustrated cookbook with a selection of starter, main courses and desserts- to provide inspiration every week, for a whole year!
The "topkoks' / 'Top Chefs' include: Ferran Adrià- restaurant El Bulli, Spain, Herman den Blijker-tv chef- Herrie in de keuken, The Netherlands, Filip Claeys- Restaurant De Jonkman, Belgium, Ramon Beuk- TV chef 'Born2cook' The Netherlands, Sergio Herman- Restaurant Oud Sluis, The Netherlands.

I actually made this dish at a 'Drive and Cooking' event organised by Lexus. It was a perfect afternoon out- a combination of test driving Lexus Hybrid cars and cooking. The workshop took place at de Kookerij in Noordwijkerhout. The cars were impressive- and fast! The cooking part was also very well organised, the location beautiful- modern and well equipped. Part of the enjoyment was eating the food we prepared.
We didn't buy the car but ended up as proud owners of the cookbook!

de Kookerij in Noordwijkerhout

My Christmas dinner this year wasn't exactly traditional. I opted for the salmon tartar as starter.
The recipe we put together differed slightly to the one in the book, as does the tartar we made at the workshop, but it was quite delicious. The salmon needs to be very fresh since it is served raw. You could of course substitute with smoked salmon.

Marinated salmon tartar with avocado and lettuce- donated by Steffen Henssler, Restaurant ONO, Germany
Ingredients- 4 person
150gr salmon filet, cubed in small
1/2 ripe avocado, chopped finely
1 spring onion
2 el coriander, finely chopped
2 tsp chili sauce
1 - 2 tbsp olive oil
a dash of lime juice
1/2 iceberg lettuce
2 lemons, squeezed
2 oranges, squeezed
100g cream
100g crème fraiche
4 tbsp sugar

1 Mix the salmon with the avocado, spring onion and the coriander. Season with salt and pepper. Add the chili sauce, the olive oil and the lime juice and mix carefully.
2 Wash the lettuce, dry in a salad spinner and cut in bite size pieces. Mix the lemon and orange juice together. Add the cream and Crème fraiche. Season with salt and sugar.
Pour over the lettuce, toss and serve with the salmon tartar.

Of course I had to tweak. I reduced the sugar in the dressing- the quantity is also very generous, you could easily half the dressing ingredients. If you follow the instructions, you will make a kind of lettuce 'coleslaw'. I used mixed salad leaves, drizzled the dressing and left the jug on the table so everyone could help themselves. At the workshop we served the tartar with reconstituted sun dried tomato that were incredible!
I also have two non-fish eaters here, so it was necessary to improvise; I made two smoked chicken tartars with roughly the same ingredients, but used red onion instead of spring onion and added chopped tomatoes.

Smoked chicken tartar

It was Christmas so I had promised not to spend an awful lot of time shooting photo's! It was also quite chaotic in the kitchen, so the tartar is probably not as pretty as it could be, but it tasted good!
Salmon Tartar was not just on our Christmas menu, fellow Blogger Claudia had her own version.

* The World Food Programme (WFP) is the food aid branch of the United Nations, and the world's largest humanitarian organization addressing hunger worldwide. WFP provides food, on average, to 90 million people per year, 58 million of whom are children. (source: wikipedia)

Another recipe here.

zaterdag 15 januari 2011

Zaatah, a tasty dip made with sesame seeds and Samak:

A couple of week ago a friend told me she had made one of my recipes- and she laughed, saying "well I thought it was a recipe but when I got started it was a bit of this..., approx so much of that..., sugar to taste...!" Yes, that sounds about right.
I regard recipes purely as indications- you must use your instincts to guide you to fill in the blanks.
Take tea (or coffee) for example- something so simple but how many different ways can you serve it?
With milk and sugar, black no sugar, black one sugar, black two sugars, with milk no sugar, with milk one sugar, with milk two sugars, with milk and one sweetener........
It is a question of personal preference. However, one thing is sure- everyone knows exactly how they like their tea! (milk, no sugar thank you)
As I have said before: I don't often measure ingredients but work to 'feel', a pinch of this and a handful of that. Often salt and pepper is added to taste: I firmly believe that this should apply to many other ingredients. Everyone’s taste buds are different and can tolerate and/ or desire a lesser or higher degree of spiciness or sweetness. While I am guilty of spicing things up, I often reduce the amount of sugar. (OK baking is an exact science and a cake recipe a scientific formula that one should adhere to for good results.)
I dare you- the next time you plan to follow a recipe, be flexible, and think: how could I improve this to suit my own taste buds. Proceed with ‘feel’, make a substitution or two or add less sugar. These days we call it 'tweaking'. Everyone should be doing it- without any feelings of guilt! Actually tweaking is handy, you not only match your personal taste but also your pantry!
It is all very much a matter of taste.
This of course can apply to many aspects of everyday life, take the latest fashion- you surely wouldn't wear something just because it's the ‘in thing ‘, would you? You would first try it on and see if it is 'you'. You would then pick out the colour that is kind to your complexion. You learn to choose the kind of clothes to flatter you own figure.
A television must be adjusted to your personal preference, brightness, colour, sharpness, contrast- who wants to watch someone looking like a lobster? Some people would be surprised!

You do have to know where to start, an idea or some ingredients. You may get inspiration from cookbooks, internet, magazines or from just starting to cook.
This is one of the reasons I started writing a blog. I have made up so many dishes in my time but because previously, I never made written notes I had difficulty reproducing my 'masterpieces!'
If a finished dish is amazing, it is a shame to have to work on a trial and error basis to recreate the same dish because I no longer could remember what I had used!
Sometimes not sharing a recipe is a grave crime! I therefore started taking notes- and because my little bundle of notes is mostly illegible, (a scrambled mix of Dutch and English) I decided to begin a blog.

I hope to inspire others with my enthusiasm.
It looks like I have results- instead of opening a bottle of mulled wine my friend made it herself to her own taste, and by all accounts it was pretty damn good. recipe

A good place to start is by making your own dressings or dips.
This is a dip I came across and I think it is pretty good.
For quite a while now, I have had a packet of Sumac / Sumak/ Sumach / Sumaq in my spice cupboard- haha the world becomes a smaller place as my herb and spice collection expand!

Sumak? I didn't quite know what to do with it. I bought it purely out of curiosity. Looking at the packet, I could see it originated in Turkey. The colour is red but not spicy hot as one usually associates with red colouring. The taste was very unusual, acidic, tart like lemon. Although the best before date was not yet exceeded I decide to do some research.
It is a Middle Eastern spice, derived from red berries, hence the colour, from the shrub Rhus Coriaria. The small-ripened fruits are dried and ground to make Sumak.
It is used as a condiment and can be sprinkled over many dishes, basically anything you might squeeze lemon juice over. Salads, rice, chicken, fish, kebab.

I ended up making my own Zaatah, which includes Sumak as an ingredient. It is a blend of seasoning that can be bought 'mixed' or you can make it yourself.. Zaatar comprises of herbs (Thyme/ marjoram or oregano), sesame seeds, salt, pepper and sumak.
It can be sprinkled over foods, or made into a dip with yohurt or olive oil. Or served the traditional way; simply dip your pita (or any flatbread) in olive oil and then in the Zaatah mix.

Zaatah blended with a little olive oil

Zaatah like Sumak has many spelling variations include: Zather, Zatar, Zahtar Za'atar, Zartar Zaartar to name just a few!
But I certainly plan to try the Egyptian variant called Dukka/ Du'a / Dukkah.
I don’t recall having Dukka in Egypt!
Dukka is primarily made with corriander and also contains roasted sesame seeds, a variety of nuts (pistachio, almond, cashew, walnuts, hazelnut, Macadamia or Brazil nuts) a little ground chilli, salt, pepper and Sumak. Other variations may include cumin, cinnamon, sunflower/pumpkin seeds, fennel or even coconut. I can't wait to try lots of flavour combinations!

I have made Zaatah a couple of times. I adore it.
The first time I kept the sesame seeds whole but the second time I bashed them around in the mortar and pestle, which improved the flavour.

I also added some Tahin / Tahini (sesame paste).
You can also vary by using part (1/2) black sesame seeds as I did. They are available at the oriental supermarket.

To this particular dip I added tahini and black sesame seeds.

Zaatah Dip
sesame seeds
oregano or thyme, dried (or a mix)
pinch salt and pepper
olive oil

Dry roast in a pan (or toast) the sesame seeds, roughly bash them in a mortar and pestle (or pulse in a grinder)
Start off with equal amounts of sesame seeds/ herbs/ and sumak, add a pinch of salt and a little black pepper.
Taste and adjust until you get the taste you like!

woensdag 12 januari 2011

What to do with a tin of unsweetened chestnut puree:

After a little break- and don't think for one moment I haven't been eating- in fact I have been eating, drinking, as well as being my normal jolly self during the festive period. It's important to keep smiling- no matter what life dishes out. And to keep cooking. I cook when I am happy, I cook when I am sad. It relaxes me if I am stressed. It is the stability in my life.
I hope to get back on track with one or two postings in the next few days. I have lots of notes, photo's and now just need to find the time. Coming up: salmon tartare, Panforte (Italian cake), truffle risotto, cheats Christmas pudding. But for now Chestnut soup.
For a whole year (since Christmas 2009 to be exact) I have had a tin can of chestnut puree with no plans to use it. OK the date did not expire for some time to come but who wants to be left sitting on the shelf! Anyway how long should you have a product taking up precious space in an already overfull kitchen cupboard?
When I have leftovers I often opt for soup This occasion it was no different.

I made this soup in the week coming up to Christmas. The Chestnut puree was the Clement Faugier kind- the unsweetened one. The snow was on the ground and the scene was set.
It is a festive soup with an earthy wholesome taste.
I was inspired by the Chestnut and goats cheese soup I ate in a restaurant in Amsterdam last year and I wanted to replicate it. It will be no surprise to hear I ended up going my own way. It is quite unusual, but none the less quite delicious.
Here is what I came up with:
Chestnut soup with goats cheese:
1 tin pureed chestnut ( 439gr)
oil for frying
2 onions, chopped
2 potatoes, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2-3 sticks celery (you can also use the green tops)
100ml evaporated milk (I used ‘koffie melk’)
approx 11 chestnut mushrooms
5cm piece galangal, finely chopped (or tinned)
5cm piece ginger, finely chopped (or use ground)
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp coriander, ground
chicken stock cube
knob of butter
120gr goats cheese & crispy bacon
2 cans water (volume of the tin can)
Serves 4-6

Heat the oil and fry the onion and celery. Add the ground spices, the roots, garlic, potato and mushrooms. When it starts sticking add a little of the water. Cook until tender.
Add the chestnut puree and remaining water, stock cube, and evaporated milk and bring up to the boil. Mash or puree as desired. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Add a large knob of butter.
Because the chestnut is quite solid it does remain together which results in the occasional mouthful of chestnut taste which certainly adds to ones enjoyment, bringing out the flavour.
Serve with goats cheese and crispy bacon.