Archive for November, 2010

Fresh sardines with zucchini, herb and caper salad

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

Tonight’s dinner was the delightful product of serendipity and greed. I was feeling restless when I woke up this morning, so headed out for a jaunt on the bike, planning to follow the river around New Farm and out to Newstead House. I footled over there (via various detours), lazed about on the hilly lawns for a while watching the calm river and the less calm sporty people dashing along its banks, then got back as far as the Powerhouse, where I found the path blocked off for the weekend markets.

I totally intended to wheel my way around the edge of the markets and get home for a shower, when my eye was caught by a stall selling early cherries. Stonefruit is the one thing – the only thing – I like about Brisbane summers, and the good stuff is just starting to show up now. I was caught in the cherries’ tractor beam and found myself buying half a kilo before I was fully aware of what I was doing. Once having pushed into the crowd while wheeling my bike, I figured I might as well press on through, and manfully (ha!) resisted buying the several dozen other delicious but unnecessary things that caught my eye… until I got to the fishmonger. I’ve been craving sardines for weeks. Screw the meals I’d planned for the weekend, those sardines were coming home with me. And they did. I escaped without further purchases (except for two small buffalo mozarella, which can be squeezed into the planned meals quite nicely, alright?), and spent an enjoyable afternoon planning how I was going to eat the first few fillets.

In the end I decided to make something almost precisely like this salad of Helen’s, sans anchovies. I love julienned zucchini (especially since Matt and Leonie gave me a julienne peeler so I no longer need to brave the terrifying mandoline) and this combination is crispy, fresh, and sharp, the perfect complement to some quickly panfried sardines.

Sardine dinner for one

1 medium zucchini, julienned finely
1 handful parsley leaves, torn
1 handful mint leaves, torn
2 teaspoons salted capers, soaked and drained
8 tiny cornichons, cut into slices

1 small clove garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon or so seed mustard
juice of half a small lemon
top quality olive oil

fresh butterflied sardines (I ate 6 small and thin ones)
good bread (a ficelle from Chouquette in this case)

Toss the zucchini, herbs, capers and cornichons together in a bowl. Make the dressing by combining the garlic, mustard and lemon juice, then whisking in olive oil to emulsify. Combine salad and dressing well.

Heat a frypan over moderate heat, and add a little olive oil. Fry the sardine fillets until just done – mine took 2 minutes on the skin side followed by about 40 seconds on the other side.

Plate up the sardines, salad and bread, and eat at once. Divine. Fresh cherries for dessert just make it even better.

South Indian cabbage with yoghurt

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

It’s November, and I think this year I must have eaten close to 50 meals of dal. Curried pulses, how I love you. I often make a giant pot on a Sunday and freeze portions to take for lunches, and it also gets eaten now and then for dinner too. I think of it as lazy-girl dal – lazy because I end up eating the same thing for lunch 3+ days a week; lazy because it means I don’t have to plan dinners with leftovers in mind; lazy because I can rarely be bothered cooking a second curry to get my veggie quota so always just chuck loads of vegetables (sweet potato, spinach and zucchini in the most recent pot) into the dal.

This, however, could be a game-changing vegetable curry. It’s easy and quick, but very tasty and hits my palate’s current (and recurrent) obsessions of cabbage, yoghurt and spice. The cabbage is cooked till it’s just tender, but still has a bit of crispness to the tooth. It’s sweated down in a flavourful mix of spices and onions, then dressed with coconut and the slight sourness of yoghurt. (Don’t, despite what Marth Rose Shulman says in the original recipe, use low-fat yoghurt for this – apart from the fact that you’d just be eating a bunch of stabilisers, low-fat is much more likely to curdle in the heat.)

This quantity is supposed to serve 6 just with rice, but it was so good that I ate about a quarter of  it with both a little brown rice and a serving of that lazy-girl dal. I think I have found a perfect lunchtime match.

2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
3-4 tablespoons grated coconut (fresh or dried)
peanut oil
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
2 teaspoons urad dal
1 teaspoon ground or flaked chili
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 medium onion, halved and very finely sliced
1 small cabbage, cored and finely shredded
1 cup plain yoghurt, at room temperature

Toast the cumin and coriander seeds lightly, then grind them with a mortar and pestle.

If you are using dried coconut, put it in a little bowl covered with warm water to rehydrate.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of peanut oil in a large saucepan. Add the mustard seeds and urad dal. As soon as you hear a few pops from the mustard seeds, add the ground cumin and coriander, the chili and the turmeric. Stir together then add the onion and cook 3-4 minutes, stirring, until it is softening. Add the cabbage and a good teaspoon of salt, and cook, stirring, for another minute until it begins to wilt and everything is well mixed. You can deglaze the pan with a tiny dash of water at this stage if necessary.

Cover the pan, turn the heat to low, and cook for about 8 minutes, until the cabbage is just tender. Drain the coconut and stir through the cabbage. Taste for seasoning. Remove from heat.

Stir the yoghurt through the cabbage. Serve warm.

Kimchi bokumbap with sesame-fried egg

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

This afternoon I went to the first grant-writing workshop of the season, and with it came the usual stomach-churning sense of dreadful intellectual inferiority and self-chastisement for wasted time throughout the year. I know from experience that this will only last a few days, but it’s nasty while it does. Works well to get your productivity skyrocketing, though. I’d felt like I’d already been running on all cylinders for the last few weeks, but the grant panic kept me going for a 13 hour day at uni today, setting analyses running on all cores of my computer and half a dozen nodes of the new cluster as well. It’ll snap my eyes open at 5.30 tomorrow morning too, and have me back on my bike to work by 6.

Anyway, I finally cycled home tonight and made this in about 15 minutes, and god it was satisfying. Crispy and chewy and squishy by turns; sour and hot yet mellow. I’ve got about a kilo of kimchi in the fridge and I can see many variations of this dish in the offing.

2 large golden shallots (or 1 small onion), chopped
sesame oil
2 scallions, green parts, chopped into 2 cm lengths
1 extremely large handful of kimchi, roughly chopped, plus its juice
1 handful cooked chopped silverbeet or other greens
1/2 cup cooked brown rice (leftover rice better than freshly cooked)
soy sauce
salt and pepper
1 egg

In a frypan, heat a dash of sesame oil over moderate heat and add the shallots (you can use peanut oil for this step if you prefer). Cook until softened and coloured, then add the scallions, kimchi and greens and cook another three minutes until the scallions are softened. Add the rice, a little dash of soy sauce, a good drizzle of sesame oil, salt and pepper, and stir to mix well. Spread the mixture over the bottom of the frypan and turn the heat up. Let it cook another few minutes, getting a little crispy, or at least toasty, on the bottom.

At the same time as you’re adding the rice, heat another dash of sesame oil in a small frypan over lowish heat. Crack an egg into the pan and fry it until the white is just cooked but the yolk is still runny.

Once the egg is cooked and the rice is toasted, tip the rice mixture into a bowl and slide the egg on top. Eat at once.