White Polenta, Fave Beans and Salmon

After my broad bean shelling festival last week, some readers inquired about my culinary intentions for the little shelled gems. A few Spring broadbean treats have emerged from my kitchen of late, though some of the photos leave a lot to be desired. Today’s recipe is based on a dish I had in a restaurant in Oamaru, New Zealand, where they served creamy white polenta with a buttery sauce of local clams and crunchy fried capers. Ever since, I have been very partial to white polenta. I’m not a purist when it comes to polenta instantanea versus 20-40 minutes of aching arm action. Sometimes you have to cheat. Instant polenta is convenient and a versatile neutral tasting base on which to layer intense flavours. This recipe is meant to be¬†flexible:¬†you can use any fish or seafood that comes your way, or, leave it out entirely. Once the beans are shelled, and slipped out of their rubbery casings, the hard work is done.

bags of prepared fave beans, ready for the freezer.
Bags of prepared fave beans, ready for the freezer. The hard work is done.

Polenta Bianca con Fave e Salmone. White Polenta with fresh Broadbeans and Salmon. Ingredients listed for two people.

  • 1 cup instant white polenta
  • stock or water to cook the polenta as per packet directions
  • butter and grated parmigiano to enrich the polenta, to taste
  • 200 gr Atlantic salmon
  • I cup of double shelled broadbeans. ( if you are buying fresh broadbeans, you will need around 1 kilo)
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed and finely chopped
  • butter
  • black pepper
  • fresh marjoram leaves, a few stalks.

    Comfort food. Polenta, fave and salmon.
    Comfort food. Polenta, fave and salmon.
  1. Cut the skinless salmon fillets into chunks of around 6 cm. Season and lightly oil the pieces and heat a solid frying pan.
  2. Make the polenta according to packet instructions. This will come together within two or so minutes. Stir vigorously, then add butter and parmesan cheese. Stir until very smooth, then keep warm on a heat diffuser.
  3. Cook the salmon chunks to your liking. I like mine well coloured on the outside and just cooked through.
  4. Meanwhile, heat a small saucepan and add some butter. Add the garlic, stir for a few seconds, then add the shelled broadbeans. Stir till hot, then add the marjoram leaves and black pepper.
  5. Assemble the dishes in wide low bowls. First lay a bed of the hot polenta, then add the salmon chunks,  then the broadbeans. Add a lemon wedge and a drizzle of your best oil.
    Poelnta Bianca, Fave fresche e Salmone. Buonissimo.
    Polenta Bianca, Fave fresche e Salmone. Buonissimo.

    This is a gluten-free meal that is easy to prepare, though does involve three simultaneous maneuvers. To make the dish vegetarian, leave out the fish, add more butter to the broadbean sauce, and add some shaved parmesan at the end. To veganise the dish, leave out the fish and butter and use very good olive oil and more herbs for flavour.

Older posts on broadbeans can be found in these links below. https://almostitalian.wordpress.com/2013/11/20/tagliatelle-with-broad-beans-and-smoked-salmon/  and  https://almostitalian.wordpress.com/2013/12/12/italian-product-trial-farro-rice-and-barley-pilaf/

Salmon with Spiced Orange Sauce, Spring Peas and Mint

The Spring weather is so wet and cold this year that I’ve been forced to spend far more time indoors. The gardens and summer vegetable planting have been put on hold- again. To compensate, we are having four days of cheffy home cooked meals, little dinners for two that require a degree of concentration, an interesting sauce and some clever assembling at the last-minute. And that, dear reader, means more recipes on this blog. Today’s recipe started off as Duck Breast with Orange Spiced Sauce. I often find myself substituting fish or vegetables in meat based recipes found in good cookbooks, especially if there is a good sauce involved. In this way, each section of the book gets used. You should try this trick. Fresh Atlantic Salmon is probably the best substitute for meat, given that it is fairly robust and holds its shape well and is readily available.

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Salmon, spiced orange sauce, Spring peas, mint. Bad low light.

The recipe is for four people. I simply halved it for our little dinner for two. The original used 4 200 g duck breasts, skin lightly scored. I have substituted fresh Tasmanian salmon and used around 160 g per person. This quantity is plenty for one serving, despite the tendency of major supermarkets to cut larger pieces, another reason to adopt a good fishmonger.

Ingredients

  • 4 oranges
  • 4 salmon pieces, ( not tail pieces) around 160 g per piece
  • knob of butter and a little olive oil
  • 1 heaped teaspoon 5 spice powder
  • 1/3 cup ( 80 g) brown sugar
  • 50 ml red wine vinegar
  • 1 cinnamon quill
  • 2 star anise
  • 2 cup grand Marnier ( or brandy)
  • 2 cups baby green peas, just cooked
  • mint leaves to serve.

Preheat the oven to 220c. FF

Zest all the oranges, juice 2 oranges and set aside. Remove the peel and white pith from the remaining 2 oranges, then slice them into thin rounds and set aside.

Cut each salmon pieces across into 3 pieces. Combine 5 spice powder with 2 teaspoons sea salt, rub them into the salmon pieces in a bowl and set aside.

Place a large non stick pan over medium heat, add butter and oil to the pan and fry the salmon, skin side down, until quite crisp. Remove the fish and place them on a metal tray in the oven to complete cooking for 5 or more minutes.

Return the pan to low heat. Add the sugar and vinegar to the pan, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the cinnamon and star anise, then cook on low for 3 minutes, until caramelised. Add the Grand Marnier or substitute, the orange juice and zest, then simmer for 5 minutes or until thickened. Add the orange slices for 1 minute to warm through.

Cook the peas until just done and keep hot. Tear the mint leaves.

Warm the serving platter and plates. Place the peas on the serving platter, add salmon pieces and any juices from the tray, place the orange slices and mint leaves around the fish, then pour over the hot sauce. Serve it on hot plates.

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The rain pours down, the light is low, let’s light the fire and eat well.

Adapted from a recipe found in Delicious, Simply the Best, Valli Little, 2011. p. 18

 

 

 

 

Turning Japanese. Salmon, Mushroom and Tofu Soup.

When I’m tired, I need fish. Any sort of fish will do, I’m not too fussy. Nor am I willing to ignore farmed salmon, despite some of the bad press it receives. I like to believe that the industry is improving with regard to environmental concerns. The pristine water around the Huon River at Dover and Lake Macquarie, where Australian Tasmanian Atlantic Salmon is farmed, looks as pure as can be. I can’t paint myself into a tight little purist corner when Tasmanian Atlantic salmon is often the only fish option available. Having said that, a little salmon goes a long way.

This little Japanese bowl takes 10 minutes to prepare. The recipe makes two large bowls.

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Japanese broth, salmon, mushroom, tofu

The Marinade and Fish

  • 200 g salmon, skin on, halved lengthwise.
  • 1 tablespoon Japanese soy sauce, Teriyaki or Tamari
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • ¬Ĺ teaspoon sesame seeds

Put fish fillets in a bowl and cover with the soy sauce and oil. (not the sesame seeds). Leave aside until ready to grill.

The Soup

  • ¬Ĺ¬†litre or a little more of vegetable stock (or water and 1 vegetable stock¬†cube)
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • ¬Ĺ¬†tablespoon soy sauce
  • mixed mushrooms, hand separated ( enoki, cloud ear fungus, shiitake)
  • 1 tablespoon Miso paste
  • 100 g silken tofu
  • a large handful of baby spinach leaves

Putting it all together.

Turn on the grill to around 200c fan forced. Cover a baking tray with baking paper, arrange pieces of salmon on the tray and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Grill for around 5 minutes, then turn for 1 minute. Remove from grill.

Meanwhile, in a medium-sized saucepan, heat stock with mirin, soy, and miso on a gentle heat until well amalgamated for around 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms , then add the cubed tofu. Gently heat through to cook.

Flake the cooked fish and bits of juice from the tray into the base of serving bowls. Add the spinach leaves. Pour over the hot soup, sharing the mushroom and tofu pieces evenly.

If you are making this for four, count on around 100 g salmon per person and use a whole packet of silken tofu, then simply double all the other ingredients.

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Slurping goodness

Time for an ear worm or stuck song syndrome for those old enough to remember:

 

Kale, Tofu and Salmon Soup. The Cure.

I never jumped on the kale bandwagon when it became the most blogged about vegetable a year or two ago. I avoid foods that are trendy, or should I say, foods that are trending (and when did trend suddenly become a verb?) It’s not because I don’t like kale: I do grow the darker version in my garden, or rather, it grows itself annually, the tall Tuscan Prince of Winter, Cavolo Nero. Now that kale has been outstripped by the dreaded coconut in all its fatty guises, I might safely write about it.

A bouquet of kale.
A bouquet of kale.

My friend Dianne presented me with a large bouquet of beautiful purple tipped kale leaves. We were wandering through her productive veggie patch, considering the nature of gardens in their Spring transitional stage. Her bountiful kale plants, all self-sown, may need to make way for spring potatoes. Some serious food swapping needs to happen down her end of the country lane. In the meantime I am happy to take the excess and swap for Cos lettuce or radicchio seedlings.

Di's self sown winter kale. Photo by Di Gilkes.
Di’s self-sown winter kale. Photo by Di Gilkes.

Our garden¬†tour took place before we drank our way through the wine cellar and agreed that a sleepover was not only wise, but compulsory. We raised our glasses in tribute to¬†our recently departed friend and pondered the meaning of life, all those questions that assume magnitude¬†after a wine or six. Promises were made, and as I recall, a meal was eaten. We are too old and wise to adopt the famous drinker’s adage,”eating’s cheating”. No, maybe not wise.

balance and harmony
Balance and Harmony

But, getting back to that kale, now that the old-fashioned winter green is no longer trending, a healthy Japanese soup, combining kale, miso and tofu seems in order. I might even add a little recuperative salmon to the brew. Perhaps I should call this Penance Soup?

INGREDIENTS, for four.

  • 5 cups water or vegetable stock
  • 2 spring onions, white and light-green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons shiro miso or pale coloured miso
  • 2 teaspoons Japanese soy sauce, such as, Kikkoman
  • 85 gr kale, trimmed and shredded
  • 175 gr silken tofu, drained, cut into small cubes
  • 180 gr piece of salmon fillet, skin removed, cubed
  • reserved chopped spring onion greens for serving

    The Cure
    The Cure

DIRECTIONS

  1. Bring the stock or water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add spring onions, ginger, and garlic. Reduce heat. Cover, and simmer 10 minutes.

  2. Add miso, then stir to dissolve. Add the soy sauce, kale, and salmon. Return to a simmer, and continue cooking gently until kale is tender, about 5 minutes. Add the silken tofu cubes to heat through. Add reserved chopped spring onion greens when serving.

Notes. The salmon can be left out for a simpler vegetarian version. Any tofu may be used but I prefer the silken variety for this soup.

respect and
Respect and Tranquillity.

Farewell to our friend Piers, artist, sailor, adventurer.

Desperado – Summer Smoked Fishcakes and Tomato Salsa

Every year for three months between February and Easter, a large tribe of my extended family descend on the Mornington Peninsula, near Melbourne, for our annual beach campathon. The weather is reliably pleasant, the immediate seaside location is sensational, the commuting distance back to Melbourne is short, and, most importantly, all of the tribe are keen on good food. The topic is never far away from our thoughts. What will we all make next weekend? Will we have a curry night?  Who wants some Mie Goreng for breakfast?  Where can we buy some decent fish on the peninsula? I need some sauerkraut  to go with my Kransky?  Whose turn to do the salt and pepper calamari?  On and on it goes. The wok is always out, we have two well set up kitchens, a BBQ, a large old retro fridge, and every kitchen gadget you can think of. Everything AND the kitchen sink.  All that sea air makes every one very hungry.

But travelling to and fro between two kitchens can make meal planning a little tricky. Returning last Monday, I was about to throw in the towel and considered a pub meal out. ( a desperate solution given that I live in a Culinary Black Hole)  Then I found a simple little recipe in a favourite book which I knew would only take 20 minutes to throw together. Nick Nairn saved the day.

Hot Smoked Salmon Fishcakes with Tomato Salsa   for two mains, or 4 starters.

  • 300 grams mashed potato ( I used Dutch Creams )
  • 150 grams hot smoked salmon in a piece, flaked
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • juice of a lemon
  • sea salt and ground black pepper
  • seasoned flour for coating
  • butter for frying

For the Salsa

  • 6 small ¬†tomatoes, heirloom or vine ripened, cut into eighths
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped or sliced
  • 1 garlic , finley choopped
  • 1 – 2 fresh chilli, finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons EV olive oil
  • juice of 1 lime
  • coriander roughly chopped- optional)
  1. To make the salsa, mix all ingredients and set aside.
  2. Mash the potato with a little butter, then add spring onions, flaked salmon, and squeeze the lemon juice into the mix. Fold together till of a suitable consistency and season.
  3. Shape the mixture into four fishcakes . Dip each side into seasoned flour.
  4. Melt the butter in a frying pan and fry the fish cakes for 3- 4 minutes each side until a golden colour . Keep warm.

To serve, Place a dollop of salsa on each plate and place a fishcake in the centre (or two for two mains) . Use the spare dressing to drizzle around the plate.

I have adapted this from Nick Nairn’s Top 100 Salmon Recipes. ( 2002) by altering the ratio of potato to smoked salmon. Scottish comfort food goes Asian – perfect.

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