Thai Scented Oven Baked Salmon Parcels

Thai Scented Oven Baked Salmon ParcelsSalmon is such a gorgeous fish.  I absolutely adore it.  Sometimes I think I could eat it everyday.  It’s such a quick, healthy and versatile meal.  Every couple of months, Scuba and I make the trip to our local fish market and pick out a nice looking salmon.  The lovely fishmonger cleans it and even cuts it up into portion sized pieces for us.  We end up with about 20 to 25 meals from 1 fish.  I freeze the portions in pairs for the two of us, and defrost it in the fridge overnight for a meal the next day.  Apparently you can freeze salmon for up to 3 months before impacting on the quality and flavour, but in this house the salmon is long gone by then!

VARIATIONS:  I know I’ve been extolling the virtues of salmon, but this would also work with trout or tuna, or a firm fleshed white fish like cod or snapper.  A delicate fleshed fish like barramundi can also be used, but the amount of curry paste should be reduced as to not overwhelm the flavour of the fish.  If fish is not your thing, this would work just as well with a chicken breast, just increase the cooking time.  I think that the flavours would also complement firm or fried tofu (If anyone tries this, please let me know!)  You could use green or yellow curry paste if you don’t have any red handy.

GLUTEN FREE SUBSTITUTIONS: Make your own curry paste unless you can find a gluten free store bought one.

Begin by laying out a double thickness of aluminium foil in a square of about 30cm x 30cm – about 12 “x 12 “.  Lightly grease foil with a minimal amount of oil to stop the fish from sticking, about 1/2 teaspoon should be adequate.  Lay your fish onto the foil.  Admire it’s glistening flesh.  Now grab your goodies that you are going to use to anoint this fabulous fish.  Some days, I win the fight with alliteration, other days it beats me.  Arrange the roughly chopped coriander leaves over the fish, followed by some sliced cherry tomato, garlic paste,  curry paste, a squeeze of lime and a dash of coconut milk.  Don’t be tempted to add extra curry paste, or it can overwhelm the fish.  At this time you could also add a splash of fish sauce, some palm sugar or some bruised lemon grass.  I had run out, so I left it out.

Now carefully wrap the aluminium foil so that the fish is fully contained and relatively leak proof.  Pop it in the oven in top of a cookie sheet or similar, and let the magic happen.  When the cooking time has elapsed, carefully take it out of the oven and open the top of the foil – preferably without burning yourself on the steam.  It will be hot so please remember that burns are not in this year.

Once you can open the parcel safely, gently wrangle the fish onto your serving plate.  Serve with steamed vegetable and jasmine rice.

Happy Eating  😛

I couldn't resist trying a tender forkful of fish

I couldn’t resist trying a tender forkful of fish

Thai Scented Oven Baked Salmon Parcels

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Yield: Serves 4 generously

  • 4 x 150g/5.3oz  fillets of salmon
  • 2 teaspoons/10mL oil (olive, canola or coconut would all be fine)
  • 1 medium bunch coriander leaves and stem, well washed and roughly chopped
  • 4 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons crushed garlic, or to taste
  • 8 level teaspoons red curry paste
  • 2 limes, halved
  • 2/3 cup/5.5 fl oz/160mL coconut milk, regular, reduced fat and low fat all fine

Preheat oven to 180 °C (355 °F).   Lay out 4 separate pieces of aluminium foil (double thickness each) in a square of 30cm x 30cm/12 “x 12 “.  Oil the centre of each square with 1/2 teaspoon of oil to prevent the fish from sticking to the aluminium foil.  Place a piece of fish on top of each piece of foil.  Evenly distribute the coriander between the four fish pieces.  Next, onto each piece of salmon place 4 quarters of cherry tomato,  2 teaspoons of crushed garlic, 2 level teaspoons of curry paste, the juice of half a lime, and 40mL/1.3 fl oz of coconut milk.  Seal the aluminium parcels and bake for 20 minutes, or until salmon is done to your liking.  Serve with jasmine rice and steamed asian vegetables.


Back to Basics – Roast Vegetables

Roast Vegetables

Sometimes it’s good to take a step back and remember how things started.  Roast chicken and vegetables was one of the first complete meals I cooked my family at the grand old age of 12.  I felt so grown up then, and super happy to have plated up a complete meal to my family.  I don’t know if Mum appreciated it as much.  I have a feeling I made a mess of the kitchen.  She was nice about it, though, and so the tradition of my cooking one main meal a week (complete with sides) began.  This is obviously not the same roasted vegetables as I had prepared way back when, but the evolution of the dish.

This is more of a general idea rather than a specific recipe.  The vegetable you use will depend entirely on what you have at home, and what you like to eat 😛  Sometimes, I may roast potatoes alone, with just some salt and pepper.  Other days, it will be more like above, and I throw things together and hope for the best.  Incidentally, it was a delicious experiment.  There are a couple of things that you should remember.  Firstly, do not overcrowd the pan, It will stew rather than roast if there is no room for the air to circulate.  Secondly, use enough oil to give all the vegetables a light coating, but not so much so that they are swimming in oil. I use a pastry brush to do this.  Remember to cut your root vegetables into even sized pieces.  As I find potato takes longer to cook than pumpkin and sweet potato, I tend to cut these slightly smaller than the sweet potato and pumpkin.  Also beetroot, which can take a bit longer to cook than other vegetables of a similar size, is another vegetable that should be smaller than its friends in the cooking tray.  I always cut these into much smaller pieces than the potatoes, sweet potatoes or pumpkin.   I always salt this dish before cooking, but you can leave this out if you wish.

Just prior to putting in the oven

Just prior to putting in the oven

VARIATIONS: You are limited only by your imagination.   Don’t just roast potatoes, try cauliflower, pumpkin, zucchini, carrots, even sweet corn! Instead of brushing with plain oil, you could make a mixture of melted butter and oil (I use olive on its own), or cooking spray.  As far as seasoning the roast, the sky is the limit, but here are a few of my favourite combinations – Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika to your oil before brushing over vegetables and sprinkle  some extra over the vegetables just before serving;  sprinkle vegetables with salt, lemon rind and lemon pepper before roasting; add 3 or 4  lightly crushed (unpeeled) garlic cloves to the roast after the first 20 minutes has passed, with some rosemary (lovely with a roast lamb); 1 to 2 teaspoons of cumin powder mixed into your oil before brushing over vegetable (very good with roasted cauliflower).

Happy Eating 😛

Back to Basics – Roast Vegetables

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time:  65 minutes

Yield: 4 to 6 serves

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2.5 cm/1 inch cubes or wedges
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and cut into pieces consistent with the sweet potato
  • 1 medium beetroot, washed and well scrubbed, cut into 16 pieces
  • 1 fennel bulb, cleaned, top/fronds reserved, bulb sliced into 1cm/0.5 inch slices
  • 1 sweet red onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
  • 20 whole brussel sprouts, cleaned
  • 100g/3.5 oz fresh green beans, cleaned and tailed
  • 1 yellow capsicum, cleaned and sliced into 8 to 10 wedges
  • 1/4 cup/125 mL olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon crushed chilli flakes
  • 2 teaspoons cumin power
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 180 °C (355 °F).  Place the sweet potato, parsnip, beetroot, fennel bulb , red onion and brussel sprouts into your baking tray.  Using your pastry brush, brush the oil over the vegetables, reserving 1 tablespoon.  Sprinkle with the chilli flakes and cumin powder, salt and pepper.  Toss the vegetables, then roast for 40 minutes.  In the meantime, toss the reserved fennel top, beans and capsicum  with the reserved oil.  Once 40 minutes has elapsed, add the quicker cooking beans, fennel top and capsicum to the rest of the vegetables, making sure to mix well so that the flavours are well incorporated.  Return the try to the oven and cook for a further 25 minutes or until done to your liking.  Serve alongside your favourite roast, with or without gravy.  Enjoy!

Plated up!

Plated up!


Slow Cooked Beef Cheek in Red Wine and Capsicum Sauce

Slow Cooked Beef Cheek in Red Wine and Capsicum SauceWell my pretties, it has been a while.  Please forgive the decided lack of posts the last couple of months, I promise to do better!  Life got in the way of my blogging, and by life I mean our oven blew up.  It seriously did.  Scuba was cooking one night and BAM!  The fuses were blown and so was the oven.  It’s ok, I had it fixed and it is working again.  Then the air con decided to start leaking..  It is also repaired.  I tells ya, it never rains, it pours.

So onto my latest creation.  Beef cheeks are an awesome cut of meat.  With the right cooking, they are fall apart tender with a lovely texture, and lend themselves to any type of braising, slow cooking or slow roasting.  I have cooked it many ways, and I find I do like the stove top method of braising this wonderful meat the best as I can keep it it submerged in its simmering liquid and top it up quite easily.  This is definitely not a quick weeknight meal, unless you start it in a slow cooker and leave it to cook while you do more exciting things 😛

VARIATIONS:  This recipe can be fiddled with if you can’t find beef cheeks.  Any cut of lean beef that is suitable for stewing, like chuck steak, brisket or gravy beef should be fine.  Also, you don’t have to use red wine.  Beef or chicken stock will be fine.  I used chicken stock so that the red capsicum would shine through.  If you don’t want to use asparagus, green beans are also nice.

GLUTEN FREE SUBSTITUTIONS: Choose a gluten free pasta or rice to serve.  Use home-made chicken stock in lieu of store bought or bouillon cube or just use water.

Begin by making a mirepoix – a French term for an aromatic mixture of onion, celery and carrot that is diced finely and sweated off in some olive oil.  I also added a pinch of salt and a couple of grinds of black pepper at this point.  To this, we will add garlic and the first 2 red capsicums, also finely diced.

We will continue to sweat the vegetables off in the oil until the onion becomes translucent and some of the lovely red from the capsicum leaches out and makes the onion turn a faint yellow.  This should take about 10 minutes.   Now, push the vegetables to the edge of the pot and clear a space in the centre to brown our meat.  Turn the heat to a medium-high heat and brown the meat for about 5 minutes on each side, being careful not to burn the vegetables.

Once nicely browned, add the wine and the stock and bring to the boil.  Cover and reduce heat so that the pot id gently simmering.  Simmer for two to three hours, or until the meat can be easily shredded.  You may need to top up the the pot with water , so check the pot every 30 minutes to every hour,  I found that I needed 1 cup of water every hour to stop the pot from boiling dry.

Once the meat is ready to be shredded, remove from the pot and keep warm.  Add the remaining red capsicum to the pot, and simmer gently for 45 minutes.  I know, I know, there is already red capsicum in the pot, but we are trying to amp up and enhance the capsicum flavour.  Plus the sauce will have a more vibrant red colour by adding capsicum later in the cooking.  You may wish to simmer with the lid off as we are trying to create a thick sauce of between 2 to 3 cups volume.  You can drain off some of the cooking liquid if you have too much or you could  prepare a double lot of the capsicum sauce and freeze the extra, it makes a luscious soup especially with a dash of cream.  While the capsicum is doing its thing, shred the meat.

I did this with my fingers (which were clean!) as this meant that when I was finished, any meat that ‘fell’ off the chopping board was fair game.  Also, prepare your asparagus and pasta, I had gnocci with mine which only takes 2 minutes to cook!  Once you have the capsicum nicely cooked and it is at the right volume, get out your trusty stick blender and blitz away.  I like mine fairly fine so I blitzed until there were no chunks.  Look how pretty it is.  If you are being super fancy, you could strain the capsicum sauce through a muslin cloth.    Return the meat to the pot with the asparagus.  Check the seasoning and adjust if needed.  After 2 minutes on a low heat, add the gnocci (or pasta of your choice) to the pot and stir.  Serve with crusty bread and a glass of the leftover wine.  Yummy.

Happy Noshing 😛

Slow Cooked Beef Cheek in Red Wine and Capsicum Sauce

Slow Cooked Beef Cheek in Red Wine and Capsicum Sauce

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: up to 4 hours

Yield: Serves 4 generously

  • 3 tablespoons/60 mL olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 large or 2 small carrots, finely diced
  • 3 stalks of celery, finely diced
  • 2 red capsicum, finely diced
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon crushed garlic (about 4 fat cloves) or to taste
  • 600 grams/1.3 lb beef cheeks, whole
  • 2 cups/500 mL  red wine
  • 1 cup/250 mL chicken stock
  • 2-3 cups/500-750 mL water, extra
  • 2 capsicum, extra, rough dice
  • 2 bunches asparagus, woody part trimmed and sliced into 2.5 cm batons
  • salt and pepper – extra, to taste if needed
  • 450g/1 lb pasta of choice

Heat the oil.  Add the onion, celery, carrot salt and pepper.  Stir, then add the capsicum and garlic.  Let cook on a medium heat until onions become translucent, stirring occasionally.

Move the vegetables to the edge of the pan, turn up the heat and add the beef cheeks. Brown the cheeks for about 5 minutes on each side, being careful not to burn the vegetables.

Once the meat is browned, add the wine and the stock to the pan, brig to boil , then reduce heat to a simmer.

Simmer, covered, for 2 to 3 hours, topping up the liquid in the pot with water as needed every 30 minutes to stop the pot running dry.  When the meat is easily shredded, remove it from the pot and keep warm.

Add the extra capsicum to the liquid in the pot and simmer until tender, from 30 to 45 minutes depending on the size of the pieces.  You may wish to simmer the capsicum uncovered to reduce the cooking liquid, as we are aiming for about 2 1/2 cups of capsicum purée  to plate up with.

While the capsicum is cooking, shred the meat, prepare the asparagus, and get the water boiling for your pasta of choice.  5 minutes before the capsicum is ready, start cooking your pasta.

Once the capsicum is cooked, blend it with the mirepoix and enough cooking liquid to make up to about 2 1/2 cups of sauce.  Reintroduce the beef cheeks into the sauce and add the asparagus.  Check for salt and pepper and add extra to taste if needed.  Cook at a simmer for 2 minutes, just long enough to heat the meat thoroughly and to just cook the asparagus.  Add your pasta of choice to your sauce, stir and serve.