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.


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.

Chinese Five Spice Pork with Green Beans

Chinese Five Spice Pork with Green Beans

I love Chinese Five Spice powder.  A combination of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel seed and sichuan pepper (also known as szechwan or szechuan) that has been toasted and finely ground, it smells deliciously divine and I love to use often and liberally.  So when I came home from the market with a big bag of fresh green beans, I just knew what I had to do.  Off I went to the supermarket to get some pork mince.  Now, snake beans are the usual bean in this morish dish, but I didn’t have any and I WANTED MY FIVE SPICE PORK AND BEANS!!!  Well, I thought, it will taste different, but it should work.  I love it when I’m  right 😀 It was fantastic! Delicious!  Dare I mention I had to hide the (meagre) leftovers from my better half – Scuba ( I know, I don’t get it either) so that I could eke out lunch the next day with it (I mean, seriously, Scuba?  How did that become his nickname?  He doesn’t even dive! I’m so confused…).  Moving right along, you can have this meal on the table within 30 minutes, if you are handy with the knife or even faster if the beans are pre prepped.  While this is a fairly forgiving recipe, I wouldn’t use frozen beans as they are quite moist and they will end up soggy, not firm, and will water down the flavours of this dish.

VARIATIONS:  This recipe lends itself to multiple add in and variations.  Firstly, you don’t have to use pork mince in this dish.  Chicken or turkey mince is just as nice.  Tofu is also lovely, but I add 1/4 cup water mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of cornflour for this variation as I think it needs the moisture.  The tofu I add when I would normally add the mince so I can stir fry it, whereas I add the cornflour mixture in the last minute of cooking.  Snake beans in lieu of the green beans is how I normally prepare this dish.  If you haven’t tried them, and have access to them, I do urge you to experiment with them.  You will not be disappointed.  Prepare and cook them as per the green beans.  I usually put 1 can of shredded water chestnuts and bamboo shoots in, but didn’t have any. Spring onion is lovely mixed through at the end, as are a couple of handfuls of bean sprouts or even crushed peanuts.  Also,  You can use fresh chilli instead of dried and a half a cup of torn coriander (cilantro) or thai basil will lift this dish to the next level.

GLUTEN FREE SUBSTITUTIONS: Replace the cooking wine with sake, a gluten free mirin, or a dry sherry.  You can leave it out completely also.  Instead of the kecap manis, use a mixture of honey, molasses or dark brown sugar and some gluten-free tamari soy sauce.

Begin by preparing your beans.  Make sure you trim off any yucky looking bits, cut off the ends and throw away any that look dismal.  Slice the beans into 5 cm (or 2″) lengths.  Wash and drain well, as we will be stir frying the beans and excess water can cause the dish to spit at you, and nobody likes that.

Heat up your wok (or electric fry pan, whatever works for you.  Just make sure it’s big enough) and your oil.  When it is quite hot, add your green beans.  Now, BE CAREFUL!  This is where things can get slightly snarly.  The water from the beans will hit that hot oil and the hot oil will attack you.  It doesn’t mean anything by it though, if that makes you feel better. Carefully keep the beans moving while avoiding the bombardment.  You should find that the water eventually evaporated, leaving you safe from the offensive.  Keep stir frying the beans for about 15 minutes, until they lose their rigidity and become somewhat blackened (not charcoal, but charred).  The beans will also look lovely and glossy.

I admit it.  I did eat one at this point.

Now, remove the beans from the pan.  Weren’t expecting that, were you?Chinese Five Spice Pork and Green Beans

It’s time for the pork 😀 YAY!! Put a bit of oil into your wok, again on a high heat, and add the pork.  Actually, you may not need the oil at this point if your pork mince is a bit fatty.  See how you go.  Break up the meat so it doesn’t form a solid mass.  Quickly add the star anise and crushed chilli flakes.  Stir.

Now for the ginger and garlic.  Stir it up again.

And now for the magic ingredient – the Chinese five spice powder.  Don’t be afraid to smell it.  IT”S SO GOOD!

Give it a good mix.  Keep stir frying until the pinkness is cooked out of the pork.

Then add the Shaoxing cooking wine (or mirin, or cooking sake, or even a splash of sherry.  I told you this was a forgiving recipe), the kecap manis (a sweet soy sauce, if you can’t find this you can use hoisin sauce, char sui sauce if you have it, or even 1 tablespoon soy : 1 teaspoon brown sugar/honey ratio per tablespoon of kecap manis needed) and the sesame oil.

Give it a quick stir, and then reintroduce the beans back into the pan.  They look happy to meet the pork, don’t you think? Keep cooking until beans are again piping hot.  The time from when you add the pork to when the dish is finished should be 5-7 minute.  Serve up with rice, or on its own (as I did).  You can finish with drizzle of kecap manis and an extra sprinkle of Chinese five spice powder if desired.

Happy Eating 😛

Chinese Five Spice Pork with Green Beans


Preparation time: 5 – 8 minutes

Cooking time: 25-27 minutes

Yield: Serves 4 without rice, serves 6 with rice

  • 750 grams/1.5 lb green beans, trimmed and well washed, cut into 5 cm/2″ lengths
  • 1 tablespoon/20mL high smoke point oil – peanut, grapeseed, canola,  or coconut oil is suitable.
  • 400 – 450 grams/13-14oz pork mince
  • 1 teaspoon/5mL high smoke point oil, extra
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed chilli flakes
  •  2 teaspoons crushed garlic (about 2 fat cloves)
  • 2 teaspoons crushed/grated  ginger (about 2cm/3/4″ piece)
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese five spice
  • 2 tablespoons/40mL Shaoxing cooking wine
  • 1/4 cup/60mL kecap manis
  • 2 teaspoons/10mL sesame oil
  • kecap mani and Chinese five spice powder – extra, to serve

N.B. There is no added salt as I feel there is enough salt in the kecap manis.  However, if you desire more salty goodness, feel free to add a little at your own discretion. 

Drain the prepared beans well.  Heat the first measure of oil (I used canola) in the wok until almost smoking.  Carefully add the green beans to the wok, and stir fry the beans.  Continue to keep the beans moving.

After about 15 minutes, the beans should be a somewhat blackened and bendy.  They should also be glossy.  At this point, remove the beans from the wok and set aside.

Into the hot wok, add the second (optional) measure of oil.  If not using, just move on to the next step.  Add the pork mince to the wok.  Keep the mince moving, and break up any clumps.  While stir frying, add the star anise, crushed chilli flakes, the garlic, the ginger and the Chinese five spice.  Keep stirring until the pinkness is cooked out of the mince.  This should take about 3-4 minutes.

Now add the cooking wine and the kecap manis.  Add the sesame oil, stir and add the reserved beans.  Stir fry until beans are again piping hot – about 2-4 minutes.

Serve as is or with some steamed rice.  Garnish with a drizzle of kecap manis, and a sprinkle of Chinese five spice powder, if desired.