Baked Fish with spicy Tahini and onion sauce

This is my take on a traditional Lebanese sauce to go with baked fish. It’s simple to make and the cholesterol free Tahini(sesame paste) sauce I use makes it a much healthier option than cream. The lemony, garlic flavours combine with the nutty flavour of the Tahini and sweet, slightly caramelised onion and spicy chilli into a delicious creamy topping to go with the baked fish. We had it here with a mixed salad including  artichokes which complimented the middle Eastern flavours well.

Prep time:  5 minutes. Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:
500g firm fish fillets like  flathead or snapper
1 lemon finely sliced into rings
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup Tahini sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic crushed
1 medium onion thinly sliced in half moons
1 large red chilli finely chopped
1/3 cup cold water
1/ 2 teaspoon cummin powder
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped parsley or coriander

Method:
Heat oven to 200 degrees celcius (400 Farenheit)
Line an ovenproof dish with baking paper and place lemon slices on base
Season fish with salt and pepper, cummin and chilli flakes if using

 

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Seasoned fish on bed of lemon slices

Pour over 1/3 cup lemon juice and reserve the rest for sauce
Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil
Place fish in oven to bake for 15-20 minutes until starting to become golden but do not overcook

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cook onions with chilli and half the garlic

Meanwhile heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in pan, add onions and cook until transparent, then add half the crushed garlic and the fresh red chilli and cook slowly for about 10 minutes until onion starts to caramelise slightly. Remove from heat.

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Ingredients for spicy tahini sauce

In a mini food processor, place tahini sauce, rest of garlic, 1/3 cup lemon juice,some salt, pepper, cold water and whizz until thickened and pale.
Place pan with onions back on heat, add tahini sauce mixture and heat through. When warm add parsley or coriander, mix through and remove from heat.

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Tahini sauce thickens and goes pale when processed with other ingredients

Remove fish from oven and place fillets on serving dish or individual plates, spoon over sauce and serve with salad. Crispy Lebanese bread or plain rice would go well with this too.
Serves 2

Steamed Eggplant with ginger

This is one of the easiest and healthiest ways to enjoy eggplant. You don’t often see recipes for steaming eggplant but I can attest to this recipe, especially if made with smaller eggplants such as “graffiti” striped eggplants or the thin Japanese eggplants.

Prep time: 15 minutes. Cooking time: 30-40 minutes

Ingredients:
2-3 small eggplants
small knob of ginger thinly sliced
1 clove of garlic crushed with half a red chillI
2 teaspoons salt

Method:
Cut eggplant into medium size piece and immediately add salt and place in a colander or strainer over the sink for 15 minutes

Meanwhile slice ginger finely, seperately crush garlic and chilli

Remove eggplant from colander shaking off excess moisture and place in steaming basket, gently rub some of the garlic and chilli on each pice of eggplant using a teaspoon, then scatter over ginger.

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Place eggplant in steamer and rub with garlic, chillies paste and scatter over ginger

steam for 30-40 minutes or until eggplant is tender to your liking

 

Quick Coconut Sambal

This sambal is a delicious spicy, sweet accompaniment to all sorts of Indian meals. Traditionally made with freshly grated coconut, I just use desiccated coconut which I first “rehydrate” a bit by soaking in coconut milk(from a can). If you are a coconut fan, then you will find this pretty more-ish.

Very nice as a side as part of an Indian brunch with Mild Potato CurryRed Lentil Dhal and  Wholemeal Roti

Prep time: 30 minutes  No Cooking required

Ingredients:
1.5 cups desiccated coconut
1 cup coconut milk for soaking
1 green chilli chopped
1 small eschallot or spring onion chopped
1/2 a finger length of ginger chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt

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Method
Soak desiccated coconut in coconut milk for 25 minutes or so
Drain coconut milk from desiccated coconut, pressing down well, reserve coconut milk
Put rest of ingredients into a food processor or spice grinder and blend to a coarse paste, add a teaspoon of the coconut milk to loosen slightly and whizz briefly.
Serve

Steamed Pumpkin with salted black bean sauce

This dish is inspired by Australian celebrity chef Neil Perry’s Spice Temple cookbook which features the recipes from his well known Sydney restaurant. Spice Temple features spicy regional Chinese cooking inspired by Neil Perry’s travels and his love of Chinese food.

The combination of the sweet steamed pumpkin with the salty black bean sauce and slight spiciness added by the dried chillies makes for a great vegetarian side dish. It’s a perfect accompaniment to pork, like the Crispy Asian Pork Belly Salad, or would be nice with grilled lamb cutlets too.

The Chinese ingredients in this recipe are worth adding to your pantry if you don’t already have them as they are commonly used in other Chinese dishes, especially Sichuan dishes.

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The black beans used here are not to be confused with normal canned black beans which are not fermented. Rather theses are salted and fermented black beans that form the basis of the salty seasoning used in Chinese dishes such as “beef in black bean sauce”. Don’t use readymade black bean sauce which is available in jars, but seek out the dried salted beans which come in plastic packets and found in Asian grocery shops.  That way you know exactly what’s going in your sauce and can control the saltiness and texture of the finished product.

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Salted black beans, Shaoxiang wine and Chiankiang black vinegar

The Chinese ingredients in this recipe are worth adding to your pantry if you don’t already have them as they are commonly used in other Chinese dishes, especially Sichuan dishes and will keep for months.

Note: the difference in the cooking time below will be due to how long your pumpkin takes to steam to tender. Different types of pumpkin and stage of ripeness will affect the time.

Prep time: 5 minutes  Cooking time: 30-40 minutes
Ingredients:

1/4 piece, about 500g peeled pumpkin chopped into medium size pieces
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 clove garlic and same amount of ginger crushed
3 tablespoons salted black beans
2-3 dried chillies
2-3 teaspoons white sugar (depends on tasting for salty sweet balance)
2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon Chiankiang black vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
coriander or sliced Spring onions to garnish

Method
Steam pumpkin for 25-35 minutes until tender. I use a steamer basket over a wok.

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Steaming pumpkin

About 20 minutes into steaming, heat oil in seperate pan over medium heat.

Add dried chillies – broken in half, ginger and garlic paste and fry until just changing colour
Add black beans and stir fry gently until you can smell their “salty fragrance”
Add the sugar, Shaoxiang wine and simmer gently until the liquid has almost evaporated

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Pour in stock, soy sauce, black vinegar and simmer for 8-10 minutes until black beans have plumped up, some of them may have burst a bit, and the sauce will be thickened. mix through sesame oil.

Put pumpkin in serving dish or platter, pour sauce over the top and scatter with coriander or spring onions.

 

 

Portuguese pork and clam stew with roasted capsicum sauce

We used to have this dish at the Petersham Portuguese Chicken Shop and Restaurant in Sydney before it burnt down in a terrible fire. I have never made it at home but thought I’d try it out for something a bit different. I did a bit of research on the Internet and checked a variety of recipes, some with and without the capsicum paste, before deciding on this version. The stew comes from the Alentejan region of Portugal and is usually served with fried potatoes but can be served with crusty bread or plain rice.

Marinating the pork in the milk and wine overnight tenderises the pork and gives it a lovely almost silky texture when cooked. The roasted capsicum paste can be made the day before as well if you want and adds a sweetness and a subtle spiciness that compliments the natural saltiness of the clams. The clams can be replaced by cockles but purging them by soaking in water is important to remove any grit.

So, please note the time required for marinating the pork and purging the clams below.

Marinating time: 8 hours or preferably overnight
Purge clams: 2 hours soaking in water to remove any grit
Prep time: 10 minutes  Cooking time: 1. 5 hours (including roasting capsicum)

Ingredients:
Roast Capsicum Sauce:
2 medium size red capsicums
8 cloves of garlic unpeeled

Pork Marinade
500g pork belly rind removed and cut into 2.5cm cubes
1 cup milk
1/2 cup wine
2 bay leaves
1/2 tspoon cracked black pepper
1/4 tspoon salt

Stew:
4 eschallots thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic crushed
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup vermouth or dry sherry
1/2 cup capsicum paste
1-1.5 cup chicken stock or water
1 kg of clams soaked in water for 2 hours, washed and drained
1/2 bunch of thyme tied with kitchen string
500g marinated pork belly removed from marinade and patted dry on kitchen towel
chopped parsley to garnish

Method
Marinate pork belly pieces in milk, white wine, peppercorns, salt and bay leaves mixture overnight or at least 8 hours

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Marinate pork overnight

Cover clams with cold water and soak for 2 hours, changing water a few times to remove grit

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Drain clams after soaking for 2 hours in water

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees celcius and roast whole capsicums and unpeeled garlic cloves sprayed with olive oil until capsicum blisters and starts to blacken, after 25 minutes raise heat to maximum to blacken capsicum if necessary, turn capsicums through roasting process. Remove from oven and place capsicums, not garlic, in a plastic bag and tie a knot in it. The heat from the capsicums will create a little steam bag and make the skins peel off easily when you take them out. Skin, reseed and chop the capsicum flesh. Peel and chop garlic. Blitz capsicum and garlic in a small food processor to create a paste.

Heat oven to 180 degrees celcius.

Heat half the oil in an non-stick frying pan and fry pork pieces on high heat to brown on all sides. Remove from oil and drain on paper towel.

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Fry pork to brown

Heat other half of the oil in a heavy based casserole pot, then add eschallots and garlic and cook slowly until onions are translucent.

Add pork and 1/2 cup capsicum paste, vermouth or sherry to onion mixture in pot and place in oven, uncovered for 30 minutes.

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Stew pork in oven for 30 minutes uncovered

Add clams, stock and thyme. Cover pot and put back in oven for 15-20 minutes or until clams open.

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Add clams, stock and thyme

Remove thyme, garnish with parsley and serve with potatoes, rice or bread and a crisp, green salad.

Serves 4

Okra, corn and tomato fry

If you don’t like or haven’t tried okra because of it’s reputation for being slimy, then this recipe will surprise. Dry frying the sliced okra before sautéeing  with tomato, onion, garlic and corn removes the slime and produces a tasty vegetarian side dish that is healthy and a delicious side dish served with green salad leaves and grilled pork or fish. Okra is full of fibre, antioxidants and vitamin K.

Prep time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 2o minutes

Ingredients:
1 onion thinly sliced
1 large tomato chopped
2 cloves of garlic crushed
10-12 medium size okra , washed, dried, stalk cut off and sliced lengthwise in half
200g of canned  corn kernels
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or Cajun spice
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves stripped from stalk
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
finely chopped parsley to garnish
Optional: baby spinach leaves or lettuce to serve with

Method
Heat non-stick fry pan over a high heat, add okra cut side down until it browns and the sticky gel emitted dries up. Cook on cut side only. Remove from pan and set aside. (You will need to was pan before using again).

Heat oil in pan then add onions and cook slowly until translucent
Add crushed garlic and sautée for 1 minute
Add cayenne pepper, salt and pepper or just the Cajun spice if using latter, and mix through onion and garlic
Add tomatoes and thyme and a splash of water and cook until tomatoes just start to break up (5 minutes)
Add okra and corn kernels and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring gently from time to time to prevent sticking

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Add okra, then corn to tomato and onion mixture

Taste okra to see if it needs additional cooking time, should be still slightly crunchy.
Garnish with parsley, serve on bed of spinach or lettuce with grilled fish or pork cutlets