#Ikamata, A Merry Cook Islands Christmas

After a long and busy year of not much blogging , this Christmas with time on my hands during our Cook Islands holiday, I’m getting back on my blogging “bike”. This setting is perfect for a free spirited foodie!

A slice of paradise – Rarotonga

This week we travelled to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands from Sydney via some excellent meals in Auckland at Giraffe Restaurant and Italian stalwart Baduzzi.

Taro plants growing in Rarotonga

The Cook Islands are made up of 15 islands in the time zone as Hawaii, 21 hours “behind” Australia and across the international dateline, but only 3.5 hours flight from Auckland. (Direct flights from Sydney will recommence in June 2023) ….it’s still Christmas Eve here!

Arriving in Rarotonga really lives up to the description of South Pacific Paradise, and the warm tropical air makes you instantly relax. We are staying with friends Neil and Maxine who have relocated here and are running the beautiful property Arcadia Retreat – 3 private homes available for rent – which is just across the road from the beach and with stunning views of the hills around which the small population is scattered.

Neil whipped up his delicious Ika Mata salad for our welcome lunch which was so good we had to request it the next day as well! Ika Mata is the traditional raw fish salad of the Cook Islands which can be served as an entree or main course.

Here’s the recipe which is perfect for any summer’s day across the globe….you just need the freshest tuna/fish you can find …which of course is in abundance here.

Iki Mata lunch on the deck at Arcadia Retreat, Rarotonga

Ingredients

  • 400g fresh tuna cut into small cubes (the smaller the cubes, the faster your fish will cure)
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 3-4 tablespoons fresh passionfruit juice (seeds removed) *if you don’t have passionfruit then just add the same quantity of additional lime juice
  • 2 birds eye chillies thinly sliced (you can deseed or make this optional)
  • 3 teaspoons table salt
  • 1 cup of coconut milk (ours was fresh but tinned is fine)
  • Salad items like: finely diced tomatoes, spring onions, peeled and deseeded cucumber, capsicum, and onion

Method:

1. Cube tuna and place in a glass or ceramic bowl

2. Mix thinly sliced chilli, salt, orange, lime and passionfruit juice and then pour over the fish and gently mix to cover the fish in the marinade.

3. Place in the fridge to marinate for 20 minutes – half an hour depending on how “cooked through” you’d like your fish.

4. Pour off the liquid from the fish so just the fish and chilli remain in the bowl.

5. Add the salad ingredients, mix through gently and pour over coconut milk and serve.

Ika Mata tuna salad

Eat and enjoy with a crisp white wine, lettuce leaves and some toasted Turkish bread or baguette!

Crispy lettuce leaves and toasted Turkish are delicious accompaniments for Ika Mata

Durban-style Fish and Potato #Samosas #crispy

Fish filled samosas are a great alternative to Mince and Pea Samosas.

This recipe teams white fish fillets with finely diced potato and herbs for a delicious light filling, that truly shines when dipped in a zesty mint, garlic and chilli sauce.

Fish and potato samosas with zesty lime dipping sauce

The crispy pastry, using spring roll pastry, which is substantially different to the thicker crusty version of Indian samosas is light and adds just the right amount of crunch to these delicious taste parcels.

Ensuring the triangles are firmly sealed with no “gaps” or “holes” to prevent the hot oil to be absorbed into the parcels, then shallow frying rather than deep frying makes for the least oily version possible.

These samosas freeze really well, so you can make ahead and impress guests when they arrive or have a stash to treat yourselves at your pleasing.

Prep time: 2 hours (including making filling) Cooking time: 20-30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 8 -10 sheets spring roll pastry (thawed to room temperature)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 200 g white fish fillets such as flathead, diced into small chunks
  • 1 small potato diced finely
  • 1 onion very finely diced
  • handful of curry leaves
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic and equal amount of ginger pounded to a paste
  • 1-2 small red chillies finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced coriander
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and then 1 cup of vegetable oil for shallow frying
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon and 2 pinches Salt
  • 1/2 cup or so of water
  • Handful of mint, coriander, 1 cloves garlic and 2 chillies
  • Juice of 1 lime and 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil

Method

1. Boil finely diced potatoes with 1/4 teaspoon salt until just tender, about 5 minutes

2. Heat oil in non-stick frying pan. Add mustard seed, fennel seeds and curry leaves and heat until fragrant.

3. Add onion and cook slowly until transparent.

4. Add ginger and garlic paste add mix through onions, then add fish, salt and white pepper and 1/4 cup water.

5. Simmer until water has totally evaporated and the fish is sealed, just turning white.

6. Remove from heat add potato, chilli and coriander and mix through, slightly break up potatoes and fish as you do, but do not mash. Taste to see if extra salt required.

7. Allow mixture to cool.

8. Mix flour in a small bowl with 3-4 tablespoons of water, adding slowly to create a thick flour “glue”.

9. Take 2 sheets of the spring roll pastry, keeping rest between dampened tea towel to avoid drying out. I have discovered that using a double layer of the pastry creates a more robust case and crispier casing for these samosas.

10. Place each sheet neatly aligned on top of each other, then cut into 3 even strips.

11. Starting at one end, place 1-1.5 teaspoons of mixture on the pastry and then turn pastry over to create a neat triangle. Ensure there are no gaps when you turn the pastry – use the glue to seal openings or gaps between the 2 sheets of pastry as you go. This will ensure the oil doesn’t enter the package when you fry it and make your samosas less oily.

Making fish and potato samosas with spring roll pastry

12. Repeat process until all mixture is used up. Makes about 12-15 samosas.

13. Samosas can be frozen at this point and shallow fried directly from the freezer when you require. They freeze really well.

14. Heat 1/2 cup of vegetable oil in a small non-stick frying pan over high heat, add 3-4 samosas, allowing oil to come back to temperature, then lower heat to medium and cook until samosas are golden and filling is hot.

15. Finely dice mint, coriander, garlic and chilli – I used a mandolin. Place in a small bowl. Add healthy pinch of salt, add lime juice a dash of oil to create a zesty dipping sauce.

16.serve samosas with lime dipping sauce and other sauces as suits.

#Christmassy #canapes

Made these delicious canapés for Christmas Day but would be lovely anytime.

Bought these delicious Pastry shells from Simon Johnson, purveyors of fine foods in Sydney and filled them with a mixture of soft goats cheese, marscapone and sour cream with some finely chopped spring onion to give it a savoury zing.

The pastry shells are flaky and light, unlike many store-bought versions. Highly recommended for savoury or sweet fillings.

Topped with yummy gravalax from Peninsula Seafoods who are the best seafood suppliers on the Mornington Peninsula and topped with red “caviar” and finely sliced green tops of the spring onion.

Looked great and tasted great

Savoury gravalax and red caviar pastry shells

#Poached Side of #Salmon with asparagus salad #christmaseve

We thought a light dinner on a Christmas Eve would be nice ahead of a day of planned feasting today.

I have never actually poached a whole side of Salmon before but I certainly will be in future.

I bought this 1.5kg side from Peninsula Seafood’s Processing Plant outlet in Dromana on our way down to the Mornington Peninsula last Monday. They cryovacced the salmon for me which meant I could keep it in the fridge rather than have to freeze it and defrost it.

The recipe I used is based on Mary Berry’s Poached Salmon with shrimps and asparagus which looks delicious, but I really wanted to keep dinner simple so we had it with asparagus a d feta salad in the side.

Ingredients:

  • Side of salmon – 1.5kg
  • Butter
  • Foil
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Dill – 2-3 stalks
  • Salt and pepper
  • Asparagus – 2 bunches
  • Feta to crumble over asparagus
  • Baby spinach leaves
  • Salt and pepper
  • Foil

Method:

1. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius

2. Lay 2 long foil sheets across a large roasting pan, fold over does in middle to join together into one sheet, grease foil with butter.

3. Lay dill in middle of sheet. Season salmon with salt and pepper on the cut side and place face down (skin side up) on the dill. Put a few dabs of butter across top of salmon for good measure.

4. Pour wine and lemon juice around the salmon and fold over long edges of foil to create a packet, then fold over short edges, rolling and scrunching to seal.

5. Bake salmon for 25 minutes. While salmon is baking, blanch asparagus until bright green and tender.

6 remove salmon from from oven, undo package and remove skin which will easily peel off. Using a teaspoon or palette knife, gently scrape off the grey coloured meat/fatty layer under the skin to reveal the pink layer of flesh.

7. Carefully flip salmon and juices onto a serving platter, surround with Baby spinach, asparagus, sprinkle with feta. Dress salad with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

8. Serve with other salads or roast potatoes. We had a tomato, basil, bocconcini salad which went well with it too.

Poached side of salmon with asparagus, baby spinach and feta salad

#Vietnamese inspired Stuffed Squid with spicy sauce #stuffedsquid

Vietnamese inspired braised stuffed squid with pork, noodle and prawn filling

I had some large frozen squid tubes so was googling around to see how to use them imaginatively.

Found inspiration in a range of Vietnamese stuffed squid recipes like this one Braised Stuffed Squid and Vietnamese Stuffed Calamari.

Didn’t have any dried mushrooms but did have frozen prawns so chopped them finely to add some texture to the stuffing.

Turned very well and made for an easy dinner. This dish would work well look great as part of a buffet spread as well. This recipe serves 2-3 served with rice but can be easily multiplied for larger groups.

Preparation time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 large squid tubes or 4 smaller tubes
  • 100g pork mince
  • 4 small prawns shelled, deveined, diced finely
  • 4 spring onions, finely diced and white and green parts kept seperately
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 20g cellophane/vermicelli noodles soaked in hot water until soft
  • 2-3 red chillies finely chopped (deseed for less heat)
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 ripe tomatoes diced
  • 2 teaspoons grated palm sugar or 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons or so of roughly chopped fresh mint and coriander
  • 1/2 fresh lime

Method:

1. Defrost frozen squid tubes and frozen prawns until completely thawed.

2. Soak noodles in bowl of hot water for 20 minutes or until softened. Drain. Cut into small pieces/short lengths.

3. Make pork stuffing, place minced pork in a seperate mixing bowl with ½ tsp salt and knead until smooth. Then garb small handfuls of the pork and slap or throw them against the sides of the bowl until tender and almost looks like a paste. Then add prawns, garlic, half the chopped chillies, half the chopped green part of the spring onions,1 teaspoon palm sugar or 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon white pepper, noodles and combine well.

4. Stuff the squid tubes leaving some room at each end to allow mixture to expand. Make one or two small slits across the top of the squid tubes to allow air to escape. Secure ends with toothpicks and skewers.place in steamer over a pan of simmering water and cook for 15-20 minutes or until filling is firm and cooked and squid tubes are tender. (I steamed the leftover stuffing alongside the squid to not waste it)

5. Heat vegetable oil in frying pan, Then add tomatoes, rest of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon white pepper, white part of spring onions, rest of the chillies, fish sauce and stir fry. Cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes or until tomatoes have softened. Remove the sauce from the pan to a seperate bowl.

6 Add squid to same frying pan without cleaning pan after removing the sauce. Cook, turning carefully, for 5 minutes or until squid is light golden amd covered in pan juices.

7. Slice squid into thickish rounds, spoon over remaining sauce from the bowl, garnish with chopped coriander and mint and a squeeze of lime juice. Serve with steamed rice or present on a platter on a bed of lettuce or watercress as part of a buffet or shared main.

Vietnamese inspired stuffed squid

#salmon #caviar #Crepe Cake

Changed up the traditional Smoked Salmon Crepes recipe creating a layered crepe cake for a celebratory brunch.

Layered with herbed creme fraiche with dill and capers, smoked salmon and caviar, the overall result was delicious and looks fabulous. You could add finely chopped red onion or replace caviar with salmon roe..lots of options to suit your taste.

I used my favourite crepe recipe Martha Stewart Crepes but made them a bit smaller so that the mixture made about 18-20 crepes to layer up into a high pile, leaving a few to drape over the top to complete the picture.

Easy and fun. plenty of options to make a sweet version for a dessert too!