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ON THE SIDE

Festive meats are great and salads, sides and sauces make them even better. What would a roast of be without the pleasures of an awesome sauce?

If you’re planning on serving some simple steamed greens then a couple of flavoured butters will add to their appeal. Bring butter to room temperature and using about 150 grams for each flavour add a dash of smoked paprika; or crushed garlic and a squeeze of lime; or mashed anchovies. Roll the butter into small logs then roll up in baking paper twisting the ends to make them like mini Christmas crackers. 

A honey mustard sauce for chicken, ham, pork or beef can be whipped up in seconds. Just combine a quarter cup each of honey, Dijon mustard and mayonnaise, then stir in a tablespoon of white wine vinegar and an optional dash of cayenne pepper.

A good dressing is very important for a plain green salad: Take a good bunch of basil and remove the leaves. Place them in a blender with a large clove of garlic, 100 millilitres of the best extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt and black pepper. Blend until smooth. Drizzle a little over the salad leaves just before serving and toss. Serve the rest on the side.

ROASTED ASPARAGUS ROMESCO

If necessary, thin the sauce with a little water.

Sauce: 1-2 long red chillies
4 plum tomatoes
1/2 red capsicum
75g slice ciabatta or French bread, crusts removed
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, halved
1 tablespoon each: toasted pinenuts, red vinegar
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
freshly ground salt and black pepper to taste
Asparagus: 20-24 medium spears asparagus, trimmed
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground salt and black pepper to taste

To make the sauce, char-grill the chillies, tomatoes and capsicum until blackened all over. Wrap in baking paper and cool. Peel and deseed the chillies and capsicum. Remove the core from the tomatoes. Place all three in a food processor.

Cut the bread into chunks. Heat the oil in a small frying pan and fry the garlic cloves until golden. Add to the food processor. Fry the bread cubes until golden. Cool then add to the food processor with the pinenuts, vinegar, and seasonings. Blend until chunky.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. 

Toss the asparagus and in the olive oil and season. Bake for 10-15 minutes until crisp crisp-tender. Serve warm or at room temperature topped with the sauce. Serves 4-6.

POTATO SALAD ON STICKS

1kg small waxy (boiling) potatoes
Vinaigrette: 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Topping: 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
2 tablespoons diced gherkins
1/4 cup each: chopped chives, flat-leaf parsley, fennel fronds
flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Ensure the potatoes are about the same size. Halve any large ones. Boil in salted water until just tender.

Meanwhile, whisk the ingredients together for the vinaigrette.

Combine the topping ingredients.

Drain the potatoes and drizzle with about half the dressing. Move the potatoes around so they are evenly coated. Cool.

Thread the potatoes on small skewers — about 3 on each. Place on a serving platter. Cover and chill until required.

To serve, drizzle with the remaining dressing and add the topping. Serves about 6.

SPICED COUSCOUS

Prepare ahead, if preferred. Reheat or serve at room temperature. Run a fork through the couscous to keep it light.

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, diced
1 teaspoon each: cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups vegetable stock
3/4 cup fine couscous
1/4 cup finely chopped mixed herbs

Heat the oil and half the butter in a medium saucepan. Sauté the shallot, until softened.

Finely crush the seeds in a pestle & mortar or small food processor. Add to the saucepan and fry until fragrant. Stir in the garlic the lemon juice and sugar. Simmer until reduced a little.

Microwave the stock, until boiling. Stir the couscous into the saucepan then add the boiling stock. Simmer gently until the couscous is tender. Remove from the hob and fork through the remaining butter and the mixed herbs. Serves 4-6.



Columns by Jan Bilton
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