Warmer weather is here and that means al fresco meals are on the menu. It’s magic to escape to the countryside, beach or lake during the weekend with delicious dishes tucked in the chilly bin. I also enjoy entertaining friends for Sunday brunch or lunch with dishes that can be prepared a day ahead. Also, when guests depart there’s ample time for a leisurely clean-up.
Warmer weather encourages bugs so ensure your food remains in prime condition if you’re planning to eat outdoors. Choose containers with tight fitting lids so that they will pack neatly into a pre-cooled chilly bin. Pack the chilly bin with ice packs or bags of ice for at least 15 minutes before adding any food and drink. Cold containers of drink will help keep food chilled but they are often heavy. Ideally, your chilly bin should have two handles so the load can be shared.
Every cook has a responsibility to their family and friends to keep their meals safe from bugs and bacteria that can cause illnesses. Dietitian, Pip Duncan, has just released the fourth edition of Safe Food, a book reflecting the current standards both in New Zealand and internationally. Check it out at www.safefood.nz.
COLD ROASTED SALMON WITH ZHUG
This salmon, so simple and delish, can be prepared a day ahead. Sides of fresh Regal Salmon can be ordered from your supermarket. Using tweezers, remove the pin bones which are at the thicker end of the fillet.
1.5kg side fresh Regal Salmon, pin bones removed
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
pomegranate seeds and herbs to garnish
Trim off the thinner belly portion of the salmon and use in another dish.
Preheat the oven to 150°C. Brush a roasting pan with the oil. Place the salmon in the pan, brush with oil, sprinkle well with salt and pepper then the chilli flakes.
Roast for 25-30 minutes, depending on thickness. Cool. Cover and refrigerate until ready to be served.
To serve, using a wide spatula, carefully remove the salmon to a long serving plate or board. Sprinkle with more salt and pepper then the pomegranate seeds and herbs. Serve the Zhug (see recipe) on the side. The salmon is also great served with lime or lemon wedges. Serves 10-12.
This flavoursome, spicy, fragrant sauce originates from the Yemen. It is great served on seafood, chunky salads, potatoes and chicken.
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
2 teaspoons each: black peppercorns, coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1-2 long green chillies, seeds removed, if preferred
2 teaspoons flaky sea salt
3 cups tightly packed coriander leaves and stalks
1 1/2 cups tightly packed parsley leaves
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Toast the seeds and peppercorns in a frying pan until fragrant. Grind to a powder either using a pestle and mortar or small food processor.
Add the garlic, chillies and salt. Mix until smooth. Add the coriander and parsley in batches, mixing until smooth. Drizzle in the olive oil, mixing until smooth.
This can be prepared a day ahead. Add a little lemon juice to thin, if required. Makes 1 1/2 cups.
FRYING PAN SPANAKOPITA
Carry in its pan to a picnic. Use a bread-and-butter knife for cutting.
700g leeks, white and pale green parts only
6 cloves garlic, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
400g baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup chopped parsley
20g dill leaves, chopped
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons each: grated lemon rind, lemon juice
pinch ground nutmeg
2 large eggs, beaten
200g salt-reduced feta cheese, coarsely crumbled
8 sheets filo pastry
Wash the leeks well then pat dry. Halve lengthwise then thinly slice crosswise.
Melt 25g butter in a 20cm, non-stick heavy frying pan suitable for the hob and oven. Sauté the leeks and garlic on low, until softened. Season. Add the spinach cooking until limp. Cool, then squeeze the mixture dry. Wipe the pan clean.
Preheat the oven to 190°C.
Combine the parsley, dill, parmesan, lemon rind and juice, nutmeg and eggs in a large bowl. Stir in the leek mixture. Fold in the feta.
Melt the remaining butter. Brush a little in the frying pan.
Brush a sheet of filo with butter. Lay it in the pan, buttered-side up, with the edges hanging over the rim. Repeat with the remaining filo placing each sheet in a different direction. Press down gently to remove any air bubbles.
Spoon the filling evenly into the filo case. Lift each over-hanging filo piece over the top scrunching it gently leaving a round of filling exposed in the centre. Brush the top with butter.
Cook on the hob on medium to crisp the base, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the oven and bake until golden about 20 minutes.
Serve in wedges, warm or at room temperature. Serves 6-8.
PRAWN, ROCKET & PASTA SALAD
200g angel hair pasta
1 cup frozen peas
500g cooked peeled prawns
1 small bulb fennel, finely shaved or grated, fronds reserved
4 cups baby rocket leaves
1/2 cup small mint leaves
Dressing: 3 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 cup creamy salad dressing eg Ranch
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons grated root ginger
Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of boiling water, according to the packet instructions. Add the peas during the last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain well. Rinse under cold water.
Place the pasta, peas, prawns, fennel, rocket and mint in a large bowl. Toss to combine.
Whisk the lime juice, dressing, sesame oil and root ginger in a small jug. Drizzle over the salad. Garnish with the reserved fennel fronds. Serves 4.