an adventure into my cookbook collection: soul-searching, doing things differently & the truths I learn along the way...

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Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Potato salad redux

More things should be called redux.  According to Wikipedia it is a post-positive adjective to describe bringing things back.  It probably doesn’t really apply to potato salad and just makes me sound like a bit of an idiot.  Who am I to say whether or not potato salad was ever ‘out’ to begin with? Or if my variations even have that potential?  All I know is that potato salad drenched in mayonnaise is just depressing, especially when it has those tiny, soggy pickled cucumber pieces in it.  Sometimes its really watery and taints everything else on your plate, sometimes with that horrible slightly split look like the potatoes were mixed in when they were too hot, mainly its just boring.  Here are 3 alternatives which I really like. 

For each salad buy nice quality salad potatoes of equal sizes, and boil them in their skins in salted water until done but not disintegrated.  Peel their skins off (or not) when they are just cool enough to touch and toss them in their dressings while still warm.

Harissa potato salad

Incredibly simple.  Mix the potatoes with a big spoonful of harissa paste.  That’s it and its delicious.  You could dress it up with some chopped parsley, toasted pine nuts and orange zest (as I have done in the past) but actually, it doesn’t really need it.

Pesto potato salad

Mix together pesto with a little lemon juice until you have the consistency of salad dressing.  Toss with the potatoes.  When the potatoes are cooled add rocket leaves and toasted pumpkin seeds.  This is also very good with cooked broccoli and peas added in too.  Some halved cherry tomatoes would also make a lovely addition.

Grain mustard and sundried tomato potato salad

Make vinaigrette with 2 parts olive oil, 1 part cider/white wine vinegar, a spoonful of wholegrain mustard and a few drops of water.  Shake well and dress the potatoes.  Add some sundried tomatoes (chopped depending on their size) and finely sliced spring onions.  This salad is one of the staples of my family’s Shabbat table in the summertime, and so I cannot recommend any extras, it would just be wrong.

Salmon with spicy tomato sauce and sweet potato chips

This didn’t start as a blog post.  Like the multi-coloured spicy rice recipe, I was staring into the fridge wondering what to eat, and this just sort of evolved out of the different ingredients I managed to find.  And I really do mean evolve – sometimes if I start cooking when I am really tired I forget what I was planning on making halfway through and do something completely different.  Usually this really doesn’t work, in a ‘that Friends episode with the shepherd’s pie trifle’ kind of way, but this time it really did.  I have never combined fresh tomatoes with ginger in this way before, and I really love the way that it turned out.  Having such few key ingredients means that the flavour is really defined and punchy.  If I was really pretentious I would call the sauce a tomato-ginger reduction or something, I probably also wouldn’t have cooked it in the microwave.

Variation: A few days later I made a vegetarian version using cubes of aubergine and tofu instead of salmon and sweet potatoes and it was really fantastic.  I started roasting the aubergine and tofu cubes with just a little oil for about 20 minutes before I added the sauce, so they went slightly firm and crispy, as opposed to turning into a ratatouille-kind of mush.

Serves 2 people time: 30 or so mins difficulty: 3/5 taste: 4/5

2 salmon fillets, with skin (cooking times will depend on how big the fillets are, or if they are still a little frozen in the middle, like mine were – use your judgement)
2 or 3 sweet potatoes, depending on how large they are, peeled and cut into wedges or chunks (sized according to the approximate cooking time of the salmon)
1 onion, cut into wedges (a tasty but optional extra – brings gooey, caramelised and burnt edges, irresistible)
Flavourless cooking oil or spray

For the sauce:
2 or 3 large-ish ripe Tomatoes, diced (blanched and skinned if you can be bothered, but it doesn’t really matter for this dish)
1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed or finely chopped
1 piece fresh ginger, about 1 ½ times the size as the garlic clove, grated or finely chopped
1 tbsp kecap manis (this is one of my new favourite things, its an Indonesian soy sauce that has been thickened with copious sugar.  Ottolenghi features a lot of recipes that call for this – it’s a really useful addition to your spice/condiment cupboard.  Essentially its like teriyaki sauce in a handy squeezy bottle, very cheap and available at your local oriental/South-East Asian supermarket.  Oh and kecap means sauce in Malay – ketchup, gettit??)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 dessertspoonful sake
1 dessertspoonful ketchup

Preheat the oven to 190-200 c.  Make a few slashed in the salmon skin and arrange the fillets skin side up in a tray with the sweet potatoes and onion wedges all around in a snug, single layer.  Drizzle with a small amount of oil or spray, shake a little salt over and put in the oven to roast.  The idea is that the sauce gets added halfway through the cooking, to allow the fish and veggies to crisp up, and to stop the sauce from burning.

Combine the sauce ingredients in a microwave-friendly bowl and cook on full for about a minute, until it is hot and looks amalgamated and a little bit mushy.  You could also warm the ingredients up in a pan.  When the salmon and sweet potatoes have had about 10-15 minutes, spoon the tomato sauce on the tray in blobs over it, so that there are bits covered in sauce, and bits that are not, and to continue to cook for another 15 minutes or until the salmon and sweet potatoes are cooked, hopefully with some crispy salmon skin.

Monday, 6 June 2011

'Sexy' Peanut Sauce

This is so exciting, my first ever guest blogger, Alli.  I first tried this incredible sauce on my first ever Shabbat in Willesden, which was also the day I met Alli.  Vegan Canadian Thanksgiving was a bit of a drop in the deep-end, but it was brilliant.  I learnt all about poutine, the Québécois accent (thanks Danny) and the Canadian National Anthem ‘Oh Canada…’ Best of all I got to meet Alli, and try her amazing cooking.  And this sauce really is sexy.  I know it might seem like an odd combination but it totally works.  I spent most of my student mealtimes experimenting with peanut butter on noodles in one form or another, but this one really nails it – and the alternative version is really good too.  Its great on noodles, as a spoonful in a stir fry, or simply as a dip.  Big thanks also to the wonderful Amanda – who needs to come and visit again soon!

If anyone wants to be featured as a guest blogger on The Great Cookery Adventure then all you have to do is cook me something amazing :) 

And now I proudly introduce the wonderful Alli:

When I started University, I wasn't able to cook-- which led to me depending on the kindness of my friend more often then not. One day, my friend Amanda (who is obsessed-- to put it lightly-- with peanut butter) taught me her favourite recipe for pasta: Peanut Noodles. Miri decided that this sauce is sexy, and voila: Sexy Peaunt Noodles!

6 TB of each of the following:
- Rice Vinegar
- Sugar
- Soya Sauce
- Oil (I like to use Sesame oil, but vegetable oil will suffice).
1/2- 3/4 cup of Peanut Butter (depending on how much you love peanut butter). I prefer crunchy, as then you get the chunks that you get in a Pad Thai sauce, but creamy is delicious as well.

Put together over heat until you can no longer see or feel the sugar or peanut butter (5-7 minutes on a good flame). Serve hot on noodles, or use as a dip.

Slightly less sexy, but here you go!
I was cooking for a friend who doesn't like peanut butter, but had few ingredients (or little time) to make him his own separate dish. So instead, I mixed the following:

6 TB of Rice Vinegar (note: I ran out of Rice Vinegar (I make this a lot!) so I used half regular vinegar and half rice vinegar)
5 TB of Sugar (I was cooking for "health conscious" people)
6 TB of Soya Sauce
6 TB of Vegetable Oil (I was cooking for someone who hated Sesame Oil-- my friends are picky!)
1/4 cup of Peanut Butter

I cooked them the same way I normally do, and I served them on noodles-- lovely dish, got lots of praise! 

Enjoy :)