Starter Dishes

Poached Salmon Miso Soup

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So it’s practically summer* and I’ve decided to blog about a type of dish to reflect such a season. Now yes, I know; a soup is hardly a summer course, but this is a lovely and light poached salmon soup which leaves you satisfied but does not fill you up and bloat you out of your bikini or swimming trunks.

It’s a beautifully executed dish and the colours are lovely. It’s served with Asian vegetables and the broth is made from miso paste and fish stock, so it’s all goooooood. Oh and low in fat too. I saw this recipe on a Gordon Ramsey programme once and tweaked it a little by using dark miso paste instead of white miso paste and shiitake mushrooms instead of enoki mushrooms.

And by the way, the above substitutions did not come from some divine chef-minded inspiration or anything… I just couldn’t find the original white miso and enoki fungi. Simple. But hey, these replacements worked really well and probably just as good as the original! You can find Gordon’s recipe in his book “Ultimate Cookery Course”.

Tip; Dark miso paste is A LOT more salty than white so use only a little and taste as you do. This is a truth that I and my 3 beautiful guinea pigs discovered when I served this one evening… The equivalent of a bathtub full of water was required and handed out with the rest of the meal. It was a near, death-by-dehydration.

*(A fact widely observed by the study of weather apps highlighting that this season is everywhere in Europe, but definitely not here in the jolly Emerald Isle of Ireland)

Difficulty: Easy-Medium

Prep and cooking time: 20 minutes

Price:  €17

Music I listened to: 

“Time for Change”, Mötley Crüe

“I Found A Boy”, Adele

“Second Crisis”, Ennio Morricone

“Slow”, Rumer

“Rocks”, Primal Scream

Wine I drank: Prosecco

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

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  • 1-1½  tbsp (approx, taste-test) dark miso paste
  • 750ml fish stock
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1-2 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 3cm piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely sliced
  • 500g side of organic salmon, skin on, scaled and pin-boned
  • 1 pak choi
  • 150g tenderstem broccoli
  • 25g shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • Sea salt

Method

Place the miso paste in a large pan and whisk in the stock. Taste and add a little salt if necessary. Bring to a simmer, but don’t boil too rapidly as it may separate, and then add the lime leave, chilli and ginger.

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Cut the salmon in half widthways if not already sliced, then add to the stock, skin side down and gently simmer for 8-10 minutes, basting the salmon in the liquid until cooked through.

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Separate the pak choi leaves from the stems. Chop the stems into bit-sized pieces and shred the leaves. Trim the broccoli and slice in half from top to bottom.

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Carefully transfer the salmon to a plate with a fish slice and pour a small ladleful of broth over it. Bring the remaining stock in the pan to the boil.

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Put the broccoli and the mushrooms into the broth and after 30 seconds add the pak choi stems. Cook for a further 1-2 minutes, then add the pak choi leaves and cook for about 1 minute.

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Meanwhile, carefully peel the skin off the salmon, discard it and flake the salmon flesh into large chunks.

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Just before serving, rub your bowls with a little toasted sesame seed oil, place the Asian vegetables into the bowl and tier them into layers while placing the salmon on top. Spoon a few ladles of broth around the tower of yummy-ness and serve!

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Categories: Fish, Starter Dishes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Pan Fried Scallops with Black Pudding, Pea Purée, Pancetta & White Truffle Oil

Some people are so afraid of cooking scallops and I just don’t understand why! They are not going to jump out of the pan and gnaw at your face; trust me, I know. They only take 2 minutes in a frying pan and really make a starter so full of class but simple at the same time.

This dish is so colourful! And I am now a huge pea purée devotee. I had never made it before and when I was whipping up my version I decided to throw in some parmesan cheese and wow… how awesome. I am so making this for my 5 month old Goddaughter when she is old enough to manage it. I literally could not stop eating it and it actually stood out more than the scallops on the dish.

You go little peas! Take on those scallops.

The black pudding also makes the dish a little more bulky so be prepared; if it’s a starter, be sure to have a break before you have your mains. It is very rich and filling, but so goddamn satisfying.

Enjoy.

Difficulty: Easy

Prep and cooking time: 25 minutes

Price:  €16

Music I listened to: 

“The Adjustment Bureau” soundtrack by Thomas Newman

Wine I drank: Chardonnay

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

  • 150g/5oz petit pois (frozen is fine)
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • Large knob of butter
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 10 mint leaves
  • 50ml chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6 large slices of good black pudding
  • 65g/2oz pancetta
  • 6 large scallops, cleaned and row removed
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • Drizzle of white truffle oil

Method:

Ok so let’s start with the yummy pea purée…

In a small pot over a medium heat, melt the butter. Now add the shallots and garlic and sweat for five minutes. Throw in the mint, peas and the chicken stock and bring to a simmer and cook for five minutes. Add the parmesan cheese. Blend the pea mixture in a liquidiser until smooth. Season to taste and set aside and keep warm. Easy peasy! (Sorry…)

Now grab your black pudding slices. Heat the pan to a low-medium heat and fry the pudding on both sides until cooked. Try not to burn it. You just want it slightly crispy on the outside. Should be about 5 minutes each side. Set aside and keep warm.

It’s now the pancetta’s turn to face the wrath of the frying pan. Wipe the pan clean and fry the pancetta over a medium heat until nice and crispy. Not burnt…Crispy! That’s it. Don’t clean the pan as you’ll want to fry the scallops in the oil fat the pancetta omitted. Set aside.

Now onto the big guns; grab your scallops. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive in over a medium heat in your frying pan. The amount will depend on how much oil the fried pancetta let out on the pan. Once the pan is heated, place the scallops on it.

After about 1 minute turn them over and cook for another minute. They should be golden in colour. As they are cooking, squeeze a bit of lemon juice over them.

Now get your plates and spoon 3 little blobs of the pea purée on it. Add a slice of black pudding on each and then a scallop. Sprinkle the pancetta over the little rounds and dash a little white truffle oil over them.

Done!

Categories: Fish, Starter Dishes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Avocado & Cucumber Mousse with Cherry Tomato & White Truffle Oil Salsa

I never really understood why some people dislike avocados. Yes, yes I know; each to their own. But to me, they are just so damn delicious. They are creamy and nutty in flavour, so versatile and scrum-diddly-umptious in sandwiches, dips, salads etc, etc.

I’m not going to bore you with the nutritional facts of avocados because there are just so many positives and reasons to prove how unbelievably good they are for you. Yes, I can hear some people say ‘but they are so high in fat’?! Alright, they may contain 25% fat but this, my calorie conscious friends, is indeed the right fat. Ever heard of monounsaturated fat? Did you know this fat is good for you? Yep, it is! It basically reduces the bad (LDL) cholesterol and boosts the good (HDL) cholesterol. This fat is just so ‘fat-astic’!!!

(Ok, I’m sorry. I’m even face-palming myself right now for subjecting you to that pun. I’m sorry. Please forgive me).

So, here we have a recipe for Avocado & Cucumber Mousse with Cherry Tomato and White Truffle Oil Salsa. This is loosely based on a Mary Berry dish. Her example was more of a guideline really. I have changed the quantities, added different ingredients and of course, decided to add the divine white truffle oil to the salsa.

This starter is lovely, pretty and also a classy dish that is perfect for dinner parties! It’s made ahead so you don’t have to worry about preparing anything later but the salsa. It’s subtle in flavour but the truffle oil really accentuates the creamy, nutty taste of the avocado, the freshness of the cucumber and the sweetness of the cherry tomato salsa. Yummy!

So don’t delay! Get your ingredients ready and guac ‘n’ roll!!!

(Jeez, I’m really sorry again. I have a pun problem. I’m receiving treatment for it).

Difficulty: Easy – Medium

Prep and cooking time:

Mousse: Once cucumber has been drained with salt, prep/cooking is about 30 minutes then leave to set for at least 6 hours.

Salsa: 5 minutes

Price:  €10

Music I listened to: 

‘Supermassive Black Hole’, Muse

‘All My Days’, Alexi Murdoch

‘Brand New Day’, Joshua Radin

‘Mr. Brightside’, The Killers

‘Let Go’, Frou Frou

Wine I drank: Chenin Blanc

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

The Mousse

  • ½ cucumber
  • Packet of gelatin
  • 1 ripe avocado, stoned, peeled and roughly chopped (remove any dark bits)
  • 100g/3.5 oz low-fat cream cheese
  • 100g/3.5oz low-fat fromage frais or sour cream
  • 3 tbsp of good light mayonnaise
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 75ml warm chicken stock (or vegetable stock if vegetarian)
  • 2 tbsp chopped dill
  • Salt

The Salsa

  • 1 ripe avocado, stoned, peeled and roughly chopped (remove any dark bits)
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 1/2 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp white truffle oil
  • 280g/10oz organic cherry tomatoes, deseeded and thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp chopped dill

Method

Grease the sides of 4 ramekins with a little oil. Peel the cucumber and cut it in half lengthways. Remove the seeds with a teaspoon and chop up into very small dice. Put the cucumber in a sieve over a boil and sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt. The salt will dehydrate the cucumber to remove some of the liquid. Leave for about an 1 hour.

Follow the instructions on the box for your packet of gelatine. It should be about 11g-15g per packet and you only need 1. If for some reason you don’t have any instructions, the normal way of preparing the gelatine is to put it into a bowl and sprinkle about 3 tablespoons of cold water on it. Leave to sponge for about 10 minutes. Once sponged, stand the bowl in a pan containing a little boiling water to dissolve the gelatine.

Now, put the avocado, cream cheese, fromage frais, mayonnaise and lemon into a bowl and blend with a handheld blender or put into a food processor and blend until smooth. Pour the gelatine into the warm stock and mix together. Pour into the bowl and blend again until mixed thoroughly. Stir in the diced cucumber with the dill and then season with some salt as desired.

Pour the mixture into the ramekins, cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 6 hours or overnight until firm.

So, it’s about an 1 hour before you want to serve your smart, little starter. Make your salsa! Mix all the salsa ingredients into a bowl and lightly season (if necessary). Cover and ignore this colourful goodness for an hour in order to let the flavours infuse.

Hour is up and it’s starter time! Run a thin knife around the ramekins, then tip the mousse onto a plate and shake to release from the ramekins.

Serve with the salsa.

Classy!

Categories: Starter Dishes, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Garlic Mushrooms with Spinach and Brie

Love mushrooms? What about the large ones? Do you love them too? Do you love stuffing them with whatever is leftover in the fridge and then throwing them into the oven? Yeah, me too.

Try this latest creation and it will use up that sad and lonely leftover spinach which just wants to call a new dish their home. It is an easy starter course if you decide to entertain your amigos with an evening of gastronomy and it’s also perfect if you are on a tight budget.

I like to serve this before a rich main and when I know I will be providing a comfortable 20 minute break between the 2 courses. Why? Well it is fresh and juicy and deceptively filling (only temporarily though) as the mushroom omits an impressive amount of water when baked and the tomato slices like to join in on the watery fun by releasing their own liquids. So when you take a bite, these flavourful juices release and add more bulk to your mouthful. This then gives you a momentarily satisfied fullness that lasts through the nice break until your main arrives.

Because it fills you for a brief period, I don’t bother serving it with anything on the side. It doesn’t require it. “But I want this as my main meal” you say! Well then serve it with a salad, flavoured rice, couscous or whatever your wee taste buds fancy.

Oh and just don’t do what I did when I made this the first time; I saw the tomatoes, the spinach, the mushrooms and the brie sitting in their respective positions in my fridge. My mind started to race; “What can I do? Hmmm, do I have garlic? Yep! Excellent, I know what I’ll do”. So I dashed to get my mushroom meal started and in my hasty preparation, I completely forgot to wash the spinach when I was rinsing the mushrooms. So what was meant to be a yummy, simple and smooth starter turned out to be a less succulent, uncomfortable, gritty mayhem. It looked pretty though. So I had another try and washed the spinach this time and yes! Success!! No grainy chaos to ruin the enjoyment of this dish and it was yummy. So this long story has a small tip… WASH THE SPINACH FIRST!

Difficulty: Easy

Prep and cooking time: 20 minutes

Price:  €5

Music I listened to: 

‘Perfect’, Pink

‘Never Think’, Robert Pattinson

‘5 Years Time (Sun, Sun, Sun)’, Noah and the Whale

Wine I drank: Chardonnay

Serves: 3

Ingredients:

  • 75g/3oz butter
  • 3 Portobello mushrooms or large field mushrooms
  • 125g/4-5oz spinach
  • 3 garlic cloves, finally chopped
  • 1 large beef tomato
  • 75g/3oz brie
  • paprika

Method:

Wash your mushrooms, spinach and tomato and pat dry with kitchen towel. Melt half the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat and cook the mushrooms on both sides until they start to soften but not burn. This should be about 3 minutes on each side. Transfer to a baking tray.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Melt the remaining butter in the pan over a low-medium heat and add the spinach. Once the spinach has wilted (about 3 minutes), add the chopped garlic and season.

A little word of advice; be sure to season this well and to your liking as this is added to the centre of the mushrooms and acts as the main flavour so be sure it has just that and taste-test!! Once seasoned correctly, spoon the spinach on top of the mushrooms.

Ok so the mushrooms and spinach are prepared. Move on to the tomato; Cut 3 thick rounds from the beef tomato and fry in the pan on both sides for about 30 seconds and place it on top of the spinach.

So, to the brie; cut relatively thin slices of the brie, about 3 or 4 slices per mushroom.If serving this immediately, place on to the mushroom, sprinkle with a little paprika and put under a preheated, medium grill for 5 minutes.

If on the other hand, you are like me and want to serve this later, leave the mushrooms on the baking tray and put the brie slices aside. About 15 minutes before you want to put the mushrooms in the oven, place the brie slices on a plate and into the freezer. Slightly freezing the brie delays it from cooking quicker than the mushroom and prevents it from burning while the mushroom is cooking. You want the brie and the mushroom to cross the cooked finishing line together! After the 15 minutes, take the brie slices out of their cold hiding place and put 3-4 slices on each mushroom. Sprinkle with paprika.

Now, put it into a preheated oven at 220°c/220°c fan for about 8-10 minutes until hot and the cheese has melted. Remove from the oven. Place on a warm plate sprinkled with more paprika.

And you’re done. Easy, easy, easy!

Categories: Starter Dishes, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Simple & Healthy Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup

I love sweetcorn. It is so delicious, crisp and flavourful. When my boyfriend and I were on holiday in Madeira last year, everyday we ate fresh corn on the cob roasted on the barbie. We would strip the casing and silky threads off the cob, toss them in a little butter, season well with salt and black pepper, wrap in tinfoil and roast on the open barbecue. It is by far the best and most delicious way to cook and eat corn on the cob. And from my many travels around California, I learnt the whiter the raw corn kernels; the sweeter and more crisp the corn.

This soup is a favourite of mine and whenever I am in a Chinese restaurant and watching my fat intake (if you can when in a Chinese restaurant!), I always order this soup. It’s healthy, tasty and filling!

The recipe is adapted from www.bbcgoodfood.com. I made the exact soup from the site before but I wasn’t too hot on the amount of lemon juice being added. For me, chicken and sweetcorn soup should not have a lemon flavour, but more an enhanced flavour of the components being brought out by the lemon juice. I doubled the recipe (because what’s the point of going to the effort of cooking when it only serves 2 portions??) and I kept the original amount of lemon juice. I used sesame oil instead of vegetable oil and I added more garlic and some mushrooms as I like my soup to be more of a meal then a watery starter.

Difficulty: Easy

Prep and cooking time: 30 mins all in!

Price:  €10 or under

Music I listened to:

  • ‘We Are Young’, Fun Feat. Janelle Monae
  • ‘Express Yourself’, Labrinth
  • ‘Laserlight’, Jessie J Feat. David Guetta
  • ‘Part Of Me’, Katy Perry

Wine I drank: Merlot

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp Sesame oil
  • 200g boneless, skinless Chicken breast, shredded or finely chopped
  • 2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
  • 6 closed cup Mushrooms, finely sliced
  • 1tsp of ground Ginger or 1 cm piece Ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp Cornflour
  • 1.2 litres or 1200ml Chicken stock
  • 250g Sweetcorn
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 tsp fresh Lemon juice
  • Shredded Spring onions, to garnish
  • Dark Soy sauce

Method:

Heat the oil in a deep saucepan over a low-medium heat and add the garlic, ginger, chicken and mushrooms. Cook for 4 mins without colouring.

And the cornflour, a little stock and mix together. Then add the remaining stock and sweetcorn. Bring to the boil then simmer for 5-7 mins stirring occasionally.

In a bowl, beat the egg and the lemon juice then slowly add it to the soup stirring with a chopstick or a fork to break it up and give an egg strand effect. Season to taste and add spring onions to garnish and soy sauce as desired.

Voilà!!

Categories: Starter Dishes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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