Asian glazed salmon with sesame roast vegetables and quick pickled cucumbers

DSC06770This “warmish” saladΒ has become something of an unintentional fixture in my current cooking repertoire. I love how the soy sauce and miso salty-umami flavours cut through the richness of the fish – a far cry from my first experiences of eating salmon baked in a bed of puff pastry.Β Despite the fact salmon is definitely a rich meat, this makes it the perfect vehicle for the pickled cucumbers and loads of vegetables for freshness.

Because this salad is best served lukewarm/room temperature, it is easy to prepare in advance if hosting a group for lunch or casual summer dinner. I often pick up the fresh salmon tails or cut pieces from my supermarket as they are often on special despite only being packed that day – in which case I buy enough for four servings and make enough for lunches later. There are certainly a few components to this dish, however I think it would be a shame not to include them all as they work so well together.

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shamelessly good shakshoukah

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Serving this shakshoukah was my Sunday saving grace. Without this deliciously spicy baked egg number to provide me with the satisfaction of next level stay-at-home brunching, I’m afraid the latter half of my weekend would have been vastly less fulfilling (my attempts at napping twice were pathetic at best and I cleared my Gmail inbox out of over 4,000 messages dating back to 2005). I know something must taste good when I instantly want to share it with other people – so here you are, hastily snapped iPhone photo and all. I was far too busy demolishing my plate with a voracious appetite to grab my camera and haphazardly attempt to style the dish during the glorious eating process.

I’ve never made shakshoukah before – I think something about having to do two things and open a tin of tomatoes put me off, and now I’m seriously wondering why. With a handy pair hands nearby to cut the onions so I didn’t have to do any of the crying (seriously, it’s profuse and unfortunately not at all cathartic), it was nearly as easy as simply frying up my usual bacon and eggs. Perhaps what’s put me off further is that I’ve also never had a particularly amazing rendition of what I feel is its true potential when I have ordered it out at a restaurant – the tomato never quite reduced enough, the chorizo more sausage than Spanish vehicle for salty spiciness. I went all out in preparation for this, purchasing my very own “chorizo hot piece” imported from Spain for the experience.

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smoked salmon and preserved lemon frittata

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Egg bakes are one of the easiest, most nutritious ways to make four portions of main meals. The additions of smoked salmon with the salty, citrus bite of the preserved lemon makes these eggs taste next level – to the point where I have brought this along for night shift and quite happily consumed it on four consecutive occasions.

I’m a huge advocate for lazy, one bowl situations for meal preparation, and this dish here is no exception. I’m obviously not coming up with anything new – a frittata is a frittata, after all, but I can’t overemphasise how great a combination the fish and preserved citrus are together. I’ve had the two things lying about in the fridge for a while (another bonus) – both bought on special and keep forever – and so ultimately very little effort was taken here. Previously when I’ve been throwing together egg bakes I’ve used cheese to cut through the obvious “egginess” of the eggs, but with the lemons finely chopped throughout, there’s really no need. I’m not just catering to dietary restrictions here (dairy free, paleo, primal, low carb, pescatarian) – this is simply delicious in general.

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cauliflower rice “paella”

This is not a paella by any stretch of the Spanish imagination, as it is clearly missing its integral rice component. To call it by any other name, however, and I couldn’t convey how it tastes nearly as good.

(Let it be noted, however, that it is in fact primal/paleo/keto friendly/low carb/gluten free/dairy free, but don’t let that put you off)

Evidently, it’s not all treats around here. I’ve subbed out rice for cauliflower – one of my favourite, fart-stench-creating-to-prepare low carb substitutes. I absolutely love the taste of rice – to the point where I have previously claimed it to be one of my favourite carbohydrates, but thankfully with the caramelised prawns and spicy chorizo to contend with, I don’t miss it here. It even reheats beautifully – however there was certainly none left when I served this to my parents while I was home for the weekend.

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the ultimate protein/low carb hot cakes


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At the end of 2012, I went from deliberating over which protein powder to buy for weeks because I had no idea what the difference was between whey and casein, and moreover, the obviously huge effect 23g protein/serve vs. 24g, to happily eating up to three serves of the stuff on a daily basis. I would eat protein powder in shake, sludge and pancake form, multiple times a day. To be completely honest, the pancakes that I made back then were dry and borderline inedible, and not like pancakes at all.

These are a little different (read: fluffy and akin to a pancake), thanks to a few tweaks. Separating the eggs and beating the whites at room temperature is utterly essential, along with the addition of a high fat, slightly sour dairy product to make the batter lighter and fluffier. The xanthan gum is a kind of celiac rite of passage to purchase when you get diagnosed – it acts as a binder when using gluten free flours, but is also great for thickening any kind of batter or smoothie. There are so many low carb pancake recipes, perhaps most notably the crepe-type involving cream cheese and eggs. My favourite McDonald’s breakfast was always the hotcakes with whipped butter as a child, and these are it, in low carb, full fat form.

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chicken and aubergine tray bake with cauliflower rice “tabouleh”

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I made a terrible mistake in the preparation of this dish in that I purchased chicken breasts for protein. It’s not so much that I dislike chicken breast as I prefer pretty much every other cut of chicken to it. Generally when I’m meal prepping (as I did with this dish) with chicken, I will use boneless, skinless chicken thighs for ease, but a bonier cut such as a whole butterflied chicken or even just legs or drumsticks would work well and add more flavour. Chicken breast is fine, darker meat is delicious.

I suppose this recipe may end up looking a bit involved for something I actually intended to just have lying around for leftover dinner prior to leaving for night shift. It is highly likely that if I’d read it in a magazine I would have 100% skipped past it because it calls for more than one cooking vessel. However, once the bake is in the oven, there is very little to do for the cauliflower to make it the perfect little salad to balance out the meal. This is unsurprisingly one of those meals that gets better the longer you leave it, and so it was utterly marvellous to prepare for low effort dinners. I’d call it versatile enough to even serve to guests (especially as it can be prepared well in advance), but I think that’s just because it tastes really good. The bake itself is incredibly flavoursome. Beyond simply serving it alongside this fresh, citrus based salad, I would suggest a yoghurt-based accompaniment.

Some of the ingredients (preserved lemons, za’atar, pomegranate molasses) are not exactly typical kitchen staples, but I promise that they all hang about long enough for you to experiment and experience their deliciousness in other dishes also.

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twice-cooked beef short ribs

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Mum bestowed me with beef after visiting Wellington a few days ago. I now have a brisket waiting to be braised (perhaps smoked if I’m feeling ambitious), a scotch fillet in the freezer – and short ribs that I prepared yesterday. Short rib is absolutely one of my favourite cuts of meat. It’s not readily available in most New Zealand supermarkets – my Mum bought these ones – neatly trimmed and cut into individual pieces, no less – from a European butcher in Lower Hutt. Cooking these short ribs has made me realise how much more experience I have to gain in preparing braised meat dishes. It is not something I do particularly regularly, and I’m excited that the prospect of autumn and winter will provide me with plenty of opportunity to familiarise myself with reaching the perfect fall-off-the-bone result.

The twice cooked part of this recipe is entirely optional – personally I love the taste of grilled beef fat, and so it really added to the dish. In the interests of saving time, you could just as easily throw everything in the slow cooker, though the result would be flavoursome, I’m not sure it would be as rich and satisfying. We served these alongside polenta chips – something of an experiment inspired by our visit to Venetian restaurant Ombra on Thursday. Not quite perfect yet – hence no recipe, but these ribs would also be great alongside potatoes in practically any form – roasted or mashed springs to mind.

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