Not many words to say here really!
In Adelaide, summer is in full flight and eating gets a little harder!
No one wants “difficult” especially when it’s hot out, people just want “easy” and this recipe is simple, tasty and appetising on a hot Australian summer day.
The use of the filo here is add texture and flavour of parmesan wafers, slightly cramelised and crispy with a slight salty flavour. The honey counter balances the salt nicely and the cucumber cleans the palate so you can experience the next mouthful cleanly.
This filo wafer can also be used on cheese boards, just add an extra layer or two. If you change the filo to puff pastry, cut it in long strips and twist it for bread sticks and eat it it with Parma ham and rock melon for a nice summer snack.
Smoked Salmon, Parmesan Filo, Cucumber & Cress Salad, Yoghurt Dressing
720gr Smoked Salmon
15 Sheets of Filo Pastry
150gr Melted Butter
150gr Parmesan Cheese
1tspn Aniseed - toasted on dry pan, slightly ground
1tsp Fennel Seeds – toasted on dry pan, slightly ground
1tsp Cumin Seed - toasted on dry pan, slightly ground
250ml Greek Yoghurt
100ml Creme Fraiche
250gr Watercress – washed, long stems picked off
EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
For the filo wafers
- Turn the oven on at 180 degrees Celsius
- On a clean bench, spread out the one layer of filo pastry
- Brush the pastry completely with melted butter using a pastry brush
- Micro plane the parmesan cheese until a thin layer completely covers the surface of the filo
- Place another layer of filo on top of this, comepltely covering the first layer
- Repeat this process on the new layer of filo
- On the top of the third layer, brush with melted butter until completely covered, then sprinkle a little of each of the aniseed, fennel seed and cumin seed, evenly
- Place on a buttered roasting pan and bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. It should come out in sheets, break it into smaller wafers ready for service
For the Dressing
- Place the yogurt, creme fraiche and honey in a bowl and mix well with a rubber spatula
- Taste for balance and see if needs extra honey. Should be honey sweet, no sweeter!
For the Cucumber
- Cut the ends off the cucumber the cut it in half so you end up with two even lengths
- Using a mandolin, slice the cucumber lengthways until you hit the seeds, then stop slicing (do not slice into the seeds, it juices out to much and does not hold it’s shape)
- Stack the cucumber neatly, one on top of each other as they come out of the mandolin
- Finely slice the cucumber across the length, ending up with match stick like batons of cucumber
- You are going to layer the ingredients starting with a layer of filo wafer on the bottom
- Followed by a layer of slightly folded salmon (for height)
- Then some water cress
- Then a dollop of dressing
- Then another layer of filo wafer
- Another layer of salmon
- Then dressing and finally, the cucumber match sticks for garnish
- EVOO around the plate
If God created a place for all his children so that they can run, play and marvel at pure, awesome beauty, then that place would have to be Queenstown.
I think I am at home in the cold, surrounded by snow capped, jagged edged mountains that touch the clouds. I think I am at home in a place surrounded by tall pine trees, so thick and dense that the colour green places my heart and mind at ease. I think I am at home beside the wide and vast lakes that make it seem you are at sea when you look into it, with it’s dark blue clear waters that stretch on for miles, disappearing behind the mountains that frames every view of the city.
I love Vancouver, the place where I first fell in love with snow capped mountains and the deep dark waters of the lakes in and around it. It seemed peaceful and the people seemed to be so relaxed. The views are breath taking and I can remember thinking that I never wanted to leave the place. Switzerland was the other place close fitting to this scenery.
Queenstown is much the same and I never thought I would say this, but I think it’s more breath taking than Vancouver! I’m sorry BC, I still love you but man Queenstown is something else.
On the plane ride in, I was swept away by the views. We flew in on a dreary day, over cast and from the onset, it looked dark and cold. The plane, upon its decent felt like a feather falling from the sky, swaying from side to side, dipping, diving and suddenly dropping. It was a plane landing where I seriously thought might not end like traditional plane landings but we managed to land safely, some how!
As soon as you get out of the plane and onto the tar mac, you are first reminded of how cold this place is then, as soon as you look around to get your bearings, you are swept away by the beauty all around you. The colour blue, green, white surrounds you. And the air, it’s noticeably fresh, clean and so refreshing.
On my first day there, I checked into the Hilton Queenstown. Right on the foot steps of the Remarkables, which are the snow capped mountains that stand as the back drop to Queenstown and one of the ski hills frequented by the ski bunnies in winter.
The Hilton is about 15 minutes drive from Queenstown city centre but don’t let that discourage you. So long as you have a car (which is pretty cheap to hire and a necessity if you want to sight see), then every thing is quite easy to get to.
Hilton Queenstown is on the banks of the lake Wakatipu and it is by far one of the most beautiful hotels I have stayed in and believe me, having worked for many brands of hotels for most of my career, I’ve seen my fair share. The location is prime, with clear views of the town from all angles. The mountains are so close you can almost touch them and you can walk right down to the lakes edge and look into Queenstown in the distance.
The hotel is laid out much like a ski lodge. The building is not tall, which is great because it doesn’t spoil the view and the rooms it self are fantastic. With twin basins and deep baths in the bath rooms, right through to the open fire place. The room I was in had double balcony’s with a flat screen TV that swings around to all angles, allowing you to watch it from bed.
The hotel’s amenities are fantastic, particularly the bar where you can enjoy your beer and meal by the huge open fire or the out door deck surrounded by the scenery or simply at the bar being entertained by the superb hospitality of the Hilton bar staff.
Completing the experience were the wonderful staff that worked there. Every one was helpful and suggested so many activities, locations to visit and places of interest and the concierge team and Nathan in particular were truly amazing. He organized tours and bookings and showed us places I would other wise never thought of. In short, this hotel is by far the best I have stayed in; service was great, location amazing and the rooms were definitely five star.
In the five days I was In Queenstown, I enjoyed so many things that this fabulous town offered. Firstly, to enjoy this town, you must get a car. I got a small but new Holden Barina, great to drive and great on petrol.
There are really only two ways to go, left or right. You sort of do a loop to Wanaka and back. From Queenstown, I drove to Cromwell, from Cromwell to Wanaka and then from Wanaka to Arrowtown and back to Queenstown.
On this tour I stopped of at a few wineries in Gibbston Valley, one being Wild Earth. Placed close to the rapids just outside of Cromwell, this little place is a gem. Their pinots are amazing and I must say, one of he best I have tasted in a while. I stopped there to also taste their intriguing food. It is a tasting platter, complete with matching wines. What is intriguing about this food is that everything is cooked in converted old wine barrels to give a unique flavour to the food. Quentin, the chef and proprietor of the place, came up with this way of cooking and it was rather interesting to say the least. I was fascinated at how they presented their food, on small slabs cut from old wine barrels and the wine flight was also served in the a small part of a wine barrel. This food presentation was something I will definitely look into, I thought it was very clever and appealing.
Don’t worry about the wines, you get only a small taste of each wine so you won’t fly over the limit if you’re driving and the food is good, a definite lunch stop if ever you are in the area and if you’re into it, it is also where the jet boats are launched from!
From there I headed to Wanaka, with the weather getting better and better as the day went on. I was lucky to have picked an awesome sunny day to visit Wanaka and it was the type of day you can sit by this beautiful lake, soak in the rays and enjoy the scenery. More lakes and snow capped mountains fill the scenery.
Whilst I was in Wanaka, I decided to have an organic smoothie at Soul Food, located on the main street of Wanaka city centre. Paul is the owner of this place and it’s nice to see so many varieties of organic food being sold and prepared at such a beautiful and engaging shop. Visit him, his smoothies are great and drink it under the shade in the little veggie garden he has out the back!
Just outside of Wanaka, go to a place called Have a Shot. This place was a highlight for me. I love guns, especially rifles and for around $75 you get to hit golf balls at a range, shoot a bow and arrow, shoot a .22cal rifle but the most exciting of all, the clay pigeon shooting. I looked forward to clay pigeon shooting and as it turned out, it truly was great fun. I’ve shot guns before but this time I enjoyed shooting them at a moving target. I enjoyed it so much that I just had to go again. I am convinced that I’m addicted; I think I might take it on as sport!
The drive from Wanaka to Arrowtown is amazing. You come from high up the mountains, slowly winding your way down into Arrowtown. The view opens it self up more and more as you descend down, with each turn giving you a new perspective of the valley below. The road is meanders down the hill, turning into some very tight corners forcing you to really take it slow, which is great because you get to enjoy the views.
Arrowtown is a small little town, about 15 minutes away from Queenstown. I was instantly drawn to this little town.
Surrounded by trees, its made up of a small main street no longer than a couple of hundred meters long and both sides of the road lined with small little shops in buildings that were probably the original buildings built so many years ago. It wasn’t snowing when I was there, but I could imagine that this place would be a carbon copy of little towns you would normally find in the Swiss Alps, it just had that look and feel about it.
The houses beyond the main street were so beautiful, made of wooden slats and a lot of them lined with picket fences. I loved this little town, because it seemed so peaceful, a type of place you can easily let go and forget the hustle and bustle of the big cities. If there is any one in Arrowtown looking for an experienced chef, please consider this as my application, I would move there at a drop of a hat!
Now for the best bits, the food.
Queenstown offers so many choices from fine dining right through to tasty, no fuss meals. I decided to have a taste of both worlds.
An institution in Queenstown. You know you are in the right place because it is constantly packed, so much so, there were people lined up outside waiting, just to get a burger. I was excited, anticipation was high after seeing the line up and the buzz outside this place. This must the place where so many people have told me about “the” most amazing burger and if you know me, I love a good burger, ribs or hot dogs.
The menu is quite big and the there is something for every one, ranging from the moderately hungry right through to the very hungry. The burgers are pretty big and very tasty. A nice, chutney type sauce in the burger and the meat patties are quite tasty. Ferg Burgers are good but I am sorry to say, I’m still in search for “the” great burger, nevertheless, these burgers did the job and I can’t help but think that the hype has built this burger bigger than what it actually is.
Flame Bar and Grill Restaurant
I must have walked past this place a million times trying to find it. I could smell the goodness before I even saw the place. Again, this place is packed, how ever you can book here and I suggest you do before you just walk in because chances are, they would be full.
This restaurant is right down my alley. It had all of my food vices in one place from burgers, flame grilled sticky pork ribs, chicken wings and even grilled fish. I ordered the pork ribs, one whole slab please! And I tell you, THE best ribs I’ve had for a long time. They were tender, juicy, sticky, smokey and very very tasty indeed! They didn’t last too long, it was devoured with in minutes. I was full but just on flavour alone, I think I could have done another slab, EASILY but I didn’t in the risk of being judged by the people that packed the restaurant. Highly recommend this place and on my way out, I found out you can get a combo meal consisting of ribs, grilled steak, sausage and chicken wings! OMG – true awesomeness on one plate!
Saffron is a restaurant in Arrowtown. This restaurant is beautiful and the type of place I could see myself comfortably enjoying a meal in the middle of winter. It has that cosy feel about it, with a open fire place in the middle of the room and warm yellow lights that illuminate the wood and stone that make up the structure of the entire restaurant.
The food was presented well and punched big, bold flavours. The plates were so colourful and the smells that came out of the kitchen were delectable.
The flavours seemed to be influenced by Thai cuisine and the menu certainly read that way. I started with a crispy whitebait with lemon and ailoi which was tasty and well seasoned. That was followed up with a crispy pork and squid salad with a tangy lime and soy dressing which was really big on flavours but tasted rather nice and for mains I had the braised beef in wanton with crispy ribs, served with a type of Thai influenced curry sauce. It was a strange combination of flavours and textures but it was still a nice meal.
Saffron is a lovely restaurant and the service staff were very attentive and were very good. They knew their product well and we were served professionally, fitting of that type of “higher end” restaurant. I had higher expectations of the food and was really excited to dine there but although it was an ok experience, it certainly doesn’t make it in my top ten restaurants.
I have talked about “Dude Food” several times, I just have a huge fascination with it. To me, it’s about comfort. I love cooking and eating food that’s tasty, easy to eat and easy to recognize.
More and more people are looking for food that is “easy”. I feel that these days, no one seems to have the patience or time for “uppity” type food in stiff restaurants. People are looking for a place that’s comfortable, light, fun and accessible to most people. Atmosphere plays a huge role, served by people who are knowledgeable but approachable, relaxed and easy going. The food has got to be easy but packed full of flavour. People have got to know it because they don’t have the patience of a long winded explanation of what they’re about to eat, they just need to be enticed quickly by recognizing it quickly on the menu or by orders being walked to tables by waiters. Fancy food is out people, mark my words and it is also why I believe food trucks in Australia much like the food trucks in America will do so well, why you say, well for many different reasons. The trucks are so accessible to many people, they’re cheap, fresh and they produce really tasty meals and these days, what else does one need?
There are many recipes here, from the spice mix, the okra, the chicken and tartare sauce. Try them separately in other dishes, for example, try the spice mix with fish or baked potatoes or even on rice, paella style. With the buttermilk chicken, try it with thin strips of beef or even fish using the same methods, it works out really well.
Buttermilk Chicken, Polenta Crumbed Okra with House Made Tartare Sauce
For the Cajun Mix
¼ Cup Salt
2 Tbspn Ceyenne Pepper
2 Tbspn paprika
1 Tbspn Onion Powder
1 tbspn Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 Tbspn Freshly Ground White Pepper
1 Tbspn Garlic Powder
2 Tsp Dried Basil
1 Tsp Chilli Powder
¼ Tspn Dried Thyme
¼ Tspn Ground Mustard
1/8 Tspn Ground Cloves
For the Buttermilk Chicken
1kg chicken Wings
250gr Plain Flour
2litres Vegetable Oil
For the Okra
200gr Plain Flour
200gr Plain Flour
2 litres Vegetable Oil – for frying
For the Tartare Sauce
1Tspn Dijon Mustard
¼ Cup White Vinegar
600ml Vegetable Oil
1 Lemon – juiced
1tblsp Worcestershire Sauce
100gr Cornichuns – finely chopped
80gr Capers – finely chopped
I Brown Onion – roasted in skins until soft then peeled, finely chopped
5 Cloves garlic – roasted in alfoil until slightly brown and soft, finely chopped
1 Bunch Parsley – finely chopped
For the Cajun Mix
- Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly
For the Buttermilk Chicken
- Mix 2/3 of the Cajun spice mix together with the buttermilk
- Place the chicken wings into the buttermilk mixture and marinate for at least 30 minutes, over night is better
- Once marinated, strain excess buttermilk and dust with flour
- Heat the oil to 180 degrees Celsius using a thermometer
- Deep fry the wings until golden brown and cooked through, test by cutting one open
- Once cooked, toss in a bowl seasoning with remaining Cajun mix
For the Okra
- Whisk the egg and milk to together
- Create a crumbing station by placing the egg and milk in one bowl – whisked together, flour in another then polenta in a another bowl.
- First, place the okra in the flour, roll around until well covered, dust excess
- Then place flour dusted okra into the egg and milk mixture, making sure it is well covered, shake off excess
- Finally, roll the okra in the polenta until well covered
- Using a thermometer, heat up the oil to 180 degrees Celsius in a large, deep sided pot
- Fry the okra until golden brown, strain using a slotted spoon and place onto kitchen paper to absorb excess oil
For the Tartare
- Place the eggs, mustard and vinegar in a food processor and turn on high for one minute
- Add about ¼ cup of the vegetable oil in the food processor and process on high for about 30 seconds until it is emulsified into the egg mixture
- Slowly “stream” the rest of the oil into the egg mixture until all the oil is emulsified into the egg
- It should now form a thick mayonnaise, if not add extra oil. Thickness will depend on size of eggs etc
- Add the lemon juice and Worcestishire until completely mixed
- Add the rest of the ingredients whilst still on high
One of my dreams is to one day own a mac and cheese food truck!
You can just about make any flavour and then toss it through macaroni and bake it. Imagine all the things you like, then mix it in with macaroni. For example, I love chili and chili con carne, mix it in with macaroni, put cheese on top and and bake it in the oven and you have chili mac and cheese. You can also have it cold like a salad like they do in the Philippines. There they have a salad with macaroni, its usually with pineapple, ham, palm seeds, cheddar cheese and coconut dressed with mayonnaise or sour cream, sounds weird but bloody tasty stuff.
Flavours are endless really, vego’s can have Napolitana sauce and cheese or use three types of cheeses and mix it with some mustard and a little cream and bake it with some nice cheddar on top. My favourite flavour that I’ve come up with is roasted, crispy pork belly all chopped up and tossed in a dry pan to crispen up a little more, finish it some strips smokey roasted capsicums (peppers for non Aussies), roasted red onions and chipotle sauce, toss through macaroni and bake in the oven with some stinky cheese like an Epoisses or Taleggio. Decadence with all the good things in one plate! Served with crushed avocado on top and sour cream and boy, you’ve got a dish no one will turn their backs on.
Try this out for starters and see what the fuss is all about. I am using the chili recipe from the a previous blog to make things a little easier or if you make that chili recipe and wonder what you can do with any left overs.
If you cook up a braise dish like osso bucco or lamb shank or even a curry, try cutting the meaty bits down a little more and toss it through macaroni, add cheese that closely fits its flavour profile on top and bake it and who knows, maybe you can come up with your original mac and cheese!
Macaroni and Cheese
700gr Raw Macaroni
500gr Alexandrina Cheddar Cheese – grated
1 Recipe of Chili Con Carne Recipe – previous articles
For the Macaroni
- Place ten litres of water to boil with the salt
- Once boiling, add the macaroni and cook until al dente. This is when you bite into a pasta, it has some resistance to the teeth but no crunch
- Staring in a colander and run cold water through, set aside until needed
- Pre Heat the oven at 180 degrees Celsius
- Using a large pot, place the chili con carne sauce and heat up until simmering
- Add the blanched pasta and stir through for about 5 minutes
- Place into a baking dish
- Sprinkle the cheese on top until “all” the surface area is covered, this will inhibit the pasta from getting dry
- Bake for 10 minutes in the oven or until the cheese is golden brown
One of my favourite things to eat is chili!
I have grown up eating chili since I can remember. As a kid, I remember eating our meals around a huge table which my grandmother would cook for. I had aunts, uncles, cousins and sisters around that table, including my grandmother, who would share a chair with me. As I ate, I remember the many condiments that accompanied every meal. These included things like, finely chopped garlic and crushed white pepper in cane vinegar, fish sauce and chopped chili and garlic in a mixture of soy and cane vinegar all in little separate dishes for every one to share. Amongst that were little, bright, shiny red chilies left whole. These were for the “game” people, the slightly more chili crazy members of the family. They would take one of these deadly, birdseye chillies and place it on the side of their plates. They would break off a tiny bit of this deadly hot chili and add to their next mouthful of food. I always cringed at the pain they put themselves through as they breathed in through their tightly gritted teeth then puckering their lips as they suck in air to cool their lips. It was a slightly amusing ritual, mouthful of food followed by chili followed by their attempts to cool their lips and then a sip of ice cold water then back to the start. They would do this over and over again with sweat beading off their foreheads and as soon as the last mouthful of food is consumed, they rush off away from the table and walk around to try and cool down.
I began eating chili by eating slightly tamer chillies than the deadly birdseye chili. I slowly climbed up the “chili” scale, attempting the hotter chillies as time went on and my palate got used to flavour and the heat. Now, I can eat chili just like the aunts and aunties I once watched in amazement as a child. I love chillies in just about everything like pastas. Some red sauces in pastas just need that heat especially in alioli sauces. Curries must have chillies, and some refreshing tropical Asian salads must have chillies in them like a Thai Larb or Vietnamese salad with Nuoc Nam dressing.
In the Philippines, chili is a huge part of our cuisine but more as a condiment. Mixed generally in soy and cane vinegar along with chopped garlic. In dishes like sinigang, chillies are sometimes added half way through their cooking to impart flavours and once cooked the chillies suck in the flavours of the broth and become plump and flavoursome themselves. The chillies are then fished out and added to fish sauce where the chillies are crushed and then used as a condiment for sinigang. Usually we would add a few to stat with because it is a prized surprise for most Filipinos!
I love this recipe because you can control the amount of heat. I love to use as many different chillies as I possibly can, the hotter the better. The secret here is to make sure you saute the vegetables off well to get the natural sugars to come out. Secondly, seal the meat “hard” on a really hot pan and thirdly, cook the chili for as long as you can, adding water to the pot if it gets too dry. The longer you cook it the better. And no secrets here when I say it, but make it two or three days in advance. The longer you allow it to sit, the better the flavours get, allowing it time to develope just like you do with curries, casseroles and other braised dishes.
Enjoy this recipe and in following recipes, I will show you how to use the chili in other ways!
Chili Con Carne, Tortilla, Salsa, Guacamole
For the Con Carne
2kg Lean Beef Mince
100ml Vegetable Oil
2 Brown Onions – finely diced
1 bulb Garlic – finely chopped
5 Large Red Chillies – finely sliced
3 tblsp Ground Cumin
4 tblsp Chili Flakes
2 tblsp Chili Powder
1 tblsp Smoked Paprika
2x140gr Tomato Puree
2x800gr Tin Chopped Tomatoes
Sea Salt – to taste
Ground White Pepper – to taste
For the Salsa
4 Large Ripe Tomatoes – diced 1cm cubes
½ Red Onion – peeled & diced ½ cm cubed
1 Bunch Coriander – finely chopped
2 tblsp EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
Sea Salt – to taste
Ground White Pepper – to taste
4 Avocados – peeled, slightly mashed with a fork
½ Red Onion – peeled & diced ½ cm cubed
1 Lemon – juiced
1 tsp Tabasco Sauce
Sea Salt – to taste
Ground White Pepper – to taste
For the Tortilla
16 Tortilla Wrappers
1 Cup Grated Cheddar
½ Iceberg Lettuce – finely sliced
1 Cup Sour Cream
For the Con Carne
- Heat up a large pot on high heat for one minute, then add a third of the vegetable oil
- Place half the minced meat into the pot, seal and lightly brown the meat, set aside. Repeat with the remaining meat
- Heat the pot once again on high for thrity seconds and add the remaining vegetable oil
- Add the onions and sauté, continuously stirring for one minute then add garlic and sauté for another minute
- Add the chopped fresh red chillies and sauté for another minute
- Add the cumin and stir through then chilli flakes, chili powder and smoked paprika and stir through
- Add the tomato paste and cook whilst stirring for another minute, cook out the puree
- Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil then once at simmer, add the sealed meat and stir through
- Cook for one hour on really low, making sure to stir it every 5 minutes or so
10. Season to taste
For the Salsa
- Place tomatoes, red onions and coriander in a bowl and mix thoroughly
- Add EVOO and season to taste
- Place the avocados, lemon juice and red onion a bowl and mix through
- Season to taste then add the Tabasco sauce
For the Tortilla
- Toast the tortilla on a dry pan. If you are doing large batches, toast then place it on plate then cover it with a towel moistened with warm towel
- Place con carne on the tortilla, cheese, salsa, lettuce and sour cream
Make cooking easy but tasty. Use this recipe and I’ll show you what you can do with the let overs in the coming editions.