food for thought

by michelle

Posts Tagged ‘salad

fennel and seafood salad

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Here in the southern hemisphere we recently celebrated the Summer Solstice. Our feast began with this salad, a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe from the cookbook Ottolenghi, cooked by Fifi. It looked magnificent and tasted even better.

Trim the tops and bottoms of four fennel bulbs then slice them crosswise as thinly as you can. In a large bowl combine the sliced fennel with ½ a finely sliced red onion, the grated zest and juice of 1 lime2 cloves of crushed garlic, 2 tablespoons of chopped dill, 2 tablespoons of chopped flat-leaf parsley, 1 seeded and diced red chilli, ½ a teaspoon of salt and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix well and set aside. Prepare 8 large tiger prawns (shrimp) by removing their heads, shelling the body (leave the tail intact) and de-veining. Toss the prawns and 350g (12 oz) of cleaned baby squid in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Heat a heavy pan or griddle and cook the prawns and squid in batches until just cooked. Cut the cooked squid into rings and when the seafood has cooled add it to the salad bowl along with some tomato wedges and toss to combine. If you are not serving the salad immediately it will keep in the fridge for up to a day. To serve stir in 1 tablespoon of sumac and 2 tablespoons of chopped coriander (cilantro) and adjust the seasoning to taste.


Written by michelle picker

January 2, 2019 at 12:26 am

Posted in fish & seafood, vegetables

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blue corn tamales

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Tamales originated as early as 8000 to 5000 BC. The Aztec and Mayan civilisations, as well as the Olmec and Toltec before them, used tamales as portable food, often to support their armies, but also for hunters and travellers. Tamales are generally wrapped in corn husks or plantain leaves before being steamed. In Mexico they are a favourite comfort food, eaten as both breakfast and dinner. Tamales exist in various forms throughout Central and South America and even in the Phillipines and Guam, once Spanish provinces of Mexico. They also made their way to Spain with the Conquistadors who took them there as proof of civilisation. This recipe is adapted from Mark Miller’s Coyote Cafe and even though I had no corn husks and had to make do with baking paper, the result was excellent.


To make these tamales you will first need some blue corn masa. For 6 tamales combine 1½ cups of blue corn masa with 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of milk. In a large bowl or stand mixer whisk 250g (9 oz) of butter with 1 teaspoon of baking powder and 1½ teaspoons of salt. Incorporate the masa mixture into the butter 2 tablespoons at a time while whisking to keep the mixture light. Fold in 1 cup of cooked corn kernels, 1 diced chorizo and ½ a cup of chopped coriander (cilantro) until well combined. Divide the mixture between 6 corn husks, or baking paper. Roll the tamales and tie the ends. Steam them for 30 minutes and serve with a fresh salad and some refried black beans. For this salad I first pickled a finely sliced red onion and 2 green chillies. In a small saucepan combine ½ a cup each of white vinegar, water and sugar and add 1 teaspoon of salt. Heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the onion and chillies and allow to steep for 30 minutes. Heat some oil in a small frypan and add ¼ of a cup of pepita (pumpkin) seeds, some smoky paprika and some salt. Fry until they just begin to colour and remove them to a plate. To assemble the salad lay out rows of tomato and avocado wedges. Spread the pickled onion over the top and garnish with the pepita seeds.


To make refried beans, 1 cup of beans and 4 cups of water will produce 2½ cups of cooked beans. If you remember, you can soak them overnight but a quicker method is to boil them for 4 minutes and then soak them for 1 hour. Next they need to be cooked for 45-60 minutes (or 10 minutes in a pressure cooker) until tender. Drain, retaining the liquid, and set aside. In a saucepan, heat a generous amount of vegetable oil and sauté 1 finely diced onion and 1-2 cloves of garlic until translucent. Add any or all of the following dry herbs and spices to your taste: cumin, oregano, chilli, smoky paprika, cayenne pepper. Add the beans and fry over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking. Now add some of the liquid and salt to taste.


Written by michelle picker

August 14, 2016 at 5:49 am

goat cheese on toast with balsamic baby beets and salad

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Simple and satisfying this meal is perfect for an alfresco lunch or, in smaller portions, as a first course.


Wash, peel and halve a bunch of baby beets. Place them in a shallow saucepan, season with salt and pepper and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Cover and cook over moderate heat until the beets are tender. Remove and allow to cool retaining any cooking liquid. Arrange some lettuce leaves around the edge of each plate adding sliced fresh tomatoes, cucumber, salad onion, walnuts and the baby beets. Toast 1 piece of bread per person (I used a good sourdough rye) and top with a generous amount of soft white goat cheese (chèvre). Place under a hot grill until the cheese is just beginning to brown a little. Meanwhile add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar and 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard to the cooking liquid from the beets. Whisk and season to taste before spooning over the salad. Place the toast with grilled goat cheese in the centre of the salad to serve.

Written by michelle picker

April 22, 2013 at 8:51 am

roasted and raw cauliflower, fennel and white bean salad

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Here’s an interesting, substantial and very delicious salad.


Cut half a head of cauilflower into florets and season with salt and pepper. Toss in a little olive oil and either fry or roast in a hot oven until browning. Finely slice the other half of the cauliflower as well as a large fennel bulb (a mandoline makes this easier). Combine in a bowl with 1 can of drained cannellini beans, ½ a cup of walnuts and a handful of fresh sliced mint. Add the cooled cooked caulflower and dress with plenty of olive oil and lemon juice. Season again with salt and pepper.

Written by michelle picker

February 9, 2013 at 9:24 am

grilled vegetable and chick pea salad

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Serve this for lunch with fresh bread or add some felafel or barbecued meat for a bigger meal.

Cut 1 eggplant and 2 zucchinis lengthways into slices (not too thin) and core and quarter a red and green pepper so that the pieces are relatively flat. Toss the vegetables in olive oil and season with a little salt. Heat a griddle until quite hot and cook the vegetables until just tender and caramelised. If you don’t have a griddle this can be achieved under a hot grill or in a heavy fry-pan. Cut them into equal sized pieces and toss with a drained can of chick peas, crumbled feta cheese to taste, 1 clove of crushed garlic, some sliced fresh parsley, more olive oil and the juice of 1 lemon.

Written by michelle picker

November 11, 2012 at 10:00 am

rice noodle salad

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I love Thai green papaya salad so, even though I had no green papayas, I decided to use the traditional dressing for this rice noodle salad.

First, I soaked a packet of fine rice vermicelli according to the instructions and rinsed them in cold water, cutting them into shorter pieces before combining them with some fresh bean sprouts and some sliced and bruised green beans. For the dressing I pounded 3 cloves of garlic, 4 bird’s eye chillies and a pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle, adding 2 heaped tablespoons each of roasted peanuts and dried prawns (shrimps) and pounding into a coarse paste. Next I added 3 diced tomatoes and gently mashed them together. For the final seasoning, 2 tablespoons each of fish sauce and palm sugar, 1 tablespoon of lime juice and a teaspoon of tamarind paste. After tossing this dressing through the salad, I garnished with some more roasted peanuts, fresh coriander and slices of fresh cucumber and tomato.

Written by michelle picker

April 19, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Posted in pasta & grains, salad

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