food for thought

by michelle

Posts Tagged ‘salad

bún-chả with bbq pork balls

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These Vietnamese pork balls are packed with flavour and wonderful when served as a complete meal with a fresh and delicious rice vermicelli salad and Nuoc Cham. I could eat this any time.

For the pork balls, you will need 450g (1 lb) of pork mince. Place ¼ of the mince in a small food processor and process until sticky. This will help to hold the mixture together. Combine with the rest of mince, 3 teaspoons of Vietnamese fish sauce, 2 -3 teaspoons of caster sugar, ¾ of a teaspoon of salt, plenty of coarsely cracked black pepper, 3 cloves of minced garlic and the finely sliced stems and roots of 4 sprigs of coriander (cilantro). Mix well and divide into small walnut-sized balls. Place them on skewers and barbecue (grill) over high heat for a few minutes on each side until browned and cooked through. Meanwhile soak some rice vermicelli in boiling water until soft enough to eat. Drain and run under cold water to cool. Shred some lettuce, slice cucumber and tomatoes, cut carrots into fine julienne and add lots of herbs – mint, Vietnamese mint, coriander (cilantro) and dill are all suitable. Finally add some roughly chopped peanuts. Serve with Nuoc Cham dipping sauce: combine ¼ of a cup of Vietnamese fish sauce, 3 tablespoons of sugar, 2 minced cloves of garlic, 1 finely diced small red chilli, ¼ of a cup of water and lemon juice to taste. If the balance needs adjusting use fish sauce for saltiness, sugar for sweetness and lemon juice for sourness.


Written by michelle picker

June 19, 2019 at 12:20 am

spiced roast chicken with harissa + greek salad

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Here is our Summer solstice main course. Spiced roasted chicken served on a bed of home-made harissa and garnished with herbs and watercress. Lorraine chose this recipe from Karen Martini’s Where The Heart Is and cooked it to perfection.

You will need Baharat, a Middle Eastern spice mix, for this recipe. If you can’t find it ready-made you can make it by combining pepper with any or all of the following: paprika, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, star anise and nutmeg. For the spice rub combine 3 teaspoons of Baharat with 2 teaspoons of ground fennel, 5 large crushed cloves of garlic, 2½ teaspoons of salt flakes, freshly ground black pepper to taste and 3 sprigs of fresh thyme. Make horizontal cuts through a butterflied chicken and rub the mixture into skin. Cover the chicken and put it in the fridge for at least 1 hour. When you’re ready to cook preheat your oven to 220ºC (430ºF). Meanwhile, heat ¾ of a cup of olive oil in a large pan over high heat. Place the chicken in the pan and brown it on all sides. Transfer to a baking dish and roast for 40-50 minutes until cooked through and golden. For the harissa, roast 1 bulb of garlic, 1 large red pepper and 10 large red chillies. When they are cooked, remove them from the oven and place the red pepper and chillies in an airtight container. Allow them to sweat before removing the skins and seeds. Toast 4 teaspoons of cumin seeds and 3 teaspoons of caraway seeds until fragrant then grind them. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of it’s skin and combine it with the red pepper, chillies, the ground cumin and caraway seeds, 150ml (5 fl oz) of tomato passata, 5 pinches of salt flakes, 2 tablespoons of castor sugar and ½ a cup of olive oil. Process to a smooth paste in a blender or food processor. To serve, spread the harissa on a platter, place the chicken on top, scatter with sprigs of herbs and watercress and garnish with lemon wedges.

Having just been to Greece, Mary was inspired to make a wonderful greek salad as an accompaniment.

Written by michelle picker

January 9, 2019 at 12:20 am

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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minced chicken salad

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Loosely based on Thai Larb, this minced chicken salad makes a tasty summer meal.


To cook the chicken you will need some Thai chilli paste in soya oil. Add 3 tablespoons of the paste and some of the oil to a saucepan and heat over medium heat. Add 450g (1 lb) of minced chicken thigh meat and cook, mixing well and breaking the mince into small pieces. If necessary add a little water. When the chicken is cooked set it aside to cool. In a bowl make a salad of finely shredded celery, finely sliced red onion, julienned carrot, plenty of chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) and mint, bean thread noodles (cooked for 2 minutes and shocked under cold running water), chopped cucumber, chopped tomatoes, finely chopped fresh red chilli and chopped roasted peanuts. When the chicken has cooled add it to the salad and season with fish sauce and fresh lime juice to taste.

Written by michelle picker

April 17, 2017 at 5:51 am

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

saffron fish balls + fresh lemon salad

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My husband David cooked these fish balls in a tomato sauce from a recipe by Tess Mallos in The Food of Morocco. They were light and moist and perfect served with crusty bread.


In a food processor place 500g (17 oz) of skinless and boneless firm white fish (we had Ling), 1 egg, 2 spring onions, 2 tablespoons of flat-leaf parley, 2 tablespoons of coriander, 55g (2 oz) of fresh bread crumbs, a pinch of saffron soaked in 1 tablespoon of warm water for 5 minutes, ¾ teaspoons of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Process to a paste and with wet hands form into walnut-sized balls. Place on a tray and set aside in the fridge. For the sauce coarsely grate 1 brown onion and cook it in some olive oil over medium heat. Add 2 finely diced cloves of garlic, 1 teaspoon of paprika, ½ a teaspoon of harissa and ½ a teaspoon of ground cumin. Stir and add a can of peeled and diced tomatoes, 1 teaspoon of  caster sugar, a little water if necessary and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the fish balls, making sure they settle into the sauce. Cover and  simmer gently for 20 minutes before serving.

A lemon salad is perfect with fish. Be warned, this is a very tart salad and a little goes a long way.


Peel 6 lemons making sure that all the pith and membranes are removed. Remove any seeds then dice and put them into a bowl. Halve 1 small red onion and slice it thinly. Add to the lemons along with 1 teaspoon of caster sugar, a generous amount of flat-leaf parsley and salt to taste. Toss and set aside for 10 minutes before serving.

Written by michelle picker

June 21, 2013 at 7:33 am

Posted in fish & seafood, salad

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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