Rites of Passage
This is the 25th cooking column I have done for Talkabout, which means I have been doing this column for 4 years now. I’d like to thank everyone who has supported the magazine, and have enjoyed the various writings and contributions. I hope you have enjoyed reading my articles and columns as much as I have enjoyed writing them. My personal contributions to Talkabout now span a period of 10 years, including a long stint on the Publications Working Group. I have to say that reading back through all the articles and columns I have submitted over the years makes me aware of just how much my writing style has changed, and the pieces are in many ways indicative of how I have grown and matured through my experiences with HIV and AIDS. My articles range from the almost innocent in the early days; to the practical; up to the more cutting edge (some would say irascible) things that I write today, though my output article-wise isn’t as prolific as it used to be. I’m proud to say that a couple of articles have caused a huge furore – always an indication that you have hit a nerve – and a few have never been published because of their controversial nature. I’ve found the ageing process very satisfying, as I am no longer afraid to throw the punches, be it for the better or the worst. Despite anything, I am a passionate supporter of Talkabout. It is one of the few resources the HIV community has that allows those infected and affected by HIV to have a personal voice about life with HIV. The fact that Talkabout has now been going as long as it has shows just how valuable a resource it is. Writing can be a catharsis, a way of purifying and purging pent up frustrations and emotions. I feel some of the very personal stuff I have written over the last couple of years is some of my best. I still manage to surprise myself sometimes. To this end, Talkabout has truly proved its worth. Anyway, on to cooking. Got waylaid for a second there.
Few realize just how important a part food plays in our lives. It is present at every celebration and event in our lives, be it a baptism, a wedding, a birthday, an anniversary, a funeral, or the getting together to enjoy the conviviality of friendship. We celebrate with food at home, at the homes of friends and relatives, in cafes and restaurants, around the barbeque, on picnics and at parties. It is so integrated into our lives I doubt we even think about it. It covers all our rites of passage. It is cultural, indulgent, comforting, celebratory, and religious. I think we use food as much as we do as it is a way of sharing, something we can all share in common. Whether you are a carnivore, an omnivore, a vegetarian or a vegan you use your own style of food to celebrate the great things in your life, and sometimes the sad. It is an integral part of our existence. As a way of honouring the ritual of food, and to celebrate going into year number five with this column I would like to offer some truly indulgent treats to share with friends. Okay, they may be a bit work intensive, or perhaps a bit expensive but hey, isn’t that what it’s all about.
Enjoy; indulge; celebrate.
Scrambled Eggs and Salmon on Croissants;
4 tablespoons pouring cream
40g unsalted butter
125 smoked salmon, sliced
2 teaspoons finely chopped dill
2 croissants or 2 brioche buns
Beat the eggs and cream together ina bowl. Season with saly and freshly ground black pepper.
Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan over low heat, then add the eggs. Using a wooden spoon push the mixture around until it starts to set, then add the salmon and dill. Continue to cook, gently folding the salmon and dill through the mixture until the eggs are mostly cooked and there is just a little liquid left in the pan.
Serve the croissants filled with the scrambled eggs.
Chargrilled Prawns with Lime Aioli;
1 large green chilli, seeded
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon ground cumin
grated zest and juice of 1 lime
juice of 1 orange
4 tablespoons olive oil
24 large raw prawns, peeled and deveined, tails intact
4 garlic gloves
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk
½ teaspoon finely grated lime zest
2 teaspoons lime juice
170ml olive oil
Using a mortar and pestle (or short bursts of a food processor if you don’t have a mortar and pestle) grind the chilli, garlic, oregano, cumin, lime zest, lime juice, orange juice and olive oil together to make a marinade. Season with a little sea salt and ground white pepper. Toss the prawns in the marinade, then cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, soak 24 small bamboo skewers in cold water for 30 minutes to prevent scorching.
To make the lime aioli, pound the garlic and salt to a smooth paste using a mortar and pestle (or your food processor). Scrape the paste into a large bowl, then whisk in the egg yolk, lime zest and lime juice. Whisking continually (again, this can be done in a food processor with the motor running) slowly add the olive oil a little at a time, until you have a thick mayonnaise. Season to taste, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Heat a barbeque plate to high. Thread the prawns on the skewers. Cook the prawns for 1½ minutes or until they just turn pink and start to curl, then turn and cook for a further 1½ minutes , or until just opaque. Serve at once with the lime aioli, and Pumpkin & Hazelnut Salad.
Pumpkin & Hazelnut Salad;
1kg Kent or Jap pumpkin
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons tahini (now available in supermarkets)
125g plain yoghurt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon lemon juice
200g baby rocket
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Preheat oven to 180°C. Peel pumpkin and cut into bite-sized chunks. Toss them in a bowl with the vegetable oil and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Spread over baking tray and roast for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Meanwhile, roast the hazelnuts on another baking tray for 5 minutes or until the skins start splitting. Remove and allow to cool.
Mix the tahini, yoghurt, cumin, garlic and lemon juice to a smooth paste, then season to taste.
Rub the skins off the cooled hazelnuts and roughly chop the nuts. Put them in a bowl with the rocket and add the olive oil and vinegar. Toss together. Divide amongst plated, then top with pumpkin chunks and dollop with the tahini mixture.
Parmesan Lamb Pies;
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, peeled and finely diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
500g minced lamb
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
¼ cup grated carrot
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
400g tin chopped tomatoes
250ml red wine
200g Greek-style yoghurt
100g grated parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat, then add the onions and garlic. Cook until the onion begins to soften and turn a golden brown. Add the lamb and increase the heat. Brown the lamb and add the celery, carrot, cinnamon, tomatoes and wine. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the liquid has reduced. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
Spoon the mixture into four individual ramekins or a medium baking dish.
Put the eggs, yoghurt and half the parmesan into a bowl and whisk to combine. Spoon the mixture over the pies and sprinkle with the remaining parmesan. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Serve with Warm Vegetables with White Beans.
Warm Vegetables with White Beans;
½ cup olive oil
6 slices pancetta, finely chopped
1 red onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 large eggplant, finely diced
2 red capsicums, finely diced
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 orange, zest grated, juiced
400g can cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed (always rinse canned vegetables)
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
basil leaves, to serve
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and add the pancetta, onion, garlic and rosemary. Cook until the onion begins to soften, then add the celery, eggplant and capsicums. When the eggplant begins to soften add the chopped tomatoes, orange zest and orange juice. Cover and continue to cook for 30 minutes.
Add the cannellini beans and cook for a further 1-2 minutes, then fold in the parsley and spoon onto a serving dish. Drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil, and scatter with basil leaves.
Chilli Chocolate Marquis with Poached Fruits
325g god quality cooking chocolate, broken up
75g unsalted butter, softened
1 hot red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
100g icing sugar
2 egg whites
200ml crème fraiche (dairy case near sour cream)
1 small mango, halved and stoned (or use frozen if out of season)
300g lychees, peeled and stoned (use canned if out of season)
15g caster sugar
6 tablespoons tequila or rum
Line a medium loaf tin with cling wrap.
Melt the chocolate in a medium-sized bowl and leave to cool.
In a separate bowl, beat together the butter, chilli and 50g of the icing sugar until smooth. Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl until soft peaks form then beat in the remaining icing sugar.
Stir the chocolate into the chilli butter and then the crème fraiche. Immediately fold in a quarter of the whisked whites to lighten the mixture, then fold in the remainder. Turn the mixture into the tin, level the surface and chill for at least 4 hours until firm.
Slice the mango and halve the lychees. Heat the sugar in a small saucepan with 100ml water until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and boil for 3-5 minutes until the liqid turns syrupy.
Remove the syrup from the heat and stir in all the fruits.. Leave to cool then turn the fruit into a bowl and stir in the liqueur.
Invert the marquis on to a plate and peel away the cling wrap. Cut into thick slices, transfer to serving plates and top with the poached fruits.
White Chocolate & Lavender Madeira;
150g white chocolate, broken up
8 lavender sprigs
125g unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs, beaten
125g self-raising flour
25g ground almonds
icing sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 180°C
Grease and line the base and long sides of a medium loaf tin with baking paper. Grease the paper. Melt the chocolate in a small bowl.
Pull the lavender flowers from the stalks and beat them in a bowl with the sugar and butter until smooth and creamy (discard the stalks). Gradually beat in the eggs, adding a little of the flour to prevent curdling.
Stir in the melted chocolate. Sift the remaining flour over the bowl and gradually fold in with the ground almonds.
Turn the mixture into the tin and level the surface. Bake in preheated oven for 40 inutes until risen and firm to the touch.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool, and serve generously dusted with icing sugar.