Kumara and Chorizo Salad

Time saver: kumara is the Maori word for sweet potato but you don’t have to be in NZ to make this. This tasty salad (and variations of it) is one of my favourites. It’s pretty simple to make and delicious to eat.

I wrote this up a while ago, and since I’m now in the Northern Hemisphere and heading for summer it seems like a good time to bring it out. This is the basic recipe, you can play around and try things out. I think Mum throws in some toasted cumin seeds and does something else a little different too. Enjoy.

Kumara and chorizo salad – serves 2 (as a main)

  • 1 large kumara (sweet potato), peeled, cut into slices/wedges (about 400g)
  • 1 medium red onion peeled, cut into wedges
  • zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 100g feta, cubed
  • 200g chorizo sausage
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp pine nuts (optional)
  • 70g-100g rocket leaves
  • salt
  • black pepper
  1. Put kumura and red onion in roasting dish, drizzle with olive oil, season with a pinch of salt and some cracked black pepper, then mix well to ensure everything is well coated.
  2. Roast for 30 min at 200°C (390°F), stirring/turning halfway through.
  3. While that’s roasting, toast pine nuts in a small frying pan, stirring/shaking frequently to avoid burning. When browned, remove from the pan and set aside.
  4. Zest orange, then cut in half and juice it. Combine the zest, 4 Tbsp orange juice, 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar in a small bowl and mix well.
  5. Slice chorizo diagonally, into 5mm thick slices. then fry in a frying pan till browned. (You can use a little oil to get things started.)
  6. Combine all ingredients in a salad bowl, mix well to combine then serve.
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Beef Casserole

Time saver: rich and hearty, this casserole is perfect for winter.

Casseroles are great, you do all the work up front, then leave them to do their thing and come back to reap the benefits. This recipe can be embellished as much as you like (obvious changes are including button mushrooms, swapping beef for chicken, adding bacon…) but provides a good flavourful meal as is.

I served it with creamy mashed potatoes and green beans. A kumara mash would also be great, and most vegetables will go with it.

Beef casserole – serves 4

  • 600g rump steak (or blade/chuck steak but you’ll need to cook it for longer)
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 3 medium carrots
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cups beef stock (I use Campbell’s liquid stocks)
  • 1 cup red wine (I prefer strongly-flavoured ones, e.g. Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cornflour, mixed with a little cold water
  1. Heat oven to 200°C.
  2. Trim fat from meat, then cut the steak into smaller pieces (whatever size you like really).
  3. Dice the onion, cut the celery into crescents, peel/wash the carrots and cut into rounds.
  4. Add oil to a large saucepan, then heat on a hot element. Brown the steak in batches, and set aside.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium, then add the onion and celery to the same saucepan and cook till softened (3-5 mins).
  6. Put the steak back in the saucepan, and then add the tomatoes, wine, beef stock, herbs, sugar, salt, and black pepper to taste. Stir well, and bring to a simmer.
  7. Once the oven is hot, transfer the contents of the saucepan to a lidded casserole dish (I use a ceramic-coated, cast-iron “Dutch oven”) and place in the middle of the oven. Cook for 1 hour (or more, if using chuck/blade steak consider cooking for up to 2 hours).
  8. Prepare whatever else you’re going to serve it with. I would normally serve it with mashed potatoes (or a kumara and potato mash) and some sort of lightly-boiled/steamed green vegetable, e.g. green beans, brocolli etc.
  9. Just before it’s time to serve, remove the casserole from the oven. Dissolve 2 tsps cornflour in a little cold water and mix well, then add it to the casserole and stir it quickly through to thicken it. Replace the lid and leave it to sit for a couple of minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Thai Fish Cakes

Time saver: “fish” and “cake” shouldn’t normally go together. (Just my opinion.)

Here’s a recipe I’ve been meaning to put up for a while, it goes out to my brother, who’s going to cook them for Mum when he gets back home (it’s on the Internet now, he has to).

“Fish cakes” don’t sound all that appealing (to me anyway) but these are truly delicious. When you get them right, the outside slightly caramelised, the inside still moist and tender, the dressing fresh and zingy… everything just combines into something so much better than the name might suggest. Not only that but they’re really quick to make.

The recipe scales well, so you can double it to serve twice as many people, or halve it for an entrée sized serving. For the degustation menu I think I made about a quarter of a batch and didn’t use all of it. (In that case the fish cakes were quite small and almost egg-shaped, rather than a flat round, and I used a very small pan with quite a lot of oil for a semi-deep fried effect. They were then served on a small plate on top of finely-chopped cucumber salad, with a lime and sweet chilli dressing.)

I’ve tried a few variations of these, but this recipe contains the bare essentials required to guarantee success. The recipe calls for fresh coriander (cilantro), or basil if you don’t like coriander. If you don’t like either of those, I don’t know what you’re doing reading a food blog (unless you’re researching the enemy…) but I suppose you could use fresh parsley. Note the “optional” ingredients – these can be included for more flavour, but aren’t strictly required – you’ll still get an excellent result with just the base ingredients.

Thai Fish Cakes – serves 2

For the salad

  • 80-100g fresh salad greens (e.g. Mesclun salad mix, rocket, baby lettuce and thinly sliced cucumber etc.)
  1. Divide evenly between two plates.

For the Dressing

  • 2 Tbsp Thai sweet chilli sauce
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon/lime juice
  • 5-10g/2 Tbsp fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • (optional) 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • (optional) 2 Tbsp finely chopped roasted peanuts (to sprinkle on top)
  1. Combine chilli sauce and lemon/lime juice in a small bowl and mix well.
  2. Taste it, and if it’s too tart and 1 Tbsp brown sugar, then mix well.
  3. Add the chopped coriander and stir through.

For the fish cakes

  • 300-400g firm white fish fillets (e.g. hoki, snapper, grouper etc)
  • 3-4 spring onions (1 per 100g fish) chopped coarsely
  • 20g/small bunch/¼ cup of fresh coriander/basil chopped coarsely
  • 3 Tbsp Thai sweet chilli sauce
  • zest of 1 lemon/lime
  • (optional) ¼ tsp of sesame oil
  • (optional) 5-10 mint leaves, chopped coarsely
  • (optional) 2 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • (optional) 1 clove/tsp crushed garlic
  • (optional) 1 Tbsp fish sauce
  • Peanut oil to fry in (around 3-5 Tbsp) (if you don’t have peanut oil, go get some, or get coconut oil or use a much less interesting unflavoured vegetable oil)
  1. Combine all of the ingredients for the fish cakes in a food processor, and pulse till well mixed. Don’t go so far as to turn it into a paste, it should really only take 15-20 seconds. If you don’t have a food processor or anything like it, you’ll have your work cut out for you. Just chop everything finely, cut the fish into small (tiny) pieces, and then mix it by hand in a bowl.
  2. Heat the peanut oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat. I normally use a non-stick pan for these, if you’re careful a bare metal pan will work too.
  3. Take a heaped tablespoon of fish mixture and shape into a flat round in your hand, then add it to the pan and repeat (quickly). You should get around 8-10 fish cakes.
  4. Fry fish cakes on each side for around 3-5 minutes, turning once the bottoms are golden brown and/or start to caramelise.
  5. Divide fish cakes onto the plated salad, placing them in a line down the middle of each plate, tiled slightly with the edge of one fish cake on top of the one next to it.
  6. Drizzle 2 Tbsp of the dressing over the top of the fish cakes on each of the plates. (If using peanuts, sprinkle 1 Tbsp  of the chopped peanuts over the top of the dressing.)

Practical cooking?

Time saver: Phil is a hypocrite and tries to impress you with a fancy menu.

After claiming to be pragmatic and a fan of simple, tasty food, I have to go and make this my first real post… before I get into all that normal food though, I want to start with my best meal ever.

This time last week we had a couple of friends over for dinner. I felt like going a bit overboard, so laid out a set menu of restaurant style food. The theme was a tribute to Retour, my favourite restaurant in Christchurch, now sadly closed because of damage from the earthquakes. I borrowed heavily from my memories of eating there, and came up with this menu:

Retour Degustation – A Tribute

Everything went amazingly well, it took over 3 hours to get through it all, but the food turned out brilliantly, the wine flowed, and the company was excellent. Over the next few days I’ll be posting and linking recipes for each of the courses.

Before you go getting the wrong idea, I won’t be cooking that much food again in a hurry…