Happy 2014, my lovely readers! I hope it’s been a wonderful start to the year for you all. I foresee an exciting cooking year ahead pour moi … quick, easy dinners interspersed with feasts to spoil my loved ones with.
Like the bursts of extreme heat we’re now experiencing in Melbourne, my own start to the year has involved a succession of bold-ities – a new apartment (which I’ve terribly dubbed ‘The Lady Pad’ … it’s my first time living alone, so do forgive me for that one) and a new role at Publishing House X, which involves playing with lots of toys (of the digital persuasion) and responsibility for a pretty credit card, which I will not use to buy shoes with. The job may involve schmoozing; too much public speaking for me, a klutz whose official language is mumbo jumbo and who prefers to sing rather than speak actual words; and some travel to exotic locations … such as Perth (it has some very exotic parts).
The next adventure has been booked (and yes, I will write about my recent one soon, I promise!), as I journey back to South-East Asia in April for a taste of northern Vietnam with my mate, Kel. I have warned her that she will have to endure all manner of road songs I create in spontaneous brilliance, and may risk losing me at the street food markets of Hanoi which, given the former, may not be so bad for her.
Hmm, what else? I have discovered in living alone that the most comfortable home attire is, in fact, my underwear. That talking to myself and then laughing at my own comments is not weird at all and actually quite confidence-affirming, and that mucho houseguests of the English variety approve of my prized new possession, the über couch/sofa bed of the slat and non-spring kind. Enlightening stuff!
And so in my first month of cooking in my lovely kitchen with everything in its right place, I have created a few goodies. Kale and broccoli orecchiette for my long-suffering colleague, Sarah (who listens to my dribble on a daily basis); curry beef mini pies, roast potato and sweet potato salad, chicken burgers and a Vietnamese prawn and rice noodle salad for the fam last Sunday night; fruity yogurt cups with granola and a frittata overloaded with herbs and zucchini for a ladies’ morning tea, and lots of quick yumminesses for me to devour on scorching nights while enjoying the tennis. This old fave, a fancy version of salmon on toast, has been a particular lifesaver on a hot night or two. I admit, it’s more of a breakfast than a dinner, and a very Melbourne café one at that. This is so easy it’s a little ridiculous … except for the poached eggs bit, perhaps. I’ve concocted some very ugly and inedible poached eggs in my time. Done well, they are veritable fluffy delights.
half a loaf of a delicious rye or sough dough bread
200 g smoked salmon
100 g feta cheese, preferably Danish
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons fresh coriander
2 – 3 eggs
vinegar (for poaching)
100 g rocket and/or spinach leaves
fresh parsley, to serve
sea salt and ground black pepper
Start by placing all of the avocado flesh into a bowl along with the feta, the juice of half the lime, cayenne pepper and a good pinch of salt. Mash the ingredients together, being careful not to mash it too hard as you want it a little chunky. Taste for seasoning and balance, and add extra lime if necessary, as well as 2 tablespoons of the coriander. Set aside.
To poach the eggs, start by filling a deep frying pan or large pot with cold water, about 3 inches of water should do it. However you choose to do this, please ensure you use free range eggs – the taste is far superior and it’s good on the conscience too. Add a teaspoon of vinegar, preferably white or white wine vinegar, and bring to the boil. Crack an egg into a large serving spoon and gently lower into the water. Lower the heat a touch and cook the egg for about 5 minutes or until the white is set.
Remove the poached egg with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel to ensure the egg is fluffy and not slimy and unable to play nice with its friend, smoked salmon. Poach the remaining eggs as required.
To serve, cut thick slices of your bread and place two on each plate. This quantity should serve about 2–3 people. I used a dense rye loaf with a crunchy crust, but a sour dough loaf would also be yummy. Spread the bread with generous amounts of the smashed avocado, add handfuls of the rocket salad and then layer the smoked salmon on top. Artfully place your poached egg on top with a squeeze of lime juice, a little pepper and a sprinkling of parsley. If you’re feeling adventurous, sprinkle a bit of Dukkah on top. Enjoy and keep cool, Melbournites (and any other people in the world feeling particularly hot right now!).