Smoked salmon and wasabi pate

The man of the house is currently brushing up on his French skills and this means getting me to help him with his homework. Once upon a time, this would have been easy, but the passing of time means my brain doesn’t operate in French as well as it used to (or, indeed, as I imagined it once did). I’ve been feeling quite depressed about this, but am consoling myself with the fact that my menu French is still better than his. And when I looked up the Larousse to get a proper dictionary definition of ‘pate’, I didn’t need another dictionary to explain the answer. So I can’t be too badly off, can I?

Smoked Salmon And Wasabi Dip

Smoked salmon and wasabi pate
For the record, Larousse defines ‘pate’ as ‘preparation de charcuterie de texture tres variable et composee de viandes et d’abats en morceaux ou en pate fine et de differents ingredients’ and you don’t need to know much French to figure out that there are (mercifully) no ‘viandes’ (or ‘abats’ – organs) in a smoked salmon version. But I had to call it something other than ‘a sort of spread-y thing you can have on toast or crackers or on little bits of cucumber like an 80s canape’, didn’t I?
This is inspired by something in Jamie Oliver’s book on British food – he makes something similar with smoked trout and horseradish and serves it with baby Yorkshire puddings. And cor blimey, guv’nor, it is bloomin’ lovely. Or c’est absolument delicieux, as our French friends would say.

150g cream cheese, softened
1/4 – 1 tsp wasabi paste
150g hot smoked salmon
finely grated zest of a lemon, plus its juice
a couple of teaspoons of finely chopped dill or mint

Put the cream cheese, lemon zest and 1/4 teaspoon of wasabi in a small bowl and beat with a fork until smooth. Taste it for hotness – the wasabi should be present, but not overpowering. Keep adding it until you think it’s about right. Flake in the hot smoked salmon and dill or mint. Fold it into the cream cheese, adding a little lemon juice if it seems a bit stiff. Taste again for seasoning – add some salt and freshly cracked black pepper until the balance is right. Scrape into a little bowl and cover, then store in the fridge. Makes enough for six people as a canape, with enough for one lucky person to have on toast the next morning.

Bonne semaine, tout le monde!

Grapefruit curd

You know how lemon curd is always so painstaking to make, with all that double-boiler anxiety and fretful stirring? It doesn’t have to be that way.
I had an epiphany in the weekend after coming across Stephanie Alexander’s revolutionary method. As so often happens with The Cook’s Companion, I was looking up something else when I stumbled across her lemon curd recipe. In it, she dismisses the received wisdom that it needs gentle heat and patience and instead gives some short-cut instructions.

I was a bit nervous – it’s a bit like setting out on a half-marathon to have some geezer pop out from behind a bush and say, ‘look love, here’s a short-cut that will get you there in half the time’ – but I can confidently report that it works a treat. I’ll possibly never remember what I was looking for to start with, but with this kind of knowledge now under my belt I’m not too bothered.

Easy Way To Make Grapefruit Curd

Grapefruit Curd
Did you know that if you Google ‘grapefruit’ most links are for the ‘Grapefruit Diet’. I find this profoundly depressing. Instead, I’m prescribing a course of the Grapefruit Curd Diet. Try some of this on your toast and see if you don’t feel better about life. Don’t worry about the butter and eggs, think of the vitamin C! The recipe is adapted from the one mentioned above in The Cook’s Companion, one of my most used, most loved books.

4 free-range egg yolks
2/3 cup caster sugar
100ml freshly squeezed grapefruit juice (one or two grapefruits should do it)
finely grated zest of two grapefruits
60g butter, diced

Put the egg yolks and sugar in a small pot and beat together until well blended. Add the grapefruit juice and zest, and the butter. Put the pot over medium-high heat and stir constantly until it comes to simmering point. As soon as the bubbles appear, remove from the heat. Keep stirring for another minute or so, then pour into sterilised jars. Makes about 450ml. Refrigerate when cold.

Now, I know you’re thinking, ‘but what will I do with four egg whites’? I have the perfect answer for you, but you’ll have to wait until Friday. Put them in a plastic lidded container and freeze them while you await further instructions.

Happy Waitangi Day to fellow New Zealanders everywhere. Hope you are celebrating with some appropriate feasting, whether it’s pipis and paua, asparagus rolls and whitebait fritters, roast lamb or a hangi. Cheers!

Treat me: DIY Speculoos spread

When I was a proper journalist (the sort that actually went out of the office and talked to real people) I’d often stumble upon fantastic charity shops in the middle of nowhere. If time allowed I’d sneak off to them after the interviews were done – while the old ladies who staff these shops are great sources of local knowledge it’s hard to concentrate on finding treasure when you’ve got an interview looming.

These days, stuck at my desk, I’m reduced to finding fun things on the internet in the course of my research. It’s not quite as good, but you can unearth lots of gems all the same. Take speculoos spread, for example. I started reading about it while researching recipe formats last week. It was totally new to me, but it’s apparently ‘Europe’s alternative to peanut butter’ and caused much excitement when Waitrose started selling it in the UK late last year.
The real thing is made from ground-up Speculoos cookies – with a few other ingredients – and is said to be as addictive as Nutella. My DIY version is much simpler, you can make it from everyday ingredients and it’s just as habit-forming.

Speculoos Spread And Crumpets

Speculoos spread
I have no idea what ‘real’ speculoos spread tastes like but this is absolutely delicious – like eating raw gingerbread but without the attendant stomach ache. I’ve been eating it on hot crumpets, but it would transform even the most basic slice of bread. Or you could put it in a toasted sandwich with sliced banana. Or you could just eat it with a spoon…

100g soft unsalted butter
4 Tbsp golden syrup
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp Chinese five-spice
1/2 tsp ground cardamon
1/4 tsp salt

Put all ingredients in a small bowl and beat until smooth and fluffy. Eat immediately, or store in the fridge, covered.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Treat me: Sticky red wine syrup

Of all the festive season leftovers, half-drunk bottles of wine are probably the hardest to deal with. Drinking them is the obvious solution, but there’s only so much of that you can do before things get a bit messy. Freezing them in neat containers to add to risotto is another option that only works if your freezer isn’t full of containers of stock you made from the ham bone. But in a bid to make some space in the fridge I devised this handy syrup that uses up the remains of a bottle of pinot noir and some strawberry jam. Even better, it can be poured over leftover icecream.

Red wine and strawberry syrup
This is really good poured over vanilla icecream and strawberries for a grown-up sundae, but you could also try it over pancakes or any kind of plain cake. I used strawberry jam because that’s what we had, but another good fruity variety would work well. Not sure about raspberry though, unless you don’t mind the pips. I’m quite keen to try one with white wine and marmalade, but we never seem to have any white wine left over…

250ml red wine
1/2 cup strawberry or raspberry jam
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp red wine vinegar

Put the wine, jam and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Let it simmer for 10-15 minutes, until syrupy (stirring occasionally). Remove from the heat and let cool, then taste. Add the vinegar (or a few drops of lemon juice) if it seems too sweet. Pour into a clean jar and store in the fridge.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Treat me: Caramel sauce

Salted caramel has been so hot right now for so long it’s a wonder we’re not all suffering third-degree burns. In fact, when I saw this pic of Nigella on the cover of Stylist several months ago, burns were all I could think about. That and how they managed to capture the caramel dripping off her eyelashes.

Image from Stylist.co.uk

But while salted caramel is all well and good, that doesn’t mean we should forget the original. Nor does it mean you can’t add other new and exciting flavours.

Simple Caramel Sauce
This is very easy and very forgiving. If cook it too long it can be rescued with a splash of milk and more stirring. It’s very good over vanilla ice cream or even plain Greek yoghurt. For a proper retro pudding, layer it in little glasses with crumbled gingernut biscuits and Greek yoghurt or whipped cream for a sort of instant trifle. I’m having camera issues today, but I assure you my sauce looks just like the one in the picture above. I can’t say the same for the cook.

For the basic sauce:
225g 1 1/2 lightly packed cups soft brown sugar
4 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp milk

Put everything in a small saucepan over gentle heat. Stir until it starts to boil, then let bubble away gently for five minutes. Remove from the heat and beat enthusiastically until smooth. You can use it straight away as is, or you can add either:
– two good pinches of flaky sea salt, from Maldon or Marlborough or Maine or Mooloolaba, or wherever the flaky sea salt is from in your neck of the woods
– OR: two generous teaspoons of ground ginger
– OR: one teaspoon of ground cardamom

Or you could go completely crazy and add the lot. Stir well, add a splash of milk if it seems very thick, and use as you see fit. Any leftover sauce can be stored, covered, in the fridge.

Oh, and before I forget, the lucky winners of The Kitchenmaid’s second birthday giveaway are…
Lynne, who wins the Equagold goodies
Louise, who wins the stunning whitebait teatowel
Melissa, who wins the Pratty’s Tea
– and Bella, who trotted off to the New Zealand Chocolate Festival last Friday.

Have a great weekend, everyone. I’m going to hang out with Ruth Pretty and Dean Brettschneider on Sunday to learn some new tricks. Lucky me! x