How to cook salmon in a plastic bag

Last week a very clever former vegetarian friend confessed she was terrified of cooking fish. After years of avoiding it, she felt completely in the dark about where – and how – to start. I rattled off a few easy methods and then decided she needed to know this one. If you can boil a kettle, you can master this stress-free, mess-free method of cooking salmon. Here’s how to do it.

No-stress salmon
I think this is the easiest way to cook salmon tail fillets, which are often on the skinny side. Plus, it’s a great method for first-time cooks, because you can peep through the plastic to see how the salmon changes colour.

2 x 120g salmon tail fillets
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
Flaky sea salt and cracked black pepper

Set the kettle to boil. Drizzle the olive oil over the salmon fillets and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Insert the salmon into a zip lock sandwich bag and smooth out as much of the air as you can before sealing tightly.

Half fill a heatproof bowl with the just-boiled water, then add the bag of salmon. You may need to weight it down with a spoon to keep it under the water level.
The salmon will take between two and five minutes to cook, depending on its thickness. When it’s done to your liking, take it out of the plastic and serve. I like it straight out of the bag with a dollop of horseradish mixed with Greek yoghurt and snipped chives.

Baby octopus with lemon and herbs

Whenever visitors to Wellington ask about Te Papa, there’s only ever one thing we tell them to see – the colossal squid. This creature of the deep has become such a feature in our lives that I fear the day that it disintegrates altogether and we are allowed to look at other exhibits. But it has also engendered a great interest in squid of all sizes – including the ones you can eat.
To capitalise on a sudden resurgence in interest (prompted by some recent sea adventures), I came up with this almost-instant tapas-style octopus, which takes five minutes and looks a lot more complicated than it is. It’s certainly a lot less complex than catching a colossal squid – but you’ll have to go to Te Papa to see how they did that.

Baby octopus with lemon and herbs
It might seem a bit of a fiddly task, but I recommend cutting off the hood (which contains what is known in our household as ‘the poo-ey bit’) of the octopus before you start. It’ll only take a minute and makes them much more pleasant to eat.

500g baby octopus, hoods removed and discarded
100ml freshly squeezed lemon juice (about two lemons’ worth)
zest of two lemons
2 Tbsp fish sauce
2 Tbsp peanut oil
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
2cm piece of fresh ginger, grated
a handful of fresh herbs – coriander, dill, parsley, chervil

Fill a small bowl with cold water and ice cubes, and set aside.
Bring a pot of water to the boil. When it’s boiling, add a good pinch of salt and the baby octopi. They will curl up and blanch pretty much immediately – as soon as they do, remove them with tongs and drop them into the iced water.
Mix all the other ingredients together in a bowl and add the drained octopi. Stir well and season with salt and pepper, then serve. Serves four as a tapas-style appetiser.

Do you have a favourite food-related exhibit at your local museum?

Pappardelle with tuna and cream

If you read fashion magazines then you’ll know all about the ‘trans-seasonal piece’. This is an item of clothing that will, apparently, protect you from the vagaries of changing weather patterns while still managing to keep you in vogue (though not necessarily in Vogue, if you know what I mean).

A lot less is said about the equally important trans-seasonal meal, which should lift you out of the food rut you’ve been in all season and hint at the changes to come, while still respecting the needs of the moment.

Pappardelle Pasta With Lemon And Cream

Pappardelle with tuna and cream
Tinned tuna is very unfashionable these days but if you can find a sustainably caught brand I think it’s possible to dish it up without a side of guilt. Cream is probably a bit passe too, in some circles, but I don’t give a hoot. This is a great dinner for the middle seasons of spring and autumn, managing to be comforting and fresh in one go.

1 cup/250ml cream
1 packed cup of fresh parsley, leaves only, finely chopped
1 cup finely diced celery
a good pinch of salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp good olive oil
finely grated zest and juice of a lemon
2 x 185g tins good quality tuna in oil
Pappardelle – enough for four

Put all ingredients, except the pasta, in a bowl and stir together gently. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, pepper or lemon juice as needed.
Cook the pasta in well-salted water until al dente, drain well, then toss half the sauce through it. Divide between pasta bowls and spoon the remaining sauce on top. Serves four.

Five easy spring meals

It’s spring! Proper spring – with balmy temperatures, early rising birds and new buds appearing in the garden. Well, it was like that a few days ago. Now we’re back to tempestuous winds, lashing rain and that horrible greyness, but I’ve got high hopes.

Spring Daffodil Photo: Lucy Corry

It’s too soon for asparagus and the little lambs arriving in paddocks near you are too small for the cooking pot, but there are lots of other spring-y things to eat. Here are five easy spring dinners to add to your repertoire…

1. Superfood Salad: It’s got quinoa, broccoli and other spring-y, crunchy things to make you feel like frolicking in the sun. What more do you need?

Leon-Style Superfood Salad

2. Tray-baked Lamb and Potatoes: This is really good for those ‘I can’t think what to have for dinner’ evenings, which occur in our house at least once a week. Everything goes in the oven in one dish and there’s minimal cleaning up (even the non-cooks can make this one).

Easy Greek Lamb And Potatoes

3. Spring Cauliflower Soup: Cauliflower has had a bit of a renaissance of late, thanks to the craze for turning it into a pizza crust, but I think it’s unbeatable in this simple and healthy cauliflower soup.

Detox Cauliflower Soup

4. Simple Smoked Fish And Rice: This is another one-pot wonder, handy when you’ve been out in the garden tackling six months’ worth of weeding.

Easy Smoky Fish And Rice

5. Little lamb burgers: If you’re blessed with a beautiful spring day, cook these outside on your (long-neglected) barbecue. If it’s ‘sit inside by the heater weather’, they can be baked or pan-fried indoors.

Little Lamb Mince Burgers

What are your plans for this spring? 

Smoked salmon rosti canapes

Do you know what I remember most about university? The jobs I did in between lectures. I cleaned houses, made coffee, waited tables, worked at functions, handed out flyers, recorded weather forecasts, washed dishes and occasionally looked after children. I’d like to think all of these things stood me in good stead for life after university, even if they aren’t quite as useful when it comes to playing Trivial Pursuit.

The best gig of all was working at functions. All you had to do was turn up looking presentable, carry food and drink around for a few hours, then with any luck you’d get to eat and drink the leftovers with your fellow waitstaff – and still go home with a wad of cash in your pocket. Sure, there were pitfalls but for the most part it was a great insight into corporate life. It also taught me that if you’re at any kind of function where canapes are on offer, you need to a) be especially charming to the waitstaff and b) to stand by the kitchen door if you’re really hungry, because then you’ve got first pickings.

Easy Smoked Salmon Canapes Photo And Recipe: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

I don’t go in for canapes much when we’re entertaining at home, but when Regal Salmon asked me to create a recipe using their new Artisan Smoked Salmon, I knew exactly what I wanted to make. A really good canape needs to have bold flavours, eye appeal and interesting textures (the culinary equivalents of wit, good looks and charm) if you’re going to remember it the next day. These little morsels fit the bill nicely – and they won’t crumble down your front.

Salmon Rosti Canapes Gluten Free

Smoked salmon rosti canapes
Essentially, this is posh fish and chips in canape form. The crispy, crunchy potato strands are the chips, the silky salmon is the fish, and the lemon-spiked creme fraiche dressing is like a fancy tartare sauce. The great thing about these canapes is that you can do all the prep in advance, leaving you plenty of time to apply your face and have a pre-cocktail party cocktail before your guests arrive. Cheers!

600g (4-5 medium) floury potatoes, peeled
4 Tbsp olive oil
flaky salt and freshly ground pepper
180g (3/4 cup) creme fraiche
finely grated zest of two lemons and the juice of one of them
3 Tbsp capers, finely chopped
a handful of fresh fennel fronds or dill
250g best quality smoked salmon

Heat the oven to 200C and line two baking trays with baking paper.
Grate the potatoes – use the fine grating disc in a food processor, if you have one – then tip them into a sieve set over the sink to drain. Press as much liquid out of the potatoes as possible, then wrap them in a clean teatowel and wring to extract as much moisture as you can. Tip the potatoes into a bowl and stir through the olive oil and salt and pepper until well mixed.
Using your fingers, take small amounts of the shredded potato mixture and place on the prepared trays, as if you were forming little nests. Season again with salt and pepper, then put in the oven to bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden and crisp. Remove to a rack to cool.
In the meantime, mix the creme fraiche with the lemon zest, capers and a few finely chopped fennel fronds or dill leaves. Squeeze in a bit of lemon juice to taste.
To assemble the canapes, top each potato rosti with a piece of smoked salmon, a dollop of creme fraiche and a sprinkle of fennel. This makes about 40 canapes, which are great washed down with a glass of well-chilled bubbles. With any luck, you’ll even have some left for your guests…

If you love smoked salmon but canapes sound a bit formal, this smoked salmon and wasabi pate is a more interactive (but no less delicious) way to eat it.

* This post was created with the assistance of Regal Artisan Salmon, but all opinions (and the recipes) are my own.*