Monday, February 7, 2011

Birthday Meal

It's that time of year again. A little over, actually.

Every year, for Natalie's birthday, I try to scratch-build a recipe. Something new, especially for her.

One of the benefits of being untrained in cooking is that I don't know what's been done before, you see. I can blithely go ahead, put some stuff together, and be pleased with it, neither knowing nor caring if it already exists in some celebrity chef's compendium of recipes somewhere. Therefore, the dish that follows is an original - as far as I'm concerned. Your Mileage May Vary.

Smoked Salmon Salad With Sour Cream, Grilled Vegetables, and Potato Rosti.

Obviously, this one comes in several parts. First, preparing the cream:

I wanted a little texture, so I didn't stick to plain sour cream. I added chopped fresh dill and baby capers and black pepper for flavour, and I used a little gelatine to 'set' the sour cream so I could layer it without having it run everywhere. Pretty easy -- 400ml sour cream, a dessertspoon of gelatine powder, and just enough boiling water to dissolve the gelatine. Whisk the gelatine until it's a bit cooler. Throw in a good handful of chopped fresh dill, a couple tablespoons of pickled baby capers, and whisk the whole lot together. Put it in the fridge to cool.

The salad:

This was nice and easy. 250gm or so smoked salmon, chopped into little pieces. Four nice, ripe tomatoes, cut into small cubes. A handful of fresh basil leaves, shredded. Sea salt to taste, squeeze of fresh lemon juice over the top, stir the lot together.

The rosti: Oh, come on. Potato rosti, man. Grate the better part of a kilo of fresh, washed potatoes. Squeeze out the moisture. Add a couple eggs, some salt and pepper, and 1/3rd cup of so of self-raising flour. Stir the lot together. Put enough oil in a well-seasoned pan to allow shallow frying. Fry big dollops of the potato mix. Use a metal eggflip to squish your dollops down to about 1cm thick. Turn them once. Fry over moderate heat until both sides are golden brown. (If you wanna get really arty, grease a couple egg-rings and throw them in. Use 'em to confine your rosti into an anal-retentive circle shape.)

The grilled veg: I used big slices of capsicum and garden-fresh zucchini. They got salted and peppered, and coated with olive oil. Then I put them under the grill until they got a bit of colour. Finally, I put them in a bowl and drizzled them with a little balsamic vinegar and a little white truffle oil. (Don't miss that last, if you can. Mmmm!)

Assembly: on each plate, I laid out the zucchini and capsicum slices in a star shape. A potato rosti went into the centre of each star. On top of each rosti I spread a thick layer of the sour cream. And atop that went a couple good dollops of the salmon salad. Finally, I laid some very thin Vidalia onion rings decoratively over the top.

Job done.

The dish went really, really well with a truly remarkable '03 Pipers Brook Chardonnay cleanskin. The sweetness of the vegetables and balsamic vinegar nicely complemented the smoky, salty salmon, and the tang of lemon, with the tomato and the basil providing lovely, complex aftertastes. The rosti were crunchy on the outside, and firm but soft through the middle, providing a lovely contrast of textures - and the amazing scent of truffles kind of floated through the whole meal.

Natalie actually had two whole plates worth - which is a bit of a miracle, since she's a careful eater. But it really was a wonderful dish.

I finished up with a baked custard (because the chickens have been laying heavily) and stewed blackberries. So now we're all lying around, burping gently...


  1. DAM!, that sounds like a cracker I must admit. PRINTED and I'll let you know how it progresses!

    OH...had a laugh on Sunday after a comment was made to me and brought you to mind, something about how long a job should have taken.

    Spade bit drill
    Pliers point
    Pliers flat
    Stanley knife
    cordless drill
    power hammer drill
    Phillips head screw-driver
    long length of black polly garden water system hose.
    water manifold

    Remove sleeper from deck, cut hole through bearer, disconnect old water system, run new pipe under deck, hook up new section for garden around pergola. T this into existing system, fix leaking tap. Re run various stopper taps on system to isolate various components, work out the running of various components. work out what we do and do not have for the various connections. Kill spiders in the way. Use hex bit and ratchet to unloosen deck screws that DRILL could not undo. Listen to wife as why the job took so FKN LONG!. Throw hands up in air which happen to have several fkn slip and scratch marks on then light smoke and think about Flintharts previous post on SMALL FKN JOBS and other lack of appreciation on JUST WHATS FKN INVOLVED!,,,lol.

  2. Bwahhahaaaahaaa! Solidarity, brother!

  3. BTW -- I know you're a red drinker, but that Chardonnay really is amazing, and the cleanskin price was so bloody good that I'm going back there in the next week or so to get at least a case of the stuff, if I can. Do I have your postal address? I'm not sure... but if you email it to me, I'll fire off a couple bottles of the stuff so you can dedice for yourself.

  4. That sounds like heaven. Hooray for Nat and the cook!

  5. Looks like a great recipe. The gelatine bit was lateral thinky cooking in action. Mmmmmm truffle oil. Makes my simple ham salad tonight look a bit sad. Glad I had it before reading this.

  6. Oh and the cleanskins can really pay off. A couple of years ago I snapped up a nice 2008 merlot from W.A. Went back and bought a dozen at $5 a pop. I love that kind of shopping.

  7. Although I am a bit of a cellar door snob, there is alot to be said for clearskins. Our local clearskin chain does a reasonable French champers which I use in cooking and as the rule goes it is drinkable as well.

    Love using truffle oil esp on pasta.

  8. I shall be giving that potato rosti a whirl this weekend. Thanks for the tips FH!