Monday 22 April 2013

PASS THE SALT PLEASE - and make these gorgeous golden Fleur de Sel pecan caramels this week.

 Fleur de Sel pecan caramels
These delightful caramels are soft and chewy with a salty edge to balance against the sugary sweetness. Package them up into a tin box and wrap around some pretty ribbon and voila! You have a homemade hostess gift. You will need a candy thermometer to make these caramels; you can buy thermometers at good kitchenware stores. Image.
Makes approximately 36 pieces

• olive oil spray, for greasing
• ¾ cup cream
30g butter
1 vanilla bean, split
½ teaspoon Fleur de Sel
1 cup sugar
¾ cup honey
extra, 30g butter, diced
½ cup roasted pecans
extra, ¼ teaspoon Fleur de Sel

1. Line a 15 x 25cm loaf pan with baking paper and spray lightly with olive oil spray.
2. Combine the cream, butter, vanilla bean and Fleur de Sel in a small saucepan over medium heat until it comes to the boil, remove from the heat and cover with the saucepan lid to keep warm.
3. To make the caramel, combine the sugar and honey in a medium, heavy based saucepan. Stir gently over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Be careful to not let the mixture come to the boil until the sugar has dissolved or the caramel will crystalize.
4. Once the sugar has dissolved, take a pastry brush dip it in a little water and clean around the edges of the saucepan to make sure there are no sugar crystals on the sides of the saucepan.
5. Place in the candy thermometer and bring to a rapid simmer, cook until the syrup reaches 155ºC (310ºF) on the candy thermometer,
6. Remove from the heat. Carefully pour the cream mixture into the caramel, stir well and then remove the vanilla bean.
7. Return to a medium heat and cook the caramel until it reaches 127ºC (260ºF). Remove from the heat and stir through the diced butter and pecans. Mix until the butter has melted. Pour into the prepared pan, sprinkle with the extra Fleur de Sel and allow to set at room temperature.
8. Once cool remove from the pan and slice into bite size pieces.
9. Store in a cool dark place, individually wrap in wax paper to prevent sticking together.

food dept. fact: Fleur de sel is French for ‘flower of salt’. It is hand harvested from saltpans along the coast of Brittany and is available at specialty stores. If you can’t find it you can use flaked sea salt.

To buy Fleur de sel and other amazing salt mixes online try our friends at the saltbox

Recipes: Sally Courtney, Art direction: Anne Marie Cummins.

Thursday 4 April 2013

SALT - the everyday essential ingredient that can make or break your meal.

Salmon gravlax with Dijon crème fraiche dressing and pickled cucumbers
You will need to start this recipe one day ahead. For a great party platter  - serve with some toasted rye bread and all the delicious accompaniments. Let people serve themselves, pop a bottle of crisp, cold champagne and get the party started!

• 2 cups rock salt
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 bunch dill, finely chopped
• 1 tablespoon juniper berries, crushed in a mortar and pestle
• zest 1 lemon
• 1/3 cup vodka
• 1.5 kg fillet of salmon trimmed and pinned boned
• 1 quantity Dijon crème fraiche dressing, for serving
• 1 quantity Pickled cucumber and onion, for serving
• toasted rye bread, for serving

1. Combine the rock salt, sugar, dill, juniper berries, lemon zest and vodka in a large bowl, mix well.
2. Using a large non-reactive dish (glass, china or stainless steel), sprinkle an even layer of salt over the base of the dish lay the salmon fillet on top, skin side down.  If the salmon fillet is too large to fit in the dish, cut the salmon fillet in half. Sprinkle with the remaining salt mixture between the layers and over the salmon, ensure all of the salmon flesh is coated.
3. Cover with plastic wrap and the weigh down with a heavy chopping board and a couple of cans.
Refrigerate for 12 hours, uncover the salmon turn over the fillet, recover with plastic and the weights and refrigerate for another 12 hours.
Remove from the refrigerator and brush off the salt mixture, wipe with some damp paper towel. Store the fillet in the refrigerator until ready to serve. It is important to remove the salt mixture after 24 hours or the fish will continue to cure and become very firm.
To serve, slice the salmon very thinly and arrange on a serving platter with the Dijon crème fraiche dressing, Pickled cucumber and onions and serve with some toasted rye bread.

Dijon crème fraiche dressing
Makes approximately 1 cup

• 200ml crème fraiche
• 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
• 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• salt and black pepper, to taste

1. Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk to combine, set aside in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Keeps for 1 week in the refrigerator.

Pickled cucumber and onions
Makes approx. 3 cups

• 3 Lebanese cucumbers
• ½ white onion, sliced into very thin wedges
• ¼ cup dill sprigs
• 1 cup white vinegar
• ½ cup water
• ½ cup sugar
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1. Using a mandolin on the thinnest setting, slice the cucumbers, discarding the ends. You can also use the mandolin to slice the onion.
2. Layer the cucumber, onion and dill sprigs in a non-reactive dish (glass, china or stainless steel).
3. Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, salt and fennel seeds in a small saucepan. Stir over a medium heat until the sugar dissolved and then bring to the boil. Pour over the cucumber, onion and dill, once cooled cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until required, keeps for 1 month.

Having a barbie? (That's Aussie for barbeque or grill). Impress your friends with our salty, juicy steak, but the best part about this recipe, is you can make the porcini salt and salsa verde in advance. Go on, fire up the barbie mate!
Serves 4

4 x rib eye steaks, approximately 2cm thick
1 tablespoon olive oil, for rubbing
1 quantity Porcini and peppercorn salt
1 quantity Lemony salsa verde

1. Bring the meat to room temperature before cooking. Rub liberally with olive oil and Porcini and peppercorn salt, use approximately 1 teaspoon or the salt rub per steak.
2. Heat barbecue grill or grill pan until hot.
3. Place the steaks onto the barbecue and cook for 1 minute, give the steaks a ¼ turn on the same side and cook for another 1 minute. This will give crisscross grill markings on the steak.
4. Turn the steak over and cook for 1 minute, give the steaks a ¼ turn on the 2nd side and continue to cook for another 1 minute.
5. Remove the steaks from the barbecue and cover loosely with foil. Allow to stand in a warm place for 4 minutes until ready to serve. Steaks will be cooked medium rare.
6. Serve immediately with the Lemony salsa verde and your favourite vegetable salads and sides.

Porcini and peppercorn salt
Makes 1/3 cup

10g dried porcini mushrooms
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
¼ cup salt flakes

1. Combine the porcini mushrooms and peppercorns in a spice grinder or mortar and grind until fine.
2. Mix the porcini and pepper mixture into the salt flakes and store in a jar until ready to use. Keeps for up to 6 months.

Lemony salsa verde
Makes ½ cup

1 clove garlic
rind 1 lemon
1 cup continental parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon capers, finely chopped
2 anchovy fillets
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
juice ½ lemon
salt and black pepper, to taste

1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.
2. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Return to room temperature before serving.

Himalayan rock salt and caraway seed pretzels
Don't be put off by the look of these salty, golden, plaits, they are super easy to create and make a great movie-night snack.
Makes 16 pretzels

2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried yeast
5½ cups bread flour
1 tablespoon salt
olive oil spray, for greasing
2 tablespoons bicarbonate of soda
1 egg, lightly beaten with 2 tablespoons water, to make an egg wash
1 tablespoon Himalayn rock salt
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
seeded mustard or dijonnaise, to serve

1. Place warm water in the bowl of an electric mixer that can use a dough hook. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve, sprinkle over the yeast. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave to rest for 10 minutes or until the yeast begins to foam. This is the yeast activating and beginning to work.
2. Place the bowl onto the mixer and add the flour and salt. Mix on a low speed until the flour is combined. Turn up to a medium speed and knead with the mixer for 5-7 minutes or until the dough is smooth and springy.
3. Lightly grease a large mixing bowl and place in the dough, turn the dough over or lightly spray with more oil spray so that the surface of the dough is lightly covered with the oil. Place the tea towel over the bowl and allow to stand in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size. A sunny window sill is always good or if it’s a cold grey day fill your sink with hot water and place the bowl on a cooling rack over the water and cover completely with a towel.
4. Once the dough has doubled in size, divide it in to 16 even pieces. I find the easiest way to do this is to weigh the whole dough and divide by 16, then you can weigh each piece and you will end up with pretzels all the same size, cover with a tea towel to prevent drying out.
5. Preheat oven to 220ºC (425ºF). Place a large deep-sided frying pan with approximately 4cm of water and the bicarbonate of soda over a low heat and bring to a slow simmer.
6. Roll each ball of dough into a sausage shape approximately 45-50 cm long. To do this start in the centre and roll the sausage backwards and forwards at the same time you are stretching the dough outwards. Once it reaches the correct length bring the 2 ends of the dough around towards you and cross them over each other twice. Then flip the twist and the 2 ends back onto the curve of the dough to create a pretzel shape. Working with a few pretzels at a time, poach them in the simmering water for 1 minute, remove with a slotted spoon and place on a lined baking tray.
7. Brush the pretzels with the egg wash and then sprinkle with the Himalayan salt and caraway seeds; bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
8. Serve warm from the oven with a bowl of mustard or dijionnaise, for dipping.

Salt and Sichuan pepper baby prawns with coriander and lime aioli
Go to any good Sydney restaurant and you will find similar prawn recipes to this on the menu. Australia is known for it's clean warm waters and wonderful fresh seafood, so we decided to do a stay at home crispy prawn recipe for those of you who can't make it to ole Sydney town. 
Serves 6 for nibbles or 4 for entree

500g baby school prawns
1 tablespoon Sichuan pepper
2 teaspoons white peppercorns
½ cup rice flour
1 tablespoon flaked sea salt
extra 1 tablespoon flaked sea salt
vegetable oil, for deep frying                      
1 quantity Coriander and lime aioli, to serve

1. Place the whole, unshelled prawns into a colander and give them quick rinse cold water, set aside and allow to drain.
2. Place the Sichuan pepper and peppercorns into a mortar and pestle and crush well. Combine half of the crushed peppers with the rice four and salt in a large bowl. Combine the remaining crushed peppers with the extra 1 tablespoon salt flakes and set aside for serving. Toss the prawns in flour mixture to coat.
3. Heat oil in a wok over a medium heat. Test that the oil is hot enough by dipping the handle of a wooden spoon into the oil; it should sizzle if the oil is hot enough.
4. Take a handful of the prawns from the flour and place into a sieve, give it a quick shake to remove any excess flour and them carefully tip the prawns into the hot oil. Allow the prawns to cook for 2-3 minutes depending on their size. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper. Repeat with remaining prawns until they are all cooked. While hot sprinkle with the extra pepper and salt mixture.
5. Serve immediately with the Coriander and lime aioli.

Coriander and lime aioli
This amazing aioli takes just 15 seconds to whizz up!
Makes approximately 1 ½ cups.

2 free range eggs
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup light olive oil
juice 1 lime
½ cup coriander leaves
1 teaspoon salt flakes
black pepper, to taste

1. Combine all ingredients in a large jug.
2. Using a stick blender, blend for 15 seconds or until aioli is thick. If the aioli is too thick add a little more lime juice or water to thin to dipping consistency. Keeps for 1 week in the refrigerator.

food dept. fact: Aioli is usually a time consuming thing to make, but use a stick blender and it emulsifies the ingredients in seconds. This method won't work with a blender or food processor.

Salt-crusted roast chicken with tarragon vinaigrette
There really is something exciting and magical about this recipe. You start by wrapping up a chicken in a layer of salt, you may think, too much salt, but trust in the recipe, it works. Once cooked, crack open the warm salt crust, and the smell of salt and tarragon steams out from the shell, to reveal a delicious tender chicken. Mmmmm, yum!
Serves 4

1.8kg free range chicken
½ bunch tarragon
1 clove garlic
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
black pepper, to taste
2 lemons, zest finely grated and the lemons halved
extra, 4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
extra, 1 bunch tarragon
2kg cooking salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar and pestle
4 free range egg whites
¼ cup water
salad greens and avocado, to serve
1 quantity of Tarragon vinaigrette, to serve

1. Preheat oven to 200ºC (400ºF). Rinse the chicken under cold water and dry with paper towel.
2. Combine the tarragon leaves, garlic, olive oil and black pepper in a food processor and blend until it forms a thin paste. Rub the paste over the chicken, inside the cavity and under the skin on the breast. Be careful not to tear the skin or the salt crust will penetrate the flesh and become too salty.
3. Stuff the cavity of the chicken with two of the lemon halves and the extra cloves of garlic. Truss the chicken and set aside while you prepare the salt for the crust.
4. Remove the extra bunch of tarragon and finely chop. Combine tarragon in a large bowl with the salt, lemon zest, pepper, egg whites and water. Using your hand mix the ingredients well. The salt mixture should the consistency of wet sand that you would use to build a sand castle.
5. Place a layer of the salt mixture into the base of a heavy baking dish, approximately 2 cm thick. It only needs to big enough for the chicken to sit on. Pack the remaining salt around and over the chicken to completely encase the chicken.
6. Bake the chicken for 2 hours.  While the chicken is baking prepare the vinaigrette and salad. Once baked remove the chicken form the oven and allow to stand for 15 minutes.
7. Break open the salt crust to reveal the chicken. You may need to use a meat mallet or pestle to crack the salt crust. Using a towel or oven mitts break off the reaming salt, brush off any broken bits of the salt and remove the chicken skin to reveal beautiful juicy chicken.
8. Serve with salad greens and a drizzle of the Tarragon dressing.

Tarragon Vinaigrette
Makes 1 cup

½ bunch tarragon leaves, finely chopped
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup tarragon vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 clove garlic, squashed but still whole
salt and black pepper, to taste

1. Combine all the ingredients in a jar and shake well. Remove the garlic clove before use. Use as required.

Salt and Rosemary Crusted Potatoes
Love roast potatoes? Well these spuds are out of control ahhhh-mazing! Bite through crunchy, salty potato skins to clouds of soft warm mash, what a fabulous winter warming treat.
Serves 6

6 large Sebago potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
¾ cup cooking salt
2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
softened butter, to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC (400ºF). Scrub the potatoes clean and dry with paper towel. Pierce the potatoes several times with a skewer and brush with olive oil.
2. Combine the salt and rosemary in a medium bowl and roll the potatoes in the salt to create a crust, reserve left over salt mixture.
3. Using the reserved salt and rosemary mixture, place 6 small piles of salt onto a lined baking tray. Place the potatoes on top of the piles of salt.
4. Bake for 1- 1½ hours depending on the size of the potatoes. Test with a skewer to make sure they are cooked through. Being careful when you pierce the skin so that the salt crust isn’t damaged.
5. Once cooked remove from the oven and using a fork mark a cross in the skin of the potato.  Pinch the sides of the potato to open up the fluffy flesh. Serve hot with a dollop of butter.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chunk Ice cream with Cinnamon Salt and Peanut Biscuits
We are not sure you will ever forgive us for introducing you to this incredible flavour combination, but go ahead, indulge away! The smooth, sweetness of the icecream is wonderfully balanced against the salty, nuttiness of the crunchy biscuit. It's a flavour sensation.
Makes 1½ litres

1 litre good quality vanilla ice cream
150g dark chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup chopped salted peanuts
½ cup organic peanut butter
½  teaspoon salt flakes
1 quantity Cinnamon salt and peanut biscuits

1. Soften the ice cream and place into a large mixing bowl.
2. Sprinkle over the chocolate and peanuts, dot with small spoonsful of the peanut butter and sprinkle over the salt flakes. Mix the ice cream to evenly distribute the chocolate, nuts and peanut butter but do not over mix or you will loose the swirls of peanut butter.
3. Return to a plastic container and freeze for 4 hours or overnight.
4. Serve with Cinnamon salt and peanut biscuits.

Cinnamon Salt and Peanut Biscuits
Makes approximately 20 biscuits

125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1 free range egg
1½ cups self-raising flour
1 cup roasted peanuts
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt flakes

1. Preheat the oven to 180ºF (360ºF). Combine the butter and sugar in a bowl, cream together using and electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix well.
2. Add the flour and beat in on low until well combined. Using a wooden spoon mix through the peanuts.
3. Using heaped tablespoons full of mixture, shape into balls and place onto a lined baking tray.  Lightly flatten.
4. Combine the cinnamon and salt flakes in a small bowl. Sprinkle onto the biscuits and bake to 10-12 minutes or until golden.
5. Cool on the tray and store in an airtight container.

With thanks to JL Huth for helping us in the kitchen on the day of shooting!