Posts tagged salmon

Mysterious mummy superpowers (and some cute widdle salmon cakes)

I’ve managed to convince my kids that I have x-ray vision.

My superpower was revealed last weekend during a session of “guess what colour undies I’m wearing”. To the utter astonishment of my children I was able to correctly guess what colour undies they were both wearing AND my own AND daddy’s, too.

“How’d you do that?!” they wanted to know.

“I have x-ray vision.”

“No really! How’d you do that?!”

“I REALLY have x-ray vision.”

Nodding, they looked at me in awe, oblivious to the fact that as chief buyer, washerer and folderer of all the smalls at VSHQ I had a distinct advantage in the game and I’d simply just guessed the most common colour from their clothes pile.

It was luck that I was right every single time. But my status as the ‘undie-whisperer’ was cemented, and I’m now known for my mysterious super-powers – a fact which I’ll be sure to remind them off during their teenage years when they think I can’t see that packet of ciggies stashed in the bottom of their school bag.

Test out your superpowers by telling your kids to eat these mini salmon cakes, then you’ll practice your x-ray powers by looking into their tummies to count the number in there.

And I can see what vegies are in here, too, but the kids can't.

And I can see what vegies are in here, too, but the kids can’t.

Itsy widdle salmon cakes

2 large potatoes
1 cup cauliflower florets
180g can salmon in springwater, drained
2 spring onions, very finely sliced
Handful of green beans, very finely sliced (or pulsed in a mini food processor)
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Squeeze lemon juice, to taste (I like a big squeeze)
1/4 tsp sweet paprika
Salt & pepper
1 cup panko bread crumbs (or blitz up a few slices of stale bread and leave it out to get even more stale for a couple of hours)
Spray oil

Preheat the oven to 190C. Line an oven tray with baking paper.

Cook your potatoes. It’s up to you whether you bake them, steam them or be terribly unfashionable like me and just microwave them until the insides are a mashing consistency.

Cook your cauliflower. Same as above. You want it 90% cooked, still firm enough to dice finely, so that it will disappear into the potato.

Add your cooked potatoes to a large mixing bowl. Mash with a fork and mix in the cauliflower and all of the other ingredients (except the breadcrumbs). Season and combine really well.

Roll bite-sized balls of mixture, coat in breadcrumbs and place on your tray. Spray with oil spray and bake for 20 minutes. Carefully turn the balls over, spray with extra oil and cook for a further 10 minutes until golden.

Serve as is or with a dollop of mayonaise and salad.

Serves 2 adults & 2 small kids, along with salad.


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Stronger, faster, higher, sillier

Are you catching much of the Olympics? We’re watching it constantly and I’m not sure if the kids have developed a new-found love of sport or are more excited about unrestricted access to the telly.

I enjoy the whole spectacle of it. I don’t really follow sport much at any other time, but I do like to use the games as a benchmark of where I am in life. I remember during Beijing in 2008, looking at my baby and my preschooler and thinking “WOW, by London, you guys will be BIG”, and here we are already. And big (and backchatting) they are.

Amazing how you can sit and watch nearly any sport or activity in the world if it’s being performed by the world’s best. The skill and dedication is awe-inspiring. But really, I wish the coverage would just leave it at that and not spoil it by interviewing the athletes. Not that they’re not fascinating, but you know… sometimes I don’t think we need overthink it too much. Like asking a swimmer about their race strategy. I’m guessing that they’re going to go as fast as they can for as long as they can, until the race is over and hopefully they’ve gone faster than everybody else. Usually there’s some excruciating chat full of clichés about going ‘harder, faster, performing on the night ‘or acknowledging the other competitors who also had intricate race plans that included going fast, all the way until the race was over.

For the next couple of weeks you might want to plan some make ahead dinners, so that you can drop everything to dash to the TV in time to catch that really crucial handball final, or to see the replay of the white water rafting capsize (which you can knowledgably comment on). Maybe try out this salmon mornay recipe. You can make it up at any stage during the day, refrigerate it then pop it in the oven whenever you’re ready.

Truly – salmon mornay. With a bit of paprika – delicious.

Salmon mornay

1 carrot, peeled, grated or diced finely (whatever suits your family)
1 zucchini, grated
1 ½ cups cauliflower (diced as finely as you need for your kids to not notice it)
125g can corn kernels, drained
415g can red salmon (red is much nicer than pink in this dish)
¾ cup frozen peas
Chopped chives (optional)
Juice of half a lemon
40g butter
2 ½ tbsp plain flour
½ tsp sweet paprika
1 cup milk, warmed (I just chuck mine in the microwave on medium/high for a minute or so)
1 ½ cups grated cheddar cheese
½ cup dried breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 180C. Dig out 4 oven proof bowls or gratin dishes (one large dish will also work but doesn’t look as pretty).

If your carrot is in chunks, pop it in a bowl, add a splash of water, cover and microwave until 90% tender. Drain and add to a large mixing bowl. Repeat with the cauliflower.

Add in the rest of the vegies and the salmon – breaking up into chunks and squishing the bones (keep them in though, for the calcium hit). Season with pepper, squeeze over the juice and mix well.

Place the butter in a medium non-stick saucepan over medium heat. When starting to bubble add in the flour and paprika and stir well with a wooden spoon. Cook this mix until the smell changes from acrid to biscuity and delicious (1-2 minutes). Gradually drizzle in the warm milk, stirring briskly and constantly. At first the mixture will thicken up then it will smooth out into a sauce that coats the back of a spoon.

Remove from the heat and stir in 3/4 cup of the cheese until melted. Pour this sauce over the vegies and combine really well. Divide out into your oven dishes.

Combine the remaining cheese with the breadcrumbs, sprinkle over the top of each and bake for 20-25 minutes until bubbling and golden.

Serve with salad and crusty bread.


NOTE – allow plenty of cooling time before letting the kids tuck in.


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What the kids eat in… Russia

Perhaps it’s my frozen feet, but I’m back thinking about world food and looking for inspiring ways to warm my cockles. I’m figuring that a country with large chunks of permafrost might be able to give me some good guidance.

So what do the Russians feed their kids in those early years before Vodka becomes the staple diet? Well, the freezing climate and general poverty makes for a fairly grim culinary history (of course, this is just my opinion), but a fish pie or ‘kulebyaka’ is a bit of a bright spot. Traditionally it’s made with a thicker pastry, but I’ve got a great filo version that is so nice and crunchy that the kids are guaranteed not to notice the range of vegies which combine with the rice and boiled eggs to provide a complete nutritional shot.

Now, fearers of filo, I hear your pain. It can be a nuisance to work with. But if you give it plenty of time to defrost you’ll have a better chance of success. Once thawed, open it out, cover it with a clean, damp tea towel and be a bit patient. Your first one or two might not be quite so gorgeous, but they’ll still be yummy and that’s the main thing.

Crunch, yum. Crunch, YUM. Feet still cold though.

Filo ‘kulebyaka’ cigars

1 packet filo pastry
250g packet microwave rice
415g can red salmon (pink will do, but red is much nicer in this recipe)
3 spring onions, finely sliced
1 small carrot, peeled, grated
1 small zucchini, grated
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled, diced
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp dill

Leave the pastry out to thaw – read packet for product specific instructions.

Preheat the oven to 190C, line two trays with baking paper.

Cook the rice according to packet instructions. Set aside leave to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, combine all of the vegies, salmon (crush any bones), eggs, zest, dill and pepper. Add in the rice and mix well.

Open the (well defrosted) filo out. Spray a sheet then fold it in half, so that it’s almost a square. Dollop ¼ cup amounts of mixture in a line parallel to the fold line. Allow about 3 centimetres free at either end. Roll the pastry around the mix. Don’t worry if you get a tear. Just keep gently rolling until you have a nice cigar shape. Squeeze the ends closed.

You can make these to this point then refridgerate until you want to cook them. Just give them a spray of oil and store them between layers of baking paper.

When you’re ready to cook them, pop them on the trays. Spray with oil and bake for 20 minutes until golden and crunchy.

Makes about 16.

128 pages, 40 projects, 85 pages of printables…

Did you see that I’ve birthed the latest Vegie Smugglers product? It’s a ‘Craft for non-crafty’ e-book. I’ve collated up all of my favourite projects and added a bunch more, covering food, fun & learning. It’s available now at the shop…

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Easy yet indulgent Christmas ideas

There's a tree! It's officially Christmas.

Let’s get the Christmas recipe ball rolling. I mentioned over on Facebook that last year I made this Orange and Marmalade Roast Turkey. It was really fiddly, but I was only cooking for 6 people so it was kind of do-able (especially after an afternoon of bubbles).

This year, I’m focusing on SIMPLE and EASY food that will spoil the loved ones with a minimum of fuss. I’m on the lookout for some yum side dishes that I can take across town to pop on the buffet table at a big Christmas dinner. Do you have any suggestions?

In return, here are a couple of my favourites – quick, yet impressive recipes that I’ve made a few times and guarantee are great…

My favourite from recent years is this dressing, from the Tetsuya Cookbook, which is perfect for drizzling over any seafood.

Tetsuya’s Vinaigrette

1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
4 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp soy sauce
6 tbsp grapeseed oil
2 tbsp olive oil
½ tbsp lemon juice

Mix it all together and drizzle it over fresh oysters. Top them with chives and a tiny spoonful of ocean trout roe. Delicious, sublime. You’ll be licking the shells, the plates, your fingers, the mixing bowl etc etc.

If you’re sticking to seafood, this decadent tart is unbeatable and can be made the day before…

Smoked salmon & swiss cheese tart

1-2 sheets shortcrust pastry
200g smoked salmon
Egg white (for brushing)
3 eggs, lightly whisked
200ml cream
100g swiss cheese
1-2 tsp fresh dill

Grease a 22cm flan tin with melted butter. Line it with pastry. Cover with baking paper and pastry weights (or rice) and bake at 190C for 10 minutes. Remove the paper and weights, brush pastry with egg white and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove. Leave to cool.

Scatter salmon evenly around the tart. Mix together eggs, cream, cheese, dill and pepper. Pour over to fill the case. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until just set.

You can eat this cold or reheated. It’s rich, just a small slice will do.

If the whole pudding thing seems too hard, try a meringue & cherry parfait. The cherry sauce here is delicious. Pop it in tall glasses layered with thickened cream, brandy sauce and crushed meringue – very festive and looks fancy! You can make mini meringues easily, up to a week before Christmas (they taste HEAPS better than store-bought). I’ve made “Sue’s Meringues” from Stephanie Alexander’s Cook’s Companion a few times and they’ve always turned out well.

And I hear you shouting – what about the kids?? Mine do join in with Christmas dinner – they will generally eat all sorts of roast vegies so long as they’re smothered in gravy. But let’s face it, after a champers or two I couldn’t really give a stuff about their nutrition. It’s Christmas. They can just eat the entire contents of the Cadbury stocking that Santa brought for all I care.

Now about those side dishes you’re all going to suggest…..

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What Juanita eats when she’s not reading the news…

With the Vegie Smugglers cookbook so fresh off the presses, I’m still a bit chuffed whenever I receive positive feedback about it. Setting up as an independent publisher of quality publications has not been easy. I love it when people tell me how nice the stock is, how gorgeous the photos are etc etc. That’s all great, but what I REALLY want to know is how are the recipes working in your household?

A smattering of copies have made their way around town, and one person who instantly sprang to mind to send one to was Juanita Phillips, broadcaster and author of A Pressure Cooker Saved My Life. She seems like a nice lady. And a busy one. With small kids to boot.

And apparently she is nice, since she emailed me straight away – a chatty note about the food battles at her house (food boredom, with a small and over-used collection of dinners on high rotation). I was VERY chuffed when she said…

“I love your book! I’m very very excited about it. It looks gorgeous but more importantly the recipes are terrific. I made the salmon pancakes on Sunday night and the only sound at the table was quiet scoffing as every last pancake was eaten.”

She plans to work her way through the book AND tell all her friends about it. Awwwww she IS a REALLY nice lady. So in tribute, I’m renaming the Salmon Pikelets after her…

Salmon Pikelets

The pikelet that more journalists trust.

Juanita’s salmon pikelets

These little miracles are delicious fresh, reheated or from the freezer. The smaller size makes them perfect for toddlers seeking a bit of feeding independence.

2/3 cup self-raising flour
6 eggs
1/3 cup milk
400g can red or pink salmon, drained, flaked
2 cubes frozen spinach portions, thawed (or ½ cup fresh English spinach, finely shredded)
1 small red onion, finely diced
125g can corn kernels, drained
2 tbsp chopped chives or coriander (optional)
Black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl, add the eggs and milk and whisk out any lumps. Use your hands to crumble in the salmon (crushing up any bones), then stir through the spinach, onion, corn and herbs (if using) until evenly combined. Season with pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add 1-2 tbsp of batter to form pikelets 5-6cm wide. Cook for 2-3 minutes then use a spatula to turn over carefully. Flatten with the spatula and cook for another couple of minutes until golden brown on both sides. Repeat in batches with remaining batter.

Serve with green beans and lemon wedges.


STORAGE Place cooked pikelets on a plate for 10 minutes to cool. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Reheat in the frying pan, oven or microwave.

FOR THE ADULTS Serve these on a bed of rocket and smother them with sweet chilli sauce and a squeeze of lemon.

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Eat with your eyes (and get food in your eyebrows, on your lap and in your hair)

One of my kids has always been a grotty little thing. A bit like a walking diary – remnants of the day gather in layers on their clothing and are smudged in stripes around their head (and my house). I can see layers of morning tea underneath the milk from 2.30 and the after dinner biscuit adds a decorative element to finish the day. The fingers have permanent texta stains and I have, more than once remembered Pig Pen and wondered if we’re related.

Dirt is apparently good for kids, which might explain why this child is very healthy. But at dinner I’ve been driven to the point of total frustration and have now had to instigate two new rules.

1. If there is cutlery set out, then we MUST at least TRY to use it before we start picking through dinner with our fingers. And;

2. NO TONGUES at the table. I DO NOT want to see your tongue at any stage. We do not lick our gnocci clean. We do not lick the seasoning off baked vegies. Our tongue stays in our mouths at all times and if at all humanly possible we try to keep our mouths closed while we chew.

Of course, it’s a bit of an uphill battle, but one I feel the need to revisit every time someone else’s child has been here and displayed stunningly good manners. Recently a little friend came over. She sat still all dinnertime. When her plate was clean (and there was NOTHING on the floor around her) she brought her empty bowl to me in the kitchen, unprompted. I was so shocked, I forgot to say ‘thank you’.

I like to think that my kids can turn it on when they’re visiting elsewhere, but I’m not sure.

Some nights I have the strength to tackle lessons in etiquette and correct usage of utensils. But other nights, if my mummy-patience is more than a little frayed, I just make these salmon bites and avoid the flashpoint entirely.

Salmon bites recipes smuggles zucchini

See, they\’re mouth sized, in the hope that your child can play \’fit the shape\’.

Salmon & zucchini bites

Don’t worry about this mix being quite ‘wet’. Rolling the balls in flour gives them a nice crunchy coating and ensures that the inside stays nice and moist.

185g can pink salmon, drained
2 tbsp chives, finely chopped
1 zucchini, grated (you can peel the skin off first, if your kids are absolutely green-phobic)
1 egg, lighten whisked
1/4 cup plain flour
2 tbsp canola oil, for cooking
Lemon wedges, to serve

Combine all of the ingredients except the flour in a large mixing bowl.

Squeeze into gold ball sized patties. Toss in the flour and coat evenly.

Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Fry the patties in the oil for 3-4 minutes each side until golden.

Remove and drain on paper towel.

Sprinkled with lemon juice and serve as a snack or place in a wrap with salad and light mayonaise.


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