Recipe: Hot smoked salmon in my Big Easy barbecue

Okay summer still hasn’t really arrived in London – sometimes it never really does – but I am certainly not going to let that prevent me from getting out into my garden and lighting the barbecue. Especially now that I have my brand new Char-Broil Big Easy barbecue which has the power to roast, smoke and barbecue. You can read all about the UK’s first three-in-one smoker, roaster and grill in one package here and also discover some lovely roast chicken recipes to try out.

Today I’m getting more adventurous (as promised) and trying something for the first time. I’m going to hot smoke some lovely fresh salmon. First step is to make a marinade and give the salmon 2-3 hours to soak up the flavours.

Getting ready to marinate in front of my CharBroil Big Easy

Honey Jack Daniels marinated smoked salmon

Serves 2

The marinade

3 tbsps Honey Jack Daniels

2 tbsps brown sugar

2 tbsps soya sauce

1 tbsp dijon mustard

Mix all the ingredients and marinate one piece of filleted fresh salmon per person for 2-3 hours

Recipe: Hot smoked salmon

Give the salmon fillets time to absorb the flavours

While the salmon is marinating get your smoker ready. There is a pull out box on the side of the Char-Broil Big Easy where your wood chips go. You can buy a range of wood chips from many places. I got mine from smokingwoodchips.co.uk and today I’m using some of the plum chips.

Measure out the chips you need and soak in water for about half an hour. This is to ensure you get a lot of smoke for your cooking. Drain, spoon the chips into the smoker box and insert into the barbecue.

Light the barbecue and put it on to high. Leave for about 10 minutes or until you can see smoke start to appear.

Fold tin foil into sizes slightly bigger than the salmon, take the salmon fillets out of the marinade and place on the foil. Place on the rack inside the barbecue and cook for about 15 minutes – checking regularly.

The sugar and honey in the marinade will make the skin crispy and add some slight blackening, which I love. You’ll find that the salmon is beautifully flakey and moist inside.

Beautifully soft and flavoursome salmon with chilli corn and potatoes

Today I served the salmon with some Jersey Royal potatoes (they are in season after all) and lovely sweetcorn which I cooked on the grill section of the barbecue above the smoking rack. Plus I made a simple sour cream sauce. Here’s how.

Sour cream sauce

150ml sour cream

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

3 tbsps chopped fresh dill

Mix all the ingredients at least three hours before serving and keep cool in the fridge. This amazing and simple sauce is wonderful with all kinds of fish – and tastes amazing on potatoes, too.

This sour cream and dill sauce goes perfectly with the smoked salmon

Sweet chilli barbecued sweetcorn

2 ears of corn

2 tbsps sweet chilli sauce

A few knobs of butter

Place each ear of sweetcorn on a piece of foil large enough to wrap it in.

Spread the sweet chilli sauce over the sweetcorn with a knife. Add a few knobs of butter to each parcel.

Wrap the corns up fairly tightly and place on the grill of the barbecue which is at the top above the smoking .

Put them in at the same time as the salmon and they will be perfect by the time your salmon is cooked.

 You can read all about the fabulous Char-Broil Big Easy – the UK’s first gas three-in-one barbecue at www.charbroil.eu 

And watch this space for more great alfresco cooking ideas. Next week I’m going to be roasting some vegetables Moroccan-style (yes, in the barbecue) to match with our delicious local lamb chops. My mouth’s already watering just thinking about it.

Recipe: Tuna, anchovy and asparagus salad

Sometimes the easiest way to decide what to make for lunch is to see what’s in the fridge and store cupboard. And it’s especially efficient when we’re in Spain for a limited period and need to polish off all the food in the house before we head for home.

I love the food in Spain, even the supermarket is a joy to visit. Everything from the tinned tuna to the fresh fruit and vegetables taste fabulous so rustling up a beautiful salad is simple. Here’s a fishy delight I came up with that looks stunning, too.

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Beautiful greens and yellows and plenty of tasty fish

Serves 3

2 tins of tuna, drained

4 tbsps mayonnaise

1 bag of lettuce

1 small cucumber, peeled and sliced

5 spears of bottled white asparagus, sliced into thirds

100g frozen peas, defrosted

2 large slices fresh pineapple, chopped into bite sized pieces

12 anchovies in vinegar, drained

French dressing

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Succulent salad up close

Mix the mayonnaise and the drained tuna thoroughly.

Lay the chopped lettuce on the bottom of a platter.

Add the cucumber slices, pineapple, peas and asparagus.

Drizzle with French dressing.

Top it with the tuna mayonnaise.

Lay the anchovies on top of the tuna and it’s ready to serve.

The ingredients of Spain: Paprika and Saffron

I love Spain! It could be partly because it’s in my blood with my ancestors originating from the fishing port of Cadiz. And also because I love their attitude to life, family values, beaches, scenery and ever-blue and sunny weather.

Then there’s the food. This trip I’ve packed several Spanish recipe books for my initial inspiration…the rest I get from checking out the fresh ingredients in local markets and supermarkets. There’s so much stuff to choose from dinner takes a lot of decision making.

This week I decided to make a Catalan-style fish stew. Actually a pretty simple recipe that takes a little bit of time but, most crucially, you need the best ingredients. Which is easily achieved when in Spain.

Two of the key ingredients in this amazingly flavoursome and fresh-tasting dish are paprika and saffron, two classic and frequently-used Spanish ingredients. So I thought I tell you what makes them special.

Paprika (or pimenton in Spanish) is made from air dried peppers. The flavours vary by country and in Spain you tend to get three varieties – dulce (mild), agridulce (moderately spice) and picante (very spicy). The peppers are smoked which gives it a wonderfully earthy flavour and the pimenton dulce has a lovely sweetness that adds a unique taste to any dish.

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A mound of the beautifully smoky and vibrant pimenton

Saffron was introduced to Spain by the Arabs and comes from the stigmas of the beautiful purple crocus flower. They bloom at dawn and need to be picked as soon short as possible as the plant withers quickly and the stigmas lose colour and aroma. It’s harvested in autumn between dawn and 10am, and because of its delicate nature, it needs to be done by hand – a seriously back-pain-inducing process. More than 85,000 flowers are needed to produce 1kg of saffron. That’s a serious amount of flowers. No wonder it’s the most expensive spice in the world.

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The beautiful flowers produce the amazing, delicate stems

Historically, saffron has been used as a dye, in perfumes and as a drug as well as a cooking ingredient. Cleopatra is said to have used it as a seductive essence and in Ancient Greece it was a remedy to sleeplessness and to reduce hangovers as well as being used to perfume baths and as an aphrodisiac.

Most of the world’s saffron comes from Iran and Spain who are generally regarded as having the best quality. And I’m happy to say that it’s sold at my local market in Spain for a bargain price – a tightly sealed box for a snip at €3. You don’t need a lot to flavour dishes, I guess this purchase will last me for about a year’s worth of cooking.

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Saffron makes for a beautiful field of purple

So now you know all about these two amazing spices. And here’s a delicious dish to make using them, which shows how well they work together.

As I’m beside the sea, the fish is all wonderfully fresh and again, great value. I used hake, prawns and clams today but you could include any kind of shellfish or white fish (like monkfish or cod).

Catalan-style fish stew

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Juicy prawns, sweet clams and succulent hake in the rich tomato and pepper sauce

Serves 6

A large pinch of saffron threads

6 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped finely

1 tbsp dried thyme

4 bay leaves

2 red peppers, cored, deseeded and chopped roughly

1 can chopped tomatoes

1 tsp sweet paprika

250ml fish stock

24 live clams, rinsed in water

18 raw prawns, heads and tails removed

600g hake fillet, skinned and cut into 5cm chunks

Put the saffron threads in a heatproof bowl and pour 4 tbsps boiling water over them. Set aside to infuse while you prepare the rest of the dish.

Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat. Fry the onion for about 10 mins until golden but not brown. Add the garlic, thyme, bay leaves and red peppers and fry for about 10 mins until the peppers are soft.

Add the tomatoes and paprika and simmer for another 5 mins, stirring.

Add the fish stock and saffron water and bring to the boil, stirring. Reduce to a simmer for 10-15 mins until the sauce reduces and thickens.

Add the hake gently and spoon the sauce over it – don’t stir it in or it will break up too much. Put in the prawns and clams, making sure they are gently mixed into the liquid. Reduce the heat to very low, put a lid on the pan and simmer very gently for about 10 mins until the hake is cooked through, the prawns turn pink and the clams open. Discard any clams that don’t.

Serve immediately with plenty of crusty bread to mop up the juices.

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The stew in the pot just after the fish is added

Recipe: Prawn, pasta and pineapple salad

I hate throwing food away, my leftovers always go back into the fridge. All very good except for the fact that a lot of the time they end up in the bin a few days later. Not anymore…it’s time for me to get creative and think of ways to use those leftovers in delicious dishes. I’m pretty impressed with my first effort.

When we have pasta I always seem to cook too much, hate the idea of there being not enough, I guess, so I had a generous portion of cooked penne in the fridge. I’m in Cape Town at the moment and the weather was sweltering, so I came up with this lovely salad recipe.

The secret with the seafood-style sauce is to make it using twice as much mayo as ketchup. Although, of course, if you prefer different predominant flavours it’s easy to experiment until you’ve got your ideal ratio.

Serves 2

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A tasty salad for a hot summer’s night

For the sauce (per portion – so double for this recipe for two)

4 tbsps mayonnaise

2 tbsps ketchup

A squeeze of lemon juice

A dash of Worcestershire sauce

For the salad

150g cold cooked penne

250g medium sized prawns, cooked and peeled

3 slices of pineapple, peeled and cut into small pieces

1 handful of chopped fresh mint leaves

Half a small iceberg lettuce, chopped

1 tomato, quartered

6 slices of cucumber

Mix all the ingredients together for the sauce.

Add the prawns, pasta, pineapple and mint and mix together thoroughly

Serve in a bowl with the lettuce on one side and the prawn salad on the other, tomato and cucumber arranged around.

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The pasta salad all mixed and ready to serve

Do you have favourite recipes using leftovers? Get in touch and let me know, I’m always looking for new dishes to try.

Get cooking at Venturi’s Table

I’ve come to love cooking fairly late in my life. Really, it’s only over the last 10 years or so that I’ve learnt to enjoy the creative outlet it gives me and the pleasure of sharing food I’ve cooked with others. And I’ve discovered that food and cooking definitely bring people together.

I’ve done my share of team building courses in the corporate world and believe me, most of them ended in something close to disaster with people being pushed to take part in activities that were inappropriate and unnecessary. In one case several people resigned from the company directly after a team building weekend (and that’s another story). Certainly not a successful way to motivate people! My favourite one involved, you can guess, cooking.

And there’s the perfect place to do it. Venturi’s Table offers fun cookery experiences for team building in business, as well as for personal parties, like birthdays or hen nights. You can tailor-make your time and menu to suit you and it all happens in their beautiful custom-made kitchens. And of course you end up with something delicious to eat once you’ve cooked it all together.

Anna Venturi is the inspiration behind the Table. Originally from Italy, Anna started  cookery classes from her home kitchen in Buckinghamshire in 1993 sharing recipes passed down from her family. The classes soon outgrew the house and lead to a larger  cookery school. Her experience taught her that cooking is one of the best ways to bring people together which has lead her to opening up Venturi’s Table.

Anna has also published a recipe book: Secrets from an Italian Kitchen. Here’s a fabulous sea bass recipe from her to try.

Sea Bass Surprise

Among Mediterranean fish, sea bass is one of the nicest and most elegant.  Serve it on a very special occasion, accompanied by a simple side salad or vegetables and new potatoes.

Serves 4

SEA BASS-1

2 sea bass of 3lb each, gutted, scaled and filleted

1 red onion, thinly sliced into rings

100g cherry tomatoes

3 tbsps capers in salt, thoroughly rinsed

12 black or green olives

3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil

2 tsps dried oregano

2 tsps chopped fresh parsley

2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved

Salt and pepper to taste

Foil or parchment paper to wrap the fish

In a large bowl mix thoroughly the chopped parsley, oregano, garlic cloves, salt pepper and a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil.

Check that the filleted fish is clear of all bones. If necessary pluck out those few bones left. Rinse the fillets under running water and dry with kitchen paper.

Coat the fish carefully with the marinate in the bowl.

Take an ovenproof dish big enough to lay all the fillets side by side.  A baking tray is ideal.

Cut a large sheet of parchment paper or foil to be placed on the tray, with generous overlapping on each side of the tray to cover the fish. Lay a bed of onion rings on the paper.  Lay the fish on the onion rings, skin down.

Now you can add all the other ingredients: the tomatoes cut in half, the olives, the capers-carefully rinsed, on and around the fish. Finally, drizzle a little more oil on top.

Close the parcel carefully and bake in a preheated oven at 180ºC for about 20 minutes.

Bring to the table and open the parcel in front of your guests.

And for a bit more inspiration, here are the dishes I enjoyed when I visited Venturi’s Table.

The perfect lunch...a delicious chicken terrine, spinach, cherry tomatoes and freshly made pesto

The perfect combination,  chicken terrine, spinach, cherry tomatoes and freshly made pesto

The delectable orange dessert

The delectable orange dessert

The perfect excuse to get cooking together! You can find out more at www.venturis-table.com

Recipe: Brown shrimps on toast, with a twist

There are nights (and plenty of them) when I simply can’t muster up the enthusiasm to cook. Sometimes all I have energy for is rummaging through my fridge and cupboards to see what would make an acceptable light dinner snack.

Okay, I am very lucky in that I often have a lot of exciting stuff in stock. Today I had a packet of the most delicious-looking brown shrimps in the fridge. I then remembered my jars of Peruvian paste and a tasty dinner of shrimps on toast was conceived of.

If you don’t have Peruvian paste (which I realise is likely), try mixing a bit of tabasco and ketchup with your mayo or experiment with other combos (wasabi is also good).

brown shrimp

Serves 2

A small baguette, sliced on the diagonal

6 slices of cucumber

90g brown shrimps

3 tbsps mayonnaise

1 tbsp La Latina Pasta de Aji Amarillo (yellow pepper paste).

Lightly toast the bread.

Mix the mayo and the pepper paste together.

Spread thickly over the toast.

Top with cucumber and then a generous portion of brown shrimps.

Serve with crisp lettuce and cherry tomatoes.

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You can buy these fantastic pastes and other Peruvian products from Viva Peru. I’ve started experimenting using them with different foods, mixed with either mayo or creme fraiche. Really good with all sorts of fish – salmon, smoked salmon, mackerel, prawns and also for spicing up a chicken mayo salad or simply spread on sandwiches instead of mustard or pickle. What a difference it makes having a range of condiments in the house. A deliciously satisfying dinner needn’t be complicated or time-consuming if you have great ingredients at hand.