Autumnal appetisers

Bart Beek | VOLUME 23, ISSUE 2

As the days get shorter and the weather gets a little cooler, there is still something quite special about having friends over for a casual lunch-time barbie.

I have a passion for using the highest quality foods at their seasonal peak. When fresh food is combined with uncomplicated cooking methods, the results can be stunning – tasty, mouth watering dishes that spice the table conversation with murmurs of satisfaction.

All the recipes prepared for this issue of Club Marine were cooked on the barbecue or the wood-fire oven in the garden (except for squid, which was finished in a small deep fryer).

These appetisers are best served informally from platters and handed around on the deck. The dishes are perfect for a casual evening with friends, complemented by a cool autumnal breeze and a glass of SA bubbles from Ballast Stone Estate.

Crispy Spiced Squid

Fresh squid is the key to success here, as well as quick cooking times and good squid preparation.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking times: 2 minutes

Serves: 4 to 6 entrée portions

500g whole squid

1 tblsp Szechwan peppercorns*

2 tblsp salt flakes

1 tblsp chilli powder

1 tblsp ground star anise

5 tblsp cornflour

2 whole limes (cut into wedges)

1 cup coriander sprigs

Vegetable oil for deep frying

Clean and prepare the squid, or ask your fish monger to do it for you. If doing it yourself, remove the tentacles and side flaps. Cut through one side and open flat; remove the gut and all insides. Remove the beak and skin by scraping away with a knife. Wash well, dry and trim into bite-size strips.

To make the spice mix, place the Szechwan peppercorns and salt into a small heavy-based frypan and place onto the heat. Stir gently and dry grill until very fragrant and the mix starts to smoke lightly and darkens. Using a mortar and pestle, grind the mix into a fine powder, then add the chilli powder and ground star anise.

Heat the vegetable oil to 180ºC. While the oil heats up, combine the spice mix and cornflour, then coat the calamari strips with the dry mixture. Shake to remove excess and deep-fry carefully in small batches until golden and crisp. Drain on paper towels and present with lime wedges and coriander sprigs.

* Available from most Asian grocery stores.

Grilled Salmon in Ginger Broth

This is a wonderfully hearty meal with a delicious Asian-flavoured broth. It can be served as both an entrée or a main meal. Delete the salmon and present as a vegetarian meal option.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Serves: 4 as a main or 6 as an entrée

4 × 140gm salmon portions, cut into two strips

1 medium lime

salt flakes and freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 tblsp extra virgin olive oil

For the broth:

30ml Jingilli extra virgin olive oil

½ small brown onion, diced

2 cloves garlic

1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and grated

2 small red chillies, chopped

2 stems lemongrass, bruised and chopped

4 Kaffir lime leaves, crushed

2 tblsp palm sugar

2 tblsp fish sauce

1 litre chicken stock

For the garnish:

1 cup snow pea sprouts

1 cup coriander, chopped coarsely

1 cup Enoki mushrooms

Prepare the broth by heating the oil in a sauce pan and adding the onion, garlic, ginger, chilli, lemongrass and Kaffir lime leaves. Stir fry well, when fragrant, add the palm sugar, fish sauce and stock. Bring to a boil, turn down and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and hold until required.

Coat the salmon with the lime zest, seasoning and the extra virgin olive oil. Grill on a pre-heated hot plate until seared to your desired rareness.

Divide the garnish ingredients amongst the 4 bowls to serve as a main, or 6 cups as an entrée.

Top with the grilled salmon and finish with the hot broth.

Chicken and Sage Rolls

This recipe is as simple as it is delicious – small chicken tenderloins seasoned with fresh sage and pepper, rolled with prosciutto and wood fired. Sage is a powerful, full-flavoured herb, so use it sparingly. As a bonus, sage is known to aid in the digestion of fatty foods, both savoury and sweet.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Serves: 4

12 small chicken tenderloin fillets

freshly ground pepper, to taste

24 fresh sage leaves

6 thin prosciutto slices

4 cups washed baby spinach

2 tblsp apple balsamic vinegar

2 tblsp Jingilli extra virgin olive oil

Pistachios (to garnish)

Cut each prosciutto slice into two long strips and place them on a cutting board. Top each with a chicken tenderloin and cover with a fresh sage leaf.

Season well with freshly cracked pepper and gently roll up into even-sized parcels. Place into a preheated grill pan and roast in a wood fire oven until just cooked.

Gently toss the spinach leaves with the apple balsamic dressing and olive oil. Place onto a serving platter, top with the chicken rolls and serve.

Spicy Flathead Tails

Grill the flathead tails quickly until just cooked, otherwise they will overcook and become dry. The dressing is constructed in a saucepan and poured over while still hot. Present the fish on top of steamed new potato slices.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 6 minutes

Serves: 4

12 small flathead tails

zest of lime

30ml Jingilli extra virgin olive oil

salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the Dressing:

60ml extra virgin olive oil

4 tblsp small caper berries

2 tomatoes, de-seeded and diced

1 level tsp Red Harissa paste*

1 tblsp diced black olives

salt and pepper, to taste

½ cup coarsely chopped coriander

4 new potatoes, steamed and sliced 5mm thick

Coat the flathead tails with the extra virgin olive oil, seasonings and lime zest. Grill on a pre-heated hot plate until just cooked.

In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil, caper berries, tomatoes, olives and Harissa paste. Adjust the seasoning and hold until required, adding the coriander at the last moment.

Place the sliced potatoes onto serving plates, top with the flathead tails and finish with the hot dressing.

*Harissa is a fiery hot Moroccan chilli paste that can be purchased in most good delicatessens and spice shops.

Grilled Figs and Prosciutto

While some figs appear in mid-December, the peak time is March through to late April. This is a fabulous, fuss-free way of serving these luscious summer-autumn fruits.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 2 minutes

Serves: 4

4 fresh figs, washed and halved

4 tsp soft ashed goat’s cheese

4 sprigs lemon thyme

freshly ground pepper, to taste

4 thin slices prosciutto

2 tblsp Jingilli extra virgin olive oil

2 cups rocket leaves

¼ cup shelled pistachio nuts, roughly chopped

2 tblsp red wine vinegar

2 tblsp Jingilli extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Cut the figs in half and remove the skins, if necessary. Fill the centres with some of the goat’s cheese and a piece of the lemon thyme, then wrap with the prosciutto.

Pre-heat a hot plate, lightly oil and grill the flat side of the figs until just crisp.

Combine the rocket leaves and pistachio nuts. Dress well with the red wine vinegar, extra olive oil and salt and pepper.

Present the wrapped figs on top of the rocket salad and finish with a little extra olive oil.

Autumn Gourmet Tomato Salad

Fresh and vibrant flavours make this a fabulous salad for special occasions. It sits beautifully at the dining table as the ‘hero’ when presented in a large white bowl as a centrepiece.

Grilled Saganaki cheese or cubes of Greek feta cheese would be perfect when served with this salad.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 1 minute (just needs dressing)

Serves: 6 to 8

1 punnet of cherry or baby Roma tomatoes

150g baby green beans, stringed and blanched

150g snow peas, stringed

1 small red onion, sliced

18 Kalamata olives

1 red capsicum, cut into 2cm squares

½ small telegraph cucumber, diced

4 stalks celery, diced

60ml Jingilli extra virgin olive oil

30ml red wine vinegar or 60ml of apple balsamic salt and pepper, to taste

Remove the tops and tails from the beans and cut to a length of 4cm. Boil lightly-salted water in a small saucepan and blanch the beans for 30 seconds. Remove and plunge into iced water and, when cool, drain and place into a large bowl.

Wash the cherry tomatoes and add to the beans.

Add the sliced onions, olives, snow peas, capsicums, diced cucumber and sliced celery.

Combine the dressing (vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper) and fold through the salad.

Note: cubes of goat’s cheese and pecans add a lift to this salad.