Winter warmers

Bart Beek | VOLUME 23, ISSUE 3

Chef Bart Beek offers an inspiring selection of dishes that put a new twist on the hearty comfort foods of winter.

On the verge of winter, and with access to so much wonderful fresh seasonal produce, it will take no time at all to create a range of fabulous heart-warming dishes.

Delicious any time, prawns with a touch of Greece, are even more so.

Then there’s the versatile frittata (an open faced omelette). It’s the ideal way to use up those left-overs and can be presented hot or cold, as an entrée or as the main course.

Or you can create a little theatre by opening fish parcels at the table and watch as the steaming fragrance wins your guests over. If you can’t find the lotus leaves, simply use baking paper or aluminium foil.

Vegetarian friends will be kept happy with the Spanish layered potato slice, which is just delicious served with roasted baby trussed tomatoes splashed with balsamic, extra virgin olive oil and salt flakes.

Fish lovers will appreciate the perfectly poached salmon fillets in a wonderfully fragrant broth, complimented beautifully by a fresh herb mixture.

And for a fitting end to any dinner, it’s hard to go past a soft-centred chocolate pudding using a seriously good dark chocolate.

Pumpkin soup with roasted cumin

Winter’s when pumpkins are at their best and this version is superb and full of exotic flavours. The matching of the fragrant roasted cumin with the pumpkin is superb.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 25 minutes

Serves: 4

50g unsalted butter

1 medium brown onion, sliced

1 leek, trimmed, halved, washed and sliced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 medium carrot, sliced

1 medium celery stick, sliced

1kg pumpkin, cut into large dice

2 potatoes, peeled and diced

2 litres vegetable stock

3 bay leaves

sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

2 tblsp cumin seeds, dry roasted and crushed

3 tblsp grated fresh ginger

4 tblsp pouring cream

4 tblsp coarsely chopped coriander

2 tsp basil oil (optional)

Melt the butter in a heavy-based, deep saucepan and add the onion, leek, garlic, carrot and chopped celery. Cook for 5 minutes on high, stirring often until well sweated.

Add the pumpkin, potato, bay leaves and stock, then bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook until tender.

Remove the bay leaves and puree the remainder using a blender until smooth. Pan roast the cumin seeds until fragrant and crush in a mortar and pestle.

Add the cumin, chopped coriander and grated ginger, then stir well and season to taste.

Present in warmed bowls with a spoon of cream and a splash of basil oil.

Poached salmon

Salsa verde is a wonderful fresh herb mixture that is delicious with poached fish as well as grilled meats and various vegetables. Prepare the salsa verde on the day you intend to serve it. The asparagus should be quite firm and lightly peeled from just below the head.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 8 minutes

Serves: 6

For the court-bouillon (aromatic poaching liquid)

3 litres cold water

150g onions, sliced

150g carrots, sliced

2 bay leaves

10 whole black peppercorns 6 parsley stalks

1 tsp salt flakes

300ml white wine vinegar

Place all the above ingredients into a suitable poaching pan, bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. It is now ready for poaching.

6 x 140g salmon portions

12 asparagus spears

1 cup picked sprouts and dill

30ml Jingilli extra virgin olive oil

10ml lemon juice

2 cups parsley sprigs

2 sprigs each of mint and basil

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 tblsp baby capers

5 anchovy fillets

sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste 150ml Jingilli extra virgin olive oil

In a food processor, place the parsley, basil, mint, garlic, capers, anchovy, seasoning and olive oil. Combine well and set aside until required.

Place the salmon portions into the poaching liquid and poach until just cooked (almost 5 minutes) and a little rare in the centre. Poach the asparagus for two minutes only and remove.

Place the salmon onto a warmed plate and top with two asparagus spears and dress well with the salsa verde. Garnish with the picked greens glossed up with a little olive oil, lemon juice and seasoning.

Grilled prawns with tomato, fetta and ouzo

This is a very Greek-style method, inspired by a visit to Chris’s Restaurant in Beacon Point many years ago. The prawns can be either flame-grilled (barbecued) and added to the sauce, or pan-grilled with the sauce added at the end.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves: 6

For the sauce:

2 tblsp Jingilli extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 medium brown onion, finely chopped 2 bay leaves

2 tins of tomatoes, chopped

sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

30ml Jingilli extra virgin olive oil

36 green prawns, peeled and deveined 60ml ouzo

150gm feta cheese, crumbled

1 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

Place the olive oil into a saucepan and bring to moderate heat. Add the garlic and cook gently for 30 seconds. Then add the onion and cook for 3 minutes on high heat. Add the bay leaves and tomatoes and cook gently for 30 minutes until slightly thickened. Set aside until required.

Flame-grill the prawns for 3 minutes on each side and place into a hot frypan. Add the ouzo and ignite to burn away the alcohol. Add the crumbled fetta and warm tomato sauce. Stir in the chopped flat leaf parsley and season to taste.

To serve, place a spoon of the sauce onto a heated plate and top with 6 prawns. Finish with some fresh parsley and a drizzle of the extra virgin olive oil.

Asparagus frittata

This is basically a delicious thick omelette, which is finished under the grill. It has to have a moist centre, with a golden, gratinated top. It can be served as part of a cocktail party, an entrée or as the main course of a special meal. This dish has it all – vibrant colours, crunchy textures and sensational fresh flavours – and it only takes 15 minutes to cook.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Serves: 4 to 6

½ cup porcini mushrooms

1 cup boiling water

1 bunch green asparagus spears

400g artichoke hearts, drained

6 medium eggs

½ cup Italian parsley, roughly chopped

¼ cup fresh mint leaves, finely shredded

2/3 cup grated Parmesan (half for the egg mixture/half for the top)

sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

50 ml Jingilli extra virgin olive oil

In a bowl, combine the eggs, 1/3 cup Parmesan, Italian parsley, mint and seasoning. Set aside until required.

Cover the porcini mushrooms with the boiling water and let soften for 10 minutes.

Heat a heavy non-stick frypan and add the Jingilli extra virgin olive oil. Cut the asparagus spears into 30mm lengths and cook quickly in the pan. After 3 minutes, reduce the heat slightly and add the drained chopped porcini mushrooms and sliced artichokes. Cook for a further 3 minutes, then add the herbed egg mixture. Gently move the mixture about, pulling the mix away from the sides and bottom.

When almost set, sprinkle the remainder of the cheese on top and finish under the grill or in a hot oven.

Spanish-style layered potato cake

This can be presented hot or cold and could be served as a first course, a main or as a vegetable to accompany grilled lobster.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves: 6 to 8 (approx)

800g waxy potatoes (Desiree or Pontiacs) peeled and thinly sliced

60ml Jingilli extra virgin olive oil

300g ricotta

200g cream

1 tsp smoked sweet paprika

2 eggs

sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

2 bunches baby trussed tomatoes

2 tblsp balsamic vinegar

4 tblsp Jingilli extra virgin olive oil

Gently boil the sliced potatoes until just fully cooked, then carefully strain and cool slightly.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, cream, ricotta, paprika and salt and pepper. Gently fold in the potatoes and combine well.

Pour into a lightly-oiled, baking-paper-lined oven pan, level out and place into a pre-heated oven set at 180°C. Bake for 30 minutes until firm and lightly golden.

Let the omelette sit for 5 minutes, then place a board over the top. Carefully turn over and remove from the pan. Remove the paper, slice and portion out.

Combine in a bowl 2 bunches of baby trussed tomatoes, 2 tblsp of balsamic vinegar, 4 tblsp of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt flakes. Gently coat and roast for 10 minutes at 175°C. Present with a portion of the potatoes.

Haw Mok

This is a traditional spicy fish recipe from Bangkok. The lotus leaves help retain moisture and add a subtle flavour to the fish. Very aromatic and fabulous when served with steamed rice at a barbecue or as part of a dinner party. Banana* or bamboo leaves work equally well and can be purchased at Asian grocery stores.

Serves: 6

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 8 minutes

2 tblsp yellow curry paste

¾ cup coconut cream

4 tblsp fish sauce

1 tblsp cornflour

400gm salmon, cut into cubes

juice of 1 lime

1 tblsp palm sugar

2 red chillies, sliced

½ cup coriander leaves

6 lotus leaves

With a whisk, combine the curry paste, cornflour, fish sauce, palm sugar and lime juice with the coconut cream. When it has become a smooth paste, add the fish cubes.

Pour boiling water over the dried lotus leaves and leave to soften for 5 minutes. Cut into a square and fill with a spoon of the fish mix. Top the fish mix with sliced chillies and coriander leaves. Form into parcels, secure with a skewer and steam until cooked (6 to 8 minutes).

*Note: fresh banana leaves can be steamed for 20 seconds to assist in bending, so that they do not split when wrapping the fish.

Bart’s soft centred chocolate soufflé

A very easy-to-make – and hard-to-stop-at-one – type of pudding, which goes very well after any meal, or any time of the day or night. Enrich even further by folding in a little liqueur of your choice when the flour is added.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 6 minutes

Serves: 6 to 8

200g unsalted butter

200g dark couverture Lindt chocolate*

3 eggs

3 egg yolks

1/3 cup caster sugar

1/4 cup plain flour

Set the oven at 210°C. Place the butter and chocolate into a double boiler and gently melt together.

Whisk together the eggs, egg yolks and the caster sugar until thickened.

Whisk in the melted butter and chocolate mixture, sieve the flour over the top and fold in.

Divide into buttered moulds and bake for 6 minutes. They should pop up at the tops, be cooked on the outside and creamy in the middle.

Present with a spoon-full of Edinburgh Fog (whipped cream with crushed amoretti biscuits, Drambuie and vanilla sugar) and fresh berries, or simply enjoy with a good coffee.

*We used a dark chocolate, known as couverture, that contains a high level of cocoa solids.