Spring has sprung

Bart Beek | VOLUME 29, ISSUE 5
Enjoy the change in season with these healthy and easy-to-prepare dishes made with fresh, seasonal produce.
Enjoy the change in season with these healthy and easy-to-prepare dishes made with fresh, seasonal produce.

In this Gourmet, we're celebrating spring in style by combining fresh spring produce with some beautiful seafood.

At this time of the year, we notice things we've waited all winter for - the warm breeze, green foliage that seems brighter, the herb garden that's packed with new shoots - and we crave for lighter, fresh flavours in our food.

During the spring of last year, while presenting at the Club Marine Mandurah Boat Show, I bumped into Christine and Ray, a lovely couple who are regular readers of Gourmet. After a lengthy chat about all things food, they handed me one of their own favourite recipes: grilled swordfish beurre noir. I went home, tried it and loved it! It's a perfect spring dish that's delicious, easy, quick and all done in one frypan. What makes a great recipe are flavours that all work perfectly together and this dish is a great example of that.

A fabulous way to kick-start a spring party is to serve my smoked salmon on kipfler potatoes with crème fraîche, baby capers and salmon roe. Simple, yet decadent, with the richness of salmon balanced by the sharpness of the crème fraîche.

The crisp asparagus salad with broad beans and egg 'blossom' screams springtime on a plate. It's fresh, lush and creamy and shows very clever use of seasonal produce.

Calamari cooked well is always a winner and here it's presented as a shared plate, overflowing with springtime goodness. It's easy to prepare yet big on flavour. And my scallops get a makeover with a delicious, Japanese-inspired treatment.

Never one to shy away from desserts, I've put together a passionfruit and white chocolate parfait that packs a sweet punch! It's fresh and vibrant and the combination of flavours leaves a delicious taste lingering on the palate.

Chilli calamari with green beans, potato and olives

This dish makes a fabulous shared plate, with the calamari combining perfectly with the spring vegetables. Use the freshest calamari you can find, cook it quickly and season well.

Preparation time: 10 minutesCooking time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4

8 small calamari tubes, cleaned
1 small bird's eye chilli, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 lime, zest and juice
150g baby green beans and butter beans, stems removed
150g small kipfler potatoes, brushed and steamed
100g tomato medley, halved
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1/4 cup continental parsley, torn
30ml extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

Cut open the calamari tubes and wipe the insides with kitchen paper, ensuring all loose matter is removed. Using a sharp knife, make 1mm-deep parallel incisions 2mm apart on the inside. Spin 45 degrees and cut again to form a criss-cross pattern. Cut into 6cm square pieces.

In a bowl combine together the chilli, garlic and lime zest. Add in the calamari pieces and toss well.

Place the beans into a saucepan of salted boiling water and cook for one minute or until just tender. Drain, cool in cold water, drain again and set aside. Cut the steamed potatoes into thin slices and combine with the beans, tomato halves, olives, and parsley. Dress with the lime juice and half the olive oil. Season well.

Place the remainder of the olive oil into a heated saucepan, add in the calamari and cook on high heat for one minute. Remove from the saucepan, season well and present with the green bean salad.

Smoked salmon on kipfler potatoes with horseradish cream, capers and salmon roe

This is such an easy and fast dish to make and the flavour combination works really well. The kipfler potatoes are smooth and make the perfect base for these pre-dinner treats. Select smaller potatoes, soak in cold water for 20 minutes, and then simply scrub clean.

Preparation time: 8 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4

8 slices smoked salmon
8 small kipfler potatoes, washed, unpeeled
200g crème fraîche
1 tblsp horseradish, grated
10ml lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tblsps salmon roe
1 tblsp baby capers
1/4 cup mixed micro cress
Several baby edible viola flowers, to garnish

Place the washed kipfler potatoes into a saucepan of cold, salted water, bring to a boil and cook for eight minutes, or until tender, but not falling apart. Remove, drain, set aside to cool and cut into halves longways.

Beat the crème fraîche until stiff, combine in the grated horseradish and lemon juice, season well and spread a little onto the centre of the plates.

Place four potato halves onto each plate, cover each with half a slice of smoked salmon and top with a little of the horseradish cream. Top two with the capers and two with the salmon roe, then finish each with a little of the micro cress. Present with several edible baby viola flowers.

Spring asparagus salad with broad beans and egg 'blossom'

When I eat this dish, I think of spring. The recipe also works as a fabulous base for steamed crab or smoked fish. The eggs are easy to prepare and look like a flower blossom when turned out.

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 12 minutes
Serves: 4

2 bunches asparagus
500g broad beans, in the pod
1 cup baby green peas
4 Brussels sprouts, boiled for two minutes and outer leaves removed
1 cup continental parsley, torn (optional)

Break away the thick woody ends from the asparagus and peel away any tough skin. Plunge into salted boiling water for two minutes, remove and place into an ice bath to cool, drain and set aside.

Drop the broad beans into the boiling water and cook for 30 seconds. Remove and place into the ice bath, then pop the bright-green beans out from their skins.

Boil the peas for one minute, remove and place into the ice bath to cool, drain and set aside.

Dressing
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tblsp fresh dill, chopped
1 tblsp white wine vinegar
3 tblsps extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Make the dressing by whisking together the Dijon mustard, dill, white wine vinegar and three tablespoons of olive oil.
Season well then fold through the asparagus, broad beans, peas and torn parsley.

Egg blossom
4 large free range eggs
50g duck fat
1 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste

To make the egg blossoms, line a small bowl with an overlapping layer of cling film. Brush the inside with the duck fat, and then carefully crack an egg into the centre.

Season well, then gather the cling film to wrap up the egg, twisting to form a tight ball. Tie up the top of the wrap and set aside while you make three more.

Cook the eggs in a water bath set at 85°C for nine minutes. Gently cut the eggs out and present with the Brussels sprout leaves, the asparagus salad and an extra twist of cracked black pepper.

Grilled swordfish with beurre noir

This recipe was given to me by Christine and Ray Fitzgerald from Western Australia during last year's Club Marine Mandurah Boat Show. They found the recipe while on an overseas trip to the US and it's become one of their favourites. I can see why - it's delicious, quick and sure to please all.

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 8 minutes
Serves: 4

4 portions swordfish steaks, 2cm thick
30ml extra virgin olive oil
50g unsalted butter
1/2 lemon, juice only
2 tblsps baby capers
3 tblsps golden raisins
8 small piquillo peppers or roasted capsicums, chopped
2 tblsps pine nuts, roasted
1/2 cup continental parsley, torn
Salt and pepper, to taste

Coat the swordfish with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Heat a heavy grill pan to medium heat, add in the swordfish and grill for three minutes on both sides or until golden on the outside and moist and opaque in the centre. Remove from the pan and set aside while making the sauce.

Wipe the pan clean with kitchen paper then place back onto the heat. Add in the cold butter and heat until it foams and turns dark brown.

Turn off the heat and quickly combine in the lemon juice, baby capers, golden raisins, peppers, pine nuts and parsley. Adjust the seasoning and present the swordfish topped with this flavoursome sauce.

White chocolate and passionfruit parfait

White chocolate and passionfruit combine beautifully. They're light and full of flavour in this quick and easy-to-make parfait. The sweetness is balanced by the refined acid of the poached berries and there's a hint of cinnamon in the clear syrup.

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Serves: 8

120g white couverture chocolate, chopped small
6 egg yolks
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 passionfruit, pulp
350ml thickened cream

Poached berries
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 cup water
1/2 vanilla bean, split
1 small cinnamon quill
1 punnet strawberries, hulled and halved
1 cup blueberries

To poach the berries, combine together the sugar, water, vanilla bean and cinnamon quill. Boil to dissolve the sugar then cool to body temperature. Add in the berries, cover and refrigerate.

Parfait

Melt the chocolate in a bowl above a saucepan of simmering water.

Place the egg yolks into a metal bowl and whisk until light and pale. Slowly add in the caster sugar, whisking well. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk for 10 minutes until doubled in volume. Combine in the passionfruit and set aside.

Combine the melted chocolate with the egg yolk mixture and allow to cool.

Whisk the cream until thick, then fold through the cooled egg mixture. Portion into individual moulds lined with cling film, cover and freeze overnight.

To serve, unmould the parfaits and remove the cling film. Place onto a serving plate and present with the poached berries and syrup.


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