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Smokey Russian Potato Salad


(serves 8-10)
The Russian Potato Salad (some people say Ukrainian) is the king is potato salads, so much so it is more of a cold appetizer than a side dish. It has great texture, being the perfect blend of starchy vegetables, crunchy vegetables and meat. It also looks great, its a kaleidoscope of colours bathed in a milky white dressing. Most importantly Russian Potato Salad tastes great. A perfect dish to make ahead of time so there is less time-pressure when you are cooking and serving your meal.   
 

IngredientsPotato Salad

  1. Potatoes (6 = 3 cups)
  2. Carrots (3 = 1.5 cups)
  3. Frozen Peas (1.5 cups)
  4. Red Onion (1/4)
  5. Eggs (4)
  6. Ham (200g)
  7. Heinz Sandwich Spread (1/3 cup)
  8. Sour Cream (1/3 cup)
  9. Mayonnaise (1/3 cup)
  10. Liquid Smoke
  11. Dill Weed

Preparation 

  1. Boil 4 eggs in a pot, starting with cold water. Simmer for 10 minutes once it is boiling and then place the eggs in cold water.
  2. Peel the carrots and potatoes and cube them into 1cm blocks. Place the cubed potato and carrot in a large sauce pan and add boiling water from a kettle. Add just enough water to cover everything and bring to a boil.
  3. Simmer for 8 minutes once it is boiling. Strain
    Boiling in Pan

    better to cube first, then boil

    through a colander and after a minute pour into a large salad bowl lined with some paper towels.

  4. Rinse the peas in water to remove any ice and then place those into the same pan. Again add just enough water to cover everything and bring to a boil. Simmer for 3 minutes once it is boiling. As with before strain through a colander and then add to the salad bowl.
  5. Julienne 1/4 of a red onion and cube 200g of ham.
  6. Mix 1/3 cup Heinz Sandwich Spread, 1/3 cup sour cream, 1/3 cup mayonnaise, 1T of dill weed, 1T of liquid smoke in a bowl. Add also 0.5t each of sugar, pepper and salt.
  7. Remove the paper towels from the vegetables.
  8. Peel the eggs and put them through an egg slicer a few times. The whites should end up cubed while the yolk should fall apart. Add the egg bits to the bowl together with the chopped onion and ham. Mix everything up gently and then add the dressing and do a second mixing.
  9. Refrigerate at least for a few hours before serving.
Potato Carrot Pea

everything the same size

Notes

  • Some people call this the Olivier Salad, after a Chef Olivier who served a similar style salad in the Moscow Hermitage Restaurant. That may well have been the original inspiration for this salad but its quite different, containing more exotic ingredients like grouse, crayfish and capers.
  • One important feature of the Russian Potato Salad is all (except the onion) the pieces should be of the same size. Since you can’t change the size of the peas, that becomes your standard.
  • Do not use canned peas, they are too soft and mushy and will get mashed.
  • Heinz Sandwich Spread provides the taste of pickles and additional layers of flavour. It is the ‘secret ingredient’ of my recipe. If you can’t find some you can chop up some pickled gherkins with 1/3 cup of Crosse and Blackwell Salad Cream as an alternative, that’s how I used to do it. 
  • Everybody has their own version so feel free to experiment. You can use roast chicken or bologna instead of ham, these are the common alternatives for meat. Swap in beetroot if raw onion is not to your liking. You can also choose to leave the egg yolk out.
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Posted by on May 11, 2016 in Appetizers, Recipe, Salad

 

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Japanese Wafu-Style Orzo


(serves 3)
How does one cook a light pasta that still tastes good? For the answer we have to look not to Italy, but to the Far East where the Japanese have developed Wafu Cuisine, a style incorporating the best of Japanese and Western cooking. Miraculously, my Wafu Pasta recipe is not based on cream, cheese or oil, yet it’s still delicious and satiating. You will find this Italy meets Japan recipe great for the formal dinner table but also perfect for those times when you just want to have dinner on the sofa.      
 

Ingredients Wafu Orzo

  1. Scallops (12=200g)
  2. Shaved Ham (100g)
  3. Mushrooms (100g)
  4. Corn (1 ear)
  5. Scallion (4 sprigs)
  6. Orzo a.k.a. Risoni (200g)
  7. Miso
  8. Butter
  9. Sesame Oil
  10. Sherry

Preparation 

  1. Slice each scallop into 3 discs. Marinate them in a mixture of 1T of sesame oil and a flat 0.5t of salt.
  2. Cut the mushrooms into thin slices. Any kind of brown or white mushrooms will do. If they are large, cut them in half before slicing.
  3. Julienne the bottom 1/4 (white) of the scallion into one bowl and the second 1/4 (green) into a separate bowl. Discard the remaining tips.
  4. Cut the ham into small pieces. Brine soaked pre-sliced ham, the type that is sold for sandwiches, has the texture best suited for the Wafu style.
  5. Shave the corn kernels into a bowl. Retail the cob.
  6. Fry the white scallion bits with1T of sesame oil in a pan. When the scallion begins to brown, add the shaved ham. Continue to stir fry for a minute. Mix 1 heaped t of miso with 1T sherry and add this to the pan followed by 1 cup of water. You now have a ham and scallion miso soup base.
  7. While the mixture is simmering, rinse 200g or orzo in boiling water and then add the orzo to the pan, followed by the corn kernels and mushroom. Scrape the cob with the back of a knife blade over the pan. Leave uncovered on a low simmer.
  8. In the meanwhile melt a large knob of butter in a second pan over high heat. When the butter browns add the scallops. Stir fry for thirty seconds and then turn off the heat. Immediately add a second large knob of butter to cool the pan.
  9. When the liquid in the first pan thickens, test the texture of the orzo. If it is still hard, add 1/4 cup of hot water and continue simmering. Repeat until the orzo is just right, then pour the scallops and butter into the pan and mix well.
  10. Spoon the orzo into your serving dishes. Dust with black pepper and garnish with the green scallion bits.

Notes

  • I suppose I should start off by explaining what the Japanese Wafu-style is. It translates as ‘Winds in Harmony’ and refers to the way the Japanese prepare Western dishes to suit local tastes. Its a style of cooking that developed gradually after WWII and has now become immensely popular in family restaurants in Japan. You could go as far as to say it is a type of fusion cuisine. Salad dressing containing soya sauce, yozu or sesame oil and mayonnaise containing wasabi are both examples of Wafu.   
  • One important aspect of Wafu cooking is it tends to be balanced with delicate flavours. If you want to stay true to the Wafu style, stay away from strong tasting ingredients like garlic, olive oil, bacon, blue cheese. A little cream is ok, but not too much. 
  • This is quite a flexible recipe and you can substitute a number of ingredients to create many different varieties of the pasta. You could for example swap the corn for baby asparagus (you might want to add a bit of sugar though), the shaved ham for smoked turkey or the scallop for clams.
  • The prime flavour for the sauce is Miso. For more information on Miso, refer to this page
 

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Split-Pea and Ham Soup


(serves 8-10)
Have you heard the phrase ‘fog as thick as pea soup’? This is that soup. Split-pea and Ham Soup is a wholesome soup that has been on the menu in Northern Europe for centuries, if not longer. The Germans, Dutch and Scandinavians all have their own versions where split-peas are simmered till they disintegrate completely, leaving a gorgeous emulsion of peas suspended in ham flavoured stock. Kobi’s version doesn’t require a ham hock, so its particularly easy to make.  
 

Ingredients

  1. Dried Spit Peas (240g)
  2. Cubed Ham (150g)
  3. Pork Sausages (150g)
  4. Onion (1)
  5. Butter (25g)
  6. Cream (1/4 cup)
  7. Pork Stock Cubes (2)
  8. Nutmeg
  9. Mint Leaves

Preparation 

  1. Rinse the split peas briefly and then soak them in 2 cups of room temperature water.
  2. In a seperate cup of hot water, dissolve 2 pork stock cubes.
  3. Cut the onion into 1/4 inch bits.
  4. Slice each sausage down the middle and open them like a book face down to remove the sausage skin. Stir 1/4 cup of water into the sausage filling to loosen it up.
  5. In a large pot, fry the onion on low heat with a half inch thick slab of butter. When the onion begins to soften after about five minutes, turn the heat up and then add the wet sausage filling. Stir fry till the sausage begins to brown slightly – which means its fat has melted, then add the cubed ham and fry for another minute.
  6. Add the pork stock to the pot, followed by 3 cups of plain water, and then the peas including the water they were soaked in. Add 2t chopped mint leaves, 1t nutmeg, 1t sugar and 1t black pepper.
  7. Bring back up to a simmer again and maintain this for 90 minutes or so, at which time the peas would have disappeared. You’ll need to stir once in a while to prevent anything from sticking to the bottom. You’ll also need to add water from time to time as it evaporates.
  8. Before serving, reboil and stir in 1/4 cup of cream. Add salt incrementally (about 2t by my experience) till you are satisfied with the taste. Pea soup turns into a sludge when it cools down so always serve it piping hot.

Notes

  • If you are wondering why I’m using such and odd amount of split peas, its because 240g is half a pound and split peas more often than not come in half pound packs. It also happens to be 3 cups if you want to go by volume. 
  • One of the age-old problems with split-pea soup is: the amount of ham required to make a proper stock is 10x more than the amount of ham that should be in the soup when it gets to the table. The traditional way of resolving this is to use a whole ham hock for the stock, with a small part of the hock diced for the final soup itself. When I initially experimented with pork stock cubes, I found them to be too lean and eventually I discovered that adding pork sausage to the mix was the ticket. The sausage contains fat (and other pork parts that I don’t want to discuss) and this with the pork cubes simulates a ham hock stock nicely.
  • Pork stock cubes are popular in Asia and you should find them easily in a gourmet supermarket or Thai/Asian food store. If you really can’t find pork cubes, use chicken stock cubes boiled with spam instead. You’ll need to discard the spam before using the stock, but that’s still better than using a ham hock.
  • If you can’t find pre-cubed ham, ask for ham from the deli counter that is sliced 1/3 inch thick and criss cross that to get your cubes.
 
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Posted by on November 23, 2011 in Recipe, Soups

 

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Croque Monsieur (Béchamel variety)


(2 big or 4 small sandwiches)
Croque Monsieur is the ultimate grilled ham and cheese sandwich, one of my favourite things to have for lunch. Leave it to a Frenchman to make something as mundane as a sandwich into a gourmet dish. After you have had a properly made Croque Monsieur with a béchamel topping, like me you won’t be wanting to eat any other kind of ham and cheese sandwich again.  
 
Ingredients
  1. Bread (1 mini loaf)
  2. Emmental Cheese
    (1.25 cups grated)
  3. Sliced Ham (100g)
  4. Egg (1) 
  5. Butter
  6. Flour
  7. Milk (2/3 cup)
  8. Nutmeg
  9. Cognac

Preparation

  1. Grate a block of emmental till you get 1.25 cups of grated cheese. The block would be roughly equal in size to half a block of butter.
  2. Slice your bread into four slices such that two slices can fit into the toaster oven at a time. They need to be twice as thick as a typical slice of bread, so you can’t use regular pre-sliced bread. I prefer a raisin loaf for that extra sweetness myself , but it doesn’t really matter what bread you use as long as its crust is not hard.
  3. Beat one egg in a large flat container. Butter 2 slices of bread on one side and place them buttered-side up into the egg. The idea to to have only the bottom half of the bread soaked in egg, so you’ll need to do both slices at the same time. Place the two slices into the toaster oven, this time with the buttered-side down in the toasting tray and grill till the top browns a bit. This should take about ten minutes, depending on your toaster oven.
  4. In a frying pan, melt 3T of butter on low heat. Sprinkle in 1 heaped t of flour and stir fry till it foams up and darkens slightly. Drizzle in 2/3 of a cup of milk, stirring all the while to get rid of any lumps. Sprinkle in a flat t each of nutmeg and pepper. When you see a nice white sauce, turn off the heat. Then add 1T of cognac and half of your cheese. Mix well to get a cheese sauce. When this cools further, you should end up with a cheese paste.
  5. Arrange your ham slices on the toasted egg-bread. If you like, you can spread a bit of mustard on the bread before that. For croque monsieur, I usually prefer thinly sliced deli ham (the type with water added) as it is softer and adds more bounce to the bite. Sprinkle half the remaining grated cheese on the ham and then cover with the other two slices of bread.
  6. Spread the cheese paste on top of the sandwiches and then sprinkle the remaining grated cheese over the paste. Toast in the toaster oven again till the cheese becomes a nice golden brown. This should take 15 -20 minutes. Parts of the bread that are not covered by the cheese paste will likely get burnt. Use a pair of kitchen scissors to trim some off that off and serve.

Notes

  • Croque Monsieur means Mister Crunchy in French.
  • A regular Croque Monsieur does not contain any egg. When served with a fried or poached egg, the same sandwich is called a Croque Madame. Technically, my version is a cross between the two. 
  • Gruyère is often used in place of Emmental for Croque Monsieur, as both of these cheeses have a buttery flavour. Raclette is another option. Have a look at Cheese Page for more details.
 
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Posted by on January 23, 2011 in Appetizers, French, Recipe

 

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