I love the sights (and scents and tastes) that make up an Australian summer. The vivid hues of stone fruit and berries beguile from a distance, urging me to pick them up. Before I know it, they’re weighing down my bags as I head home from the markets or greengrocers.
This post is my ode to summer, a meal made from all things red (with a splash of pink and green thrown in). Red for heat: bright sunlight and long, languid days at the beach. Red for celebrations: Christmas and Valentine’s and Chinese New Year. Red for blazing barbecues: friends and family feasting, and kids with berry juices dribbling down their chins.
But before I share some of the recipes from my meal, I’d like to urge you to spare a though (and possibly something more), for the people who will be genuinely affected by the onset of cold weather. Living on the streets is difficult at the best of times, but worse when winter sets in. Perhaps visit this organisation to read about their work and find out how to help.
Thanks for bearing with me, here are the red dishes as promised. Aside from the colour red, this meal utilises a few herbs and vegetables that don’t really thrive once the cooler weather arrives.
Red for roasted capsicum and tomato soup with coriander pesto.
5 medium tomatoes, halved
2 capsicums (I used one large and one small), deseeded and quartered
2 garlic cloves, peel, lightly smashed
A punnet of cherry tomatoes (about 250g)
Pinch of cumin seeds (abt 1 tsp)
Seasoning (salt, pepper and sugar if needed)
Vegetable stock (I made a quick one using a handful of celery leaves, one carrot and one onion simmered in a pot of water while the veges were roasting and cooling)
Place tomatoes (but not the cherry tomatoes yet), garlic cloves, and capsicums in a large roasting/ baking dish, drizzle with olive oil then roast in a hot oven. After about ten minutes or so, add the cherry tomatoes as well. Roast until the tomatoes are meltingly soft and the capsicums have some charred bits on the skin. Peel off any blackened capsicum skin but don’t worry too much if you can’t get all the skin off. Leave to cool slightly, then puree in a blender or using a stick blender. Sieve and collect the puree, discard solids. I got about 4 cups of puree.
In a large pan, heat a little olive oil then add the cumin seeds and stir. Let it sizzle for a bit until it smells good. Add the puree and enough stock (I used about 2 cups of stock and saved the leftovers for something else). Simmer until desired consistency is reached. Season with a touch of sugar if the tomatoes taste too acidic, and of course salt and pepper.
Serve warm with a dollop of coriander pesto. It’s great as a make ahead dish for a dinner party, as it can be refrigerated or frozen then reheated without too much loss of flavour. (Could possibly also be served cold but I am not a cold soup person (unless it’s dessert))
Coriander pesto recipe can be found here. I halved the recipe and omitted the chilli and ginger. I also made the pesto a bit chunky rather than perfectly smooth so that it would contrast with the soup better.
Red for seared salmon, red lentil puree with coconut topping and wilted “kangkong”(water spinach).
(sorry, night-time pic)
Red lentil puree (with coconut topping).
(This makes a truckload of lentils, but I remove half partway during cooking to freeze for other uses).
2 cups red split lentils (I think it is commonly referred to as masoor dhal). Picked over, washed and drained.
½ cup diced red onion (about 1 medium onion)
2 garlic cloves, finedly diced.
A thumb sized knob of fresh ginger, peeled.
A little vegetable oil.
Pinch of ground paprika and cayenne pepper
Fry the diced onion and garlic in a little oil until fragrant and translucent. Add the ground spices and stir for a bit. Add the lentils and enough water to come up an inch or so over the lentils (I used about 3 ½ cups and added more during cooking). Bring to the boil, skim off any scum from the surface, reduce heat and simmer gently with the lid of the pot slightly open. Stir from time to time. Cook until the lentils are soft (at this point, I removed half the lentils to cool and freeze for a later date). Turn down the heat further and stir more often until the lentils become a thick puree (it will get slightly thicker upon cooling). Don’t forget to season to taste.
When ready to serve, place a dollop of puree on a plate, reheat briefly in the microwave then sprinkle the following coconut topping on it. Serve with the seared salmon and wilted kangkong. (This puree and topping also works well as a warm dip for bread).
Coconut topping (an idea inspired by farofa)
¾ cup dessicated coconut (unsweetened)
a sprig of curry leaf (Murraya koenegii)
pinch of mustard seeds
pinch of ground tumeric
vegetable oil (about 1 – 2 tablespoons)
Forgot to add this pic earlier - this is curry leaf
Heat the vegetable oil in a small non-stick frying pan over medium high heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds, and as soon as they “pop”, add curry leaves. The leaves should go bright green and crisp up. Add the ground tumeric, give it a stir then turn the heat to low and add the coconut. Stir until well mixed but not browned. Remove from heat, cool completely and store in an airtight container until needed.
For the fish, heat some butter and olive oil in a frying pan. Sear the salmon skin side down until crisp, sprinkle on some ground ginger and salt, then turn and cook until desired “doneness” is achieved.
For the kangkong, first remove leaves from stems and cut stems into small bite sized pieces. Heat some oil in a wok, add some diced garlic and chilli, add kangkong stems then leaves. Cook on high heat until wilted.
Red for two toned jelly and rosehip and lemon balm granita.
Rosehip granita (a very easy version, feels like cheating)
¾ cup sugar syrup (I part sugar dissolved in 1 part boiling water)
2 rosehip teabags (I used a herbal, caffeine free brand of rosehip and hibiscus teabags)
1 ½ cups (approximate) boiling water
Sprig of lemon balm
Steep the teabags and lemon balm in the hot water. Leave for 15 minutes or so then remove tea bags and herbs, and leave until cool. Stir in the sugar syrup, mix well then pour into a shallow dish and freeze. When frozen, scrape with a fork. Very refreshing and great following the rich fish meal.
Two toned (plum and nectarine) jelly.
For the plum “jelly”
1 cup plum puree sieved (about 4 plums, I used 2 blood plums and 2 “other kind” (can’t remember the variety).
2 gelatine leaves soaked in cold water for 5 minutes to soften (you may need more or less gelatine depending on your gealtine variety)
60g (about 4 tablespoons sugar)
½ cup water
Put the water and suagr in a saucepan over low heat and stir until the suagr dissolves. Add the puree just to warm then remove from heat and stir in the softened gelatin leaves.
Pour into suitable moulds/glasses then chill until set. When the jelly has set, make the next layer as follows.
For the nectarine jelly
4 yellow nectarines roughly chopped (skin on)
1 cup water
3 tablespoons sugar
2 gelatin leaves softened as above
Place nectarines and water in a saucepan and simmer for about 20 minutes or so until the nectarines release their juices and the liquid goes a sunset colour from the skins. Remove from heat, strain through a sieve, then add sugar to the liquid. Reheat this liquid if necessary, then remove from heat and stir in the gelatin. Pour over the plum layer and chill to set. (I also saved the pulpy leftover nectarine, might turn it into a sauce to serve over ice-cream).
Serve the jelly with some granita spooned over the top. I also made this utterly delectable Crisp lemon biscuits (cookies) from Belinda Jeffery’s Mix and Bake. I cannot recommend these cookies (or the book) highly enough. The book is not about fancy desserts but honest, homestyle country baking, I think I will be making lots more treats from it to have with a warming cup of tea when the weather gets colder.
Thanks for visiting and hope you’re safe and warm wherever you are.