A new term, a new nursery and hopefully a host of new friends. Having dropped the ‘blue one’ off, I couldn’t face letting go of the ‘pink one’ – she was less impressed, for no longer is she still a baby . Wow they grow up fast – what on earth am I going to do with the ‘pink one’ in the gaping hole, commonly known as morning? One answer of course is to get cooking. The freezer is completely empty, waiting for the onslaught of the shooting season to fill it with pheasant, partridge, duck and other goodies. Unusually there is no ‘little people’ food in there either, somehow we have raided every last drawer, so now is the time to try out a few new dishes on the ‘little’ and indeed the ‘big’ people.
‘Miss Brioche’, as she is fondly refered to (the pink one) is as the name hints, the family dustbin. Aged 1 and 3 months she eats everything, rarely does food get turned away in stark contrast to the ‘blue one’ who is more often known as the ‘tiny terror’, fickle is he as to what passes over his lips! Why is it aged 1, children tend to eat pretty much everything that is passed their way and yet just over a year later they sit there and either throw the food on the floor or worse still say something along the lines of ‘deeeesgusting’, ‘I don’t want it’, ‘goooo aaawaaay’. Charming – small thanks for lovingly cooked, home-made food. Few children have knowingly starved themselves, so I am not averse to the table rule of ‘if you don’t eat your pie’ no pudding, but the frustration involved as a parent as your little darling, who used to inhale his fish pie, nonchalantly turns around and refuses point-blank to eat it, is unparalleled. Last week the pie was fine, actually way more than fine, it was fabulous, he couldn’t get enough of it, this week, forget it. So as fish pie is off the menu, temporarily I may add, I am hunting around for other fish friendly food to tempt the terrors with.
While hunting for fishy dishes, I was reminded of a starter I threw together with one of the big beautiful boys earlier in the summer. He is the very, very, talented chef, so it was a treat to have him in our kitchen helping me knock up dinner. I had bought a piece of salmon and because of the balmy evening had decided on making it into ceviche for a starter with a bastardised ‘Asian’ salsa. I was completely off piste but somehow it worked and since then we have had it a couple of times with rave reviews. It is supremely easy to make, probably a maximum of 15 minutes preparation time, has a real zest, to power up the taste buds, feels healthy and looks super pretty. It is a great light starter dish for a dinner party, particularly if eating a richer meat dish as the main course. Last night we had it followed by grilled grouse with chestnut and chanterelle mushrooms, a complete cracker, and absurdly spoiling – but at £6.50 a bird I could not resist them given that they are retailing in London restaurants in excess of £25.
Salmon Carpaccio with a Lime, Mango and Chilli Salsa
The critical part to this starter is that the salmon is as fresh as possible. Wild, would of course be preferable but organic is the next best thing. The salsa is fairly foolproof and can also work with papaya equally well. The mango or papaya should be very much on the ‘firm’ side of life – this will make it easier to dice into the salsa and will allow it to hold its’ shape. I think a good hot chilli works stunningly – something with a real kick takes this starter to a new level – at least it does if you can handle the heat! As with all my recipes let your taste lead you – taste the dressing once it is made and if it needs a squeeze more lime add it, like wise if it needs a little more honey add it.
2 x Organic salmon fillets each weighing roughly 150/200gms (this will give you 4 very good portions but could stretch to 6, I reckon you need about 70gms per person)
1/2 Mango or Papaya
2 Limes – zested and juice
1 Red chilli
2 tbsp of fresh coriander
3 Spring onions
1 teaspoon of honey
2 tbsp of Olive Oil
1 tbsp of Thai Fish Sauce
1. GET AHEAD – Start by popping the salmon in the freezer to allow it to harden up before slicing. This will allow you to slice it as thinly as possible. I suggest about 45 minutes – then in order to get ahead so you get the messy bit out of the way early – slice as thinly as conceivably possible and pop on a plate in the fridge covered in cling film until you are ready to use it – this can be done a good few hours in advance. Wash your hands in COLD water to get rid of the fish oils and fishy smell.
2. Next dice the mango – really small – this will require another sharp knife and some accuracy! Followed by the chilli – remember to wash your hands afterwards. And now the coriander and spring onions. Put all of this in a bowl.
3. Zest and juice 1 lime, and now add the olive oil, fish sauce and honey to the salsa. Stir through thoroughly and taste – add more lime zest if necessary and juice – if you don’t need it, use the extra lime for decoration.
4. When you are ready to go – place 4-5 slices of salmon on each plate, a spoonful of salsa, a drizzle of the remaining salsa juice over the salmon and a few pea shoots or rocket leaves. A twist of pepper will finish it off and any extra lime can be used as garnish. Serve immediately with sourdough toast.
Miss Brioche and the ‘blue one’ on the first day of nursery!