Friday 25 May 2018

Crispy Skin Salmon With Green Pea Mash

I love salmon.  Who doesn't?  Actually we have a friend who doesn't eat fish at all.  I think it's the smell she doesn't like, or maybe the thought of choking on a fish bone like the Queen Mother.  And of course there are always the vego types who don't eat it.  But in this house, we love it and eat fish at least once a week.  

I asked Mr P. if he has any funny fish stories.  He said no, sadly.  Except to remind me of Monty Python's fish-slapping dance.  (Check it out on YouTube.)  And my fave saying when I'm cross - about slapping someone across the head with a wet fish.  Oh yes, and I remembered a sandwich board sign we once saw in Western Australia: Shark and Chips!  I know down south they like to eat gummy shark, but it's quite rare here in Queensland.  It just seemed so hilariously forthright.   

By Sara (from the Keep Calm O'Matic UK website)

We have here another of Mel's 12 week challenge dishes for you to try.  Delicious crispy skin, beautiful tender fish, and a really tasty green pea mash.  Slapping with a wet fish entirely optional, but highly recommended when feeling cross :=)   

Serves 4:


a portion of salmon, skin on, per person - about 200g. each

Salt and pepper, to taste

5 mLs (1 tsp) veg oil - I used olive oil

for the mash:

2 cups (290g.) frozen baby peas

1 onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

about 220 mLs stock (use chicken or veg.)

1 tsp lemon or lime zest

80 mLs cream

salt and pepper, to taste

Lime or lemon-pressed olive oil to serve (optional)

Serve with grilled vegetables or a salad


Place all the ingredients for the mash in a medium saucepan

Boil on a medium heat for about 15 minutes

Take it off the heat and blend with a stick blender or a masher

Check for seasoning (salt + pepper), and add more stock if you like a thinner consistency

Serve with the golden, tender salmon and of course, the crispy skin

And give the mash and the fish a good splash of the lime oil, if you feel so inclined

Method for the salmon:

Get your frypan/grill pan really really hot!

Tip in the veg oil and get it hot

Season the fish with salt and pepper, flesh-side first

Now put in the fish flesh-side down (not the skin) and let it brown

Give it a jiggle with your tongs to check it isn't sticking

Now put it skin side down (season this side too) and let it cook for a minute or 2

Take off the skin with the tongs - don't worry if it falls apart, mine did!

Put it back in the pan, with the newly-skinned side face down

Cook till the degree of done-ness you like

Take the fish out of the pan, turn the heat down a bit and put the skin back in

Let it cook till crispy and golden 

Smear the pea mash over the plate (in a charmingly artistic way) and add the fish to each plate, with some of the crispy skin

Add the grilled veg or salad and a splash of citrus oil 


Mel suggests using 150-250 mLs of stock; your choice of consistency - I used 225 mLs

Use fish other than salmon, if you feel inclined that way

gather your ingredients

throw the mash ingredients in the pot, ready for boiling 

fish in the pan, skin-side up

Mr P. is the household rice and pasta-maker; also the household griller and fryer-man, so this was his job :=)  Well, I did the skin.  And in fact, I jiggled the salmon and flipped it.  So maybe I was the fish lady, after all.  But he did the grilled veg., for sure.

see, here he is, grilling the capsicum out on the back deck in the cold:) 

doesn't that look delectable?

delish fish and skin and grilled veg.

This was a delicious dinner, even though it took us a while to get used to our new grill pan.  I am not a fryer, nor a griller woman.  I tend to bake just about everything.  Mr P. does any frying necessary, and as I can't take the smell or the mess, he does it out on the back deck!  Even in winter, or on a cold Autumn night.  Yay for Mr P.  And thanks Mel for another great recipe. 

Friday 18 May 2018

Iron Pan Japanese Kitchen - Review

I love Japanese food and I adore sushi, but don't expect to combine those 2 loves here at Iron Pan.  They do curries, and salads and fried chicken but not sushi.  Just so we're all clear:)  No, no, hold your horses.  Update: as of 11 May, they now make sushi!  

cute sign

Mr P. and I set off for a quick lunch at this local restaurant recently.  It is a casual space, in a tiny shopping precinct, but with a large outdoor dining area.  The young lady serving was very charming and helpful.  Service was prompt and pleasant.  Mr P. chose Mapo Tofu, a milder, Japanese version of a Szechuan dish which is originally very hot and spicy.  This has lots of tofu and vegetables in a lightly spicy sauce.

Mapo Tofu $14

Hubby enjoyed this vegetarian dish.  The green beans were crunchy, just the way we both like them.  He loved the sauce on the tofu; the corn was fresh and sweet, the mushrooms flavoursome, and the pumpkin was deliciously sweet and roasted.  I know this dish looks a bit strange and quirky, but Mr P. was fond of it.  Kind of an odd mix to go with tofu, but everything tasted fine.  

chicken karaage salad $12

I chose the chicken karaage salad, served with corn, tomato, leaves, cucumber and red onion.  Tasty and fresh, you could probably call it healthy:=)  Here we have succulent, battered pieces of fried chicken, served on a fresh salad, including that sweet, fresh corn.  This is great value, and perfect for a light lunch.

beer battered chips $7

The chips were crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside.  You can't go wrong when ordering these.  They were also extraordinarily long!  It almost made us laugh, thinking of those incredibly long potatoes growing somewhere.  So all up, a tasty, cheap and cheerful lunch.  But wait, there's more...

Feeling lazy one night, we decided to get the ubiquitous Uber Eats to bring us takeaway from Iron Pan.  (How many Uber Eats riders can there be in one city on a given night? Answer: many.)  Not all the menu is available for delivery but you can get fried chicken and burgers and salad and desserts, which we did:=)

salad $5/beer battered chips $7

Nice fresh salad, and you know the chips are good. 

crispy chicken karaage burger $18/roast veg. curry $14  

Not much to say here.  The burger was fine, though why the soft buns?  Man, I like real buns, hard, manly buns...Ooh ooh never mind all that.  Here we have lettuce, cheese, tomato, fried chicken on a bun - yay!  Perhaps some pickles or salad would have been a nice addition though.  Hubby liked his mild curry, and the odd boiled egg.  There was rather a lot of rice, compared to sauce...

tiramisu $7/chocolate fondant $7

I know, not very Japanese but delicious.  Soft and creamy tiramisu; chocolatey, gooey fondant.  Yum.

And then there was dinner - a few weeks later, we went out for a mid-week meal à deux.  We started with chicken gyoza, which were fine.  You can't go past a cute little dumpling, dipped in soy sauce.  But we had to fight over the last one.  I wish servings were made to suit the table.  Anyways, a minor gripe.

chicken gyoza $10

I chose the prawn omelette rice for my main.  This was a very filling meal, and I asked to take home a doggie bag, which they happily supplied.  In fact, the waitress said to me she had been very worried that I hadn't liked it!  Very sweet of her.

prawn omelette rice $18

This was filling and tasty.  The thin omelette surrounds a large amount of rice, in a cute package.  I enjoyed the roast pumpkin, and the (slightly too) crunchy green beans.  The fresh corn was a sweet pop in the mouth.  My doggie bag gave me a great lunch the next day.  

teri burger $15

Mr P. was a little disappointed with his burger.  He felt it needed something extra, rather than just lettuce and cheese.  He liked the tangy, Asian-inspired sauce on the pattie, but would have liked tomato or pickles, or something to give it a bit more pizazz.  The meat pattie was excellent; the burger not too sweet (as they often tend to be these days).  The whole dish was very plain, as you can see.  Chips were great, he said; crispy outside and soft inside.

ginger beer $4.50 for him/prosecco $10 for moi
All up, we had a tasty, casual dinner, at a great price.  What Iron Pan lacks in ambience, it makes up for with a great value, tasty meal.  And good service.  (Would love to see a bit of Japanese decoration here.  Or maybe that's too kitsch?)  Nevertheless, we will be back.

heaps of info in this one little pic:)

a lunchtime shot of the terrace 

Ph: 07 3856 5656
Shop 6/100 Days Rd., Grange

Iron Pan Japanese Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Sunday 13 May 2018

Chicken Stir-Fry - The Mel Way

Here is another dish from Mel's 12 week challenge.  (See my last post for details.)  You may chuckle, or not, when you read the post title if you come from Melbourne.  Melway is the name of the old-style paper street directory from years past.  Sorry, just a childhood memory surfacing there.  Read on.  This is another of Mel's sexed-up meals; well, she calls it sexy stir-fry.  

Mr P. and I have been making stir-fries since we were knee-high to grasshoppers.  Well, since we both left our respective homes and became vego like our assorted weirdo flatmates.  And being vego was just the tip of the iceberg... Oops let's not go there again.  Anyway, we are old hands at it, but Mel's way of cooking the meat is new to me.  So here we go, folks.  

veggies chopped - thanks Mr P.


For marinade:

3 tbs honey

3 tbs tamari or soy sauce

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed

2 tbs fresh ginger, grated or finely chopped

1-3 red chillies, finely chopped

1/2-1 tsp sesame oil

For the fry:

600g. chicken strips or dice (but use whatever protein you like)

1-2 tbs veg. oil - I used olive, but use your fave

1 cup (140g.) carrots, cut into small batons

1 cup (130g.) zucchini, in small batons

1 cup (120g.) red or green capsicum, cut into fine strips

1 cup (150g.) red onion, finely sliced

1 cup (105g.) snow peas, yep as above (use cabbage if you prefer)

For nutty bling:

1/2 cup cashews, toasted in a dry pan  (Mel suggests peanuts)

1/2 tsp dried chillies, (or 1-2 fresh, finely chopped)

1/2 cup fresh mint or coriander or basil, chopped - I used 2 tbs lightly dried coriander

2 tbs sesame seeds, toasted in a dry pan for a few minutes


First make the marinade by stirring all the ingredients together well

Throw in the chicken, and let it swim happily for about 20 mins.

Now put your large skillet/wok on a high heat and tip in the oil

When it is sizzling, the chicken goes in, on one half of the pan only

The hard part is now leaving it alone!  Let it sizzle; don't turn it

Once the chicken is caramelised on the bottom, give it a tweak with your tongs.  Put any meat that isn't juicy and brown in the hot spot

When all the meat is looking beautiful and brown, throw in the veggies

Stir it as it cooks till the veggies are as tender as you like

Serve with rice or noodles, and throw on the bling 


How to speed things up:

Use 2 tbs ginger paste (yes, from a tube)

Buy chicken tenderloins or already-diced chook

Use dried chillies and lightly dried herbs

Mel says the sesame oil is optional, but we love it so I used more than the 2 drops she suggests

Mel's recipe asks for 2 cups of wombok cabbage, but we prefer snow peas.  Once again, use your fave veg.

gather your ingredients 

Reminds me of a song:  "here we go gathering nuts in May"... etc.

caramelising the chicken

stir the bling together

looking all juicy and delicious 

cast on the bling and eat with gusto - or gutso as Mr P. used to say

Oh, and did I tell you it's the 5th blogiversary for this little blog today?  Who can believe?  Oh the people you meet, the places you go!  Thanks to all the wonderful bloggers and commenters and readers for all the fun I've (we've) had.  Here's hoping for a wee bit more fun and food.

Sunday 6 May 2018

Mel's Moroccan Mince With Pistachio Gravel

Our friend Mel who runs the Vanilla Zulu Cooking School in our local village has started up a 12 week Cooking Challenge to help us all sexy-up our food.  Is that a word?:=)  So I am attempting to make her weekly recipe and blog it.  For 12 weeks?  Eek!  We shall see how I go.  I may not get to doing it every week, or it may end up being a quick kamikaze blog post each week. 

First up is this Moroccan mince which I decided to give a slight Mexican twist.  So here we have my Moroccan/Mexican Mince with some nutty bling on top.  Mel is very keen on foodie/gourmet bling for her cuisine.  Truthfully, I'm not much into bling - food or otherwise, but I gave it a go.  Oh, and I decided to make it into a sort of pseudo-Mexican nachos.  

tasty Moroccan mince with a Mexican twist

Serves 4-6:


1/2-1 tbs olive oil

800g. lean minced beef

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

1 small zucchini (about 145g.), grated or finely chopped - or use the vegetable of your choice

1 tbs ras-el-hanout spice mix

1 tsp turmeric

1 tin (400g.) tomatoes or chop up a couple of small fresh ones

2 tbs tomato paste

1 tin (400g,) chick peas, drained and rinsed

1 tsp stock powder - I used chicken but use beef or veg. if you prefer

salt and pepper to taste

1 tsp lemon zest

Gravel ingredients:

30g. (=1 large handful=2 tbs) of shelled pistachios, toasted

zest of 1 lime

a few dried edible rosebuds

1-2 tbs currants or sultanas

a very big pinch, maybe 1/4 tsp smoked salt or plain sea salt

2-3 tsp lightly dried parsley

To serve:

1 packet lightly-salted corn chips

4-5 large dollops of thick Greek yoghurt

1-2 tsp lime-pressed olive oil 


Add the oil to a large skillet and heat up on high

Place your fluffed-up mince into the pan, evenly

Now let it sit!  Do not stir, do not toss it around, leave it for 10-15 minutes - thus spake Mel, and yes it works

Now throw in the onion and garlic and stir into the mince

Cook down for a few minutes on medium heat till it starts to look tender

Stir in the zucchini and cook for a few more minutes

Add the ras-el-hanout and turmeric, tomatoes and tomato paste

Now you add the chickpeas, plus the stock powder, salt, pepper and lemon zest

Let it cook away for several minutes to meld together

If using for nachos, grab a pie plate and spread corn chips over the base

Spoon on the mince mixture and then add another layer of corn chips and mince

Whack into the oven at 190C for about 20-25 mins.

Splash on the yoghurt and oil mix, and sprinkle over the bling


If you're in a hurry, just grab your small processor and blitz the veg.

Serve with rice if you prefer

ingredients gathered

spread the mince evenly across your pan 

after 10-15 mins, add the onion and garlic

add in tomatoes and paste

zest your lemon and in it goes

ready for the bling

toast your nuts for a few minutes in a small, dry pan

now crush 'em with gusto (and a pestle)

stir the bling together

stir the lime (or lemon) olive oil into the yoghurt

throw on the bling, me hearties

This was an excellent and fairly quick mid-week dinner.  (Much faster if you don't have to photograph and blog it.)  Give it a go, folks.  Great to learn a new technique - i.e. NOT stirring the mince for the first 10 minutes.  Scary but it worked.  Let's see what next week's challenge brings:=)

Tuesday 1 May 2018

In My Kitchen - May 2018

May you say?  Noooo, how can this be?  April has been a big month here at chez Pickings, with Mr P.'s big birthday, my sister's birthday and several friends' birthdays.  And a funeral, and Anzac Day, and and ...  So I haven't got much to show you, folks.  I hope my lovely blogger mates (that means you) can fill the gap:-)  Oh, there is one biggish change for IMK as of this month: the closing date for your posts will now be the 28th of the month.  This gives everyone lots of time to get it in; no excuses:=) 

In my kitchen:

another book by Chelsea

Chelsea was a Masterchef NZ winner, who has put out a prodigious number of cookbooks since her win in 2012.  Her recipes are home-style with a chef-ly twist.

a cup and saucer by Starr

I already have a lovely platter made by Starr, and I couldn't resist getting this sweet cup and saucer.  She is a local artist who paints, and has just branched out into ceramics. 

Polish Easter Sernik cake 

This was the cake I made for Easter.  It has become a bit of a favourite in the last few years.  I used to make Nigella's chocolate cake which uses about half a kilo of chocolate, but this is a light and lovely alternative made with ricotta and a big splash of rum. 

Clarice Cliff cup and saucer 

Mr P. and I were back in our fave haunt - the Northern Rivers area of New South Wales - in March.  I had previously bought a lovely little jug from an antiques store down there, and happily for me, there were more Clarice Cliff pieces in the shop.  This was what came home with me.  There was a ferociously keen collector lady in the shop also, who swooped in front of me to grab a platter I had my eye on.  Darn!  I must be faster (and more ruthless) next time.

as per the label :=)

I'm not really a big cake decorator, so I rarely go to the cake decorating store nearby.  But I went along on the weekend to grab some of this caramel essence for a future cake (and blog post).  What a fabulous, magical shop - full of marvellous colours, and essences and moulds and baking tins of many shapes and sizes.

hubby's great-uncle Mick Shanahan, having lost a leg in WW1

Sorry, this is not food-related, but I just have to add this photo of hubby's Great-Uncle Mick, since we Aussies commemorated Anzac Day last week.  He was a rather famous fellow here in Australia, serving in the First World War and losing a leg.  He was in his forties when he joined up, a brave and amazing man.  You can read about him here.

Hoping to see you lovely ladies (and gents) here for IMK this month.  Here's your reminder on adding your IMK posts: 

1. Adding via the link button at the bottom of this post.  Instructions can be found on the sidebar of this page, under Add your IMK link
2. Comment on this post, providing a link to your post so I can add it to the linky list below
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Sherrys Pickings