Simple Things Made Pretty: Plating Master Class Part 2

I have always described myself as an aesthete. I notice, love and pursue the pretty factor, be it in my surroundings, in clothing, in people and in food. However, one of my big gripes with the gastronomy scene is the assumption that you need to have a whole bunch of kit and plenty of time on your hands to make meals that taste and look great.

The last plating master class post proved such a hit that it felt right and proper to do another: But this time, I’ve left out the fancy ingredients of quail’s egg and scallops and gone back to basics ingredients wise with eggs (hen this time), smoked salmon, bread, cream cheese and because times are lean lumpfish caviar. Blow the Budget would be to use Ossetra caviar all the way…Sigh….

Scrambled Eggs and Smoked Salmon with Caviar

Difficulty Rating: Easy-enough, just watch out for timings

Ingredients

4 Large Eggs

80 grams of Smoked Salmon

1 Tablespoon of Double Cream

3 Tablespoons of Milk

A nob of Butter

1 teaspoon of lumpfish Caviar or Ossetra if the living is easy

Salt (to taste)

 

Method

Anyone can make amazing scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, what often gets in the way of success rate is a slap dash approach to timings, heat of the pan and maltreatment of the salmon.

Before you do anything, tear the salmon into nail cuticle sized bits and put in a separate bowl and mix in a tablespoon of double cream. The tablespoon of cream should be enough to coat the salmon pieces and also to prohibit drying. I leave the bowl out of the fridge to avoid curdling when the mixture is added to the egg.

In a separate bowl beat your four eggs adding the milk and any salt. I don’t add salt myself  as the saltiness in the salmon and the caviar are more than adequate, plus isn’t it nice to give one’s arteries a break? But if you must, a teeny pinch will suffice.

Next heat a pan on a medium heat for 5 minutes, then add the nob of butter. Once it has melted it is time to add your egg mixture. I am a great believer of whisking quickly and where necessary taking off the heat and continuing whisking to avoid side clumping or burning at the bottom of the pan.

When the eggs are almost cooked remove from heat and add the smoked salmon. It is important to do this off the heat as the cream coated smoked salmon would become rubbery in texture if cooked through.  And now to making what seems entirely ordinary, spectacular-spectacular!

Plating Option 1: Surprise in a Pot

3 Guesses...

3 Guesses…

As I’ve said before, fancy items aren’t needed for a great looking plate. Here we use ramekins and the shells themselves! When you are making your scrambled eggs, crack the eggs using one hit to the side of the bowl thus minimising the shells falling to pieces.  Rinse out with water and leave to the side to dry whilst you make the scrambled eggs.

Once your eggs are cooked, spoon a portion into the egg shell and with a tea spoon put a dollop of caviar. Your egg shells might want to move around and tip over in the ramekin so for minimum mess-ups balance them at an angle so that they support one another. Now cover once more so that your guests will be surprised!

Eggs in a Shell!

Eggs in a Shell!

Plating Option 2: On Toast Redux

One of my least favourite things in the world is soggy toast. This is a very different creature to Normandy Butter seeped toast, which is a very beautiful thing, and not soggy at all, but seeped in goodness. Soggy toast can ruin an array of dishes as the condensation from the heated bread fails to get an escape route and instead finds a home on the bread’s surface.

So, to avoid this watery wheaty reality spoiling your feast, I suggest grilling or toasting bread and then leaving it on a rack to ‘dry out’.

Once toast is dry, cut it into squares. For the assembly place a forkful of scrambled egg on each square and you’re ready to serve.  I have photographed the non-caviar topped version but the same rules apply as they did when the eggs were served in their shell. The beauty in this dish is that is entirely familiar but because time has been taken in plating the elements it looks rather special.

Almost too pretty to eat

Almost too pretty to eat

Canapé Cuties: Making the Best of the Rest

A great way to make January nights seem a little less austere is to host a canapé party – with the leftovers. Simply repeat the toast exercise once more and this time spread a liberal amount of cream cheese (I like Sainsbury’s Organic one best), now add a dollop of caviar and you are ready with option one. For the salmon versions, simply roll a strip of smoked salmon and position at a slant. The better the quality the salmon the less ‘help’ it will need with lemon, black pepper and the rest, but you can add if you fancy. Now it’s just a question of figuring out who is worthy of an invite!

A Feast for the Eyes

A Feast for the Eyes

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Another Day, Another Salad

Day 10 on Planet Comparative Abstinence and I have never felt better! It is true what they say, you are what you are eat and the only way to get rid of the carb coma lethargy is to chill it out on the carbs.  But as I’d die first before I entirely subsisted on liquid supplements (although the Detox Elixir is still in my daily consumption mix), interesting salads still need to be dreamt up.

Picking up where we left off a day or so ago is a delicious salad that uses some of the same ingredients from the previous Gastrotastic offering, as we always stick by our keenly priced, wherever possible principles (I’m assuming I am not the only one who is a teeny-tiny bit broke post-Christmas), and cherish our waste not want not values. Furthermore, it is the kind of dish that you can assemble in sub-five minutes, giving you more time to beat the bulge, be it in the gym, the park or in my case a mat on my living room floor!

Spinach, Mint, Cucumber and Feta Salad

Difficulty Factor: Do it Half Asleep Simple

Ingredients

120 grams of Baby Leaf Spinach

80 grams of Cucumber

60 grams of Feta Cheese

40 grams of Fresh Mint Leaves

1 red Onion

1 red chilli cut fine (or less if you cannot cope with heat)

 

For the Dressing

2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 tablespoon of Balsamic Vinegar

2 tea spoons of Gordon’s Dill and Mustard Sauce (my new favourite)

Black Pepper (optional)

 

Method:

This salad is all about flavour combinations. Shops will often haze a customer with their ‘herb salad’ offerings , which often contain half the amount of leaves for double the amount of dosh. The good news is you can make your salad herby all on your own, by bunging whichever fresh herb you fancy in with your main leaves. Today’s salad brings Mint to the ingredients party as it compliments Feta and Cucumber beautifully. Plus there is an extra bonus of squint once you’re eating the three together and its a taste that takes you somewhere altogether balmier. On a verandah, with a cool refreshing drink in front of you and a hottie beside you, but I digress.

Firstly, chop a red onion and chilli finely, and pick the mint leaves off their stalks and put in a Salad bowl. Add your remaining spinach leaves from the night before and mix both lightly taking care not to bash the spinach leaves about too much. Cube the Feta and crumble the uneven bits that fall off when cutting on top. Finally cut the cucumber vertically rather than in rounds (for interest’s sake more than anything else) and also put in the bowl.

A Salad in a State of Undress

A Salad in a State of Undress

Now for the magic; also known as the dressing; it is probably best to admit now that I am a bit of a dressing obsessive. This ties in with my sauces and condiments of all types obsession as it is my belief that said condiments and sauces can often turn meals from drab to fab.

Home Made without an E-Number in sight

Home Made without an E-Number in sight

With this particular dressing the not so secret ingredient is a fabulous Dill and Mustard sauce by Gordon’s that I really got into this Christmas as a super accompaniment with baked salmon and new potatoes. The good news is that you can buy this Not-So-Secret-Ingredient in Waitrose  and all for the bargain basement price of £1.65. If you prefer you can substitute the Gordon’s for Dijon Mustard instead.

The Not-So Secret Ingredient

The Not-So Secret Ingredient

For the dressing combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. The same rules apply as before; make sure all the ingredients combine well together by stirring vigorously.

Finally add the dressing to the salad and enjoy the surprising yet scrummy salad. Who knew clean and serene could taste this good?

All I want to be is Clean and Serene

Happy New Year from Gastrotastic with Mazzi B! So how were Christmas and the festive season for you? Did you settle down to a carb coma after the main event on Christmas Day? Perhaps you practically main-lined champagne and Puligny Montrachet through the Doctor Who, Strictly, Call the Midwife and Downton Abbey quadruple bill (guilty as charged your honour!)? Or maybe a breakfast of Mince Pies and a generous dollop of brandy cream became standard issue? Whatever the indulgence, January seems to be always about getting your body back in order and aiming for an altogether healthier approach. At Gastrotastic Towers we have been going for a two pronged attack drinking a Detox ‘Elixir’ that tastes as challenging as it looks and having a lighter approach to supper time that doesn’t compromise on flavour. This is our first in a series of delicious, nutritious and bloater-free dishes!

As Grim as it Looks

As Grim as it Looks

Prawns, Spinach and Sugar Snap Salad with Toasted Sesame Seed and Shredded Ginger

Difficulty Factor: Easy Peasy

Ingredients

180grams of Raw Jumbo Prawns (I used a Sainsbury’s Packet that costs £3.29)

120 grams of Baby Leaf Spinach

80 grams of Sugar Snap Peas

50 grams of Sesame Seeds

A Small Head of Ginger

One clove of garlic finely chopped

4 Spring Onions

1 red chilli cut fine (or less if you cannot cope with heat)

For the Dressing

2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 tablespoon of Balsamic Vinegar

1 tea spoon of Dark Soy Sauce

1 teaspoon of Honey (clear or set)

Juice from half a lime

Black Pepper (optional)

Method:

Salads are only as good as the way you treat the core ingredients. We’ve all been there; soggy leaves, overworked or worse over cooked vegetables, anaemic dressings. To make life easy and avoid some of these glitches I would suggest pre-washed leaves – that way you take the drama out of leaf texture and can focus on combining flavours.

The raw ingredients before the magic

The raw ingredients before the magic

First chop spring onions into half centimetre slices and the chilli as finely as your knife skills will allow. Put the spinach leaves in a large salad bowl and mix both lightly taking care not to bash the spinach leaves about too much as they are delicate. Next peel a small head of ginger, and shred using the larger teeth in a cheese grater. Put aside to add to the leaves later.

Spinach leaves, Chili and Spring Onion - set aside for later

Spinach leaves, Chili and Spring Onion – set aside for later

Heat a tablespoon of Light Olive Oil in a heavy based frying pan and reduce the heat before adding the sesame seeds to the pan. Toast the sesame seeds taking care not to burn them by frequently moving them around in the pan, when the seeds begin to colour remove from heat and empty contents onto a plate

Sesame Seeds  a' sizzling

Sesame Seeds a’ sizzling

In a separate pan bring water to the boil and add the sugar snap peas taking them off the heat and draining them after one and a half minutes. The peas should be very firm so that they add the necessary bite and contrast to the spinach and spring onions. Whilst still hot coat the sugar snap peas in the seeds. The heat will act as a natural adhesive. Leave to cool.

Looking as yummy as they'll taste

Looking as yummy as they’ll taste

In the frying pan put another tablespoon of olive oil and fry the garlic for approximately thirty seconds, keeping the heat on medium to avoid charred garlic. Add the prawns to the pan and sauté for no longer than one and a half minutes or until they turn colour from clear to pink, which may be sooner. It is important to not overcook prawns as they will get a rubbery texture and lose all their flavour. Remove off heat so that they cool. Any juice created from the prawns can be poured into the dressing that you are making later.

Waiting for the prawns to colour

Waiting for the prawns to colour

For the dressing combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Dressings often suffer from lacklustre mixing. With this particular dressing it is essential that you take time to blend the honey so that it does not settle at the bottom. Quick circular movements with a teaspoon are best. Think of it as a sort of wrist work out.

Toss the prawns and sesame coated sugar snap peas into the bowl that has the spinach leaves and mix through; cooling these ingredients is essential otherwise the spinach leaves will partially cook due to the heat.  Now the shredded ginger can be introduced to the party as it too will not overwhelm the salad with soggy-factor.

Finally add the dressing and give a good stir through making sure that all of the salad has equal coverage of dressing and serve immediately. How smug you feel at your New Year healthy eating habit is entirely up to you.

The Finished Delish Dish!

The Finished Delish Dish!