Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tuna Carpaccio and Memories of Croatia 

On our recent trip to Croatia, Chief Recipe Taster and I stumbled upon a beautiful little restaurant in the Island of Korcula. We were walking along a promenade packed with restaurants and had just been talking about how, as a tourist, do you choose a restaurant when you are so spoiled for choice but have no prior knowledge the area?

In this case, the answer was obvious. As we approached Lesic-Dimitri a few things stood out. It was one of the smallest places we had seen and it was empty - usually a very bad sign, especially when the surrounding establishments were buzzing with patrons. However, Lesic-Dimitri had two things which really made me swoon... the tables were dressed with crisp white linen cloths and topped off with beautiful long stem wine glasses. Like a bird drawn to a shiny object I couldn't resist and thus proceeded one of the highlights of our trip.

As we sat we were warmly greeted by Drazen, the sommelier and head waiter who spoke with such confidence and passion about their local wine list we immediately agreed  that if we chose our food he could choose the wine to match... and we were not disappointed.

Our meal started with crostini topped with red onion marmalade or white bean puree, to which Drazen matched an exceptional local Rose. Next came a sea-bass carpaccio dressed in a light olive oil and lemon dressing, expertly paired with a Posip Intrada 2008, a white wine from the peninsular opposite the island of Korcula. As we moved into the main courses of grilled lamb with yogurt dressing and a grilled pork salad with caramelized walnuts, the red wines were brought out to further dazzle us. One of the best reds I've ever had proved to be the headliner of the night, the Postup Mare 2006 - of which Drazen had only a handful of the last bottles left from this particular harvest.

We had been so impressed with the wines we had tried, that as a thank-you Drazen then brought out 3 new bottles of red and we finished the evening tasting these and listening to tales of that areas local wine production. We finished the evening satisfied and happy and left weighed down with bottles of Croatian wine, one of which was a present for being such 'enthusiastic dinners!'. As we wandered off, Lesic Dimitri had begun to fill with new patrons all vying for Drazen's attention, and I felt happy that we had managed to miss the rush and enjoy such an intimate introduction to Croatia's wine industry.

One of the bottles of wine we brought back to the UK was the Posip Intrada 2008, that we had enjoyed with the sea bass carpaccio. Last week while the sun shone brightly in London, I decided to pair this bottle of wine with a carpaccio of my own making. It was a wonderful combination for a summer afternoon, and would be lovely with any bottle of white wine you like!

Tuna Carpaccio with Orange and Sesame Dressing - I used 2 medium tuna steaks and this fed 4 people as an appetizer. I haven't put quantities as I made the dressing to taste and can easily be adjusted to cater for a larger quantities of tuna.

Rice Vinegar
Sesame Oil
Juice of one large orange, with the left over flesh chopped into small chunks
Salad onions, thinly sliced 
Fresh Tuna Steaks (preferably sashimi grade - however will work with any tuna steak as long as it is very fresh) 
Black Pepper, to taste

(Important Note: you need to make this directly before eating as it needs to be served fresh and cold. Its a good idea to keep the tuna on ice for about 20 minutes before preparing)

Take a large empty plate or platter and dress with a couple of generous shakes each of the vinegar, oil and orange juice. The idea is that you want to lay the slices of tuna onto the already dressed plate or platter.  

Slice the tuna into the thinnest slices you possibly can (you will need a very shape, flexible knife for this), and then arrange the slices onto the plate or platter. Dress the tuna once again with a couple of generous shakes each of the vinegar, oil and orange juice and top with the slices of salad onion, orange chunks and black pepper.  

Friday, July 09, 2010

Post Holiday Cleanse 
Last week we returned to the UK after a wonderful holiday in Croatia - truly a gem in the Adriatic! I've posted a few 'point and shoot' snaps of this wonderful destination and next week I will come back with some notes and recommendations. However, for the moment I thought I'd post a couple of 'post holiday cleanse' suggestions...

I am an all or nothing kind of a girl. I can do deprivation no problems (for a few weeks at least) but what I can't do is moderation! Therefore, after a few weeks of extreme holiday indulgence my body has begun to ‘cry out’ for a break. So this week I put the cork back in the bottle, put on my running shoes and started the working week with renewed zeal to be good and make up for my holiday excesses!

Generally when I'm being good I try to eat evening meals that are simple and quick to prepare and cook, include lots of fresh fruit and vegetables but exclude red meat, dairy, grains, refined sugars and I keep condiments to a minimum. Never the less I can assure you that the suggestions below are delicious and satisfying! (Quantities are to serve 2).   

Broccoli Mash with Orange, Dill and Garlic Salmon 

1 medium brown onion, finely chopped
1 floret of broccoli, roughly chopped (keep at least a 1/4 of the steam)
1 tablespoon of olive oil

Cook broccoli (either boil or steam, whichever you prefer) until tender but still bright green. Mash or break apart using a wooden spoon until you are left with small chunks. In a separate pan soften the onion until it starts to brown slightly, then add the broccoli. Mix through until combined well and season to taste. Set aside until ready to serve.

Orange, Dill and Garlic Salmon

1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 handful of fresh dill, chopped
Juice of 1 large orange
2 salmon fillets

Place the tablespoon of oil into a medium pan and once it is quite hot add the garlic and cook for about 2-3 minutes until the garlic and oil start to bubble. Place the salmon fillets in the pan and sprinkle with half the dill. Cook for a couple of minutes and flip. Sprinkle with the rest of the dill,  pour half the orange juice over the fish and after a few minutes flip once again. Pour in the rest of the orange juice and continue to cook the fish until its golden brown (can be a little blackened if you like it this way). Once the orange juice and garlic start to caramelise its ready.

Lemon Dressing

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Juice from one lemon
2 teaspoons of maple syrup
1 teaspoon of English mustard (Dijon would be great as well)

Put all ingredients into a jar and shake until combined well. 

This dressing works well with both fish or chicken and can make an uninteresting combination (like chicken and salad) palatable and exciting!!

Last night I grilled some chicken and made a salad with leaves, cucumber, spring onions, a few tomatoes, an avocado and dressed the whole dish with the above. It was the perfect thing for a balmy summer evening and just so I didn't feel too deprived I opened a bottle of de-Alcoholised Sohnlien sparkling wine! So delicious and Chief Recipe Taster was suitably impressed!  

After a week of eating along these lines I'm feeling great and ready for the weekend ... when I shall once again indulge in all the things I've been depriving myself of this week!!