Lurking in my cookbook shelf is a small unassuming volume called Bowl Food. When I first received this book as a gift, I wasn’t very inspired. There are no witty introductions, no stories about the food, no celebrity chefs, no chefs at all for that matter. The production values are modern, but modest. The layout looks very much like the Australian Woman’s Weekly books on sale at all good Australian newsagents. Unlike the Woman’s Weekly cookbooks, which are part of the vast Packer empire, Bowl Food is published by Murdoch Books, part of the even vaster Murdoch empire.
The name ‘Murdoch Books’ always makes me think of a sweat-shop for cookery writers. Poor souls with degrees in home economics are chained to demonstration kitchens, churning out dish after dish that would make a CWA member proud, but fail to satisfy my imagined female version of Chairman Kaga who runs the cookery division of the publisher with an iron will (or skillet). Christine (who blogs at Vegemite on Oatcakes) likened these nameless cookery writers to the monkeys on typewriters who are busy working away on the Complete Works of Shakespeare.
However, these cooks – chained to their stoves or not – clearly know their stuff. I find myself turning to this book nearly every week for inspiration. Recently, I’ve been attacking the salad section, and I whole-heartedly recommend these two beauties.
Minced chicken salad
- 1 tablespoon jasmine rice
- 2 teaspoons oil
- 400 g chicken mince
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 stem lemon grass, white only
- 1/3 cup chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 4 spring onions – sliced on the diagonal
- 4 red Asian shallots – sliced
- 1/2 cup fresh coriander – chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh mint – shredded
- 1 iceberg lettuce – shredded
- 1/4 cup chopped roasted unsalted peanuts
- 1 small fresh red chilli sliced
Heat a frying pan and dry-fry the rice on low heat for 3 minutes or until slightly golden. Grind in a mortar and pestle to a powder.
Heat a wok over medium heat. Add the oil and mince. Cook – breaking up any lumps with a spoon – until it changes colour, about 4 minutes. Add the fish sauce, lemon grass and stock. Cook for a further 10 minutes.
Add the lime juice, spring onion, Asian shallows, coriander, mint and ground rice. Mix well. Arrange this mixture on top of the shredded lettuce. Sprinkle with nuts and chilli.
Smoked trout Caesar salad
- 350 g skinless smoke trout fillets
- 300 g green beans, halved
- 6 tinned artichokes – drained, rinsed and quartered
- 2 eggs
- 1 small clove garlic – chopped
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 6 slices day-old ciabatta – cut in 2cm cubes
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 1 cos lettuce
- 1/2 cup freshly shaved Parmesan
Flake the trout into shards. Cook the beans in boiling water for 4 minutes then refresh under cold water. Mix with the trout and artichokes.
Poach the eggs in simmering water until just cooked. I have always been terrified of poaching eggs. And I think the eggs knew it, as they always went stringy and sqwirly. However, through Delia Smith’s online instructions on how to poach an egg and the purchase of a very small enamel saucepan, I have conquered these fears. I am now an efficient egg-poacher.
Place the eggs in a food processor with the garlic, mustard and vinegar and blend until smooth. If, like me, you don’t own a food processor, use a stick blender instead. If your stick blender breaks-down after 20 seconds from overuse on palak paneer, try passing all these ingredients through a sieve with the back of a spoon. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil in a thin stream and whisk or process until thick and creamy. Season to taste.
Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan. Add the bread and capers and cook over high heat until the bread is golden. Line four bowls with cos leaves, divide the trout between the bowls, drizzle with dressing and top with croutons, capers and Parmesan.