First off, I apologise for this week’s recipe post being late. I usually write my Monday recipe posts over the weekend, and as I was getting my materials together for writing, I realised that I had left my camera with the photos of this salad I wanted to write about in my desk drawer at work on Friday evening. I was deliberating on whether or not to write about a Dukkah Couscous I made some time ago, but decided ultimately to hold off the recipe post to wait until I got the photos, as this salad is simply too delightful to wait until next week’s post.
My dear friend Dancing Queen, a Zumba instructor at my gym, had invited me over some time ago for dinner; preparing for me some “genuine” curries. I was greatly intrigued, as my experience of Indian and South-East Asian food has been quite limited to my local Curry Express – butter chicken, chicken korma, and garlic naan that leaves a gloriously fragrant oil over your hands and mouth when stuffed into your mouth unceremoniously.
When I was over at her place, I was introduced to “real” butter chicken (a lot less cream, and a sauce without the fire-hazard red shade you normally see), a tasty dhaal, and my deliriously-good first taste of paneer, among other things. We discussed gym, Zumba, and cooking techniques, where she then asked me how I cooked my steak. I promised that one evening I would return the favour and invite her over for dinner, where I would have a quick demonstration as to how I get my steak the perfect way I like it.
A couple of days before our scheduled dinner at mine, she pointed out that it was fairly moot for her to bring dessert to a dinner I was hosting, and so said she would bring some South-East Asian dumplings, or samosas. I planned the menu, being eye fillets, marinated in home-made teriyaki sauce and seared to a blissful medium-rare, served with green tea soba noodles. Dessert would be my chocolate creme caramel with hazelnut praline. I knew I needed a salad, so I had a look for some Asian-inspired salads and happened across this refreshing, flavoursome salad on taste.com.au. I set up an alfresco dining area outside just under the porch in my backyard – tea candles in a hipster jar, bamboo mat placemats, luxurious cushions, citronella candle close by, a small string of bamboo lantern fairy-lights, and my favourite playlist of relaxing music.
….And no, I wasn’t trying to get her to stay the night 😉 Give me a break, it was a school night after all…
I made the chilli caramel dressing the day before and refrigerated it, as I didn’t want a warm dressing over my salad. I also decided to sear my own salmon fillet, instead of buying hot-smoked, as I already had a beautiful salmon fillet in the freezer begging for me to use it.
So this is what you will need for a very generous two-person serving…
- 1/2 carrot, cut into julienne (matchsticks. If you have a peeler with a julienne setting, you’re laughing);
- 1 zucchini, cut into julienne;
- 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced;
- 1/4 cup mint leaves, torn;
- 1 lime, segmented;
- 250g salmon fillet, skinless;
- ground black pepper;
- 2 teaspoons of olive oil;
- 55g brown sugar;
- 30ml white vinegar;
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced;
- 1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes;
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce;
- 1/2 lime, juiced.
To make your dressing, combine the sugar, vinegar, garlic, chilli and 125ml (1/2 cup) water in a saucepan over medium heat. I was short on time and so used a small frying pan, to expand the evaporation surface area. Bring to a simmer and cook for ten minutes or so until thickened and reduced. This may take longer than ten minutes, but ensure that it is thickened and really has reduced down, otherwise your dressing will be like water and lack the caramelisation.
Remove from heat, then stir in the fish sauce and lime juice. Loosely cover and allow to cool. Refrigerate until required.
To start on the salad, pin-bone your salmon by massaging it gently and pulling out any bones with kitchen tweezers if you have them. Heat a non-stick grill-pan over a medium-high heat. Rub both sides of the salmon with the pepper and oil.
When the pan is hot, place the salmon in and cook each side for approximately three minutes or so until golden. This will allow the centre to be a soft, tender medium-rare. Place on a plate to one side to cool, then cut into approximately 2cm by 2cm square chunks.
Place the carrot in a colander and pour over boiling water. Refresh in iced water and drain. Place the carrot, zucchini, onion, mint and lime segments into a bowl and toss to combine.
Divide the salad among bowls and top with the salmon. Drizzle with the chilli caramel dressing to serve.
I’ve never eaten zucchini raw and was rather hesitant to attempt this recipe, but with all the big kerfuffle about “zucchetti” (zucchini julienned to substitute spaghetti in a carb-free hoax), I decided to try it. It was a perfectly light, flavoursome salad, with a significant amount of sweetness and punch from the dressing. I’ve since made it another two times, accompanied with fillets of delicately grilled perch.
Keep your eyes out for Friday’s post, where I review high tea at Mosman’s Gunner’s Barracks – a beautiful meal with a picturesque view, and some cheeky kookaburras with a fondness for rare roast beef sandwiches with horseradish and watercress.