Taramasalata. Photo: Marcel Aucar
Most of us are pretty used to taramasalata being a luminous shade of pink, but unfortunately this is usually due to dye. Traditional taramasalata - made from cod or carp roe - is beige, which might be less appealing to some, though not to me. It's worth seeking out quality white fish roe from a good Greek deli; it makes such a difference.
125 g fluffy white bread, crusts removed
125 g cured white fish roe paste, available from Greek delis
1/4 white onion, chopped
1/2 small garlic clove, finely grated
400ml neutral oil, such as grapeseed or rice bran
2 lemons juiced (about 80ml, or to taste)
salmon caviar, to serve (optional)
1. Soak the bread in water for five minutes, then squeeze most of the water out with your hands.
2. In a food processor add the bread, roe, onion and garlic and process until you have a smooth paste.
3. With the machine running, add some of the oil very slowly, then a little lemon juice, then more oil, alternating until all the oil and lemon juice is combined and it is a smooth consistency. Add 80ml of warm water and process again - this will help make the dip light and fluffy.
4. Spoon into a serving bowl, top with some salmon caviar (if using) and serve with flat bread.
Drink: Assyrtiko would be perfect, or riesling.
Makes one large batch.
Scallops in the half shell with leek, tarragon and roe sauce
This dish is quite simple to make but has an elegant restaurant feel to it, perfect for a dinner party. Farmed scallops are almost always available, but you should be able to find beautiful wild scallops at this time of year - just make sure they are fresh.
extra virgin olive oil
1 large leek, finely sliced in half moons
1 clove garlic, finely sliced
freshly ground black pepper
12 extra-large scallops, in the shell with roe attached
5 sprigs tarragon, picked
2 handfuls fresh breadcrumbs, rubbed in olive oil
60ml dry vermouth or white wine
100g creme fraiche
1. Add 40 grams of butter and a splash of oil to a small pot. Add the leek and garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook very slowly until softened, but not coloured - about 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, clean and trim the scallops, setting the shells and roe aside.
3. Lay the scallop shells on a baking tray and spoon the cooked leek in. Nestle the scallops on top, add some tarragon, season and finish with the oiled breadcrumbs.
4. Turn the oven grill to high and grill the scallops for three to five minutes - this will depend on the size of the scallops and the heat of your grill, but you want golden breadcrumbs and rare to medium-rare scallops.
5. While the scallops cook, in a small saucepan over high heat, quickly saute the roe in the remaining butter, season, add a splash of vermouth and bring to the boil. Immediately tip into a blender and blitz with the creme fraiche and a squeeze of lemon to taste - the consistency of the sauce will vary depending on how big or small the roes are, but this is not that important, it will be delicious either way. Check the seasoning and spoon over the scallops as soon as they come out of the oven. Garnish with tarragon leaves and serve.
Drink: A young riesling with good acid and a hint of sweetness.
Poached blue-eye trevalla with kipfler potatoes
This can be served immediately with some gentle warmth still in the fish, but is equally delicious at room temperature, and perfect for a picnic or to take to a barbecue - pack the components separately and assemble on site. This method of cooking fish is very delicate, the flesh retaining most of its natural moisture.
a piece blue-eye trevalla, about 600g, skin on (about a side of fish)
6 kipfler potatoes, peeled
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 white onion, sliced in half moons
100g creme fraiche
2 tsp tiny capers
4 sprigs dill, picked and chopped
2 tbsp salmon caviar or lumpfish roe
1. With a sharp knife, cut the fillet in half lengthways along the line of the bone. Cut down the other side of the bone and discard, leaving two long pieces, one a little thicker than the other.
2. Boil the potatoes in salted water until cooked and about to fall apart. Drain, crush lightly with a fork, place on a serving plate and drizzle with a little oil.
3. Bring a deep saute pan of salted water to a simmer and add the fish. Simmer gently for three minutes, then take off the heat and leave to poach in the water for another three minutes. Lift the fish from the water and rest for three more minutes on a plate, with the thinner piece on top of the thick piece - this will finish the cooking.
4. While the fish rests, in a small bowl sprinkle some salt and sugar over the onion, add a squeeze of lemon juice and mix through - this will soften the onion, both in flavour and texture.
5. Peel the skin from the fish and flake the flesh over the crushed potatoes, dollop on the creme fraiche, scatter over the capers, dill and onion, dress with some lemon juice and oil and spoon on the roe.
Drink: Dry chenin blanc.
Serves 4-6 to start.