It's that time of year when we're clinging to our holidays but really have to get back into the swing of the working week. I hope these three recipes help cross that divide: a spicy chicken escabeche that's perfect for a summer feast with friends, a fragrant curry that makes midweek meals simple, and my take on roast beef for a family meal.
Spatchcock with spicy escabeche dressing
Escabeche is a classic Mediterranean marinade used to lightly pickle meat or fish while infusing it with spice. Typically, freshly cooked fish, chicken or rabbit is doused in the pungent, sweet-and-sour dressing and either served straight away or left to marinate overnight, and served cold. My roasted spatchcock is best served warm or at room temperature, when the meat is most succulent and the fragrance of tarragon, paprika and saffron is in the air.
12 eschalots (golden shallots), unpeeled
2 bulbs garlic
100ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus a little extra
2 large tomatoes, very ripe
2 punnets cherry tomatoes
2 pinches saffron threads
2 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp sweet smoky paprika
2 tsp ground cumin
2 fresh bay leaves
120ml sherry vinegar
2½ tbsp brown sugar
4 poussin, size five - ask your supplier to spatchcock the birds (removing the backbone)
Freshly ground pepper
½ bunch tarragon
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
2. Cut the unpeeled eschalots lengthways and toss into a roasting pan with the whole garlic bulbs. Drizzle with the extra oil and roast for 30 minutes.
3. Once cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool. Squeeze out the garlic pulp and peel the skins off the eschalots. Increase the oven temperature to 200 degrees.
4. To skin the tomatoes, bring a pot of water to the boil. Score a cross in the base of the large tomatoes and in half of the cherry tomatoes (use the others unpeeled) and drop them into the boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove and refresh in cold water. The skins should slip off easily. Chop the large tomatoes, leaving the cherry tomatoes whole.
5. To make the sauce, in a large, wide-based saucepan over medium heat, add the 100ml of oil, chopped tomatoes, peeled and unpeeled cherry tomatoes, eschalots and garlic paste and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes.
6. Add the saffron, spices and bay leaves, season with a little salt and stir for another minute.
7. Add the sherry vinegar and brown sugar and cook for another five minutes. Don't overreduce; the sauce should be loose and the cherry tomatoes should hold their shape. Take off the heat but keep warm.
8. Place a large frying pan over high heat. Season the birds with salt and pepper and lightly oil. Sear the flattened poussin for three minutes on each side. Transfer to a roasting tray and roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes.
9. When the birds are nearly cooked, gently warm the sauce, add the picked tarragon and check the seasoning.
10. Remove the birds from the oven and lay on a serving platter with any roasting juices. Immediately pour over the warm dressing and rest for five to 10 minutes before serving.
Serves 4 to 8
Drink Provencale rosé
Roasted porterhouse with cinnamon rainbow chard and horseradish bread sauce
This is my take on roast beef, served with braised rainbow chard scented with cinnamon, and a non-traditional rendition of an old-school sauce. Bread sauce has never tasted so flash; I've whipped it into shape with creme fraiche, heaps of fresh horseradish and a good spike of mustard.
1.5kg porterhouse, in one piece
Freshly ground pepper
300g creme fraiche
1 large clove garlic, finely sliced
1 fresh bay leaf
1 eschalot (golden shallot), sliced
250g white sourdough bread,
no crusts, diced
60g fresh horseradish, grated (or quality preserved horseradish)
½⁄ tsp English mustard
3 tsp Dijon mustard
1½⁄ bunches rainbow chard
100ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 brown onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cinnamon stick
1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Place a heavy frying pan over high heat for three minutes.
2. While the pan heats up, score the fat on top of the porterhouse and rub the whole piece of meat with salt and pepper. Cook the meat, fat side down, for five minutes (you won't need oil as the fat will render down). Flip and cook the other side for five minutes.
3. Place the porterhouse on a rack in a baking tray, fat side up. Roast for about 35-45 minutes (depending on your oven) for medium rare, or until a probe thermometer registers an internal temperature of 60C. Remove from the oven and rest the meat for 15 minutes before slicing.
4. To make the bread sauce, take the creme fraiche from the fridge to take the chill off it. In a small saucepan, add the milk, garlic, bay leaf and eschalot and bring to a simmer.
5. Tip in the bread and remove from the heat. Allow to soften for 10 minutes or so, then puree, adding a little milk if it's too thick for the stick blender (bear in mind the creme fraiche will loosen the sauce).
6. Tip into a bowl and mix through the creme fraiche, horseradish and mustards. Season with salt and pepper and squeeze in lemon juice to taste. Serve immediately.
7. For the chard, wash and trim it, leaving the stalks on, and cut into thick slices on the diagonal. Leave in a colander to drain.
8. In a large pot, add the olive oil and cook the onion and garlic for three minutes. Add the well-drained chard (a bit of water sticking to the leaves will help it steam) and the cinnamon, cover the pot and cook over high heat for two minutes. Stir, replace the lid and cook for another three minutes. Stir again, cover and lower the heat to medium and cook for a further 15 minutes or until tender. Season.
9. To serve, place the chard on a platter, slice the beef and place it over the hot chard. Serve the bread sauce on the side.
Drink Grenache with no new oak
Blue-eye, tomato, potato and ginger curry
This is a light and fresh curry that you can make in a flash on a summer's night. It doesn't rely on heat from chilli or from the warmer brown spices, but rather highlights the freshness of ginger, the spicy crackle of mustard seeds and the unique smoky, citrus character of curry leaves.
800g whole piece blue-eye trevalla, from the thickest part of a single fillet, skin on (or 4 x 200g fillets)
100ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 brown onion, sliced in rounds
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
8cm piece of ginger, julienned
1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
2 potatoes, peeled and sliced in ½cm discs
6 large ripe tomatoes, in chunky dice
5 stems curry leaves (try Asian or Indian grocers)
1. Slice the fish lengthways down the middle of the fillet, along the line of the pin bones. Run your knife down the other side of the bones to remove them and the blood line; discard. You will now have two portions of fillet (from one side of the fish). Cut these across into three-centimetre-thick slices. If you have four 200-gram fillets, simply cut them in half crossways.
2. Place a large wide-based frying pan over high heat. Add half the oil and heat for one minute. Season the fish and fry, skin side down, for a minute or two to crisp the skin. Remove from the pan and set aside.
3. Add the remaining oil to the same pan and heat through. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and mustard seeds and cook, stirring, until the onion starts to soften (about one minute).
4. Add the potato slices and cook for a few more minutes, stirring until they begin to soften. Add the chopped tomatoes, stir, season and cook for a few more minutes until the tomatoes break down and start to form a sauce.
5. Add 200 millilitres of water and the curry leaves (still attached to their stems) and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. The potatoes should be just cooked and the sauce will have thickened.
6. Check and adjust the seasoning. Make sure the sauce is on the drier side as the fish will release water and moisten it. Add the fish, skin side up, and cook for four to six minutes, or until cooked, with the lid on. Squeeze over the lemon juice and serve with steamed rice.
Serves 4 to 6
Drink Margaret River semillon
■ Photos: Marina Oliphant
■ Styling: Caroline Velik