Pear-fect

Smoked trout and pear salad.
Smoked trout and pear salad. Photo: Melissa Adams

Today's recipes are for a smoked trout and pear salad and a poppy seed cake. The salad is quite special and makes good use of our beautiful Snowy Mountains smoked trout and the new season pears.

I like to use watercress in the salad, but, if this is not available, you could use a soft lettuce such as mignonette instead. Witlof could also be included to add a bitter note. The salad can be served as a main course for four people with or without the chat potatoes, or as a starter for six people. It can be put together easily.

Poppy seed cake has long been a favourite cake of my daughter Sophie. I have been making it quite often lately to celebrate the birth, on February 21, of Sophie's baby, Astrid. The delicious cake, which has a nutty taste and slight crunch from the poppy seeds, is perfect with a cup of tea or coffee. I plan to make it every year for Astrid's birthday.

Poppy seed cake.
Poppy seed cake. Photo: Graham Tidy

Black or slate-grey poppy seeds are actually the seeds of the opium poppy and are a popular ingredient in breads, cakes and pastries in central and eastern Europe. Poppy seeds can be bought in bulk from speciality shops. I keep them in the fridge to stay fresh. The smaller white or beige poppy seeds are used in Indian cooking.

Serve the smoked trout and pear salad and the poppy seed cake for an al fresco lunch and enjoy our glorious autumn weather.

Diana Lampe is a Canberra writer, dlampe@bigpond.net.au

Smoked trout and pear salad

Serves 4-6

1 Snowy Mountains smoked trout or equivalent smoked trout fillets

2 firm ripe pears

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1 lemon

500g chat potatoes (optional)

1 bunch watercress or 1 mignonette lettuce

2 handfuls baby spinach leaves (optional)

50g walnuts, lightly toasted

Vinaigrette

2 tbsp white-wine vinegar

4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

2 tsp Dijon mustard

sea salt, sugar and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tbsp snipped chives

Horseradish cream

½ cup creme fraiche or low-fat sour cream

2 tbsp grated horseradish (fresh or in a jar from the deli)

2 tsp lemon juice

sea salt, sugar and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tbsp chopped parsley

Skin, fillet and flake the smoked trout and set aside. If using watercress, snip off the sprigs to use and discard the coarse stems. Wash and dry all the greens.

Next make the dressings. Whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together and season to taste. Add the cut chives just before using.

For the horseradish cream, mix the creme fraiche or sour cream, horseradish, lemon juice and seasoning. Adjust to taste and add the chopped parsley.

If adding potatoes to the salad, steam them until tender. Toss the warm potatoes with a little of the vinaigrette.

At serving time, peel the pears or leave the skins on as you prefer. Cut them into lengthways slices and mix carefully with a good squeeze of lemon juice to coat. Arrange the watercress sprigs or lettuce and baby spinach leaves on a large serving dish.

Combine the potatoes (if using), pear slices and smoked trout in a bowl, and season. Mix the remaining vinaigrette with the horseradish cream and tip as much as is needed over the potatoes, pears and smoked trout, and gently fold through, leaving some pieces of pear and potato showing through. Tip the salad over the greens and sprinkle on the toasted walnuts. Serve with lemon wedges and brown bread and butter if you like.

Poppy seed cake

Serves 12

¾ cup poppy seeds

¾ milk

185g butter, softened

185g sugar

3 free-range eggs

185g self-raising flour, sifted

pinch salt

grated zest of 1 lemon or 1 tsp vanilla extract

Bring the poppy seeds and milk to the boil in a small saucepan and stir. Remove and let stand, covered, for 30 minutes or until cool.

Preheat the oven to 160C (fan forced) or 180C regular. For the cake you need a 23cm spring-form tin or similar cake tin. Line the bottom with baking paper and brush tin with butter, dust with plain flour and tap tin to remove excess.

Cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer or food processor until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one by one, beating well each time.

Add the poppy seeds and milk, as well as the lemon zest or vanilla.

Add the sifted flour and salt, and fold in on low speed or by hand. Spoon the cake batter into the prepared tin and spread evenly. Tap the tin on the bench to remove any air pockets. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 50 minutes, until firm to the touch in the middle. Allow to stand in the tin on a rack for 10 minutes before turning out to cool.

Icing

Serve the lemon poppy seed cake with lemon glace icing. Mix 1½ cups of sifted pure icing sugar with the juice of half a lemon or as much juice as needed. Pour onto the cake and spread with a palette knife. It will set firm after a few hours.

For the vanilla-flavoured cake, sprinkle the top thickly with icing sugar through a sieve. You can also split the cake and spread it with a tart plum or raspberry jam.