It’s been raining for three days. This may not seem like a big deal but I live in the Sunshine State of Australia. It rarely rains in winter. We are used to summer storms. So in addition to it being unseasonably wet it’s cold as well. And I have piles upon piles of washed but wet laundry that need to be hung out to dry before I need to re-wash them and I fear the kids will run out of clothes soon. Speaking of the kids, they are getting more and more crazed by the day, and, to top it off I woke up with a cold sore and my lip is throbbing in pain. I would be tempted to get back in to bed with a hot water bottle and good book, but, you know, kids and housework don’t really agree with lazy days in bed.
But let me escape back in my mind back to a happier day. Sunday. where we caught up with good friends over good food. We have a group of friends we catch up with regularly for dinner and we all are responsible for a course of food. This time I was bringing the nibbles and I thought an antipasti platter would be perfect. I mean what is not to love? Cheese – love. Salami, Prosciutto – love. Bread – love. But I wanted to create an antipasti platter that was a touch more healthy and focused on the natural gorgeousness of vegetables. I believe the chef-y term is ‘heroing’ the vegetable. But I think I did the term justice anyway. So instead of the deli meats I replaced these for vegetables…sorry kids (and Ray)!
I have been becoming more interested in the pickling process and really want to start doing more of this. I have attempted, and failed, to make my own pickled ginger for sushi before so my initial foray was not ultimately successful. But when I saw an extremely simple recipe for curing cucumbers it inspired me to try again as I thought this would be a nice crunchy option to have on the share plate and maybe even dare I say it, make the cucumber a little sexy?
2 Cucumbers sliced length-ways into quarters
Juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Herbs to season (I used chives but any fresh soft herbs would work well)
- Mix lemon juice, salt and sugar until the salt and sugar have dissolved.
- In a container add the cucumbers and pour the lemon juice mixture over the cucumbers, and ensure that all the cucumbers are coated with the curing mixture.
- Refrigerate for two hours.
This is a base recipe that I adapted for my taste but the great thing about curing is that it is really versatile so it’s a great opportunity to play around with what you already have and what flavours you enjoy. For example replace the lemon juice with apple cider vinegar or another acidic based ingredient. Instead of using sugar, use maple syrup. You get the idea.
Next up was asparagus spears, I saw asparagus was on special at the market and I really enjoy them so I grabbed them to make a lovely seasonal addition to the platter, and these are only just cooked so they remain crunchy.
Balsamic Parmesan Asparagus
A bunch of Asparagus, trimmed with woody ends removed
1-2 tsp balsamic vinegar (to your taste)
Parmesan for shaving
- Heat oil over medium high heat in griddle pan or fry pan
- When the pan and oil is hot add the asparagus and saute for two minutes ensuring that the asparagus does not cook through
- In the 30 seconds or so add the vinegar and toss the asparagus through
- Remove from heat add shave Parmesan to taste over the asparagus
What is an antipasto platter without ‘dippers’? The great thing about these two dipping recipes is that they are nut and dairy free so allergen-friendly and so great additions for party platters, especially when you do not know the allergy status of your guests.
Smoky Sweet Potato Hummus
300g sweet potato diced
400g can chickpeas drained and rinsed
1 garlic clove minced
2 tbsp tahini
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
- lightly boil sweet potato in a small amount of water until soft (around 10 minutes) and allow to cool
- Add all ingredients into a food processor and process until smooth, adding water to get to your desired consistency
- Serve sprinkled with a little smoked paprika
2 cups of frozen peas
1/4 cup tightly packed mint
Juice from half a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
- In a microwave safe container cook the peas with a very small amount of water on high for around 45 seconds to a minute until just cooked.
- Drain and add the mint and lemon juice. With a stick blender blend until a slightly lumpy but mostly smooth texture is achieved.
How easy is that pea pesto? And yes I know not really technically a pesto but I like the alliteration. The pea pesto is gorgeous with this beautiful whipped feta recipe which is just as easy but looks and tastes like it’s a little more complicated.
Lemon and Thyme Whipped Feta
200g Danish feta (soft)
Juice of 1 lemon
I tbsp chopped fresh thyme plus extra for garnish
- In a bowl, with a fork mash the feta until the mixture has come together
- Slowly add the lemon juice and thyme and with your form whip the mixture until it is easily spreadable
- Serve in a rough quinelle garnished with a little fresh thyme
Finally serve your platter with crusty bread, crackers, grapes and any other cheese you enjoy. Delish!