a post-pregnancy feast

tuna carpaccio

For some time now about I’ve been worried about the plight of sushi restaurants and soft cheese producers in Australia. I mean you’d have to be living under a rock not to have noticed that we are in the midst of a mini baby boom. The good women of Oz are doing Johnny Howard proud and are popping out offspring at rates not seen since the golden year of 1972. But what has this got to do with sashimi and ricotta?? Just think about it, all those ladies abstaining from forbidden delights for nine months…something’s gotta give.

Just a day before my own birthday, my gorgeous friend Colettie joined the ranks of the newly parented with the birth of her long dark and handsome son. Not being a big drinker, Colette had breezed through her pregnancy with barely a thought for the champagne she was missing out on. But mention sushi and she’d become all wistful, pining for the days when she would once again be able to indulge in a sliver of raw fish.

So after offering to cook the new mum dinner for her birthday, just three weeks after the birth of her son, my menu planning thoughts went straight to two things: raw fish and soft cheese. I’ve already mentioned the constraints of cooking for pregnant ladies. So It was quite exciting to be thinking about what to include in the meal instead of starting  from what couldn’t be served.

Rather than tackle the raw fish holy grail that is sushi and sashimi (some things are best left to the experts), I opted for an Italianish carpaccio of tuna. Something that still requires pristine condition fish, but not so the razor sharp knives.

Since I was on an Italian vibe and considering it had been ages since my pasta machine had been given a chance to flex it’s muscles, a fresh angel hair pasta had the right feel. All that was needed was the introduction of some fresh cheese via a tasty goats curd…perfect. Asparagus are never far from my mind these days so I couldn’t resist including them in a vibrant green salad.

A birthday celebration just isn’t the same without a cake and candle(s) and when the birthday girl is a bit of a choc-aholic is there any other choice than a decadent fudgey slice of heaven?? Teamed with a scoop of rich creamy chocolate malted icecream this could only be described as a chocolate extravaganza.

So after a very pleasant evening of indulgence that lasted well past midnight, I found myself once again reflecting on the future market for soft cheese and raw fish. And given how much we had enjoyed the meal, combined with the fact that the new mum had already embarked on a family outing to their favourite Japanese restaurant and in her words ‘gone long on raw’. My conclusion was that they really aren’t endangered at all. I mean there’s nothing like being deprived of something to reignite a passion…I guess it’s the food equivalent of absence making the heart grow fonder…all good things.

a post pregnancy birthday feast
tuna carpaccio
angel hair pasta with goats curd and herbs
asparagus ribbon & watercress salad
chocolate ‘herion’ cake with malted chocolate icecream

tuna carpaccio
serves 4 as a starter

Another Karen Martini creation, this makes a beautiful starter. If your tuna is not super fresh, think of something else to serve.

300g very fresh yellowfin tuna
1/4 small red onion, very finely diced
2T capers fried until crispy
1 egg, hardboiled
juice 1/2 lemon
2t freshly grated horseradish, optional
2T pouring cream
handful watercress leaves
lemon cheeks, to serve

Chill plates. When ready to serve, cut tuna into slices approx 1cm thick then one at a time place a slice in a plastic bag and use your fingers to press and flatten it until very thin, about double in size. Place on chilled plates and continue with remaining tuna.

Sprinkle with onion and capers then grate the egg over and finely grate over the horseradish, if using. Drizzle with lemon juice and season well. 

Finally drizzle over the cream and top with watercress leaves. Serve immediately.

 

tuna carpaccio

angel hair pasta with goats curd and herbs
serves 4

In the past I’ve made my pasta with the classic combo of eggs, a touch of olive oil and good strong flour. And I’ve used the classic method: Start with a mound of flour on the bench, crack the eggs in the centre and do a kneading dance to bring it all together. Nowadays I’ve switched to Karen Martini’s food processor method, I kinda miss feeling like a little old Italian nonna but the silken pasta that you get in a fraction of the time makes up for the loss of authenticity.

If my vego friend, Fel, had been able to join us I would have given the proscuitto a miss (apparently vegetarians don’t eat bacon..hey Fel) and possibly instead gone with a few shaves of parmesan.

150g plain bread flour
60g semolina
pinch salt
2 eggs
1T olive oil
1 bunch chervil, leaves picked
1 bunch chives, finely chopped
150g goats curd
100g unsalted butter, chopped into 1cm cubes at room temperature
4 slices proscuitto, grilled until crispy, optional

For the pasta, combine flour and semolina in a food processor. Lightly beat eggs and oil then add to the processor and whizz until the mixture forms a ball.  Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead, adding more flour if the pasta sticks, for approx 5 mins or until dough looks silky.  Wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 30mins.

Divide dough into halves and working with one half at a time roll through the thickest setting then keep rolling through progressively lower settings until you are about three stops away from the finest setting (No 5 on my machine). Cut sheet into 30cm lengths and then pass through the smallest cutting teeth. Form each lenth into a nest and place on a floured tray and sprinkle with more flour. Repeat with remaining dough and refrigerate until ready to use.

When ready to serve bring a very large pot of salted water to the boil.  Place butter in a large warmed ceramic bowl. Cook pasta for 2-3 minutes or until al dente, stirring to break up any clumps. Drain pasta and add to butter bowl. Toss to distribute and melt butter then toss through herbs and season.

Divide pasta between 4 warmed bowls and top with chunks of goats curd and finish with a slice of crispy proscuitto.

 

angel hair pasta with goats curd and herbs

asparagus ribbon & watercress salad
serves 4-6

Continuing with my current asparagus obsession I couldn’t resist serving this great little salad. The idea to shave and blanch the asparagus came from Karen Martini.

2 bunches asparagus, trimmed
1/2 large bunch watercress, leaves picked
1T champagne or white wine vinegar
1T lemon juice
4T extra virgin olive oil
small handful sliced almonds, toasted

Shave asparagus into long very thin ribbons using a mandonline or a very sharp knife. Blanch for 1 1/2 mins in salted boiling water. Drain and refresh under cold water. When cold drain again.

Combine vinegar, lemon juice and olive oil in a salad bowl, season to taste and mix until well combined. Toss through asparagus and watercress until coated in dressing and top with almonds. Serve immediately.

asparagus ribbon & watercress salad

chocolate heroin cake with malted chocolate icecream
serves 8

So named for it’s addictive properties, this chocolate cake is perfection itself and is my current favourite birthday cake. It was adapted from the Edinburgh based Melissa at The Traveler’s Lunchbox.

The choc malt icecream is deliciously rich and may be a bit too overpowering to serve with such an intense cake for non choc-aholics. On another occasion I served it with spiced poached prunes and sweetened natural yoghurt which also worked well.

200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
120g castor sugar
4 eggs, separated
80g unsalted butter
pinch salt
100g ground pecans (or other nuts)
2T frangelico
cocoa powder, for dusting optional
malted chocolate icecream, sweetened natural yoghurt, or cream to serve

Preheat the oven to 180oC and grease and base line a 20cm spring form pan. Whisk egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form then gradually beat in the castor sugar until glossy and sugar has dissolved.

Melt butter in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (making sure that the level of the water is well below the bottom of the bowl).  Smash chocolate into smallish pieces and add to hot butter. Stir until chocolate has just melted. Stir through nuts and allow to cool slightly before mixing through the egg yolks.

Gently fold in the egg whites until just combined then spoon the mixture delicately into the prepared tin. Bake 20mins or until puffed and the top feels firm in the centre, you want the middle to still be undercooked and fudgey. Leave to cool for 30mins in the oven with the door open then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely in the tin.

When ready to serve dust with cocoa powder, if using and then serve slices either straight up or with your chosen accompaniment.

Note: This cake will keep (theoretically…I haven’t actually had any leftovers to test it out) for approx 5 days in an airtight container. Unless it’s the middle of summer do not store in the refrigerator as it changes the texture.

chocolate heroin cake

malted chocolate icecream
serves 8 as an accompaniment

This luscious little concoction was adapted from a recipe by Sue Fairlie-Cunninghame published in the June 06 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.

500mL cream (35% milkfat)
100mL skim milk
80g malted milk powder
4 egg yolks
250g milk chocolate, chopped

Place cream and milk and a medium saucepan and heat until almost simmering. Whisk yolks until pale and then whisk in malted milk powder.  Pour hot cream mixture over yolks and stir to combine. Return to the saucepan and cook over a low heat stirring continuously until custard has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Do not allow to boil as this will cause the mixture to curdle.

Transfer custard back to the bowl and refrigerate until well chilled. Freeze in an icream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

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{ 9 comments }

Ellie October 4, 2006 at 10:41 am

I’ve got this saved to a word document and will be mailing it to all my friends for future post-birth celebratons ;) Colettie is lucky to have such a thoughtful friend who’s willing to cook such a feast! I’m yet to have any of mine turn around and return the pleasure of being catered for…

matt October 5, 2006 at 3:31 am

These are the times I am glad I’m a guy.

All looks amazingly good Jules… I need to get back into making my own pasta again, and finally get around to going to the Japanese fish market here that sells sashimi grade tuna in bulk.

Also love the heroin cake, depite the name… Although I guess it does sound more appestising than crack cake…

matt October 5, 2006 at 3:32 am

Also, i not spel so gud.

Jeff October 5, 2006 at 3:31 pm

My wife would DEVOUR that…though she’s not pregnant :)

Colette October 6, 2006 at 12:31 am

Birthday girl here. I was blown away with the offer and even more blown away with the meal. It was sooo good… and we managed to make the cake last 2 days in our house! It was intoxicating to the last crumb.
Thanks a million for dinner and I’ll be up for Friday lunch adventures real soon.

Colette October 6, 2006 at 12:38 am

P.S. please let this be the last time you mention John Howard on your blog.

Fel October 6, 2006 at 2:48 am

That’s right Jules, most vegos I know don’t eat bacon……but then again, most of them don’t eat chicken either! :)
Sounds like I missed out on an excellent chocolate cake…*sigh*
We’ll have to all get together soon for another celebration.

Janet June 22, 2007 at 8:23 am

I’m with you Colette…John Howard puts me off my food!

karnexxus November 18, 2009 at 1:08 am

Wow, what great comments and stories! So glad that I?m not the only one going through all of this! Thanks for sharing your stories with me too!

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