a gourmet inspired long weekend – part one: friday

little almond puddings with marsala poached prunes

While you could say I’m a bit of a travel junkie, I am still yet to master the gentle art of packing light. For some reason wherever I go I just tend to accumulate things and end up looking something like a bag lady. Recently, however, I decided that I was going to change my ways.  So this weekend rather than my usual trick of lugging around a heap of cookbooks, I decided to limit it to the two latest issues of my favourite food mag: Australian Gourmet Traveller. A weekend’s worth of meals from just two magazines…how hard could it be?

As I’ve mentioned before, my mum is a massive fish fan, but unfortunately it’s still difficult to get good fresh fish in the bush so I always try to bring some home for her. There weren’t that many fish recipes in the two magazines I had chosen as my weekend recipe sources but the polenta dusted sardine fillets with boiled lemon relish seemed the perfect thing for a casual friday dinner.

One of the best things about a weekend at Mount View, apart from the chance to laze around by the fire, is that I usually have lots of dessert-loving mouths to feed. So I tend to make dessert every night.  I’m a massive fan of prunes and really think they have been given a hard wrap….just because they are the most high fibre of the dried fruits doesn’t mean that they should only be served to the over 70s crowd….A recipe for almond and orange puddings with muscat poached prunes provided the inspiration for dessert.  Keeping it simple I decided to dump the orange and marzipan from the puddings and replace most of the flour with almond meal to keep them nice and nutty.  And in the spirit of my packing light philosophy, I decided to poach the prunes in some of my Mum’s marsala rather than lugging home a bottle of Rutherglen muscat….all good things…

a casual family friday dinner
polenta dusted sardine fillets with boiled lemon relish
rocket & radish salad
little almond puddings with marsala poached prunes

polenta dusted sardine fillets with boiled lemon relish
serves 4

Adapted from a recipe by Rodney Dunn in the May 2006 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller. I just decreased the amount of oil in the salsa and replaced it with lemon juice to keep it lighter and added some anchovies for a more complex flavour.

The salsa is a great accompaniment to the fish and would also work really well in a sandwich with tinned sardines or tuna.

1/2C (80g) polenta
2T plain flour
16 sardine fillets, butterflied
peanut oil or olive oil for shallow frying
rocket & radish salad, to serve
for boiled lemon relish:
2 lemons
125mL extra virgin olive oil
2 anchovy fillets, chopped, optional
3 cloves garlic, peeled
3T salted capers, rinsed
4 green onions, chopped
2 large sticks celery, finely diced
juice 1/2 lemon

For the salsa: place lemons in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and then discard water. Recover with fresh water and bring to the boil and then simmer for approx 20mins until lemons are very soft. Drain and allow to cool.

Halve lemons and remove seeds. Place in a food processor with garlic and anchovies and whizz until a chunky paste is formed. With the motor running, add olive oil in a steady stream until well combined.  Stir through remaining ingredients and season with s&p.

Combine polenta and flour and season with s&p. Dust half the sardines with polenta mixture on both sides. Heat oil in a large frying pan over a medium high heat and fry sardines for approx 2min each side or until golden and cooked through. Drain on kitchen paper and keep warm while you repeat with the remaining sardines.

Divide sardines between 4 warmed plates and serve with a large spoonful of relish and the rocket & radish salad.

rocket & radish salad
serves 4

Radishes are something that I’ve recently been getting into more and more.  They have a great earthy flavour and add a refreshing crunch to salads.

1 small bunch radishes, very finely sliced
1 small bunch continental parsley, leaves picked
2 large handfuls baby rocket
2t dijon mustard
2T lemon juice
2T extra virgin olive oil

For dressing combine mustard and lemon juice in a bowl and whisk in olive oil. Season with s&p and toss in radishes, parsley & rocket. Serve immediately.

little almond puddings with marsala poached prunes
serves 6

Adapted from Adelaide Lucas’ recipe for almond orange pudding with muscat prunes in the June 2006 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.

This makes more prunes than you need but I like to have extra to have with muesli and yoghurt for breakfast.

200g almond meal
3 eggs, separated
40g caster sugar
70g dark brown sugar
2/3C buttermilk
20g butter, melted
1t baking powder
1/4 plain flour
1t vanilla extract
extra butter for greasing ramekins
for the prunes:
500g pitted prunes
1C marsala
1/2C honey
2 cinnamon sticks
double cream to serve

For the prunes: bring marsala, honey, 1/2C water and cinnamon sticks to the boil. Add prunes and simmer for approx 15mins until prunes are plump. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Preheat oven to 180oC and grease 6 150mL ramekins with butter.  Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form and set aside. 

Beat yolks with both sugars until pale and then add the buttermilk, butter, almond meal, baking powder and flour and mix until just combined.  Fold in egg whites and divide mixture between the ramekins.

Place ramekins in a baking dish and add enough boiling water to come up at least half way on the ramekins. Bake for approx 30mins or until puddings are golden brown and a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the centre.  Allow to cool for at least 5mins before turning puddings out into 6 bowls.  Serve with prunes and some of the prune syrup. Pass cream separately.

polenta dusted sardine fillets with boiled lemon relish and rocket & radish salad


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