Easy desserts with just a little assembly required
The current fad for understated menu descriptions is amusing in that they are often extremely minimal using only nouns with few adjectives. Descriptions such as, “duck, green peppercorns, baby beetroot, red wine — $40” are typical.
Such descriptions don’t really give any idea of what the dish actually is (I guess it is the wait staff’s job to fill in the gaps for any diner uncool enough to ask), or why the dish merits its price. It makes the dish sound so simple as to be banal when, of course, at the good places the food is much more accomplished. Being able to reduce a dish to a list of its components like this is an attractive idea and the following ideas are my more practical attempt to come up with meals which really can be this simple.
Good meals using real food don’t need to be elaborately prepared, complicated recipes. Good food can simply be the result of good shopping, with a few simply cooked elements. Dishes which are made up of simple layers are easy and can look like you have gone to a lot more trouble than you actually have. These sort of dishes can be just as satisfying as anything that made you slave away all day and there is no need to sacrifice quality for convenience. But good food does take more than a minute and if good food is important to you, then you won’t mind.
This sort of food works well when the weather is hot and lighter food is required. A small amount of cooking relative to lots of visual impact and flavour is what I am after at this time of year.
In tall glasses, layer greek yoghurt with crushed mixed berries, whipped cream, rose pashmak (like an Iranian version of candy floss, available at specialty food stores) or finely diced turkish delight (or both) and sliced toasted almonds, ending with the pashmak or turkish delight.
Puncture a couple of eggplant a few times with a sharp knife, put them in a dry roasting dish in a 200C oven for about 20 minutes until collapsing and soft right through. Remove, peel and put the flesh in a food processor with a clove of garlic, a handful of dill leaves and a big spoonful of tahini. Puree and flavour with lemon juice and salt. Spread this on warm pita breads and top with very thin slices of skinned, boned kingfish. Sprinkle with wild rocket leaves and toasted sesame seeds and serve with lemon wedges.
Make a mix of extra virgin olive oil, crushed garlic, a little salt and lots of cracked black pepper and rub this all over some skirt or hanger steak (or your favourite thinly sliced steak) and reserve. Make a vinaigrette from white wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, capers, diced gherkins, chopped soft boiled eggs and lots of parsley and chervil. Reserve. Peel and slice 1cm thick some agria potatoes and steam or boil them until tender. Fry the steak in a very hot pan for about 3 minutes each side, remove, rest and slice thinly. Serve on the potatoes with the vinaigrette over everything.
Boil some green beans until cooked but still crisp. Place on a platter with halved cherry tomatoes and flaked skinned, boned smoked fish. Mix well-seasoned plain, unsweetened yoghurt with a little tahini, crushed garlic and lots of sliced mint leaves. Drizzle this over the fish and serve with crusty bread.
Boil some new potatoes until tender, drain, crush, place on a warm platter, top with plenty of sliced ham off the bone, dollop on some sour cream mixed with plenty of wholegrain mustard, thin sliced spring onions, capers and parsley and serve with a green salad.
Soak some bulgur wheat in hot water for 15 minutes, then drain well. Add plenty of chopped parsley, chopped tomatoes, toasted almond, walnuts and pinenuts, extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. Taste and season. Serve with sumac-dusted, garlicky french lamb cutlets, which take about 2 minutes on each side in a hot pan with a little olive oil, and sliced, well seasoned, ready cooked vacuum packed beetroot from the supermarket.
Steam some quinoa and spread on a warm platter. Cover with lots of steamed broccolini, snow peas, green beans and sliced spring onions. Top with flaked hot smoked salmon, very thin slices of lemon and sprinkle with halved cherry tomatoes and chopped parsley. Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing.
Warm a turkish pide bread in the oven. Roast cherry tomatoes with thyme sprigs, chopped garlic, a sprinkle of salt, caster sugar and black pepper for about 10 minutes or until soft in a 200C oven. Mash the tomatoes lightly and spread on the bread, top with slices of prosciutto, sliced buffalo mozzarella, rocket and basil leaves. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and serve.
Halve and stone fresh apricots, place in a roasting dish with a sprinkling of caster sugar, the juice of an orange and a big slosh of grappa or brandy. Place in a 200C oven for about 15 minutes or until just soft. Cool then spread the apricots on a platter, sprinkle plenty of crushed amaretti biscuits or meringues on top, add a sprinkling of sliced strawberries and serve with mascarpone mixed with double cream.
Buy a Chinese roast duck from your local Chinese restaurant. Get them to chop it up. Steam some jasmine rice, put the duck pieces on top, dice some mangoes or pineapple and sprinkle that on top of the duck. Mix bought Chinese plum sauce with lime juice and chopped chilli and drizzle that over everything. Finish with thin sliced spring onions and coriander leaves and serve.