Happy and Tasty New Year Everyone!

Holidays never last enough. I can't believe we are already past Christmas. This year I celebrated Christmas with my husband and twins only. Such a narrow circle meant I could test some new recipes without getting too much bad publicity if things went wrong ;) and I am going to share the results of those tests with you in my next post. But since we are running very close to New Year's eve, as promised, today I want to share with you some dishes which I found out to be reliable crowd pleasers and worthy of the celebratory table. Just remember the rules I shared with you in my previous post and that the recipe is only a guideline! I am sure many of the recipes below  can be given a totally different twist with your imagination and ingredients in hand!

How about a Salmon and Avocado Terrine for a starter?

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Ingredients:

  • 80g roasted pistachios
  • 300g soft cheese
  • 100g  of canned cod roe
  • 300g salmon slices for lining (for a "luxurier" version)
  • 100g salmon trimmings 
  • 5 sheets of leafed gelatin + 100ml of water for soaking
  • 2 ripe avocados (please, please, please make sure they are ripe!)
  • 200g creme fraiche 
  • Condiments to your taste and things you have in hand :). Well, I usually use some brandy, lemon juice, paprika and fresh tarragon. Chives, chilli  or garlic can be added for somewhat sharper taste. Smoked salmon is quite salty, so skip the salt this time.

Recipe advantages: This recipe can be prepared in advance and left in the fridge before being served. It forgives all sorts of modifications to the recipe as soon as the gelatin to liquid ratio is right :) Avocado can be replaced with spinach or asparagus, code roe with some canned fish fillet, cream cheese with the goat cheese or ricotta etc - the space is the limit. And trust me it's really easy to make!

Method:

Gelatin preparation

Cut gelatin sheets into smaller pieces and soak in the water until soft (~5 min).  While the gelatin is soaking,  mix the cream cheese, crème fraîche, brandy and lemon juice in the processor until well combined.  

Place the gelatine mixture into the bigger pan with water and put on medium heat until it completely dissolved. Cool slightly, then stir into the cheese mixture. Split the mixture into two parts: 2/3 and 1/3.

Add salmon trimmings and generous portion of paprika into the bigger portion of the cheese mix. And process to the almost homogeneous mass.

Mix well the smaller portion of the cheese mix with code roe and one avocado to the homogeneous mass as well. Then add coarsely chopped pistachios, remaining avocado and finely chopped tarragon. Mix but not process this time, so that the small pieces of pistachio and avocado left in the mixture.

Line a dish you've chosen for your terrine with some cling film. I've used my favorite and versatile bundt pan, but you can use any mold or pan really, because the terrine can be served both in individual pieces and cut into portions!  

For a luxury version use smoked salmon to line the pan, leaving enough over the edge to fold over the top of the filling. But in tougher times, you can either line only a top of the terrine with salmon (leave rougher edges for the decoration purposes) or skip lining all together, the terrine will be still lovely.  Spoon pink mixture into the pan first. Then spoon on the other filling with avocado to create the layered effect and smooth the top. Cover the whole pan with clear film and place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. When the terrine is ready, carefully remove from the pan (that's where the cling film is helpful) and decorate as per your liking.

Salmon and Avocado Terrine
Salmon, pistachios and avocado terrine. "Economy version"
Salmon and avocado terrine with pistachios

 

Well, now may I suggest Stuffed Baby Squid for your main?


This recipe was inspired by the recipe of Jenni Fleetwood I've already mentioned in my previous post. But I've done her version so many times, that eventually I decided to try something a little bit different and came up with my own recipe given below.

Baby Squid Stuffed with Chicken, Chinese Mushrooms and Prawns, Golden Apron

Ingredients:

  • 15 baby squids (~800g). I buy mine from Tesco, but Asian supermarkets stock those too.
  • 2 large chicken breasts  
  • 1 large onion
  • 50g of butter
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 25g of dried chinese mushrooms
  • 150g of small prawns
  • 25g of chives
  • 100g of brazil nuts
  • Condiments: one medium hot chilli, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, fresh/frozen coriander, galangal, black pepper and salt 

Recipe advantages: This recipe is quite different and one can experiment with various fillings as per his/her liking - from white fish fillet with prawns to chorizo couscous!

Method:

Clean and wash the squid. I buy mine already cleaned and with tentacles separated.  Soak the mushrooms in boiling water for about 30 min. Drain.

While soaking the mushrooms, add butter into a frying pan and fry finely chopped onions there until golden, then add pieces of chicken breasts and continue frying until ready.

Grind soaked mushrooms, chicken with onions, prawns, chopped chives, ginger (I used two cubes of frozen mashed ginger) and 2 cloves of garlic in food processor. Make sure not to overprocess, so that small bits and pieces still add texture to the filling (see picture above). Salt and pepper the mixture as per your taste.

Fill in prepared squids with the mixture. Icing bags or syringe work best for me to do that very quickly. But, it totally manageable with the small spoon too. Secure the top and tentacles with a toothpick. Don't worry about the filling leftovers - it goes to the sauce.

For the sauce, grind brazil nuts, lemongrass, galangal, chilli and filling leftovers into a paste in your food processor. Then, heat this paste in a frying pan or wok where some oil was added. Add coconut milk and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and add the squid. Cook for about 20 minutes and serve with some rice!

Hazelnut Meringue Cake, Kiev cake, torte

I hope your guests will still have some space left in their stomachs by the time you serve the dessert - Hazelnut Meringue Cake!

This recipe is inspired by one of the most famous cakes in former USSR - "Kiev" cake. It is believed that this cake was a favorite of the famous dictator Stalin and for many years this was one of the most coveted souvenirs from Kiev. 

Recipe advantages:

This cake layers can be (and better!) prepared at least a day in advance. Though the cake is somewhat tricky and not always works out to its intended shape, the good news is that even in its "failed" form, it is always delicious!

Cake Ingredients:

  • 10 large egg whites
  • 1 tsp of cream tartar
  • 200g roasted chopped hazelnuts
  • 2 cups of fine sugar
  • 2 Tbsp of cornflour
  • 2 Tbsp of plain flour

Method

Leave egg whites at room temperature overnight (about 12 hours). Don't worry they will not spoil but the whites fermentation process really gives the meringue additional strength.

Next day split all the ingredients into two equal parts. You will need to prepare each of two layers separately in exactly the same way:

  • Beat 5 egg whites with 0.5tsp cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Add 1 cup of sugar (one spoon at a time) until sugar is dissolved and beat until stiff peaks.
  • In a separate bowl mix together 100g of chopped hazelnuts with 1 Tbsp of cornflour and 1 Tbsp of plain flour. Mix well, until every nut piece is covered in the flour mixture.
  • Gently fold in the flour mixture into the eggs. Don't use a mixer but rather do it with a spoon.
  • Line a baking form with the parchment paper. And fill with the mixture. Bake for about 2 hours at 150C. IMPORTANT: this should be baked at a conventional oven only, the meringues will not raise in fan assisted ovens. 

 

Repeat the process for the second layer, though you can bake two layers together. After baking, it's better to leave the layers in the forms for additional 7-12 hours to cool down and settle. The result should reflect something in between of the dry sponge and meringue.

Buttercream ingredients:

  • 200ml cow milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  •  3 egg yolks
  • 300g unsalted butter
  • 0.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp brandy
  • 2 tsp of cacao

Method:

  • Remove butter from the refrigerator and leave it to soften while you work on the egg mixture
  • Mix eggs and milk together in a heat proof bowl.  Only then gradually whisk in the sugar. Put the mixture on a very low heat and bring to the boil while continuously stirring. Leave on the heat for about 2 min. Remove from the heat and let it cool down.
  • Beat soften butter and start gradually adding the egg syrup mixture (cooled), whisk everything together until smooth. Mix in vanilla.
  • Divide the mixture into two parts. Add brandy to one part and mix well. This will go in between of your two layers
  • Add cacao powder to the other part. You will need to cover the cake with the chocolate cream.

 

Decorate the cake as per your liking. But remember this cake is rather sugary and with the distinctive taste, so I would keep the decor to the minimum not to distract from the taste of the cake and overpower it with sugary decorations on top.

 

Happy Holidays Everyone!