A springtime feast

Audra Morrice, chef, cookbook author, Masterchef alumni and television presenter, treats us to a feast for the eyes and stomach, perfect for the coming warmer weather and fresh produce.

This is an extract from Cook & Feast by Audra Morrice (Landmark Books, $39.99)

BEEF CARPACCIO WITH PICKLED ONIONS | Serves 5

This dish is inspired by something I tasted during a trip to San Francisco some years ago. It is based on getting your hands on the best quality meat. It’s fresh, herbaceous and a feast for the eyes!

Most of the preparations for this dish can be done a few hours ahead, including the slicing and thumping of the beef. Add the dressing and the toppings just when you are about to serve.

INGREDIENTS
250 g (8.8 oz) good quality beef eye fillet (tenderloin), sinew and excess fat trimmed, rolled
1 teaspoon black peppercorn, toasted and coarsely ground 1 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns, toasted and coarsely ground1 teaspoon sea salt
Olive oil
DRESSING
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce
11⁄2 teaspoons finely minced
garlic
11⁄2 teaspoons finely chopped
hot red chilli
3 teaspoons finely chopped
coriander stems
TOPPINGS
1 small red onion, peeled, halved, sliced thinly with a mandolin and pickled quickly
1 red chilli, finely sliced into rings
2 small red radishes, thinly sliced with a mandolin
2 tablespoons of each micro herb (coriander, celery, purple shiso, radish)
1 tablespoon roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon crispy shallots
1 tablespoon crispy garlic
Place the piece of eye fillet on cling film. Wrap and roll firmly until you get a nice even log shape. Hold onto the excess cling film at each end and roll the meat several times in a forward motion until you get a firmly packed little log. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours or overnight.
Scatter the black pepper, Szechuan pepper and salt over a chopping board or a clean bench top. Remove the cling film and roll the beef back and forth over the seasoning, pressing it in gently, then rub all over with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
Place all the ingredients for the dressing in a clean glass jar, cover tightly, and shake vigorously until well combined.
In a glass bowl, mix 2 tablespoons each of water, white vinegar, sugar and a pinch of salt. Stir until the sugar and salt dissolves. Toss in the onion slices and leave to pickle for at least 30 minutes.
Heat a large, heavy-based frying pan or flat-surfaced cast iron pan on very high heat. Sear the beef on all sides for 1 to
2 minutes. I like a little more variation of doneness so tend to sear the edges a little more. Remove and set aside to rest for
5 minutes. Slice the beef very thinly but ensure that the pieces remain whole. To get it paper thin, place each slice between two clean plastic sheets such as Glad’s Go-Between and thump gently with a rolling pin. Gently place each slice flat on a large serving plate. Drizzle over the dressing then scatter over the chillies, pickled onions, radish, micro herbs, peanuts, crispy shallots and garlic. Serve immediately.

GRILLED BARRAMUNDI WITH SAMBAL MATAH | Serves 4

My travels to Bali opened a whole new world of sambals that are so different to the Singaporean style I grew up with. The Indonesians do it quite differently, and the Balinese, different yet again. It’s fresh and super spicy, so adjust the amount of chillies (with or without seeds) in this recipe according to your taste.

600 g (1.3 lbs) barramundi or
seabass fillet
6 cloves garlic, skin removed, finely grated
10 g (0.4 oz) ginger, skinned, finely grated
11⁄2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon (25 g) tamarind pulp, soaked in 4 tablespoons water, rendered and sieved
1 tablespoon cold-pressed, extra-virgin coconut oil
Large piece banana leaf
SAMBAL MATAH
4 tablespoons cold-pressed, extra-virgin coconut oil
1 small red Spanish onion, peeled, sliced very thinly
2 cloves garlic, crushed, skinned, finely chopped
2-4 red chilli padi, to taste, thinly sliced into rings
2-4 green chilli padi, to taste, thinly sliced into rings
1 large red chilli, thinly sliced into rings 1⁄2 teaspoon belacan (shrimp paste), dry roasted, mashed
1 lemongrass stem, white root-end only, blanched then very finely chopped
4 kaffir lime leaves, finely sliced
Juice and zest of 1 lemon or lime or 4-5 kalamansi limes
2 teaspoons raw sugar
Pinch of salt

Mix the grated garlic, ginger, turmeric, coriander, paprika, salt and tamarind puree in a bowl. Rub the mixture all over the fish. Set aside to marinate for about 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 200°C (395°F).

Cut off the mid-rib of the banana leaf carefully, ensuring that there are no tears, then trim the leaf to fit your baking tray. Line the baking tray with foil, put the leaf on it, then place the fish, skin side down, on the leaf. Drizzle over the coconut oil and gather up the sides of the banana leaf and foil, leaving the fish exposed.

Place this in the oven under the grill and cook for approximately 10-12 minutes or until the fish is just cooked and a little charred. If you are cooking this over a barbecue, place the banana leaf fish parcel on the foil directly over high heat.

While the fish is cooking, prepare the sambal matah. Heat the coconut oil till hot and set aside. Mix all the remaining ingredients of the sambal matah and pour the hot coconut oil over it.

Once the fish is ready, serve immediately with the sambal matah and a wedge of lime.

Note: To dry roast the belacan, wrap it tightly in a single layer of foil and toast both sides on a dry pan for a few minutes. Alternatively, place in a preheated oven at 180°C (355°F) degrees for 10 minutes.

PEAR, BLUEBERRY AND HONEY CREAM CHEESE CAKE | Serves 12-16

This is not your typical cheese cake. I know it sounds quite contradictory but it’s buttery and rich, and at the same time, incredibly light, comforting and delicious! Honey, pear and blueberries are just your perfect combination. I find it very hard to resist cutting into it when it comes straight out of the oven. It’s perfect just a little warm!

150 g (5.3 oz) frozen or fresh blueberries2 ripe pears, peeled, sliced into 16 wedges2 tablespoons honey
125 g (4.4 oz) cream cheese 250 g (8.8 oz) unsalted butter 220 g (1 cup) caster sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
125 g (4.4 oz) Greek yoghurt 80 ml (1⁄3 cup) milk
335 g (21⁄4 cup) self-raising flourPinch of saltPreheat your oven to 160°C (320°F). Lightly grease and line a 23-cm (9-in) cake tin with greaseproof paper. Dust lightly with flour. Before you begin, make sure all the ingredients, including the butter and cream cheese, are at room temperature.

Cream the butter, cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure it’s well combined before each addition, followed by the vanilla, yoghurt and milk. The mixture may look like it’s going to curdle but don’t worry, fold in the flour then the blueberries. To get a light texture, be careful not to overmix.

Fill the baking tin, smooth out the top with a spatula, then arrange the pears over the top as you wish, pushing them slightly into the batter. Drizzle over with honey.

Bake for about 11⁄4 hour or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Rest for 10 minutes before turning the cake out. Serve warm on its own or with some vanilla cream.

VIENNESE FINGERS | Makes 45

This is a cookie that I’ve been making since I was about 12 years old. It literally melts in your mouth! If you choose not to dip it in chocolate, cut a small piece of candied maraschino cherry and press it into one end. It’ll be just as good.

230 g (8.1 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature60 g

(2 oz) icing sugar
1 1⁄2 teaspoons vanilla extract
250 g (8.8 oz) plain flour, sifted
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon pistachio kernels, finely chopped
100 g (3.5 oz) dark chocolate, melted or 50 g (1.8 oz) milk chocolate and
50 g dark chocolate, melted separatelyPreheat your oven to 180°C (355°F). Line 2 baking sheets with greaseproof paper.Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Mix in the vanilla. Add the flour and salt, pulse until just combined.Fill a piping bag fitted with a 1-cm (0.4-in) star nozzle with the biscuit dough. Pipe out lengths of cookies spacing them about 2 cm (0.8 in) apart. Sprinkle over a little pistachio and bake for 10 minutes or until very lightly coloured. Remove and cool on a rack.When the cookies have cooled, dip one or both ends into the melted chocolate and let it set on a rack. Store in an airtight cookie jar.

Note: In warmer climates, remove the butter from the fridge for about 10 minutes before using. This will help firm up the dough.

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