Raw power: Who says you need to slave over a hot stove to make a tasty dish?
Use this season's freshest ingredients just as they are, says Mark Hix
Saturday 17 April 2010
Cooking doesn't have to be about physically grappling with a hot stove. In fact, creating a delicious meal without placing a single pan on the hob isn't as challenging as it sounds – and what's more, it's a healthy way to eat and saves on energy, too.
If you want a bit of inspiration, take a good walk around your supermarket, farmers' market or local shops. You may surprise yourself with how many ideas you come up with for getting creative with fresh and raw ingredients.
Avocado salad with anchovy and shaved Pecorino
The crucial thing with this dish is to buy ripe and tasty avocados, as well as top-notch anchovies in olive oil. If you can't find mature aged Pecorino, then Parmesan will do the trick.
2 large ripe avocados
1 small can of good-quality anchovies in olive oil
120-150g Pecorino romano or Parmesan
4tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
Peel the avocado, cut in half and remove the stone. Slice or cut the avocados into wedges and arrange on serving plates and season lightly. Drain the anchovies; cut in half lengthways. You can use the oil to dress the anchovies or save it in the fridge for a Caesar salad dressing. Spoon the olive oil over the anchovies and avocado; with a sharp knife, shave the Pecorino into thin slices and scatter on top.
Scallop sashimi with chilli-carrots and cucumber
Raw scallops are one of my favourite shellfish to use for sashimi; in fact, when they are fresh straight out of the sea, it almost seems a shame to cook them. Try to buy them live in the shell and get your fishmonger to cut and clean them for you. (I wouldn't use the roe for this dish but if you save them and slice them and toss into some pasta with butter, chilli and olive oil they can be really delicious.)
4 large scallops, cleaned
2 medium carrots, trimmed, peeled and cut into neat 3cm batons
a cucumber, cut into neat 3cm batons without the seeds in the centre
1 medium green chilli, very thinly sliced with the seeds
120-150ml rice wine vinegar
Put the carrots into a non-reactive container or bowl with the sliced chilli and cover with the rice vinegar and leave in the fridge overnight. Mix in the cucumber and leave for 20 minutes.
To serve, cut each scallop into three or four slices, arrange the carrots and cucumber on serving dishes, lay the scallops neatly on top and spoon over a little of the vinegar.
Asparagus, Jerusalem artichoke and beef salad
There are still some great British-grown Jerusalem artichokes around in the shops and you'll find that they add a really interesting element when you shave them into a salad.
The same goes for asparagus, which are just starting to come into season now. We hardly ever think of serving them raw, but uncooked asparagus tastes so different from the cooked variety.
Make sure you buy a really fresh piece of fillet or sirloin for this dish that hasn't discoloured; and preferably ask your butcher to cut a piece in front of you.
8 medium to large spears of asparagus with the woody ends removed
4 medium-sized Jerusalem artichokes, peeled
1 fillet or sirloin weighing about 150-180g, with any fat removed
A handful or so of small tasty salad leaves such as bittercress, land cress, rocket etc
A few chives cut into 4-5cm lengths
For the dressing
The juice of half a lemon
tbsp cider vinegar
2tbsp extra virgin olive oil mixed with 2tbsp vegetable or corn oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
With a mandolin or very sharp knife, slice the asparagus as thinly as possible on the angle. Thinly slice the Jerusalem artichokes and mix with the asparagus and lemon juice, season and leave to stand for about 10 minutes, mixing them every so often. Slice the beef as thinly as possible. Drain the lemon juice from the Jerusalem artichokes and asparagus into a bowl, whisk in the cider vinegar and oils and season.
To serve, toss the asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, salad leaves and chives with the dressing, season and arrange on plates; arrange the slices of beef in among the leaves.
Mozzarella with pesto and sourdough
OK, I admit that I have cheated very slightly here and toasted the sourdough; but toasting isn't exactly cooking, is it? The pesto will make far more than you actually need but I find that it does tend to keep very well for a few weeks if you store it in an airtight jar or container in the fridge.
4 x 1cm-thick slices from a small sourdough loaf
4 good-quality small buffalo mozzarellas which have been left at room temperature for a couple of hours
Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
A couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
A handful of small basil leaves, preferably Greek or bush basil
For the pesto
20g pine nuts, lightly toasted
50-60g fresh basil leaves and any soft stalks
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
A good pinch of sea salt
100-120ml extra virgin olive oil (preferably a sweeter olive oil)
6tbsp freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino romano
To make the pesto, put the pine nuts, basil, garlic salt and olive oil in a liquidiser and coarsely blend. Add the cheese and blend again briefly. Toast the sourdough on both sides and spread with a good spoonful of pesto, then place on serving plates. Carefully tear the mozzarella in half and place on the sourdough. Season the mozzarella with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and spoon the olive oil over and around and scatter the basil leaves all over.
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