Snow food

When it’s cold- and I mean really cold and you’ve just spent a day trying to manoeuvrer yourself around with sticks on your feet and strange pointy things dangling from your wrists there are certain kinds of food you want to eat.

Carbohydrates. Fats. Squishy things. Cheese.

Wash it down with some red wine and the world starts to seem normal again. Hurtling down a slope of snow begins to seem like it could be fun again. Your shins don’t ache through to the bone quite so much .

Recently a group of six went to the snow. There was me, the Hungry One, the Vegaquarians and the married ones.

With us we took our collective food predilections
(no mussels, no fruit, no oysters, no unsustainable meat products, no mushrooms, no tinned fish and the latest kicker in a certain person’s internal health system that has lost its way- nothing sweet or white)

Thank goodness for sweet mountain air and the whiteness of snow. FYI that’s all lies- when it comes the the craving for a kit kat at the bottom of High Noon, sweet air and white powder all around doesn’t really cut it.

There was also a collective determination to be civilised.

That meant we had to be organised.

The week before there was a snow summit that involved minutes being taken and menus being planned. We whittled the food options down to a shortlist that seemed to accommodate most people’s needs-

We had a shopping list that was then put on a spreadsheet and auto filtered to reveal what had to be bought where.

We had an extremely entertaining trip to Kemenys to buy beverages. We thought that big berry ful red wines were what we’d want to drink most. We worried; would 2 cases of wine, 2 cases of beer, assorted bottles of spirits and some stickies be enough for 6 of us for 5 nights?

The responses were varied. Some people polled said “that’s ridiculous”. Some said we’d run out by Wednesday.

By the Saturday we’d filled up two trolleys to cascading point and had collected enough cheese to kill a small horse, twice.

We’d packed a large borrowed Prado with a tonne, maybe 2 of food and drink and ski gear and things we thought we couldn’t do without. In that list was;

a) The baby espresso machine- and the milk thermometer, jug and tamper. We convinced The Hungry One he could leave the grinder behind. He needs his caffeine.

b) My whisk, spatula, pastry brush, good knife, knife sharpener, Le Cruesset lasagne dish, motorised salt and pepper shakers, decent olive oil and balsamic and truffle paste. And six ramekins. Those were the things I figured I couldn’t live without.

c) Board games and books aplenty. The games got played. The books were left unattended.

5 days later we’d been party to some of the best snow NSW has seen in years.

The Hungry One and I put on between 1 and 5 kilos each.

We came back with:

Less than a case of beer, 8 bottles of wine and half a bottle of Cointreau.

One snapped ACL (one of the married ones- I’m sure they’d much rather be spending their money on wine, rather than key hole surgery)….

And a determination from most that we must go and visit the white stuff that falls from the sky again.

We’re not sure we can wait til next year. January in Japan might be looking good.

We’re just not too sure how the espresso machine will fare on an international flight

Menu for six in the snow….

(including some old favourites)

Sunday Night

Individual Truffled Snapper Pies with pea puree, Balsamic tomatoes and a Green salad.

Pre order from your local fish shop 150 grams of boneless, skinless snapper fillets per person.
Emphasise the boneless and skinless part. You don’t want to have had 2 glasses of celebratory, ‘we’re at the snow’ bubbles and then try and skin and pin bone snapper fillets. Puts a cranky taste in your mouth. And probably some recalcitrant bones in your pies.

Place pieces of Snapper, cut up to about the size of a 20 c coin into ramekins.

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius

Make a Soubise sauce.

Soubise sauce
* 1.2kg sliced onions
* 1 tspn olive oil
* 400ml fish stock (homemade is best, but really, who could be bothered sometimes)
* 800ml cream
* 300g diced onion
Sweat onions with olive oil and a little salt. Cook until the onions take on a very light brown colour, cool, then add fish stock and reduce by half. Add cream, and reduce by half or until it’s about as thick as thick cream.

Some people then suggest blending all of that and then adding another 300 grams of sweated onions. I can never be bothered, but you might.

Put about 3 tablespoons of the sauce around the snapper. Dob over the top some Tetsuyas truffle paste and/ or a couple of drops of truffle oil. It depends on how much of a fan you are of that particular Patterson’s curse of the noughties food scene.

Cover each ramekin with puff pastry that you took out of the freezer about 10 minutes ago.

Call someone over from the couch to make shapes out of the leftover pastry for the top of the pies. Put a little hole in the top of the pastry and brush with a beaten egg.

Cook them for 25 minutes each pie dish, spoon about two tablespoons of soubaise sauce. Lay 200g of snapper on the sauce, cover with another tablespoon of sauce and a dessertspoon of truffle oil, then lay puff pastry lid and press down the sides. Make cool shapes and designs on the top of the pie with the left over pastry. Glaze with egg wash. Cook pies for 25 minutes.

The traditional way that the Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay in Sydney serves this is with mashed potatoes and balsamic smoked tomatoes.

We weren’t eating white things and couldn’t quite bring ourselves to smoke tomatoes ( involves a wok, foil, rice which you cook over the foil until it starts to smoke and some way of suspending seeded, skinned tomatoes which have been brushed with garlic and balsamic over the top to capture the smoke. Tastes great. Is a bit of a pain in the arse to do and has a tendency to set off the fire alarm).

So we had it with pea puree ( actually better than potato I think…) and tomatoes drizzled in a reduced balsamic syrup.

And a green salad.

Monday Night

We now know that Kangaroo is an acceptable red meat for the Vegaquarians.

So, 150 gram piece of Kangaroo fillet per person. Marinate it in the morning in Herbies Tandoori spices and greek yogurt. You may want to bump it up with a bit more chilli powder.

Preheat a barbeque. Try not to melt it.

Meanwhile make a really simple dhal by sautéing 2 brown onions with olive oil and a tablespoon each of ground coriander, ground cumin and tumeric. Once they’ve turned a great colour add 2 tins of really rinsed brown lentils and 4 chopped tomatoes. Let it cook together for a while, add a little liquid if you like it all squishy together. I like to still be able to see the lentils and each of their little friends.

Barbeque the Kangaroo until it’s still fairly rare, serve with pappadums, lentils and raita ( 1 cup and a half of Greek yogurt, 1 cucumber diced thinly, half a clove of garlic crushed, a handful of mint leaves torn, a splash of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

And a green salad.

Tuesday Night

Bar Plates;

including Rosemary chick pea fritters with roasted tomato relish,
olives, babaganush, hummus, grilled haloumi, garlic croutons, prosciutto, insalata caprese and…… a green salad.

The chick pea fritters are a revelation for those who can’t eat white things.

chick pea flour I’ve found can easily be substituted for a lot of plain flour in savoury dishes ( see the bechamel below for the pasta less lasagne), but here’s a recipe from the embellishments section of Alla Wolf-Tasker’s beautiful book The Lake House that uses them all on their own.

450 ml of milk
1 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 tablespoon of butter
1 and a 1/4 cups of chickpea flour
fine polenta, for dredging.

Oil for frying.

Put the milk, olive oil and butter in a saucepan, season with salt and pepper and bring to the boil.

Reduce to a simmer and gradually whisk inthe chicpea flour, stirring constantly. Continue to cook until very thick.

Pour into a lunchbox/ tupperwear lined with greaseproof paper and leave it to cool and set into a slab. This will take at least a couple of hours.

Turn out the “slab” and cut into shapes- small squares is what I’ve done ( but it all does look a bit down home…. I think using a melon baller could make it incredibly whimsical and reasonably pretty.

Pour out about half a cup of polenta into a bowl and dredge the shapes in the polenta. They need to be quite cold to hold their shape( I also think that some small chopped rosemary in with the polenta makes it taste great and incredibly rustic/ hearty)

Shallow fry the batter at 160 degrees C until crisp and golden. Drain on paper towel, sprinkle with salt and serve with a roast tomato relish.

Roast tomato relish

Roast a punnet of cherry tomatoes with some rosemary, garlic cloves, salt, olive oil and a tiny bit of brown sugar sprinkled on top for 35 minutes on 180 degrees until golden and crinkled on the edges.

Cool slightly. Blitz them, 2 of the garlic cloves, 4 semi dried tomatoes, a teaspoon of tomato sauce ( terribly crass but does help sweeten it) all together in a small food processor. Taste and season.

Wednesday Night:

Prosciutto and roast vegetable carb-less lasagne.
and…. a green salad.

Roast 2 red onions, cut into eighths, an eggplant cut into long thin slices, some cherry tomatoes cut in half and a whole capsicum so the skin blisters and you can pull it off.

Layer the vegetables and prosciutto slices with a spinach and ricotta sauce.

Top it all with as much and as many different kinds of cheese as you like. We chose mozzarella, Parmesan and some crumbled goats cheese.

Bake it for 25 minutes at 180 degrees Celcius until the cheese is golden and bubbling.

Spinach and Ricotta sauce.

Make a bechamel ( we used chickpea flour instead of white flour, and the nutty flavour was really lovely).

Make a roux out of 1/4 cup unsalted butter and 1/4 cup flour. Cook until it’s a fawn colour. Meanwhile heat two cups of milk in a saucepan and slowly add to the roux, stirring and stirring while it thickens, while you do a search and destroy for any lumps.

When you’re happy with your mock bechamel add 2 cubes, or about 1/2 cup of frozen spinach. The heat from the sauce should help it defrost. When the spinach is integrated add a cup and a half of low fat ricotta. Stir together and use the sauce as the “glue” to hold together the vegie bake.

Serve with a green salad

Thursday Night

The old favourite

Mexican madness.

And a green salad.

Who says you don’t make friends with salad…?

I’m sure if we’d actually eaten more of the salad I wouldn’t be having to walk so earnestly to work these days.

My apologies to any readers if I have them for the laxness of posting.

In the real world I’ve got a new job. It’s great, but settling in ( and running away to the snow) has taken up some time of late.

Hopefully this month will be better.

Leave a comment