Maple, apple and walnut pots. Photo: William Meppem
Just leave your food to do what it does best - cook!
We all have a lot more time to cook than we think we do. It really comes down to what we consider actual "cooking". Are you really "cooking" if a shoulder of lamb is in the oven for eight hours, slowly doing its thing while you read a magazine?
Are you "cooking" in the 10 minutes between pasta going into some water and pulling it out again?
Salmon fillets with caramelised onion and wilted greens. Photo: William Meppem
Of course, we tend to make a rod for our own backs. We should be able to relax and turn our mind to other things, but instead we poke, prod and worry over our food while it's simply doing what we asked it to do in the first place. There's no point testing your spaghetti after five minutes if the packet says it's going to take 10. There's no benefit to opening the oven door every five minutes just to satisfy your curiosity. The more confident you get with your cooking, the more comfortable you'll be just letting things go about their business, and the easier your cooking will be.
Here are a couple of slow recipes that can be started ahead of time, and then finished in a flash for a quick meal.
Salmon fillets with caramelised onion and wilted greens
Fish cooks fast, so it makes a perfect quick dinner. Balance that with some slow-cooked caramelised onions and it won't look like something you've just thrown together at the last minute.• 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• 2 brown onions, peeled and finely chopped
• 4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
• 1 tbsp soy sauce
• a pinch of sugar
• juice of 1/2 a lemon
• 2 x 250g salmon fillets
• salt and black pepper, to season
• 1 bag (about 6 cups) mixed greens (baby spinach, watercress, kale, rocket etc.)Heat 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a small saucepan over low-medium heat and add the onions and garlic. Stir to coat in the oil and cook for about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions are caramelised. Add the soy sauce, sugar and lemon juice and stir to combine. Set aside until ready to serve.
Heat your overhead grill to very hot. Place the salmon fillets skin-side down on a piece of baking paper and season with salt and pepper. Grill for about 8 minutes until cooked through. You don't need to turn the fillets.
While the salmon is cooking heat the remaining oil in a frying pan over high heat. Add the greens and season further with salt and pepper, toss until the greens are wilted and then transfer them to a plate. Remove the salmon fillets from the baking paper (the skin will stay stuck to the paper) and place them on the greens. Spoon the onion mixture over the fillets and greens and serve.
Maple, apple and walnut pots
• 25g butter
• 5 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1cm pieces
• 2 tbsp maple syrup, plus a little extra to serve
• 1 tbsp lemon juice
• 2 tsp caster sugar
• 1 cinnamon stick
• 1 1/2 cups walnuts
• 4 scoops good-quality vanilla ice-cream
• a few sprigs of chervil, to garnish
The stewed apples in this dish can be made well in advance and served either chilled, at room temperature or warm.
To finish the dish, just toast the walnuts and add ice-cream.For the stewed apples, heat the butter in a small saucepan and add the apples. Cook for a minute until coated in the butter, then add the maple syrup, lemon juice, caster sugar, cinnamon and ¼ cup of water. Bring to a simmer for about 10-15 minutes until the apples are softened and a slightly jammy consistency. Allow to cool until the mixture stops steaming, then refrigerate (or serve it warm if you prefer).
Heat your oven to 180ºC. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for about 6 minutes until fragrant. Reserve a few walnuts to finish the dish and crush the remainder to a coarse crumble, using either a mortar and pestle or a rolling pin. Place a spoonful of walnuts in a glass and top with a quarter of the apple mixture. Add more walnuts and place a scoop of ice-cream on top. Drizzle over a little extra maple syrup and then, with a microplane grater, grate the reserved whole walnuts over the top to form a "snow". Garnish with chervil.
When caramelising onions, adjusting the heat will determine sweetness. The lower the heat, the longer the caramelisation process will take but the sweeter and jammier the onions will be. Use a slightly higher heat and the onions will be nuttier and more savoury, which is great for this dish.