Light meals to bring you out of hibernation

THERE is nothing like the thought of spring to get us all out of the winter doldrums and begin thinking of slightly lighter food and the different ingredients we can use.

Tasmania’s distinct seasons are also reflected in the food available to us.

Lovely greens such as peas, spring onions, fennel and asparagus give a broader scope in which to create more delicious meals.

It is also the time when we move from slow cooking in the oven to stovetop and barbecue fare.

The warmer weather sees us coming out of hibernation and inviting friends and family around to share a meal.

The markets have a greater range of produce and we can also access fresh herbs to enhance our recipes.

Here are some light and tasty meals that don’t take forever to prepare, so you will have more time with your guests.

Spinach Cake

Ingredients:

  • 20g unsalted butter, plus extra to grease
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 2 leeks, chopped
  • 250g baby spinach leaves
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups (500ml) milk
  • 6 eggs
  • 2/3 cup finely grated Parmesan
  • Salad leaves to serve

Method:

  • Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees and grease a one-litre baking dish or large ovenproof frypan.
  • Place butter and oil in a frypan over medium-low heat. Cook leeks, stirring, for 10-minutes or until soft.
  • Stir in spinach and nutmeg, season, then cover and remove from heat.
  • Stand for 10-minutes.
  • Whiz spinach mixture, milk and eggs in food processor until almost smooth, but slightly textured.
  • Pour into baking dish and top with cheese.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden.
  • Serve with salad.

Salmon with pea mash and fennel salad

Ingredients:

  • 500g fresh peas (can also use frozen)
  • 1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced, fronds reserved
  • 1/4 bunch radishes, sliced
  • 1 cup celery heart leaves (from the inner stalks only)
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbs lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 x 180g salmon fillets

Method:

  • Place peas in a bowl if using frozen and cover with boiling water. Stand for one minute, then drain.
  • If using fresh peas, boil in salted water until just tender. Drain.
  • Set one cup of peas aside.
  • Puree the remaining peas in blender then transfer to a saucepan over low heat.
  • Season and keep warm.
  • Toss the fennel and reserved fronds, radish, celery leaves, onion and reserved one cup of peas in a bowl.
  • Combine lemon juice and ¼ cup oil in a bowl, then season and toss with salad. Set aside.
  • Season the salmon with salt.
  • Heat remaining oil in a frypan and cook salmon, skin side down, for two to three minutes until crisp.
  • Turn and cook for a further one-minute.
  • Transfer to a plate and rest, loosely covered with foil for two-minutes.
  • Serve with pea mash and fennel salad.
  • Serves four.

Asian Chicken Salad with Crisp Wontons

Ingredients:

  • 20 store-bought wonton wrappers
  • Vegetable oil, for brushing
  • 2 x 180g chicken breast fillets, poached
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 1 cup mint leaves
  • 1 cup coriander leaves
  • 2 cups shredded white cabbage
  • 2 large red chillies, seeds removed and thinly sliced

Dressing ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
  • Place the wonton wrappers on a lined baking tray with non-stick paper.
  • Brush very lightly with oil and bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden.
  • Set aside.
  • Shred chicken and place in a bowl with the basil, mint, coriander, cabbage and chilli and toss to combine.
  • Mix together the fish sauce, lime juice and sugar, drizzle over the salad and toss to combine.
  • Serve with the crisp wontons.
  • Serves four.

BON APPETIT