There are a few things I use as a metric to judge a cookbook, and one of these is how urgently I feel the need to hit my kitchen and make at least one of the recipes. Another metric is how inspiring the food images are to back these up. With ‘Set a Table’ by Karen Dudley I found myself folding back several page corners and mentally parking dozens of recipes into my ‘make-list’. I was salivating over the eclectic mix of flavours and beautiful images. I decided this miso salmon & cucumber salad would be the first to do because its light and healthy-ish and I was in need of something delicious that wasn’t going to overload. It’s a take on a Diana Henry recipe – a favourite food writer of mine – so it was a done deal.
I’m a fan of Karen Dudley and her charming Woodstock eatery ‘The Kitchen’. I have both her previous cookbooks, which are born out of her restaurant, but I was particularly excited to see what ‘Set a Table’ was like. Karen has the warmest personality and this book feels like you are a guest at her abundant table. It’s filled with recipes designed for a home-cook that will have a maximum impact without too much cheffy fuss. These are recipes for entertaining so they have that extra dash of flair, and I think this is what I love the most about this book.
I love how the recipes include flavours from all over the world. From Asia to the Middle East, with a good dollop of Italian and French flavour in between. As with Karen’s previous two books, there is enough to excite a vegetarian and an omnivore alike. The broccoli ‘Pad Thai’ looks like a dream, and the Mr Hong crispy aubergine is the next thing I’m planning to make.
A few of the other pages I’ve dog-eared are for: Boerenkaas balls (I just need to get some friends over to help me eat those), Okonomiyaki (Japanese cabbage pancakes), palm sugar chicken with olive parsley relish and Persian quail. Karen dishes up a few top tips on how to prepare a dinner party without the stress, along with personal anecdotes to introduce each recipe. I cannot wait to get really stuck in.
Not only is the book filled with delicious recipes, but it has also been exquisitely designed by Roxanne Spears with very beautiful nighttime photography by the uber talented Claire Gunn. This is one of the most exciting cookbooks I have seen in a while.
Set s Table is published by Jacana and is available in all good bookstores and online.
MIso Salmon & cucumber salad
This is a perfect dish to divide up into small plates and serve a starter. The flavours of miso, pickled ginger and soy are utterly delicious.
*I used a fillet of local trout and loved the flavour of beetroot microgreens.
Recipe – serves 6 – 8
- 400gms salmon fillet (or trout)
- 250gm cucumber
- 2 Tbsp white (or light) miso paste
- 2Tbsp mirin
- 2 Tbsp light soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 Tbs sunflower oil
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- 1 Tbsp pickled ginger, finely sliced
- 4 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
- 1 tsp sesame seeds (black or white)
- 10gms micro greens
Cut the salmon and cucumber into similar sized strips. The book recommends 1/2 cm strips but I found the fish too soft to hold such a small piece so they were closer to 1 – 1.5cm. I don’t think it matters too much.
In a small bowl mix the miso paste, mirin, soya sauce, vinegar and oil with the sugar and whisk until it is well combined. Add the pickled ginger and spring onions and gently toss the salmon and cucumber through the dressing.
Arrange small piles on plates and sprinkle the sesame seeds and micro leaves on top.
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